Cross-Scotland Kayak Adventure Part 6 (the last bit)

A picture just for Steve…

Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle

I woke before dawn on our last day. I sat on the beach and brewed coffee as the sun came up over the perfectly flat loch. It was so flat that if Nessie had blinked at the other end of the loch I’d have seen the ripples.
I’ve said previously that first light is the best light, and sitting on the beach, watching the sun slowly rise, was the best way I can think of to start a Friday. As a result, it was almost 4 hours later that we finally set off slowly for our final couple of hours of paddling.

Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
Gradually, we made our way out of the beauty and tranquillity of the Highlands and returned, paddle stroke by paddle stroke to ‘civilisation’. I’ve written in this blog before about arriving slowly, usually by bike. But kayaking gives the same experience. The scenery doesn’t change as quickly as it can if you travel by car. It evolves. The outskirts of Inverness did the same thing. The number of joggers slowly increased. The buildings got closer together. Before long we were passed our first golf course and mobile phone mast. We saw the first litter in the canal since we’d started out.

The end of our adventure was the British Waterways facility in one of Inverness’s least attractive areas. It is the final set of locks that lead down to the Beauly Firth and the North Sea. Despite our slow arrival, the beauty we had left 4 hours previously seemed a world away from the traffic and (relative) hustle and bustle of Inverness’s retail park.
It doesn’t take me long to regress back to my caveman roots. A week in the outdoors, not quite hunter/gathering, but pretty well removed from the comforts of everyday life, makes me frustrated when I do get back to what most people would see as normality. I see people in a rush, using cars to cover short distances, getting angry about trivial things. Suddenly, I was back to worrying about my kit getting nicked if I didn’t keep an eye on it. I wasn’t expecting to be invited in to stay in someone’s spare room that evening…

Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle

But that was it, we’d made it. It had been beautiful, miserable, exciting and demanding both physically and mentally. While at no point did we consider giving up, leaving that cafe (and hand-dryer) in Fort William and heading back out into the wind and rain had taken about as much resolve as I could muster. 
It had been dangerous too (the trip, not the cafe!). OK, so we hadn’t needed the flares we’d been carrying, but there were times when we had experienced the real power of the weather and water and had ‘got off with a warning’. I’m sure it wasn’t as dangerous as driving to work or a Friday night out in Leicester, but it was a danger that was more real and personal.
When I did eventually turn my phone back on and get back in touch with my regular life, I received three pieces of terrible news. I won’t go into the details, but they certainly put a new angle on my thoughts as I waited for Steve and Mark to return with the cars. 
The news made me realise how far removed from ‘normal’ life I had been. I had been focussing on the important things to me each day. They revolved around blistered hands and dry underwear. I was completely immersed in the effort and challenge – nothing else. As I came to terms with what I was told, I felt selfish that I was enjoying myself away from the important things. 
But on further reflection, the news made me feel great about what we had done. We’d raised money for LOROS and so helped many other people. And we’d also made the most of our lives and our health and done something special, memorable and satisfying. 
I’d like to think we might even have inspired others. I don’t expect a rush of my friends to start kayaking long distances, but maybe some will see that adventure and challenge can be close by. Maybe some will walk rather than taking the car, ride a bike to work, go for a jog instead of watching garbage TV, or even sit with someone different at lunchtime – it’s all adventure. It’s all doing something without knowing exactly what the outcome will be…

Cross-Scotland Kayak Adventure Part 5.

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.

Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
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.
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
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.
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
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. 
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
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.
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
The lack of light pollution allowed meant we could watch the satellites pass through the blanket of stars above us.
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
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.

Cross-Scotland Kayak Adventure Part 4.

By now we were a full day behind our schedule. To catch up, we were going to have to cover a whole map in one day and attempt to reach the bright lights of Fort Augustus before dark. We’d need to paddle the lengths of both Loch Lochy and Loch Oich plus miles of canal to get there, but the idea of a pint and a proper cooked dinner was like a carrot dangling ahead.
Despite the tiredness, the aching shoulders and elbows, and blisters on blisters on our hands, we sprang from our tents because it wasn’t raining! Skies were almost clear and as we ate our breakfast (instant porridge with honey and raisins) and watched the sun rise.
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
It was a beautiful site, and despite our challenging itinerary, we took our time packing kit that was getting drier by the minute. All of a sudden, after 3 days of challenge and danger, the trip seemed more sensible. We could settle into it and enjoy the paddling, the company and just how beautiful Scotland can be.
First up was Loch Lochy. At 10 miles long, it was the second longest freshwater loch of the trip. As we rounded a bend in the canal, we entered the southern end of the loch and had the whole expanse of the loch in front of us. The road ran along the east (right) side of the loch and so we headed left.
All along this bank were forests of beautiful, deciduous British trees. Their leaves were beginning to turn a patchwork of golds, yellows and oranges. 
Dippers teased and posed for us. They flew slightly ahead of us before standing, dipping and showing off with a quick dart along the loch’s bottom.
Everything looked better in the sunshine.
We stopped for coffee halfway along the lake. I took a great stove photo, but I realise I mustn’t overdo them, so instead, here is my boat in recline.Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
We were tearing through the water now with a strong wind at our backs, feeling great and covering plenty of distance. Before long we were through the next locks and back onto the canal.
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
The Caledonian canal was finished in 1822 and provided an alternative for boats up to 150ft to going around Cape Wrath. It proved a bit of a white elephant, because in the time it took to build the canal, ship-building had developed and going around Scotland was becoming safer and often quicker than using the canal.
The canal is like the canal we know in the midlands, but 4 times the width.
Now, it is maintained by British Waterways and they do a fantastic job. Facilities along the canal are kept perfectly. Each loch or swing bridge has a dedicated lock keeper. There are competitions between them for the best kept locks and from the evidence we saw, that competition is fiercely contested. The facilities are aimed at people in rented cruisers more than kayakers, but once you have a licence and the BW key, they are your’s to use.
For us, each of those 29 locks meant getting out of the water and hauling the fully laden boats along the tow-path before putting in again at specially constructed platforms at either end.
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
After Lochy came Oich. Prettier but less wild than its predecessor, it is only 6.5km long. For the first time on the trip we saw other people on the water. The rented cruisers were cruising by and a group of kids learning to paddle in open canoes were enjoying the sunshine.
Fort Augustus was a bit of a shock to the system. So far, Morrison’s cafe on a wet Tuesday morning had been as close as we had got to civilisation (and thinking about it, that is still quite a way off). So the relative hustle and bustle of the town took a little getting used to. 
I didn’t like it. I preferred the wild camps. No traffic noise, pollution or street lighting.
But we were tired. Really tired. My shoulders and neck were stiff. They felt like lead – I could barely lift them over my head. My elbows were painful from the abuse they got as we deadlifted the boats out of the water at each lock. My knees complained every time we got out of the kayak. They brace the inside in an unnatural position to help with power transfer and steering.
My hands had layers of blisters. While they had had a drier day, they were still pruned.
My feet were dirty and damaged from days in sandal, water and stones.
And I was suffering the effects of being in wet underwear for days on end…
But  a couple of pints of real ale and a huge steak pie later and some time to reflect on the fantastic day we had had meant Sweet FA didn’t bother me too much. 
To walk off the food, we strolled down to the southern end of Loch Ness. We would be on this mighty body of water for the whole day tomorrow and some of the day after. 
Standing next to it in the darkness, despite not being able to see further than an few hundred metres, one could sense the size of it. The stillness. The mountains either side. It felt grand, impressive, dangerous, mysterious.
I was looking forward to seeing it in daylight…
Read about day 5 here.

Cross-Scotland Kayak Adventure Part 3.

The rain that had begun as we arrived at our car park camp site the previous night continued into the grey halflight of the following morning. ‘Rain always sounds worse inside a tent’ I told myself as I lay awake, mentally preparing myself to unzip the door flap and start day 3. When I finally did, I was greeted by ‘fast wiper-setting’ rain. Bang went another theory.

