Lower River Orchy and Loch Awe’s Archipelago

Many a time I’ve driven past the same short section of Loch Awe on the road to and from Oban, but it has never really seemed like a place I was keen to paddle on in a hurry despite having some points of interest in the islands, castles and crannogs it possesses, elsewhere until now had trumped it for whatever reason. However, for the second weekend in a row I hooked up with Chris for a paddle and we opted for Loch Awe as a destination. The forecast was good, very good even, and we could make an interesting and varied day of it by combining a stretch of the River Orchy and Loch Awe, the former flowing in to the latter beside the impressive ruins of Kilchurn Castle.

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With the seasonally short daylight hours, we opted to start on the river at Dalmally rather than higher up, this would give us a short river paddle with good views over to the Cruachan hills as well as the interest of the river paddle itself before heading on to the more open space of the loch, with views all around and interest in the islands a short journey to the southwest. We had left one car by the castle where we would finish paddling for the day.

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The river this low down has hardly any rapids, just a couple of small ones, but our pace was definitely aided by the flow in a few places and on slower stretches we could drift along and spin about taking in the view in front of and behind us.

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Soon enough, we rounded a corner giving us our first glimpse of the loch itself. Ahead, our path widened out revealing nicely wooded hillsides to the right and the impressive ruins of Kilchurn Castle to the left, between them a distant layer of mist sat above the loch, and our target, the islands, seemed to sit just beneath this.

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Easy paddling in still conditions had us pass by the village of Lochawe, gaining a new perspective on the place to that which you get on passing through on the busy road running through it. Previously unseen buildings by the shore and higher up on the hill reveal themselves from this angle and they must enjoy great views over the loch.

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We arrived at the islands just in time for a well earned lunch. We stopped first on Fraoch Eilean, which has the ruins of a castle on it and we ate here and explored the place for a while. Our landing spot had some blue/green algae present in the water, something I’ve never seen before and it actually looked quite unnatural in the tone of its colour.

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Continuing on, our next stop after enjoying views and reflections which seemed to be getting better and sharper as we went, was Inishail Island. This had quite a different look in terms of the trees on it to the previous ones, greens being largely replaced by yellow, and it has the ruins of church and a cemetery on it. Lots of interesting headstones, some a decade or two old, others hundreds of years old and some of which have images of knights for example rather than text.

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To avoid fully retracing our route out and to get a closer look at some of the crannogs on the loch, we hugged the eastern shore on our return, enjoying a different perspective and arrived back with the mist almost following us as the temperature and light began to lessen. I got out the canoe wondering why had did it take so long for me to come here as it had turned out to be a really stunning place to paddle in the end and somewhere I am looking forward to coming back to in future.

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Some good info on the sites we visited available here:
Kilchurn Castle
Fraoch Eilean
Inishail Island (cemetery) and here.

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