2012 RIVER TAY EASTER
THE ADVENTURE DOLPHIN 2012 RIVER TAY EASTER EGGSTRAVAGANZA
“Camping in Scotland, in April?” I laughed.
“Yes,” said Boothy. “It’s an Easter Egg hunt, in canoes.”
“All right then,”
And it was all right. It was more than all right in fact. Even if I didn’t find that many Easter eggs (I think it was a ruse to get me there). The plan was to start at the top of Loch Tay and paddle all the way to Perth where the river Tay meets the North Sea: 70 km? A goodly distance anyway that would take us several days.
Loch Tay itself brought all the vagaries of open water: hugging the shore as we battled headwinds, interesting navigation and then with a wind change, the most brilliant sailing. If you’ve ever practiced knocking up a tarp/pole/canoe catamaran and wondered if it’s worth it, trust me it is. With a force 4 wind filling the tarp, we belted down that loch.
At Kenmore, which boasts the oldest pub in Scotland, the loch becomes the River Tay. It’s pretty with straight forward grade 1 and 2 water down to Aberfeldy. With a good flow though, we moved at a decent speed but not so fast that we couldn’t enjoy the fragrant spring flowers flowers along the bank. From Aberfeldy the rapids become a little more defined, with flatter water in between. But not flat flat; there was always a good flow to keep the spirits up.
The first significant rapids were at Grandtully. Slalom poles and an exciting roar of water alert you to the Grade 3 fun ahead. Having paddled something like 30km in one day (it seemed a good idea at the time), and as we were camping at Grandtully, a number of us decided to save the rapid for another day. Despite the rain we’d had, the river level was still low and I for one was too tired to do technical things like avoiding rocks and squeezing through narrow gaps.
The Scottish Canoe Union campsite at Grandtully is handy with good clean facilities. Tight security meant having to remember key codes for the loos at ungodly hours which, along with the heavy overnight rain, made for bleary paddlers the next morning but the Scottish porridge fairies put things right and we were soon back on the water.
Heavy rain on the hills had finally flowed down to us and Grandtully Rapid looked much more fun the next morning: bigger and bouncier. The lowest drop proved to be the most interesting in terms of most swimmers. The line wasn’t straight forward so we despatched Boothy to try different variations, which proved excellent spectator sport.
The next stretch of river was, shall we say, good for practicing efficient forward paddling.
And so on to Stanley. The fun begins at Campsie Linn – a confused bit of water even in low water, with boils and whirlpools and all sorts of hydraulic shenanigans to catch the unwary. Experienced paddlers would love this in bigger water and it is a very popular playspot.
The fun continues down through a series of weirs that need inspecting until the final whoosh flattens the river again down to Perth. I vaguely remember fishermen standing in large eddies like herons but remember more the salmon that were jumping out and laughing at them. And from here on in we were on a mission: partly to get to Perth and a cake shop, but also, as we were passing the Palace of Scone, there was the challenge to bring home if not THE stone of scone, A stone of scone.
The sense of achievement on completing the whole river left us all glowing smugly. We had made such excellent progress there had been time for a little sight seeing and partaking of Scottish culture and hospitality. Someone asked me what the weather had been like: good, bad? It was Scotland: we had every kind of weather from sleet through to burning sunshine. Camping was a little cold but good food and company more than made up for it. It was a great way to spend the Easter Break – not quite the same distance as the DW but definitely fewer blisters and more bounce. And the best thing? Being on the river with nothing to worry about other than when we were stopping for a snack, meant that for a whole week, we were able to forget the rest of the world and all its woes: Easter at its most eggcellent.