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Scotland 08 Part 2

Section 2: Glasgow to Inverness
31 May to 6 July

May 31
Glasgow to Milarrochy Bay

34 miles
We loaded up and left Lorraine by about 10.30. As you can see in the photo the trailer was now very heavily loaded and it was tricky getting the load balanced. In fact very rapidly the load shifted and we had to stop to re-adjust it. This then became a regular chore – at it worst we had to stop every half mile or so. The route via Dumbarton to Balloch was quite flat but then it became much hillier on the lanes to Drymen and then Balmaha.

The full rig

M and Lorraine with the full rig

The shifting load took its toll upon us and I finally flipped just outside Balmaha and ended up kicking the load. Still we managed to arrive at the Camping and Caravan Club site at Milarrochy Bay by 5.30 and had a very welcome cup of tea. The site was nice but very midgy.

June 1
Milarrochy Bay

We stayed at Milarrochy Bay for 5 nights. This allowed us to climb Ben Lomond, practice our canoeing and return to Glasgow for a medical appointment.

Tent at Milarrochy Bay

View from top of Ben Lomond

June 2
Milarrochy Bay

T enjoying some sun

June 3
Milarrochy Bay

First canoeing outing on Loch Lomond
We put the canoe together and used the canoe trolley to portage it to the edge of the Loch. One of the great aspects of the Milarrochy campsite is that you have access to the Loch. We canoed across the Loch and around some of the islands.


Loch Lomond islands

June 4
Milarrochy Bay

 We spent the day canoeing around Loch Lomond and visited Balmaha.  Weather was nice initially but became overcast and windy in the afternoon. The wind rapidly produced substantial waves which took a bit of getting used to.

M canoeing Loch Lomond

June 5
Milarrochy Bay to Cailness (on Loch Lomond)

We packed everything away and loaded the canoe up with bike, tents etc for the first time. We left about 10.00am. The Loch was really calm and still which made paddling quite easy

Loading the canoe

We wild camped at Cailness where we found a stream. The West Highland Way passes right by this spot. There was a good area of flat grass for the tent but it was amazingly midgey. I tried using the mosquito net to create a protected area for cooking but it was not very successful.

Cooking inside the mosquito net


T enjoying the quiet on Loch Lomond

June 6
Cailness to Ardlui

We left our campsite at Cailness at about 10.00am and paddled down Loch Lomond towards Ardlui. The midges were horrendous and it was not possible to pull in for a break and a mars bar without being eaten alive.

View from Arlui

We arrived at Ardlui about 1.00 pm and camped at the Hotel – a fairly basic site.

June 7
Ardlui to Lag na Luinge (Loch Awe)


We packed up the canoe, reassembled the tandem and trailer, packed everything up and left at 7.00am. The midges were terrible and the load rapidly started slipping. We stopped and I re-loaded the trailer – this time with the spray deck between the canoe bag and the dry bag. This seemed to work and we had no further problems that day. We reached Crianlarich at about 9.00am and stopped for coffee and bacon rolls at the brilliant station café.

T taking her ease by the re-assembled canoe at Kilchurn Castle


Train to Oban passing over the bridge at Kilchurn Castle

We arrived at the Kilchurn Castle at about 11.30am and constructed the canoe. We then folded up the tandem and dismantled the trailer. The weather was warm and sunny so we enjoyed a relaxed picnic before loading up the canoe and setting off.

Folding the bike

Ready to load

Ready to paddle Loch Awe

 Kilchurn Castle

We set off up the river and then into the Loch. Once we reached the Loch proper a headwind got up and this made paddling hard work. We wild camped at Lag na uinge and there was enough wind to stop the midges from being troublesome. I decided to have a swim in the Loch  - which was a bit cold!

June 8
Lag na Luinge (Loch Awe) to mouth of Claddich River (Loch Awe)

We had a strong headwind all day and so did manage to get very far. Found a really nice spot to wild camp at the mouth of the Claddich River. The weather became settled and sunny in the late afternoon and there was a glorious evening.

