Loch Morar and Loch Nevis - The Full Circle Route
Day 1 and 2
Each year SunburyAndy and I have met up for an annual canoe expedition (I use the word very grandly) to Scotland. For some time we had been aiming for Lochs Morar and Nevis. The many SOTP blogs, and our own experience on Lochs Ailort, Moidart and Shiel had convinced us it was a worthwhile destination.
Busy personal schedules meant only one narrow time window was open for the trip, and with a business trip right before hand this left little time for planning. However we pulled it together and our plan quickly solidified. John (Elveys) joined us quite late on and two became three.
Our plan was tight, with little room for error.
Day 1 - Drive the 600 miles to Morar, arriving in time to paddle out to the islands and camp.
Day 2 - Paddle down Loch Morar and camp in the mountains
Day 3 - Paddle back to Sworldand, portage over to Tarbet, paddle down Loch Nevis and camp.
Day 4 - Paddle to Inverie and camp - civilization!
Day 5 - Paddle to Mallaig and then back down the coast and up the River Morar. Portage back to Loch Morar and paddle back to the car.
Day 6 - Drive home.
The journey to Scotland was a long one - 14-15 hours in total, but incredibly we arrived just 30 minutes later than planned. Despite driving through rain all the way up, we arrived to find a beautiful evening, the low sun hanging over a perfectly still Loch Morar. We quickly loaded our canoes prepared to set off.
We set off into the beautiful evening, somewhat stunned by the stillness and the fantastic scenery. Evening paddles like this are quite something.
We paddled lazily out towards the islands, a mere 1 mile distant, congratulating ourselves on our amazing good fortune for just being here.
Slowly the islands drew closer and we headed in to explore and locate the perfect campsite we knew to exist somewhere amongst them.
Finally we found the place we were seeking, facing east on Eilean a Phidhir. We landed and set about making camp. The campsite is well used, but generally very clean and well treated. A small fire kept the midges at bay for the evening, who otherwise were enjoying the still conditions.
We awoke to a fine morning and wonderful views. It was so nice we were all tempted to just stay there.
Finally unable to take any more photos we broke camp and set off into a near perfect morning.
We paddled down through the islands exploring as we went, and then out into the loch proper
The hillsides were incredible. Verdant, green and inviting exploration, riven with waterfalls along their length. Venture in though and you find a hard and wet land where just walking around is difficult.
We stopped for the required morning brew stop (a habit which sadly got forgotten in later days). I climbed up a hill to take this picture, and it was just as wet at the top as at the bottom. It was around here that we saw what we think was a Golden Eagle.
We continued down the loch, the rugged slopes of Carn Mor looming in the distance.
As the day drew on the weather began to change and a difficult tail wind blew up, making it hard to maintain a steady course. I made us stop for breaks, as a shoulder injury I was nursing was starting to play up in the tricky conditions.
A short rest was enough to set us on our way again, finally reaching the head of the loch where we explored the camping options in the twin valleys of Gleann an Lochain Eanaiche and Gleann an Obain Bhig. Sadly both proved difficult. The former was being farmed with sheep and the later had no dry ground at all that we could find. We opted to camp near Oban bothy just outside Glean an Obain Bhig.
The weather worsened as evening drew on and it began to rain. Well we were in Scotland!
I love tarps.
The next day we arose to heavy cloud and rain. Thankfully we had a dry period in which to break camp before the weather closed right in and persistent rain followed us up the loch to Swordland. However the stiff head wind that faced us to begin with, soon gave way to stillness, and despite the rain the paddling was relaxed and easy. I took no photos.
As we reached the landing at Swordland, the rain became more intermittent. The portage is not long, and lugging the kit did not seem too hard, but the boat proved tough and I have to admit to needing help. Recent months of little exercise were exposing my low fitness. Going to have to work on that. With John and Andy's help I made it down to Tarbet without collapsing.
The view back down the loch was pretty good.
Loch Nevis, first view.
At Tarbet the rain stopped and we snatched a late lunch on the beach. We were a little worried because our timing for this trip meant that the tides were all wrong. We were about to paddle up through the narrows against the flow. The tide had not long turned but we remained concerned.
However a neap tide proved our saviour and the feared currents did not materialise. We drifted down Loch Nevis.
The water was very still once again, though the cloud and rain remained with us for the day. We were now searching for a campsite in Knoydart, reputed to be one of the hardest and wettest regions in the country, and it had been raining all day. We struggled to find a dry spot anywhere. All around us the sound of roaring water filled our ears as tiny rivulets turned to powerful waterfalls, cascading down the lochsides every few hundred yards,
Eventually we located a tiny camp site between two river outflows, with just enough land to camp on. Behind us a larger waterfall made its presence felt and heard, whilst the nearby stream grew in size all evening. I strated to worry just how far it would come up.
Our camp was wet and midgey, but we managed to dry ourselves our and pass a reasonable evening.
Andy's fire log gave us some welcome cheer amidst the endless drizzle.
Twice during the evening deer tried to enter the camp but were deterred by our presence. This young buck barked out its annoyance before heading off across the hillside.