Journey to the centre of the universe…
..or at least to the only island on a loch on an island on a loch in the UK… which is close enough in my mind!
A few weeks ago I got an email newsletter from Walkhighlands with a post on freshwater lochs. In there I found the nugget of gold dust that formed into an idea for our next adventure. As soon as I saw we could visit the only island on a lake on an island on a lake I knew we had to go… that, and it looking pretty spectacular too!
The loch was Loch Maree which is in the North West of Scotland. It is on the North side of the Torridon mountains, and has about 30 islands on it, mainly stretching in a line from about 1km north of Slattadale carpark. It is a pretty big loch, being about 3 km wide and just a bit under 20 km long so preparation and a good weather forecast are essential. Having said that, it is only about a 500m stretch which is truly exposed from the prevailing wind, before you can reach the shelter of the islands.
Our island adventure day started brilliantly, with perfect calm conditions after a beautiful sunrise, which we got to watch from our campervan. We set off with woolly hats on and food packed. A short time later we approached the first islands and gently started to meander our way down the south side of the island chain. We got mixed up between two of the islands – Garbh Eilean and Eilean Subhainn, our target island, but the short hop over a sandbar to cross the one island only added to the adventure.
As we approached Eilean Subhainn, we looked out for our first stop – an access point into the largest loch on the island. Depending on water level this may be a straightforward paddle in, but in our case we had to get out and lead the boat up the stream between the two. From there we paddled along the smaller, weed infested lake until we reached the far end, and our landing point.
Finally we were in the position to walk about 75m north, to reach the mythical loch with the island on it. It turns out that the island may not have been the centre of the universe, but was definitely an adventure, and a great place to visit. As always, the journey is as exciting as the destination, so we really relished our trip, feeling like explorers finding our way around uncharted islands and our son was talking like a pirate.
After our return to the boat, we gently paddled back out to the main loch and began exploring the north sides of the islands. Threading our way back and forth between the islands we started looking for a fun beach. Being in a sandstone area, sandy beaches are fairly common on these islands, so we picked a good looking one and stopped to draw some dinosaurs, crocodiles and other sea animals in the sand which our son loved.
We gently made our way back towards the van, taking our time and looking for a good spot for lunch. There were still a few midges about so we chose a rock island quite a way from vegetation to minimise the chances of being food whilst eating ours!
We eventually got back to the van about 5 hours after we set off – probably a record for us with our son in the canoe. We will be back for sure in the near future, and may look for a wildcamping spot nearby. The islands are a national nature reserve – we saw Golden Eagles circling overhead when we were there – so some sensitivity is important. In fact this is clearly the norm, as we didn’t see any evidence of fire scars, which is such a common eyesore around Scottish lochs.
- Loch Maree is located between Kinlochewe and Gairloch
- There is easy loch shore access at the Forestry Commission carpark at Slattadale http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/visit/slattadale
- The car park has picnic benches and toilets and would be well worth visiting in its own right
- Loch Maree is pretty big so please watch the weather and be prepared
- The islands are a national nature reserve, so should be treated with care, particularly around bird nesting season etc
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