Skye

Skye offers coasts facing every direction, and varying from sheltered lochs with little tidal flow, to exposed coasts and tide races. Something for everyone in almost any weather.

The scenery varies from excellent to awesome, both above and below the cliffs - below being quite literal as the coast abounds in natural arches and caves.

The Scottish Sea Kayaking (Doug Cooper and George Reid) guidebook shows only eight trips around Skye, but there are many more possibilities and endless variations. Tides are critical to some trips, which are therefore only possible at sensible times on a few days in each two-week tidal cycle. Others can take place any time with no tidal streams to worry about, though perhaps longer carries to the water on some days !

There's a map showing some of our trips with pop-ups for photographs. Not all our trips are on here yet, and there are more photos and tidal data to add - this is a work in progress.

There are a few writes-up of previous trips: Five days in Skye; Around Raasay and Rona at Easter and Sleat peninsula at Easter. There's a video of a trip round the top of the Island if you follow the links to videos from the Canoeing home page, or you can see it at higher resolution on youtube Rubha Hunish - Staffin to Duntelm.

Andy has been working out timings for a circumnavigation, which is 180 miles taking 9 days or so of actual paddling fitting in a two-week window. See his trip plan with map and timings.

Resources:

  • 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 four hours from 01:10, with the main bulletins at 09:10 and 21:10. You therefore don't get the main shipping forecast issued at 05:00 and 17:00 in the 05:10 and 17:10 broadcasts, but the inshore waters forecast (up to 12 miles offshore) is usually more relevant anyway. 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.

Tidal Information

Tidal port is Ullapool and all times are given relative to HW there.

  • UKHO EasyTide ULLAPOOL for up to six days ahead.
  • Tide for Ullapool from National Tidal and Sea Level Facility (formerly the 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.

Spring tides travel from Oban to Ullapool in about an hour, but neaps take more like an hour and a half. As Skye is about halfway, that suggests that times given relative to Ullapool will vary by about fifteen minutes over the tidal cycle, being a bit later than those given, at springs, and a bit earlier, at neaps. Information has been taken from the Admiralty Pilot (NP66) and the Imray Pilot - times do not always agree and in one or two places there is a considerable disparity, though the biggest differences are in locations where streams are not a major concern. Rates given are mean springs rates - neaps are typically about half. At Skye bridge, things are a bit complex, so we deal with that below. The table shows data starting in Loch Alsh and going clockwise round Skye:

Location flood stream ebb stream local high water
Loch Alsh (east part) and Loch Duich, Loch Long inward sets +6:00 (NP66) -6:10 (Imray) ½-¾ kt outward sets -0:20 (NP66) -0:05 (Imray)  
Kyle Rhea N-going sets +5:45 (NP66) +6:00 (Imray) 6-7 kt S-going sets -0:15 (NP66) 0:00 (Imray) 8 kt  
N-going rate and duration increases with S-SW winds. N-going stream enters Loch Alsh as a narrow stream, with eddies both sides. from local HW-3 to HW, N-going sets 4½ kt over low-tide rocks on west of channel
S-going fastest at S end of sound. In Loch Alsh sets in from both E & W. S-going stream has dangerous overfalls in S or SW winds. S-going eddy on east side (Glenelg/Bernera Bay).
Sound of Sleat NE-going sets +5:35 (NP66) +5:50 (Imray) SW-going sets -0:25 (NP66) -0:10 (Imray)  
  Streams in the Sound of Sleat set at pretty much the same time throughout, but are weaker in the SW where the sound is wider
Loch Hourn inward sets +6:00 (NP66) -6:10 (Imray) outward sets 0:00 (NP66) +0:05 (Imray) -1:10
Isle Ornsay     -0:50
Armadale     -0:40
Loch Nevis inward sets +5:15 (NP66) +5:30 (Imray) outward sets -1:05 (NP66) -0:50 (Imray) -0:40
Mallaig     -0:50
Point of Sleat N-going sets +5:50 S-going sets -0:25  
  Streams are strong enough to cause overfalls on both ebb and flood. There is thought to be an eddy west of the point on the flood
Loch Eishort inward sets +5:35 weak outward sets-0:25 weak -0:40
Loch Slapin inward sets +5:35 weak outward sets-0:25 weak -0:40
Loch Scavaig inward sets +5:35 weak outward sets-0:25 weak -0:40
Soay Sound tides set constantly westward. Confused sea at W end of sound in S or SW wind -0:40
Soay to Loch Bracadale NW-going sets +5:35 1 kt SE-going sets -0:25 1 kt  
Loch Bracadale streams very weak, but very exposed to W and SW -0:50
From Loch Brittle to Idrigill Point, there is a magnetic anomaly with declination increased by up to 10°
Loch Bracadale to Moonen Bay NW-going sets +5:35 1 kt SE-going sets -0:25 1 kt  
Moonen Bay SE-going eddy sets -0:35 until +2:10 NW-going eddy sets +5:35 until -4:05  
Neist Point NW-going sets -4:05 or -4:15 SE-going Ullapool +2:10 or +2:20  
from U +5:35 to U -4:05 the S-going stream meets a NW-going stream and is deflected west
off shore Neist to Rubha Hunish N-going sets -4:05 S-going sets +2:20  
Waternish NE-going sets -1:50 2½ kt, overfalls SW-going sets +2:25 2½ kt, overfalls  
Loch Dunvegan streams generally very weak - strongest ½ kt south of Iosaigh -0:45
Loch Snizort / Uig Bay     -0:30
Ru Bornesketaig NE-going sets -4:15 (NP66) 2½ kt SW-going sets +2:10 (NP66) 2½ kt  
Fladda Chuain E-going sets -4:00 (NP66) 3 kt W-going sets +1:55  
  E-going stream splits N and SE around the island, with overfalls to the NW. Overfalls also E of Sgeir nan Maol, and NE of An t-Iasgair
off Rubha Hunish NE-going sets -4:30 (NP66) -4:05 (Imray) 3 kt SW-going sets +2:10 (NP66) +2:20 (Imray) 3 kt  
Rubha na h-Aiseig E-going sets -4:00 (NP66) -3:50 (Imray) 2½ kt W-going +2:25 (NP66) +2:35 (Imray) 2½ kt  
Staffin S-going Ullapool +4:40 1 kt N-going sets -1:15 1 kt  
Fladday harbour     -0:25
Portree     -0:25
Raasay Narrows     -0:25
Acarseid Mhor, Rona     -0:25
Caol Rona SE-going sets +4:50 (NP66) +5:05 (Imray) 2 kt NW-going sets -1:10 (NP66) -0:55 (Imray) 2 kt  
Inner Sound S-going sets +5:05 (NP66) +6:05 (Imray) N-going sets -0:55 (NP66) -0:05 (Imray)  
  streams set later further south and differ widely from E & W streams at Kyle Akin
Loch Sligachan inward sets +6:05 (Imray) ¾ kt outward sets -0:15 (Imray) ¾ kt  
Sconser/S Raasay     -0:25
Caolas Mor SE-going sets +5:50 (NP66) +6:05 (Imray) NW-going sets -0:10 (NP66) +0:05 (Imray)  
Caol Mor SE & E-going sets +5:50 (NP66) +6:05 (Imray) 1 kt NW & W-going sets -0:10 (NP66) +5:50 (Imray) 1 kt surely an error here ?
Caolas Scalpay E-going sets +5:50 (Imray) 1 kt W-going sets -0:10 (Imray) 1 kt  
Caolas Pabay NE-going sets +5:50 (Imray) 1 kt SW-going sets -0:10 (Imray) 1 kt  
  Between Scalpay/Longay 2 kt
Plockton     -0:20
Loch Carron inward sets +5:50 (NP66) +6:05 (Imray) outward sets -0:10 (NP66) +0:05 (Imray)  
  Streams negligible except at Strome Ferry narrows, where may reach 3 kt

At Skye bridge (Kyle Akin) streams vary widely between springs and neaps and also with wind direction, barometric pressure, and runoff from rain or snowmelt. In addition, local observers believe that times and rates have changed as the sea bed has changed over the years since the bridge was built, so information from the Pilots may be out-dated. Times and rates depend on the difference in level between Loch Alsh and Inner Sound. S/SW winds strengthen and prolong the tidal flow into Loch Alsh at Kylerhea, which will raise the level east of the bridge, as will rain or snowmelt, but low barometric pressure will raise sea level in the open sea - ie. Inner Sound, west of the bridge. As these effects tend to occur together, it is difficult to predict which will have the greater influence. Higher levels in Loch Alsh will make the west-going stream start earlier, run faster, and last longer with correspondingly later, slower and shorter east-going stream. Plan trips to allow for the possibility that the tide is not doing what you expect. Both effects being equal, a simplified view says:

  at Springs at Neaps
East-going sets Ullapool HW -3:00 sets Ullapool HW +1:00
West-going sets Ullapool HW +3:30 sets Ullapool HW -6:00


Under Skye bridge is a handy tide race to practice rescues - very near the parking in case things get cold

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