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Thread: Return to Shiel

  1. #1
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    Default Return to Shiel

    Five years ago we paddled the circuit anti-clockwise and despite it being a fantastic trip, the only thing I remember about Shiel was the headwind! Since then I've been keen to return to hopefully enjoy the loch in more favourable conditions

    So a few weeks back after watching the weather forecasts we decided the trip was a goer and this time clockwise should give us a decent chance to get down and around the coast in 3-4 days. Paddling companions this time were Andym and Greg which meant there would be plenty of the usual Northerner/Southerner banter on the trip!

    We decided to have a night of luxury in the vans at Glenfinnan where we did the tourist bit visiting the viaduct and taking the obligatory snapshot.



    Next morning we parked up at the Glenfinnan hotel where we would start the trip. It was a very still morning that couldn’t have been any more different from the conditions when we finished here 5 years ago.











    It wasn’t long before the first brew stop of the day and a very nice spot it was too.





    A light breeze started to blow up and guess what, it was behind us! The sails went up and we continued down the loch enjoying some stunning scenery and getting a bit of assistance from the wind.



    Our aim for today was to head down as far a Pollock where we’d camp for our first night. As the day went on it got a bit more overcast and we had some light drizzle so we decided to keep paddling and stop when the conditions picked up. At 3pm we were at Pollock and suddenly the rain stopped and the loch was like a mill pool again. The mist hanging in the hills made for some stunning views and some beautiful reflections.















    As we’d made good progress we decided to paddle up towards Pollock and explore the area there before looking for a suitable camp spot.







    We were so glad we spent the hour exploring the river up to Pollock, the atmosphere on the day with the condition was really quite special.

    We’d planned to look for a camp spot on the islands opposite Pollock but when we got to them there were sign prohibiting landing there to protect the black throated divers that inhabit the area. A group of sea kayakers had headed to the main beach site at Pollock so we headed down towards the narrows to try our luck there and was rewarded with a lovely spot with beautiful views back up the loch.









    We enjoyed a lovely calm evening but as the night progressed the wind got up a fair bit and was blowing straight down the lock into the site. We retired to bed!

    Next morning the wind continued and there was a bit of fetch hitting our beach. As we had breakfast and decamped it started to ease a bit and we were looking forward to the prospect of some decent sailing for the remainder of the loch.







    We rigged the solo sails ready to sail down to the river but not until after a quick visit to the burial island at St Finnans.







    And now for some sailing









    It was so satisfying sailing down past our campsite of 5 years ago remembering the effort it had taken to get just that far up the loch.

    Soon we were leaving the loch behind and entering the river. I was looking forward to going down it this time. The wind had eased, the sun was out and it was time for lunch. I was thinking it doesn’t really get much better than this when Greg pulled out a chocolate cake from his box of tricks! It had just got better!



    We set off again for a pleasant drift down the river towards the sea and looking forward to spending some time in that special place that is Loch Moidart. First though we’d have the tidal rapid to contend with and we’d be arriving pretty much at low tide.



    You hear it before you see it. As we got near we tied up and walked down to have a look at what lay ahead. It’s quite impressive.





    After a bit of a chat we decided we’d all give it a go. We had plenty of time to get to camp and it was a perfect clothes drying day! Here’s the result (apologies for the spelling Ian) :-0



    Once we were all back in the boats we headed down past the castle and towards a very special camp spot.











    After all the domestic duties were done we retired to the rocks to watch the tide come in and warm ourselves around the fire. Very nice!



    It was still pretty blowy but as the night went on the wind eased off and we disappeared to bed keeping fingers crossed that the conditions would remain calm enough for the next days coastal section.

    Next morning there was a bit of wind but nothing of concern so we headed towards the North Channel which would have enough water as were bang on high water.




