After years of contemplating, researching and waiting 2022 became the year that I completed themuch fabled Knoydart SUP circuit!
Where is Knoydart?
Knoydart is a pennisula at the same latitude as the isle of Skye, it is only accesible by water (a ferry, sea kayak, SUP, Canoe) or a heroic walk in over a few days. It is rugged, and its quintessential Scottish. The pennisula was part of community by-out a few years ago.
The pennisula is now run by the Knoydart Foundation, for the benefit of the community. My plan was to take the ferry to Inverie, the community hub of the Knoydart Pennisula. The Ferry arrived, and after loading on all the supplies for the penisula we all went aboard. The ferry cruised out of Mallaig, on the North of Morar Pennisula and then took a right turn to head up Loch Nevis, we were surrounded by tall mountains on either side of the Loch, eventually we spotted Inverie, and slowed down to come along side. Before we could disembark we had to unload the boat, all the passengers then formed a chain to unload packages ranging from amazon deliveries to bycycles!
After a short pitstop at the newly revamped Old Forge Inn, we carried on until the Knoydart Bunkhouse, where we had booked in for a night! We then had a hearty pint back at the pub, before planning the next days expeditions!
Day 2: To Tarbet
Due to the inclement weather we opted to take the ferry to Tarbet. The ferry left at 3pm, so this gave us time to explore the Pennisula. We booked onto the Ranger guide at 11am, the ranger took took us around the community and over the back end of the moutain, and explained the flora and fauna of the area. He also explained the community set up to try to keep the community sustainable, and try to love towards less dependency on the main land, obviously this is difficult to manage in the harsh conditions of West Scotland. What was impressive was his love of the community, and the drive to give back. After a very interesting tour of the Pennisula, we then headed to Ferry wharf.
The ferry was empty as we headed to Tarbet, heading towards the next pennisula we knew we had made the right decisions as the wave after wave of rain squalls passed over. After a boat-to-boat transfer just outside Tarbet, we then boarded a semi rigide, who dropped us off at a very slippy slip way. We then started loading up, and heading over the pass to the other side of range. The plan was to walk up and over the pass to hit Loch Morar, to make camp before sunset.
After an hour hike over the pass we hit a split in the path, we had the decision to head straight down to Loch Morar, or continue along the ridge to hit a beach that was located beside an estate, called Swordland, a lodge that was used as training school STS 23b during the Second World War by the Special Operations Executive. We found out that we had walked too far along the ridge, at this point we were forced to head down to the beach by Swordland. After asking the land owner for permission, we settled in on a beach right on the Loch Morar. After making camp, and enjoying a beer, we enjoyed the sun set over the mountains. By this time the weather and wind had calmed right down to give an almost still night. The stars were incredible and probably the most beautiful stars that we had both seen.
The next morning we woke early to inflate our Itiwit 12’6″ tourer boards. The reason I use these is because they are incredible stable boards, they are capable of carrying up to 120 KG. Even when carrying this load they can downwind and upwind effortlessly. I also used the Itiwit 3 Piece Carbon Paddle. Again a cracking piece of equipment for Decathlon. For value for money I also recommend Decathlon, whats more they take their research and development seriously.
After inflating the paddleboards, we set off around 6.30am, this was to take advantage of the light winds. The aim of the paddle was to head straight up to Morar, where we had parked one of our cars. Loch Morar is a Loch that lies from West to East, along a fault line, it measures 17 KM and at some points it is more than 300 m deep. The loch is best known for being the deepest body of fresh water in the United Kingdom (and the third deepest in Europe).
It is surrounded by mountains therefore it is very protected from all Northly winds, winds which we had on that day. We paddled straight for islands that are found at the westerly end of Loch Morar. We paddled on the Northern side of the Loch to protect ourselves from the winds, the SUP journey on Morar was magical, with calm waters, and not a person in site.
After 3 hours of SUP paddling we reached the islands, and stopped for break. These islands are heavily wooded and are dotted with golden sand beaches, so spending a day on Loch Morar means you could have your own island all to yourself! We were SUP paddling on Loch Morar in Stalking season, and had the misfortune to get caught up in cross fire, so make sure you check out the stalking programme before you head into the hills! Also on show are (other) red deer, sea eagles, golden eagles, and otters! So keep an eye out for these animals! We covered about 10 KM in the morning, and by 12PM we were finished. Giving us plenty of time to head back into Mallaig to get a fish supper, and then head to the singing sands of Morar to make camp and take an afternoon nap!
I am planning on running this trip in 2023. However, the trip is very flexible, it will run, but if the weather is not on our side, then we will be taking the ferry to Tarbet, which in my opinion is a better option as this part of the circuit is not the most interesting. In 2023 we will take the ferry to Tarbet, and make camp, before exploring the upper reaches of Loch Nevis. This part would take a day, before heading over the pass to Loch Morar, to paddle back to Morar. Whats more if the wind is in the opposite direction then we will start at Morar and end at Mallaig. The trip is for intermediate paddlers, who are capable of pushing themselves slightly. A good sense of adventure is definetly needed. For more information head to our page===> Knoydart SUP Circuit
If you are looking to increase your skills in Wild Paddling then come along to the Wild Women SUP Symposium held in September, this is the perfect time to develop your paddle skills!