I’ve been wanting to do the linear boat trip across Rannoch Moor via Loch Ba and Loch Laidon for a while. Finally, this last weekend the weather and the wind was favorable so off I set. I opted for a one night wild camp, meaning that the timings matched for a Lazy start and the train back from Rannoch Station the following day.
[Skip right to the end for the video! | Find the full photoset here]
I dumped my van at our clubs’ cottage in Crianlarich, loading the kit onto my bike for a lazy 10AM start up onto Rannoch Moor. Apart from getting ‘dusted’ by a few impatient bastards in cars (a min gap of 1.5M is required by law when overtaking cyclists), all went well, with some nice sunny views along the way.
At Loch Ba, I setup the boat and ditched the bike in the trees, locked up thrice in the hope that skum-bags would deem it too much hassle to nick. Then it was off down the rather shallow and somewhat complicated Loch Ba hunting for the start of the river that flows into Loch Laidon. On the way, I stopped off on Eilean Molach, a superb wee island with several beaches and loads of wood for a fire. [I have uploaded 360’s to google maps – go drop your wee man on the island to see]
Loch Ba 360
Once I had located the exit from Loch Ba, the flow began to increase, the water got shallower and the rocks became many! It was good fun – but the bottom of my pack-raft picked up more scratches during this 3KM stretch than all the padding I had done this past 12 months since I got the boat! A hard shell would have gotten trashed. All told, 90% was paddled, 5% portaged (dragged) and 5% pushed on the water after I got marooned on various rocks! Having half a forest attached to the front of the boat did not help either but remarkably it all stayed put! [For the benefit of others I did a few 360’s of the river section so you can judge for yourselves whether its worth it – see google maps]
Is this bony, bonny or both?!
Now that I was on (deeper) Loch Laidon, I attached the skeg to the raft. This makes a massive difference to paddling open water, and adds a good KM/hour forward speed for the same effort. I had planned to camp on Eilean Iubhair to the north east, but wanted a wee gander at the westerly spur of the loch first. The views were simply magic and I spent as much time taking pics as I did paddling. I pulled up on a sandy beach and climbed a wee hillock for the views out to Ben Achaladair, and across to the Black Mount and Glencoe, all holding enough snow to add that wee bit of contrast. I looked at my watch already 6:30PM so I opted to camp here instead.
My tent is a new purchase from Amazon. I already own a Hilliberg Akto, which is a great 1 person 4 season tent that has stood up to a good howling gale in the snow, but alas its fairly heavy at 1.6KG, and overkill for (most) Scottish summer trips. The Amazon purchase was an £89 Chinese made Sil-Nylon Andake 780gram Lightweight Tent (my review is on Amazon.co.uk) bought specifically for Packrafting. My paddle is a 4 section paddle, the middle sections become the (adjustable) main pole of the tent. The tent can be stripped back to 730grams by replacing the rear pole with a paddle blade, and back to under 690g by loosing the guylines and 3 pegs. Apart from pitching it in the rain in the garden (after seam sealing to check for leaks), this was its maiden outing.
Camp Site Aerial 360
After discovering that I had 4G at my camp spot, I showed my facebook chums around virtually with a live video before settling down to watch the sunset. And what a sunset it was!
I set about lighting up the fire just before dark, and I have to say it was a bit of a failure. The larger lumps of wood that I had collected turned out to be rather moist, so I ended up with a twigs fire that died in half an hour without any of the larger bits having caught – bugger! My fire-lighting skills need improvement it seems.
At about 4AM, I was rudely awoken by the sound of rain. This continued basically until I crawled out of the tent at about 8AM. Me and my kit were dry so that Chinese tent works fine!
I had a date with a train at 12:45 at Rannoch Station, so I got the boat loaded and set off north east up Loch Laidon. I stopped off on Eilean Iubhair, which had been where I was going to camp. I’m glad I didn’t – no beaches and just one area, far less scenic than my camp-site where one could pitch a tent. [I have uploaded 360’s to google maps – go drop your wee man on the island to see]
I made one more stop along the way, before reaching the end of the loch. I had a good 1.5hours to kill before the train, but I knew the station cafe would be open and was hoping for a large lump of cake!
The map shows a boathouse at the Loch end, but this is on a wee Loch separated from the main Loch by a large sandy/grassy bank. Would need to be very high water for the two to join. The slipway made for a decent packing spot, and the mile or so walk to the station passed uneventfully.
Scroterail showed up on time, and before you know it I was back in the metropolis of Crianlarich where I picked up the van and headed back to Loch Ba to collect my (thankfully still there) bike! Superb trip, which could easily be extended – one that will definitely be done again!
I put many more 360 pics on Google maps – Click Here, and then drag the wee man out onto the Loch’s and drop him on any of the blue dots for the pics. My route is below.