A Scottish Odyssey - Morvern and Ardgour 1997 - Keith Morris

An account in pictures and a few words of a great trip in June 1997, circumnavigating the Morvern and Ardgour peninsulas on the west coast of Scotland.

The launch site we started from (and finished at) – the old ferry slip at Ballachulish, Glencoe

Packing and rigging – Ballachulish

Leaving Glencoe

Heading south down Loch Linnhe

Down Loch Linnhe

Lunch afloat during a lull

A good breeze from the west

Down Loch Linnhe in a good breeze

Keith running downwind in his gunter-rigged canoe, near Loch a’Choire, Ardgour

After dealing with gusty winds (up to F5) from the west, funnelling down valleys and round the hills and headlands, we decided to land for a late afternoon break and something to eat.

Then we continued in easier conditions towards the Sound of Mull

We turned west into the Sound of Mull and found an adequate spot to land and camp near Ardtornish Point, with a distant view of Duart Castle across the water. (Day 1 distance – about 27 miles)

Next morning, with the westerly breeze against us, meant beating up the Sound of Mull.

We headed over to the south side of the sound

We found a perfect landing beach for a lunch break, next to a ruined castle

Continuing west along the sound, there were great views of the mountains on Mull, including Ben More.

As we approached Tobermory we decided to take the direct route inside Calve Island, but had to contend with beating against the tide as well as the wind.

Landing at Tobermory, we were glad of a stretch and a visit to a café for something to eat.

There was nowhere to land and camp near Tobermory, so we headed over to Calve Island. The landing there was awkward but would have to do. (Day 2 distance=about 17 miles)

The following morning there was very little wind, so we paddled back over to Tobermory for some breakfast.

Returning to our beached canoes the tide had risen more than expected while we we had been in the café, but we caught them before they floated away.

As we cleared the shelter provided by the Isle of Mull the wind increased, together with the waves and we had a challenging sail across towards Loch Sunart, needing to reef down to stay in control but still sailing very fast for a canoe.

As we entered the natural harbour between the island of Oronsay and the mainland the waves subsided and we were relieved to have made the crossing from Mull without mishap.

The sailing near Oronsay was then much more relaxed

Although the tide was dropping we managed to sneak through the shallow channel between Oronsay and the mainland, dodging the seaweed and with our leeboards sometimes touching the sandy bottom.

As we emerged from the shallow channel past Oronsay into the outer part of Loch Teacuis we came across some seals lounging on the rocks.

We landed on the south side of Loch Teacuis to camp. This is the view from the campsite.

Camp cooking and relaxing – Loch Teacuis. (Day 3 distance was about 9 miles. But we also went for a delightful evening sail around the island of Carna of about another 6 miles)

Setting off for Salen, Sunart

Loch Sunart with the Isle of Carna behind

Approaching Salen on Loch Sunart

Landing for the Salen trolley portage along (and up over the hill!) to Acharacle on Loch Shiel

 Hauling the canoes on trolleys on the road to Acharacle, Loch Shiel

Relaunching at Acharacle onto Loch Shiel

Perfect cruising conditions on Loch Shiel

Brief stop at St Finnans Isle – We sailed on north into the evening, the gathering gloom discouraging photography. We camped a couple of miles short of the northern end of the loch, having covered about 27 miles, of which just over 2 was the trolley portage.

The next morning the weather was dismal, with loads of wind and rain, so we made good use of the Glenfinnan visitor centre’s café to warm up and dry out a bit before steeling ourselves for the six mile trolley-portage over to Loch Eil. There was no wind on this sheltered sea loch and we paddled for about eight miles to camp near Fort William, having covered about 15 miles, only 2 of which were under sail-power.

Relaunching after camping opposite Fort William and Ben Nevis.

Here is an article published in the June 98 issue of UK ‘Canoeist’ Magazine describing Day 3 of this journey: