A merry band of students and ex-students from Southampton (and one hanger-on from Warwick) made their merry way to merry Scotland in April 2005 for a jolly old time. Thinking about it now, it is actually a surprise anybody got there at all. With lactose boy choosing roundabout exits to take us back the way we’d just come, football fans deciding that the motorway was the best place to park for the England game, the van voicing it’s displeasure by locking itself with the keys inside and Rich Hill deciding that the pin at the top of the rev counter was a target rather than a limit, it was a pleasant surprise to find ourselves a while later in a bunkhouse with beds for all and enough alcohol to douse the Mountbatten building.
Sailors wile away the time talking about weather fronts, gardeners chat excitedly about the current rise in aphid population and paddlers chat about the river levels. It’s just the way the world spins. But BOY did we do river level chat with a vengeance! The lack of water was a constant issue for the week in question and this meant hunting far and wide for rivers with enough water to float our boats (so to speak). Books and oracles were consulted, wise men were called up from retirement and every inch of paved road was used to get us to rivers worth making up stories about when we got home. In the end the people in the know managed to find enough fantastic rivers to keep us amused for the whole week.
The Spean Gorge provided a good start to the week enabling us all to get used to the local water temperature (some more intimately than others) a few to try out their skills on a brand new river and Louise to use her first aid knowledge and florescent jacket. The Findhorn was a drive worthy of a TV documentary but possibly the best river of the week containing lots of interesting sections that were testing and tons of fun – and new to almost everyone. Other rivers tickling our cheese and pickle sandwiches during the week were the Arkaig (slow, pretty, river polo, bridge jumping), Lower Tummel (bimble, one good drop, dam that should have been releasing), Tay (‘elite’ group, rafting, smallest waves in the world), Gary (raft dodging, play spots galore, river shuttle, dam that was releasing!) and the Etive (classic river, steep drops). The play wave at Falls of Lora also provided much enjoyment for both the participants (being an awesome wave with huge play potential) and the spectators (because the swirly water demons lurking after the wave were out in force with particular eyes for Palm and Tim!)
Even with all this excitement during the day there was still time to enjoy the evenings and it goes without saying that many of the highlights of the week weren’t river related or remembered by many of the instigators. The keg of bitter and local pub provided respites from the usual beer and wine but all varieties contributed to some good times and unpleasant photos.
Scotland offers much more besides incredible rivers and some of us took full advantage. Ben Nevis was climbed, Tea shops were frequented, rugby balls were thrown (Chris disapproved), Diaries were written in (Chris approved) and climbing walls and restaurants were visited to get the most out of the short time available. It was a fantastic week that contained many more memorable events than can be told over dinner so I suggest you find someone who was there, allow them tell you some tall tales and then sign up for the coming Scotland trip to experience the highland water for yourself.