Sea Kayaks at Shuna Island by Robin Emley

Saturday 15th April – Sea Kayaks at Shuna Island.

With a strong North-Westerly forecast, our chosen destination was Shuna Island, around 10 miles South of Oban.  Shuna is a couple of miles offshore and is sheltered by the larger island of Luing.  From the previous day’s contingent of ten, two decided to do rivers and a further four decided not to proceed having inspected the site conditions on the day.

The four remaining paddlers headed off towards a small low island en route to Shuna.  With the wind and swell coming from our 2-o’clock position, progress was far from easy.  Tony soon found it difficult to control his boat and decided to return to base.  Having seen him safely ashore, Roger, Nigel and I continued towards the mid-way island which had a small gap through which we were able to pass.  Then it was a similar haul to reach the northern corner of Shuna.

As we approached, the wind died down and we had our lunch on a sandy beach in glorious sun with not a breath of wind.  We were amused to note that only the three plastic boats had made it.  All too soon, the next squall rolled in and we hurriedly resumed our attempt to circle the island anti-clockwise.  It soon became clear that further progress would be unwise in these conditions and we decided to head for home.


At that stage, our cars were due East of us but the wind was coming from the North-West.  Given the strengh of the wind, we decided to head directly downwind and found ourselves surfing along in fine style.  We soon reached our handy mid-way island and passed through the gap again.  By this stage, it was obvious that we would miss our preferred landing spot, but no problem – we could always make our way back up along the coastline.

During this final section, Nigel was broached twice and bailed out.  On each occasion, he was rescued by one of his buddies while the other one stood by to help as necessary.  Paddles on leashes can cause complications when boats are rafted together to pump out any remaining water.

We eventually made it back to the mainland about a kilometer south of our put-in point.  As I messed up my landing and got dumped in shallow surf yet again, the owners of an isolated beach hut were on hand to welcome us ashore.  While Roger and Nigel walked along the road to retrieve their cars, I found a sunny spot to relax and take in the delightful surroundings.

More photos…..

Arisaig by Nigel Waddington

Blackwater Hostel Sunday 16th April

Day three saw nine of us make the 60 mile drive to Arisaig, with the sun beginning to make an appearance as we left the rain-soaked hills behind.  The harbour nestles at the head of the short Loch nan Ceall, sheltered to the south by the Rhu peninsula and a collection of small islands and skerries guarding the entrance just a few kilometres to the north and west.  The coastline provides lots of interest and intriguing navigation as the changing tide opens and closes waterways.

The plan was to first explore the islands to the north-west, have lunch and then swing south around the peninsula.


Not long after leaving the harbour, the group split with half of us following an ever shallower route between the islands on a falling tide, while the remainder sensibly sought the certainty of open water (ie, deeper than 6 inches).  After some shuffling along the bottom and a little manual labour we eventually made it through to open water, albeit a kilometre or two away from the other half of the group.  However, radio communications and basic paddle waving saw us reunited for lunch overlooking a sandy beach warmed by the hazy sun.

The afternoon saw us in more open water as we made our way around the peninsular.  The clouds cleared to leaving us in light winds and full sun.  With the cliffs of Eigg, mountainous Rhum and the pinnacles of Skye providing the backdrop, it was turning into a great paddle with a lazy Sunday afternoon feel to it – in contrast to the challenging conditions of the previous day!  Next stop was the stunning cove of Port nam Murrach.  This is a natural harbour with a small island at its mouth giving added protection.  With its white sandy

beach topped by a grassy lawn, green-blue water, and a small yacht anchored a few meters offshore completing the picture, Peter’s earlier comment about the area’s Caribbean-like qualities was starting to make sense.

With the weather being kind to us, the return journey continued in similar relaxed style, soaking up the scenery being more important than physical effort.  We didn’t see any otters or basking sharks, for which the area is known … but, maybe next time.

More Photos……..

Blackwater Reservoir Walk by Jenny Brown

Sunday afternoon 16th April

Sunday afternoon turned out sunny, perfect for a quick walk out the back of the hostel to Blackwater reservoir.

A 13 mile round trip, with 3 deer in the valley, a big bird circling over head and a rainbow or two.

The Navvies Graveyard, Blackwater Dam, Kinlochleven

Excellent views of Kilnlochleven below us between the snowy peaks and the mountains around.

This walk is a suitable choice for a day when the tops are in cloud, offering a lower level route along one side of the Glen Leven valley, and back along the other side, to complete a circular route. The only minus point is that since the dam of the reservoir is closed to the public, connecting the two sides of the valley involves negotiating a not so pleasant pathless section through undergrowth roughly in parallel to the dam. However it is worth the effort to enable a different return route. The eight mile long Blackwater Reservoir, which was created for hydroelectric power purposes, can be a bleak and desolate place though the walk generally features some waterfalls, a river and a couple of small lochans by way of variety from the woodland trail.

Formerly two smaller villages, modern day Kinlochleven owes its existence to the aluminium works for which it is well-known. From the car park at Kinloch Road, follow the road parallel to the River Leven and cross the first footbridge on the right, signposted for the West Highland Way. Large pipes appear on the right, which connect with a building on top of a wooded hill far off to the left. This landmark seems a long way off at this stage, but it is passed later on in the walk at a key turning point where the route departs from the West Highland Way. Follow the path ahead through deciduous woods uphill before levelling out and emerging into the open. Continue to follow this route as it follows a meandering course, going left down over a bridge and uphill on the other side near a reservoir before you reach the highest point of the water pipes passed earlier in the walk at the bridge. This is the point where the route leaves the West Highland Way (Grid ref. NN202604). The track now makes its way high above the valley on the left with distant views of some of the Mamores peaks beyond.

