Scotland's West Coast with Hattie 56 03N 05 19W
Kyles of Bute and Crinan Canal
Hattie, our daughter, is no great fan of the open sea so the west coast of Scotland was the perfect place to spend a week with us on Gryphon II. The Kyles of Bute gave us tranquil sailing and anchorages in the sheltered waters of this serene area whilst transiting the Crinan canal added something a little different and enabled quicker access from the Kyles to the Sound of Jura.
We couldn’t believe how few boats were on the water and mostly had perfect anchorages to ourselves.
The Burnt Islands
The weather continued damp and much too cold for our liking but we were quickly extending our wardrobe with several thermal base layers, fleeces, sweaters, knee-high leather boots, thermal hats, gloves and so on…. Sound like winter? Well it certainly has felt like it these past few months. However, the cold weather meant that there were no midges, a real bonus.
We welcomed Hattie on board at Kip Marina in Inverkip near Greenock and sailed off into some stunning scenery with dolphin, seals and guillemots to share the Kyles with us. The islands and hillsides are sparsely populated with what seemed with distance to be tiny white houses and churches reflected in the clear waters.
Hattie seemed to have brought some better weather with her so walking and scrambling over rocks on the islands was a warmer treat.
That brief spell soon ended, summer’s winter was back and the layers went on.
The sea food in this area is wonderful with Oban said to be the sea food capital of this coast. There are plenty of excellent restaurants to choose from with interesting approaches, some with little jetties but others where a beach landing is the only way in. Wellies were a must but we made the most of this fine cuisine and had some very enjoyable evenings then hot-wellied it back to the dinghy so as not to be caught out by the tide.
The Crinan Canal cuts through Kintyre from Loch Fyne to the top of the Sound of Jura. It was definitely not busy, there were no other boats during our transit and we went through the locks alone which made things easier. All the cross country locks are hand operated by the keepers, a cheerful and helpful crew in teams of two who control a set of 3-4 locks between them depending on the distances. This was great for us as we didn’t have to handle the heavy lock gates ourselves.
Once in the locks the keepers hooked our ropes over the cleats for us which made life a lot easier than many canals we have travelled in the past. Hattie did a sterling job on the foredeck keeping Gryphon II in good position.
The lovely old lock keepers’ cottages are all now in private ownership many as holiday homes or holiday lets but they keep their old world charm in this very scenic canal.
Facilities for boats are excellent with showers etc. all well-kept and best of all heated. There are plenty of places to stop which is just as well as the transit is a surprisingly tiring business.
A lunch stop in perfect peace.
We spent one night in the canal. We might have gone on but it started to pour down with rain and the day was getting on into the late afternoon so we moored up, toured the area and returned to put the heating on.
A fairly typical canal settlement.
A number of boats are based in the canal, a perfect place to be for getting to either side of Kintyre without having to go right round the mull.
Staying overnight gave us a leisurely start and we tackled the downward locks which eventually took us to the sea lock basin at the top of the Sound of Jura.
The sea lock basin is quite a tourist attraction. Picturesque buildings and stunning views make this a wonderful climax to a very enjoyable journey.
Gryphon II in the Crinan Sea Lock