Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Crossing Scotland with a Canoe

When a plan for a Scottish canoe expedition comes up sometimes you just have to jump at it, so I did with both feet.
What started off with planning a small Spey expedition, with several distillery stops to make sure the home country was still doing its best, changed to “let’s do the Rannoch moor crossing”.

Fast forward three weeks with not a lot of planning we arrive at Kinloch Leven on the West coast of Scotland (from the start you can put your feet in the sea if you want to).
Standing looking up the hill after a day of effort dragging two canoes on our C-Tug Trolleys up the track, we started to get an idea of what we were going to have to do and got our heads into ‘crack on’ mode.

After 3 hours of hard going, a stroke of luck happened when a bloke from the most isolated cottage you could find beckoned us to follow him through his garden. This led us onto a smooth concrete path about 5 feet wide that carried water from the Blakwater reservoir down to the power station at Kinlochleven.
This proved to be a godsend as we could now simply tow our own canoes at a nice walking pace with minimal effort for the next few hours until we reached Blackwater reservoir. 

The next day brought a new challenge; crossing the Rannoch Moor.
Very quickly we discovered that the only way to do this was to carry the bags for about half a kilometre walk back, harness ourselves up and drag the canoes to the bags as the combined weight was crushing. Now we knew what the Arctic explorers felt like.

After a rocky encounter and endless towing, we arrived at camp and set up for the night on the banks of Loch Rannoch.

“You can’t be camping here” was the opening words from a local resident as we packed up our tents at 6.45 in the morning. All the more incentive to get onto loch Rannoch and have breakfast later!
The morning paddle was lovely passing a watch tower defended by a flock of screeching and pooh dropping seagulls (so that was the breakfast spot ruined) until the wind switched and began to pick up.

Moving water has never felt so good even if it is only grade one and a half of the first section River Tummel for which seemed to come to an end all to quickly as we arrived at Dunalastair Reservoir.

We eventually made it down to Loch Tummel for a nice late evening dinner stop before success and amazingly the wind stayed in our favour along the Loch. It even picked up to a nice force three when we could get our sails out again and get a bit of a rush as we shot along the water on our solo rigs.

A note for the unplanned. Try to arrive on days that the River Tummel release as there was not enough water to paddle due to low rainfall. You can imagine the joy we felt of another walk after being spoilt by the calm waters of Loch Tummel.

Paddling the last section of Loch Faskally to Pitlochry was all smooth and pleasant, and as we glided down the last section of the River Tummel until we met up with the River Tae downstream.

The last morning paddle was beautiful with no wind and a bit of drizzle to finish in Perth where the tide makes its way in-land from the sea..
We even managed to find a greasy spoon as and have the long awaited fry up as we waited for our shuttle back to the van.

After 50 hours of on the go we decided that that had been the most “Brutal” but “amazing” experience we have had and definitely has inspired us for next years trip.

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