Our journey around Ireland has suddenly reached the point when it could be called hard core expedition. Two reasons, one very personal, I’ve had porridge for breakfast four times now. The second one is a team one, we did get up at 4.30am today to paddle. And that is definitely hardcore.

We need to catch the tide to take us through Bull’s Mouth on the north side of Achill Island. And as we chose not to paddle against it in the most narrow place, the early wake up had to be sustained. However this resulted in a welcome surprise for Lindsey.

We reached Achill Sound, and by 8.30am after two hours of paddling, and she got a proper cup of tea. We don’t carry milk with us, and neither do use powder milk, so proper cup of tea is only for weather-bound days and special occasions.

We continued south and passed Kildavnet Castle, a tower house built in 16th century by the O’Malley’s clan, and connected to pirate princess.

From here we crossed over to Clare Island. Lindsey could not believe her luck, it was only noon, and with our lunch she had another cup of proper tea.

Clare island also has a tower house, this one wider, known as Granouaile’s Castle, and the pirate princess is said to have her head buried here.

Since we started so early, we had plenty of time to go where we pleased, and so we decided to continue to Inishturk, some two hours of paddling from Clare.

Here we didn’t find any tower house, but had another opportunity to indulge Lindsey in yet another cup of proper tea. Now, I can’t complain as it meant I squeezed three cups of coffee from todays’ paddling as well.

And since Inishturk offered great views of Clew Bay we decided to stay here tonight.


The weather started to catch up with us just as we wanted to make progress and turn a corner out of the huge Donegal Bay. However it seemed to be possible only in small steps. Why not, in the end, the good thing about small steps is, we get to see a bit more landscape inland.

We left Portulin hoping that the cliffs will provide us with enough shelter from the south easterly wind to round the corner into the Broad Haven Bay. No such luck, and after a short paddle and strong gusts of wind, we landed in Portacloy.

The plan was to wait for few hours, when according to the forecast the wind should drop down a bit. The wait was great, sun was warm, the beach beautiful. Only the wind seemed to want to stay and blow. When it was time to go on the water, we took one look out on the sea, and it just didn’t feel good, to me at least. So we all decided to stay, but move from the beach to the pier for easier haul of the boats above high water mark.

The pier itself was constructed in such a way to attract fairly strong dumping side wave on the slipway, the kind that likes to play with heavy loaded kayaks. Our solution was to tie one kayak to the side of the pier, then have two of us available to get each kayak up the slip. Great plan. I clipped my kayak on the tow line, helped Zoe, then Lindsey to land. Every time I looked, the kayak was there bobbing happily by the side. It was there when I caught Lindsey’s boat landing. It wasn’t there when I looked having pulled Lindsey’s boat two metres up the slip. Where was my boat?

Well, to cut a long story short, my boat was on its way to Broad Haven. Oh dear, so we launched Zoe’s boat with Zoe in it, and after short while she brought the unruly craft back again. Sadly no photos as the camera was just bobbing on my deck. A fairly uneventful afternoon followed, but we found a shop in the neighbouring village, where Lindsey was allowed to keep Thurrock’s waffles with expiry date in 2012 for free. We also found a rather eccentric pub, but we couldn’t stay too long, as for the following day we planned early departure hoping to squeeze the journey to Belmullet before the headwind picks up to beyond our ability to paddle against it.

Despite the shaking tent at five in the morning telling us that the wind was ready and waiting, the sea looked very calm, so we decided to give it a go. The first few kilometres were very pleasant. We paddled past several headlands with stacks, caves, and tunnels. The view of the Broad Haven stacks was amazing. We managed to hop between shelter and headwind and hide close to cliffs.

Until we came to Doonanierin Point, where our first crossing into the headwind was to start, an unpleasant hour of hard work towards Brandy Point, then another shorter one to the lighthouse at Gubacashel. The wind was increasing, we took it step by step, as we really really wanted to get to Belmullet. Zoe wanted to get through the canal from Broad Haven Bay to Black Sod Bay, Lindsey wanted to get to supermarket, I just wanted to get somewhere and stop.

