If the single-track road from Invergarry to Kinloch Hourn was a river, it would be described as long, narrow, twisty and challenging. Guidebooks would refer to bumpy, steep and committing sections, and warn of the absence of escape routes. This is a class III to IV road.
Yet, For A True Taste Of The Scotland Highlands, You Could Hardly Do Better
More importantly, this postman’s nightmare offers access to some varied and beautiful water.
It’s only this 22-mile road linking Glen Garry with Loch Hourn. Bristling with munros—Scottish hills over 3,000 feet—the land looms over both road and loch and is home to a range of classic Scottish wildlife. As you drive, paddle or walk in this rugged land, you will have entered someone else’s kingdom, your journey monitored by red deer stags and overlooked by golden eagles. You might even be watched by one of the Highland’s few remaining wild cats. Ravens and sea eagles also patrol the skies. Otters hunt the rivers and streams, joined in Loch Hourn by seals and dolphins.
Parts of Glen Garry still feel pretty wild. The land fringing Loch Hourn is wilder still, and represents one of the least populated areas in all of Britain.
If You Have A Half Day:
Lying only a few hundred yards from the A87, the road to Skye, Loch Garry offers the perfect opportunity for a morning or afternoon canoe exploration. Just turn off onto the Kinloch Hourn road, find one of the tiny roadside lay-bys and launch from amongst the silver birch.
If You Have A Day:
If you enjoy a wild river, run the Garry to Loch Garry. The river holds a quite a few class II to III rapids, only some of which can be portaged. Launch from below the dam just downstream of Kingie Pool. Land at the far end of Loch Garry, either before the Kinloch Hourn road meets the A87, or close to the dam.
If You Have A Weekend:
Spend a night on the shore of Loch Hourn. After paying a small fee to park near at Kinloch Hourn, launch into Loch Beag—the higher the tide the better—then paddle west to camp where you will. You may need to wait for slack water to negotiate the narrows of Caolas Mòr, perhaps following a pod of dolphins through the gap as the tide stills.
If You Have A Week:
Loch Hourn isn’t huge, but the shore is varied, with many stunning spots to wild camp. Just paddle a little, pitch your tent again and explore. The Knoydart to the south is Scotland at its wild and rugged best. The mountains are superb, and within the scope of most fit and experienced hill walkers, weather permitting.
Sublime on a good day. Otherwise, you’ll need the best weatherproof clothing money can buy and a sturdy tent.
There are many kit hire and shuttle options for paddlers, with information available from www.visitscotland.com.
If you’re happy on the hills, and the weather looks reasonable, climb Ladhar Bheinn (pronounced Larvan) for almost unsurpassed views.
Leave your canoe at Barisdale Bay and walk the eight miles to Inverie Bay. Accommodation and camping is available at The Old Forge, Britain’s most remote pub.
Scottish Canoe Classics by Eddie Butler is published by Pesda Press. Buy a Harvey Mountain Map—the Knoydart, Kintail and Glen Affric sheet is good for both hill and loch.