This section of the route is less frequented now that the West Highland Way has been left behind. By way of variation from the main path to the reservoir, it is soon possible to walk along slabs covering the conduit that contains the outflow of the reservoir with occasional glimpses of rushing water seen between slabs underfoot. The conduit generally keeps the path company. Nearer to the dam, the River Leven follows a meandering course and it goes down by way of a series of waterfalls and passes two small and pretty lakes, the Dubh Lochans. The Blackwater Reservoir’s dam is almost a kilometre across (914 metres) and it is the longest in the Scottish Highlands. The conduit comes to an abrupt halt in the form of a wire mesh gate for obvious safety reasons as it is here that the water from the reservoir makes its way in a rushing torrent into a culvert before disappearing from sight underground. This is the point mentioned in the opening paragraph where it is necessary to make your way through a pathless section to join up with the path heading back down the other side of the valley. Crossing the outflow involves finding suitable stepping stones to get across.

Once on the path on the other side of the valley route-finding is easy. The path initially crosses open land with the Dubh Lochans seen clearly on the left before it enters woodland, at one point crossing a bridge to the right over the river. The path leads all the way back to Kinlochleven and the only moments of possible indecision come within a few minutes walk of the return to the bridge crossed early on in the walk where two forks appear in quick succession. Turn left on each occasion and the bridge is soon reached. It is then a simple matter of walking back to the car park along Kinloch Road to return to the walk’s start point.


Loch Linnhe, Polanach to Lismore Island by Anthony Vaccaro

Friday 14th April

This is a favourite first day paddle of mine to get into the swing of things.  10 of us set off from our put in on the shore below the lay-by on the A828 at Polanach

Conditions at this point light wind and calm sea so off to the north tip of and around the outside to the south tip of Shuna Island

By now the wind and Sea had picked up and was directly at us for the second leg to the North West end of Lismore Island a more exposed crossing of one and a half hours via the skerries of Eilean Glas and Eilean Gainimh

All of us happy now we could see our landing beach and lunch spot now in the lea of the island the sea was calm again and we where greeted by three seals

Soon off the water we had our half hour lunch stop and much needed rest after paddling into wind for over an hour

A short leg three about 15 minutes now the weather had eased a little we headed round the north tip of Lismore past the ferry pier and back to the ferry terminal at Port Appin onto the beach and into the hotel for tea and coffee

We had a few looks from the diners as we dripped our way to the bar and a few moor looks when we seated ourselves on the patio outside in the light rain

I can recommend the Pierhouse hotel even after dripping all over the place we where made welcome and looked after

The final leg shortly after leaving Port Appin we had a squall come through as we where very near the shore we had to take care not to get blown on to the boulders near us.   Then came 5 minutes of cold sleet followed by glorious sun shine for the rest of our trip.  So we attempted to paddle to Castle Stalker being in a shallow bay and with the now low tide we rock hopped to within a quarter of a mile as near as we dared then on through the inner sound this time and past the island of Shuna and back to our starting point.

A brilliant paddle in great company with truly spectacular scenery.   Thanks to Peter Thomas and Ian Bell for organising this paddle.

More Photos……..

Spean Gorge by Kathryn Wilson

Saturday Afternoon 15th April

After a morning session on the River Roy I felt warmed up and ready to see what the Spean Gorge had to offer for the afternoon’s paddle.

It had been a few years since I last paddled the Spean Gorge and my memory of the main features was patchy.  Once on the river, we gathered just underneath the bridge and split in equal groups of five.  I split with the boys from the Cadets Will and Tom as they had been a good omen during the mornings paddle also Sarah and Miguel and I made the five.

In our groups, we set off into the Spean Gorge.  The water levels where high so creating lots of wave trains getting into the Gorge.  Paddling onwards, we viewed the first main feature in the near distance and gathered in the top eddy whilst the leaders went to scout the line down.  When the leaders found the best route, we we’re given the signal and guided successfully down one by one.  The next couple of rapids came upon us within quick succession and proved challenging but with great guidance we all managed to get down whilst staying the right way up.

Further into the Spean Gorge, we hit a tight corner and it was difficult to see the line down.  Miguel bravely offered to go down first, unfortunately for him he hit the rock face, causing him to lose his balance and his paddle and a speedy recovery of Miguel and his paddling gear quickly ensued.  Following this hiccup, it was decided that a Portage was the best option for the rest of the group.  This was followed by more scrambles up the next couple of rock face’s past the ‘head banger’ a tricky grade 4 section.

Back in our Kayaks there was one last rapid to conquer and this curved around a corner creating two waves.  After being prepped to take the center right I committed myself paddling hard and luckily for me I curved around the corner and landed into the relative safety of the calm waters below.

The Gorge began to open out and the river became calmer, we then had a relaxing paddle whilst taking in the gorgeous scenery pleased with our group achievements we headed for the get out.

More Photos…….

For Sale: Ainsworth N90 Junior Paddle, right handed 183cm, £25

Ainsworth N90 Junior Paddle, right handed 183cm, £25. Collect Liverpool (L17) or can be collected from Broadgreen pool on a Tuesday or the docks on a Sunday.

Specification: With a smaller blade, the N90 makes an idea paddle for the junior paddler. The shaft has a smaller diameter which is ovalled on the control side.

The N90 uses a tough nylon-glassfibre composite construction for superb durability and performance to give a strong, ‘all round’ junior paddle. Launched in 2006, the material yields 260 Mpa tensile strength – that’s over double the strength of the nylon 12 used in many other nylon paddles. Ainsworth’s Nylon blade is much stiffer than any other nylon paddles. The shaft is pressed into the blades with hydraulic pressure to a depth of 10cm, ensuring a watertight joint and a continuous feel from shaft to blade tip. The high strength of the material means that the blade can be made lighter. RRP £89

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