Wild camp on edge of Loch Awe

A beautiful evening

The canoe moored at the mouth of the Claddich River

June 9
Mouth of Claddich River (Loch Awe) to Rubh an Eoin (Loch Awe)

The weather was still and misty to start with which made paddling much easier. Unfortunately by about 11.00am the headwind had returned along with driving rain. We battled on but it was not much fun and we eventually camped on a little headland (at Rubh an Eoin we think!)
It was very windy and so difficult to keep the tarp up. Although we had not managed to paddle very far up Loch Awe, we were tired of trying to paddle against a strong headwind and so decided to turn round the following day and return towards Kilchurn Castle.

Camp at Rubh an Eoin

Looking up Loch Awe

June 10
Rubh an Eoin (Loch Awe) to Lag na Luinge (Loch Awe)

We left the following morning with the wind behind us for a change. We also decided to try out our fishing tackle but lacked anything obvious to use as bait. In the end we used a piece of cheese but I have to say the fish were not at all interested. Since we were going downwind we decided to try using our downwind sail. This worked pretty well although we almost lost T out of the canoe when there was a particularly violent gust. The sail increased our speed very considerably and we arrived back at our first campsite fairly quickly.

A stormy outlook

The fishing tackle with cheese as bait

T using the downwind sail
June 11
Lag na Luinge (Loch Awe) to Baracaldine

We returned to the spot by Kilchurn Castle where we had put in. We then dismantled the canoe, re-assembled the tandem and trailer and packed everything up. Then we cycled to the coast at Connel and then along the coast to Baracaldine. We camped at the Camping and Caravan Club site (rather strangely called the Oban site). This was the usual high quality found at CCC sites.

Kilchurn Castle from Loch Awe

June 12
Baracaldine (day off)

We stayed at Baracaldine for an extra day since we needed a break. We took the bus into Oban and looked around. We then had a splendid lunch at a sea food restaurant on the harbour.

June 13
Baracaldine to Fort Wiliam

Castle Stalker from the Knap above Portnacroish

Corran ferry at Corran Narrows on Loch Linnhe

We cycled on main roads which was initially OK but once we joined the A82 the traffic was very heavy. We camped at the Glen Nevis site just outside Fort William which was large but well organised and had excellent facilities.

June 14
Fort William (day off)

Evening light on hills in Glen Nevis

June 15
Fort William to Loch Shiel (wild camp)

We cycled from Fort William to Glenfinnan. We were aiming to canoe down Loch Shiel then the Shiel River into Loch Moidart and then paddle round the coast to Lochailort. We constructed the canoe, loaded up and set off down Loch Shiel. It was a beautiful afternoon and initially the Loch was still. We wild camped on the left shore.

Preparing to construct the canoe at Glenfinnan

Ready to depart down Loch Shiel

Glenfinnan Monument from Loch Shiel

Wild camp on left shore of Loch Shiel

June 16
Loch Shiel

Unfortunately, the pressure fell and the weather became increasingly unsettled. Paddling into the wind was hard work so we only made slow progress.

Looking back up Loch Shiel towards Glenfinnan

Tilly taking a break on a shingle beach

Islands on Loch Shiel

June 17
Loch Shiel

We continued up the Loch passing a number of fish farms. We stopped at the Burial Ground island for lunch and Martin climbed up to look at he ruins. It was rainy and cold so we did not linger long. In the afternoon the wind increased in strength and the waves became quite difficult (white caps!)
Rough water

June 18
Loch Shiel, Shiel River, Loch Moidart

We left really early determined to make some progress. The weather was not good but at least it was not windy. We paddled down to the bottom of Loch Shiel and then under Shiel Bridge into the Shiel River. The water level in the river was pretty low and we needed to get out and haul the canoe over some of the pebbly shallows.

A stormy early morning sky over Loch Shiel

Approaching Shiel Bridge

Old bridge over Shiel River

There were lots of fishing platforms and a man warned us that the river ahead was very low. We continued to ground on pebble banks but then the river changed, it became much narrower, deeper and faster. We paddled through one easy rapid but then became aware of a roaring
noise. We realised this indicated something much more serious and so tried to pull into the side. Unfortunately the stream was now too strong so we had no alternative but to shoot the rapid where the river meets the sea loch. We were unlucky that the tide was low so it was a big drop. We saw a big standing wave and then we were into the rapid – as we shot over the drop into what felt like a big hole Tilly shouted No!!! but we survived pretty well. The spraydeck stopped the canoe from filling with water and the only problem we had was we did not turn fast enough and so hit one of the rock walls. This snapped the elastic cord which holds the spraydeck on and also made a small tear in the canoe skin. Both of these were easily repaired.

