Dunaff Pier to Inishowen Head – 53kms
At Dunaff Pier we were fortunate to have been camping on flat freshly mowed grass. When we arrived last night things didn’t look particularly promising by the pier so we walked up a track where we met a man outside his solitary, attractive cottage. We asked if he knew of a place we could pitch a few tents and he immediately asked if his lawn would suffice. The offer was too good to refuse but we did promise to be on our best behaviour and not disturb him and his wife. Over the next few hours, as we set up camp and prepared our dinners, this lovely couple entertained us with stories of their lives and work in far flung places around the globe. They seemed both strangely at home and out of place in this very rural and remote bit of Donegal.
Malin Head looms large in any circumnavigation of Ireland. There are many accounts in the books and blogs of earlier paddlers about “interesting” rides round the head and onwards through the tide races to the east. Although it’s just another headland (and we’ve been round many), now that we’re on the north coast much more attention has to be paid to tidal planning as the tides can be strong and complicated. David, our planner-in-chief, has been through all the possible sources of information and yesterday was in touch with a (or possibly THE) local kayak guide, Adrian, to get a detailed plan of attack in place considering tides and weather forecast for today: on the water at 8, two and a half hours across the bay, keep out past the reef breaks on the point, ride the race and then tuck in close. Piece of cake!
We awoke at the required hour and quietly decamped so as not to disturb our generous hosts. On the water, across the bay, and in sight of the reef breaks at 9:30 – an hour early! David wasn’t happy with what he saw so we decided to make land before the point and have a look at it from above first. Another call to Adrian – “no problem, just take it a little wider”.
The walk up to the point and the view from above calmed nerves and we were back at the boats well before 10:30 ready to take it on. After leaving the little beach we had 5 minutes of calm and then 15 minutes of climbing up and crashing back down through some steep, white crested seas before we turned east and flew past the headland on a relatively smooth tide race. Our journey east after this continued with ease as tide and wind took us forward inside of the Garvan Islands and Reaghillan Stacks.
We found a little beach after Glengad Head where we had some lunch and reflected on getting past the BIG one. It was then onwards past the rest of the north coast of the Inishowen Peninsula at a distance that didn’t really do it justice. We were however fortunate enough to stumble across a few basking sharks. They were just slowly going about their business of feeding on the little stuff apparently oblivious to our presence until within a few metres at which point they’d slowly sink lower till their dorsal fin disappeared from view. This was the second sighting we’d had of these docile creatures on this trip. A few weeks ago in Broadhaven we’d seen another three. At this time one had lifted it’s snout out of the water as if to try and catch a scent of these strange surface bound intruders.
Soon after landing at Inishowen Head we were surprised to be greeted by Catriona Woods and Desi again bearing more gifts: hot burgers, chips and cans of guinness! What more could wet and weary kayakers want on landing after a long days paddling. All were wolfed down with murmers of thanks. Catriona and Desi had their kayaks and were off for an evening paddle, we however were off for an evening of luxury courtesy of friends of David – Paul and Clodagh. Paul collected us by car and whisked us back to their seaside estate in Moville. Difficult to say what was most welcome – shower, clean and dried laundry, dinner and wine, entertaining company or a comfy bed – but sitting here now in my tent with a selection of clean, dry clothes to wear I’m going to go with the laundry. Many thanks Paul and Clodagh for a perfect end to a demanding and rewarding day.