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Thread: The Great Glen Canoe Trail.

  1. #1
    Native -Tim-'s Avatar
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    The Great Glen Canoe Trail.

    So, it began as a tick off the canoe “to do list” the popular coast to coast canoe trip crossing Scotland from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east. This trip like our other forays onto Scotland are intended not just as canoe trips, but a chance to recharge our batteries. Camping, camp craft and good evening food also plays a big part of the experience too. As does just sitting back relaxing and enjoying the surroundings. The group has now been whittled down from six to four, four is a good number especially for the Great Glen Canoe Trail; as campsites are limited in size and availability.

    We set off on our journey at the top of "Neptune's Staircase" a run of eight locks at Corpach near Fort William (Fort Bill).
    With a moody looking Ben Nevis and a breeze at our backs we left civilisation, ok we left as much of it behind as possible, well-tended tow paths and signs of humanity were slowly diluting away.

    Ben Nevis


    We soon reached the first real portage at Gailochy, another lock that leads us into Loch Lochy.

    Portage time



    There are a number of semi wild camp that the Canoe Trail organisers have named "Trail Blazer" sites. Here at Gailochy was the first on route, we had our lunch here. Whilst chowing down on our lunch the weather was catching us up and threatening to damp us down a little, the wind bringing in spots of rain, we quickly donned our water proofs only to remove them not too long after when it was obvious the rain wasn’t coming.

    Putting in at Loch Lochy





    Now we were in the entrance to Loch Lochy we past the light house and were again able to hoist the sails as the loch opened up taking full advantage of the wind that was channelled in the right direction by the mountains. We cruised steadily along the Loch taking in the views, as we sailed along we were able to lose our selves in our own thoughts. Alone but with friends when conversation sprang up. It was the first time I had used my sail in open water, just fabulous, I, was really enjoying myself.




    We pulled into the next trail blazer site Glas-dhoire three quarters of the way down the loch. The midges were out, not bad by Scottish standards but bad enough for us to camp out of the bushes and on the boulder strewn beach. Tents pitched we all donned our head nets to keep the wee beasties away from dining on our faces ears and scalp.

    Camp 1 mk 1



    The rain finally caught up with us, so the tarp was quickly set up.

    Tarp set up




    A cooking fire was lit in a firebox and the communal evening meal was prepared and cooked, lamb biryani complete with chapattis, smoke trapped under the tarp kept the midges at bay.

    Curry cooking




    Firing the chapattis



    Dave piped up that he felt grubby and was going for a dip to clean up! It was dark as he waded out into the cold depths of the loch. I stood on the bank, throw line in hand; just in case.

    Wash time



    Later that evening we reclined in our matching lightweight chairs that we had all bought just before the trip (review later) and watched "the campfire telly,” and whilst gazing at the fire whisky was (as is tradition) duly consumed.

    Camp fire telly

    "Travel a thousand miles by train and you are a brute;
    pedal five hundred on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeois;
    paddle a hundred in a canoe and you are already a child of nature."
    .

  2. #2
    Native -Tim-'s Avatar
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    Day two

    The following day started for me with a hearty bowl of porridge with a smattering of mixed nuts and seeds, a new combination that seems to work.
    Off we sailed, again we were off in our own bubbles enjoying the free ride and the surrounding landscape.




    Almost too soon we sailed through some narrows and into Ceann Loch, a small loch with a marina full of hire cruisers, a bit of a navigation error later(no canoe trail signs visible) and with polite instructions from one of the boats we doubled back and aimed for the beach left of the moorings.
    We settled into canoe life quickly another smooth portage and another section of canal.



    As we paddled along we marvelled at the massive civil engineering undertaking that produced this canal way back in the 1800’s. To be fair it would be a task and a half in our modern world and the technology we have at hand. Old Tommy Telford sure made his mark here as well.

    Cruising the canal



    Under Laggan bridge we paddled into Loch Oich, once again sails were raised and we took off again, cruising faster than we would with paddles, proving once again that the canoe is truly a wondrous craft.



    The wind picked up at the far end of the loch and we were squeezing every ounce of energy we could from it, we were trying various tactics, some working some weren’t, but boy it was fun.



    We entered the canal again and soon enough we came to Kytra Loch our second campsite. A couple had beat us to it and were lugging their kit about from the pontoon on the left across the lock gates and to the camping area on the right. We just turned in and pulled our gear and boats up the bank right on the campsite.
    It was time for team work to kick in, a cooking fire was needed pronto as the food for the night needed two hours of simmering. So a cook fire was quickly prepared and Tim got cooking whilst around him we erected a tarp configured to catch the smoke to annoy the midges away. The couple had nearly got their tent up by the time we had ours up and was sitting down having a whisky coffee.



    Whiskey/coffee time



    We invited them over to the campfire but they were too tired as they hadn’t slept that well over the last few days.
    That nights dish was a Moorish Tagine followed by Spotted Jock, (Spotted Dick but with the fruit soaked in malt whisky)



    It was turning dark when a “guided” group arrived, tired and damp. They were in awe at our set up and particularly loved the fire and to rub salt in their wounds they were also jealous of our food as they balanced uncomfortably on logs eating their “packet food” warming themselves on our fire.



    Day three to follow.....
    "Travel a thousand miles by train and you are a brute;
    pedal five hundred on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeois;
    paddle a hundred in a canoe and you are already a child of nature."
    .