    Once we entered the channel we had shelter from any wind and enjoyed some lovely still paddling







    As we approached the coast conditions looked good and the sea was looking pretty welcoming



    We started making our way along the coast on the look out for any wild life. We were hoping to spot a few seals which always seem to make an appearance and it wasn’t long before we had a few inquisitive heads popping up. However we couldn’t believe our luck when we noticed a dolphins breaking the surface in the distance and for the next 15 minutes we enjoyed a magical experience with them swimming around us. My camera was never pointing where they broke the surface but Greg managed to get some decent pics so hopefully will add them.

    Conditions remained good as we rounded the coast and headed towards our intended brew stop at the golden sandy beach at Samalaman Island.







    We set off again for the second leg of our coastal journey round to Loch Ailort.



    Once we passed Glenuig conditions started to pick up a bit with the wind getting increasingly stronger and a fetch starting to build against us. We moved in shore a bit more and hugged the coastline avoiding cutting across some of the bigger bays. We carried on making steady progress until we came across a rather nice beach that had lunch stop written all over it!





    This was also where we discovered Greg was a contortionist. He wouldn’t have got in if we hadn’t eaten the chocolate cake.



    After lunch we got back on knowing that we were going to be paddling into what had become a fairly strong head wind. Loch Ailort didn’t seem to be getting any nearer.







    Eventually we got to Loch Ailort although I can’t recall exactly where the sea stopped and Ailort began! I couldn’t remember much about Ailort from the last trip but we now felt we were close to the end of the trip.

    3 hours later and we were still paddling into stiff headwinds as we made our way to the top of the loch sneaking around the coast to grab whatever shelter we could from the wind.











    Finally we got to the top of the loch and found the river Ailort. It had taken 3 days to get this far. We had thought we might go up the river to Loch Eilt if we had gotten this far with time to spare but after a short while travelling up to the first weir I think we all thought now was a good time to finish the trip, particularly after what had been an unexpected slog up Ailort. It seems that this circuit will always end with a slog.





    The Sheil Circuit is a classic trip but I think the next time I do this one, if it is anti clockwise again I’d be tempted to end the trip at Glenuig as Ailort seemed to be a bit of an anti climax after what had gone before.

    Another very special trip and Thanks to Greg and Andy for the great company.
    Last edited by elveys; 23rd-April-2019 at 05:54 PM.

  2. #2
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    Another great adventure chaps, on a wonderful circuit. Captured well in words and piccies John, but obviously I enjoyed the video too

    Sad to see the sign about "fires only on the rocks" at one of my favourite camp spots, but I can see why. Sadly those who don't look after the place are making it harder for those who do... and probably ignore the signs anyway.

    I think you're underselling Ailort, its just not the same as the other lochs. We had a great end to our trip 5 years ago in low winds, paddling over kelp forests and gazing at the steep hills above. Just as you were starting on the river I think!

    We were thinking of a return to Shiel for this years Pirate Adventure, but went for something a little more challenging further north instead, which will take some blogging(explaining!!) once my body recovers enough to face the editing and writing!
    Last edited by Mal Grey; 23rd-April-2019 at 05:52 PM.
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

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  3. #3
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    Good looking trip.

    When were you there? I paddled down Loch Ailort on Saturday (20th), then was on Moidart on sunday morning, and i passed a few canoers on the same islands getting ready to go. I think the people i passed paddled across to the main road at moidart though for a lift back to there cars, so probably not your group. Did intend to go and offer them a lift once i was done packing up, but someone else beat me to it !

    I actually quite enjoyed Ailort, paddled down from the top to Peanamach bothy and then back up. Not much wind though which helps increase the enjoyment.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trig View Post
    Good looking trip.

    When were you there?

    I actually quite enjoyed Ailort, paddled down from the top to Peanamach bothy and then back up. Not much wind though which helps increase the enjoyment.
    We were on the water April 6-8

    I just got find much to remember about Ailort or the wind was contributing factor. With hindsight we should possibly have camped at the beach we stopped for lunch and finished the trip the next day but always like getting the coastal sections done in case the conditions change

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by elveys View Post
    We were on the water April 6-8

    I just got find much to remember about Ailort or the wind was contributing factor. With hindsight we should possibly have camped at the beach we stopped for lunch and finished the trip the next day but always like getting the coastal sections done in case the conditions change
    Oi. That's "my" campsite from 2015, no riff raff please
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

  6. #6

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    Fantastic, what a trip and some great photos.
    Something I definitely aspire too a trip like that.


