Saturday, 1 August 2015

Loch Lomond Island Adventure.

                                              ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
For some reason I wasn't looking forward to this summer, even before July turned out to be the wettest on record for parts of Scotland. Probably because Alex has only a few Corbetts left in remote areas and doing the same familiar local hills over again didn't appeal. I've always been someone who enjoyed a wide range of sports outdoors and I'll try anything that comes along. I love new sensations. Live for them, and I've always been out of step with the various clubs I've been in because of that. Kayaking in a hillwalking club... coastal walking in a mountaineering club... Cycling in a running club...etc etc.
So I bought two inflatable kayaks, seen here. Nine foot long, two separate blow up chambers consisting of the floor in black tough plastic (which is the most likely to get holed) and a green upper section( which may keep you afloat if the bottom gets punctured, even if its just long enough to get you to shore and make repairs.
I have to thank Alan for this as he mentioned that Lidl or Aldi had them in stock for under £50 quid so I rushed down but they were all gone. I had thought of buying kayaks again but I have nowhere to store them and the inflatable models I'd seen were a few hundred pounds in price. Too much for an occasional venture on my limited budget. These were just under £70 quid each from Amazon online.
I've always believed a sense of purpose in life is the greatest gift you can give someone.
We parked at Luss and had them up and ready to go in 15 minutes. A beautiful day as usual. Saturday last week in fact. Alan already had a wetsuit and buoyancy jacket as he likes snorkeling in rivers and sea lochs and has a small motorized dinghy. I used to have two kayaks and still have all the gear gathering dust in my bedroom. Not any more. As it was a lovely hot day we didn't bother with the wetsuits but obviously life jackets or suitable buoyancy jackets are a must although these kayaks are pretty stable overall in calm conditions. Very easy to drown though if you haven't got the right gear and capsize a long way from land. Something you should always bear in mind and the reason I bought two kayaks as I used up most of my luck solo kayaking in the past.
We lost no time getting out on the water and Alan soon got the hang of maneuvering about. Although not as fast as the 12 foot fiberglass kayaks I used to have these are much easier to store in the house and still get you adventurous places. They have a small detachable fin (skeg) on the bottom to keep you in a straight line. A foot pump, paddle, repair kit and instructions are included with the craft.
As the Luss Water was just around the corner we had an exploration of this quiet river system first. You can travel up as far as the wooden bridge on the edge of the village until it gets too shallow.
Used to be one of my favourites this place. Like a mini Scottish everglades.
Canada Geese overhead.
The statue of Wee Peter and Alan in a sheltered Bay.
One of Loch Lomond's many islands. There are 23 in all and everyone is a gem. I've been out here many times over the decades and they are still beautiful. A kayak is the best way to explore them as you have such freedom and can cover sizable chunks at a time. Six inches of water is all you need to get around allowing you access to some surprising places that even boats can't reach.
Getting in and out of a kayak is the hardest part however, requiring technique, and Alan soon found this out the hard way. Early days yet :o)
It didn't put him off though and he was soon back in the saddle after a quick change to dry gear. He soon swapped his "Tigger" bounce in tail first then push off approach for a more cautious entry and exit from the craft. 
Considering it was mid summer and the school holidays, Scotland's largest loch was surprisingly quiet until mid afternoon. Maybe the normal run of poor weather put people off until they realized it was turning into a great day. Light rain or drizzle never bothers most kayakers and even mist or fog can be exciting and beautiful, unlike a mountain excursion. Island hills looming out the mist can appear huge and mysterious. Wind and choppy conditions are the main drawbacks for inflatables as the speed goes right down and it's hard work.
Alan and Ben Lomond, 974 metres, Scotland's most southerly Munro. Incidentally, "The islands of Loch Lomond" by Clair Calder and Lynn Lindsay is an excellent island by island guide, I've had for decades giving the history of each individual island on the loch for anyone interested. We visited three islands during this trip, the cluster of Inchtavannach, Inchconnachan, and Inchmoan. It's no coincidence these are the three islands mentioned in the Loch Auchenfuffle chapter of my book Autohighography as I've had many great camping weekends out here before it was a National Park. I'm also pleased to report that certain exotic furry creatures, mentioned in the book, are still alive and thriving and you can still camp around the shores of these islands... at the moment.
 I've met a few people over the last few weeks that have read my book and enjoyed it so I'll plug it again. If you are interested in a slightly comical offbeat view of Scotland it may be to your taste for £1:14 pence.
Sadly the old summerhouse, which was still intact and infrequently used in the book, is now a ruin in a poor state of repair. I'm surprised it's still standing to be honest. One of the reasons for mentioning it in the book and making it a centre point in the chapter is that we experienced it right at the end of an era when it was still in good condition yet lying empty. Spooky and magical in the moonlight doing gymnastics on the lawn when I hung around with people that could still bend. The National Park did have plans to adapt it into a water headquarters at one point but must have decided it was impractical for some reason. Even in this state it still provides some shelter for island animals in grim weather when the tourists go home.
Other groups of kayaks were out, some with inflatables, which are increasingly popular, and traditional sea kayakers with their faster streamlined craft. You only really see the true beauty of Loch Lomond by boat and visiting the islands. A fact I realized only when I had a kayak the first time.
Hard framed kayaks gliding under Inchtavannach through the "Narrows."
The Narrows and old boat with trees sprouting in it. Most of the 23 islands have lovely woodlands.
Fallow deer swim from island to island occasionally. Is this Paradise? It can be when it's quiet and silent. I used to come over here in the depths of winter and have the entire loch to myself 30 years ago. It's probably just the same today out of season.
Beach stroll on Inchmoan. The sandy island mentioned in the book.
Self propulsion has a magical effect on humans. It just feel right somehow. Cycling, walking, running, kayaking, seems to hit the spot emotionally and enjoyment is almost guaranteed as a result. Well worth £70 pounds.
Great to be back in a kayak again.
Fantastic trip and company.

Heard this song decades ago on a folk compilation and it was a highlight. Still like it and the words are truer than ever today. A vastly underrated classic.


Ian Johnston said...

Great stuff Bob - and that looks like £70 very well spent. To have the place to yourself on a great day in the middle of the school holidays speaks volumes for the freedom kayaking can offer :-)

Kind Regards

Linda W. said...

What a great adventure! I'd love to try kayaking again. Haven't for many years.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Ian,
I'm looking forward to the rest of the year now and following in your paddle strokes for the easier freshwater and calm sea trips without strong tides.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda,
I can recommend these inflatables as they are great value and fairly sturdy for calm water. Ideal for exploring lakes and lochs with islands yet easy to pack into a car boot. In the event of a capsize you might have a swim though as they are fairly wide and an Eskimo roll might not be possible except for an expert turning fast. No sealed in spray deck on these.

Alistair said...

brings back memories Bob. Mostly of waves bigger than the north sea and coming ashore on one of the islands to empty the kayak. It's still out the back, now renamed snail city!

blueskyscotland said...

You cant beat a life on the bounding ocean... if you survive. I'm just back from an even bigger adventure involving wet suits and climbing helmets. Life starts on the countdown to 60 :o)

Lux G. said...

Beautiful, beautiful place. I had to laugh at that censored photo though. :D

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Lux G,
Yes, I thought his bum was better left to the imagination.

Carol said...

Another superb trip I'd have liked to have been on. Stunning photos of the loch shores and islands...

I find getting in and out of my inflatable rowing boat difficult and always end up with a wet bum but I don't suppose there's any other way. I anticipated that before I set off and took something to sit on once I was in.

Loved your quote:
"doing gymnastics on the lawn when I hung around with people that could still bend."