We had read about the beauty of Loch Etive in “Off in a Boat” by Neil Gunn.
“The head of the loch is a wonderland of mountains. In front of us two Shepherds of Etive lifted their heads into the haze. To our right Ben Straw, with Stob an Duibe Ruaidh before it and many peaks behind.” P 308.
But when we visited Dunstaffnage in September last year we were too fearful of sailing under the Connel Bridge and over the Falls of Lora. This year we were more confident and before we left Milo at Dunstaffnage several weeks ago we had taken a trip up Loch Etive with Chris Jackson in “Etive Explorer”. That day had been grey, cold and misty and we had seen little of the wonders of Loch Etive, but importantly Ian had learned from the skipper Chris how to navigate the falls and the low hanging electricity cables further into the loch past Bonawe.
With the sun breaking through the clouds we set sail on the flood tide just after 2.00 p.m. and comfortably navigated the falls which were churning around us. We were almost alone on the loch apart from a few fishing boats. In the 1930s when Neil Gunn sailed into the loch he wrote about a passenger boat chugging up the loch every day, but in 2017 there were no other tourists to be seen. Beautiful. We needed this sunny tranquil day with just enough wind to sail slowly up the loch with only the sound of lapping water and the local bird life. We anchored at the head of the loch and ate on deck for the first time this year.
The Head of Loch Etive is a wonderland of mountains – Neil Gunn
Ian expressed a desire to climb the local Munro the next day, but Ros was not keen for him to do this because he did not have the right gear. That night there was torrential rain and we felt cosy in our aft cabin.
The calm after the storm of the night before
We were woken next morning to a new sound; the night of rain had resulted in streams of water cascading down the mountainside. The mist had descended overnight but we were enjoying the stillness and remoteness of the upper reaches of Loch Etive. We both swam in the loch, very cold but refreshing.
Later, we motored slowly past seal rock, chuckling as the seals slid off into the sea as we approached. We had read about the village of Taynuilt in “Off in a Boat” and decided to moor there while we waited for the ebb tide that would allow us to pass back through the Falls of Lora. We took the tender ashore and walked into the sleepy village, passed the station that we had travelled through several times on our journeys from Oban to Glasgow. There was something attractive about a remote anchorage that could be reached by train and foot. By 4.40 the tea rooms were already shut and the butcher had cleared away all of his meat, but the general stores were good for stocking up on milk, water, bread and rice pudding. And surprisingly, the post office still had one Guardian left.
The approach to Connel Bridge on the ebb tide with Milo’s mast just slipping under with less than a metre to spare