Sandwood Bay

I wasn't party to the conversation which followed our visit, but a local lady's confession about Sandwood Bay did not entirely surprise me. Never been, she had said. It's haunted too, she affirmed, though I doubt that was the reason. There are a great many myths that surround Sandwood Bay, from mariners to mermaids and the usual tales of buried treasures in the shifting dunes. I was rather more keen to see how the surf forecast differed from reality, with the prospect of landing a loaded boat prominent in my mind. Northerly winds between F5 and F7 had created choppy seas but the swell was low and the surf was predicted to be no more than 3ft. If the winds dropped, there would be a window to round Cape Wrath. Not that one needs a particular reason beyond just being here. 
Bog cottons on the approach, blown in the wind beneath the broad summits of Beinn Dearg Mhor and Creag Riabach.
And the first view for most who approach by land, of Sandwood Bay. It is hard to convey the scale of the place and this image most certainly does not do it justice. I have walked in several times now but every time the effect is the same. No less intimidating and inspiring for a slight familiarity, it is a wild, evocative scene. One I am determined to return to next in the kayak.
Am Buachaille, the much photographed sea stack and one which I had hopes of climbing following an interesting ascent of The Old Man of Stoer some years ago. It is one of the more challenging stacks to climb - not so much because of it's technical difficulty (two pitches at HVS with sparse protection) but more because of the swim required on the return. More than one party has been swept a good distance beneath the cliffs here. It is climbs like these that first inspired thoughts of sea kayaking.
Completely unlike the crumbling Torridon sandstone - how stacks like Am Bauchaille survive the winter storms is remarkable - many beautiful Lewisian gneiss formations upon which the Torridonian sediments were deposited, are exposed above the beach.
Looking south, the wind has eased and the surf appears to have dropped. The forecast had predicted NW swell at 5.5ft and surf at 2-3ft. On arrival the swell was all of that with larger waves between 6 and 7ft breaking beyond the surf line. It would have been an interesting landing, though of course it was all academic - this is another trip that will have to wait. The brief weather window was closing rapidly with gale force winds returning imminently and in combination with a spring tide, despite the low swell - due to drop almost completely - the gamble was not worth the risk. Had we been approaching the headland as part of a longer trip, I think perhaps we would have seized the opportunity, but for now, this wild beach, ancient mariners and mermaids will continue to haunt my dreams.

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