Guided Canoe Expedition Scotland, Inverpolly

Wilderness Canoe & mountaineering adventure

Guided canoe expedition in Scotland, Inverpolly

Wilderness Canoe & mountaineering adventure
A well earned cool down after some long days on expedition

Last autumn we launched our first guided canoe expedition through Inverpolly, Scotland. As with all our multi-day expeditions, the aim is to give clients an unforgettable experience and encourage them to fully immerse themselves in the adventure. We aim for you to reconnect with the wilderness and to explore these amazing environments. At the same time learning how to enjoy the simplicity of a journey through some breathtaking scenery.

Inverpolly Nature Reserve

Inverpolly nature reserve is located in far Northwest Scotland, just to the North of Ullapool. It is a spectacular location made up of striking mountains towering out of the landscape divided up by many Lochs and rivers. It is one of the wildest places we have been in the UK, with only a few settlements dotted around the outer edges of the reserve.

There are only a few tracks regularly walked, mainly for the pursuit of mountain climbing and bagging Munros. We think the best way to explore this unique landscape is to travel via the waterways. This trip provides good opportunities for catching the eye of some Golden Eagles, Ravens, Dippers, Red Deer, Stags, Otters and other wildlife native to the Highlands.

Wilderness Canoe & mountaineering adventure
Suilven from the west after summiting the same morning

The journey ahead…

This was a four-day trip meeting the clients in Inverness before travelling to the incredible Inverpolly nature reserve. We spent four days Canoeing and mountain climbing, managing to bag the famous peak of Suilven. We spent all three nights wild camping under the Scottish stars with some incredible weather. It was a fantastic trip with an amazing group, here’s the story of how it went…

Day 1

We started this expedition in Inverness and met up with our group for some breakfast and to discuss the coming trip. After breakfast, we spent some time collecting final supplies and packing all our equipment into dry bags and barrels. We then travelled North to Elphin, a small highland village 2 hours North West of Inverness. This is a spectacular journey through the Northern Highlands, passing through the beautiful town of Ullapool and past the famous Knockan Crag.

Once we arrived in Elphin we loaded up and transported the boats to the shores of Cam Loch, where our journey begins. It is only a short paddle to our first camp so after a short skills session, this gave the group a first chance to get the paddles wet and get used to the canoes.

Wilderness Canoe & mountaineering adventure
A majestic evening looking out to Suilven, on my first trip to Inverpolly.

After a short paddle, we arrive at our island camp, which has great mountain views, one of them being the summit of Suilven. On all our trips we aim to teach you the skills that allow you to feel comfortable in such a wild and isolated environment. After showing our group how to store the canoes, we had an explore of the island. We then taught the group how to set up camp using various wild camp setups such as bivis and hammocks.

Guided canoe expedition in Scotland
Ed demonstrating how to skin and butcher a deer in preparation for dinner

First nights festivities

We then got stuck into preparing dinner with help from our friends at the Wild Bushcraft Company, Ed Hayhurst. One of there lead instructors came with us up to Inverpolly to be our bushcraft chef expert on the trip. Dinner for the first night was venison steaks burgers, so we showed the guys how to butcher a roe deer from skinning to cooking on our hot plate. Vegetarian options are also available.

Once the main part of the butchery session was finished we had time to go over some fundamental canoe strokes and techniques. The lake was perfectly calm allowing the group great conditions to practice manoeuvring the canoes. With two instructors on hand to offer expert guidance to really help hone in their skills. Soon the sun was setting, the red deer’s rutting calls could be heard on the horizon. It was time to get back around the fire to enjoy dinner and to have a great evening of getting to know one another.

Guided canoe expedition in Scotland
Dinner on day one, delicious venison steak with current jam and salad leaves

Day 2

It’s always nice to wake up on the first morning of any wild camp with the sun shining. Waking up in a sleeping bag really helps you settle into expedition life. It is a much slower way of life than normal, giving us time to slow down and enjoy all the little things in life, like a warm cup of coffee whilst looking out on the morning Loch.

