Situated high up in the Firth of Clyde about three miles south of Gourock lies Lunderston Bay. The entrance to the car park off the A770 is well signposted and is directly opposite the Cardwell Garden Centre.
A small grassy park lies between the car park and the small shingle shore which is ideal for rigging. The main shore is about 100 metres long and faces west. Rocky outcrops exist at each end of the shore with the odd rock or two on the sea bed in the middle of the bay. So be careful!
The firth of Clyde is only about two and a half miles wide here bordered by hills on each side and in southerlies when there is little wind elsewhere the venturi effect created these hills can result in superb winds. When choosing what sail to rig go for one a bit smaller than the the size that seems right when standing on the beach, as about 200 metres or so out from the shore the you will have to hang on as you are faced with the the full force of the wind zipping up the channel. Although there is almost no potential for wave jumping here on the way out from the shore, once out in the middle of the Firth there is surprisingly large lumps of swell that can be ideal for playing around on.
Ideal winds are between south to south west and if the wind swings round to a more westerly direction, consider heading north about a mile or so and launching where the coastline starts to turn round to a west-east direction.
As far as windsurfing goes, Largs has proved to be a good, and often underestimated, blasting location when conditions are right. However, if it's waves you're after, forget it, as the towns location high up in the Firth proves to be far too sheltered for any form of swell to reach its shores.
There are two possible launching sites in the town. The first one is situated in Aubury Crescent (travelling north on the A78 through the town centre, turn first left past the lifeboat station). I shall only mention this one in passing as after many visits I have yet to have a decent session here. It is only worth considering when the wind blows a north-westerly and maybe not worth considering at all. Launch from the small shingle peninsula at the north end of the bay and sail crosswind, across the bay in front of the town, towards the northern corner of the Isle of Cumbrae, approx. 1.5 miles away. Make sure you don't get in the way of the ferry as it travels to and from Cumbrae, which operates every 15 minutes during summer months. The main problem here is that the town of Largs is surrounded by hills on its eastern side which result in gusty and intermittent winds. If you are going to try this spot I would recommend at least using a mid-length short board with sufficient volume to see you through the lulls. I've given up with this spot and don't plan on trying it again. I should also mention that there is a serious sewage problem here that your nose will be aware of as soon as you step out of your car. An outfall is located on the shingle peninsula close to where you would normally launch from. Another good reason to avoid this spot.
The main windsurfing spot is in the towns south bay, (travelling north on A78, turn left into Bay Street about 150 metres past the junction with the Haylie Brae). Park at the bottom of Bay Street next to the promenade. Rig on the large grassy area surrounding Bay Street and as per usual, look out for the turds. The gentle sloping shingle beach here face west and is suitable for winds between south and west/south-west. I wouldn't bother travelling here for any other winds, as they can be rather inconsistent, however the odd local can be spotted persevering during winds that blow westerly to northerly. Although this is a good place to sail at at low tide, as the water line doesn't recede too much, beware of the first 150 metres as the sea bed remains quite flat and there are numerous rocks lurking just below the surface that can wreak havoc on your skeg. About 200 metres out from the shore the sea bed drops off quite suddenly into a deep channel. You should general find yourself sailing in a west/ north-west direction which should take you directly across to the National Watersports Centre on the eastern shore of the Cumbrae. This is approximately 1.5 miles away and is the main reason why this spot is so appealing as you can go on a 1.5 mile blast in the knowledge that you don't have too far to go should you get into bother. The channel between Cumbrae and the mainland is usually heavily frequented by yachts (although not too busy) and in years gone by you could launch yourself off the trailing wake of a nuclear submarine on its way too and from their nearby base at Faslane. Unfortunately they now use the channel on the other side of Cumbrae. Exercise caution if sailing into the bay at the National Watersports Centre as the wind here will be offshore from Cumbrae resulting in a wind shadow within this bay. Aim to gybe about 200 metres offshore. This will spare you the embarrassment of having to catch the ferry back to Largs dressed in wetsuit and carrying board and rig (although there is no charge for journeys back to the mainland).
Recently raw sewage has been discharged directly onto the beach of the south shore through a pipe located next to Anthony Road. This has not been a problem in the past and has only recently come to light after a good days windsurfing had to be abandoned due to the extent of the pollution.To sum up, Largs south bay is an ideal blasting location in south westerlies and is suitable for those making the transition from novice to intermediate through to advanced. When conditions are good a chameleon board will be ideal but it is worth having a more volumous board at hand should the wind become a bit iffy. The best sailing to be had here is in the spring through summer when the edge of a high pressure system brings winds of F4+, with blue skies which result in thermals accelerating the wind heading up the Firth and creating blasting conditions which are as good as you would get anywhere.
