A winter paddle to Inver Dalavil

Martin prepares the kayak for a trip on Skye

It was a grey, grey, slate grey day on Sleat. Skye in January can be a bit dark but this is no excuse for not making an effort to get out on the water. With modern kayaking gear it’s even possible to go out and have fun without getting cold. We decided it was time to explore a new bit of Skye’s coastline and headed down to Tarksavaig, a small village in South West Skye. Beyond the roller coaster single track road there are large areas with no road at all and this was this bit we were interested in getting to. Launching the kayaks at Gillean involved a bit of energetic portage as there was quite a low tide – we’re getting pretty used to this.

The Skye Cuillin and seabirds

Out in the bay were numerous little skerries, popular with otters who all disappeared as soon as we got the camera out (as usual). There are great views of the isle of Rum from here, which is pretty close. We’d love to paddle there some day! Heading south, we eventually reached Inver Dalavil, and continued past to see if we could get a peep at the bottom corner of Skye. It’s a long way down. So we backtracked to Dalavil for lunch.

The Skye Cuillin from Dalavil

 In the wonderful book ‘Blazing Paddles’,  kayaker Brian Wilson made an emergency stop here on his route around the coast of Scotland after recognising the first stages of hyperthermia. Vanessa had poke around to see if she could find the cave he slept in (á la Bonnie Prince Charlie). The area around Dalavil is peppered with the ruins of stone houses and the site of a more ancient dun (fort). As with so many parts of Skye, it was once a well-populated valley but those days are long past . It’s a lovely spot with sandy beaches, basking seals and wooded valleys with tumbling burns. If you look at Dalavil on the OS map it’s curious because the Allt a Ghlinne river runs dead straight through it and just doesn’t look natural – but why? We’ve yet to find out.

Vanessa paddling around south Skye

Once we’d had our piece (for all you non-Scots, that’s a sandwich), we launched off the beach and paddled back up the coast under ever more darkening skys. Back at Tarskavaig we did a full tour of the bay and once again got a close-up of an otter before we got our camera out. Time was getting on so it was back to portaging up the bay and the arduous task of getting two kayaks on the top of Citroen Berlingo, hardly the ideal car for transporting boats. Good thing plastic kayaks are so forgiving when dropped.

Winter sea, Isle of Skye

More info:

For non-paddlers, Dalavil is also accessible on foot from the Tarskavaig road. It’s an excellent area for spotting otters.  The path starts good but, like many on Skye, becomes very boggy in places.  

The route can be found on the Walkhighlands website: