For a different perspective on the beautiful island of Skye, why not take to the seas? We spoke to Gordon Brown of Skyak Adventures to find out more about his highlights of Skye and why the waters around the island are so special.
How long have you been running sea kayaking expeditions around Skye?
I’ve been running sea kayaking expeditions, training and instruction on the Isle of Skye since 2000, so thirteen years now.
Can you describe a typical day?
A typical day, if there’s such a thing, starts with a group meeting over coffee to discuss the possibilities for the day. It’s then off to the water and, depending on the needs and wants of the group, the fun begins. Sometimes it can be a mellow journey watching the abundant wildlife – sometimes it can be a bit more frenetic surfing or playing in the tiderace – but always it will involve the scenery and exploring the stunning coastline.
What wildlife do you often see while sea kayaking in this area?
Regularly we’ll see seals, both common and grey and otters are fairly commonplace but much more elusive than the seals. Mink, although not exactly welcome are a part of the local wildlife we see. Occasional Minke whales, dolphins, porpoise, basking sharks and, of course, deer on land. Then there’s all of the birdlife you’d expect to see as well as the mighty sea eagle and occasional peregrine falcon. So a huge range of flying, walking, swimming and hiding wildlife.
Is there a particular kayaking expedition that really sticks in your memory?Probably many but the most recent one was pretty good. Starting from Balmaqueen on the far Northeast of Skye and coming south to finish at Broadford over three days was pretty special. It rained continuously for the whole time we were out, which was a challenge. Then on the final day the headwind arrived too which made the pull down to Broadford hard work. However, the caves, stacks, arches, cliffs, seals and the nine sea eagles we saw, more than made up for the weather.
Where’s your favourite place to look back at Skye/the mainland from the sea?
I’ve not really thought about where my favourite place to look back at Skye from the sea would be but it would most likely be coming towards the Skye Bridge with the Red and Black Cuillins framed below. Raasay, Pabay and Scalpay just to the right and home just to the left. Oh, it would also have to be with the background of a stunning sunset.
Do you have a favourite season for kayaking?
I love kayaking in all seasons and they are all different. Spring is great to see the colour developing in the trees and plants and the birds starting to nest. Summer, is very busy and there is always plenty wildlife to see and as the weather is generally a bit more settled, it is possible to get to the more remote areas. Autumn is great as the colours are changing again and I always enjoy the first frost, especially if I’m out on expedition, the air smells different. There’s always a bit of gardeners’ smoke blowing around and there is so little else to smell that you can pick up scents a long way off. In winter, the air is so clear that everything seems to come closer and the very frosty days, when the surface of the sea has skimmed with ice, are just so very special.
I suppose though, if I could choose only one season, it would have to be the winter and this is a purely selfish reason. Morag, my wife, and I can get out for a personal paddle when the kids are at school and we are not so busy…
What do you love most about your job?
The thing I love most about my job, is that it doesn’t really feel like a job. It is a passion and a way of life, and I get to share this with my best friend, Morag. I enjoy helping others reach their potential and will always push them quite hard so that they are able to get results quickly. Most of all, IT IS FUN.
What other things on/around Skye would you recommend to visitors?
Other things in the area which I would recommend for anyone visiting would have to be any walking where there are views. The Quirang is a special place, Neist Point the most westerly point, is also good as it sticks out into the Minch and it is possible to whale watch from the cliffs. A boat trip to Loch Coruisk is always special and then there are all the local restaurants to refuel yourself at the end of a day out in the fresh air. There really is no shortage of things to do.
Where do you like to walk on the island?
My favourite walk on the island has to be a very short one which starts as I land from the kayak. Boreraig, in Loch Eishort has such an amazing history. From Upper Jurassic fossils, to standing stones, to the last cleared village on Skye it is just perfect. It is also possible to walk from Kilchrist but as I’m on the water most days it is easier, and a bit more special, to get there by kayak.
Can you recommend something to visitors that they might not find in a guidebook?
There are so many ‘secret’ places on Skye but I think the ones people are surprised by are the caves along the coast. These are hidden from view and boat trips do not go too close but in a kayak we can explore the inner depths and beauty of them.
Where else in Scotland do you love to kayak/embrace the outdoors?
I love kayaking all over my country, but if I had to choose just one place, it would have to be St Kilda. It is way beyond world-class. Exposed, alone, wild, rugged, inaccessible, beautiful, lonely, sad, historic, birds, whales……. The list could go on but it is not an easy place to get to, and there is never any guarantee you can land, so it will always be very special.
Can you describe Skye in three words?