Cambus O'May and Cnoc Dubh by mtb

Feb 21st 2019

A beautiful day on upper Deeside and it coincided with a pre-planned fixture by mountain bike.  Great to see winter receding and the local moors starting to look better.  Snow was just 3 weeks back (and may come again I suppose).

A fairly short overall mileage at 17 kms but it had some good ups (Cnoc Dubh ascent, and the technical climb back above Burn o'Vat), and some fast rolling descents (principally to Raebush cottage).  Dry pine needles under out wheels most of the way with bare granite slabs at the top.

We even beat the local pensioners walking group back to the teashop for soup & sarnies.

Loch Kinord
Burn O'Vat

Photo credit to Alistair

Photo credit to Alistair

A bothy weekend with SSKeG buddies at Coruisk

January 18-20th 2019

Not much snow so far this winter but it is certainly still lying on the east side of the Cairngorms.  Frozen white stuff on the roads.  Anyway I needed to be over on Skye for a sea kayak meet so I took it easy over the top and a bit slower than normal overall.  Worked out ok and arrived for a night in Broadford just as it got dark.

Saturday was an 0930 gathering at Elgol and the crew of 9 started packing sea kayaks on the beach there.  All bar Mick & Rosie were new colleagues to me but SSKeG seems a pretty laid back network of paddlers and everyone just seemed to get on smoothly.  We launched off a dull strip of sand, and set off under the snow covered peaks of the Cuillins – bright sun though chilly.

Photo credit to Chris Gordon

Course was set across to Soay (about a 4km open crossing) in a little chop and with the wind mainly on our backs.  Along the south of the island and then up the west side before heading across to the Skye cliffs.  We managed to spot the saltire cast into the rockface along here, and at one point “lost” Ali and became a party of 8.  By the lunch stop at the Viking canal/harbour we had resolved that.  Looks like the Vikings only had quite narrow longships in these parts though as the remaining drydock /haul-out areas aren’t that big.  Leaving Rubha an Dunain for another trip we cruised eastwards through the afternoon (about 11 kms) to enter the bay at Coruisk and the landing for the bothy.  About 31 kms for the day.

It was dark pretty quickly so from 5 pm onwards was a simple social evening (lots and lots of food – a small amount of liquid refreshment).  My vague plan of walking across to see Loch Coruisk went out the window.  Overnight was stormy but Sunday soon cleared and despite being cold (nippy fingers, keep moving kind of cold) we got organised and on the water without too much faff.

Photo credit to Chris Gordon

Half the group were heading straight back to Elgol but as the remaining 5 we set off south round Rubha a Gheodha Bhuidhe and then west.  Rounding the corner exposed us to squally blasts from the open sea and a painful headwind as we made the ferry glide across to Soay.  Not much conversation was had for nearly an hour before things settled down.  Rock faces here had lots of good sized sea urchins clinging to them at the water line which I thinks proves the sea is pretty clean & healthy there.  Moved along the north side of Soay and into the old shark station that’s accessible as the tide fills in.  An interesting spot for lunch and a poke around the industrial archaeology left by Gavin Maxwell and cohorts.  The filthy brown Soay sheep watched from a distance.  Somewhere in here we spotted an eagle soaring above.  Kate had a close encounter with an otter as we pulled out of the bay.

That just left us with a downwind cruise back east to Elgol -  great to have some extra free speed as some of the rollers headed the right way.   My GPS was saying our normal 6/7 kph cruising became 10 or 12 at times.  The sun was still shining for us but clearly there were squally rain/snow showers passing over the big mountains.  I wouldn’t want to have been out hillwalking.  Just 17 kms on day 2 but very pleasant.

Gear packed up, farewells said and another paddle was complete.  Great fun amid stunning scenery with new friends.  Brill.

Photo credit to Chris Gordon


Clear and bright at New Year

January 4th 2019

Happy new year to fellow boaters, bikers, and outdoors-folk.

The new year came in with quiet steely determination really;  sharp frosts and then clear blue skies.  None of that squally "easterly" wind anymore and therefore the east coast of Scotland was a calm place to paddle.

Ron, Gill and myself made a short foray up the coast from Cove bay just to shake off the Christmas puddings and Hogmanay fuzz.  It was nearly high water so not much current and most rocks were covered.  It still left some channels for rock hopping and some dark spaces to enter.

Very relaxing, and long may it continue.  We spied a few seals and a couple of dolphins.  Lots of work happening at Nigg bay for the new cruiseliner berths, and a few locals out on the cliff tops.


December paddling off Skye

December 8/9th 

What better way to celebrate having a new boat than to go out & use it.  The boat in question is a Tiderace Pace 17S and its sleek form and smooth curves look tremendous.  I will have to wait till the spring to properly load it up and do some expeditioning but I did get across to Skye to make the most of a small weather window.

This was a SSKeG arranged weekend with Kevin Williams (Chief Guide at SouthSkyeSeaKayak) leading.  Just a select few were present given the winter weather on the Friday but by Saturday morning we were prepped and assembled at Armadale beach.  What remained of the wind was now a westerly at about F3 although the sea state was pretty benign in the sound.  Paddling south down the coast was straightforward enough and the Pace was taking it all in its stride.  This boat seems to paddle fine with or without the rudder in its unloaded state.

The looming island of Eigg was part of the view most of the morning leg, and Mallaig was off our port side.  
Lunch was on a pleasant sandy beach (Rubha Shleite) as the tide continued to fall.

A final push further to the south saw us at the Point of Sleat itself where the conditions were somewhat lumpy and gusty.  We didn’t hang around for long here; starting back to the north.  A little bit of a following swell was still running so I got to try the odd bit of surfing with the boat – it’s pretty responsive to edging.  

