The North coast – Kilmichael to the Burnt Islands

Demanding due to lack of access, but with a surprisingly good phone signal on the remote North coast!

Swimming opposite Kames 24 July 2021 (c) Steve Newman
Map of Bute North coast swims, from Fetcheveryone route planner
A concentrated burst of swims on a warm weekend in July

I left planning the North coast swims till last, as it seemed pretty daunting. This section contains the most difficult currents, has no roads for 90% of the way, is virtually inaccessible on foot and has the extra whammy of being busy with yacht traffic. However, with preparation, advice and support, it all came together over a long weekend.

Rhubha Dhu to Kilmichael, Saturday 24 July 2021

What the North West and North East corners have in common is that the walks to get to them are difficult – rocks, slippery seaweed, bogs, dense woods, tall bracken. Both have quite faint paths and are best tackled at low tide, but then that doesn’t necessarily suit the current required for the ongoing swim. I decided to get to know both areas better by walking the paths in advance, which helped a bit.

When I came to tackle the North West corner swim, it was a warm Saturday afternoon with a highish tide. This meant getting boots wet – eventually I gave up and swam to the start, a little bay just below Rhubha Dhu. The current wasn’t completely helpful, but I made good enough progress back to Kilmichael.
One way distance: 2.8km

Buttock Point to Rhubodach Farm, Sunday 25 July 2021

Early the next morning, Jenny and I set out on foot to the kayak shelter near the North East corner. My low tide current calculations were correct – the incoming tide whooshed us past the Burnt Islands at 10mph, until we entered the reverse current close to the shore. We took care to walk past the ferry ramp (even though the first service hadn’t started) and resumed our swim to Rhubodach farm in calm water.
One way distance: 3km

Rhubha Dhu to Buttock Point, Monday 26 July 2021

The second Big Swim. A forecast of ideal conditions and a short-notice support team came together while drinking coffee after the North East corner swim. Given that the hot weather was unlikely to last much longer, I rearranged Monday’s work and made preparations for an 0545 start to drive to Glecknabae. Jenny and I were ready to start from the little bay below Rhubha Dhu at 8am, Ann on standby to pick us up at Rhubodach at 11.30.

Low cloud on the Cowal Pensinsula kept the conditions cloudy but calm – increasingly so as we got into the channel past Tighnabruaich. There were a few yachts around, but we stayed out of the way close to Bute’s rarely visited North coast. We took a little break halfway, and didn’t feel super warm on restarting, but we were ok when we got moving. When I wrote a text message for Ann about our progress, I noticed that I had a good phone signal – Bute’s remote coast wasn’t actually so remote from Tighnabruaich and Kames just opposite!

Having reached Buttock Point, we took it easy until we felt like walking towards Rhubodach. It was easier to wade than climb over the rocks, so we did just that. Met Ann perfectly on time, for the end of the circumnavigation.
One way distance: 4km

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