Friday, 10 June 2016

River Falloch. Ardlui. Loch Lomond. Doune Bothy.

                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
Another Sunday of heatwave conditions saw us take to the kayaks once more. With temperatures nudging 25c-28c degrees most days we had little enthusiasm for a long hot hill walking day. Out on the water it was goodbye to midges, sheep ticks, clegs, and other biting insects and "hello" to a light breeze, cooler conditions, relaxation and the thrill of visiting very familiar places but in a completely unfamiliar way. Ardlui's wild and water-filled back door.
This is Ben Lomond, above, viewed from the River Falloch, where it enters Loch Lomond near the waterside village of Ardlui. Loch Ard, where we were kayaking two posts ago on this blog, lies to the east just through the low point between the mountains in the middle of this photograph.
We parked in a lay-by near Ardlui marina and carried our boats down to the river. We being Alan and myself.
Ardlui is a water sports village at the top end of Loch Lomond just seen here behind the board paddlers. I don't know if you can hire them out in Ardlui but we noticed quite a few board paddlers, like this couple, and a teenage group taking instruction on how to use them in this vicinity. Kayaks by comparison, are much faster, more relaxing and use less energy to travel long distances although the board paddlers looked cooler and more sophisticated somehow.
As demonstrated here by Alan's Huckleberry Finn laid back approach.
Which as the day warmed up meant he could dangle both bare feet in the river while paddling. The kayak equivalent of "Easy Rider" motorbikes.
A Canada Goose on the River Falloch.
Feet back in again we explored the River Falloch and made some interesting discoveries as we paddled upriver, away from the loch and towards the Drover's Inn (Iverarnan) Both this pub and the one at Ardlui are well known to generations of hill walkers but when you travel towards them by kayak you see a much wilder side of this area, away from the busy A82. Glen Falloch here looking spectacular.
Alan found a sizable tributary off the main River Falloch, the Allt Arnan, and we followed this for a surprising distance inland. It was heavily overgrown and riddled with fallen trees and submerged hazards but looked as if it had been used at one point as a dock for several boats pre- combustion engine times. With wild and unsafe roads up until a few hundred years ago in the highlands you could sail to Luss or Balloch and back in a day from here for supplies or other travel requirements.
Slightly raised straight banks and large trees at regular intervals. Maybe a safe tie up point for medieval craft away from the annual flooding and damage along the main river. It felt very enclosing and "Southern Gothic" along this stretch although extremely beautiful. Not a breath of wind, no ripples and completely silent. You could easily imagine Cottonmouth Snakes, Snapper Turtles, Alligators or even giant Anaconda lurking below the surface here. It had that kind of languid backwater feel to it. Great to explore however. A smaller tributary opposite the Geal Loch can also be explored for a shorter distance.
In the swamp lands of Ardlui. What a find. Undiscovered Scotland... For us anyway.
A lovely shingle beach was where we had lunch just at the back of the Drover's Inn, still on the River Falloch, but this was our end point as the river gets too shallow here to continue much further with a series of waterfalls further on. The Falls of Falloch.
Next we headed back down the river and into Loch Lomond. Our intention was to paddle across to Doune Bothy on the West Highland Way, a long distance foot path from Milngavie, near Glasgow, to Fort William. At this top end of the loch it is a deep steep trench going down to depths of over 150metres with rugged heavily wooded shores and high enclosing mountain walls on both sides.
Well seen here in this photo with the West Highland Way negotiating a path through beautiful deciduous woodland and small vertical cliffs, towering above Alan in his kayak. Two well used bothies sit along this stretch. Doune and Rowchoish. I've had a few good nights in both but they are pretty basic affairs due to their popularity and close proximity to the Central Belt population of over two million residents.
Doune Bothy interior. We met a guy in here staying the night. This is his wee dog.
Eilean Vow or Island I Vow. Twenty three islands adorn Loch Lomond but most of them are found clustered in the shallower and 7km wide southern end. This small circular gem still contains the remains of a castle and small dungeon and is the furthest island north in the loch. A fortress of the MacFarlane Clan in the area they settled here after their earlier island stronghold on Inveruglas Isle had been destroyed by Cromwell's army in the mid 1600s. The MacGregors on the other side of the loch were similarly punished by the establishment of the day in the 1700s determined to put an end to lawless behaviour during the last days of independent clan authority and bring them to heel... as portrayed in the Hollywood film Rob Roy with Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange. Smaller scale action than Braveheart but probably more authentic to ordinary clan life in the Highlands at that time. Incidentally, the real William Wallace was a lowland fighter from Elderslie, near Paisley ( or maybe Ayrshire) all his days and never went near any mountains if he could avoid them as the locals there would probably have kicked his ass and sent him packing after searching his pockets. His army didn't wear kilts or blue painted faces in battle scenes either- kilts being crap at stopping English Longbow arrows and they weren't that stupid. Dangerous unruly people lived in the mountains at that time with their own regional agendas and interests to protect until they were tamed and dragged off in chains to be given a safe and sanitized 'romantic noble highlander' makeover in Victorian Times but only after most of the more militant residents of the glens were removed, executed or starved into compliance and the age of the grand hunting estates took over with Scotland now portrayed by the more enlightened 1800s as a largely empty and safe theme park for the wealthy elsewhere to enjoy. Popular misconceptions and distortions of the past happen in every society as the winners usually re-write the script afterwards to suit their own ends and this becomes the 'truth' still widely preferred around the world today. A Scottish myth started by Sir Walter Scott in his influential novels of the period and continuing into modern times with the equally popular Outlander series of books and films. Preferred because its a simpler more heroic version compared to the often tangled, murky or downright unpalatable events with double dealing, bad behaviour, dodgy politics and deceit on both sides commonplace during any major upheaval in society ... well...just like it is today in fact.
The Geal Loch. River Falloch. A small reedy lochan in Glen Falloch just above the northern end of Loch Lomond but not visible to the A82 motorists whizzing past to get to Crianlarich and Fort William. Could be another country a stone's toss away from that busy tarmac ribbon full of bank holiday traffic and the inevitable jams and hold ups.
Doune bothy window display. It's the little things that make a home from home.

