Scotland has and will always be one of my favourite places. As part of my degree we have the chance to go on expeditions every year. Last year I chose to go on a canoeing expedition to Scotland and it was by far one of the most memorable trips I have ever been on.
We started the trip at the beginning of Loch Sheil, a sea loch which would take us three days to paddle on. We found out just after I packed my camera into the canoe that the train bridge from Harry Potter was just behind where we were starting and that the Loch itself was the Hogwarts lake from the films. One of the leaders of the expedition, Gareth, never liked to have morning briefings but rather have “chit chats” which became a staple part of the whole trip. After a chit chat about how long the day will take and where we would be sleeping that night we paddled from the little beach we started on and entered into the Loch, and we were welcomed by the most breathtaking surroundings.
After taking in the surroundings we paddled until lunch time and we had covered quite a bit of distance. Gareth suggested that it would be a lot easier if we rafted up our canoes and made sails out of the tarpaulin we had for shelters as there was just enough wind for this to work. We set to work figuring out how to raft up the canoes and create a sail. One of the expedition members had done a lot of sailing so out raft was ready in no time. Little did we know that our paddling trip would turn more into a sailing trip as conditions would remain largely the same for the whole trip. We assigned roles within our raft so it the days would be more efficient. We had a navigator, someone at the back to control the rudder and two people in charge of sail control. I pulled the short straw and had the maintenance job. Essentially, my job was to walk around the gunwale (the very edge of the raft) of the raft either spotting rocks or making sure the sail. I only nearly fell in once.
Day two was very much the same as the first. Our second morning chit chat outlined the day ahead. We aimed to head to this tiny island for lunch and so we could rest for a little bit and we would leave Loch Sheil and enter the sea by the end of the day. We headed to our rafts and set out for another day of sailing. This “paddling” trip was becoming very, very easy. When we got to the island it turned out that it was an old burial island with the remains of a chapel in the middle. The earliest grave we found was from 1739. After walking around and looking at all the grave stones we came to the conclusion that the site was a burial site for a clan as many of the surnames were the same.
After leaving the island we took apart the rafts and actually did some paddling. Something that a lot of us were rather excited about. After about an hours paddle one boat had to stop for a comfort break so a few of us stopped by the beach to have a little break. It turns out that the beach where we had stopped was just outside the boundary of a nature reserve, this became apparent when we caught a glimpse of a pair of White Tailed Sea Eagles. One lecturer, Graham, had his Attenborough moment, revealing that the bird has a wingspan of 5-8 feet and that its diet consists of mainly fish but also small mammals and birds. and was desperately trying to catch a photo of the bird, I managed to catch a photo of one before they flew out of distance of my camera. Just around the corner from this beach was our end point, but between us was quite a large rapid. There was a really fast flow which lead into a drop then about 5 meters of flow before another drop and I definitely wasn’t feeling it. Nor were many of the team so we decided to portage all of our equipment and Gareth ran the boats down the rapid. He took a few wobbles but managed to stay dry.
That night we were greeted with the most stunning sunset I had ever seen. We slept on the beach that night with a fire and watched the sun set behind a castle on an island. The next day we had planned to head out onto the sea and round into another Sea Loch. However, conditions were not in our favour and made it impossible to do. We decided to end this section back at the beach we had slept on the previous night. The trip carried on after the Loch to the Grandtully Rapids. Unfortunately the heat got the better of me over the course of the trip so I missed the final day of paddling. I spent the remaining day in camp, but I did manage to walk down to the river and have a look and I caught what is potentially my favourite photo from the trip.
That just about sums up what was an amazing trip. I really hope you have enjoyed reading about it and I can assure you there are many more adventures to come!
Love you, Bye!
P.S. Don’t Forget To Be Awesome