Thursday, 28 November 2013

Loch Awe and the Lower Orchy.

 A few weeks ago when Sean and I joined Graeme to paddle on Loch Ba ( ) I watched Graeme tackle a few sections of moving water in his canoe and it sparked my curiosity to have a try myself. Fast forward a week and Graeme and I met up at the car park for Kilchurn castle on Loch Awe. We quickly transferred my canoe to Graeme's car then (leaving my car at the castle) drove up to Dalmally. We offloaded the boats, got geared up and ready to get on the water.
The lower Orchy from Dalmally down has no serious rapids on it (in contrast to higher up the river) but has a few riffles that would provide me with a taste of moving water and the current would give us a nice helping hand down the river.
Despite the relatively easy state of the river it was more than enough to let me know that I have much to learn about paddling on moving water. The canoe seemed to assume a life of it's own at times and it felt similar to trying to control it while paddling in windy conditions. Still it was great fun and we fairly speeded downriver through beautiful surroundings.

 Lower down the river widened and the flow reduced, a sure sign we were approaching Loch Awe. The views of the mountains which were dusted with snow were absolutely fantastic.

I stopped off briefly at the car park as we passed and collected my sailing rig just in case the wind picked up (although it wasn't forecast) then we paddled on to Loch Awe.

 Once on the loch we could turn round and admire Kilchurn castle in all it's wintry glory.
Then it was on towards the distant islands that we planned to visit.
First stop was at Fraoch Eilean for a bite to eat and a look at the castle remains.

 Next it was a short paddle across to the Black Isles and Inishail.

We'd been looking forward to landing on Inishail to see the ancient chapel remains and graveyard which has some really old gravestones and is the final resting place of some of the Dukes of Argyll. 

 The day was wearing on so we pushed on towards the south eastern shore to paddle back that way and look at a couple of crannogs that were marked on the map. The late afternoon light and gathering mist made for an atmospheric return journey.

Eventually Kilchurn castle came back into view, good news as we were both feeling tired and the daylight was fading fast.

We paddled up the river the short distance to the car park where we used my car to recover Graeme's from Dalmally before loading up and heading for home.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Loch Ba.

For years I've looked at Loch Ba as I've driven across Rannoch Moor on the way north and wondered what it would be like to explore. Today Graeme, Sean and I found out. We met at the newly completed road bridge over the river Ba and carried (and dragged) the canoes down to the water's edge.
It was a short scrape down the end of the river to the start of Loch Ba.

The weather was a little more overcast than we'd hoped it'd be but that did lend a bit extra moodiness to the already atmospheric scenery.

Loch Ba is quite shallow and there are many small rocky outcrops sticking out of the water as well as some small islands. We decided to land on the largest of these islands on our way back after we'd explored the northern and eastern extremities of the loch.

Photo courtesy of Graeme. 

It's very easy to become disorientated as the loch meanders, narrows and widens but soon we noticed the water flowing indicating that we were approaching the start of the Abhainn Ba (the river that flows out of Loch Ba eastwards and into Loch Laidon). Graeme and I had walked to this point back in January when we explored Loch Laidon ( ). We beached the canoes and had a quick bite to eat while Graeme decided whether or not to attempt running the river.

Graeme decided to run the first part of the river on the basis that he'd have to drag his canoe back up across the moor which would be time consuming if he went too far. Sean and I followed him down the bank watching and taking photos. 

Once he'd reached a wider pool at the bottom of the first section of the river Graeme turned round and paddled and hauled his boat back up. 

Once back at the outflow we set off back against the current towards the main loch. Sean dragged my canoe up some of the bits that were too shallow to paddle tandem (as he had his drysuit on). 

Once we'd negotiated the shallows it was back in the boat and head back towards the largest island, Eilean Molach.
Photo courtesy of Graeme.

We landed on Eilean Molach on a nice sandy beach and had a wander round the lovely wooded isle. 

Once back on the water we followed the southern shore back towards our put in at the bridge.