Motoring, cycling, hiking...there are a myriad of great ways to get around Argyll, and one of our favourites is paddling. The west coast was meant to be explored by boat- that's how travellers got around here for thousands of years before roads - and even with the roads, water is often the most efficient means of getting around. Efficiency aside, paddling gives you the best seat in the house for viewing coastal wildlife and stunning vistas.
The Argyll Sea Kayak Trail is a group of easily accessible launch sites at key points along a route that links Helensburgh in the south-east with Oban in the north-west. Argyll and Bute Council worked with businesses and community groups such as Scottish Canals, Tarbert Harbour Authority, Bute Forest and Toward Sailing Club to deliver the Trail. It was featured earlier this year in the Telegraph's "10 Best Reasons to Visit Scotland in 2016".
At 150 km long in eight sections, the Trail boasts some cracking spots, and, while we might be a bit biased, we think the Oban leg has some of the best. Avid paddler, chair of the Oban Canoe Club and owner of Outdoor Edge, Dave Bleazard agrees. "There are some stunning locations on the trail between Oban and Helensburgh where you can camp and get some fantastic views, especially between Oban and Crinan," he shares. "You can paddle down past the Corryvrecken, by Cuan Sound, and go around Easdale. You'll see otters galore, porpoise, tons of sea eagles- it's a stunning section of coast with interesting currents."
Whether you are an intermediate or an old hat, the Argyll Kayak Trail will reward you - there are some thrilling spots, as well as calm areas. The Oban leg, one of the longest at 28 km, starts at Ganavan Beach, follows the coastline west to Sgeir an Eitich, then turns south to pass between Maiden Island and Little Ganavan. You'll see Dunollie Castle come into view as you enter Oban Bay. The bay is busy with ferries and fishing boats, so take care to give them a wide berth! You'll head to Kerrera Sound, past Heather Island - either side of the sound is fine to paddle, depending on conditions. You'll then follow the coast past Minard Point and the mouth of beautiful Loch Feochan. Take a rest in Barnacarry Bay on the opposite side of the mouth before making your way around the coastline to the islands. Head to the tip of Rubha Garbh Airde, and continue down the Isle of Seil (watch out for rough conditions!) then turn into Easdale Sound - you will see Ellenbeich. There is a natural rock slipway in the far corner. Have a vehicle waiting, and stop in for a refreshment while you are there.
Be on the lookout for wildlife along the way- grey and common seals, otters, herons, ducks, geese and porpoises abound here. You may even see a dolphin!
Take a tip from David, who has been paddling the Oban area for decades. "Be aware of the tides. If the tide's against you coming from Cuan sound or Seil sound, it's really against you. Tides and navigation are the crucial things, and be aware that weather conditions and tides can change very quickly."
Always check out the sections you plan to paddle and anticipate any hazards. Most sections are fine for an early intermediate paddler if accompanied by a more experienced one. Beginners should take a qualified guide. Don't forget to check the tide and weather forecast, but be prepared for changeable conditions!
Parking charges at Ganavan apply between 9am and 4pm and costs £2 per day or £1 per 4 hours. Overnight parking or camping is not permitted. For more information and maps, visit paddleargyll.org.uk.