New Year’s Day for most people is about recovering from Christmas celebrations and making resolutions. Mine was the beginning of a four-day canoe trip in Scotland with my parents and younger sister Nellie. A promising weather forecast and a love of the wilderness prompted us to travel along Loch Morar, a fresh water lake and then Loch Nevis, a lake that leads out to the ocean.
We packed early in the morning and were ready to begin our journey by 9 o’clock. Setting out in canoes is a familiar experience for me by now. It took me no time to get into the comforting rhythm of paddling. Everything around me was so peaceful and beautiful, from the shimmering ringlets of water to the startlingly green islands dotted around. As I admired my surroundings, a pair of glorious, golden eagles flew overhead. We received a brilliant view of the majestic creatures. It was an excellent start to a fantastic trip.
The water was startling blue and many sea creatures such as starfish caught my eye. We paddled out of the bay in which we had entered the lake. Soon, Cameron Macintosh’s enviable house came into view (he’s the impresario whose works include Cats and Miss Saigon).
The stunning and unique Scottish landscape unfurled around me as we paddled in synchronicity, content with enjoying the calm silence that engulfed us. My entire family sat in one canoe, towing the other behind us. We had decided that battling against the tide and the wind in separate canoes was unrealistic.
Soon, a perfectly flat area of land with its own stony beach came into view. With the Knoydart mountains as a backdrop, the place was gorgeous and wild. The sun was completely gone by four o’clock, so we rushed to set up our tent and pile on more layers to brace ourselves for the cruel winters night that was to come.
My mum set up a brilliant fire, which we all huddled around. Pasta with meatballs made up my dad’s birthday dinner as we sang songs around the amber heat source. We toasted marshmallows and then settled into our warm sleeping bags.
The next day, I awoke to frozen seaweed, puddles and foam. We decided to travel down the lake towards a small house called a bothy in which anyone can stay. Along the way, I saw an incredible otter, who dashed along the rocks, before making eye contact with me and diving flawlessly into the water. It was a truly magical experience with a magnificent wild animal.
Once we reached the bothy, my mum spotted a herd of deer. They individually pranced down the steep hill, leaving only one visible at a time. I watched in awe as they gracefully ran across to the next mountain. Inside the bothy was dark and cosy.
Our aim was to find an island to camp on. Luckily, after hours of fun but tiring paddling, we succeeded. The stunning island we landed on truly showcased the beauty of Scotland. With startlingly green trees, golden sand and sloping hills covered with bracken, it seemed idyllic for a final night of camping. I explored the place and found two separate tire swings, which were instantly put to use.
Another delicious dinner in the form of mash, vegetables and fish ended a brilliant day. We talked and soon everyone was asleep. I lay in our tent for the final time, enjoying the sounds of water washing up against the shore and trees rustling.
Packing up the next morning had a definitive air about it. We enjoyed the tire swings for a final time, before leaving our final campsite. Our final paddle was over too quickly and I was reluctant to land.
Once I was back in the familiar arms of technology and civilisation, I missed the wildness and freedom canoeing gives me. It is truly a detox from the frantic and advancing world. Many ask me how I can enjoy such an activity. I enjoy it because it’s doing a special activity in a wild place. And to me, that is pure magic.