The morning routine is a fairly relaxed couple of hours where we get the fire going from the night before, start cooking breakfast and get the water boiling. We then have time to break up camp and pack up kit; finally packing the canoes and making sure the camp is left as we found it. It is then time to get stuck into the day’s journey, we always start by talking through the daily plan.

Guided canoe expeditions in Scotland
First morning at camp with Fish enjoying a warm cup of coffee

The second day is a really exciting one of adventuring, it includes journeying from Cam Loch to Loch Veyatie. This involves portaging a 10-meter waterfall making sure we catch the last river eddie. The portage is only a small one but gives a great introduction on a few good techniques of how to carry equipment over this rough terrain. Even though portaging is one of the hardest parts of expeditions, it is also one of the things that makes it a great test and challenge. Before long after multiple trips back and forth, all our equipment is packed back into the canoes on the shores of Loch Veyatie.

Guided canoe expedition in Scotland
Getting stuck into the first portage on day 2

We stop for a quick drink, snack and get the canoes ready for sailing. With a light easterly wind providing the goods we raft up the canoes, set up an improvised sail and sit back to sail the entirety of Loch Veyatie. Sailing is a great way to travel in canoes whilst conserving energy. We teach you how to raft the canoes, how to prepare the sail and also go over key elements to make it a successful journey. We end up sailing for just under two hours exploring the lake, enjoying the views and eating lunch. We soon get to our first stop, where we stretch our legs and climb a small hill to get a better look at the impressive surroundings of famous summits and lochs.

Wilderness Canoe & mountaineering adventure
Full sail mode down Loch Veyatie

Off to second nights camp

It is then time to jump back in the canoes and head for our second nights camp. The next part of the journey gets interesting where Loch Veyatie narrows to form a shallow river. This can make things pretty exciting when the easterly winds make a big swell on the lake. Once we make it safely into the river things settle down and we break off into single canoes trying to find our way through the shallow waters. Soon it gets too shallow so we have to take the boats for a walk, also known as Lining. This is great technique which allows you to keep the weight in the canoe and navigate big or small rapids safely and quickly. The river soon flows into Loch FFion where we arrive at our second nights camp.

Guided canoe expeditions in Scotland
Taking the canoes for a walk using lining techniques

Once we arrived at camp we slip into the expedition routine of setting up camp, collecting firewood and getting the fire going. Before long we are preparing dinner whilst enjoying the views and good company around the fire. This camp consisted of tarping off of our canoes on rivers banks.

Wilderness Canoe & mountaineering adventure
Ed stirring a creamy sun dried tomato sauce to go with some fire smoked butterflied salmon

Day 3

A windy and early start to the day, the group soon got up once the smell of fresh coffee was wafted around. We had a busy day ahead, the morning’s plan was to climb Suilven from camp. Then the afternoon we had a long but rewarding portage over to Loch Sionascaig where our third night camp spot awaited. After a quick breakfast, we set off up the impressive Suilven.

Suilven is a very striking mountain standing alone amongst a sea of lochs, there are only a handful of ways to hike to the top as it is incredibly steep all the way around. We head up the South facing slope, which starts picking out a track through the boggy heather. Soon leading to the steeper slopes where we made our way to the top of the ridge. Once on the ridge you then gain another spectacular view of this incredible landscape. We then make our way westwards along the ridge soon getting to the summit.

Guided canoe expeditions in Scotland
Conquering to the summit of Suilven

Once we enjoyed the views we made our way back down. It didn’t take long to make our way down the mountain and back to camp where Ed had prepared lunch for us. We spent an hour to enjoy lunch and have a little rest and finish packing the boats ready for the afternoon’s portage.

The afternoon’s portage was a long one, just over three-kilometres across very boggy and rough heather ground. The aim of portage is to choose the easiest route overland to connect the Lochs. This portage consists of two long walking sections broken up with two small Lochens to allow a bit of ease in the middle. To complete it we break it up into lots of legs, shuttling equipment back and forth in various loads, with tea breaks in between. Soon enough we set our sights on Loch Sionascaig, the end of the portage. Our group did an amazing job and we tackled the portage in an incredibly quick time of about 2 hours, where it normally takes 3 to 4 hours. A Lot of gym memberships on this trip.

