Towards the end of October, with a spell of several months working away from home looming, I was keeping an eye on the weather charts for a day of settled weather to go paddling. A forecast day of very light winds and dry conditions looked ideal, so Allan and I discussed where we might go. The simple choice would have been the Moray Firth, but the autumn colours blazing across Scotland tempted us to look for a location to combine a day paddle with the autumnal trees.
Our choice was Loch Laggan, a fresh water loch a couple of hours drive from home. I've paddled here before in autumn when the colours were at their best..... we hoped for something similar. Actually this was the second freshwater loch I'd paddled in a couple of weeks - but more about the other one in a future post.
Grey and misty weather on the drive across wasn't greatly encouraging, but the mist was beginning to break up as we unloaded our boats by the roadside just west of the car park for Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve. The comparatively dry summer had resulted in quite low water levels, as a result the carry was quite a bit longer than I remembered!
Conditions were rapidly improving as we started out, initially heading southwest along the northern shore under a vast cloudscape. The A86 road runs close to the shore, but for almost the entire length of the loch is hidden from the water and we were hardly conscious of it.
The mist broke up rapidly to give views up to some of Creag Meagaidh's southern corries above woods of birch, oak and rowan. Warm sunshine began to light the scene and we were soon thinking about removing a layer of clothing.
Quite suddenly, the breeze died completely to leave very calm water - with no coastal swell the change was rapid and noticeable. Ahead we had a long view down Glen Spean to the distant Grey Corries. Kayaking on freshwater lochs may lack some of the vibrant interest of the coastal environment, but being surrounded by mountains does offer a great perspective.
We arrived at the southwestern end of the loch and landed on a large, flat beach criss-crossed with the tracks of deer, herons and geese - but devoid of human footprints. We found a spot of grass to sit on and took first luncheon while enjoying the views along the length of the loch and across to Creag Meagaidh's outlier spurs. We were in no hurry at all, the pleasant weather and the view suited the relaxed pace of the day perfectly.
Leaving the beach we started back along the southern shore of the loch, which has an estate track but no public road. The colours in some of the Birch trees were absolutely stunning.
Allan is a keen motorcyclist and had recently done a long route across the Highlands including circuits of several lochs. He pointed out that in the vast majority of cases the main roads pass along the north shores of lochs while the southern shores have minor roads, if there's any road at all. We speculated that this might be due to the north shores getting more sunlight in the winter, so being snow-free for longer than the southern shores which would be in shade?
While we were reflecting on the geography of Highland roads, we were treated to some superb reflections right alongside our boats - it seemed a shame to disturb the effect with the ripples from our boats!