We were back to the world in greyscale. Clouds were being blown down the loch at half the height of the mountains either side. You felt like you should stoop to keep your head out of them.
Wet wetsuits were the order of the day once more. The benefit of paddling in a wet suit is that once the rain has made its way past the ‘waterproof’ cag (cag being the trendy, kayaker’s name for a cagoule), the water will be held against your skin. It will then warm up and provide some insulation. This works OK while you keep moving and keep that layer of water warm.

We stuck close to the south-eastern shore and the busy A82. We were close enough to see the drivers passing by with their ‘rat race frowns’, oblivious to us and the presence of anything outside of their limited field of attention. On the water, and despite the rain, we were seeing otters, cerlew, dozens of noisy oystercatchers and many other species that my limited ornithology doesn’t run to.

Before long we were alongside the extended line of hotels and guesthouses that form the outskirts of Fort William. Despite the place not being a favourite of either of us, the idea of a cooked breakfast and a new pair of sandals for Steve (we’d had to gaffer tape his to his foot each morning after they failed on day one) was lifting our spirits. We paddled right into the harbour and beached outside of the town’s leisure centre – quite why a town with Ben Nevis, Loch Linnhe and a thousand other natural sporting arena needs such a facility I’m not sure.

By now we were back at maximum wetness, and as we tramped across the hideous, dual carriageway bypass to Morrison’s, the wind began to chill us. Morrison’s that day had many attractions. The Large Big Scottish Breakfast (it really did have two adjectives), coffee that didn’t require my pruned fingers to operate a stove to enjoy, somewhere to sit that was heated, but best of all… they had HAND-DRYERS.

We took turns visiting the gents to hold open the front of our (own) rolled down wetsuits and blow the beautiful warm, dry air over our underwear. First the front, then the back.
Then the front…

Men came into the toilets from time to time but quickly turned and fled when they were greeted with the site of a half-dressed wildman, standing in a puddle, grinning as he heated his groin.
My update on the (excellent) TrackMyTour app I was using to allow people to follow our progress catches the mood…

Morrison's Cafe
Several hours later, and after a squelch into Fort Bill for sandals, we were back at the boats. Since we’d left them, the tide had gone out and we faced a 200m drag through the sand, seaweed and broken glass to get to the water.
The tide going out had changed the next challenge we had to face too. The River Lochy flows out into the top end of Loch Linnhe. When the tide is in, the large areas of mud and sand banks are covered and the water is spread across a large area. With the tide out, the river if funnelled into fast-moving, narrow channels, separated by gravel banks. Out in the centre of the loch was ‘The Muncher’ as Steve christened it, an area of waves, currents and eddies that it was obvious that if you paddled (or were dragged) into, there would be very little chance of escape.
After half an hour of wandering backwards and forwards, dragging boats and trying to convince ourselves of the safety of each option, we decided we would head upriver a little and ferry-glide across. This involves pointing the boat up-river and paddling into the current, while at the same time moving sidewards across the river.
Time and tide wait for no man. It was time to go. Steve started 50m up-river from me and as I watched his progress, got caught in a whirlpool caused by the fast -flowing river re-joining having been channelled around a shingle bank. He flipped over as the flow caught him and he was dragged downstream. Again, he was out of his boat in no-time, testament to the training he had received with the coaches at PaddlePlus, but he was still moving quickly downstream and inexorably towards The Muncher.
I got to a bank in the middle of the flow and got out of my boat. It is important in these situations that rather than get myself into the same situation by rushing after him, to observe and if necessary, call for help. I wouldn’t be able to do that if I was getting Munched too.
150m downstream, the water became shallow enough that Steve could get purchase on the on the bottom and stop his movement Muncherwards. Disoriented, he began to drag his boat back out into the flow and deeper water. I paddled out and guided him to another small island of stones. The tide by now was coming back in rapidly and it was obvious that this island would beck underwater again in 5 or 10 minutes.
We pumped out the boat, allowed our nerves to settle a bit before paddling out once more.
We had just 1km to go to get to the safety of the Corpach lock that separates the sea loch from the start of the Caledonian canal and calm water. The relief when we made it was immense.
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
We were cold and wet. Our confidence had taken another beating and for a moment we were questioning our sanity and the reasons we were doing this.
On the last occasion that we had been at such a low, we met the lady who guided us to the warmth and hospitality of the farmhouse. This time, our salvation came in the form of a gang of British Waterways employees who were gathered in the lock-keeper’s office. They had been gathered for their annual medical checks, coming from their various workplaces all along the canal. While their dental hygiene was pretty shocking, the joking and banter, an incident with superglue, as well as the coffee they produced for us was priceless. The professionalism of these guys, who while laughing and joking were still delivering the important safety information we’d need in the next 60 miles or so was fantastic. And the lift they gave to us and our boats to the top lock was ‘above and beyond’.
Someone seemed to be watching over us on this trip…

