Sunday, 20 June 2010

Seize the Day (or Night)

I mentioned after the last trip that I'd be unable to get for at least 4 weeks due to my shift changing. For a variety of reasons even when I switched back to the start of week shift I didn't get out either. Although I was keen to get out the idea of finishing work at 6.00pm on a Friday evening and heading off wasn't appealing but Marcus was keen to get out again so I agreed to a wild camp on Friday night.

We decided to go for a coastal camp this time as the North coast is only 25 miles away. There was some discussion about what gear to take, specifically shelter but after looking at the photos I'd taken some time ago of our proposed site we decided on the tents again, not that we had a great deal of choice anyway as neither of us has a tarp.

I decided to take my other Phreeranger, one that I use with an inner rather than the one I use flysheet only, there were 2 reasons for this,

a. I wanted to have a bit more midge protection than simply the Ti Goat Ptarmigan bivvy

b. I'd just bought a used PHD Ultra Minim and figured the extra warmth from using an inner tent would be worthwhile.

The rest of my sleeping system consisted of an 8mm full CCF mat and my PHD Ultra Down Vest which was to serve as a warm layer for sitting around or as extra insulation for the Minim Ultra if I needed it. My cooking gear this time was an Alpkit Mitymug and EK Kombi woodstove with the usual meths burner but without the cone type windshield. I decided on the woodstove as I assumed there would be a ready supply of driftwood.

We didn't leave until around 9.00pm and were parked up around 10.00pm with about 4 miles to go to reach the camp. The camp is set in a horseshoe bay surrounded by very steep grassy slopes and broken cliff and unless you know where to find the sheep track it looks like it's only accessible from the sea, in fact there are the remains of an old salmon fishery but it's uninhabitable due to fouling from sheep.

It was still daylight when we reached the foreshore but finding a suitable pitch proved difficult as most of the area was covered in bracken and any flat areas were little more than grass growing on top of stones. We eventually picked a spot and set about removing thistles and any prominent stones. I managed to get a tight pitch helped by having some Vargo nails which I was able to work down through the stones and after some adjustment my sleeping spot was reasonably comfortable.

It was almost midnight when Marcus announced that he'd brought some sausages and a small frying pan (I'd also decided at the last minute to bring some mini croissants and some proper milk as we weren't going to have to walk too far) so we had some sausages and a chocolate drink before settling in for the night.

I decided to only wear a Sub Zero F1 l/s top as although there was a bit of a North breeze coming in off the sea I was warm enough thanks to using the inner tent (midges hadn't been a problem). I must have drifted off to sleep pretty quickly but wakened around 2.00am. I decided to put on the PHD Ultra vest and drifted back to sleep again.

I wakened again at about 4.30am, force of habit as I normally get up at 5.00pm to set off for work. It was starting to get light by now so I took a few photos and hopped out of the tent to answer the call of nature before removing the down vest and shuffling back into my sleeping bag. I didn't waken again until around 7.30am by which time the sun was up and the tent was really warm. I hooked back the flysheet door and was having a look around when Marcus popped his head out of his Hike-Lite.

It was fantastic to waken up in such surroundings and any reservations I'd had the day before were gone and I was glad we'd decided to go for it. Marcus cooked up some sausages and soda bread while I boiled water for coffee and set the remaining croissants out in the sun to heat up and we sat on the grassy bank enjoying the views.

We were in no hurry to leave and with breakfast behind us and the sleeping bags draped over the tents we spent quite a bit of time wandering around exploring. There is another small bay that I though might be accessible if we could climb around the rocks and while I got around the corner until I could look into the bay I decided to turn back, discretion being the better part of valour.

When we were looking for a place to pitch the tents the previous night I'd spotted what looked like a blue airbed stuck between the rocks at the waters edge but hadn't investigated it at the time. We went to check it out and it turned out to be a large zipped pack that we both thought might be some kind of liferaft, as it turned out it was simply a pack of emergency water supplies and a drogue anchor with a woven line.