When the wind blows between west and north west, consider a visit to Saltcoats, which is about the only location on the Firth of Clyde which will have a cross onshore wind.
A promenade runs along the length of the beach next to a large grassy area. A decent sized public car park (it's free) lies on the south corner of the bay, however you should aim to launch from the centre of the bay, so park next to the toilet block further up. This involves taking your car past signs prohibiting vehicular access and bumping it up on the grass. Some of the locals though inform me that the council has given special dispensation to windsurfers to park there, but don't quote me on this.
After rigging on the grass, access the beach via steps off the prom. Depending on the state of the tide you might have a bit of a walk to the waters edge, although not too excessive.
Along the northern side of the bay lies a headland with houses and other buildings on it. This shelters the bay somewhat and as a result, on the first 200 metres or so of your outward run, you can lack some power. Once out of the bay hold on and expect to meet the full force of the wind, and hope it's not too overpowering for your choice of sail. Gybe when you like and head back to shore. Avoid getting too close to the northern and southern limits of the bay as it is bordered by rocks, although these should prove obvious to you.
Again, being situated in the Firth of Clyde, wave quality isn't that great, but you should be able to find half decent ramps to launch off if you are a bit of a goofy foot. I recently sailed here in a flukey F4/5 north westerly at low tide and found it a bit mushy on the inside, but on the outside there were some superb 5-7 foot waves rearing up just asking to get hit hard.
Saltcoats is suitable for intermediates and above, sailing convertables or wave boards.
I have only ever considered sailing here when the wind has been from the north west, but I know that a few other people use it when the
wind blows from a more southerly direction. So if you are one of them please let
me know so I can update this report.
The sandy crescent shaped beach is situated on the south side of the town and generally faces west/south west. It is ideal for catching the prevailing south-westerlies and can be sailed in any direction between south/south east and west/south west. However as well as checking out the wind forecast before departing for here it may be worth finding out the high tide times and make sure you are going to be sailing within a three hour gap on either side of high tide unless you don't mind humping board and rig about 200+ metres to the waters edge (and then wading out even further to a suitable launching depth).
The car park is situated at the most southerly point of the road that runs parallel to the shoreline and is adjacent to Royal Troon Golf Course clubhouse. Parking is for free and ample spaces are available. A large grassy area surrounds the car park which is suitable for rigging as long as you beware of the dog s!!t (a common problem at many rigging sites). About 200 metres north lies a toilet block although it is usually always closed, so changing in and out of wetsuits must be done next to your car.
Once rigged, walk straight onto the beach and launch into a gentle shore-break. A prevailing winds will result in you shredding out from the shore at an angle of 45-80 degrees. Wave quality here isn't up to much though, as it is located in the Firth of Clyde and is sheltered from Atlantic Swells by Ireland and the Mull of Kintyre. However if the wind is force 5+ and the wind has been blowing for some time there is ample opportunity for chop hopping and catching the occasional big ramp, although you have to go looking for these. When conditions are really good it is possible to pull off the odd 360 if your that way inclined.
Situated about 400-500 metres directly out from the high water line lies a large rocky reef which I'm sure must be littered with severed skegs. It is covered up at high tide although is easily located by waves breaking over it. When the wind is more towards the south and the tide is high and you are looking for some action, it is possible to sail over it with caution. However when the tide starts to recede and the reef becomes exposed it would be advisable to stay clear of here. Also, the seabed to the south of the launching point is somewhat rocky and is not obvious to a casual observer. When the tide is low it is advisable not to sail further south than the car park to avoid any accidents.
The reefs that surround the bay to the south result in the water within the bay being somewhat mushy, although it is still a good location for blasting and bump and jump.
Visit this location on a weekend when the wind is blowing and you will be sharing the water with 25+ other windsurfers (not crammed by any means). During weekdays the whole bay could be yours.
Troon is suitable for shortboarders whose with a competency level of intermediate upwards, (waterstarting is a must). Due to its locale, it has long been the first choice venue for windsurfers from the Glasgow area who are after a quick fix and can't be bothered travelling the much further distance to a better location such as Machrahamish.
When visiting Troon it's often worth checking out Barassie before rigging as when Barassie goes off it provides some good ramps for getting big air. The best conditions are about three hours either side of high tide with the wind blowing a good F5,6+. When the wind is really howling Troon can become very mushy while Barassie, due to the flat sea bed, will continue to provide more predictable waves of a good quality.
Park and rig on the grassy strip adjoining the beach round about the toilet block approximately half way along the shore.
A large concrete car park runs the length of the shore. Park at the south end of it and rig up on the beach. I've only sailed here a couple of times in the distant past in average conditions but felt there was maybe some potential for some good waves given the right conditions. I can also see that there is potential for some good sailing in north to north west winds.