Wilderness Canoe & mountaineering adventure
The team working hard to tackle the long portage

Once we had a good rest and packed the canoes for the last time that day. We set off on the final leg aiming for our nights camp on the Eilean Mor, a beautiful island in the middle of the Loch.

Wilderness Canoe & mountaineering adventure
The beautiful Eilean Mor, with stormy skies just about to clear

This was our final night in the highlands and it turned into an absolute banger. The skies cleared and the winds dropped as we arrived on the island, giving us a stunning evening sun, along with a peaceful loch. This made it perfect for a quick swim to wash away the days’ efforts. The group arrived to a set up basecamp. Ed and Ant had raced ahead to get the camp ready so the group could enjoy their final evening. We ate a delicious venison stew using the offcuts from our first night, this ensured we used all of the meat of the sustainably hunted doe.

Post dinner, we climbed the small hill of the island to watch the sunset and await the coming star soaked sky. The evening was then spent reflecting on goals accomplished, individually and together.

The group tucking into the delicious venison stew on their final night

Day 4

The fourth day of the expedition was an early start, with a quick breakfast to allow us to pack and have the camp clear ready to leave by 8am. The final leg of the journey is normally a steady paddle to Boat Bay. This day was far from that, overnight the wind had picked up causing some very choppy conditions. This made the final leg of the trip very exciting! We rafted up the canoes, decided on a plan and went for it. With some strong consistent paddling, we soon made it to the shelter of Boat Bay, where we completed our final small portage. We arrived back at the vehicles and after some high fives and hugs our journey was at an end. We enjoyed a slap-up meal at a cosy pub in Inverness and back to the busy world. We would like to congratulate our clients on this trip for their true grit and positive attitudes from start to finish.

Guided canoe expedition in Scotland

How to book your next adventure

We make our expeditions specific to every groups needs and expectations. Tailor building them so we can achieve goals set by the clients. You can book as a private group or look for trips already running and meet some new people along the way. These trips typically run in spring and autumn to avoid those pesky famous scottish midges.

Email us: hello@beardedmenadventures.com

If you would like more insight into these trips go to our youtube channel and watch the Adventurer also, check out our product page.

A Scottish wilderness canoe adventure, Loch Awe 2019

Scottish wilderness canoe adventure

A Scottish wilderness canoe adventure, Loch Awe 2019

Scottish wilderness canoe adventure
Jason getting his pose on in the princess seat.

At the end of September, we took our first group on The Whisky Explorer trip to Oban for a four-day Scottish wilderness canoe adventure exploring the beautiful shores of Loch Awe. Altogether there were 4 clients, 1 photographer and 2 fuzzy faced canoe guides leading the way. Here is the story of how it all went.

Day 1 

Glasgow to Oban

We started the trip in Glasgow picking the lads up at their accommodation in the city centre. They had all travelled up the day before and stayed overnight ready for an early pickup. Once picked up we head out of the city north-west towards the coastal town of Oban. This took us about 2 hours driving through the scenic highlands giving us a taste of the adventure to come.

We arrived at the busy coastal town of Oban at 11 am and picked up some lunch before going to the Oban distillery ready for our tour at 12pm. The tour was expertly lead by our guide, who educated us on all aspects of making their famous whiskey. It really was an interesting tour, ending in the tasting room. Here we sampled three different bottles, with the Oban 14-year-old being my favourite. They even gave the drivers a tasting travel drams for later in the evening. After the tour, we passed through the shop buying a couple of bottles for the trip. It was then time to get back on the road. Our Scottish wilderness, canoe adventure was about to begin.

Starting our Scottish wilderness canoe adventure

We start at the north-west corner of Loch Awe and park at a road lay-by. Here we make our final preparations before loading and launching the canoes to start our expedition. To start with we go over canoe tandem essentials to get everyone paddling in the same direction. Then with the light winds blowing in the direction of our journey, we paddle off into the expansive waters of Loch Awe. It is only a short paddle to our first nights’ wild camp on one of the beautiful black Island’s in the middle of the loch.

