Touring Scotland

Date of Journey October 2015
Stephen Buckley Aberystwyth

This year, a spot of Canoe Camping was in order for Aberystwyth Kayak Club, and we chose the Descent of the River Spey, from Newtonmore to the sea at Spey Bay, 81 miles to be covered in 7 days, in open Canadian canoes, with 14 Adults of maturing years assembled for the adventure.

The Joy of Scotland and open access is that they permit "wild camping", which is the perfect accompaniment to a River trip.

You can fully immerse yourself in the activity and be self sustaining, carrying all your kit and requirements. Whilst the Spey is not totally remote from civilisation, part of the challenge and expectation of the holiday, was to be self sufficient, and the preparation and the planning was part of the holiday.

As we are not having to carry the weight on our backs but in the boat, it allows a bit of extra weight to be taken, ( not too much that would compromise the performance of the canoe). But the choice of lightweight performance kit - in my bag mainly Rohan - allows you to take an extra layer or two, more food, goodies and wine boxes, it is meant to be a holiday after all, for warmth, comfort and the odd luxury - as the nights are longer in October.

Fantastic paddling on a great river with stunning scenery, and a true return to nature and self reliance, plus a group of friends to share the pleasures with.

Selecting a campsite was no problem, whilst some research was done before the trip, as to day length, miles to paddle in the day and possible camping locations. Wild Camping allows you to be relaxed, and to be able to camp when it feels right, we very soon gained a preference for camping on islands in the middle of the river. These locations benefited from privacy, the shelter of trees and shingle beaches. These beaches became the site of open fires and reflections long into the night, and being in Scotland the handing round of hip flasks of Scotland's finest.

Our final night found the group having reached the sea, at Spey Bay, and we choose the Spey Bay Golf Club campsite, to use their excellent, hot - steamy showers, a pure luxury after a week in a boat, a hot meal and hospitality in the Clubhouse. Our tents were pitched on the "old practice putting green" almost spirit level flat, another first for camping.

The River Spey is a Jewel, and the friendliness and welcome in Scotland we was wonderful. However if canoeing is not your thing (give it a try you might enjoy it -whatever age you are), then there is the "Speyside Way", a long distance footpath path runs next to the river so you could do the adventure on foot. I will return.