This trip had been on my wish list for a very long time... so with the snow melting, rising temperatures and the westerly wind, it was ideal conditions to link the rivers and lochs which makes for an impressive trip that can be paddled all the way to Perth. My brother Stephen had done the trip previously and had said that it was probably one of, if not the best trip he had done throughout Scotland (and beyond!) He mentioned that the Garbh Gaur needed heavy rainfall or snow melt to bring the levels up and that the last rapid flowing into Loch Eigheach was one to remember. So a few phone calls to get someone else on board and the trip was on!
Before setting off to Glencoe, we drove down the A9 and left a car at Loch Faskally as it's only 40min south of the house and would save us a lot of time in the morning! We drove over and spent the night at the Clachaig Inn, chatted through some plans and decided to get an early start at Loch Ba. We had a rough plan of where to camp but thought we'd see how far we could get each day. Our route and camps are below if it helps your planning.
Day 1 Loch Ba - Loch Eigheach
Alarm ringing 7.00am, fed, watered and off we started on our journey. Navigating through the lumps and bumps of Loch Ba we started to get a feel for how remote this expedition would be as we looked into the expanse of the wilderness beyond... a great feeling of excitement and uncertainty! We wound our way down Abhainn Ba river towards Loch Laidon which gives a few small rapids to get you warmed up for the bigger rivers further into the trip. Sails up with the prevailing winds and we were onto a winner on Loch Laidon. We soon approached the Garbh Ghaoir (rough, noisy river) packed sails away, some lunch, boats organised & ready for some white water action. We headed on down the river taking in some small rapids until we came to the grd3+, we got out to inspect, it looked pretty tight but doable, Liam cruised through without a hitch while I took some pictures, then we swapped roles! I remembered Stephen mentioning that the last rapid into Loch Eigheach was one to remember... it looked steep as we came round the corner, and long.. very long! We stood up and had a look from our boats, picked our line and went for it, it didn't disappoint! What a great section of wild white water! The name of the river certainly lived up to its name! Tarp up (NN 444,568), fire on with some food and a wee dram to chat over a class day.
Day 2 Loch Eigheach - Dunalastair Reservoir
Next morning came, we packed up our kit, set the sails up and headed over to the power station at the east end of the loch, it's fairly big portage to get to the Guar, but luck on our side again as the dam was releasing. So we popped our boats down the slide, got organised and headed on down the River Gaur. We inspected the top rapid (Gd4) picked our line and took it in turns to paddle while the other took some snaps and all went rather smooth! A few more exciting rapids and we were spat into Loch Rannoch! Time for a hot beverage and some lunch, back on the water, sails up and the wind disappears... it's like the rain on the mountains, you put your waterproofs on and it stops raining! thankfully after a few kms it started to pick up so we decided to get a team sail up to sit back and enjoy the ride. A very chilly ride at that! It always amazes me how cold you get while sailing but you've got to take it when it's going! A couple of hours later and we were at the end of Loch Rannoch, we dismantled our 'top job' sailing rig quickly as the wind was bitingly cold. We kept moving to keep warm & soon we arrived at the weir marking the start of the river so another quick portage and into the river leading through Kinloch Rannoch towards Dunalastair reservoir, a gentle paddle. We discovered that it's not great camping around the Loch but we found one piece of dry land on the South shore beside the forest (NN 702,579), so plenty of wood for another fire! Tents up, fire on and some warm food to warm our cockles up after a chilly days sailing.
Day 3 Dunalastair Reservoir - Loch Faskally
Early start to try and get back to the car at a reasonable time to do the monster shuttle! So kit packed up and we were on our way, soon enough we were at Clunie dam, portaged on the left where there is a good path, we portaged about 300mtrs below the dam above a small weir. The river was looking low but just enough from the compensation flow.
We knew there was the main event not too far from the get in, we paddled down through some sections of white water, it started to feel gorge like and the sound of the water was getting louder and louder, we popped out to inspect and sure enough it was the Grd4+, we had a look, then another look and thought it would go... I went first, heart pounding like an 85yr olds pacemaker doing an iron-man... I dropped into a technical line aiming to keep river right, so to keep my line down the main drop to try and keep as much water out as I could, before I knew it I was at the bottom upright and still in my boat, pretty clean line! Well chuffed! Liam was up next, he got a good set up, clipped a rock and it was goodnight Vienna... a swim that managed to swallow his whole boat including him and having some down time completely out of view, all smiles after he came up and said he was actually still pretty dry, despite wearing a touring cag! a little more damage to his boat though, an old war wound opened up and letting water in...
We got ourselves organised and continued down towards Loch Tummel, to find that the wind was blowing westerly :) so sails up again and off we headed taking in the views of the Tay Forest Park.
we had paddled the lower Tummel before so knew it reasonably well, we headed down through the top rapid (nearly got pinned for not paying attention!) lesson learned! We then headed for the zigzags, tight but we squeezed through, and down towards the linn of tummel, we had a fairly serious incident here a few years back with a foot entrapment and someone being pinned to the nasty slab on the lower fall (river left) It was also looking pretty boney so we decided to give this one a wide berth, on wards to Loch Faskally and this truly amazing trip was coming to an end... well the fun part, we had to drive to Loch Ba to pick up the van! A lengthy shuttle after a days paddling. Plenty of tales and great memories to keep us smiling all the way home and for years to come :)
For our full range of expeditions, courses & trips, check out:
Scottish Rock for our land based trips & courses
Scottish Water for our water based trips & courses
Scottish Winter for our winter walking, mountaineering & climbing courses
If you would like to keep up to date with our blog and special offers please feel free to join our mailing list.