Up early and very excited. We’re going kayaking!
We had booked this trip originally with three couples going, but it has shrunk down to us two. The company (which turns out to be a one man band) is not very good at communicating and only acknowledged my frantic email about our group size til last night! And it’s steadily raining – we take a chance that the trip is still on, pack waterproofs, dry clothes and large towels and set for Shieldaig. On the way, we spot some of the elusive deer – yes, can cross them off our list of creatures seen!
We’re not too sure where to meet the kayaking guy as our friends have made most of the arrangements, so we drive along the main drag of the village looking for signs. There are two jetties at either end and we check both of them out, but there’s nothing obvious. We are quite early so park up and look out over the loch, to wait. Just before 9, we head to one of the jetties and strike lucky, a tall lad in wetgear is waiting. It’s Tom our kayaking guide, friendly and chatty. He works out of an ancient Land Rover ambulance, (hence no signs) which pleases us very much being Land Rover lovers ourselves and tosses us cagoules, lifejackets and kayak aprons after we’ve all agree that we’re happy to go out in this weather. We slip into lime kayaks and tentatively paddle out into the water to get use to the kayak before heading towards a large uninhabited wooded island. We skirt around it, taking in the scenery, when we spot a large bird sitting in the tree. He’s hunched against the rain (he reminded me of the Jungle Book’s vultures) and looking peeved. Tom tells us it’s a juvenile sea eagle who’s probably been pushed out of the nest, like an overgrown teenager. Oh wow, we are in awe. As we turn round the island, we spot one of the parents, keeping guard and making sure the youngster doesn’t return. It’s wonderful. We had left our phones in the car, fearing about dropping them in the water so couldn’t take photos of these beautiful birds. So we settled with being extremely happy to see them.
We paddled out towards other little islets, the water clear and deep, a lovely greeny grey. The mountains are shrouded in cloud and there’s a steady pitter patter on our waterproofs. Tom keeps up a steady commentary as we paddle into inlets, looking at cottages peeking through the trees, sailboats gently swaying in the water, eyes a-bobbing for any other creatures. We notice a solitary seal is stalking us – bobbing up and watching us at safe distance and when we turn around to look at him, nonchalantly looking away and then sinking without a ripple. Tom points to some porpoises in the far distance but by the time, we’ve acknowledge Tom, they have gone. It’s a moody, broody atmosphere on the loch and just so special. It couldn’t of been better. We end up having about 2 and half hours kayaking and have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, despite the rain which strangely hasn’t bothered us at all. We yank the kayaks up the beach, thank and say goodbye to Tom and walk back to the car. Our legs are wet and now we have stepped out of the kayaks, we start feeling the cold of the day, the light wind cutting through our leggings. We quickly jump in the car, towels on seats and drive up the other end of the village where there’s public conveniences, grab our clothes from the boot and begin a convoluted shuffle in the front seats, trying to peel damp clothing that stick viciously to you, while maintaining your dignity under large bath towels. Of course, all of a sudden, people turn up out of the blue and seem to linger, as underwear is flung and you’re at your most vulnerable. We have no option and successfully complete the operation, albeit looking rather dishevelled.
We now are quite hungry and head to Nanny’s, a lovely little cafe on the bend that we know, but they are only doing takeaways and there’s a herd of motor bikers lining up for warming coffee. We don’t fancy sitting in a damp and steamy car for lunch. Then we have a lightbulb moment – about 10 miles away, there’s a little place called Kishorn and a lovely seafood restaurant. The weather is now closing in and we think we’ve had the best of the day. So we set off and find the restaurant on the roadside, park up and walk in – it’s a large blue and white wooden building with a lovely veranda. We note the two picnic tables here are already occupied and stop at the entrance – there’s the usual long list of Covid instructions and we tentatively walk in. It looks like another takeaway after all this, but we are talking lobster and other expensive crustaceans. (Not exactly what we envisioned, but most places around here are doing takeaway and they’re few and far between anyway.) So we hatch a plan of getting a takeaway and driving to the nearby loch to eat it. So we order the food and told to go and wait in the car, which we do. After about 5 minutes, a young lady comes trotting over, bearing a tray through the rain which we accept through our open window. As we take it in, we realise that our proposed lochside meal has just been scuppered – the food and drink are in cardboard containers, but the milk and condiments are in china pots together with metal knife and forks. We can’t exactly drive off with their cutlery, crockery and tray. So we end up sitting in the car park, watching people trying to park Volvo’s and motorhomes in the soggy conditions, munching our lobster, langoustines, salad and bread, washed down with coffee. Such a weird situation. We reflected on that all the café food and drink that we had consumed so far, regardless where you sit, comes in cardboard packaging rather than on china crockery – all this extra waste because of Covid security! We finish our lunch – delicious, wipe our fingers and hand back the tray and wonder what to do next. The cloud and mist has dropped down to such a point that it’s obliterated all the mountains and remaining scenery, so it’s no point having a drive around. We drop down to a little hamlet of Arddorrach, hugging a lovely little bay because we’re nosey and it kills some time, then decide to head back to Shieldaig. We stop here again, as we need provisions – the little village shop is shut for lunch, so we sit in the car watching the rain steadily patter down and scan the loch through binoculars, looking for seals, sea eagles, porpoises and an otter. I spy a pod of three porpoises on the far side, but trying to tell hubby exactly where they are is not easy. He thinks I’m making it all up. The shop opens and we scamper over, determined to beat any other customers to the 2 customer rule. (How sad), and pick up bits and pieces – we have no real food plan. We drive slowly home, our mountains are missing – it’s only 3pm. Seems too early to go back, so on a whim, we carry on to Diabaig where we walked to on our first day. The rivers and waterfalls are full, swollen and spectacular. The road rises up and you briefly lose which way the road goes – a little bit hair-raising, and we’re so pleased we didn’t come along here in the dark trying to find the Northern Lights! We drop down into the village – the road is long, twisty and tortuous, relieved that we walked up the gorge instead, chopping this enormous extra bit off. We park outside the Gille Brigdhe and look out across the water.
The Gille Brigdhe is shut, so no chance of a quick pint. So we wander around – it’s still raining and look at the wall of rock we negotiated down – takes a little while to figure out where the path goes. We walk down the little stone jetty and peer over the edge into the beautiful clear water. It’s so serene and pretty. We’re still alert for creatures. We wonder how these people get provisions – they’re 8 miles from Torridon and there doesn’t seem to be a shop. It seems quite isolated. Nice for a holiday, but to live here permanently would be a complete change of life, but it can’t be that bad as there are quite a few houses scattered around the bay (unless they’re holiday lets). We noticed that the temperature is now dropping and it’s getting chilly – so we thinks it’s time to head back to the cottage. So we drive back, hoping not to meet anything larger than a car on this narrow road and empty the car of all our damp gear. The heating system seems to be working properly, so we drape our wet kayaking clothes across the radiators to dry. At around 5pm, the rain finally gives way, the clouds lift and the mountains reveal themselves once again. Rivers and waterfalls that you couldn’t see all week, are now gushing down the mountains opposite. The power there will be incredible. Our own little gurgling stream has turned in a raging torrent and the noise is incredible. Just proves how much rain has fallen today. All very impressive. We just snuggle down.
The Moon bobs out yet again and lights up the loch. With the gentle scudding clouds, it’s just beautiful. We could sit here and watch the changing colours and scenery all day and night. Who needs a television…….?