Belmullet, according to sources the origin of the name is unknown, but might mean ‘mouth of the ismuth’, and that’s great, as I like ismuthes or isthmi. The town history is quite short, but in 16th century an admiral was chasing pirates in around that area. He made it into Broadhaven Bay, made his boat to be portaged across the isthmus and caught up with them near the islands on the south west side of the peninsula. The canal we were aiming for was conveniently built for us during the 18th century by Sir Arthur Shaen, who decided to develop the town, and to gain better access to the area had the canal excavated. It’s not used anymore, but was perfect for us. We found a place at the northern side of the Black Sod Bay to stay to wait out the few following non-paddling days. Belmullet has not been an old historic town, and long had its heyday, but for us it had all what we needed: cafe, pubs, supermarket, swimming pool, and tidal pool for Lindsey.

Shangri-La of the Atlantic

One long winter evening few of us were siting in cosy London pub talking about paddling. Somehow we ventured to trips we went on and what we liked and enjoyed and what might be the next. I have mentioned my memories from Iceland when I was sitting in the rain being cold and wet thinking, “why am I doing this? My next paddling holiday is going to be in France, somewhere in the sun, drinking wine every evening!” Toby said, sounds perfect. Would you join me in Brittany next summer? We started to look at possible places straight away, flipping through charts and websites on our phones. I have seen this French guy, paddling some big stuff said Toby and went on kayak tinder. Next minute he sent a message out, “Hi Nico, we like your pictures, it would be cool to paddle together when we come to Brittany.”

Now we were about to meet Nico, he said everything is good for tomorrow. We are all invited to my friend’s party, we can plan where to go while we are there. BBQ, beer, wine and cognac is a great combo for kayak planning. There is an offshore island here suggested Nico, we will have downwind conditions and we could go there. Next morning we were more serious. There is F7 in the forecast but we felt like we could still go, while we were checking our numbers and timings when Nico causally mentioned, the forecast says 5 meters waves but that never happens with a northerly wind…

We pack our kayaks on the beach and enjoyed coffee in the sun. There was almost no wind, the bay was flat like a pancake and we were off. Just as we were passed the lighthouse and entered deep, open water, the wind picked up. Now we were surfing downwind in F6, deep into the fog following a compass bearing. Waves were getting steeper and bigger, gusts of wind were hitting us hard and it was almost impossible to take one hand off the paddle. Now we were trying hard not to loose sight of each other in big waves. We were not surfing anymore, we were trying hard to let the steep, big waves just pass under our hull and brace for the impact of the crest.

Suddenly big dark cliffs emerged just ahead of us framed in big white spray of the wild sea crashing against the rocks “He who sees Ushant sees his own blood!” Is an old Breton proverb.

Now we were paddling hard across the wind to avoid the lee shore and get behind the reefs. We could still see each other between waves but nobody was waiting. With a few last big waves, we surfed behind the reef. We slowly paddled to the beach, the sun came out, the water was flat. We have made it!

As we walked around the island, orange cliffs were lit by the sun. Heavy seas were crashing into the rocky shore. White houses with blue window shutters were scattered around in deep green grass. There were bars and beer on every corner. We walked inside, with “we are the champions” playing loud and ordered our drinks with church bells ringing in the background. We were in a magical place!

It was time to leave. We packed our boats on the beach overlooking the chain of neighbouring islands and lighthouse in the middle. This would be pleasant paddle back we thought. Just as we did the first few paddle strokes into Passage du Fromveur, fog descended on us and we were finding our way between ghost ships briefly emerging and following our compasses. A few hours later we landed back on the beach. The sun came out, the fog lifted. We drank our coffee, thinking we must go back. We know, there is an Island out there. We just have to wait for another storm to find our way to this place again.


We left campsite and the soulless beach bar of Aughris Head behind. Ahead of us was a long stretch of coast exposed to the swells. Yeah, if there wasn’t swell on the north west side of the Donegal Bay, it definitely found us here. And is we were following cliffs coastline there wasn’t respite until we came into a sheltered bay close to Easky. The forecast looked ok, so we decided to continue, maybe cross the Killala Bay before the winds pick up. We left and once we rounded a corner and paddled a fair distance from the last possible get out, the winds picked up, and so did the sea.

There’s not much to say but that it was a committing paddle in swell from the side then breaking on the shallows along the cliffs. We continued until the Lenadoon Point, and that became our destination for today. Deciding we need to be off the water ASAP, we landed on a tidal pavement of flat lying limestone, and made a decision to worry about low water launching when it will be happening.

The camping spot was a bit of Wuthering Heights, but apart from that, we were safe, and had a whole afternoon off.

The stoney platform was amazing, lots of fossils. And Zoe informed us it wasn’t just an ordinary windy hill, it was a drumlin. Now drumlin is apparently an elongated hill I. A shape of half-buried egg, it’s created by the glacier. Now she was excited as she never camped on a drumlin before, I still prefer ismuths more. Nevertheless the numerous fossils found in the limestone around us did make it quite exciting and entertaining place.

The forecast calmed for the following day, and we went through a time consuming routine of carrying several bags down to the low water mark, than wheeling the boats there, packing them, then leaving. Still at least we could use the wheels navigating then around limpets and across seaweed.

Our target today was crossing of he Killala Bay but as we went, the conditions didn’t worsen, and so we decided to continue. It led past impressive cliffs, however, we had to look more towards the sea rather than land as the waves were still impressive.

We rounded Downpatrick Head and surfed downwind past the stack. Now, the stack, Dun Briste, which means Broken Fort, was quite interesting, and apparently in the 14th century people lived on the stack, when it collapsed. We were hoping to get shelter and landing behind it all.

Then it happened. On the road on the land a spotted a white van pulling IT. I now recognise IT quite well. And it is my proof that there’s indeed coffee and tea available when one lands for a break from kayaking in Ireland.

This one was called TEA BY THE SEA. The owner was very friendly man and not only I managed to get my order through while he was still setting everything up, we were given the drinks for free. I didn’t have much time to hang around as our boats were slowly pushed up stoney ledges on the incoming tide. But the drinks were very appreciated by the rest of the team.

We discussed whether to look for landing for the day or continue, the conditions we seemed to be constant, not increasing, so we chose the next possible landing, and set off. The paddle was great, past many interesting cliffs, only downside was that we missed our landing place. However, I wasn’t disappointed much hoping that since the conditions are so great, a bit of swell, but wind pushing us along, we could make a bit of progress.

We have, and eventually landed in a small fishing village of Portulin. The camping was a little squashed on a tiny patch of grass right above the slipway, but it came with our own terrace. The evening was sunny, so the wasn’t much more that was missing from happiness.

There’s no swell on the west coast

Before we left to come to Ireland I kept saying there wasn’t swell on the west coast. And the past two days it seemed to be truth. We left the Gweedore coast and it’s many island and the journey took us past some amazing cliffs.

And because there wasn’t swell on the west coast we got to go close to shore, into caves, and through tunnels.

Our plan was to go to Glen Head but then decided to finish in small harbour of An Port. No photos but the landing was on a impressive steep slip and we had to pull the kayak up on a little wooden rail track.

From here we paddled past many more caves, tunnels, and lots and lots of elephants. I did think about this as the land of elephants, as many of the rocks looked as big, small or baby elephants, elephants with trunks up and trunks down, and drinking. Why they were drinking sea water ai don’t know, but that’s what I saw.

We decided against crossing from Malin Beg straight across the Donegal Bay and decided to go further in into Teelin at the north west corner of Donegal Bay. What a wonderful place this was.

According to information on local sign Teelin was one of the first settlements to appear on maps of Ireland, as it was an important port. And we could see why. It is a beautiful estuary, with river flowing through a very green valley. We followed it all the way to the village of Cerrick on our way to go shopping. We were very lucky we didn’t need to walk the road to Cerrick we actually acquired a vehicle for an hour or so. And if you ask Lindsey what was her favourite time in Ireland so far, she would say that driving the van.

We didn’t come to Teelin just to admire the peacefulness of the estuary. We chose it as our starting point on our way across the bay. It started this morning, half way through we decided for a stop at Inishmurry Island. One inhabited so much that a school has bee;set up there. Apparently the island was infamous for its poitin production and since landing has never been easy, it thrived as government inspectors could never just turn up on a surprise visit.


Two hundreds and seventy degrees. Two hundred, according to definition is ten more than one hundred ninety while seventy is a number equivalent to the product of seven and ten, or ten less than eighty. For us it was simply the direction that my compass was showing over the past few paddling days.

It was 270 when I was towing Lindsey across the Lough Swilly into headwind and swell, so her boat keeps only twenty metres behind mine. The wind was pushing us more and more into the bay while we were trying to reach the Fanad Headland.

It was 270 when we were paddling again few days later towards Horn Head, and impressive headland with cliffs as high as 180 metres above the sea. The direction was pointing straight at the small incline in the cliff, which I chosen as my wee stop. It didn’t disappoint, it was there, and even sheltered enough from swell. Here Head was spectacular, birds, cliffs, waves, but fortunately now tideraces running. True is, we enjoyed two hours lunch while waiting for tide and swell to die down a little bit. On top of the cliff we can see a look out tower, and ai must say these towers are piece of art, built in napoleonic era.

It was 270 when we continued to island of Inishbofin (Innis Bo Finne) a small island once inhabited. It was very hot as we were approaching the island. Hot to the point that we had to take off the tops of our dry suit (don’t try this at home) in order to reach it and not to explode in the heath. That was fine for me, but a real first for Zoe.

People left here by the 1970’s and now only few come back for the summer. However here we got a nice flat grass for our tents, the church was open and had toilets!. We met the islands only artist, some fishermen and one former resident. He invited us into the village hall to show us pictures of himself as a very young man, then some of his neighbours.

Next our journey was towards a distant headland stretching far and long in the distance. It’s name was Bloody Foreland. It was 270 degrees to go to Bloody Foreland. When I looked at amp of Ireland and saw how far this point is, I thought, yeah, what a name. As we started to paddle to it, it seemed endless, so the name bloody seemed appropriate even more. Of course the name was here before us, and apparently the name but after that our direction slightly changed. Bloody Foreland gained it’s name from its rock colour which in evening sun is illuminated in red shades. That’s not what we saw.

For us this headland was significant in other way, too, as after rounding it our compass started to show other directions than west only. Bloody Foreland was our gateway to the west coast.

We paddled past the Gweedore coast and it’s many islands, Inishmeane, Gola, Owey until we ended on Cruit in close distance to golf club bar, open to non-golfers.


If week one saw us paddling every day, week two seems to be a week of being weather bound. It might slow our progress but gives us opportunity to explore the unknown. First we stayed a day at Tullah Bay on Inishowen Peninsula and walked over to the village of Clonmany, known as the Cross as it is built on cross roads and in the past being a centre of the illegal poitín distillation industry. To us is known as the village of many pubs, we counted about six within one short street, as well as Tag of War club. Which apparently has been quite successful in its history of existence and won six world medals and many All Ireland titles. Lovely place with historic churches and waterfalls.

We left Tullah Bay the following afternoon when the weather forecast suggested break in the wind. Still the headwind was quite strong and made our crossing from Dunaff Head over to Fanad Head across Lough Swilly entertaining by swell and wind. Lough Swilly, glacial fjord, and our gateway to county Donegal. We crossed and wanted to finish on the beach we watched every minute of the crossing. The beach was beautiful as beaches go, yellow sand, green grass high on the hill, whitewashed boulders, little stream going into the sea. However there wasn’t any chance to fit even one tent on anywhere. Still, we got our trolley and moved the boats above high water mark, looked around, but soon we were facing a decision. To stay and make it somewhere work, or to move on, as we could be here for few nights than just one.

Even the impressive view of the Fanad Lighthouse didn’t persuade us to stay. After quick snack, trolley dismantled back in the boat, luckily water was coming in, we got the boats back on the water in search of better place. Which could mean another 10 – 15 kilometres. The swell was playful, there and now a wave would wash over one of us and give us salty bath, surf was breaking heavily on the shallows along the shore.

Finally we spotted a sheltered corner of a large bay. Dunes, car park, we decided to stay.