A suitable sultry video for this post. Mysterious, slightly dark and Hot Hot Hot!


Rosemary said...

Scotland is picture perfect, few places in the world could rival it, but you were wise to get away from the midges. When are they at their peak? I feel itchy just thinking about them.

Carol said...

These posts are lovely - I'm jealous each time I read one!

Linda W. said...

You have lovely places to go paddling. Thanks for sharing some of the scenery.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
Yes, it is special and you can still find remote unspoiled places 30 minutes drive from Glasgow in every direction. Midges bite from May to September in the Scottish Highlands with July and August the peak months. Not so bad on the east coast due to a drier climate plus less bracken and rarely as troublesome in the Lake District. The Avon product "skin so soft" seems to work in repelling them although I have heard they changed the formula slightly.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
The Lake District has islands and river estuaries as well. Embrace the future... Get a floating green armchair like us for your golden years :o)

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Linda,
I've noticed that your coastline has some serious wave action most days but you do have large rivers to glide down which would take a kayak.

Ian Johnston said...

Great stuff Bob, another hidden corner - just shows what there is out there with a bit of lateral thinking, peace and quiet almost alongside the A82

Kind Regards

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Ian,
Kayaking is still a great way to find quiet locations... as you know. I'm enjoying my return to it after well over a decade away.

Carol said...

Well I have a floating, green armchair like you guys - my rowing boat! I just need to stop bashing so many hills. To be honest, I've been getting so slow recently up the hills, I don't think it's long off...

Kay G. said...

What gorgeous photos! Just don't go to Florida or South Georgia and kayak with toes in the water, gotta watch out for those gators!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
You wouldn't catch me paddling there in a rubber ring.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheer up Carol,
You might actually like water sports bagging rivers, islands and lakes. Always fancied a trip around Derwent Water and a few others down there. Faster and more enjoyable in a kayak though as I'm sure you'll find out at some point.

Lux G. said...

We wanted to kayak during our island hopping last week but we got busy with other activities we weren't able to.

Looks fun. Stunning views.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Lux G.
Having fun away from work is what life is all about. One might bring you money but the second usually brings happy thoughts at the weekends.