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Our destination of choice this weekend… Loch Morar (as long as your name is not McDonald)

  13 Jun '23   |  Posted by: Birlinn

This extract is from Blue Scotland: The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Scotland’s Wild Waters by Mollie Hughes.

Nestled in the mountains, close to the ever-popular Silver Sands beach, Loch Morar offers a stunning setting for a swim or a paddle around its many islands. Make sure to keep you wits about you when exploring Loch Morar, as it is home to Morag, a rarely sighted (and potentially mythical) aquatic beast!

Loch Morar is a deep gash across the landscape, running almost perfectly from east to west. From the towering, remote mountains of Lochaber in the east to the River Morar in the west, here water flows from the loch a short but steep distance down to the white sands and clear waters of the Arisaig coastline.

Loch Morar’s second claim to fame – after Morag, that is – is the fact that it is the deepest freshwater body of water in the British isles with a maximum depth of 310 metres – that’s over 1000 feet!

The far eastern end of the loch is incredibly remote and only accessible by foot. Maybe this fact, along with the sheer depth of the water, gives more plausibility to tales of a monster residing here than similar tales of its cousin on the busy waters of Loch Ness. It is said that whenever Morag was signed she brought about the death of a member of the McDonald clan. Luckily for us water users, and for the McDonald clan, the most common sightings here are of some special Scottish wildlife including otters, red deer, golden eagles and even the illusive sea eagle.

The more accessible western end of Loch Morar is where we headed for our early morning paddle out to the islands. There is a road that runs along part of the northern shore and it offers a few good places to launch a paddleboard or kayak from, between the ornate church and the hamlet of Bracara, including a couple of small beaches and jetties.
We arrived soon after sunrise, with the aim of catching some early morning light, but unfortunately the reality differed from the forecast: thick clouds covered much of the sky. However, there was not a breath of wind on the loch, its surface mirroring the stunning scenery in every direction.

We slowly paddled out towards the islands, apprehensive to disturb this beautifully still surface with our paddle strokes.
Loch Morar has four main islands to explore and a handful of small rocky lumps jutting out of the water. Like all loch islands, we tend to avoid setting foot on them, especially during bird-nesting season. Luckily, the islands of Loch Morar are a joy to observe from the water. They have an almost prehistoric feel, clad in trees growing out of the rock at uncomfortable-looking angles and strange jagged rock formations protruding from the shallows.

No matter what point you launch from, the paddle out to the islands is a reasonable distance and would be a tough experience in windy conditions. So bear this in mind when assessing you abilities for this paddle.

Loch Morar is an awesome place for wild swimming, with great beaches and jetties along the northern shore as easy points of entry into the water. Even with its proximity to the hubs of Arisaig and Malaig, Loch Morar has a remote and wild feel. The western end is a superb place for relaxed paddleboarding, kayaking and swimming, while the remote eastern end offers the potential for a much bigger adventure.

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