Back to Armadale and a search for an open coffee shop was in vain so superior planning took over and we had team-pizza in Broadford.  27 kms for the day.

Sunday was colder, clearer, less sea running, but with the odd vicious squall blowing through.  We launched off the gravel at Kyleakin within sight of the Skye bridge and headed east into the open water of Loch Alsh.  Then a 90 degree turn south into the funnel of Kylerhea.  

We were just dawdling really but with an outgoing tide the GPS showed 16 kph as we went through the narrows.  Boily water with some random whirlie-gigs but easy enough to paddle across.  Then a 15 minute session on a playspot just after the old ferry slipway (west side) before cruising on south.  

The refreshment stop today was on the mainland side (Sandaig islands) although we had to huddle up to keep warm this time.  Moving on we made a crossing of the sound back to the more sheltered Skye coastline giving way to a coastal freighter rushing south.  

photo credit to David Musk 

Dark clouds massing on the mountains meant that the ever changing rainbows were bright and distinct – still tricky to paddle under the arch though isn’t it.

We landed in the sheltered bay of Isleornsay and sorted out the boats/gear after logging 25 kms – great to have Kevin’s trailer to make the shuttle easy.

So an opportunity grasped and made full use of.  Two full days of sea paddling on the west coast of Scotland in December.  It was good to meet new folk; thanks to Kevin, Janni, Mick, David and Ross for good company and a bit of craik. I look forward to paddling again with you guys.


The infamous RCC-Old-Boys on tour again

October 5-10th 2018

Once more the old lags of Lancashire came up to Scotland for a boating & biking extravaganza - with a little whisky tasting thrown in too.  This year saw us staying at the seafood cafe cottage on the shore of Loch Leven (bottom of Glencoe) so we had a cultural piece as well with a 10-man fresh seafood dinner - excellent.

View from the front door

Day 1 was sunny so a bike loop round the hills just south of the Ballachulish bridge.  The start was the pedal up to and across the bridge, then down the west coast cycle way (leads all the way down to Oban).  Left and up Glen Duror with a lot of double track / access track but still fun.  

Further in to the ride and the shortish fast fun single track section led straight into a boggy carry/push but hey ho....  Biking attire seemed to include 1970's era lycra as well as posh new stuff.  I don't think there were too many pairs of shorts evident though.  


Heading north we descended into the coffee shop at Ballachulish village for suitable refreshment.  Pretty good cakes on offer plus usual scottish (tat) souvenirs like stuffed coows.

Interestingly they had two things hanging on the walls that caused general mirth.  One was the half a kayak complete with paddler emerging through the wall above the kitchen, and secondly was the very appropriate inflatable sign they were trying to flog.

Then a bit of faffing about in Glen Coe village before the road ride back to the lodging.  So that was a 50 km bike ride to kick off our re-union.

Another view from the front door
The next day was the start of a 3 day monsoon season in Lochaber so we scored 3 river run days plus a blow-out/flop day.  Because everything had risen we first paddled the Ailort (on the Mallaig road).  This was new to us and provided a really pleasant surprise in its swollen condition.  The first 400m rom the Loch was down some nice steps/features and probably the biggest thing some of the group had tried for a while.  It petered out a bit but was a good 60 minutes of grin - we went back and did a second lap just to make sure!

Big Ian on the Ailort

The Lower Roy was also steaming downstream so we had a blast down that - a pretty safe bet rather than going up to the Upper/Gorge sections which would be borderline.  Lots of brown water, boils, tree branches, and some good play waves. 

And the final day saw us get on the Orchy (as the level had now fallen back from the 3.0 on the SEPA gauge).  Its been years since I've found the Orchy at a reasonably wet but not too wet level so tremendous fun.  The two big steps though proved a little too challenging on the day so were walked.  Also a nice change to have to properly "read" the river as none of us had been on it for a while.  Just four of us but the boats ranged from current Machno & Braap through a stuntbat to the evergreen RPM !

Big thanks to Ian McC who has organised this gathering for donkey's years and tried to keep us in order. He's trying to find an alternative old git to volunteer to take-over.  All the best Ian.


Photo credits to various chums as usual as I didn't take many.

Walking a bottle of malt up Lochnagar

Sept 23rd 2018

Our local distillery is the grandly titled Royal Lochnagar and it's near neighbours happen to own 50,000 acres of scottish moorland all around Loch Muick.  On that land stands the grand old man of Lochnagar which is a wonderful looking munro (height 1155m) that has a commanding stance over the corrie and looking east over Deeside.

I happened to have bought a special bottle of said distillery product as a present for my brother, and it seemed a fitting challenge to take it to the summit of the Lochnagar mountain before actually wrapping it up and passing it on.  The weather fluctuated into autumn so picking a suitable day was tricky but in the end, Sunday looked good.  A bit cooler now but mainly dry and the biting wind had died off for a day.

 Quick start from Spittal of Glen Muick and up through Allt na Gubhsaich, past Meikle Pap and on up to the shoulder.  A tremendous view down in to the corrie opens up here.  Four other lads were on the ascent route including one dressed as "Thor" (complete with mighty hammer).  The boulder field makes going difficult and I'm glad I've never tried to bring my mountain bike this way.

Anyway, up to the summit and some time to chinwag with Thor and others.  Sun was out some of the time so quite pleasant but still gusty.  Challenge over as a splendid new/unopened bottle of single malt had made it to the summit.

Back down the waterfall path and eyeing up the rock slides there for some of my nuttier kayaking buddies who just might run them. Geese overhead flying in formation and the odd black grouse squawking out of the heather were the only wildlife to see.  Beautiful colours though in the grasses and the moorland.