Salen Jetty, Oban , Craobh Haven and Craighouse
In my opinion, Loch Sunart is one of the most beautiful lochs to sail and about half-way up there’s the wonderful wee marina of Salen Jetty.
Monday 10th July – Salen Jetty
We left Tobermory fairly early and headed across The Sound of Mull to the entrance of Loch Sunart. It’s a very short journey to Salen Jetty and we were in no rush as we had phoned ahead and Jan made sure we had a space for the night. There was very little wind but what there was pushed us gently up the loch, more of a drift than a sail, which was fine by us. We had to spend a short time on a mooring before our pontoon space was free. Salen Jetty is one of the very few places where you can book ahead and reserve a pontoon space or mooring which it is always best to do as it is a very popular destination. There’s a hotel and restaurant a 20 minute walk away but like so much in hospitality they have staffing issues and only open at certain times so check before setting off.
There’s a great shop next to the marina which stocks most things you might need, and much that you don’t but are tempting! I went up looking for some potatoes and bread and came back with these, but also some sticky buns, home-made tablet, chocolate and a bottle of whisky! Salen Jetty is very close to the Ardnamurchan Distillery (it’s 9 miles away) and they often get new releases before anywhere else. Unfortunately, their next delivery wasn’t due until the following week, however they did have a bottle of Maclean’s Nose which I snapped up. It is a blended whisky from Adelphi (owners of Ardnamurchan) that is both a reference to the Maclean’s Nose landmark on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, and to the whisky legend Charles Maclean. During distilling, a major by-product that is created is draff which is typically sold on for cattle feed to local farmers, but instead this bottling has used it for the label.
Often after visiting Salen, we make for Lochaline about half-way down the Sound of Mull on the Morvern Peninsula where Loch Aline Harbour is sheltered and there are pontoons, moorings and good anchorages. However, after the canal calamity of our journey at the start of July, we have decided not to use the canal again (despite having paid for a return which I will endeavour to have reimbursed) until we start hearing positive stories about it. This, of course, could mean we never use it again. Instead, we are heading for Northern Ireland once more and finishing off with a passage from Glenarm to Campbeltown then home to Largs.
Tuesday 11th July – Oban
Our trips up or down the Sound of Mull always seem to be accompanied by rain, winds against us, gusty squalls and an unhelpful tide. However, our passage from Salen to Oban was almost verging on a joy. We left Salen and motor-sailed to the Sound of Mull where we had a great sail with the wind and tide behind us. The weather was much drier and sunnier than had been predicted and we made great progress and were even able to enjoy some of the beautiful scenery which is so often shrouded in rain and low cloud. Things got a bit hairy as we approached Oban Bay where three of the bigger CalMac Ferries were jostling for position as they entered and left the ferry terminal.
We spent the afternoon and early evening in The Oban Inn where we had our tea and discussed our plans to take in our decision not to use the Crinan Canal. We had a number of options, Craobh Haven, Dunstaffnage, Ardfern, Craighouse, Gigha, Islay, Rathlin. In the end we decided on Craobh Haven then on to Craighouse on Jura, a night at Port Ellen on Islay before heading past Rathlin Island to Ballycastle.
Wednesday 12th July – Craobh Haven
With the wind coming from the SW we anticipated a nice sail once we had left The Sound Of Kerrera and into The Firth of Lorn, but sadly the wind veered and we ended up motoring with a wee bit sailing towards the end as we reached the south end of Luing and turned up Loch Shuna to Craobh. I was speaking to an skipper from Northern Ireland in Oban before we left and he was doing much the same as we were on his way home to Ballycastle but stopping at Ardfern which is just across the hill in Loch Craignish. He told me that there was a music festival on at Glenarm, which we are intending to visit, and if we are there on time we may head up to the castle for a listen.
In the past, we’ve always liked Craobh, on some occasions having spent two or three days there waiting for bad weather to pass and enjoying the hospitality of the Lord Of The Isles pub. The marina staff have always been helpful and welcoming but for some reason they all seemed a bit disgruntled and it was as if they didn’t want visiting yachts (we were put about as far away from the facilities as we could possibly be). A similar thing happened in Dunstaffnage a few years back and we stopped going. I think we’ll give Craobh a miss next time and head for Ardfern instead.
Thursday 13th July – Craighouse on Jura
At first, it was a bit of a struggle getting down the Sound of Luing when the tide was against us but we knew this would improve as we passed Scarba, Corryvreckan and entered the Sound of Jura. It was dry and the sun was trying to get out, the sea was fairly flat and the wind was in our favour so it wasn’t bad. The Gulf of Corryvreckan can be pretty wild at times but today iit was benign. It was fascinating watching the depth gauge on the boat change from a depth of five metres to over 150m in the length of the boat. This bathemetry map shows the underwater topography of the area!
The red bits are shallow – around five metres and the green and the blue 150m – 200m. As you can see, there’s a deep trench between Scarba and Jura and this is what we crossed. Much to our surprise, once we had past the entrance to Corryvreckan we had a great sail down to Crainghouse.
The moorings at Craighouse are great and to one side are the distillery and hotel, should you want a trip ashore for a tour or something to eat and on the other The Paps of Jura, it is quite a beautiful setting. We decided to stay on board and just watch the comings and goings including a seaplane which landed and took off a couple of times which we presumed was to take guests to the hotel for dinner as the distillery was closed.