After the challenge of the next flight of locks at the fantastically named Neptune’s Staircase, 6 miles of steady paddling, on the perfectly flat, non-tidal canal, in improving weather further lifted our spirits.

Our target for the night was Gairlochy. The BW guys had told us of a shower and tumble dryer there as well as space to camp. We arrived just as darkness was falling and the rain stopping. It was our promised land. The shower heavenly. The lift (ho ho) that having dry underpants brings cannot be underestimated.

Read about day 4 here.

Cross-Scotland Kayak Adventure

This is the ‘index page’ for all the links to our fundraising trip across Scotland by kayak.You may have followed our tour using via the TrackMyTour updates as we went.

Either way, I hope you’ll enjoy the story here:
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle

Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle

Cross-Scotland Kayak Adventure Part 2.

After having slept like a particularly weary log, that had had its Ovaltine laced with Kalms max-strength, I awoke to the best view I could have hoped for. Not just a thousand horse-riding rosettes, but blue sky peeping around the curtains.
The world was now in colour. Scotland wasn’t just shades of grey after all. We got quickly back into character and loaded our now dry kit into the boats, moving quickly in case the the weather god’s woke up and realised that we were getting away.

Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
We made rapid progress up Loch Linnhe with the 800m+ peaks on the north side of the water looking majestic – and deserted. If these peaks were in the English Lakes, there would be groups of people walking heavily eroded paths. As it was, we didn’t see a soul.
In an effort to save time, we took a straight line across the bay with a plan to have a break on Eilean Balnagowan. This tiny island stood about a mile and a half from the shore and on the way across we were reminded of our crossings the previous day. Waves whipped up again and what had looked like a simple paddle across became hard work.
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
The stove was out in no time for our morning coffee. I have a habit of taking pictures of my stove in action. I am very attached to it. I bought it in Canada and it has been on all of my adventures since, always performing perfectly (apart from the time when the fuel pump split and leaked and I kicked the resultant fireball around a beach in North Yorkshire, trying to put it out).
As we explored the island, we disturbed a group of seals that had been sunbathing on the rocks. They slipped in to the water and bobbed around 15m from the shore, waiting for us to get off their island.
We duly did and began the crossing back towards the mainland.
Rain storms were now being rushed along the coast to the north by a wind that had steadily increased all morning.
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
I took my camera out to catch a picture of Steve with the mountains and rainbow behind him. By the time I came to put my camera away, the waves had doubled in size and the wind in strength. It was another sprint for land and safety.
Steve led the way again with me charging along to catch up. He was about 20m away and in the middle of the crossing when in the blink of an eye, his boat turned over. I had no idea what happened, but as I paddled towards the upturned hull of his boat, I called aloud to whoever it is we speak to in these situations… ‘C’mon Steve, get out’. 
He was out in no time and was bobbing alongside his boat by the time I arrived. He had managed to keep hold of everything apart from his hat. I retrieved this, but realised that I should probably be concentrating on getting him out of the cold water, rather than worrying about his millinery.
Steve calmly gave me directions of how we should perform the rescue. This involves righting the boat, pumping the water out of the cockpit before getting him back into it without taking any water back in.
Thankfully, it worked really well and he was back in within 5 minutes. This time spent in the cold water, along with the shock of the initial roll took it out of Steve and again we were heading for land in the quickest but safest way we could.
This trip was getting serious. Steve’s expertise and our good fortune at being so close to land had saved him from getting too cold to be able to react or drive his body on.
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
After time spent in the sun (and wind) to calm down and warm up, the waves breaking on the beach on which we had sought refuge eased and we were able to make our way back out and around the headland.
Despite being shaken, cold and tired, we still had the two major obstacles of the day to contend with. The crossing, or diversion, around the entrance to Loch Leven and the Corran Narrows. Given what had happened so far, we were ignoring everything we thought we knew about the effects of tides, the wind and even basic paddling. We were making it up as we went along. Learning every minute.

