GUIDE TO THE RIVER QUOICH
NAME OF RIVER: Quoich (Aberdeenshire).
WHERE IS IT?: Flows from the North, into the River Dee just above Braemar at Allanaquioch.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Take the A93 to Braemar and proceed westwardly through the town heading for the Linn of Dee. Follow the road up past the Linn of Dee, across the River Dee and down the other side. On the way you pass over the River Lui. There is a small wooden bridge over the Quoich and you should park next to the river after this. Boats on shoulder hike upriver for about two miles stopping to look at all of the rapids on the way. There are five falls of note, the biggest at the top. This is the get-in and you paddle back to the car.
APPROX LENGTH: 2 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 2 hours including carrying time.
ACCESS HASSLES: This is a seldom paddled gem of a river and as such no problems have ever been encountered.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: If the water looks anything other than low take a walk up the bank and see for yourself before carrying your boats.
On a recent trip (Nov '01) we carried our boats half way up before looking at the river level only to decide that it really was a bit scary and carried the boats back down. All of the drops on the Quoich become very serious with anything more than moderate flows and given the size of the river, this is not a lot of water.
GRADING: Grades 3-5.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: There are five main falls of which three have potentially serious consequences.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Get your protective clothing on for this one! Set amid a youthful pine woodland, this powerful little stream is a rarely paddled gem which will certainly separate the men (and women) from the boys (and girls). All about courage and some say stupidity, this is a cracking little river.
The first fall is the largest, about 15 feet ramped at the top. At low water levels the jutting rocks on the way down make it almost impossible to get any speed and thus backlooping is almost inevitable. In high water this is extremely unforgiving due to the narrow pool and the shape of the fall.
A short paddle takes you to the second drop. This is a slanting drop of about 8 feet with the prospect of planting your face on the rock face opposite on the way down. At low water, this is normally run by dropping over the fall almost sideways. In higher water you can head further to the right, away from the opposing wall.
Some smallish drops follow before you approach the first narrowing of the river. Here on the right hand bank you will find the 'Earl of Mar's Punchbowl', a large pothole in the rock at the side of the river. It is rumoured that the Earl used to serve punch from this pothole in the early 1700's. The fall itself is easily run paddles held high although it looks narrower than it is.
The next fall is one of pure adrenaline and requires nerves of steel. The river drops away under a wooden bridge through a very narrow crack similar to those on Allt a'Chaorainn. The main difference being that it is longer and has a slanting ledge half way down. The run in is a tricky left hand bend and it is crucial to hit the drop point on, as there is plenty of pinning potential. Once in the fall, you just need to hold on. I was unlucky enough to end up upside down half way down having been flipped on the ledge. However, a few bumps and bruises later I was washed out of the bottom with a grin a mile wide.
The final drop is possibly technically the most difficult, being a steep drop into a very narrow pool. However, when last there, this main drop was blocked by a tree. The fall can still be run over a ledge on the right hand side, dropping sideways off it half way down into the pool below. At this point, a capsize would be bad news as the water funnels straight into a huge overhang and it takes some vigorous paddling to avoid it.
Then just relax back to the car.
Richard Sharpe adds...(July '00)...'a dodgy hard river! I ran it in slightly less water than Kris' photo. The section pictured is only just wide enough at the entrance to fit a modern type boat through - recommend dumping all speed and creeping around the corner
above it. There is also a rock or ledge about a third of the way down, which isn't visible but can pin or flip you (not something you want to do here.) I cracked my helmet visor and put a dent in the front of my boat during a rather sore out-of-boat experience which ended my swim free year! A portage may be the better part of valour!'
OTHER NOTES: If you like what you see, you can squeeze three other similar rivers into the one paddling day. These are the Lui, the Clunie and the Garbh Allt. All flow into the upper reaches of the Dee and are all short trips within a twenty minute drive from each other.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Kris Waring and Richard Sharpe.