Spey Descent with Explore Highland

Well, not quite kayaking, but I have just returned from a fantastic open boat trip down the River Spey with Explore Highland.

The trip, lead by Explore Highland owner Donald Macpherson and assisted by Malcolm Wield, took place over four days and included 3 nights under canvas; thankfully the weather was, on the whole, sunny and nice!

The Spey is a beautiful river – one of Scotland’s best – and a trip from (almost) source to sea is a must-do for anyone who’s into paddling in some for or another; passing through the Cairngorm mountains, Strathspey (whisky territory) and finally following the old railway through the winding shingle banks towards Spey Bay…doesn’t get much better!

We put-in at Loch Insh by Kincraig, camped night one near Aviemore, night two just passed Granton-on-Spey and night three by Aberlour. Paddled the river in tandem with out boats fully-loaded with food, boating equipment, tents and whisky. En route, Donald and Malc guided, taught and shared their backwoods skills with the entire group. It was an excellent learning experience.

Apart from a wee bit of sunburn and some blisters on my hands, it was a truly memorable experience; mountains, rivers, rapids, old bridges, steam railways, distilleries, outstanding sandstone cliffs, Red Kites, Osprey, birch and pine forests…and the odd riverside pub!

If you’d like to descend the Spey, why not give Donald at Explore Highland a shout?

Check out Explore Highland’s website: www.explorehighland.com

An t-Alltan Dubh

After checking out the Cuileig, Dave Y and I took a quick bimble down the Upper Black Water (Alltan Dubh) so ensure that we got our daily kayaking fix.

The water level was the lowest that I’d ever run it, with more plastic left on rocks than anything else, but still some good falls and pool drops!

Abhainn Cuileig

Ok, so not a proper paddling trip, but today Dave Young and I did a wee recky of the Abhainn Cuileig (meaning the ‘Fly River’ as far as I can tell – and true to form given the midges!) near the Braemore Junction en route to Ullapool.

We’d heard interesting things about three 3m to 4m falls at the end of the gorge section and thought we’d have a wee scout in preparation forsome kayak fun sometime over the summer.

After a long walk down to the gorge (0.5km or thereby) and a scramble through the undergowth, we found the third fall just up from the power station. Defo looked like a good’un, even in low water; a great photo opportunity too!

The other falls are back up stream, but you probably need to cross either by the power station (paddle across the flow and walk up the opposite bank) or risk your life crossing the old iron/timber bridge; I lost my bottle half way across the bridge and that was without a boat and full kit!

Word is that you can paddle down to the end of the Abhainn Cuileig, where it meets with the Abhainn Droma (the one the flows out of Corrieshalloch Gorge) and becomes the River Broom, then keep going for a bit until access becomes a little easier; maybe nearer Auchindren bridge? 

Alternatively, you could walk back up the forestry track to the road above the get-in, but I have to say, that would be one tough uphill struggle and was hard enough without boats…

UKRGB river guide for the Abhainn Cuileig: http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2516:scotlandfarnorth-cuileig&catid=31&Itemid=117

Video clip of some ICC paddlers running the Cuileig this year: http://vimeo.com/22208152

Lower falls on the Lower Abhainn Cuileig: