Lismore is an island, sheltered by the large island of Mull from worst conditions of the west coast, and in particular from ocean swell. Unlike a lot of Scotland, this is not igneous or metamorphic rock, but a limestone, which makes the island gently rolling and very green, with lots of clean freshwater springs around its coast. It's a convenient destination from several starting points, and you can get all the way round it in a weekend without long days (indeed, at spring tides, on the water at high tide about 7 am at Port Appin, you could do it in one long day. There is actually more help from the tides like this than with more conventional hours over two days as this means you always get some paddling against the tide). In addition, there is scope for extending the trip in several directions (further up Loch Linnhe, across to Morvern, over to Mull) to make a three or four day trip. There are enough tides flowing in various directions to make planning a trip interesting, but not so difficult that you can only get round on a few days each tidal cycle. There's a fierce tide race off the southern tip, but as long as it's not very low tide, or peak flow against you, there's a sneaky channel between Lismore and its lighthouse (which is actually on Eilean Musdile) which can be passed.
Eilean Musdile and the channel separating it from Lismore
Although sheltered from swell, the area is exposed to SW and NE winds, which will directly oppose the tides, so it's probably not the best place if the winds are forecast strong. However, northeasterlies in summer are often not too strong and fairly short-lived, so those happy in the rough can use a northeast wind to surf against the tide down the island, as long as the forecast is for calm enough weather to get back !
- The area around Mull is within the Clyde coastguard area, 01475 729988. Marine safety information is broadcast on marine VHF radio every four hours from 02:20, with the main bulletins (full shipping forecast) at 08:20 and 20:20. 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 Mull of Kintyre to Ardnamurchan Head.
- XTide for Oban predictions as far as you like, including the facility to print an annual tide calendar.
Starting Points: the shortest approach is from Port Appin, and most SOC trips have started and finished there. There's limited parking space, and local tourist businesses do rely on people being able to park up to use the cafés and gift shops, so it's a bit anti-social to dump several cars here for two or three days at holiday periods. If the tides work for you, it's possible to put on in Loch Creran, or approach from the Oban area, or a big layby opposite Shuna at NM929492. Since a trip round Lismore often takes in Shuna, the latter starting point adds no distance to the trip. Different starting points work with different tide times but any trip is likely to need some paddling early or late in the day, so long daylight is always an advantage.
Tides are within a few minutes of those at Oban, but do check more than one source for tidal info, as at least one SOC group have turned up to find the tide running the "wrong" way, as the pages of the tide table they'd bought had been printed in the wrong order ! There are lots of ways to approach the planning, but as one straightforward example, pick a day with HW at lunchtime and travel to Port Appin the previous evening. Putting on mid-morning, you could paddle across the flood to the small islands north of Lismore, then hop onto the west coast where the first two or three kilometres SW will be out of the main flow. By the time you pass Rubha Ban, it will be slack. You've then got six hours of favourable tide to head down the west coast, and get through the gap between Lismore and Eilean Musdile before the tide turns. With high tide at lunchtime, you are just after neaps, so it's unlikley that this channel will be too empty, but if it is, at slack, it would not be a major epic to go round the south of Eilean Musdile. Once on the east side, you can take a break, and have an evening paddle with the flood to get a bit of distance up the east coast. Next day, getting on the water promptly will have the assistance of the flood most of the way and with only about ten miles back to Port Appin, arriving early afternoon will give you an easy drive home. That splits at about fifteen miles the first day, and ten the second, so by no means a strenuous trip. Taking in Shuna to the north makes it up to more like thirty miles overall, and you'd want an early start both days, or pick a time with the tides a little later so you have more time on the flood on the second day (and plenty of daylight so you can still make a bit of progress up the east coast at the end of the first day). If high tide is late afternoon you could start at Oban before low water, and stay east of the main flow until the flood starts, then the flood tide helps you up to the north of the island and the evening ebb part way back down the west coast. You'd need an early start to reach the southern tip of Lismore before low tide, but then you could cross to Mull on the slack, and back to Kerrera and Oban with the flood. That's a longer trip, but with similar timing from Oban, you could keep the distance down by doing Lismore clockwise - ferry glide across the ebb towards Lismore, and catch the start of the flood to get onto the west coast and paddle to the north end. You only need a couple of hours of ebb on the second day before you can duck out of the main flow past Rubha Fion-aird. You'd now cross the flood - it looks like a huge amount of water going through the Falls of Lora into Loch Etive, but out here it's spread across a much wider and deeper channel, so the flow is not noticeable.
|Location||flood stream||ebb stream||local high water|
|Loch Linnhe - central||N-going Oban -5:45 1 kt. sp.||S-going Oban +0:25 1 kt.||Oban +0:00|
|S end Lynn of Lorn||NNE Oban +4:45, 1 knot sp.||SSW Oban -1:40 1 kt. sp.|
|SW (really?) of the Eilean nan Gamha group, an eddy sets SW-wards on the flood (Imray)|
|N end of Lynn of Lorn||NNE Oban +6:00 2½ kt. sp.||SSW Oban -0:15 2½ kt. sp.|
|Port Appin||Oban -0:05|
|Loch Creran entrance||Inward Oban +6:00 4 kt. springs||Outward Oban -0:15 4 kt. sp.|
|Lynn of Morvern||N-going Oban -5:45 1 kt. sp.||S-going Oban +0:25 1 kt.||Oban +0:00|
|On the flood, a narrow stream runs northwards from Eilean Musdile across to the Morvern shore, then NE towards Shuna, at 2½ knots|
|On the ebb, an eddy sets into Bernera Bay. At springs only, a stream off hte Morvern shote, NW of Bernera, runs at 4 knots SE, with overfalls|
|Eilean Musdile / Lady's Rock||NW-going Oban -5:45 (Imray)||SE-going Oban +0:25 (Imray)|
|Between Lady's Rock and Mull, tides run at 3 knots at springs, with overfalls at the windward end if wind is against tide|
|On the flood, there are eddies and turbulence NW of Eilean Musdile|
|Between Lady's Rock and Eilean Musdile the ebb reaches 4 knots at springs, but is less in the narrow race between Eilean Musdile and Lismore|