Freesteel Blog » Kinlochleven Scotland kayaking and kayak diving

Kinlochleven Scotland kayaking and kayak diving

Sunday, April 27th, 2014 at 3:09 pm Written by:

We went to Scotland over Easter with the Liverpool Canoe Club who rented the whole of the Blackwater Hostel. This meant folks didn’t have to be strict about washing up the pots and pans within seconds of using them for fear of pissing off the other guests.

By arriving early (having kipped in the woods near Lockerbie), there was time to walk up the the reservoir without a map (a map would have told us that it was too far to go). It took five hours in my normal shoes and I was cross and knackered by the end of it.

Friday 18 April – We drove two hours across the Corran ferry to Loch Sunart to dive Sligneach Mor near the mouth of the loch with Karl, the one other Liverpool kayak diver, and coincidentally met the other two active kayak divers we are aware of in the country who were off to dive the Risga Pinnacle.

The fifth kayak in the picture is green and down by the water. I should have done a group shot with a timer. I was so gormless with the photographing that I failed to get a single picture of the hostel or the enormous line of cars with canoes in the car park.

We faffed a lot. I did a dive with Karl (Becka photographed the bubbles), then came up early so I’d have enough air in the tank to go down with Becka. But Karl misunderstood and thought I was coming back with my camera. After sorting this out, he went back down with his camera on his helmet, which he then lost in a small cave before it bobbed up to the surface and we picked it up.

UPDATE: The great video from the helmet cam on an express elevator to the surface is here.

Then I went down with Becka and got deeper than when we did this dive in 2011 when we thought we were on an overhang into the abyss and dared not go beyond 9m. Turns out there is floor again at 16metres with lots of overhangs and caves. You could see there were fantastic colours in the torch-light, but the visibility was a great disappointment. And the water was so calm.

I got a feather star stuck to my knee of my new drysuit, which we got off without breaking too many arms. As usual, the camera images are washed out in the light, and a blur outside of the light.

We packed and drove off for a second dive on the flame-shell beds in the narrows because we hadn’t done enough for one day. The tide was coming in. The three boats were chained up from a single anchor, which not surprisingly dragged once we all got into the water to kit up. This made things easier as it meant the current was gone; we were drifting with it.


Unfortunately when we got to the bottom we found ourselves flying along at 3 or 4 knots. As long as we all held to the anchor rope we’d be fine. After three minutes the seabed fell away leaving us dangling there in free space with nowhere to go. Luckily we weren’t sucked down, though I was scared. Nobody saw any flame shells, though I am sure they were disturbed.

Turned out we were lucky it was such a short dive as we caught the last Corran ferry by a margin of three minutes and were the only car on board.

Saturday 19 April — Mass 12 kayak trip across from Glenuig Inn (which we learn has a compressor) straight across northwest to some islands off the next headland. The journey was about one third of the way to the the Isle of Eigg (don’t get ideas). Then, after a bit of bimbling along the coast, we headed back. I was paddling the slowest, which humiliated Becka.

It was a two hour drive there and back each way from the hostel. Over half of the Liverpool club was up here for river paddling. At least four of them were reviewing their gopro videos of waterfall paddling.

Sunday 20 April — The crowd went to circumnavigate Kerrara Island outside Oban. As we’d done Kerrara in two days a while back, we chose instead to do the four castles trip (from the guidebook) at the north of Lismore that everyone else had done on the first day while we were at Sunart. Normally this sort of trip is saved as a bad weather option, because you should use the opportunities of excellent weather to do something a bit more ambitious. But I’d proven lazy, we were on our own, and it turned out to be quite lovely, particularly when we climbed up into the ruins of Castle Coeffin and bagged the best lunch spot before any other picnickers got there.

One such picnicker was a kayaker who was out walking with his family and tried to persuade Becka that paddling all the way around Lismore was a sensible idea. (We could do it, but we’d get back after dark and I’d be very grumbly.) Instead, the guidebook route took us back round to Castle Stalker, which we partly climbed and spotted a goose egg nest, before returning along the shallow inside of Shuna Island at a sensible time.

Monday 21 April — We packed the car full of stuff and an unnecessary bicycle and drove down to Seil after filling tanks at Puffin Divers in Oban. The sign on the coin op said that counterfeit pound coins would be swallowed up, not returned and not credited, though I’m certain that the dragon who runs the place still cashes them at the bank. Our 232 bar fills seemed to only be 200 bar when we got them out of the car the next day.

We parked in the only layby opposite a cemetery near the A816 on Loch Feochan, paddled with a stiff easterly wind at our backs to the Clachan Bridge, which was flowing the right way. I had faffed for long enough for the tides to be right. Becka said we should have come six hours earlier and did it in the opposite direction to make the most of the day, though that would have been as dumb as paddling around Lismore.

The wind and tides blew us round to Easdale where we stopped for lunch in an ugly spot on the grey slate beach by the local ferry slip that was doing a roaring trade for so small an island. Then we took ourselves back round in the shelter of the west coast, glancing across the water to Insh Island, though we were not foolish enough to visit it. Crossing the bay on the north side of Seil into the wind was such a haul that I couldn’t make it any further and we turned into the channel for Clachan Bridge again. It was low tide with the flow in the wrong direction, and we waded for part of the way. Becka had to hitch back to the car. After a fruitless search for a camping spot (that had to be off the road, available and with a good view), we wound up back in the layby with enough room to pitch a tent. It was a good spot.

Tuesday 22 April — Becka needed more sea kayaking. My arms had had enough. I pushed her out into Loch Melfort and aimed to pick her up at the jetty around the headland to the south where I fell sound asleep in the car waiting for her to arrive. She spent most of the time watching a otter catch and eat a fish, though hadn’t taken the camera.

Time to move on. My notion of getting in a couple of boat dives in the Sound of Mull at Lochaline was long gone. We went for a dive in Loch Fyne at Stallion Rock (named in the guidebook) to the north of Furnace.


The Northeast wind on the paddle out was dreadful, kicking up waves on the shore that would have made the diving too difficult. But suddenly, as we got there and put the anchor down, it completely stopped. So we had a nice, if murky dive. Not a huge amount of life beyond all the sea squirts. The fish don’t seem to have come home for the summer yet.


Becka drove all the way to Lancaster where we slept overnight, getting back to work on Wednesday afternoon.

1 Comment

  • 1. Aaron replies at 7th May 2014, 9:49 pm :

    The pics of the places you guys visit and the
    things you do are so unrelieved in their beauty
    that my mind comes nearly to the point of exploding…

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