An unlikely bit of river paddling

This was a sea-paddling trip which didn’t go to St. Kilda (owing to too much swell for the MV Cuma to gain safe anchorage in Village Bay). Instead, on one of the days, we found ourselves in heavy rain at the head of Loch Reasort on Lewis, where the Abhainn Tabhsaigh drains a wilderness of peat bog behind which lies the remotest climb in “Hard Rock”, Strone Ulladale (which we couldn’t see, in this weather).

The stream was in high spate, and just where it hit tide water, was forming a rather fine wave for us to surf on (this disappeared over the course of half an hour as the tide came in). Looking for more challenge (we were clearly not going to get out to St. Kilda in the sort of conditions we were having), I dragged my 4.9m long fibreglass sea kayak (veteran of much rock-hopping and therefore used to a bit of abuse) as far upstream as I thought I could survive a descent (sea boats not being the nimblest of craft for rocky whitewater). Fun was had…


Probably the remotest river I’ve paddled… Photo: Pete Bridgstock

It would hardly be fair to claim a first descent here – not only because I’ve not done the research to show that no-one else has been this daft, but also because there’s a lot more river than the bottom 100m that I reckoned I could manage in a sea kayak.


Cockpit view from probably about the same place as Pete’s photo

However, getting here with a river boat would be a bit of a mission – we arrived on a motor vessel (the MV Cuma, of Island Cruising), which could only get about halfway up the Loch, so we had to paddle a few kilometres to reach the top. The carry in up the moor would be epic in the sort of weather required, and it does look as though it is one of those rivers that would be up and down in a flash, so knowing when to be here would be problematical. The other river draining into the loch at the same point had already dropped off (and was occupied by two fishermen).


Looking down the final section to the sea – I paddled from behind the big boulder on the right