I assume it must have been part of a liferafts supplies but it was a bit disapointing that there was nothing exciting inside, only packs of water. We decided to check them for damage following the instructions and there must have been about 50 packs each containing 500ml (each 500ml pack had 10 individual 50ml sachets) with only 6 having the outer packaging damaged. We decided to take them all and leave them in the ruined cottage so that took a couple of trips, the large pack and drogue anchor we decided to take back with us.

We'd been watching a fishing boat just off shore and also a large sailing boat sailing towards Rathlin Island when a sea kayak appeared followed by another, then another. There were about 12 altogether and they pulled up onto the stoney beach right in front of us. It turned out they were from a variety of clubs and had set off that morning from Port Ballintrae a few miles further along the North Coast.

We had a bit of a chat with some of them, one guy in particular was using a Ghillie Kettle. The kettle while being pretty bulky was surprisingly fast at bringing water to a boil but like me he hadn't been able to find any driftwood and was using fuel that he'd actually brought.

It was around 2.00pm by now, the breeze had picked up quite a bit and the sea was a mass of white capped wavelets so we decided to strike camp and leave the 'invaders' It was still really warm when out of the breeze and by the time we had climbed back up to the cliff path via the sheep track we were pretty warm. It was difficult to know whether to go with or without a fleece but eventually we both ended up in t-shirts.

It didn't take too long to make it back to the car and we met quite a few people walking the cliff top path which leads eventually to the Giants Causeway. Looking back to our camp spot it was impossible to see the track leading from the cliff top due to the way it zig-zags between whin (gorse) bushes. The fact that it looks inaccessible and is a few miles from any car park helps to keep it respectable, although the bay is long there are few suitable pitches and over-use could lead to the area becomming an eyesore as unfortunately not everyone takes their rubbish out.

All in all it was a good one and although Marcus suggested a forest camp next I'd be tempted to go back and maybe spend 2 nights there. It's one of those places where I'd be prepared to carry a bit of extra weight in the way of cooking gear and food as it's a place to take it easy and chill out and dehydrated food doesn't really do it justice.

I was glad I'd taken the inner tent this time, the extra weight is minimal as I didn't take the bivvy bag. Unfortunately the groundsheet isn't waterproof anymore so I still had to take the sil-nylon footprint. The PHD Ultra Minim bag was fine for the conditions given it's +8°C rating, I'll review it in more detail later and the CCF mat was fine even though the pitch was pretty stoney.


  1. Looks like seriously nice spot, great weather too. You've got me thinking about potential coastal campsites now...

  2. The weather was almost perfect for camping but the light was too harsh for photography :-)

    The coast makes a nice change, I fancy trying a bit of fishing next time!

  3. Oh I don't know... if the photos capture the feel of the trip then that's good enough, they certainly convey the baking heat. Cloudless skies can sometimes be considered boring, but in the context of a backpacking blog, if they make people jealous, then they're effective! :)

    Shoulder is all better now thanks!

  4. BTW, the captcha for my comment was 'Micks', Blogspot has resorted to ethnic slurs! ;-)

  5. Seriously?

    Randomly generated ethnic Slur's, whatever will they think of next :-)

  6. What a great coast line. I like the photos and your eye for different angles. I can only say I am envies that that is near by for you :)

  7. Thanks Martin, yes the north coast is great but like most places in N.I. it's condensed into a very small area. A sea kayak would open up a lot more opportunities.

    Sad to say I do tend to take it for granted though.

  8. Great photos! The views of the sea are particularly beautiful. You're lucky to live close to a coastline with good camping spots.

  9. Hi Heber, thanks for the kind words, yes there are some good spots but the ones that are too easily accessible are over crowded.

    A sea kayak would open up many more possibilities.

  10. Admire your spontaneity! Sounds (and looks) like you had a lovely time!

  11. What an interesting place for an overnight wild camp. Super photos that capture of the essence of your trip planned at short notice.

    ps Found your blog by following links from links from goodness-know-who's blog.