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Kyle Rhea: Additional Notes Print E-mail
Written by Andy Waddington   
Sunday, 27 February 2011 23:29

Additional notes pages are intended to provide information of less interest to the general reader than the story of the trip, but which might be useful to anyone planning another trip in the same area. This provides context for any comments about weather and sea conditions or tides in the trip write-up. Back to main article


  • The area around Skye and the Sound of Sleat is within the Stornoway coastguard area, 01851 702013/4. Marine safety information is broadcast on marine VHF radio every three hours from 01:10, with the main bulletins at 01:10, 07:10, 13:10 and 19:10. Listen on channel 16 for an announcement to say which channel to hear the full broadast (which channel depends on the best line-of-sight transmitter).
  • The inshore waters area is Ardnamurchan Head to Cape Wrath.
  • UKHO EasyTide ULLAPOOL for up to six days ahead.
  • Tide for Ullapool from Proudman Oceanographic Lab. This goes 28 days ahead.
  • Tide for Ullapool, Scotland via XTide. This source will predict as far ahead as you like, and can generate complete annual tide tables for any year.

Tides: There are very strong tides through both Kyle Rhea (8 knots) and at the entrance to Loch Alsh (under the Skye bridge, 4 knots, but varies enormously with the weather), so timing is fairly critical. The 2008 trip was just before springs (highest on the 6th May).

For this trip, the main concern was with Kyle Rhea, in which the northerly stream sets six hours after high water at Ullapool, and the southerly stream at Ullapool high water. Streams run at eight knots at springs, and occasionally more in places, with strong eddies, and overfalls at the southern entrance on the south-going stream, if opposed by any wind. In the entrance to Loch Nevis, streams run at half a knot, setting inwards 5:30 after Ullapool high water and outwards 50 minutes before Ullapool HW. Further in than we visited on this trip, streams run at 3 knots in the narrows. In Loch Alsh, tides are relatively benign, but become quite strong near the entrance to Loch Duich and Eilean Donnan, where there are also strong eddies. The inward stream sets 6:10 before HW Ullapool, and outward five minutes before HW Ullapool. Local high water here is 25 minutes before Ullapool.

The 2008 trip: Synoptic charts are for midday (GMT) on each day. Tide heights are for Ullapool and times shown are as predicted by Autotide (also in GMT).

Saturday 3rd May 2008:

With isobars quite close, this was the windiest day - since we weren't in the open sea, the wind was not southerly as you might guess from the chart, but more towards the depression, blowing at us from the SE, and canalised quite strongly as a gusty easterly in the entrance to Loch Nevis. Since the tidal stream was inward until a quarter to six (summer time), we had wind against tide particularly on our paddle into the Loch, making for quite a steep chop.

Tide heightTime (GMT)
H 4.8 05:06
L 0.6 11:30
H 4.9 17:36
L 0.7 23:51

Sunday 4th May 2008:

The influence of the high pressure to the south was being felt, with reduced winds, but the front coming in from the west brought a lot of rain later in the day. The north-going stream in Kyle Rhea set at about 12:50 summer time, giving some of us a little time to play in the south-going stream opposed by a bit of southerly wind before the tide turned and we head up the Kyle before the speed picked up too much. At the head of Loch Alsh, we were playing in a noticeable ingoing stream (outward set about 7:15, by which time we were back down the Loch, camping) which let us practice break-outs and break-ins where the tide swept past a couple of headlands opposite the Castle.

Tide heightTime (GMT)
H 5.1 05:51
L 0.4 12:15
H 5.1 18:18

Monday 5th May 2008:

With the front past, the day was clear, sunny and relatively windless as we paddled across Loch Alsh to wait for the south-going stream through Kyle Rhea, which set at 07:30, to weaken. We didn't want to risk rough water at the southern end, but did want to be through before the tide set north again at about 1:30 summer time. This gave us our usual bank holiday Monday finish shortly after lunch, with plenty of time to drive home.

Tide heightTime (GMT)
L 0.5 00:36
H 5.2 06:34
L 0.3 12:57
H 5.2 19:00

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Last Updated on Friday, 21 March 2014 09:29
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