The first high pressure system of the season settled over Ireland during the last week and as most people were recovering from St. Patricks day celebrations or a late night watching the Aurora Borealis, myself and Helen Fairbairn were gearing up for a trip to one of Irelands most exposed headlands.Taking full advantage of the wind and swell conditions we headed out West to the Mullet Peninsula.
The settled weather and drop in swell size allowed for a single day trip exploring the many magnificent sea caves on the Eastern side of Erris Head. The Mullet Peninsula juts out of North Mayo into the Atlantic like a bent finger and is only connected to the mainland by a small stretch of land at Belmullet. Like all of the North Mayo coastline this area is punctuated by hundreds of sea caves, arches and rock gardens. Its exposure to the North Atlantic means accessing these caves is only possible during periods of high pressure and settled weather.
The forecast was for a force 2-3 S/SW, swell of 1.4m from the west and cloud clearing for blue skies all day. Our start point was from Blind Harbour. A very well named harbour with a narrow entrance that is well hidden from the seaward side. We got on the water shortly after low tide at 10.30am. After leaving Blind Harbour you are immediately paddling through some nice rock gardens and just around the corner the first of many caves appear.
Our plan for the day was to spend time exploring the caves and inlets and if time allowed venture to the head itself. Around every spit of land we found another cave to explore. Eventually I got out to take a picture and discovered one of the deepest caves I have ever seen. Hidden at the end of a gully with a small indistinct entrance. I climbed out of my boat and started to venture inside. After about 20 metres I had to call Helen to get my torch. Amazingly it continued on for another 50 or so metres. The unique thing about this cave was not it length but the fact it was dry at low water and only accessible by kayak. After taking a few pictures and checking out another cave or two we stopped for lunch on a storm beach.
After coffee and sandwiches we decided to crack on and get to Erris Head. I was keen to see what it was like with the 1.4m westerly swell and tidal movements. The Head land is split by a wide passage and as we paddled through to the western side the clapotis got significant and conditions were getting sporty. Helen decided to turn back into the passage but I ventured out around the Head. My Dagger Stratos felt rock solid and I was comfortable in the turbulent conditions. I did wonder if I would be as happy in a fast touring boat. I don't think so!
After rounding the headland the conditions on the Eastern side seemed to improve even more. On the return to our start point we cut in and out between some fantastic rock formations around Cone Island South. After 4 hours of paddling we were getting tired and not wanting to miss the tide at the entrance to Blind Harbour we decided to straight line it back. With the assistance of the flooding tidal streams we got back to the pier at 14:50 with an hour inhand. My GPS went dead after the first few kilometres but my measuring online suggests we covered about 15 km in total. A wonderful trip and hopefully the start of many this season.
Kayak: Dagger Stratos
Paddles: Werner Shuna
Base Layers: CRAFT
Cameras: Canon Eos M, Sony Xperia Z3
Kayak instructor, athlete, business owner and outdoor enthusiast from the west coast of Ireland.
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