Exmoor Canoe Club paddle the Great Glen!

May 2022
Trip organiser: Jon Pring
Write up: Kate Wilson

And we thought it would be easy…

Paddling the Great Glen is something I’ve wanted to do for about 15 years. It conjured images of stunning scenery, a relaxing, flat paddle with the wind behind you, sails up and flying along covering the 60 miles in no time.

Of course, Scotland had a better idea. We set off from Fort William in the pouring rain, with the prevailing wind behind us, when the wind picked up and changed direction. And stayed that way. So, for the full five days, we had a head wind through every type of weather Scotland could through at us. It was a little “man versus nature” at times, but the arduousness absolutely made it, as did our small team of paddlers, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Here’s some of our highlights…

The spectacular drive across Loch Rannoch Moor and through Glen Coe

Only when driving the shuttle the night before, did it sink in just how far we were going to paddle …and that perhaps I had underestimated it a little.

Day 1: Banavie Locks to Loch Lochy

Ready to set off after camping at Banavie Locks.
And we’re off… along the Caledonian Canal, making great pace with the wind behind us…
Loch Lochy. Truly stunning. And deceivingly peaceful…
And so it begins… at this point the wind is still behind us, but it picked up significantly, and so did the waves! (That’s Ben Nevis in the background)
After being extremely close to capsizing… but saving it… (thanks to Jon and Polly’s boat that was lifted up by a wave and deposited on top of ours, stabilizing us in a “t-shape” – the most impeccable timing to prevent Hannah and I going for a swim!) we opted to head for shore, camping at a closer camp site than originally planned.
…and what a truly magical camp spot that was… blowing a gale on the shore, but a little bubble of tranquillity within the trees…
The end of my cosy dry feet in wellies smugness – wellies filled with water from here on…

Come Dine With Me dinner entry number 1: my burritos with tinned veggie chili, Mexican packet rice, and nachos cooked in the ridge monkey with salsa, melted cheese, and sour cream.

Day 2: A windy relax day…
The wind was really quite strong, and so we opted to camp a second night in our magical little camp spot…

…I think Loch Lochy was a bit cold!
Come Dine With Me dinner entry number 2: Dan’s tomatoey lentils with sausage and a side of homemade peperoni pizza.

Day 3: Loch Lochy to Fort Augustus and beyond!
We had a lot of catching up to do, with a day behind and with a head wind, so we paddled straight on through Foyers (after stopping for chips and a shower) and into Loch Ness on what was a mammoth 14 hour paddle!

Setting off from our little beach to continue on our journey along Loch Lochy…
…and opting to brace our canoes together as we entered Loch Oich
One of our many seamless portages…
…and a ship wreck to explore
…and finally set up camp extremely late, at the official campsite of Knockie Point – not very much ground space for tents, luckily Hannah had her hammock (…up precariously high in the trees!)

Come Dine With Me dinner entry number 3: Luc’s smoked mackerel pittas with tomato tapenade.

Day 4: Loch Ness and more Loch Ness.

Setting off from Knockie Point to paddle the rest of Loch Ness…

Stopped somewhere along the way for bean and cheese toasties which were heavenly…

Before finally reaching the end of Loch Ness – looking back to take in just how far we had paddled made us realise what an achievement it was.

Come Dine With Me dinner entry number 4: Cass’s pesto pasta with sundried tomatoes, olives, capers, posh real cheese and fresh cucumber, with nibbly things for starters.

Day 5: The last stretch along the canal to Inverness

And we made it.

…and finally, the Come Dine With Me results:

First place: Cass’s posh pasta with actual vegetables

Second place: Luc’s fancy mackerel

Third place: my chili burritos

Last: Dan’s pulverised puy lentils and pepperoni pizza

An absolutely huge and tremendous thank you to Jon for organising the whole, wonderful trip.