Exploring Loch Carron | Supported By Tiso
You may have seen in a previous blog, Supported By Tiso Adventurer Ross Mclaren (of @outdoor.rossnrachel fame) enjoys diving off the Scottish coast to explore a lesser seen watery world. Recently, he ventured on his first overnight dive trip so here's Ross, in his own words.
I’ve never pretended to be an expert on diving in Scotland and I mostly dive off the coast around the Clyde and in the west coast sea lochs around Loch Lomond, so when a friend invited me along to take part in an expedition, he was organising to head a bit further north and try somewhere new I jumped at the chance.
It also gave me the chance to get our pride and join, Tom the Transit, out for his first adventure of the summer… and first overnight diving trip. However as he is a family camper I was under very strict instructions, he must be kept clean and dry..ish at all times! I mean I don’t know what they were worried about, my car is the epitome of looked after, I cleaned it TWICE last year instead of the normal annual event!
The dives were planned for Loch Carron on the west coast about two hours north of Fort William and about twenty or so minutes from the ever-popular Eilean Donan Castle, so this meant it was a bit of a drive after work on a Friday night but personally there’s something special about going the extra mile (or in this case 100 miles) to dive and the anticipation of what we might find.
One of my favourite roads to drive, and I’ve mentioned it previously, is across Rannoch Moor and through Glencoe, but this time was even more special. An already magical place was made all the more spectacular in the evening sunlight casting an unbelievable golden hue over the landscape and mountainside as I drove through. We moan about the weather in Scotland and more specifically the rain, but there is an upside to it all… the lush green landscape it leads to. Honestly, I can’t get over the unbelievable vibrance of the views as I passed through Fort William and headed northwest through Glen Shiel.
You know, I was going for the diving, but being truthful the journey itself was breath-taking I almost forgot I still had the “main event” to come.
Eventually Glen Shiel opens out onto beautiful Loch Duich and Eilean Donan Castle. As the sun began to set behind the mountains the castle on the loch was bathed in the most incredible light, sadly my photos just don’t do it justice! It’s easy to see why it has been used in various TV/movies over the years.
Eventually I made it to the very aptly name “Wee Campsite” just at the back of Lochcarron, that’s not a typo by the way, the Loch is called Loch Carron, but the village is actually Lochcarron. Again, I know I keep saying it, and I am probably biased, but the views that Scotland provide are just incredible!
However, I have a theory about Scotland… Whoever created our glorious country did an unbelievable job, BUT I think they did it too good, I mean all the other countries in the world must’ve been jealous, so to quell the unrest across the globe they had to add in a wee “evener” … the midge! There’s not enough expletives in the world to describe the scourge of Scotland! I reckon had William Wallace or Robert the Bruce worked out how to weaponize the wee bugger we’d have taken over the whole of the British Isles and all be speaking Gaelic!
I’ve missed waking up in the van. Getting up first thing in the morning, opening the curtains to the sun slowly climbing over the hills and getting a wee brew going on the stove is something special. It’s such an amazing way to start the day and really sets you up for the adventures ahead.
Dive one saw is head through the village and drive about twenty minutes up the road to Conservation Bay. Parking just at the side of the road (there’s PLENTY of space, we had four vans and three cars) you head down to the pebbly beach. The only real downside to the site is the trudge down, it’s not “difficult” by any means, the path is well made, it’s just a bit of a slog… especially at the end of the dive. The bay itself is beautiful and I really wish I’d brought the paddleboard as well for a wee shot too, just means we’ll need to come back again, I guess.
Now for this dive it does have to be done around the start of slack water and then timed so that the outgoing current brings you back to the beach at the end, but its well worth it.
Dropping in the first thing that hit me was the incredible visibility, and I was reliable informed it wasn’t even “that good”. I’m used to 5m being “good”, so with +15m in some places, for me it was out of this world! I’ve dived walls before, but I’ve never dived a wall so “alive”. At parts it was almost impossible to see the rock face itself with the extensive coverings of deadmens fingers and sponges. At only 20m as well it is perfect for all levels of diver and has so much to offer. Even at the bottom. Of the wall the seabed is alive with life with starfish, crabs, flat fish, the list goes on.
From here we head back towards the village to Strome Castle and the bay/slipway around it. I’m not sure I have ever dived such a dramatic site in terms of what it looks like. As you look out on the bay the ruins of Strome Castle lord over it and you can almost imagine what it would have looked like hundreds of years ago. This really does epitomise why I love diving in Scotland, you get the amazing sites under the water, but the surface of the sites are often just as impressive and there’s a real sense of adventure in all respects around most of our dive sites.
Our second dive of the day was a drift dive that saw us enter the water from the bay and be taken around the small headland on the left-hand side and into the slipway on the other side with the incoming tide. Again, it was another wall and it certainly gave the wall at Conservation bay a run for its money. We did have a wee bit of a surface swim out to where we dropped down, but it was well worth it! From the surface the drop was about 10/11m to the seabed and again the visibility was incredible.
Once beneath the waves we kept the wall on our left should and followed it round. The first wee section took us through a “canyon” of sorts before hitting the main wall and again, much like Conservation Bay, it was awash with life. The current here was a wee bit fast, so stopping for photos and to really explore the wall wasn’t the easiest, but the colours and the ambient light streaming down from above made it one of my most memorable dives
One if the best things about Loch Carrons sites is, as I mentioned the surface beauty. Now normally on a dive day I’m very much of the opinion that I’m there to dive, so its in, out one hour surface interval (longer if the previous dive was a bit deeper) and back in as quickly and safely as possible. But with the views and the company of the weekend the surface interval of two plus hours seemed to go by without realising it. In fact the diving almost became a second thought. It was great to have the campervan there for its first proper dive trip and it made for a very civilised surface interval… one of the other divers even had his own teacup and saucer… don’t ask!
The final dive of the day was straight off the slip at Castle Bay and out into the wee bay and over the Mearl beds here. I don’t think I’ve ever dived across these before, but what an experience! What I know for sure is I’d never seen a flame shell until then and wow! These are so cool! Seeing the bright orange “tentacles” (is that the right word? Apologies if it’s not!) was amazing. Watching them bury themselves again into the seafloor and become completely invisible was so surreal. We spent a good sixty-five minutes exploring the seabed along with another wall and could have easily spent another sixty-five. Again, the visibility was out of this world and it was so bright the torches were completely redundant. On top of all the life there was an array of old bottles scattered around and after carefully checking it wasn’t home to any little critters, I might have pocketed one for my collection… shame there was no gin in it!
This was my first real overnight dive trip in the campervan, and it will most certainly not be my last. Having the option to pull up at the side of the road next to a Loch and just set up shop for the night (responsibly) is such a great opportunity I am lucky to have. It also won’t be my last visit to Loch Carron! Between the incredible diving, the beautiful scenery and some nice bits for paddle boarding it will definitely be on my “to-do” list again… Maybe just out with midge season!