Having sorted a shuttle so that we could make the trip to Scotland in one car, Ruth and I loaded the canoes onto the trailer and headed north. It was time to go to the Spey again – one of the best multiday canoe trips in the UK.
We had done this trip before, but with all the recent rain the river was considerably higher and flowing far faster than last time. With some initial trepidation as to what the camping sites would be like (waterlogged?), we loaded the boats with food, camping kit, spare clothes for the shuttle and launched into the ultimate relaxation escape.
With the higher water level, we noted that the river sped by with far greater ease than last time. Although we were in the shadows of the high Cairngorms, this was one of the flatter sections in which we enjoyed the autumnal sunshine and marvelled at the turning of the woodland leaves.
Despite not being quiet, straight away we started seeing fabulous wildlife including several raptors and otters. Even more amazing, no midge, and for paddlers raised on the rivers of Wales, we had only friendly waves from the riverbank!
The first day was a great shake down as we haven’t paddled loaded boats for some time, but all too soon it was time to look for a suitable place to set camp. We spied a location that was perfect, so we landed and set up for a night under the stars – perfect, I do love a good wild camp. Zzzzzzzzzz Zzzzzzzzz, “Oi, stop snoring!”
Morning brought a heavy mist / fog which provided a readily taken excuse for a lazy start – our reckoning was that we couldn’t see far enough ahead to read the river (Any excuse for another brew).
Eventually the fog lifted enough for us to head off. There was a notable increase in the frequency of the easy rapids as we zoomed along under the sun; passing deer, leaping salmon and numerous distilleries.
Having settled into the flow of the canoe trip, we eventually reached the first major rapid (washing machine). Helmets on we ran on sight – far easier with more water – and got through with very little water splashing into the boats.
At the second major rapid, Knockando, we again successfully ran on sight and carried on our merry way towards the sea.
Although through the major rapids, the river never lets up and it was an interesting paddle all the way down towards Spey Bay.
During the last few miles, the river changed its nature again as it became braided. Finally we encountered seals, if you go onto the sea you may also see dolphins, at the river mouth (100km from the start).
What a fabulous multi day paddle with great weather and great company. As Ruth left on the 3 hour shuttle it was time for me to settle in for a long wait. Unfortunately, the café shut at 5pm and the wind was beginning to get up – so it was a case of make a shelter out of the canoes, inflate the thermarest, put on my tunes, lie back, watch the bunnies play, and …………. Relax
Open boats really are the best way to do this type of trip. Can’t wait to get back – hopefully next year. Who knows where we will end up in 2021!
Mike & Ruth