Scottish wilderness canoe adventure
First nights campsite on one of the northern black islands of Loch Awe

We circle to look for the best camp spot. Once happy we land the canoes and start the evening routine of setting up camp. There are a few things to do before everyone can settle around the fire. The camp set-up involves: collecting wood; setting up your bivy; identifying a toilet location; starting a fire and setting up the group shelter.

These are all simple tasks once you know what to do, which we guide guests through every step of the way. Once camp is set up we got stuck into making dinner, on this trip it was chicken & sweet potato curry.

It’s always a nice group activity to help relax around the fire. Once dinner is cooking, we have some time to explore the small island and have a play in the canoes. The rest of the evening is spent around the fire getting to know each other and discussing tomorrows route, whilst enjoying the stars on a wonderfully clear night.

Scottish wilderness canoe adventure
The evening view from camp one on Loch Awe.

Day 2

Morning routine on the Loch

We wake to birds singing and a crisp still lake.

I always start my day with a little walk to wake up before uncovering the embers from the night before to get the fire going again. Food and drink are such an important aspect to any expedition, breakfast being the most important meal of the day! I get the water boiling and find my wooden spoon to get stirring the porridge. Soon everyone is up filling their cup and tucking into the delicious banana and honey porridge.

We then go about packing up camp which involves; packing up our bivvy; cleaning and packing the food equipment away; loading the canoes; doing a litter sweep; and finally making sure the fire is properly put out.

It was time then to launch the boats for our first full day on the water.

Scottish wilderness canoe adventure

A Long days paddle on Loch Awe

It was a still day again with light winds which makes for a very glassy lake. The weather always the aspect that dictates how the day’s paddle will go.

This day was very much about perfecting our tandem forward paddle technique and our J- stroke. We spent the day exploring the lakes and bays of Loch awe.

It was a peaceful day chatting away to our canoe partner, spotting interesting things on the horizon; washing our socks and underwear and generally taking in this spectacular environment. Every now and then stopping to explore or having some lunch.

Just after lunch we felt a breeze and thought we would give sailing a go. Unfortunately, once we had put up the sail it wasn’t to be, the wind had completely dropped. So we derigged and carried on paddling south towards our second nights camp.

Anthills on second nights wild camp.

True wilderness

We arrived late afternoon at our second nights camp, on the west shore close to the little island of Innis Errich, we found an absolute beauty.

Everyone got straight into the launching routine, and soon enough camp was set up. Whilst looking for a suitable bivvy camp, we came across an impressively big ant colony. With further inspection, we discovered interconnecting ant tracks throughout the forest. 

As it was such a long day paddling, some of the group wanted a wash so went for a quick swim, followed by drying off by the fire.

Dinner time soon arrived and as normal, the group got stuck in to helping out, soon enough we had the beef stew bubbling away over the fire. 

One of the lads going for a swim.

Whilst we waited for the stew to thicken it was time for the famous Mike Robbinson whiskey tasting quiz. This involved us getting into pairs, we had a selection of 5 different whiskeys to sample.

Mike would read a tasting description note and we would have to match our whiskey too. It went down a storm with lots of wrong answers but plenty of laughs. Soon enough the Stew was ready to chow down on and we continued sipping whiskey into the night.

Scottish wilderness canoe adventure
Sipping whiskey by the fire.

Day 3

It was a still and cloudy start to the day with a light breeze. I always love waking up in my hammock and peaking out to predict what the day will hold. On this morning I sensed a bit of wind in the air, which always gets me looking forward to the day.

This camp spot felt nice and wild, no noise pollution just the sounds of the forest and birds singing with the trees swaying in the wind, definately worth the journey.

A glassy Loch Awe, with the porridge cooking away.

It was a slow morning as we didn’t have a huge distance to paddle. Along with the possibility of some wind, we decided to have a relaxed morning. So after breakfast, we spent a couple of hours coaching the group on their canoe paddle skills which went down a treat.

Let’s go sailing

The wind picked up and we got on our way heading south again to our final camp. It was nice few hours spent paddling, sailing, navigating and exploring a few more tiny islands before arriving at the final camp. Once we launch the group jumped right to the normal routine to get the group camp ready for the evening. It is great to become part of a team whilst out on an expedition. It happens so naturally everybody getting stuck into the various task with smiles and a look of content.

