Things change. The moment any guidebook is published it is out of date. I try to add informtaion here, but even though I live on Scotland's west coast, that doesn't mean I know everything that's happening on the trail all the time.
If you discover something which you think other paddlers ought to know, then please
Force 5 is described as a ‘Moderate Gale’ when clearly it’s not - thanks Ian.
Page 65 & 68
The scale on these maps is wrong - thanks Tobias.
Tidal streams mid-channel between Eigg and Mainland should be timed from Ullapool (as on the map) not Oban.
Loch Ailort is mistakenly identified as Loch Moidart.
In the book I recommend against an overnight in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull as I could not find a safe place to leave a kayak unattended. Readers have since told me they want to spend a night in the town, and ask "what’s the ‘least risky’ place to leave kayaks".
At the far western corner of the harbour, immediately before the yacht pontoon, there’s a small concrete slipway. The angle of slope and the large rocks make it hard to see until you’re almost on top of it, so aim for the Aquarium, a large white building with a circular turret (it has laundry, showers and toilets). Quite a few boats are left lying around at the top of the slipway, and it would be possible to hide a couple of kayaks here.
The risk comes from there being a car park and two bars less than 100 yards away. It’s not unknown for a drunken holiday-maker to see a kayaking and think, ‘I can paddle that’. So take the hatches off and lock the kayaks together if possible, as I explain in the book. Leaving a kayak unattended in Tobermory is not risk-free, but I believe this is the least risky option.
Anti-midge strategies for kayak camping
In the guide-book I write a little about the anti-midge strategy which we use. However, with the dreaded winged beasties starting to arrive for another year, , embedded with links to buy the small bits-and-pieces we use and recommend. I’ve rather than reproduce it in full here.
Argyll sea kayak trail
One of the more significant developments since the guidebook was published has been the creation of this 'official' trail. Because local government is involved the trail is restricted to one county and so covers a fraction of the full Scottish Sea Kayak Trail.
There are some handy resources on the website but the site news is dormant.
Coastguard & weather broadcast changes
Since the guidebook was published Clyde Coastguard has closed. Now almost all the area through which the Trail travels is covered by Stornoway Coastguard (Tel: 01851 702013/4). Only the extreme south of the Trail, from the start to around the Crinan area, is covered by Belfast Coastguard (Tel: 02891 463933).
A significant amount of development has taken place including a new marina with pontoons. The recommended landing site given in the book has also changed, with a gate and set of steps added to the slipway making launching and landing here more difficult. There is another concrete slipway and mud beach next to the boatyard (to the right when you're looking into the harbour from the water) which gives faster access to the town but leaves the kayaks quite visible.
Alternatively there is an area known as 'The Kyber' on the east side (left) of the harbour before you reach the pontoons where commercial kayak trips sometimes launch and land, walking across flat rocks. This is closer to the proposed long-stay parking area.
Argyll and Bute Council and its neighbour Highland Council have introduced parking charges (or plan to) in places which were free when the guidebook was written, most significantly in Oban and Mallaig. Because the trail was based around nodal points like these it complicates the vehicle shuttles. Please research options carefully and ensure your information is up to date. This is my understanding in early 2020:
Tayinloan (trail start): but only for 20 vehicles.
Oban: all pay-and-display with . 7-day (£30) and monthly (£60) permits . You must specify a car-park when you book, but you can then use any of the long stay car parks. I tested this in May 2021 and found Corran Halls 1 most convenient. There is a height restrictor but set at 3m.
If tackling the whole trail, I'd park at Tayinloan for the first section, shuttle to Oban, then leave my vehicle here until needed, returning from Kyleakin. You can extend your parking permit online without returning to the vehicIe by simply booknig another 7 days (if using the Pay Smarti app, make a note of the car park code). However, 2 weeks costs the same as a whole month.
Mallaig: the new marina (see below) brought more traffic to the town and the car parks struggle to cope on a busy summer day. Parking machines have appeared and may now be in use. I would not now shuttle from here, preferring to paddle 2+ days and shuttle from Kyleakin where there are good CityLink coach connections. Kyleakin still has free parking and, although the large car park is popular with motorhomes, it's easy to land and launch from the pebble beach.
2021 Trail Report and advice
In June/July 2021 Hannah and Frodo completed the whole trail in under two weeks. They have some great advice for doing the shuttle at the end of the trip, and some warnings for anyone thinking portages around tricky bits might be easy - they're not.