With Steve’s confidence having taken a battering (or maybe a drowning) we decided that we should compromise on the crossing. We would head towards the Ballachulish Bridge over the narrows separating Lochs Linnhe and Leven, but not get too close to be affected by the tidal race beneath it.

Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle

I should point out that I was using a digital SLR for these pictures. It was wrapped in a camera bag that was inside a dry bag, then strapped to the deck of my boat. This means that the only time I would risk getting the camera out was when the sea was relatively calm and it wasn’t raining. As a result, the pictures make it look like we had the freakishly good weather that people were enjoying further south. That wasn’t true, but more on that later…

The crossing went well, and after sitting out another storm at Onich, we prepared ourselves for the Narrows.

Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
The narrows, as you might expect, are the narrowest bit of the Loch. This means that all those millions of tons of water that move in and out twice a day, are all funnelled through this restriction. We knew when slack water (my favourite nautical term) was and planned our passing then. We prepared ourselves, wished each other luck and set off into the sunset…
It was a doddle. The calmest conditions of the trip so far. All that remained was to find a suitable campsite in the gloaming. Loch Linnhe this side of the narrows felt more like an inland lake than an exposed sea loch. Maybe the high seas ands the problems that they had caused were behind us.
We found a car park at Sgeir Na Sean Chroit and given the darkness, the rain starting and our full-body-tiredness, we decided to ignore the No Camping sign. 
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
My stove pictures usually have some kind of view or perspective, but this was it. With my raincoat zipped all the way up and pulled all the way down over my face, the headtorch’s pool of light was my world for the evening. Pasta and meatballs with Mediterranean herb flatbreads, followed by Lindor dark chocolate balls and more Oban whisky.
I was asleep before my head hit the pile of wet clothes that was my poor excuse for a pillow…

Read about day 3 here.

Cross-Scotland Kayak Adventure Part 1.

Phew. Well, where to start.

I’ll just tell it like it was and hope it works out…

So last week, Steve and I kayaked across Scotland to raise a few quid for LOROS. Rather than the fairly standard Fort William to Inverness, Great Glen route, Steve decided that we were to add on about half again with a paddle through the sea loch, Loch Linnhie from Oban first.

After virtually no preparation on my part, we travelled up and as usual, how far away Scotland is took me by surprise. Carlisle was halfway. On the way we passed the northern shores of Loch Awe and already the seeds were sown for the next adventure…

Oban was pretty enough, but the on/off rain finally made its mind up as we browsed the Oban Sea Kayak shop, and the streets soon flooded. Our accommodation was the Corran House Bunkhouse. When we mentioned our trip and the fact that we were doing it for charity, the landlady insisted that the room would be reduced and the (huge) breakfast would be free.

Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
After a final night of preparation in Markie Dan’s, a solid night’s sleep and that breakfast set us up nicely. Beforehand though, we had decided that we could still catch the tide after watching Scotland play Argentina in the rugby world cup. The loss, after being 12-6 up with 8 minutes to go could have been an omen. As could the wind and rain that was back as we set off from the beach right outside the hostel.
The fully loaded boats felt pretty stable in the calm conditions of Oban’s natural harbour, sheltered by Kerrera, but as we passed out into the Lynn of Lorn, the swell began to combine with the wind and spring tide to make conditions more challenging.
After 5km or so, we pulled in to the beach next to the Marine Science Centre on the southern side of Ardmucknish Bay. A headland gave us a decent viewpoint to assess conditions in the bay and the crossing we were about to make from here around the headland of Fionn Ard.
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
The picture I took shows what we saw. Some small waves, wind and rain. We were fresh, it would be fine…
Halfway across this 3.5km crossing, the wind, tide, flow out from Loch Etive and torrential rain all conspired to create a swell of 5 feet or so with waves whipped up by the wind crossing the swell and breaking over the top of my kayak. 
It was terrifying, exhilarating and great fun, all at the same time.. My heart pounded in my chest. There was no chance to rest, retrace our route or short-cut this experience. We were committed and only effort would get us out of it.
Steve was quicker through the water, his sea kayak much more suited to the environment. I did my best to keep up, but quite often, because of the size of the waves and the disorienting effect of the boat being thrown about on the waves, I lost track of where he was and the point of the coast we were aiming for. Steve sensibly took the decision that we needed to get ashore as soon as we could and so rather than rounding the headland and possibly exposing us to even worse conditions, he headed for the bay of Camas Nathais.
The wind and rain continued to batter us as we staggered out of our boats and onto the beach. Everything was shades of grey. Stuck in my head was the Withnail and I quote about going ‘on holiday by mistake’.