Castle Tioram on Loch Moidart

Having arrived on Loch Moidart in one piece (well almost), we canoed around Castle Tioram and then explored the Loch before finding a spot to wild camp. A real highlight was seeing two otters playing in the water at the side of the loch.
Unloading the canoe for the wild camp on Loch Moidart

Twilight Loch Moidart

June 19
Loch Moidart to Arisaig

After the excitement of the rapid we decided to be cautious and not paddle round the coast as originally intended. This decision was reinforced by the falling pressure and rising wind. Instead we paddled across Loch Moidart and landed the canoe and all our stuff next to the A  . We packed up the canoe, assembled the bike and trailer, strapped everything on and then cycled round to Arisaig where we camped in a site right on the beach.

Leaving the wild camp on Loch Moidart

Evening view from the campsite at Arisaig

June 20
Arisaig (Day off)

Campsite at Arisaig

June 21
Loch Morar

We cycled from the campsite to Loch Morar. We aimed to spend 3 days canoeing the loch. The weather was great, warm and still. We assembled the canoe, packed everything in and paddled off.
Paddling up Loch Morar

Water eroded rocks on the shore of Loch Morar

Lunch spot in the sun

Loch Morar

Unfortunately, as the day progressed the weather deteriorated. The pressure fell at an alarming rate and by the evening the wind had risen to gale force. It was really difficult to find anywhere flat to camp and we ended up on a bumpy, boggy area above the loch. The wind made it difficult to keep the tarp up and in the end we had to take it down.

Wild camp at head of Loch Morar
June 22
Loch Morar

The weather was terrible with a gale force easterly wind and very big waves. We packed up and headed back up the loch using the sail.  We made good progress surfing on the big waves. 

Loading up Loch Morar
Leaving Tarbet

We then decided to go in at Tarbet to have a break and something to eat. This was a bad decision. To get out of Tarbet bay we had to paddle across the wind and the waves. This was very hard work and also meant that we were continually at risk of broaching and then capsizing. What is more we were continually being pushed towards the rocky headland. We made it but only just – this was the closest we came to disaster on the trip

Packed up and totally knackered!

June 23
Mallaig and Skye (Day off)

Harbour at Mallaig

View from ferry to Skye

The weather was beautiful again, warm and sunny. We cycled into Mallaig along the old coast road and then took the ferry to Skye. We wanted to call in and see a couple we had met on the GR10 walk. Andrew and Maggie live just where the ferry docks. Maggie is a potter and her studio/shop – The Bay Pottery adjoins their house. We had a great dinner of roasted vegetables and pasta in their garden before taking the ferry back to Mallaig.

Another view from ferry to Skye

June 24
Arisaig to Fort William

We cycled from Arisaig to Fort William on the A830 and stopped at Glenfinnan for some refreshment.

Jacobite express steaming into Glenfinnan station

Dining car café at Glenfinnan station

June 25
Fort William

We had rented a cottage in the old Distillery complex in Fort William for a week. We thought we would need a break from the tent by this stage of the trip and we were right. We really appreciated being in a bed with sheets and having an ensuite shower and loo! The weather for the week was abominable – heavy rain and wind so we were glad not to be in the tent.

Tilly enjoying a bit of luxury
June 26
Fort William

We visited the sea lock at Corpach where the Caledonian Canal meets Loch Linnhe to get a licence to canoe the canal. We also bought a British Waterways key which allows us access to any British Waterways toilet and shower facilities – a really brilliant facility.
Lighthouse at Corpach at the end of the Caledonian Canal

Sea lock at Corpach

Welcome to the Caledonian Canal

June 27
Fort William


Neptune’s staircase

June 28
Fort William

Tilly at the breakfast bar

June 29
Fort William

We cycled down Glen Nevis to the car park at the end of the glen and then walked alongside the Water of Nevis to beyond the Steall.

