Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Visiting Scotland's oldest inn, and another that's almost 2500 years older - all in a day's paddle!

The MTKTV (Moderate Terrain Kayak Transport Vehicle)
parked outside the Kenmore Hotel.
My paddling partner has finally returned from Canada, UK visa firmly glued to the inside of her passport. Time in the kayak cockpit was long overdue but the nearest water, the North Sea, is not very hospitable to the narrow boats right now. An hour and forty-five minute drive to Kenmore, and lovely Loch Tay, was in order.

Nestled amidst the mountains of Highland Perthshire, Kenmore is home to the aptly named Kenmore Hotel. Commissioned in 1572, it's Scotland's oldest inn. The area is a hill-walking paradise with seven Munros along a high ridge to the north of the loch. They're on the "to do" list for sure.

More or less unchanged...since 1572!
Understandably, Scotland's national bard, Robert Burns was rather partial to both the hills and this hotel.

Himself, a portrait inside the hotel.
Burns composed a poem in 1787, sitting on the bridge over the River Tay, and wrote it in pencil on the chimney-breast of the Poet's Bar inside the hotel - it's right there to see. Here's part of it...

Th' outstretching lake, imbosomed 'mong the hills,
The eye with wonder and amazement fills;
The Tay meandering sweet in infant pride,
The palace rising on his verdant side;
The lawns wood-fringed in Nature's native taste;
The hillocks dropt in Nature's careless haste,
The arches striding o'er the new-born stream;
The village glittering in the noontide beam.

Launching from the beach at the east end of the loch, the early morning temperatures were just above freezing. A layer of fleece under the dry suits promised a very comfortable paddle on the unusually calm waters.

The P and H Scorpio, a Valley Etain, and two IKEA bags - the complete team.
The skies soon cleared and revealed a low but blazing sun traversing the southern sky. The nearby Munros were covered with an early layer of snow making the landscape a lovely blend of autumn colours and winter white.

It may not be the ocean, but we've found it to be a magical place to paddle at any time of the year.

Off the port bow, a reflection of the Church of Scotland Kenmore Kirk.
Content to be a "drifter".
The Kenmore Hotel is certainly old, but Loch Tay features some re-constructed "lodgings" that are significantly older - possibly by 2500 years!

There are 18 artificially created islands in the loch, called crannogs. It is believed that they date back before 2000 BC. We've paddled by some and it is completely mind-boggling to think that these islands were created, one stone at a time, so very long ago. The crannogs and the dwellings built on them helped to protect the ancient Celts from wild animals...and irritating neighbours!

Re-constructed Iron Age crannog at the Scottish Crannog Centre on Loch Tay.
Paddling a sea kayak on the ocean, a powerful but gentle swell under the hull, is exciting - there's something other-worldly about it. It is, of course, another world for we terrestrial beings. Sometimes, however, it's good to remember that there are less dramatic times and places that afford a contemplative experience. Excitement and the "controlled" flow of adrenaline certainly have their place...but the opportunity to quietly "time travel" into history is pretty sweet too.

Such delightful surprises in life sometimes lay hidden, and patiently await discovery.

The reds and yellows of autumn in Scotland...
and they do rather take the shape of kayaks!

At the proverbial "end of the day", looking into the setting sun, it had clearly been, a very good day.

Paddling partners, good to be together again.
Sea kayaking Loch Tay, Highland Perthshire...highly recommended.


  1. Hi Duncan, I love the idea of "time travel", you make it sound so easy! :>) Love the concept, and the pics! Best wishes to you both. Gen.

    1. Thank you for that, Gen. If time is a "river" as in Collin Raye's song, we certainly found ourselves upstream. It was a fascinating place to be! Warm wishes to you. Duncan.

  2. Glad the partners in crime are back together again! Such history that we in the colonies find mind boggling compared to our relative short one.greatshot of you both at the end!

    1. Haha! Thanks Lee, except now Joan will really keep me out of trouble! The visible history is stunning, impossible to get the mind around it really. The last picture was taken by a couple of tourists from Blackpool. At first I thought, but the sun is behind us...it worked out nicely though. Congrats on Mr. December! ;) Duncan.

  3. Great to see you back together and in the boats D & J ! What a beautiful autumnal day for a paddle too :o)

    Best wishes

    1. Thank you for that, Ian. It's been fun to get an appreciation for the subtle but different characteristics of the boats here, and in Canada. And it was surprisingly very "autumn" in the hills, colours are lovely with a surprising amount of green for November. Warm wishes from us both. Duncan.

  4. Looks like a lovely place to paddle and a "safe" place to paddle. Glad you managed to finally get out on the water and yes it is good to see you back together again but I must say you looked so much better together while you were here on this island :) (Autumn has arrived and with so many trees the colours are just amazing...too bad you're missing it ;))

    1. L, it's wonderful to hear from you and you really are a tease! Yes, of course, the autumn colours are FAR more colourful on Vancouver Island, and they last SO much longer, and there are SO many more trees there! We'll just have to suffer along here SO far from home for a while longer. ;) But don't you remember that there are at least five chip shops here - within walking distance!? Now that's got to balance it all out. Haha! We miss you. D.

  5. Great to see Kenmore again. I worked in the hotel over summer while at college, many years ago. My room was the one with the little window in the top left above your yellow kayak. My first river trip was from Loch Tay down to just above Tully. Thanks for the memories.

    1. Hi Sarah, that's cool to hear about your time there. It really is a marvellous hotel and provides an excellent venue for paddling with its "day use" facilities. Thanks so much for sharing your comment, glad the pics brought back fond memories. Very best wishes to you. Duncan.

  6. Oh, Scotland is so beautiful, and discovering it from a kayak is something many should try! We've done some kayaking at Bear Lake, and it was a marvel! Great pictures and great story!

    1. Hi Shawn, great to hear from you. Scotland is, indeed, a great place to kayak and we haven't scratched the surface yet. :) It's the same in Canada, and in the unique place where you live, exploration is very special in our narrow boats. Thank you for coming by and best wishes. Duncan.

  7. Your photos are awesome. Really pretty colors.

  8. Hi there, Thanks so much for your comment. We just "point and shoot", Mother Nature takes care of everything else. :) Come by again! Best wishes, Duncan.