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Caledonian Caper 2017 by Bob Hamilton

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The story starts in the year 2009, when two friends from diving days, (who had now taken up kayaking) decided to paddle The Great Glen. Their trip was done in two halves due to one of them  suffering a wrist  injury. The first section, from Banavie, ended at Fort Augustus. It was restarted in October that year at Loch Ness, with Sue and I then providing mobile B&B in a “Cruiser”.  At this point neither Sue nor I had any interest in kayaks, but the trip inspired me to get involved and three years later in October 2012 I bought a kayak for me and somehow convinced Sue that it was something she wanted to get involved with, NOT!!  Another kayak was duly purchased and the rest is history.

Irene’s paddling partner sold his kayak and now it became Sue, Irene and Bob that looked for places to get on the water. We are very familiar with Orkney, having dived the waters for many years and it seemed a logical thing to paddle them. A couple of dual activity holidays followed in June 2013 and August 2015 with diving in the morning and paddling in the afternoon. The Isle of Skye also saw us paddling there for two holidays in September 2013 and June 2014.  Around the end of 2013 we felt that it would be good to join with others and sought a club.  Our first club outing was the Christmas paddle and again, the rest is history.

Our little group convinced some Liverpool Canoe Club members that a joint venture to the Arisaig area would be a good idea.  A week was duly arranged in 2016 and proved to be a major success. From that Irene convinced the group, but not me, that it would be a good idea?? to paddle the Great Glen. I was not convinced as I really did not fancy “Wild Camping”. The idea of somehow shuttling vehicles each day also seemed to be more trouble than I cared to think of and generally a pain. Irene was insistent that it would be OK ????

We decided that a manageable number would be 6 to 8 paddlers and  a rather large, 5 metre Bell tent was bought for the purpose. This proved to be superb.

Our sleeping arrangements in the tent

Our group was:-

  • John Fay, in his new sit on kayak.
  • Phil and Nathan Edwards in crossovers
  • Julie Brookes in her crossover
  • Irene Jackson in her Capella
  • Sue Hamilton in her Capella
  • Me in my Rockpool Alaw Bach.
  • Chris Fay in her Transit, accompanied by Penny Fay.

The saviour of this trip would be Chris. She was happy to be our shuttle driver. So, with that sorted, I looked for the best options for overnighting.

I decided that about 12 miles paddling per day would suit our group and started looking for campsites close to, or even on, the water’s edge. To keep this down to size, here is a list of our overnight locations:-

  • First night, before any paddling               Linnhe Lochside Holidays – A big caravan park with great facilities. 3 miles from Neptune’s Staircase (Bitten to death by the MIDGES)
  • First overnight after paddling                   Letterfinlay Lodge Hotel – A very nice hotel and restaurant with its own private beach on Loch Lochy to leave the kayaks.
  • Third night                                                    Cumberlands Campsite at Fort Augustus – Very nice site about a mile from Fort Augustus, but owners are a bit fussy???
  • Fourth, fifth and sixth nights                    Loch Ness Shores Campsite at Foyers – Absolutely superb place.

We were obviously excited and not without some anxiety about what lay ahead, but it all went really well.  We had a day of heavy rain as we paddled Loch Lochy to the hotel. That was lucky as we didn’t have to put the tent up that day. Each other day was absolutely fine. In fact a bit too warm on Thursday and Friday. We had the wind coming mostly from the South West which made for some “interesting” bits on day 3 as we had decided to paddle on the South East shore of Loch Ness and had no shelter.  This proved to be our fastest day’s paddle as there was no option to do anything other than obey the club’s mantra ‘JUST KEEP PADDLING’!

Loch Oich was just a very pleasant experience leading to Fort Augustus.

The kayaks had to be put on the vehicles for a short trip to the next campsite. As we could get right onto the path here with them, it was no trouble at all.

Putting the kayaks in at Loch Ness was almost a relief as the water seemed pretty calm. I had watched many videos undertaken on these waters and found them quite scary. As we crossed the bay it no longer felt calm, but was perfectly manageable.

Having arrived at Loch Ness Shores campsite at Foyers and secured the kayaks on their private beach, we set up camp for our 3 night stay.  The next leg was to Dores, where we were allowed to leave the kayaks on the lawn of the Dores Inn overnight.  These were collected the next day for the final leg to the Muirtown Lochs at Inverness. This was an idyllic end to a successful holiday

The final night was spent relaxing at the campsite, with brilliant sunshine, relating the weeks adventure.

The entire trip was without incident and surprisingly, went to plan. The location of the Muirtown Locks saw the end of our trip as any portage past them was more than we felt the need to do.

A great week with a group of good people. Everyone contributed something, but John should be given an award for his assistance getting everyone on the water. His “Sit On” allowed easy access / egress so always seemed to be last man in.

Maybe not an undertaking to everyone’s choice, but something highly recommended when done in this way.

 Bob Hamilton     More Photos…………