I fired up the stove, believing that things wouldn’t seem quite as grim with warm coffee and some homemade flapjack inside us. Unfortunately, they were. We were soaked to the skin (possibly beyond that if that’s possible). As the realisation of what we were up against dawned on us, we weighed up our options. We could sit where we were and get colder and hope that things improved, we could paddle back out into the tempest and around the headland, or we could drag the boats across the headland – about 800m of knee deep seaweed and stone track.
I am delighted to say that Steve and I share an outlook that in situations like this, it is better to DO something – anything to try and improve the situation. So off we went, manhandling our fully laden boats across the hill that separated us from some (hopefully) calmer water and getting back out on the water.
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle

The effort seemed to be worthwhile and although we had lost a lot of time, we were able to put back in in the shelter of Eilean Raibhach and continue along the coastline.
Before long, the weather and waves were back and we were forced ashore again on Rubha Clach Tholl. We had just crossed the mouth of Loch Creran and paddled straight through the tidal race there. This means that the tide is flowing out of the Loch and through some form of underwater restriction, causing waves to ‘stand’ on the surface, meaning that even though I was paddling full-speed forwards, when I looked across to the shore, I could see I was travelling backwards. After expending far more effort than was sensible, I made my way around the race and to the headland.
We really did have a lot to learn. Loughborough canal really was nothing like this…

Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle
By now, the ludicrousness of what we were doing was hitting home and the giggling fits began. My colleagues 500 miles away were just coming to the end of their working day in their air-conditioned offices and were going to walk a few yards to their cars before driving home to eat a balanced meal and putting the TV on.
I was peeing on my feet because the wind and rain made even the simple things a challenge. Still, at least there were no midges.
But we needed to get on. We were already hours behind the schedule we had set ourselves. Castle Stalker was just along the coast and that promised to be a highlight. 
The weather improved as the light began to fail and we needed somewhere to camp. The main A82 road ran along the south-east edge of the Sound and so we headed for the island to try to camp away from it. The whole island appeared to be a marsh. Bits that weren’t marsh were streams. It was hopeless. We headed back across the sound towards the road and an area of what looked to be flat grass. It wasn’t. We were stuck. 
Just then, a lady walking her dog appeared. She may or may not have been real. 
Steve asked if she might have an idea where we could camp. She suggested that we ask at the farmhouse. When we did, the gentleman that owned the place saw the state we were in and invited us in. Not only that, but he offered us each a bed for the night, a shower and somewhere to dry wet kit!
We shared our basic pasta meal with him and opened our bottle of 14 year old Oban single malt to toast the kindness of strangers. After our free breakfast and now this, it felt like the people of the Highlands knew what their environment could throw at us and so needed to help.
Scottish Coast To Coast Paddle

I slept in a room that appeared to have been the owner’s son’s. It also appeared that the room had not been touched since that son, a fine young horseman by the look of his rosettes, had left home 20+ years before.
In the seconds between laying down and falling asleep, I had the feeling that I was still on the water. Like being drunk, but rather than spinning, the world was bobbing up and down on the waves.

Day one was over. We were miles short of our campsite, but we were safe and dry for what felt like the first time since we’d left Oban.

Read about day 2 here.