Thursday, June 24, 2021

29th April 2021 #5 Some hellish weather in Loch Hourn with some paradoxical dryness at Caolas an Loch Beag.

Donald had followed the north shore of Loch Hourn in his small F-Rib boat with 6HP motor. He had arrived at our intended camp site and pitched his tent before we arrived. He had just left to explore Inner Loch Hourn as we arrived. 

He didn't get far. As we approached the tidal narrows at Caolas Mor, we were hit by a violent squall from the east. Fortunately we were in the lee of the spit that nearly bisects the loch but it provided little shelter from the stinging alternate blasts of rain, sleet, hail and snow. It is just about the only time I have had to put the hood up on my dry suit. Some say the Gaelic origin* of the name Hourn means something like Loch Hell! We had hoped hell might have been a little warmer. 

* A great aunt who was a Gaelic teacher (she lived to 101 and did not learn English till she was 9), also had an interest in the literally hundreds of Gaelic place names in every small area.  These were passed on orally but are now mostly lost. She told me the most likely origin of the Anglicised Hourn was Shùirn, which among other things means flue or chimney. She thought that was because of the narrow twisting nature of the loch and she thought that maybe people associated flue with fire and fire with hell.

We pushed through the narrows against the last of the spring ebb and wind. It was clear we could go no further till the wind dropped. Even Donald in his small motor boat had been stopped by the wind. We landed on the exposed side of the spit for a rest. After the wind abated, the clouds cleared leaving the mountains behind us dusted with fresh snow. We set off for an exploration of Inner Loch Hourn.

We pressed on up the loch towards its head. We knew we could not reach Kinlochhourn at the end of the loch as it was low water springs and Loch Beag at the head of Loch Hourn nearly dries out.

The inner loch has scattered glaciated islands that mirror the shape of the mountains behind. 

We even got a couple of surprise shafts of sunlight before the wind picked up  and the... 

..the clouds and rain closed in again. It was pouring at the tidal narrows of Caolas an Loch Beag, which perhaps paradoxically, were almost dry in the spring low water. We had reached the end of our journey into the hell at the head of Loch Hourn. In the process we had discovered why this is the wettest place in Scotland.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

29th April 2021 #4 Let's do lunch at the lonesome pine of Loch Hourn.

When the squall passed the skies began to clear. This proved to be an ideal time to stop at a tidal island with a lonesome pine to sit under and...

...enjoy first luncheon in the sun. Unfortunately the squall appeared to have taken up permanent residence in inner Loch Hourn, our destination.

Refreshed by our break we continued east up the narrowing loch in a brief weather window. This of course proved to be short lived and...

... at times our view of the hills was lost completely.

We pressed on past Barrisdale Bay while fighting a head wind until...

...we took a welcome respite in the lee of some wooded islands that mark the entrance to the inner loch.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

29th April 2021 #3 Skyfall and rainfall in Loch Hourn.


As we paddled east along the south shore of Loch Hourn the mountains closed round us.

Loch Hourn is a flooded U shaped glaciated valley and in some places the mountains fall straight into the sea as here at Creag an t-Sagairt (roughly translates as pulpit rock).

On the north side of the loch, Arnisdale House was dwarfed by the foothills of Beinn Sgritheall. This was the inspiration for James Bond's ancestral home "Skyfall". It was built by Valentine Fleming, the father of Ian Fleming who wrote the James Bond books. Valentine's father was Robert Fleming who founded the eponymous investment bank. The family were not short of an odd bob (or odd job) or two.

All was deceptively quiet as we passed Eilean a' Phiobaire (Piper's Isle) but a storm was gathering. 

Within seconds the sky started to fall round our heads. The temperature plummeted as violent squalls of wind, rain, hail and sleet swept down from the high corries. We were in for a pasting.