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Archive for the Kayak Trip 2010 Category

Lands End – John o Groats Kayak Trip Photographs

Day 41: Dores to Inverness

Jonathan at InvernessWaking up with a little bit of a hangover I cooked up a breakfast before slowly packing up camp and the boat. Unfortunately my kayak trolley had developed a puncture overnight so I had to drag the boat down to the water. Passing through the last section of Loch Ness I was soon into the man made section of the canal which I remembered well from my last visit. I paddled on, mulling over what I was to do. I stopped at the locks where I checked the weather forecast for the next few days – it wasn’t great. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time left to reach John o’ Groats and so decided that I would finish in Inverness. Work may well have given me some extra time off to finish but there was no way of guaranteeing the good weather that would be required to paddle the final section of exposed coastline. It would have been costly to change my train ticket and besides that, my life would not be worth living if I missed my sisters wedding next weekend (and nor would I want to miss it). I was pleased with my progress and had got to where I wanted to be both mentally and physically. I had enjoyed every minute of my trip. Logistically it would have been very difficult to stop anywhere other than either Inverness or John o’ Groats. Paddling into Inverness I wondered on what I would do with my kayak. Portaging around the flight of locks and down to the basin below I called in at the sea scouts base where I spoke to a couple of guys. The Sea Scouts were willing to buy my kayak off me so I made a quick deal. I also got some accommodation sorted (which was rather difficult to source as Inverness was packed out for a festival) and a lift which was very kind. After settling into my bed and breakfast I headed out to eat at a lovely restaurant – ‘The Mustard Seed’ which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a lovely end to my kayak odyssey! In the six weeks I had managed to paddle over 1200Km, rough camping with no back up. I have further expanded my collection of crazy stories and experiences that I will treasure for the rest of my life; I also have a sore bottom, back, arms and shoulders!

Day 40: Loch Ness to Dores

Dores InnI got up early and stoked up a fire before eating breakfast and enjoying the view of Loch Ness. I got going at around lunch time, by the this time the wind had got up, which was actually helping me on my way for once! Paddling past Foyers I continued down the Loch, stopping on several occasions to explore and give my back a rest. I continued all the way to Dores where I headed to the Inn for a beer. Returning to the kayak to push it into the forest and set up camp I was shocked to see the amount of rubbish left by other campers. People had left bags of rubbish everywhere – it must be horrible for the people who live in the village. After setting up camp, I returned to the pub for some food and further drinks – I had a good chat with some local people and also some guys who had hired Canoes in Fort William.

Day 39: Loch Lochy to Loch Ness

Loch Ness CampAfter a beautiful day of relaxation and reflection on the banks of Loch Lochy (at my favourite camp site)  I set off into the Loch  and onwards towards Inverness. Continuing on through the rest of Loch Lochy I passed through Laggan Locks and on to the second part of the man made section of the canal. At Laggan there were two Spaniels running a muck around the lock gate walkways. Unfortunately one tried to run around the walkway as the lockgate opened and so ended up in the lock chamber! Continuing on, I reached Loch Oich which was as beautiful as ever, before reaching the Alberchalder swing bridge where I stopped for some lovely cake and sandwich at the little cafe, as well as a look at the historic Bridge of Oich.

I continued on to Fort Augustus where I portaged around the staircase of locks. I stopped off for some food at the Lock Inn and got some supplies at a rather expensive ‘supermarket’. Putting the boat into Loch Ness I paddled up the Southern side, finding a beautiful spot to spend the night. I set up camp in the early evening and enjoyed a beer while admiring the view. Another wonderful day!

Day 37: Eilean Balnagowan to Loch Lochy

My favourite Camp on Loch LochyLeaving my beautiful island camp site I headed onwards through the ever narrowing Loch Linhe. On reaching the ‘Narrows’ I recorded a speed of around six knots with the tide running. On reaching Fort William I hauled my boat up on to a disused slipway and headed off in to the town. I have some really wonderful memories of Fort William from last year and I enjoyed re-exploring the town as well as stocking up on some supplies for the next stage. I set off from Fort William at around 3 in the afternoon towards Corpach where I got my permit for the Caledonian canal. After portaging around Neptunes Staircase I quickly paddled along the first stretch of canal, reaching Gairlochy locks in around an hour and a half. From Gairlochy I set off along the Northern side of Loch Lochy to  my favourite camping spot, again bringing back some wonderful memories. By the time I reached the camp the rain had started so I hung up a Banshi so I would be able to sleep in the dry! A wonderful day out on the water again; Tomorrow I will rest (and try to stretch those aching muscles) and reflect before continuing along the way.

Day 36: Clachan-Seil to Eilean Balnagowan

After a night of drinking with the locals in the pub at Clachan-Seil I got up rather late! This fitted in with my plans for the day anyway as I needed to wait for the tide to begin the flood before continuing. After a steak and ale pie I set off under the ‘Bridge over the Atlantic’ and continued Northwards along Clachan sound. I continued onwards reaching Oban, which looked rather beautiful from the water. Just after passing Oban I came across a sea otter which I watched from around ten metres. I also came across three herons who were hanging out with a seal pup – it is quite unusual to see herons together.

