Four big days at sea!

The last few days has seen me spend quite a bit of time in a boat, which has left me feeling super keen to get back into the hills….but what a great four days!

On Monday I was lucky enough to be involved with celtic crossing challenge, this is a group of local firefighters who set themselves the challenge of climbing Ben Nevis, cycling to the Mull of Kintrye, sea kayaking across the north channel, then paddling to and climbing slieve Donard, in an effort to raise money for CLIC Sargent. I was part of a team of four that accompanied them on their paddle, although to do this we had to get to the Mull of Kintrye first!
On Sunday morning Mike, Oisin, Steve and myself set of from Cushendun and paddled over, meaning that we could meet the guys and join them on their paddle back the next day. After a bumpy crossing and a bit of sea-sickness! we arrived on the Mull. It was a surreal feeling to think that I had just paddled from Ireland to Scotland, a journey I would more commonly associate with planes and ferries, but it was great to have done it….now all we had to do was paddle back!
Conditions for the return crossing were much more friendly, and the team of firefighters made short work of the crossing, it was a stunning effort, especially given that they had just climbed and cycled from Ben Nevis.

Out in the channel, with a tanker between us and the Mull

Oisin and Mike at the Mull of Kintrye

The team on the water on monday morning

The dream team……..

After getting off the water it was back to Belfast to make plans for the next two days of good weather. Fergal, Davy and myself decided to head up and paddle around Malin head, the most northerly point of mainland Ireland, and then out to Inishtrahull, the most Northerly Island off Ireland.
The tides run quite strongly up round these headlands, so you really need to work with them. Thankfully the tides for going around malin head were just right for us in the afternoon, meaning that we didn’t have to make an early start…result!
After rounding the headland, we came ashore and waited for the tides to change before crossing to inishtrahull. The island is about 10km offshore, with glassy flat seas, and great views of the Irish coastline, it was a very enjoyable paddle. When we eventually landed, we went for a little explore of the island, which was absolutely teaming with wildlife, before setting up camp.
We awoke the next morning to find that a thick fog had rolled in during the night, the forecast had also changed slightly, giving a chance of stronger winds. The prospect of being out in the channel, in poor visibility with the wind and tide running in different directions was not a good one, so we changed our plans of a later start, and got on the water asap.
The paddle back had a definite air of seriousness about it. We spent an hour paddling on a bearing, into the tide, without being able to see any land at all. Although it wasn’t the most phsyically challenging paddle, I found it quite tough mentally, and I was glad to see the first glimpse of the donegal coastline come looming through the mist.
It was a great four days paddling, with a good mix of open crossings and exploring coastlines. I’ve been very lucky the last fortnight, with good weather and time off work all coming together to allow me to have paddled to the most southerly and northerly points in Ireland and two crossings of the north channel, a very productive two weeks, but its definitely time to swap my paddle for some climbing shoes!

Exploring the inlets around Malin head

Striking out on the crossing to inishtrahull on the horizon

Looking back to the mainland

Approaching the campsite on inishtrahull
Duck tape, dont leave home without it!

A misty morning, you can just about make out the light house on the hill!

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