Islands on the Edge 1st TO 7th AUGUST 2020, £1150
Explore the West of the West ... suitable for walkers, explorers, kayakers and birdwatchers
There are a variety of options for getting to Lewis. If you are making a bigger trip and spending more time in the Western Isles then we will meet you at the Cuma which is based at Miovaig on Loch Roag. The sooner you book your ferry the better, as ferries do fill up. For those not wanting to bring bring a car over. Ferry travel to and from Ullapool is included, you just need to get to Ullapool, all transport on Lewis will be provided. If you are bringing a kayak, I suggest that you port your boat over and transport for you and your kayak will be available from Stornoway ferry port (and back on the Friday).
Saturday to Thursday
We are on board the MV Cuma. Our plan is to make the most of the weather to get the best kayaking. Whilst St Kilda is our main goal, don't underestimate the other islands we are able to get to, which include
Scarp - Inhabited until the 1970's was the the most westerly inhabited island after the St Kildans were evacuated. It was also the site of the famous Rocket Post. There is a lovely hill on the west, remains of the village with long house and school. There is the most photogenic of Bays between Scarp and Harris, there are more shades of blue and turquoise than you can imagine.
Taransay - Made famous by the reality Tv programme Castaway, Taransay was inhabited until 1974. There will again be a chance to explore and a walk to the highest point, with views out to Seilebost, Hushinish and Harris.
Monachs - These low lying islands were attached at low tide to North Uist until the 17th century. The last families left in 1942. There is plenty to explore with an old village, hidden well, lighthouse and amazing machair land.
The MV Cuma can anchor off these island and we can be transferred to them by Tender, for those who want to explore rather than paddle them.
St Kilda towers out of the sea. We will tour the islands taking in Hirta, Stac an Armin, Stac Lea and Boreray. We will anchor in Village Bay on Hirta where there will be a chance to go ashore and explore the island and village, this is the only St Kilda island we can land on. If conditions allow, we will spend the night anchored in Village Bay, soaking in the solitude as the sun sets. Kayaking around the the islands is very weather dependent, but we will hopefully be able to explore the amazing coastline, getting into caves and under the towering cliffs.
Our journey back will be via the Flannan isles, with its lighthouse immortalised in the poem about the disappearance of the lighthouse keepers in 1900
There will be a chance to get off, walk and explore the islands (not the Flannans). All have amazing and very diverse landscapes. There are long histories for the islands on the edge, all having had populations in the past who have left them due to their harsh environments. Some like Hirta have very unique flora and fauna, due to their isolation, all have large bird populations.
Whilst this is our plan unfortunately the weather and seas are not under our management. We will make the most of what nature throws at us and make every effort to get you safely and comfortably around the islands and get the best paddling. This may be a once in a lifetime trip but getting out to St Kilda at any cost is not going to make it a good experience. The stats are that about 40% of people who try to get to St Kilda get there the first time, Murdo and the Cuma got 14 of their 16 trips out last year. If we don’t get to St Kilda we will take you to other amazing places, there is never a boring day out on the Edge, the skies team with birds like Gannets, Gulls, Skua, Cormorant, Puffins and more, and the water is filled with Dolphins, Porpoise, Minke Whale, Orca, Basking Shark, all just waiting to be spotted. To give you the best chance of getting to St Kilda we may have to change the order we do the islands in, and we may not get to all of the islands, we need to make the most of any weather windows we get.
All meals are provided during this time, lunches will be sandwiches, fruit, crisps and biscuits, they will be done as packed lunches if we are off exploring islands. You are free to bring your own alcoholic drinks.
Departure from the Cuma after breakfast.
We will head to Callanish and the Standing Stones, where you will have time to soak in the atmosphere and explore the visitor centre. Then on to Carloway Broch before heading to Stornoway for the ferry back to the mainland.
The ferry departs from Stornoway at 2pm. We will have a picnic lunch provided by the Cuma which you can have whilst taking in the Minch crossing. We arrive back into Ullapool at around 4.40pm.
Trip leader - Elaine Goldsmith
Elaine is an International Mountain Leader, experienced kayaker and a WEMSI - Widerness First Responder (wilderness medic). She has travelled all over the world, and lead trips in many remote places. By kayak, bike and foot, she has explored Scotland in details and has a great interest in the history and culture of the Western Isles and its links to the ancient seaways, peoples.
Kayak Guide - Murty Campbell
Murty was born and brought up on Lewis, he served on the Stornoway Lifeboat for 30 years, where he was Coxswain for 12 years. Having kayaked since the mid 80's, he is a level 4 sea kayak coach. Over the years Murty has paddled many amazing trips, including out to the Flannans, to Sula Sgeir and North Rona, with many trips guiding around St Kilda. As well as an amazing knowledge of the Islands on the Edge, Murty has great stories of life on the Western Isles, on both land and sea.
Our Skipper - Murdo MacDonald
Murdo has had many years at sea, from his years in shipping to lobster fishing off St Kilda and then as the Skipper of the Cuma. His knowledge of the Islands on the Edge and how to get the best from what the weather throws at us is second to none. His skill with the Cuma is astounding, affording us the best chances of getting into islands in places that are best for kayakers or even just to get ashore. It is always a pleasure to spend an hour listening to Murdo's stories of life on the west of Lewis and at sea.
MV Cuma accommodation
The MV Cuma was initially constructed for scientific marine research. The hull is of timber and was built by Samuel White of Cockenzie in 1967 to Lloyds+100 A1 specifications. The vessel was converted and upgraded for commercial diving and cruising charter operations and complies with Maritime & Coastguard Agency Code of Practice Regulations. The vessel is 18.5 meters long and is powered by a 200 horsepower Gardner engine, which is renowned for its reliability. Ample 240 Volt power is delivered by a quiet running generator.
Comfortable accommodation is provided for 10 persons in two berth cabins each with hot and cold water. There is also separate crew accommodation. There is a large deck saloon with ample seating and large viewing windows. There are also 2 toilets and two showers. The accommodation is centrally heated throughout. Berths are sailing style, the upper one has limited headroom and you stand on the lower to get to the upper. The toilets are pump driven heads and a bit noisy.
The salon area is fitted with 3 tables and has bench style seating, there are windows all round the salon. There is drinking water available from the water cooler in the salon. There are viewing areas to the front and rear of the boat and you are welcome to be out here when we are travelling at sea (appropriate clothing and safety equipment should be worn).