  3. #3
    Native -Tim-'s Avatar
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    The following morning was for us a relaxed affair campfire going tea/coffee drank and breakfast eaten. Plenty of hot water for flasks and “stuff” was boiled. Unlike our neighbours, the young couple had not moved, our “guided” group was up early and gone, the “guide” wanted to push on to beat the forecast weather front.
    We finally broke camp and left, it was about mid-morning. The young couple had still not emerged. A quick shake of the tent to see if they were ok, they were……
    After Kytra Locks the canal opened up into what could be described as a mini loch.



    We approached Fort Augustus and its five locks, this portage was one of the big ones, we wheeled our boats along down and again along the road that ran parallel to the canal locks. Right to the very end until we reached Loch Ness. We boarded our boats with an audience, cameras snapping away as we paddled into the loch.

    Yours truly paddling away from Fort Augustus



    into the expanse that is Loch Ness



    We saw the “led” group hugging the coastline, we paddled down the middle of Ness catching them up inch by inch. I am sure the group were egged on as we got closer. We didn’t mind we were going to have lunch at another Trailblazer site marked on the o/s map as a boathouse, funnily enough there was a boat house there.




    The wind today was “all over the place” sails went up, down, up, down until we resigned ourselves to paddling, oh the hardship…



    We pulled up at yet another Trailblazer site at Foyers, where once again we pitched the tipi on the beach and sorted out a cooking fire whilst Tim and Clive commenced with the mid-way car shuttle.



    That nights dish was a chorizo pasta dish, aimed to be ready at 20.30. Two hours turned into three when after a phone call the hungry car shuttlers had frequented a chippy!



    So with that news at 22.00 Dave and I ate our fill and the rest was stored in the Dutch oven for the following day.

    Day four next
    "Travel a thousand miles by train and you are a brute;
    pedal five hundred on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeois;
    paddle a hundred in a canoe and you are already a child of nature."
    .

  4. #4
    Tribesman Thumbcrusher's Avatar
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    Excellent trip! Very jealous!
    If there are no women around and a man says something, is he still wrong?

  5. #5
    Native -Tim-'s Avatar
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    Day four and Five

    Talking of the following day we broke camp early in the morning, strong winds were forecast and we were going where strong winds would produce big waves. Waves of up to four metres have been witnessed on Ness I wouldn’t like to be out in that!
    Before all that we took some pictures...

    The early morning view from the tipi



    the view inside the tipi



    And the views outside





    Sails once again were hoisted and the stronger wind filled them, the waves here were about sixty cm+ high, as the waves caught me up I surfed them for a short while. Up surf down, up surf down.

    Earlier on on Ness the wind picked up






    Looking back I saw Clive peel off and head to shore, he was right as exhilarating as the sailing was we had heavy loaded boats and the loch where we were was one hundred metres deep and cold, my toes would testify to that they were numb with cold. We all turned and sailed closer to shore when without warning Dave’s mast foot was ripped away from the bottom of his boat.
    We all pulled onto a beach to re-assess the situation, we plumbed for a four boat diamond configuration with three sails. Again team work kicked in and with ruthless efficiency we roped the boats together and set sail.

    Preparing the boats for a diamond formation


    We had to sail partially across the wind to avoid the grounding out on tar point, however we were taking on water three of us were steering Tim at the front needed to bail out his boat more. The boats creaked and groaned as the new craft flexed with the waves, at one point Tim’s bow buried its self into a wave.

    Bailing time for Tim


    Paddles were bent with the strain as we fought to keep our craft on route and away from the point. With the GPS was now out and recorded us at nine mph. We sailed past Abban Water and along Loch Dochfour until we were sure we were in the canal.

    The Crew
    Helmsman Dave




    Bow/Bailerman Tim



    Starboard man Clive



    And portman me


    Some more sailing pictures





    And a Video

    https://youtu.be/KZAEOO85G7U?t=6

    Here we simply stood up and paddled the “craft” to the portage pontoons.

    Last stretch of the day



    Our penultimate campsite of the week was at Dochgarroch Lock. Here we had cut grass and loos, but no campfires!! Camp again was made up and instead of a cook fire the trusty meths Trangia heated up last night’s dish, more chorizo onions and peppers were added. Beers were supped as we all congregated in the tipi.

    Final camp on the trail



    The final day on the water was a gentle wind down, a few km later we arrived at Inverness.

    Boats parked up in the official Canoe trail parking spot





    The trip was over and what an enjoyable one at that.
    I have to admit I didn’t have high expectations for the Great Glen, but it was great and would I recommend it, oh yes.
    The final night was spent at the Camping and Caravanning Club Site at Foyers, a friendly site with the best showers ever…..

    Kit monsters



    That's all folks, would I recommend the Great Glen Canoe Trail?

    Dang right I would

    Cheers
    Tim
    "Travel a thousand miles by train and you are a brute;
    pedal five hundred on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeois;
    paddle a hundred in a canoe and you are already a child of nature."
    .

  6. #6
    Ranger Ehecatl's Avatar
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    Thanks Tim. I enjoyed that.
    "If you were to ask me what I consider to be my finest achievement, I could answer the question without hesitation: teaching." ~ Raymond Blanc.

  7. #7
    Tribal Elder shepherd's Avatar
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    looks like alot of fun!!

  8. #8
    Ranger OakAshandThorn's Avatar
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    Wow, what a great trip . If I have the chance, I'd to make a trip up (or down) the Connecticut River in my region.
    Really like the improvising and ingenuity you guys cam up with, well done .
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  9. #9
    Great thread! Looks like bucket list material to me

  10. #10
    Native -Tim-'s Avatar
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    Thanks for the positive comments guy's
    It the trip was certainly better than I thought it would be.

    Cheers
    Tim
    "Travel a thousand miles by train and you are a brute;
    pedal five hundred on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeois;
    paddle a hundred in a canoe and you are already a child of nature."
    .

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