2015-10-28 Kerrera – Gylen Castle

Firth of Lorn with CalMac ferry in the distance

Setting off from Oban Harbour on pan flat seas, I decided to circumnavigate the island of Kerrera. I've circumnavigated Kerrera three times in the Oban Sea Kayak Race, but this time I would take my time and enjoy the sights.

Oban Harbour
Oban Harbour

This day was the lull before the storm, with high winds forecast for the following day. It was not the sunniest of days, that's for sure, but there was hardly a breath of wind.


I paddled down to the Kilbowie outdoor centre before making the crossing to Kerrera where the passenger ferry crosses. Having experienced fairly rough seas at the south end of the island in this years Oban Sea Kayak Race, I was still unsure what to expect at the south end of the island. Oh well, if the sea was going to be too rough then I could  always turn around and head back. Soon after passing the ferry jetty it started to rain (again).

I had expected to see some seals at the Sgierean Dubha rocks, as every time I've paddled past these rocks in the race there have always been plenty of seals here. Not today though.

Circumnavigating Kerrera
Circumnavigating Kerrera

Just passed Sgierean Dubha I noticed an Otter swimming out in front of me. It was obviously not too sure which way to go as it zig-zagged back and forth in front of my boat before disappearing in a swirl of bubbles.

At the bottom of the island the sea was pan flat, so I headed for Castle Gylen, landing on the beach west of the castle. It was very rocky and not the greatest place to land. I did wonder if the beach to the east of the castle would have been any better. I didn't look it from a distance, but I will check that option the next time I'm here.

Gylen Castle is quite a gem and well worth the rocky landing (even in the rain). Set in such a dramatic setting, it was built in 1582 by Duncan MacDougall of Dunollie and was originally known as Duncan's Fort. 65 years later in 1647, a Royalist garrison living in the castle came under attack from a small army of General Leslie's Covenanting Troops who laid siege to the castle for the MacDougalls' support of the King. Gylen seemed impregnable with an its defensive features. It is said lack of water proved to be its downfall. The Covenanter's threatened all in the Castle with hanging if they did not surrender. So the garrison finally gave up and their castle was set ablaze. Tragically this did not save them, all were massacred. The Castle has remained roofless and empty ever since.

In 2006 it was opened to the public after 10 years of restoration work thanks to a £300,000 Historic Scotland grant and £200,000 from clan members around the world. Gylen Castle has no entrance fee and is open all year round.

Back at my kayak on the beach, the tide had gone further out, which made for a difficult rocky launch.

Traveling up the west coast of Kerrera I spotted two wild billy goats battling it out high up on the cliff. This was soon followed by another other otter near the fish farm and a couple of seals.

All to soon I was back where I had started, in Oban Harbour. What an enjoyable trip.

Oban Harbour
Oban Harbour

Best days paddling ever!

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