Friday, 6 May 2011

Canoe & Hike Suilven

We have been so lucky with the blocking high pressure above the UK, meaning gorgeous summer (!) weather for weeks. Especially because some time ago we planned to go canoeing and hiking with friends to the mountain Suilven in Inverpolly National Nature Reserve, North West of Scotland. We went last Friday morning which was a day off for many people due to the Royal wedding of Kate & William. I don't have any regrets I didn't stay home to watch this. The summary on internet, television and newspaper was more than enough.

Anyway, after a 4.5 hour drive we arrived in Elphin, a little highland village north of Ullapool. As soon as our friends arrived, we portaged (carried) our canoe, hiking, camping equipment and food & drink supply for three days on a trolley via a track for about half a mile to get to the shore of Loch Veyatie.

Happy paddlers and a nervous dog
Although it was warm, it was very windy, creating quite some waves! Fortunately it came from behind and in no time we arrived at our campsite at the foot of Suilven.

The most beautiful campsite

After we pitched our tent, it was time to prepare our meals. The canoe is fantastic for transport because you don't really have to compromise on what to bring, unless of course you're travelling with three people + a dog like our friends! We brought fresh veg and meat along and while sitting in the porch to be sheltered from the wind we could watch the beautiful scenery and change of light.


In the evening the wind wasn't too bad so it was easier for the young lads to try out the sea kayak and for Jaap to experiment with the canoe sail our friends brought along. The campfire the guys made was very cosy and literally essential for me to keep warm while outside, even though I wore 4 layers!

Walking the canoe to our campsite

Practicing in a sea kayak
Jaap having a go with a canoe sail

Making a campfire with lots of dried reed grass

Natural elements

The next day we walked up Suilven which is one of the most distinctive and remote mountains of Scotland. It's formed of Torridon sandstone and sits on a landscape of Lewisian Gneiss. The climb to the 2 km long ridge is very steep and not for the faint-hearted, especially if it's very windy!

Do you see our campsite in the far distance?

Good work-out for the legs © Ian Francis

We all managed fine, even Mac, our adorable canine companion.

Last stretch to the top

Sooo cute....both of them!

During our trip Ian, who works for the RSPB, could tell us a lot about wildlife in the reserve. He found a nest of teal eggs and told us that what we were hearing and seeing above our tents were not didgeridoo birds (I was half asleep and it was really as if I was in Australia!) but rare greenshanks and snipes having their courtship display flight. We also saw adders, lizards, frogs, and young trout.

Teal nest ©Ian Francis

Greenshank © Ron McCombe Wildlife photography

Drumming Snipe ©Birdwatching magazine

In the the narrow bit of the lake which was very undeep and rocky, we had to line the canoe. While Jaap was doing all the heavy work, I was busy taking photos! We're a great team.

Man power

With a last view on the magnificent mountain Suilven, we paddled back to where we started. The ice cream in Ullapool was the right thing to do to soothe the muscles and to finish this memorable trip!

Great teamwork

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