Posted by: Ray | May 23, 2009

Inverness to Oban, some lively sailing on Loch Lochy and new moorings discovered.

Passage: 102M, 3 new harbours visited, Max wind F6

Having completed a loop clockwise from Oban, cruising the islands and sea lochs of the NW Scottish Highlands, I reached the most northerly point of my cruise at Stromness, on Main Island, Orkneys and achieved my goal to round Cape Wrath and cross the notorious Pentland Firth (See earlier post of passage). Returning down the northeast coast of Scotland to Inverness where my friends Brian and Barbara joined me for the passage back through the Caledonian Canal to Oban on the west coast.

Loch Oich

Loch Oich

This was my second passage from east to west through the canal, but it was very different. We enjoyed better weather in general than the rest of the UK and experienced some lively sailing, surrounded by the lovely scenery of Loch Ness and Loch Lochy. I also discovered new places to moor on the lochs that are worthy of noting for other yachtsmen and women.

With the canal license, yachts are issued with a ‘Skipper’s Guide’ that gives basic navigation and other information on using the canal. The ‘chart’ shows moorings (generally at the locks and swing bridges) and the few anchorages in the lochs. Last year I anchored off Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, for the night and had lunch at anchor at the recommended anchorage at the western end of Loch Lochy. Both nice places to stop away from the crowds. I also stopped last year at Drumnadrochit Harbour, a small harbour and one of the few with water and electricity readily available along the canal.

This year we had decided to visit the private moorings of a couple of hotels, where mooring on private pontoons is available free for guests staying or eating at the hotels. Brian and Barbara would stay in the hotels and I would join them for meals.

Harbour at Clansman Hotel, Loch ness

Harbour at Clansman Hotel, Loch ness

Our first evening was spent at the small harbour adjacent to the Clansman Hotel on Loch Ness. There is a least depth of 2m in the harbour run by the ferry company that visit Urquhart Castle. Joining Brian and Barbara for an evening meal in the hotel, I then had the harbour and views across Loch Ness to myself for the evening and early morning until the two ferries moored there started their tours. 

During the evening I worked 14 amateur radio stations from the yacht including French station F4ECJ (Eric) and Dutch station PA3JD (Joop).  The friendly net was controlled efficiently by Steve and Graham operating the Yorkshire Radio Club call M3YRC.

Loch Ness from Urquhart Castle

Loch Ness from Urquhart Castle


 The following morning we visited Urquhart Castle, although it would have been easier to do so if we had moored at Drumnadrochit Harbour mentioned above.   We later anchored off the castle for lunch, having some great sailing in Loch Ness.


Fort Augustus from top of lock flight.

Fort Augustus from top of lock flight.



Continuing our passage we spent evenings on board moored at Fort Augustus and Laggan before entering Loch Lochy.



Laggan Avenue on the canal.

Laggan Avenue on the canal.









It was on the beautiful Loch Lochy that we discovered what must be the canals best kept secret! 🙂

Pontoon Corriegour lodge Hotel, Loch Lochy

Pontoon Corriegour Lodge Hotel, Loch Lochy

We had a lovely sail tacking up Loch Lochy in a brisk F5 from the SW. Surrounded by spectacular scenery Brian and I had some fun and exercise closing the shores before we tacked our way up the Loch to our overnight destination. Brian and Barbara had booked an evening at the Corriegour Lodge Hotel who welcome visiting yachts. Mooring is free on their private pontoon for those taking an evening meal in their restaurant.

Under sail, we approached the beach and pontoon we could see from the centre of the loch. Unsure of the depth, we dropped sails 50m from the pontoon and approached the shore alongside the pontoon under engine. The beach shoals quickly so there is plenty of depth, I had 0.7m under my 1.6m draft and the pontoon is long enough to take larger vessels.

Beach and view from Corriegour Hotel pontoon.

Beach and view from Corriegour Lodge Hotel pontoon.


Moored, we took in the isolated beach and stunning views across Loch Lochy that we had to ourselves for the evening. We had a warm welcome from Christian, Ian (the chef) and Julia Drew at the hotel. Brian and Barbara checked into their room after we had a drink in the bar and I returned to the yacht to enjoy the peace and view from the mooring. A private beach all to myself! 🙂

Later, I joined Brian and Barbara for a meal in the hotel restaurant. Our table overlooked the Loch and the meal and view were something to remember. Not cheap, but for that special meal ashore it is hard to beat. Along with the sailing, it was the highlight of our week and I shall certainly return by road to visit the hotel in the future.  (link below)

Later on board that evening, I worked Cliff (G4YHP) who was operating the special event callsign GX4BJC/A … the callsign of the International Short Wave League. The band was quiet with very little noise or QRM (interferience  from other stations), more like 21Mhz than 80m.   🙂    Cliff, based in Grimsby, has made contact with me throughout my cruise.  We had a long chat with both stations receiving strong, clear,  S9 signals from each other.

Brian and barbara on Corriegour Hotel Beach

Brian and Barbara on Corriegour Lodge Hotel Beach

The following morning after an equally enjoyable breakfast in the hotel, we set sail for Banavie where the decent of the 7-flight lock to Corpach commences. Once clear of the pontoon we set sails and tacked up Loch Lochy in an increasing SW wind. A mixture of squally showers, with winds of F6 gave us an exciting and fast sail up to Gairlochy where we entered the canal and continued under engine power to moor at the top of Neptune’s Staircase for the night.   

Barbara with her man at Oban :-)

Barbara with her man at Oban 🙂


We made our 2 hour decent down Neptune’s Staircase early next morning, through the swing bridges and locks to exit through the Corpach sea lock into Loch Linnhe. Passing Fort William and Ben Nevis we made the 30M passage to Oban in a mixture of heavy showers and sunshine, arriving by 1800. Time for a meal ashore in Oban, before getting an early night for Brian and Barbara to leave the yacht for home very early next morning.

My thanks to Brian and Barbara for helping me on this passage. New crew, Steve, joins me Sunday and Liz on the Tuesday when we set sail together from Oban to cruise south to visit the Firth of Clyde and its surrounding islands.


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