Scotland in September
by Pete Ball
Having travelled to the area on Friday afternoon in order to look at some of the rivers near to Pitlochry, we soon realised that there was very little water about. The Braan had only a trickle but it's definitely on the list for next time. It's one of a number of very small rivers threatened by applications for new small hydro schemes to which many paddlers are objecting.
A plan was hatched on Friday evening as other paddlers arrived and met at the pub, gradually squashing the original owners of a long table to one end as we endeavoured to keep them entertained with our enthusiastic banter.
High up in the valley the Garbh Ghaoir drains water from Rannoch Moor, a large catchment area. It's a warm hike across the moor and paddle through lochs to look for the start of the river and it was only at this point that we could see that it, too, was at a very low level. A railway bridge signals the first major rapid and the size of the boulders made it virtually impassable to canoes. The presence of anglers in the pool below meant that we had a long carry round in order not to disturb their day. The Scottish Access Code allows canoeists to paddle at any time of year but we must also respect other river users and being unable to pass quietly down the river, we had to do so by land. By the time we reached the get-out, the breathability of our waterproofs had been pushed to the limit and rumours of a new sport of kayak-hiking or river-rambling were being mooted. With stunning scenery a return trip is on the cards to this remote and craggy river.
The afternoon found us on the waters of the Tay, part of our group paddling the river from Aberfeldy, the rest driving to meet up at Grandtully slalom site, finishing a long day with well earned white water and smiles all round.
The town was buzzing on Saturday evening, the Pitlochry Games had evidently been a huge success and we heard about the nineteen pipe bands and of tossing the Kaber from other visitors at the Moulin Inn. Good food and micro-brewed beer rounded off the day before a short walk back to our hostel overlooking the town.
Sunday saw us inspecting the Tummel which was at a superb medium level. The small road following the valley was busy with rafting companies' transport, but it makes for easy access to most of the river, which helped us with bank support. Once on the water it felt longer than its reported 4km, with inspection and safety cover at some of the rapids. We were overtaken by three rafts on the first major rapid and paddled Saw tooth rapid which was walked round by the rafters due to a nasty sharp rock in the middle of the main flow (found by at least one of our kayaks).
We enjoyed this river and the weekend as a whole which had a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Thanks to Andy, Claire, Clive, Penny and her mates from Durham, Dave, Des, Mark, Steve and Tom for a great trip.
Article copyright © Pete Ball 2007; Video copyright © Andy Waddington 2007
Thanks to Pete for organising that weekend and contributing his write-up, in which he modestly neglects to mention that he was the only one of us brave enough to run the impressive Linn of Tummel waterfall at the end.