Day 5. Loch Ness (nothing else).
Loch Ness is massive. It is 23 miles long. Averaging 182m (600 feet) in depth, the maximum depth, recorded just south west of Urquhart Castle is at least 230m (754 feet). Loch Ness holds the greatest amount of water of any loch in Scotland and remarkably contains more water than ALL of the lakes in England and Wales put together!
Sitting in a thin plastic tube above this depth of water you become aware of the scale. Imagine looking down from the top of Canary Wharf. That’s how far away the bottom of the loch is.
We paddled quickly.
By now, the tiredness meant that I could do about 20 paddle strokes before resting. The crosswind meant that my boat wanted to turn left constantly. This meant that every 3rd (of my 20) stroke was a correction, not actually propelling me forwards.
The weather had deteriorated too. The grey cloud and misty rain added to the atmosphere of the place.
We stopped for lunch at the village of Foyers, about halfway along the southern edge. The village is a strange mix of power station, aluminium factory, a few houses and a wonderful waterfall. The village is spread across a hillside down to the water’s edge. We abandoned our boats on the shoreline and walked steeply uphill, following the coffee aroma.
The boats are worth £700-£1000, the paddles we left next to them are £200 each and the camping kit, clothing, car keys and phones added up to much more. But the area, once we were clear of the larger towns, and the fact that we arrive unannounced from the water means that we could quite happily leave our stuff and wander off for an hour.
We climbed the path that takes tourists and walkers up from loch level to the lower falls and then the spectacular upper.
Many of the sights and experiences on this trip had reminded me of the Rocky Mountains in Canada – my favourite place in the world. This hidden gem of a waterfall was one such.
By the time we’d finished our delicious paninis and several large coffees in the lovely cafe/village store/post office
and wandered back to our boats, the weather had improved and it looked as though we would make it to our targeted end point for the day – the beach alongside the Dores Inn
We had read that the beach was a perfect wild camping spot and that it looked straight back down the length of the loch we had spent the day paddling. Once again, the pain and occasional monotony of the paddling was tempered by a thought of a pub/view/meal.
We weren’t to be disappointed. Despite being chased along the loch by a storm that followed us from Fort Augustus, the rest of the day was dry and sunny and, as we’d dreamed of since we first stuck the maps up on our office walls, we got that sunset.
It was among the most beautiful places I have ever camped. So spectacular was the sunset that after we had pitched the tents sat for a couple of hours to watch the sun slowly set and the sky change colour from blue, though orange and pink until it was finally black.
The lack of light pollution allowed meant we could watch the satellites pass through the blanket of stars above us.
The combination of the beers, the wonderful Oban single malt and the satisfaction we were feeling being so close to completing our challenge meant for a contented sleep. The physical effort that we had put in each day along with being outdoors for almost a week in the fresh air and weather, away from the stresses of work and the daily grind brought an incomparable happiness and satisfaction.
Read about day 6 here.