Oronsay & Carna

I’ve never been a great reader; although the occasional novel grabs my interest sometimes I have to persevere and struggle with a book to reach its end. My copy of “Life of Pi” unfortunately added to my carbon footprint taking me several foreign trips to complete with it being carried along multiple times to Asia in the bottom of a suitcase.  Maps on the other hand…

Maps just light my imagination.  I can spend hours and hours scanning over 10m contour lines, constructing the topography of the land in my mind. Adventures are planned and routes fine-tuned to ‘bag’ as many objectives in the time that is available.

When I used to live down South, I’d often look at the junction of Loch Sunart and Loch Teacuis cutting into the Northern flank of the peninsula of Morvern. Loch Teacuis and the islands at it’s mouth, Oronsay & Carna, then almost 500 miles distant at the “back of beyond”, held a place high on my wish list.

Morvern is actually quite accessible, though the short hop over Loch Linnhe via the Corran ferry is enough to keep most tourists away.  Loch Sunart and it’s ancient Oak woodlands are of national importance. Although most of the original woodland was lost in pre-history, much of what we see now has been created from the reversal of de-forestation taking place from the 17th century onwards.

With a ridge of high pressure crossing Scotland, a strong Spring Tide to carry us down Loch Sunart and slack water in early in the afternoon to get through the 2.5knt tidal streams around Carna, conditions to paddle to Oronsay & Carna were near perfect.


Stuart and I launched at Salen, a small village at the head of an inlet half way along Loch Sunart. Incidentally, the Salen Hotel is a great place to stop for a beer and is currently being renovated with a lovely new green oak conservatory.


Soon we were cruising on the Ebb tide down Loch Sunart, these naturally seeded scots pines adding to the air of tranquillity.


This trip has a really remote feel to it, though in reality a road runs the entire length of the North shore of Loch Sunart to Kilchoan (where the ferry runs to Tobermory on Mull) and beyond to Ardnamurchan point and lighthouse.


Entering a small bay near Dun Challain…



Arrival mid-tide (maximum flow) at Laga Bay.  Here we could here a cuckoo calling, the first this year and a real sign of Spring.

Sunart was flat and the crossing to Carna easy.



We stopped at the NW tip of Oronsay for lunch with commanding views back into Loch Sunart and out across to Mull and Coll.


Oronsay is a tidal island. Glancing at the 1:50k map I’d estimated that maybe we’d have a 200m portage at low tide.


…I was wrong! the spring tide doubled that and we floundered through the mud and a long carry which took 45 minutes…


Eventually we re-gained water and paddled into the West entrance of Loch Teacuis. Near Eilean nan Eildean we detoured to look at the geology.  I believe this is a basalt dyke. Normally grey to black in colour it has weathered to bright red due to oxidation of its iron-rich minerals into rust.


Due to loosing time with our romp through the mud we nearly got stranded in Loch Teacuis. The flood tide was advancing through both entrances and as we paddled through Caol Chàrna on West coast of Carna some real effort was required.

I’ve seen Sea Eagles further down Loch Sunart in the past, but today wildlife was noticeable by it’s absence; only a couple of common seals and some Eider.


Date : 27 April 2013– Spring Tide.
Oban : HW 07:21 LW 13:45 HW 19:41 (BST)
Max Speed : 10.9Km/h
Trip Odom : 31.2 Km


About Andy Harpur

Interests : The Scottish Highlands, The Pennine Alps, The Milky Way, Abbot Ale, Mountaineering, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Canoeing, Sea Kayaking, Astronomy, Guitar, Penny Whistle. I live and breath for the outdoor lifestyle. New places, new faces, new adventures....
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One Response to Oronsay & Carna

  1. bellydog1 says:

    Great trip report Andy. See you are interested in astronomy, have a look at a mate of mine’s blog at http://www.beardedgit.com.
    He has built an observatory in a shed and has taken some great pictures!
    Mike Bell

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