Fanad Lighthouse stood on the cliff in its white glory. Built in 1815 and first lit in 1817, it was occupied by lighthouse keepers until automated in 1983. Fanad Head a strategic place at Lough Swilly, the lighthouse was originally built as a sea light rather than one indicating save passage into the lough’s natural harbour. And since the weather decided we would have few non paddling days, I went to see it. Two accidental events took place here today, first I was sold a tour of the lighthouse which I haven’t intend d to do first, but why not. It’s not very often one can visit working lighthouses, the last one I saw was on Flatey in North Iceland. It was interesting to see the difference in the size of bulbs used to light the lighthouse in the past and nowadays.

The lighthouse tower is 22 metres high from its foundation to the top not including the lantern. The light is 39 metres above sea level and there are 79 steps in the tower.

Second accident was bumping into Geoff from London, whom I last saw in Jersey three weeks ago. Which was great because I could get a picture taken.


We spent great day in Glenarm making the most of the facilities, sights, and hospitality, but with the weather improving, it was time to make a move. As Lindsey summarised it, everyone talks about the West coast as the coast to paddle, but the North coast was definitely impressive. The coastline was formed in a range of environments from arid desert, warm tropical seas, explosive volcanic eruptions, to cold glacial conditions providing interesting structures, variety of colours and material. The tides are quite noticeable here, we no longer could paddle when we pleased, and definitely had to get onto the conveyor belt, since getting it wrong would result in no progress at all. As it was we completely missed Cushendun on our way up, and the last chance of filling our cameras with pictures of one of The Doors from Game of Thrones.

But rounding the Torr Head was as spectacular as any old wood carving, I am sure. The first evening we finished at Ballycastle and spent a surprisingly warm if wet night on the concrete of the harbour.

We were even allowed to use the marina, which was great.

The following day was the day of paddling past the causeway itself. A great rainy day with impressive sights. First that came into view was Dunseverick Castle, then the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, first erected in 1755 leading to a cliff with fisherman cottage. Must say nowadays I would rather paddle underneath it than walking over it.

The coast leading to the causeway was impressive, eventually the basalt columns came into view as well the colourful ants of tourist clambering over the basalt columns.

Of course we had to join them. Not sure if they had to pay or not, we haven’t as we came from sea. There and now a whistle could be heard reprimanding unruly tourists trying to go where they shouldn’t. We had a lovely walk and photograph, only when we turned off the path to return to the boats, did we attract attention of a warden trying to stop us going back to the sea, but eventually we made it back to our boats and continued. We still had the the Lough Foyle to cross.

The following day we wanted to go past Malin Head, and around the whole of Inishowen peninsula. We started early, hugged the coast against the tide until about lunchtime.

Finally the tide turned, and not only us were excited about it, we were soon met by a pod of dolphins swimming past, then coming to join us for a bit. But we were probably a bit slow for their liking, and so when we reached a mini tiderace at one of the corners they performed a triple loop to say bye and sped off.

Malin Head gives name to one of the forecast area, Malin, spectacular headland, and also the most northerly point of Ireland. On its tip called Banba’s Crown stands a tower. We watched it for a while so it was important for find some information about it. It was built by the British Admiralty in 1805 as part of a string of buildings right around the Irish coast to guard against a possible French invasion, it also had radio stations during both world wars.

I did promise Lindsey a cup of tea in the village before the headland, then changed it for after the headland. Sadly both villages with amenities were either away from the conveyor belt, or too much inland, and so no tea until we crossed to Tullah Bay.

I felt responsible that poor Lindsey now spent the whole day not having a cup of proper tea that she now so rarely gets on this trip. Then, as we were landing on the beach, after the last ten kilometres crossing, some of it with quite a strong head wind, an opportunity arises. A camper van just arrived to the same spot we planned to camp on. Two people got out, looked around and went to open the van’s door. I thought, great, the arrived and were going to boil water for their cup of tea. So I asked them whether they could get us some for a very tired paddler. I mistook them for English, who would definitely had a cup of tea on arrival to their camping destination.

They were German, but in the end have risen to the challenge, and when one of them came out with a kettle of boiled water, to put into our cups, which we had to quickly found in our boats, they even produced some milk. Milk with one sugar, was all what was needed to renew energy and pitch tents in rain and wind.

