Inverness to Erchless Castle: True Scottish Scenery

Industrial bridges, thick forests and dramatic geology.

There is perhaps no greater introduction to the thrill of sea-kayaking than taking this serene yet challenging 20-mile route from Inverness…

Kayak season doesn’t technically start until May, but that doesn’t meant that you can’t take boats onto the river beforehand. Although there are increased risks carried with embarking on a kayaking expedition during the colder months of the year, you’re rewarded with much less traffic on the rivers and the opportunity to experience Scotland from a cherished vantage point. Although there are a number of Sea Kayak operators that choose to close down during the off-season, there are a handful that offer trips throughout the Winter – Kushi Adventures are one such team.

Russell Zenthon is the man in charge at Kushi Adventures. With adventuring experience going back for three decades and internationally recognised qualifications, he’s well equipped to lead all kinds of expeditions all over the world and is the ideal person to take visitors out on a winter’s trek through the Aigas Gorge.

The trek begins at 10am in Inverness and we’re told to dress according to the weather. My wife and I have driven up from Carlisle the night before, braving icy roads, hail and awful winds to make it to our cosy B&B in Inverness, so when the alarm clock goes off at 8am we are somewhat hesitant to open the windows. We were warned by all the outdoor pursuits that we contacted that should the weather turn for the worst then no qualified instructor would take us out on to the water – so it was with a sight of relief that we pulled the chintz curtains back to see a glorious clear day – cold, but clear.

Having stuffed our faces with a traditional Scottish breakfast, we meet our instructor out on the docks of Inverness having first taken the precaution of wrapping up very warm. The temperature is just above freezing and our breath hangs in the air in front of us as we shake hands with our guide and take our first tremulous steps onto our vessels for the day. My wife and I share a tandem kayak, whilst our guide hops into a solo kayak and takes us through the basics of how to manoeuvre our vessel. Before we set out he reminds us that a tumble overboard would almost certainly lead to a trip to the hospital, with uncertain looks at each other we set out.

The first leg of our 20-mile journey takes us out of the River Ness and into the Beauly Firth. This large coastal body of water is a wide open expanse, the stillness of the blue sky is reflected in the water and we’re reminded by our guide that during the summer this part of the river is usually clogged up with other adventure companies and tourists, we need no convincing that this is a truly once in a lifetime experience. The river soon narrows and we find ourselves drifting down through the River Beauly and onto the Aigas Gorge. As the sides of the river begin to rise we are dwarfed by the forests on either sides of us and are treated to some truly gorgeous views.

The rough weather might have endangered our trip, but in the end it was worth the risk.

Thanks to Dave and Sue Pollock for sharing their experiences kayaking through the Aiga Gorge.

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