Water of Nevis

June 30
Fort William

We took the train to Glenfinnan and then walked the Glenfinnan Horseshoe climbing Sgurr nan Coireachan and Sgurr Thuilm. The weather was not good unfortunately with lots of low mist and rain.

Looking along the ridge towards Coire a’Bheithe and Beinn Gharbh

July 1
Fort William

We spent the day preparing for the next stage of the expedition

July 2
Fort William to Laggan Locks

We left the cottage early and cycled to the Caledonian Canal at Benavie. Our attempted early start was rather sabotaged by the load on the trailer which continually shifted and so our ride was a frustrating stop start affair. Once we got to the canal we constructed the canoe, folded the bike, dismantled the trailer, loaded everything up and then finally paddled off.

Unloading the canoe

 Canoe constructed and ready to go

Sailing ship passing on Caledonian Canal

First portage at Corpach Loch


We paddled up the canal to Corpach where we had lunch before unloading and portaging around the lock. This was the first time that we had really used the canoe trolley and it made the portage relatively easy. Then we paddled out into Loch Lochy. At first the loch was really still but then as the afternoon progressed a stiff south westerly wind sprang up, creating some fairly large waves. We used the downwind sail and so made good progress. We arrived at Laggan Locks at about 6.00pm and set up camp at the side of the lock. Later that evening we met two sea kayakers who were doing the trip the other way round. They had had a terrible time on Loch Ness, battling strong south westerly winds and big waves. This made Tilly rather anxious about our passage up Loch Ness.

Still water on the exit from Corpach Loch
Entering Loch Lochy

Beach on Loch Lochy where we stopped for a mars bar.

July 3
Laggan Locks to Fort Augustus

The weather was still when we set off and the canal up to Loch Oich was pretty. The sun came out as we paddled Loch Oich and we pulled up for a snack in the warm sun. We stopped for lunch at Cullochy Lock and watched a really impressive Norwegian sailing ship pass out of the lock. In the afternoon it rained but remained warm. We portaged Kytra Lock and arrived at Fort Augustus at about 5.00pm. By this time it was raining heavily which made putting the tent up and getting all the gear in rather slow. Again we camped beside the lock and used the excellent British Waterways facilities. After dinner, we walked down to check out the next mornings portage – which was really long.

Putting in at Lagan Lochs
Foliage at the side of the canal
Impressive Norwegian sailing boat at Cullochy Lock

Approaching Fort Augustus
July 4
Fort Augustus to wild camp on Loch Ness

We got up at 5.30am and left about 7.00 pushing the canoe loaded with all the gear on the trolley. It was still and misty. We paddled off into a very misty Loch Ness at 7.45am. Gradually the sun came out and it became a nice day. The best thing was the lack of wind – at times it was totally still. We decided to paddle up the south side of the Loch since this seemed to offer more chance of a place to wild camp. We stopped on a shingle beach just south of Foyer forf lunch and then pushed on until about 5.00pm when we managed to find somewhere to camp.

Loading up at the edge of Loch Ness
Paddling off into the mist

Calm on Loch Ness
Headland near Foyer

Reflections in Loch Ness
Wild camp on side of Loch Ness

Evening view from the wild camp on Loch Ness
July 5
Wild camp Lock Ness to Inverness

We left early again just in case there were problems with wind. Initially the loch was calm but as we approached Lochend a strong easterly sprang up and from then on we had to battled against a headwind. At Dochgarroch the lock keeper asked whether we would like to go through the lock – which we did – it was great not having to portage. Then we paddled on in to Inverness reaching the Tomnahorich Swing Bridge at about 2.00pm. We had lunch and then took the boat out and trolleyed it along the road to the campsite at Bught Park.

Last view of Loch Ness

Looking back to Dochgarroch Lock
Arriving at Tomnahorich Swing Bridge Inverness

Wheeling the canoe on its trolley to Bught Park campsite Inverness
July 6
Inverness rest day

We packed up the canoe for the last time and rested up.

Dismantling the canoe for the last time
July 7
Inverness rest day

The River Ness at Inverness



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