A sailing club is located at the south end of the bay and some of the locals have some sort of membership her and use the facilities for changing.
If you have had more experience of prestwick please let me know and I will update this report.
Lying 25 miles west of Glasgow on the north side of the Clyde opposite Greenock, this spot offers windsurfing in most directions. It takes about 40 minutes to get to from Glasgow and can provide an alternative to other west coast sailing venues. Helensburgh has a population of about 20,000 and a windsurfing population of about 5 to 15 depending on the time of year. It is also famed as having John Logie Baird as one of its most famous sons "The inventor of television".
Only 10 minutes from Loch Lomond, it seems to provide a stronger, more consistent wind. The only down fall is the water is not as clean as Loch Lomond's, but still not any worse than other Clyde towns. Flat water blasting or freestyle suitable for beginners, intermediates and advanced.
Southerly/Mid to low tide = Promenade is good apart from high tide, when there is a back wash off the sea wall. When blasting back and forward along the front of the town, watch out for rocks at low tide and stay well out, about 100 yards should do. Parking is usually where everyone meets at the toilet block just past the Commodore Hotel on the promenade. Parking is free and you can park on the pavement, but if there is no space left just park on the grass. We have had no hassle to date.
Southerly/High tide = Ardmore Point an hour either side of high tide is great, just at exactly the time Helensburgh promenade has turned crappy. Recently discovered, it provides much cleaner winds and no back chop. Parking (free) in the lay-by right next to where you launch. However, if you go there at low tide you will be lucky to see the water.
Westerly/North westerly/South eastearly /any tide state = Same as first launch from the toilet block just past the Commodore Hotel . We have had some good days here. Although in a westerly, if it is a bit lighter it is worth considering the grass area opposite the BP garage on East Clyde Street for launching as the wind is not obscured by the peninsula. Parking is free. Park on the small dirt track at the eastern end of the grassy area. Watch out for the dog s**t .This area has no hazards apart from a defunct sewage pipe at the launch area ,apart from that you can blast all the way to Ardmore Point no problem.
Northerly/ any tide = about the only direction you cant sail in but it has been done !
North Westerly / hour either side of high tide = Rhu spit. Not often used, but when it works this place is excellent, providing mirror flat water behind the spit and speeds that cannot be beaten .On the inside the perfect opportunity for laydown gybes that feel like you are water-skiing . Once the tide starts to go out too far, the spit itself acts like a wind shadow. It is a good spot but was better until the MOD cut it in half to get their submarines through. Parking is free. Access is down the private lane and park at the top of the spit. Sometimes we get hassle about access, but this is a grey area. If the wind is blowing the right direction and the tide is in - go for it! This location is also good for intermediates on the other side of the spit.
Easterly/any tide = A funnel effect happens in the spring time off Helensburgh and it seems to get more wind than other places. It is offshore though so intermediates beware. Launch once again from the toilet block just past the Commodore Hotel. You will have to pump the first 500 yards, but once in the wind, it's great.
Intermidiates/beginers/any tide = Kidston Park next to Helensburgh Sailing Club is great with free parking and a large rigging area. Access to the beach is down the steps opposite the swings. You can sail here back and forth to the sailing club no problem (this is where I learnt to windsurf) in perfect safety. Just watch out for naval ships if you go to far out in to the channel.
Not so far to go, and again most wind directions are covered. No waves - good for intermediates. Again no rescue cover for beginners. In W to SE wind I sail in Ardmucknish Bay. There is a nice sandy beach at Tralee accessable via a private track or through the caravan site if you are staying there.
In NW to SW wind I sail in Loch Creran. There is a shingle beach accessable by a track off the road to South Shian. I was told by a local windsurfer that W and E winds are funneled and accelerated through the south end of Loch Etive. I have not yet sailed here and would be very cautious of tidal currents.Report By Stuart Robb
I've only sailed here in light NE winds, but it should be good for anything with some east in it. Kilchattan bay on the south eastern tip of Bute is a crescent shaped sandy bay that faces slightly south of east. The curve of the bay makes it feel pretty safe. The bottom is pretty shallow for a long way out - at high tide the water is about 1-2 metres deep from very close to the beach to about 100 metres out, then it shelves off but doesn't go really deep for another 100 metres or so. At high tide there are a few submerged stones close to the beach that could eat your fin. At low tide the shallows are completely exposed so it's quite a long walk home, a good tip for walking your board in across this bit is to take your fin out if you can!
