This last half year with Katya in the UK I wanted to show her as much of the UK’s good bits as I could think of, and also show her where I started kayaking and some of my favourite places in the UK.
We love being out in the wilds, away from cities so I really wanted to go to Scotland with her this time to paddle some of the Classics, see John O’Groats, do some cycling and just see as much of the wilds as we could.
Landscape & Animals
Scottish Animals & Wildlife have to be pretty tough, given the climate & weather, but I think this also gives them a character and personality. We were lucky that we got to see so many wild and also tame animals classic to Scotland on our trip.
We got to socialise with Ponies, Sheep & Highland Cows here, I love seeing them out in the wild heather & fields, I only wish they weren’t going to be eaten! There so beautiful and intelligent creatures, you can really see something in there eyes.
We also got to see Red Squirrels which you don’t often see in England along with many kinds of birds.
Scotland has some very harsh weather and I think this brings out it’s beautiful landscape even more. We got to enjoy the Autumn colours on the trees all around, the towering mountains, barren expanses of heather and the storm battered coasts.
The other aspect that was good was that each night we managed to park up next to some quiet Loch or river and wake up each day to fantastic views of Scottish nature.
I just think of all the places our Van’s been now, it really has seen some fantastic sights in the last 3 years!
I’d never been there and it’s somewhere I always wanted to go, so with freezing weather and howling winds we got ourselves to the very edge of the UK.
We got to what was signposted as the tip but after checking my map on the iPhone it looked like we needed to venture further so we walked along the coast until we got to the cliffs and lighthouse that mark the true edge.
It’s like another planet there and you could barely stand from the power of the wind, really made you feel invigorated looking out to sea, leaning your full weight into the wind.
Katya had heard about the Findhorn Community online and really wanted to go, I wasn’t as interested at first but when we got there and took the tour of the place I loved it.
It was set up originally on a Caravan park 50 years ago by one couple and has developed little by little for the last 50 years into a thriving community with many eco-homes built on it by the community, with many unique forms of home, it also has it’s own gradens, bio-mass boiler, theater, school, kitchens, centre, shops.
The tour cost £5 and was well worth it just to hear the story of how it all came together. It’s a great story of overcoming life’s adversities and making the best out of poor situations.
Before I went there I really wanted to build a eco home soon but wasn’t really bothered about being next to a community, but here I loved how everyone worked together and it was really nice to meet some people with similar outlooks on the World as us. It’s nice sometimes to feel that your not alone in your thoughts.
I’d actually been here once before; when I was studying Adventure Sports at college we’d had a week long winter mountaineering course here and remembered it as quite spectacular.
We got some good cycling in around the Lochs on the trails here and saw a centre that looked after Reindeer, it caught our eye actually because there was a Red Squirrel eating in front of it.
We found we’d missed the seeing the guided tour to look at them in the hills so decided to hike up one of the mountains looking for the Reindeer herds ourselves. We didn’t find them but the view from the top was worth it anyhow.
The main goal of our trip wasn’t really kayaking which was just as well because when we first arrived there was no water at all but the last few days of the trip we were hammered by rain so got to paddle the Etive then met up with Dennis Newton and his creeking camp kids and paddled the Orchy at great levels the next day before heading home.
I enjoy river running for the beauty surrounding it but I don’t desire to push it very far, it’s just not my thing. I’m not really scared of it, or feel out of my skill level, it’s just that it feels that in order to get the same buzz as I do for freestyle i’d have to go pretty crazy and I don’t wish to take those risks. The reward for me isn’t big enough and if I were to hurt myself too much so that I couldn’t do freestyle or the other sports I love i’d really regret it.
That said because it was so beautiful here, I loved the Etive, especially the classic Right Angle drop. The Orchy was actually a really sweet surprise. With the rain we had it was quite like the Nile style of big water. I only wished i was in my playboat as there were some fabulous waves & holes that would of ben great to surf properly…next time I guess.
Back home it’s been good to spend time with my family again, I think we got much closer together this time.
We live quite close to North Wales and the Lake District so we spent the rest of the Winter exploring & paddling some of my favourite areas and getting to visit the play spots I grew up paddling: the Dee, Tryweryn and a few trips to HPP & Hurley.
Below is just a few un-edited clips of us testing out the Prototype Dagger Jitsu’s
We actually have a pretty sick set up here in the UK to become a top playboater. You only really have to look at our current crop of paddlers to see that though…;-)
As well as kayaking, cycling’s been the new passion for myself. But it’s also been good going out with Katya on our bikes seeing some of the hills, lakes & Forest around us.
It’s been quite good showing off our beautiful Island, as much as I have lots I hate about the UK there is quite a lot it turns out I really am proud of. Surprisingly (to me) we’ve really enjoyed this winter in the UK.
Now though the new year has come and I’m looking forward to heading out for some new adventures with our kayaks & bikes and a fresh season of competition!