Sea Kayaking - In Search of the Queen of Inch

Posted by Clive Hall on 2013-09-10

A 4,000-year-old skeleton, known as the Queen of Inch, was discovered by accident on the island of Inchmarnock in the 1950's. Preserved in an ancient cist, the remains included a necklace made from Whitby Jet.

After examination by archaeologists on two occasions since the discovery the current owner of Inchmarnock Island, Lord Smith of Kelvin, said it was now time for the remains to be buried for good and this was completed in 2010 at a secret location on the island.

Cloudy with sunny spells was forecast and exactly what we got as we set out from Largs marina crossing a very busy Fairlie Roads sound on our way to the southern point of Great Cumbrae Isle. Apparently we had chosen the Fairlie weekend which saw us enjoy all the 1930's to 50's yacht craft and sail boats as they proceeded to circumnavigate the isle.

Once clear of the yachts we cut through The Tan between Great Cumbrae and Little Cumbrae isles to head south and then west across the Firth of Clyde. Rounding the southern tip of Bute the sea flattened as we tracked north west on flat calm and at times smooth sea. Late afternoon we passed Ardscalpsie Point and crossed to the south east of Inchmarnock itself where on a quiet and serene beach we landed and set up camp along with the midges.

Camp on the beach, Inchmarnock

After dinner the evening was spent walking to the northern tip of the island and finding the location of the original Queen of Inch cist as well as exploring the deserted Chapel and farm buildings at Midpark. Inchmarnock highland cattle are renowned as being part feral and so we treated these magnificent beasts with due reverence and respect especially as there were calves about. After having returned from our search it was required as sea kayakers for us to light a fire and enjoy refreshment.

Early evening, before refreshment led to a bigger fire...

Sunday morning and the forecast was wrong, wind picked up from the south meaning the first half of our return journey was straight into the increasingly choppy seas as we retraced our steps south. A small old inlet at Cradh Rubha on Bute gave us a welcome break as the seas continued to grow. Breaking out from the inlet was an experience, rather like going out through surf, but once out we continued our southerly way until a rogue wave caught one of our party and suddenly we had an incident on our hands. Classic rescue techniques soon saw the unfortunate member back in his boat but not before both rescuer and victim had to be towed clear of the rocks mid rescue.

We were now at the southern tip of Bute and decided to push on and re-cross the Firth of Clyde to the old lighthouse station on Little Cumbrae isle.

As we progressed across the Firth the sea continued to test us as we rode the 5ft swell and the occasionally larger waves with their white horses.

An hour's rest and recuperation at the old lighthouse inlet and we were on our way north again with the wind and seas subsiding and the tides carrying us north to retrace our outward course back to Largs in a more relaxed manner.

Our journey had been eventful but rewarding with success on our burial cist finding, sightings of seals, sea otter, hedgehogs, and a myriad of sea birds. Many thanks to Andy Barras, Duane Newton and Dave Long (first kayak camping trip) for the company, hope it was memorable.

Clive Hall

Article and photographs copyright © Clive Hall 2013

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