Practicalities: Access - With the ferry prices to Bute being so astronomical, it's not something you'd want to do too often! Once you're there drive south from Rothesay and turn left at the Kingarth Hotel at the picnic tables just pull off the road & walk down to the beach. Rigging - there are sheltered, mown grassy areas among the thorn bushes. Toilets/Showers - naah. Food & Drink - nothing on the beach but the pub back at the main road is pretty reasonable.Report by Brian Smith
The islands off the west-coast of Scotland are not as impractical to reach as you may first imagine. One of the most easily reached is the Isle of Arran. The most common approach to Arran is via the car ferry from Ardrosan (itself about 40minutes from Glasgow). The ferry only takes about 55minutes and certainly adds to the sense of adventure. The ferry costs approx. £45.00 (at time of writing) for a car and then £17.00 per head. Contact Caladonian MacBrayne for more information.
The first thing that anyone will tell you about Arran, including the tourist board, is that it is "Scotland in miniature," and they'd be right too. Arran actually straddles a geological boundary of the mountainous north and gentle rolling south and as such forms a bite size Scotland.
The seas around Arran are protected by the mainland to the east (approximately 20 kilometers) and Kintyre to the west (as little as 6km across the Kilbrannan sound). The largest fetch a swell has is from the south, up the Irish sea. (You could say that the hardcore waveheads should keep away but I think that it makes an excellent stop over on route to Machrihanish.) Arran boasts excellent conditions for intermediates and freeriders and stylers. Beginners too will find ideal conditions in the summer (without rescue cover supplied however).
You arrive at Brodick on the east coast, the main ferry terminus. The town itself is not that special by Scottish standards but offers all the basic amenities you will need for an extended stay such as a supermarket, post office, camping shop, and some good accommodation.
Arran really only has two main roads: one that circumnavigates the island, clinging mostly to the coast and a second that cuts across the middle of the island from Brodick in the east to Blackwaterfoot in the south west.
Heading south from Brodick the first windsurf venue I can recommend is on the south coast. (Both Lamlash Bay and Whiting Bay on the west coast are limited: Lamlash by the sheltered winds of Holy Island and Whiting bay by the ribs of rock exposed at low tide.) Torrylin however has fantastic potential. Torrylin is a Hamlet on the south coast just outside Lagg, itself nothing more than a hotel and craft shop. The beach is difficult to reach by some standards, but well worth the effort in the right conditions. The access road, the last 'road' on your left before driving down into Lagg, is nothing more than a track and heads directly toward the beach. Unless you have 4wd you will have to consider parking at the cottage at the top of the final drop to the beach. Be sure to ask permission if anyone is around and to keep your car from blocking the farmer's access. Carry your kit, rigged or otherwise, the short distance to the beach and then head either west or east 50 Yards to avoid the main rock outcrop. The beach is generally free from other rocks.
The beach here faces SSW and is sited on a fairly straight piece of coastline and as such is one of the most exposed on the island. Winds from the west and east are cross-shore, although the most sea will come with a southerly or south westerly. A westerly or south-westerly offer the best conditions generally with small waves. It is fairly unusual to find a beach that has this much south in its orientation on this part of the west coast of Scotland (with maybe the exception of the rarely sailed (ever?) Portencross) and as such is a fairly valuable resource. The novelty of windsurfing on a deserted beach with views of Northern Ireland, the Mull of Kintyre and mainland Scotland make the walk back up the hill worth it!
Continuing clockwise around the island you come to Blackwaterfoot and Drumadoon Bay. This bay faces slightly more west than Torrylin and prefers wind directions from South through to north-west. The high land to the east rules out those wind directions. It does not feel as exposed as Torrylin: in part due to the obvious proximity of the village. Drumadoon would be suited to beginners in the right conditions (a gentle south-westerly maybe) but more suited to freeriders.
A drive up the west coast of Arran will reveal that almost any part of the coast can be sailed, given the right winds. The road is very close to the water's edge at times. Generally west facing this stretch of water is exposed to some strong currents so check the tides before you sail. I suggest that you simply check it out for yourself. Why not broad reach up the coast on a south westerly and simply be picked up at the other end - if you have an understanding driver! The car need never be out of site from the water.
The final venue is Lochranza located in the north west of the island. I have not sailed Lochranza but reckon that this tidal sea loch, in its picturesque setting, would be ideal for beginners in the summer months. A high tide will be required to make sure you still have a fin at the end of the day! Sub planing winds only though as the steep valley slopes (culminating in Meall Mor at nearly 500m just to the south) are bound to make strong winds a gusty nightmare. Lochranza is certainly worth a visit for it is the home of the only distillery on the island. Lochranza may also be your departure point if taking the scenic route to Kintyre, a short ferry trip across the Kilbrannan Sound.
Thank's to Claire for being patient while I drove down every lane that looked as though it may reach the water's edge!Report by Ed Dymock