The single track road clings precipitously to the steep incline of the stacked cliffs. Below the sea is azure blue whilst waves break in white spray on the black stones delineating the margin between land and sea. Over it all lush green trees stand sentinel under the black cliffs. As if the picture postcard view were not complete a single storey whitewashed fisherman’s cottage nestles on a level platform cut into the hillside just above the high tide line. A path twists between huge blocks of tumbled stone from the cottage to the beach.
The beach is of fine, white sand and sheltered from the onshore breeze so that here the waves wash idly over the gently shelving sand causing the loose fronds of kelp in the shallows to flap and wave.
Close in to the beach the water sparkles with fine sand grains but out beyond the waves the water is crystal clear revealing the ripples in the sand on the sea bed 10m down. A few people are paddling in the shallows but I am alone as I head off exploring amongst the rocks out to the island.
The volcanic nature of the scenery is revealed in detail by the island, where the black basalt is vertically jointed in a poor imitation of the nearby Giant’s Causeway. Just beneath the water’s surface enormous brown digitate fronds of kelp wave, the exposed rocks however are washed bare; black except for small patches of barnacles that cling in the sheltered nooks and above that a crust of vivid yellow lichens.
Diving down beside the wall of kelp the light changes from clearest blue to copper green above a ledge where a field of kelp heads stretches out of sight. Tucked between the rocks is a finger of sand which cups a lobster pot but it is too deep down to see if there is anything in it.
Back closer to the beach it looks as though the sandy sea bed might be within reach. However attempting to swim down it the sea bed remains curiously out of reach, I have impaired distance perception in this unfamiliar clear water. The water pressure is pressing against my head and this is certainly the deepest ‘freedive’ I have ever made, but finally I reach with a hand and at a full stretch 2 fingertips dig into the sand flicking up a little puff of shinny grains. Then I am kicking for the surface which seems as impossibly far away as the sea bed was below.
This coast apparently has some of the best examples of kelp beds in Europe and I can believe it. The fronds are twice the size and more of anything I see back home even in the most sheltered bays. Whilst those at home can be quite impressive the visibility does not do them justice but here it is kelp forest almost all the way back to the beach and I hope to see some more before we are done.