We weren’t originally the most adventurous of people but a life time of being tied to a computer made something snap. It is time to get out into the real world, be present and make some memories. The world we forget with our faces buried in technology day in and day out. A quest to be free.
It was time to push ourselves, or so we thought. Loch Morar was our target destination as people had said it was a little more foreboding as the Norfolk broads had been a bit tame.
We set off to Scotland with the canoe perched top the Punto – Looking ridiculous top heavy but fit for purpose.
We had spent time prepping for these trips with practice runs on the local canal. Testing out the loading with the dry bags and more importantly training our dog Inca to get in and out on command and sit and lie still.
Here she is looking less than impressed during a rainy training practise. @inca_boxer
I also made a ‘wannigan’ (well more of a crate) out of old palettes for the trip and this is the lighter mark 2 version with the boards planed down to wine box thickness to make it lighter. However we hadn’t had chance to test it in the canoe before leaving so therefore weren’t sure how the weight would affect the freeboard. It was heavy with a week’s worth of food in. The one thing I learnt while making these boxes is make them 4 boards high and the sides 4 boards wide (minus the wood thickness) so that the lid fits. The length is down to your canoe width. (I can supply more detail if anyone is interested but it’s pretty straight forward)
I added a compass design on top to help with finding things in the box – So I could say “where’s the milk Charlotte?” and she could reply “it’s on the east side or west side” but in practice it didn’t quite work out that way as Charlotte struggles with east and west as much as here left and right.
We sailed to Scotland with many stops to tighten and adjust the straps to stop the canoe shifting. Having to go down to about 55mph with the strong winds blowing us sideways which mean we arrived late. It was chucking it down as we drove past Loch Lomond with the water looking extremely choppy. No boats were out braving the waters. A quick re – check of the weather of Loch Morar showed it was suffering stronger winds than Loch Lomond. There wasn’t much point in rushing there so we pulled in at Beinglas campsite, set up the tent up in the wind and rain and decided to go for a walk to the Falls of Falloch.
They were stunning and the amount of thundering water coming over them was very dramatic.
We did a spot of mushroom foraging – a recent hobby and we are still building on our skills. Finding Wood hedgehogs (easy to identify with the spines rather than gills) and Chanterelles within minutes around the falls. It is such a lovely treasure finding feeling when you find edible varieties. (It’s becoming a bit of a passion)
Returning to base camp our tent had blown down and everything inside was drenched! Except, luckily, the sleeping bags which I had said we should put in the dry bags so they wouldn’t get damp. However there is a walker’s shelter at campsite which has dryers so jostling through the many other soggy walkers in there we made use of them. We were glad at this point to not be out on the loch in the wind and rain. Lesson learnt and now pegged down properly. After probably the worst night’s sleep and bad dreams in the world’s flappiest tent. We got up and pack up in the wet and set off with dampened spirits. Our adventure had got off to a terrible start. We checked the weather at Loch Morar and the forecast was rain and 35mph gusts. After seeing what Loch Lomond had looked like the day before in those conditions we decided to turn back. A coffee was needed regroup. We pulled in at Tarbet on the side of Loch Lomond, found coffee and wifi. A quick check of Paddle Points said you could launch from Tarbet. The loch looked calm from the café and the weather forecast for the next few days in this area was good. Decision made.
There’s a slipway which is gated with a sign saying ring access, but don’t bother unless you live in the area and have the correct postcode. There is no parking restriction so you can dump the car and port around the gates to the slipway.
All loaded up, ready to set off and the doomed black clouds come over. I must say I was impressed how much freeboard was still left with the canoe fully loaded. The wannigan fitted well and Charlotte had lightened it a bit by removing a few days’ food.
With the rain right on us Charlotte sat it out in the boat – “You’ll get wet there Charlotte” “I know but just as wet as on the shore.”
I know it doesn’t sound much to a seasoned canoer but we were a little nervous about doings our first open water crossing with the dog and fully loaded up so we waited the few minutes for the rain to pass. A nice looking beach on the other side, directly across from Tarbet so decided to head for that. The loch is 150m deep at this point on the north end of the loch and there would be no way to get stuff back off the bottom (everything was strapped with cam straps to the canoe though and dry-bagged up).
A little word of caution though there is a camping exclusion zone for the summer months on the East side of the loch which is slightly further south from where we were going so if you decide to paddle further south along the coast to camp than we did please make sure to avoid this area from 1 March to 31 October. – More info here http://www.lochlomond-trossachs.org/…/wild-camping/
The exclusion zone map.
Plus there are more changes on the way for next year.
The beach looked lovely, our holiday had begun. Once at the other side we paddled up and down a bit to view some other landings, but none looked quite as nice and the original spot and was furthest away from the west highland way.
A little soggy but the sun was soon to follow.
Mooring up on the beach we were greeted by more chanterelles mushrooms – Yep this was going to be our little piece of heaven.
and yes Charlotte there is a rope swing.
Come on time to set up camp.
Tentipi up and properly pegged out this time! It is a great tent and we have a frontier stove for those wet and cold nights. We camped up from the shore and dragged the canoe up there.
We set about collecting firewood for tea putting the new sliky into action; a brilliant little saw and easier than chopping.
After that a quick explore of the area which is probably best describe with pictures.
Crystal clear waters.
We set about finding a water source and agreed to do a forage on the way. Heading north to the first spring on the map but in the end not really fast flowing enough but we did found loads of interesting mushrooms on the way, with the other beaches yielding more chanterelles.
The wannigan makes a good table too.
Amethyst Deceiver – Good for colour in a dish.
Our first beefsteak fungus – Kindly stood on by our wonderful dog, but still edible though.