Journey of the Solo Expedition Paddler

So here we were first few miles into our trip around Ireland. We already established that we were heading anti-clockwise, all in the team came to terms with that and the miles started to tick. Our team is formed by three women, an university lecturer, a nurse and a teacher. Similar in age but different in kayaking ability. Zoe and I have been kayaking longer than Lindsey. And so over the first few day Lindsey became our solo expedition paddler. The was helped by the fact that she is the only one of the team, who hasn’t ordered drysuit in mantis colour. That makes her to stand out, and unifies Zoe and myself in our roles.

From the beginning we knew that Lindsey will have to build the stamina and strength to be able to paddle for long hours and at reasonable speed. What we also discovered was that some help with forward stroke was needed. Luckily Lindsey took two coaches with her on the trip, and we were only happy to help.

To be honest, the first few days Lindsey’s journey must have been quite lonely, but she powered through rain or shine. Eventually we could change our roles from coaches to being simply staff.

At some point it almost seemed that we have acquired more members of support crew, we were looking forward to setting up a film crew recruiting a rib, but these were very short lived.

To help the Solo Expedition paddler we called in extra support, which delivered bacon butty and tea to the beach at Portavogee (thank you Barry and Craig).

To help Lindsey further after paddling sessions in camp followed with the coaches summarising the days’ achievements, and discuss strategies for the following day.

The strength of the solo expedition paddler grew day by day, and after powering into the headwind between three Stena ferries across Belfast loch, she has become a full time member of the team. The arrival to Whitehead was heroic, and we were rewarded by the stay in an old Coastguard shed for all.

Together we paddled past the Gobbins and admired the modernisation of the old cliff path. The solo paddler was rewarded for her effort by going outside the Muck Island and bird watching.

This is it, the team is now complete and together again.

A Sense of Déjà Vu

We reached Ballygally, and it’s great we did. Originally we thought we would stop just a village before, at the end of the north corner of Larne bay, it had a beach, take away van with coffee and apparently a campsite, too. However eventually we decided to give it one last push around the corner. Ballygally, little did we know it played its part in Game of Thrones, as none of us had ever seen a single episode. Ballygally had slipway, car park with very flat patch of grass, castle hotel with coffee, and later we discovered a great pub called Mattie’s a mile up the road. What’s more in the hotel they had the door. The door, which apparently were shown in the Game of Thrones. Something we didn’t know, so we didn’t take any pictures of it to show. We only learnt about its importance the following day.

The following day we got up early to catch the tide assistance to help us with progress against the strong headwind. We managed ten kilometres, and that was good distance considering Lindsey is still quite new to long sea kayak journeys in various conditions. But eventually it became clear we had to land and finish for the day. We did so in another harbour around another corner. And when we walked up the slipway I had a sense of being here before. Yes, I recognised the old marina building in front of which, seven years ago, Michal and I set up our tent on a concrete. We were on our trip round Britain, got to Northern Ireland, and without map didn’t really know about the coast. We stayed a night in this grey, fairly derelict town with one weird pub (

Surprise surprise here I was again. Yet, this time things were to be different. Firstly, we found public bathrooms next to an information centre. And as we stood in front of them contemplating what to do next, a lady came out and invited us in for cups of tea and coffee. We now know her name was Christine, she set table and chairs in the middle if the small centre, and got to preparing our drinks while filling us and anyone else, who came in, on information about the place. For example we found out about The doors, about ten of them. We now missed most, but one is still attainable, it’s in Cushendun, which will be on our way up.

When two other ladies came in wondering where they could get coffee, Christine holding just boiled kettle over our cups said “not here, there’s a posh coffee shop in the castle”. We stayed for few hours as time passes quickly once one is back on land. Eventually we walked away with the following: information about the village, arranged storage place for Zoe’s kayak, arranged lift for Zoe to Belfast in the morning, and a rental house for the next 2 nights.

So, we decided to stay in Glenarm until Friday, when the weather should become friendlier. The village shows signs of being a very busy prosperous town back at the turn of 19/20 century with grand houses. It also has a castle, lovely woodland, two pubs, and newly opened little shop. Somehow it also has planters made from old kayaks, this definitely wasn’t here seven years ago.

On top of that the place around the harbour is now covered in grass and flowers rather than concrete like before.