Scourie to Durness via Cape Wrath

From a sea kayaker's perspective, there are three major headlands on Scotland's north-west coast - crux sections on any trip, these three are the sort of headlands that have the potential to provide a good deal of excitement even in calm conditions. Each is quite different in character but north-westerly swell in particular is something to avoid on all. Rubha Reidh and the Point of Stoer had both been turned successfully in the last few years but Cape Wrath had so far eluded us, our last planned attempt aborted after I tore a hamstring running and on the same evening, dropped a full kettle of boiling water on my ankle while making a brew in the tent. It was not a pleasant evening.
But the recent long spell of calm, hot weather seemed to offer the perfect window for a three day journey around the top. I was surprised then, on talking to a couple who had ended their journey at Scourie, having paddled from Fort William, after two attempts to get around Cape Wrath. On the second attempt they had abandoned the trip all together, returning south to Scourie on a sizeable swell. Fog and high winds around Cape Wrath itself had proved a little too exciting. Despite a favourable forecast, a third attempt for them was not on the agenda. I sympathised, knowing how it is when the focus has gone and thoughts have turned to home after difficult days on the water. I also kept a watchful eye on the fog banks which sat offshore for much of our own journey, wary of changing conditions throughout.
We camped above the beach on that first night at Shiegra, where I spent a while reminiscing on the many days spent climbing here in previous years. These are among the finest sea cliffs I ever climbed upon, the Lewisian gneiss offering some superb and exposed lines.
Our second day began easily on smooth rolling seas, the swell running at around 3 to 4ft as we passed Sandwood Bay. On the last few km's approaching Cape Wrath things picked up, the swell now running at around 5ft and for around 30 minutes the boats plunged through chaotic clapotis...
...it eased almost immediately we rounded the head, paddling on remarkably calm water beneath the striking double arch. We landed through small surf at Kervaig Bay for what is I think, perhaps the best wild camp from a kayak I have ever had.
A perfect beach above which to camp with long views back to Cape Wrath...
...and with the tents up and much of the afternoon remaining, we walked across white sands and up, back over the Parph to visit the lighthouse. Not expecting to find anything other than the automated light, the Ozone Café was a surprise. Of course we had no cash. Not a problem - a cheque in the post would be just fine it seemed. Two (very) full breakfasts and several beers later, it was contented pair that walked back to Kervaig.
Launching beneath blue skies from Kervaig on day three. The cliffs from here to Durness are truly spectacular - much higher than those on the west coast, vast sheer walls plunged to the sea, the air filled with puffins, skuas, gannets and guillemots.
We had one short stop inside the Kyle of Durness, before heading in to Keodale. My day was just beginning...
...preparing to run for the car in Scourie. Twenty six miles, seven fruit pastilles, countless clegs and one beautifully cold natural spring from which the sweetest water in Scotland flowed, I reached Scourie, to conclude another truly remarkable journey.
I have told the story for Sidetracked Magazine, which will appear in the coming days with many more images from the last of the big three: Cape Wrath.

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