The final evening was spent eating sausages, sipping whiskey and laughing into the night. We reminisced on the past few days, a great end to another wonderful Scottish canoe trip.

Scottish wilderness canoe adventure
Mike looking very content next to the fire.

Day 4

The final day of this Scottish wilderness canoe adventure is always a bittersweet affair, but there is always another trip on the horizon to look forward too.

On the last day, we start early to have time for breakfast, break camp and get the vehicles packed ready to depart for Glasgow. This leaves time to get everyone back to Glasgow for 1 pm, so they can carry on with the journeys. We say our goodbyes leaving with great memories. 

Reflections

Another great trip with a really top bunch of lads. It was a pleasure spending 4 days in the highlands. The weather was very calm for us which made for a relaxed and comfortable trip, with my personal highlights being;

  • The discovery of a new wild camp on the second night, and exploring the ant Colony – definitely a first.
  • The amazing whiskey tasting quiz that Mike put together for us and the many laughs we had.

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If you would like to find out more about our Scottish wilderness canoe Adventures or the Whiskey Explorer click on the links.

Finally here’s a short video of from the trip The Whiskey Explorer video

Whisky, canoeing and wild camping

Whisky, canoe and wild camping

Scottish whisky & canoeing expedition
First nights campsite on one of the northern islands of Loch Awe

A 4-day Scottish whisky & canoeing expedition, paddling on the stunning Loch Tay. This canoeing adventure lets you explore the great wilderness Scotland has to offer. We will take you on exhilarating days on the loch, wild camp in stunning locations.  You will eat great food cooked on the fire and explore some of Scotlands finest whisky. With at least one trip to a local distillery.

Day 1 – Scottish whisky & canoeing expedition

After the first meeting at the pickup point, we start the adventure with a visit to a local distillery. Tullibardine Distillery is located just off the A9. Here we enjoyed the tour and tried a few drams. The next stop is the entry point for our journey. Our first task is organising the equipment and packing the boats ready for departure. The first days paddle to camp was a short one focusing on getting used to tandem canoeing. The evening was spent setting up camp making a cosy place to sleep. Then lighting the fire getting it ready to cook dinner on.  Most evenings are spent exploring the local area, sharing stories and sipping whisky to see us through the night.

Scottish whisky & canoeing expedition
The boys at the Tullibardine Distillery.

Day 2

The morning start is a regular routine of cooking breakfast, drinking coffee. Once warmed up we break camp and get ready for the next leg of our journey. The day is spent on the lake exploring the shores and inlets of the Loch. As well as developing our canoe skills and techniques. We will teach all there is to know about expedition paddling. From paddle strokes, trim, sailing and navigation. By the end of the trip, you will leave a more confident open water paddler.

Throughout the day we stop to explore the lakeside, try catching fish and generally see what the weather has in store for us. Once at camp we go through a similar routine as the first night. Each night there will be workshops on bush and survival skills. With activities such as whittling to play with throughout the evenings.

Scottish whisky & canoeing expedition
The boys on the lake making our way to camp.

Day 3

The third day will be much like the previous, giving you a chance to lose yourself in the wilderness. Getting fully emersed in the adventure with your friends. You will have time to hone your skills on the water, and while at camp. Feeding on the years of experience our staff have gained to guide and teach you all the way.

Day 4

The last day is always bittersweet for me, it is sad to be finishing the expedition.  However, Its always great to have a shower followed by heading to the local Inn for meal and pint. Once we have broken camp, we arrive be back at the start point around noon. We then head to another local distillery to pick up a souvenir. On our last night, we visit the local tavern sharing stories our trip and dancing the night away to a local Kaley.

Scottish whisky & canoeing expedition
Preparing the stew for the evenings’ meal

The Whisky Explorer

The trip has taken on a new name “The Whisky Explorer“. It is also now mainly run on Loch Awe near the west coast close to Oban. If you would like to see what this trip look like watch our video or check out the latest blog.