Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Great Glen, part 2

Back in the rain, heading out from Fort Augustus, we were soon onto Loch Ness. Like Loch Lochy, it was initially calm, but before long we were being surfed along.

We travelled up the south shore, which is very wild and steep. There were lots of impressive waterfalls, but virtually no places to camp. Perhaps unwisely, we carried on past the one bit of flat ground we saw at a remote boathouse. We investigated a small cave, which was big enough for two, but had signs of recent rockfall. By eight o'clock I was worried that we were heading for a night paddle to Inverness, but fortunately we came across a small raised beach. Appropriately it was in a beech wood. There were two spots big enough for tents, and the ground was very soft and comfy. Not far above us, but out of sight, was the village of Foyers. The rain eased off a bit, and apart from wet sleeping bags, we had a good night.

The launch in the morning was into breaking waves. We headed down the loch in a force 5 to 6, with waves getting steadily bigger. A crossing took us over to Castle Urquhart for a short break.

The day was colder and windier than before, still with steady rain, and we didn't stay still for long. The northern part of the loch was relatively dull, and I was beginning to get a bit fed up, but Nessie had still to bare her teeth.
Two or three kilometres before its end, Loch Ness narrows and becomes shallower. Together with a funnelling of the wind, this causes the waves to grow and turn nasty. We were in breaking waves which were now over head height, and short and steep. Keeping our bows downwind was a big effort. The wind also chose this moment to pick up to a full on gale. Spray was flying off the top of the breakers, and as we turned to cross the wind towards the loch outflow we had to lean on the wind to avoid being blown over. A tight grip on paddles was needed. As I took one hand off my paddle to adjust my skeg, I nearly had it blown away.
It was with some relief that we sailed through the narrows into the shelter of the tiny Loch Dochfour. Much more gentle paddling took us down to Dochgarroch Locks, with an opportunity to warm up in the British Waterways toilets again. From here the canal winds its way down to Inverness. A limbo dance under Tomnahurich Bridge and a final bit of urban paddling took us to the last portage down to the car. I wanted to drive the car up to the top of the locks, but that was considered cheating.

Some folk do this trip in open boats. I suppose it's possible in fine weather, and if you have a couple of months to spare. It could be done in a more leisurely manner, stopping at the various pubs and cafes along the way. Done our way, it turned out to be a lot more of an adventure than I was expecting, thanks to CWW junior's insistence on paddling every hour of the day and a bit more. If you are thinking of trying it, I'd recommend warmer and less windy weather, and taking a trolley with wheels which turn.

1 comment:

  1. Iain can I please put in a request to leave CWW junior at home if he fancies coming out for a paddle. He's beginning to sound like hard work!