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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Grey View Post
    Oi. That's "my" campsite from 2015, no riff raff please
    I thought it was when we arrived. Nice corner that would have done us nicely. Yes sorry about Andy!

  8. #8
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    So glad you got your picture posting dilemma sorted out as your pics and blog are superb
    Nin Wanakiwidee Tchiman

  9. #9
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    Nice one John. Sorry I missed it. Need to go back there someday.
    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


  10. #10
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    Great blogg, rekindled memories of my trip and campsites. We had one great day on Loch Ailort, i really enjoyed the large island at the head and the bothy set back from the shore.

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  11. #11

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    Looks like you had a great time. Really enjoyed the photos. Thanks for taking the time to post.

  12. #12
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    Feeling rather inadequate as I log in to write a blog on the Nene!......some wonderful photos and just rewards for all those motorway miles you've put in over the years only to suffer unfavourable conditions - yet we all keep going back.
    A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope - Epictetus

  13. #13
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    Looks like one of those special trips, gutted I couldn't make it.

    One thing though...

    Wouldn't a good paddler get to that swim with one stroke?*




    *For those who've never paddled with northerners, this is how we show concern for someone's uncharacteristic behaviour.
    The only thing you have to fear is Mergatroid the vengeful, man eating bear.
    (and my youtube channel)

  14. #14
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    Great blogg and photos.

    I've never tried canoe sailing, but I can see the attraction in your pics.
    Slightly jealous that you managed to get around the coast, as the circuit kind of feels incomplete without having done that part.
    Newbond

    'In the end, it's not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away.'

  15. #15
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    riff raff!!!...you mean northern soul ipresume
    nature is m X-box

  16. #16
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    Another great Shiel blogg.
    It looks like our favourite camping spot is seeing a lot of traffic with signs about lighting fires!
    Whatever happened to leave no trace? It only takes a few to spoil it for the rest of us.
    That will always be known as 'Poo Island' to us. A campfire story that keeps getting re-lived every year.

    Really impressed with your running of the waterfall.
    Bootstrap
    There's no such thing as inclement weather - you're just incorrectly dressed

  17. #17
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    Just completed the circuit for the second time and whereas on the first we drifted down Ailort on an incoming tide this time we found some excellent camping locations on the north side and ended up at Peanmeanach bothy.

  18. #18
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    Great blog! I really enjoyed the pictures and your video. Really impressed, but I think I prefer to portage round it!

    Brings back memories of our trips on Loch Shiel. I think Tobey was 2 when we first did the circuit. We camped on the beach at the end of the North Channel, one of the best camping spots yet. I seem to remember getting up and being on the sea at 4am when it was flat to get round to Glenuig.

    Thanks for posting.
    All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost

  19. #19
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    Great blogg although I’m pretty sure it was all southerners on the trip
    John

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiKelly View Post
    Great blogg although I’m pretty sure it was all southerners on the trip
    If you look closely John, there is a ‘weegie’ in there ! And a ‘pretend’ Yorkieshireman also ....


    I will add that the other one (Elveys), wears a kilt, eats haggis - and answers to Jock MacLengthorn when he is north of Hadrians Wall !

    He may well not be Scottish or even Northern, but he IS trying .......


    Last edited by barelyafloat; 15th-May-2019 at 07:40 PM.
    I like canoes ......

  21. #21
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    Yorkshiremen are still southerners. It is all a matter of perspective
    John

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiKelly View Post
    Yorkshiremen are still southerners. It is all a matter of perspective
    My wife is from Sutherland.
    The south land of the Viking.


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