Words and Images, Tony Gilbert
This is on-the-edge wilderness-diving, a Scotland-galaxy far-far away. Located south of Cape Wrath, at the very top left edge of the Scottish mainland, why go diving in such a remote place, what is the draw?
Imagine big Atlantic void of sea to the west, the top of the Minch & Outer Hebrides, then America; big weather systems, clear waters (usually around 20m+), a micro climate found nowhere else in the UK. With the cool waters of high-energy sites, bringing a rich bio-diverse set of marine creatures.
The full NH dive group drove up as car shares, some in campers; whole journey non-stop would take 11hrs. Our little group of 5 in three vehicles (and 15 tanks!) tagged on a few days, to drive-&-dive in 3 different sea lochs (Finnart, Leven, and Duich),”, before arriving at our remote lodge in the remote Kinlochbervie. The lodge overlooked a gently sloping valley to a pristine beach, provided walks galore. The hardboat Keltic lady is crewed by experienced and friendly/fun skippers/divers Catherine & Chris Hollingdale, who know the sites intimately. Furnished with a tail lift, toilet, filling station, microwave, and spacious deck, the boat provided a great diving vessel.
The diving is all scenic, being vertically cut walls, ledges and swimthroughs for the most part; geologically it’s a mixture of old volcanic rocks & sandstones. One dive is ideal for this time of year, that of Handa Island and the seabirds diving into the water; in July they migrate. Ministers Pt. is a high-sided shallow swimthrough with huge amounts of nudibranchs. Black Rk. is an isolated rock – one of a number of rare-sites that we were able to dive owing to the great weather, with its plethora of marine on exposed surfaces, and Roin Pt. where we found free swimming squid and numerous crawfish. Several underwater pinnacles were dived, finding several octopus and dogfish. Glas Leac was a favourite of mine, where there were ledges chocked full of crustaceans.
Although the weather can be variable (that’s the UK for you), we had calm conditions throughout the week allowing us access to rarely-dived sites; sometimes overcast (which when it is warm was a blessing), other days were full sunshine. The location means that it is very unlikely to have a dive cancelled, says Catherine, as there are local sea lochs if the outer sea becomes untenable – this in itself is a very big plus point!
All in all, great diving, at reasonable recreational depths (mostly 10-25m), stunning terrestrial scenery away from the madding crowds, and well worth a return visit!