This year, more than ever, I think many of us have wanted to learn a new skill. For others there’s been a craving to spend more time outside. During the long summer days we may have taken this for granted but that’s not to say we should now hold off until Spring. Scotland is synonymous with winter activities such as skiing and curling but surely there are other alternatives? The answer is of course yes. We were recently invited for some outdoor winter therapy with Beyond Adventure and we couldn’t wait to get out on the water. It’s been a while since I have been canoeing and I was looking forward to it, especially since it’s somewhere we haven’t explored this way.
Winter adventures in Perthshire
We are super lucky to live in Perthshire, it really is one giant playground. With major rivers like the Tay, Garry and Tummel all meandering through the county and more lochs than you can shake a stick at it’s an incredible place for winter adventures.
The team at Beyond Adventure are perfectly situated in Aberfeldy to take advantage of the water and the river Tay passes just a few metres from their front door. Loch Tay is just a few miles down the road at Kenmore and the more sheltered spots on the rivers Tummel and Garry are a stones throw away too. All these places are teeming with wildlife and history.
In more normal circumstances, throughout the year there are longer canoe expeditions both overseas and across Scotland. For now, whilst restrictions continually change, we are happy enough to be able to have this option so close to home.
Canoeing at loch Faskally
Arriving nice and early at Aberfeldy on a Monday morning and greeted by Mark, one of the instructors. We had met 12 months ago when he took us out for our first Stand Up Paddleboard experience on the river. It was nice to catch up before getting fitted for our buoyancy aids and paddles.
Our instructor had checked the weather forecast and seen that although it was currently glorious sunshine the wind was to pick up. On that basis he had decided that we would paddle along loch Tummel.
With the minibus all loaded up with canoes, paddles, buoyancy aids and a cute wee dug we followed Mark over toward Pitlochry in our own car. The sunshine was soon replaced with dark brooding clouds and rain. Typical but it’s winter in Scotland, I wouldn’t expect anything else.
With the canoes off loaded and sat at the waters edge we put on our buoyancy aids and grabbed a paddle each. Mark ran through with us what we would be doing, how the water would be and what to expect. And then we were off.
Although I am comfortable swimming in cold water getting into a canoe still gives me a healthy fear. Maybe it’s because of my size? For the first time ever I felt comfortable in a buoyancy aid. Normally they squash everything in and up and I feel like I have very limited arm movement. Beyond Adventure have tested and invested in a brand called NRS. They also make ones specifically to fit women. Just two panels (front and back), a zip at the front and adjustable straps at the sides and shoulders. There’s nothing to restrict movement, it’s like being between two pieces of bread. I totally forgot I was wearing one.
Not long into our mini expedition the wind picked up and down came the rain. This coincided with us needing to cross the loch to slack water and even with guidance it seemed I wasn’t strong enough to do this. Mark lashed our canoes together giving us more power to push through the water. We stayed like this for 100m or so as there was stronger current ahead of us where loch Faskally meets the river Garry.
Photo taken by Mark – Beyond Adventure
The rain had ceased and we could now spend more time admiring the scenery and looking at the wildlife. Having really close encounters with a dipper who really wasn’t phased by our presence was magic too. It’s one of Jamie’s favourite birds and seeing one this close was a privilege.
We stopped for a coffee break and stood within earshot of the roaring waterfall at the Linn of Tummel. Winter is probably my recommended time to visit waterfalls in Scotland and after all the recent rainfall this one was no exception. Perfect place to thaw out drinking local coffee and chatting all things outdoorsy.
Back on the water and were learning more about the local history and how the Beyond Adventure team do their bit to help keep local waterways clear of hazards. Helping land owners with fallen trees that are potentially dangerous obstructions. It works in everyone’s favour and shows incredible community spirit.
Make the most of winter
Making the most of winter might seem like a daft thing to say but since moving to Scotland we certainly approach the cold and dark months with a different attitude. As we approach the shortest day here in Perthshire sunrise is around 08:45 and it sets at 15:40-ish. We can pack those six hours of daylight full of adventures. It just means that we have to be prepared and maybe leave the house when it’s dark in order to make the most of the day.
We’ve all heard of Scandinavian concept of Hygge and it’s benefits but maybe Scotland has it’s own box of tricks? I think there are many interpretations of Coorie but I’m drawn to one more than most. Embracing the outdoors as much as we can. Then enjoy snuggling up in front of an open fire and good hearty food. Or whichever way you prefer to warm up and relax. This concept allows us to be more present and feel connected.
I think it’s most definitely a mindset. For me I like to feel the cold and then I don’t feel so guilty about coming home, drawing the curtains and lighting a fire at 15:30.
Our outdoor winter therapy with Beyond Adventure was the perfect pick me up. We spent a few hours in the crisp fresh air enjoying the Perthshire scenery. I managed to brush up on my canoe paddling skills and after a brief conversation at the start of the day no-one mentioned the pandemic! That has to be a winner? It’s fair to say we experienced some typical Scottish weather but it can be just as unpredictable in the summer too.
**Gifted: we were invited by Beyond Adventure for a winter open canoe experience in return for this blog post. All views on weather are my own. I can’t guarantee you will get the Jedi lightsaber paddle if you book with them after seeing this post.