Sunday, 21 July 2013

Pitlochry - Pump my ride

Heatwaves and high summer are not my favourite things. These last few days I’ve been more sweaty than a Sun reader taking an IQ test. It seemed the only way to escape the heat was to take to the water again in my inflatable canoe. 

I stepped off the morning train at Pitlochry and, despite it being quite early, I drew a small crowd as I pumped up the canoe. They fired lots of questions at me – how far was I going; what kind of kit was I carrying; was I an expert at this sort of thing? I must have looked to them like some sort of outdoor adventurer setting out on a big expedition. The truth was I was only going out for a few hours paddling on the sheltered waters of Loch Faskally. 

I slipped the canoe into the water and paddled away from the dam, away from my irrational fear of being sucked down inside it. I followed the long, sinuous line of the loch north. At times the black, peaty loch looked deep and bottomless but at other times the canoe glided through the shallows and I could see the sandy floor, rippled by the water and dappled by the sun. In the middle of the afternoon, when it got too hot even out on the water, I pulled the canoe out onto a little beach and wandered in the cool, shady forests. 

When I headed back towards Pitlochry late afternoon, a headwind had picked up. It created waves large enough to lift the front of the boat out of the water which makes for fast paddling. I came alongside three guys in a small, motorised fishing boat also heading back. We glanced at each other across the water. No words or signal were exchanged. We all just knew … that the race was on. I paddled like never before, fast and furious. I gave it everything I had until my arms felt like they were going to drop off. I was light and fast. They were three big blokes in a flat-bottomed boat. Their tiny motor struggled. 

In the end there was no contest. We were flying, me and my ride.

Fact File
Start/finish: Pitlochry Rail Station served by Edinburgh/Glasgow to Inverness trains.
Map: OS Landranger 53
Information: From the train station walk towards the main street but turn left before you get there, heading passed the public toilets (handy for changing into dry pants after your paddle). Cross under the railway bridge and continue passed the amusements to a car park at the lochside. There are good in/out places here and it’s less than five minutes walk from the station. I know there's somebody out there reading this and thinking "that's not a canoe, it's a kayak" which is technically true but I like the word "canoe".
Tip: If you’ve time to spare before your ride home, the new John Muir Trust place, Wild Space, is worth a visit. It’s on the main street at the junction with the road down to the station. At the moment there is a beautiful exhibition of photos of Scotland. Also a great selection of Scottish nature books for sale.


  1. Replies
    1. Keep watching ... I've just a new craft which I'm hoping to launch soon. Not as fab as a packraft but maybe bridges the gap in weight/performance. Let's see!