Spey Descent April 1999

'An SCA Production In Glorious Scottish Sunshine'

Thursday morning saw a group of paddlers driving up the A9 in torrential rain and leaden skies - destination, a coffee shop in Newtonmore.

After a reviving hot chocolate, lead gave way to light grey and three boats, 5 paddlers set off down the River Spey. The first section of the river was ripply and fast moving, just right for allowing the muscles to warm up without too much hard work. All that rain had its uses.

A short paddling time allowed a lunch stop to be reached and a quick calculation showed that the rate to travel was easily 8km/hr - GREAT.

Post lunch we crossed through the Insh Marshes RSPB reserve and observed nest boxes with large holes in them - for golden eye ducks we learned later. A heavy rain shower caused one member of the party to use her umbrella for protection, but the shower was short lived and it was hoped to put the umbrella to better use - i.e. sailing later in the day.

Towards the end of the Insh Marshes we hoisted sails confident that we would be blown towards Clive Freshwater's Watersports Centre and a wee dram. Despite slight reservation of one of the party we lashed together 2 boats and partially attached the third to make a trimaran canoe; our sail was an old tent fly sheet held up with poles and attached with Karabiners. A few minor adjustments soon found us flying along and, with waves foaming beneath the bows, Loch Insh bar was soon within our sights. Sailing by canoe is good fun!

Our residence that night was a well looked after hut belonging to the MCof S right beside the River Feshie two more canoeists arrived that night and for Friday morning 5 canoes were on the water.

The party set off from two points....The River Feshie party had an eventful trip, having negotiated the raids the group rounded a corner to, they thought join the Spey, find the river just disappear into a forest

The Loch Insh crew had to paddle a little harder but soon the rendezvous was made and we were onto the next stretch of the Spey. The river level was perfect, fast moving and bouncy in part, but no evil rocks lurking below the surface - the scourge of many a canoeist's life.

Several rapids existed that day and we successfully navigated them all. The weather had remained grey but benign, however as we approached our campsite at Boat of Baillieforth the sun burst through and produced a glorious Scottish evening. Tents erected and Trangias boiling we were treated to a private session of 'One Man and his Dog' when Mr MacPherson rounded up his sheep from the camp site and demonstrated the talents of dog and owner. We had a good chat and he encouraged us to have a camp fire - we encouraged him to come down and join us for a drink.

A couple of hours later our numbers had swelled to 12 canoeists and we had the most ginormous fire blazing away in the gloaming. Red wine and whisky flowed freely, Mr and Mrs MacPherson joined us and we had a great evening.

Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny and whilst the shuttle took place, the waiting paddlers had time to sunbathe, birdwatch and apply the factor 15.

Once on the water, Tony tried out his new spinnaker type sail complete with bamboo mast and pulley. Unfortunately the wind was not as co-operative as on Friday and progress was not greatly increased.

A good number of km. had to be achieved that day and we paddled on purposefully avoiding the salmon fisherman who were courteous and optimistic, despite the lack of fish.

We had a good time on the many rapids including Knockando which was of the very bouncy variety and subsequent smaller stretches. Arriving at Criagallechie we were greeted with a notice stating 'No camping' due to the toilets being closed!! 'Please use the camp site at Aberlour village - 1 1/2 miles up the road'.As we had transport we were able to comply with this request - no marks to Moray DC for depriving customers of this excellently situated camp site.

Sunday morning and we felt we could smell the salt in our nostrils. More nice bouncy water down river and glorious sunshine. The water level was still just perfect and we had a great time riding the waves and only taking on little quantities of water.

A lunch time spot on the opposite bank to the Baxters Visitor Centre and we were all relaxed and getting into the swing of this river expedition lark. Not long after lunch found us at Spey Bay - very busy with Sunday afternoon trippers and we were the focus of attention for the ice cream eaters. Some exited the river and others decided to head on out to sea and land on the shingle beach - a good chance to try out open canoes on salt water if you'd not done so before. An exhilarating way to end the trip and no-one was 'dumped' on the beach.

The Spey is an excellent river for all standards of open canoeing providing an ideal 3 to 5 day expedition - camp sites are few and far between and canoeists need to be very aware of the very large number of anglers, mostly friendly, who use the river.

Our trip shuttled each day. Transport to and from Spey Bay could possibly be arranged by local canoe companies depending on time of year.


13 people in 9 open canoes. OS Maps: 28, 35, 36


Mill Cottage - Mountaineering Council of Scotland

Boat of Bailliefurth - Superb riverside site on farm land - hot and cold water and a loo. Tel. Mrs Adelaide Macpherson 01479 821435)

Aberlour campsite:

Loch Insh Watersports - Kincraig near Aviemore. Canoeing, sailing, windsurfing. Also excellent for food and refreshments. BB accommodation available. May provide transport for suitable fee.

Local canoe suppliers - Highland Canoes in Aviemore

Paul CromeyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.