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.