Continuing along the coast I passed several bays before finally reaching Castle Stalker. It was a little bit of a let down, although to be fair the conditions were not that great. I continued onwards for another hour and a half before stopping for the night on a small island in Loch Linnhe. I shared the beach with a more than a few pairs of gulls.

Day 35: Ardrishaig to Crinan to Clachan-Seil

Jonathan at CrinanSetting off from my canal-side camp I felt a little damp as it had rained in the night. The Crinan Canal was completely still as I paddled along to the locks at Cairnbaan. I pulled the kayak out of the water and hauled it for around two kilometres around nine locks (four ascending and three descending). The water in the canal looked very dark. The final section of the canal was rather impressive with deep cuttings into the rock before finishing up in the small village of Crinan. On reaching Crinan I got a couple of Bacon Butties for breakfast and chatted for a while with another kayaker who was testing a home built out-rigger canoe. As I would have to wait for the tide I went into the Crinan hotel for a soft drink and to check the weather on my laptop. For lunch I sampled some rather delicious Goulash as made by a Slovakian chef! Setting off from Crinan into thick rain and mist across Loch Crinan I headed for Craignish Point and then North West to Shuna. At one stage I was only five kilometres East of the Gulf of Corryvrecken, the site of the second largest whirlpool in the world. I stopped briefley to listen for the crunching noise that the whirlpool is supposed to make! I tried really hard to hear something but it obviously wasn’t raging today! Passing the Western coast of Shuna the tidal stream accelerated and pulled me up past the island of Torsa and into the Seil Sound. Wind was blowing from the South East for most of the time. I had quite considerable lower back pain for the final couple of hours but managed to block out the pain. I pulled the boat up right next to the Bridge over the Atlantic and headed into the Pub where I booked into a room for the night. Another fantastic day out on the water, despite the damp conditions!

Day 34: Sannox to Tarbert to Ardrishaig

Waking early I packed up quickly and continued my way along the beautiful Arran coastline before heading out across the sea to the Mull of Kintyre. I then continued up the western side of Loch Fyne, keeping as close to the edge as possible to try and avoid the wind. I passed a large Salmon farm before reaching Tarbert where I stopped for lunch in the Pub. I then continued along towards Ardrishaig and the Crinan Canal. Conditions in the afternoon were as good as I have witnessed so far in Scotland. I reached Ardrishaig in the early evening. After hauling my boat uphill above the first four locks I found a spot to camp before heading back down to the village for a pint in the Pub. Another wonderful day out on the water!

Day 33: Kildonan to Sannox

After yesterdays high dramas and long distance paddling I had a rather more relaxing day paddling along the beautiful coast of Arran. Passing through Lamlash Bay I enjoyed the view of Holy Island before continuing along to Brodick where I stopped for some lunch. I then continued along the coast line before reaching Sannox where I stopped for the night.

Day 32: Stranraer to Ailsa Craig to Kildonan

Ailsa Craig LighthouseAfter a really good nights sleep (and full breakfast) in the bed and breakfast I packed up the kayak and trolleyed it down to the sea front. I then had to walk it out about 500 metres as the tide was right out. I set out at around 08:00; following the coast as I wanted to avoid the ferries which operate out of Stranraer. I had to wait for several as one fo the ferry terminals was on my route. On leaving the sea loch I headed out towards Ailsa Craig in very good conditions. It took me around five and a half hours to reach the island, pausing only to allow two trawlers to pass in front of me. On arrival I was met be several inquisitive seals. I was planning to spend the night on the island but the RSPB warden insisted that this was not possible and that I would have to leave. He didn’t seem to care in the slightest that I might be knackered and hungry after paddling 35Km. In hindsight I should have probably just refused to leave but the guy was giving me the creeps so I set a course for the Pladda Island which lies just off  Arran. By this time the wind had picked up and was now against the tide. The sea was like a washing machine with white horses breaking regularly over the boat. After about an hour and a half paddling I noticed a large wake and a tall black object coming towards me at great speed. As it got closer I became aware that it was a submarine and coming straight for me. I began to freak out as it got closer and closer. I paddled like crazy trying to get out the way but it was coming to quickly.  I was just about ready to face imminent death when it passed about 100 metres to the left of me. What followed was the most violent wake that I have ever experienced, although I was just glad to still be alive. I continued on past Pladda island before beaching at Kildonan. I got some tea and had a few pints to settle the nerves at the Kildonan hotel before returning to the beach to sleep after an eventful day.

Jonathan Tolhurst

About Jonathan Tolhurst

Based in London, my interests include photography, kayaking, paddle boarding, electric unicycling, teepees, robotics, programming, databases, informatics and pharmacy.

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Jonathan Tolhurst