Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Exploring the Yorkshire Coast

Last Friday, Kev and I sloshed our way over t'other side o' Pennines through torrential rain to eventually arrive at a very foggy campsite at Robin Hood's Bay. We were hoping to explore the area looking for something new and different in the way of coastal paddling.

The whole of the British east coast is exposed to, and remains at the mercy of the might of the North Sea.

Sea kayaking here can be surprisingly exposed to the elements as we discovered soon after leaving the bay en route to Whitby. Several days of easterly winds had left 3 metre swell breaking destructively upon the reefs, cliffs and boulder beaches.

There was nowhere to land between harbours and certainly no chance of getting a close look at the intriguing coastline.

We camped at Hook's House Farm campsite and found the owners welcoming, informative and even apologetic (for the poor weather!) There is an abundance of friendly hostelries, a fish and chip shop and a local store for supplies.
Robin Hood's Bay is a good base for several days exploring.

Monday, June 04, 2007

NWSK sea kayaking trip to Northern Ireland

Ten years ago I went on a backpacking trip part of which took me along the 'Causeway Coast' of County Antrim. My intention was to see the same stretch of coastline from my kayak and visit the nearby island of Rathlin. Rathlin Island made an obvious target to get the week off to ambitious start.

Day 1
We missed the time of slack water for the crossing and by the time we were half way the tide race in the sound was kicking up some challenging conditions.

The natives on Rathlin are all very helpful. The harbourmaster let us use the harbour facilities (showers etc) and we found a permissive wild camping spot within 250 metres of the pub.

Day 2
By the next morning we had been issued with a dog! It seem that many lucky tourists get one as a courtesy of the local tourism council. Our dog was called 'Jen'. Jen acted as a guide on our walks and slept at the edge of our camp to make sure all was well throughout the night.

Day 3

We rose in the morning to cross back to the mainland close to the time of slack water and coupled with more pleasing weather conditions made for a far easier passage.

We had barely passed the town of Ballycastle when we saw a wonderful beach littered with driftwood. Our resolve was weakened such that we could paddle no further. Later that evening a generous bonfire was lit lest we perish in the cool of the night.

Day 4
The journey of promise lay ahead. The Causeway Coast threw up headland after headland with deserted beaches backed with 200ft cliffs. The geology regularly changed from white Chalk to black Basalt occasionally punctuated with seams of brilliant red Sandstone.

Day 5

We paddled from Portballintrae to Portrush and became quickly amazed that this coastline was not yet done with the 'wow' factor. Chalk arches and deep caves were all to be explored with the incoming swell making careful timing essential.
Dave's boat became a casualty of poor timing with some significant damage to the bow and a fist size puncture close to the stern. Dave's fine rolling skills kept him from harm and he was able to make a fine temporary (and waterproof) repair on a nearby beach.

Day 6
We drove to Cushendun to paddle round Fair Head to Ballycastle. With wind and tide behind us the journey around this enormous iconic headland and its 300ft cliffs was over in under 3 hours. Later that afternoon we drove to the Bushmills Education Centre where we were welcomed by Robin Ruddock and the Irish Sea Kayaking Association.

Day 7
A paddle with over 30 enthusiastic paddlers seemed hard to miss and proved to be a fitting finale to a rewarding voyage. The Irish Sea Kayaking Association extended an open invitation to us to join them on any of their monthly meets. They are a terrifically friendly bunch of folk and it was hard to say goodbye before heading off for Belfast and the ferry home.

To see more photos from the trip click here.