by Andy and Fiona Hunt
Armed with a copy of Gordon Ridley’s book Dive North West Scotland and Anita Sherwood’s “100 best UK shore dives”, coupled with some knowledge from previous trips, we set off after the Loch Long club trip and carried on driving and diving further north.
We have done this sort of trip before but with a tent as well as dive kit in the back of the car. This is great if the weather is fine but miserable if it is cold and wet. Being older and hopefully wiser we plumbed for the B&B option.
Our first stop was the Loch Carron area, diving Conservation Bay followed by Strome Castle . To dive both safely you need to get the tides right in order to avoid an unexpected drift dive. However, as these are tidal sites the life is abundant.
The next dive had castle Einan Donan (made famous by the film Highlander) in the background. We parked in the lay by, crossed the road and had a fantastic wall dive down to 40m. The wall was covered in life, especially forests of Peacock Worms, all being fanned by the gentle current running along the wall.
Further up Loch Duich we did the best mud dive ever, seeing all varieties of sea pen, horse mussels and fireworks anenomes.
The next day we found ourselves at the summer isles and made contact with Ullapool Dive Club. Sam and Andy kindly took us out to dive Conservation Cave before bringing us back to Achilitibuie Pier where we enjoyed a quick shore dive before heading to the hotel up the road for food.
Conservation Cave was a wall of colour with parts of the rock face completely covered in Dahlia or Jewel anenomes. The pier was average unless you had a camera to play with and try to get good atmospheric light shots or macro life shots.
The furthest north we managed was the Kylscu Slip which we have dived a number of times. The tide races through the narrows here so we were up at the crack of dawn to get slack water and avoid riding the race. Our photographs however just didn’t do the dive justice.
We headed past a few abandoned cars immediately in front of the slipway before following the jewel anemone encrusted wall back to a white sand slope in the shallows. By now we heard one of the fish farm boats arriving and so deployed DSMB’s and surface out of their way. The Kylescu Hotel opened up 30minutes early afterwards so we could grab a coffee.
Having heard so much about Applecross from Monty Hall’s TV show, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to dive Toscaig Pier which is near by. The dive itself was pretty rubbish although at low water the entry is certainly interesting. However our compensations were the scenery on the surface and food in the Glen Uigg in.
We were now firmly on the way back home and stopped at Loch Duich once again but this time the tides were against repeating the dive in the Loch . Instead we headed to Glen Uigg in to carry out some reconnaissance for a planned expedition later on in the year.
The weather had closed in on the last day but it didn’t prevent us getting a dive in Loch Leven on approaches to Glen Coe. We had dived the slate dumps and a random shore dive in the Loch some years before but the site in Anita’s book was much better than either of these.
The café in Glen Coe provided us with a fantastic meal before we headed back to Newcastle . Scotland had once again proved itself to be a stunning place when the weather is right, although did remind us that it can be a little moody on the last day.
We did sneak in one last dive, again at a site we’d last dived in August 1994; the River Etive. This time there weren’t as many midges though.