The plan was to take our new Intex Challenger K1 kayaks out on Loch Lomond to visit Inchcailloch island for our first trip in them together. When we arrived at Balmaha though the water was looking pretty choppy, too choppy for a couple of amateur kayakers using inflatable kayaks so we decided to head to nearby Aberfoyle and look for another spot that might be more sheltered. Having tested out the kayaks on Loch Ard very briefly a few weeks back, I thought it would be a good idea to go back there since I was already comfortable with the area and being a much smaller loch it would hopefully be calmer waters for Dyan and I to practice on.
Starting from the west side of the loch, next to Kinlochard Village Hall, we decided to head for the small island of Eilean Gorm as it was only half a mile of paddling away. I love visiting small islands like this, and this one really was small at only 200 metres in length but even at that size it still has its own bothy!
The water here was quite calm so it gave us the perfect chance to get used to our kayaks in a comfortable environment without having to battle the wind and waves of Loch Lomond. I hadn’t been out as far as the island last time I was at Loch Ard so I fancied paddling all around it to find a suitable spot for going ashore. Once we reached the south side of the island though, the wind started to pick up making it a lot harder to paddle into so it was decided that we would turn back around to stay protected from the wind on the north side.
As we came back around to the north side, we passed the small bay where the bothy sits and came across some rocks jutting out into the water. As far as I know, with any normal kayak you could run it straight ashore onto a beach but our inflatable kayaks have a skeg (or fin) underneath at the back which gets in the way if trying to launch or land on shallow waters. These rocks sticking out by some deeper water then would be perfect for us to get close to the island and hop out our kayaks without getting our feet wet unnecessarily. Upon reaching the rocks, we found a wee gap in them that was the perfect size to fit a kayak in, which made hopping out and onto the shore that bit easier. It’s as if it was made just for us!
Once safely ashore we made sure the kayaks were on dry land too as we didn’t fancy them drifting away leaving us with a swim back to the car. We then had a wee wander around the island and were surprised to see how well worn the tracks were for such a small place. I wouldn’t have guessed it was a popular destination but the well worn tracks say otherwise. The bothy, although small in size was in fairly good condition, a lot better than one we stopped at on the West Highland Way recently. Along with the bothy, there was plenty of space to camp in relative comfort under the shelter of large trees and away from the shore. It might be somewhere I take a trip back to again with the tent one night soon.
After taking a break on a small bay on the east side side of the island, it was time to head back home. Our little rocky section was once again perfect for launching us back into the loch and we were on our way back in slightly wilder conditions. I tried to push the kayak a bit more here to see how stable it really is. Paddling as fast as I could into and across the waves it really did hold up well. Sure, the water was splashing up all over me at times but I guess that’s to be expected! I can’t say I’d be entirely confident taking it out on the sea yet unless it was very calm and I was sticking to the shore but for small lochs when you’re never too far from land, this is a very fun and easy to use kayak.
The sun was out and Ben Lomond was in view behind the nearby forests as we made our way back to the small jetty of concrete blocks at Kinlochard. Not that there was any need for me to use the jetty as I was completely soaked along with my trainers that I was storing on the front which took the brunt of the waves and splashes. It was only a small trip covering less than two miles but now that I’m comfortable with the kayak and have learned the basics I’ve got a feeling it will give me a lot of fun and joy in future as I find more beautiful and exciting places to take it for longer journeys.