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Caithness Coastal Exploration July 2015

Tony Janetta, Iain Brooker, Matt Watt, Alice Banks, Norman Banks, Lorna Taylor, Sandy Reid and George Rutten.

The 8 of us travelled up to Dunbeath in Caithness for the sea paddling weekend this summer. 

The weather was kind, and the sea like a millpond, on the Saturday. We explored the coast between Lybster and Dunbeath. The kayaking was easy with a gentle following breeze and a little tide to help us southward. The caves were fantastic, and the calm sea allowed us to explore the deepest caves with the help of torches.

One cave had a score of seals flitting about. We could track them under the water, as their eyes glowed green in our torchlight. The water was very clear, and the colours in the seaweed and rock were amazing. At the end of the trip, we came across a series of arches and tunnels linking together into an intricate maze. Suddenly we arrived at Dunbeath Harbour and the wee beach. A really enjoyable day. 


We spent the night at Inver campsite just on the edge of Dunbeath village. Very comfortable with a new toilet block and excellent showers. 4 self catered and the other 4 drove down to Helmsdale and had delicious fish and chips in Le Mirage restaurant. Huge portions sank the lot of us - after all that effort to stay afloat!


The following day, the wind rose to a moderate breeze from the east, but conditions were warm and sunny. The sea changed from calm to a substantial chop. Fortunately the lack of swell still allowed us to explore close in. We paddled from Keiss at the north end of Sinclair’s Bay, north to Freswick. The dramatic cliffs of Caithness flagstone, were cut geometrically into towers and stacks. In places the cliffs are topped with old castles from Caithness’s turbulent past. 

This time the seals followed us all the way. We took a quick break to explore the wee harbour at Nybster, at the half way mark. Anxious to complete the trip before the wind rose higher, we pressed on toward Freswick. But progress slowed as we found more spectacular arches and caves. The rock strata was generally horizontal, but the further north we went, the more the angle changed, dipping. This created the disturbing illusion, that the sea was running downhill, into the caves. Suddenly, instead of being on the sea, it felt as if we were riding a river, with a sensation of being swept down a rapid. Most bizarre!

The last pull across Freswick Bay, involved a crosswind and bigger waves, making it hard to paddle a straight course. There were a few sighs of relief as we reached the sanctuary of Skirza Harbour. We had lunch on the pier, basking in the sunshine, looking south, along the coastline which had given us another great adventure.