The city gradually falls away, buildings dwindle and the hills dominate the landscape. Then the water, the Clyde, Loch Thom, the sea; dolphins, porpoise, golden eagles. Gannets dive at 70 mph and curious seals peak over the waves. The Secret Coast of Scotland is just two hours from Glasgow.
If you want to experience life from a different perspective, take to a sea kayak. These specialist boats are designed for speed on long journeys with plenty of space for camping kit. How else can you scour the shoreline of the Isle of Bute, peering into the depths spotting moon jellyfish and crustaceans? There are bays to land on with tea shops nearby, or beaches where only kayakers can set foot. With Scotland’s right to roam, you can land your vessel wherever it is safe, and camp anywhere that’s not someone’s garden. And the spots you can find in the Clyde estuary are spectacular. Try Buttock Point on Bute (without giggling), you’ll have views up Loch Ridden from your tent door. This area is on the Argyll Sea Kayak Trail – a 150 km route from near Oban to the Firth of Clyde. It’s divided into 8 sections which you could complete all in one go with some camping kit, or pick a couple of sections each weekend.
I stayed for longer than a weekend, I couldn’t bare to leave. 5 days of kitting up and taking to sea. Carving figures of eight around moored yachts at the edge of a calm bay, and being coached by Phil Keetley at Sea Kayaking Argyll, I learnt so much about manoeuvring the long boat, for efficiency and to respond to an emergency. Practice makes perfect for when you have to do it for real. Paddling past Ardlamont Point where the water is more open, with bigger waves and stronger winds, my friend capsized. He knew what to do. Feeling the swell beneath the boat as the waves approached from behind serves a good reminder of the power of the natural world.
The sun shone for our trip up the East Kyles. The footpath of the Cowal Way runs next to the sea until some secluded houses. Our destination, the Burnt Islands, are rumoured to be where the vikings cremated those lost in battle. This doesn’t bother the current inhabitants; common seals, blending in with the rocks, looked back at us with equal interest. Noisy oyster catchers objected to our quiet intrusion.
Pulling the boats up on our return journey at the rocky cove on Bute, we were truly alone. No road runs near, no footpath. The ideal place to pitch a tent or make some tea. Back at the village, back on the ferry, back into Glasgow. It felt like a dream – blue water, suntanned hands, the world to explore.
Written by Hannah Parry: Hannah the Traveller is a musician and travel blogger from the UK. When she’s not discovering adventures abroad (on a shoestring) or running marathons, she’s finding adventures closer to home while playing classical music in London. Follow her adventures here.