Food found and wood chopped so time for a relax on the beach with a glass of wine (if only the dog would let you). We had enough water for a day and a bit so we decide we would canoe down to a larger stream south the next day.
The wind was dropping so the mozzies were moving in. Skin so Soft by Avon is just the best protection and you can use it on the dog too. Time for a fire as smoke works well too in keeping them under bay.
I am a bit of a nerd when lighting fires and like to do it the hard way. I suppose I am an armchair survivalist and like to learn fire lighting skills. I can start a fire with bow but I also use an old fashioned tinder kit. We cooked on the beach on the south side as it was sheltered from the wind.
Flint and steel and char cloth work great and gives you plenty of time to get your tinder on. It’s also less easy to loose than a lighter – something I am very good at.
It has a little hole in for making charcloth too.
Also have a modern flint and high carbon steel striker (from the Bushcraft show) and a magnesium block for difficult conditions. It is just a bit of fun but I like learning the old skills. The most important being the bow and drill.
So while I’ve been faffing with the fire Charlotte was busy prepping food stuff. She is a campcook wizard producing doughnuts, pizza, damper bread and I am going to pass you over to her for this section about what she cooked.
The first night I decided to cook pizza in our dutch oven. Prepping the dough so it could rise while we finished getting the fire ready. Cooking fresh is what I prefere to do and will whenever we can, it’s quite easy to carry some fresh produce with you, especially in the box that Ant has made. Onions, potaoes, garlic and dry meats all keep well out of the fridge as well as being knocked around in the canoe journey. Wedges were the next thing which I add a bit of oil and some spice (keeping old TicTac containers or herb bottles are a great way of carrying herbs and spices when camping). With the dough done, a bit of greaseproof paper at the bottom helps it not to stick to the dutch oven, and add on all your ingredients. All ready for the fire!
I had to fashion a quick pan lifter. It worked well and so won’t bother taking the metal one ever again.
Pizza cooking – A lot of fire on top and resting on ashes underneath with potato wedges in doubled billy cans.
Inca is not a fan of campfire smoke however she does play a silly game of putting her rock in the way of it and then barking at it – Boxer dog logic. Maybe I should explain she is obsessed with rocks, her favourite rock of choice at the moment is quartz. Yep quartz. Here she is with a great lump of it wedged in her face.
We end up having to hide it so here she is panicking because she can’t find it.
It’s no use trying to throw it away she will find no matter where you it lands. She is a brilliant guard dog too and sets up a perimeter around the camp by having a good old bark to make sure people and the giant goats and stags (we found fresh droppings of both within 200m of the camp) stay away. The mere mention of the word “see ‘em off” is enough to set this process off in an instant.
Even having the luxury of a gin and tonic on the beach – We made a flask up before we left and put it in the red ‘thirst extinguisher’.
With full bellies the fire was built up for the rest of the evening. Here we are trying to melt away two beer cans left by walkers. I am always saddened when I see rubbish even in the remotest areas, we often do a litter pick wherever we stay. We don’t need anymore camping exclusions 🙁
Inca tells us when it’s her bed time by pawing at the tent. She has a good water proof bed which we use in and out of the canoe for her.
In the tent she is wrapped her own sleeping bag and jumper, so all nicely wrapped up she stays put for the whole evening. We stayed up and had to set up a tarp over us as a bit of rain was coming in, moved the fire and spent a while chatting.
The next morning coffee to start.
I heat my UHT milk in the mug over the burner and use a milk frother whisk and the coffee pot for a cappuccino. It works well but I’m always looking out for a better more compact method.
Chanterelles for breakfast then!
For breakfast I had spring onions, the chanterelle mushrooms found yesterday, some dry sausage and peppers (using a dehydrator at home), chopped tomatoes and finishing it off with an egg each on top. A mighty breakfast for a good start to the day.
With a cold night ahead of us, feels like minus 3°!?, we cut more wood for the frontier stove and an evening in the tent.
Heading off in the canoe for a water run down the south side of the loch. Filling our container from a source a bit further down the shore we put in sterilising tables (first time using sterilising tablets and I can say I’m not a great fan).
We also did another spot of foraging for a few hours, yielding more hedgehogs and a Lactarius Volemus – edible and good. We found a lot more too that I won’t bore you with.
Thanks to Jesper Launder for ID help. I am learning a lot for him and the Mushroom Foraging United Kingdom Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/242093029305785/
Plus the all-important Rogers Phillips Guide. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mushrooms-R…/dp/0330442376
The second night was a vegetable curry with all the hardy vegetables that we brought with us and some of the foraged mushrooms. Some damper bread as naan bread was also needed! With the dough rising I prepped the curry and left that cooking over the fire. The damper bread was cooked in the double billy cans with a little oil and cooked lovely! Wrapped in tin foil to keep warm while we used the billy cans to cook the rice.
The curry needed extra heat so it needed a tripod.
More wine, more laughing and games by a beautiful camp fire on the other beach this time.
With calm waters forecast in the morning we decide an early start to pack up sounds like the best
Going to bed, lighting the frontier stove to keep warm, it burned for about 5 hours but then had to be re-lit, still it was a very comfortable night.
Rising early we packed away the tent with the loch looking like a mirror at 7.45 am, it did get a bit choppier as time went on. We managed to get the Tentipi down and packed in a dry bag just before a shower hit. Leaving a load of sawn logs and kindling by the fire pit for the next visitors; which is just a nice thing to do.
That was it all pack up and ready to head back. The return crossing was easy and very calm. We ported everything back to the car and headed home, batteries recharged, super memories and lessons learnt.
A seasonal byelaw is coming into effect from 1st March 2017 which will stop you from camping in certain areas. For more information click here.
Location maps can be found here.