NAME OF RIVER: Cassely
The Cassely is a decent sized river running parallel to the Shin, and flows into the Oykel west of Bonar Bridge. The river is fairly uninteresting for the most part, but there are two short sections of white water (unfortunately spaced about 9 miles apart..) that can provide some excellent grade 4 fun at most levels. A short run, but really good quality white water.
WHERE IS IT?: Glen Cassely, North East Scotland
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Drive west on the A837 from Bonar Bridge towards rosehall, and turn off the road towards the achness hotel before you cross over the river. Follow the road up the glen for about 1 km until you reach an obvious layby where the river meets the road (NC 46948 03160). There is a public footpath to the falls signposted from this layby that runs all the way down by the river and comes back to the road at another layby you will have passed. Put in and inspect here. To do the upper falls, simply carry on driving up the glen for about 13 km (surprisingly far..), and stop when the river obviously meets the road again after a right turn on a steep hill (NC 39607 13656). (sorry for the vague description – there’s not many features around!). See OS map for details.
APPROX LENGTH: Each section is about 500 m
TIME NEEDED: About a half hour for a run and walk back to the car
ACCESS HASSLES: None known of, but it’s likely to be a fishing river
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Should run at almost any level except extreme drought or massive spate. There is a SEPA guage for it online, and 0.7 should be considered a minimum flow, where it is technical grade 4. The difficulty increases with water, and by 1.8 on the gauge it becomes powerful grade 4+/5
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: It’s all falls
This is very much a park and huck run. The lower section consists of 4 bedrock drops of solid grade 4 calibre. The first is a wide rapid which flows round a corner, offering a choice of lines but can be quite bony at low levels. The second rapid is a very nice two-tier drop of approximately 4 metres with two possible routes. The third drop is known as achness falls and is probably the best drop on the run. At low flows it is a very technical grade 4 with lots of eddies and quick turns to make. It is easy to get lost on this as there are so many channels which the water takes, but it is very fun and photogenic. In very high flows this becomes proper Norwegian style class 5 with an awesome, god teir line which looks very doable but has serious consequences if it goes wrong! See pictures. The final drop is a straightforward grade 3+ to provide a warm down after the excitement upstream. Now get out of your boat and paddle it again!
If you are still keen for more action there is a second section of white water much further upstream. Unfortunately it is way too much flat to link the two sections by kayak, but if you are willing to drive up the valley you will find two more significant drops of grade 4 to 4+ difficulty. It has been too dark to paddle them every time I have been up to them but they look to be excellent, rock slidey fun.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Jon Harwell
Photos of an evening run in the snow (Photos by Kirsten Rendle, paddler Jon Harwell):
Two tier drop
The next day all the snow melted and the falls got a bit scarier (photo by Kirsten Rendle):