Living the dream

A highland existence interspersed with regular travels and running a charity in Nepal

Spean Gorge latest September 2013

The access situation is this for Spean Gorge.

A gauge is on downstream side of Spean Bridge, south bank.  Guidelines.  Satisfy yourself on the day and watch for wood!

Below "0" judge flow by looking at rock shelf across river upstream of bridge.  More than 3 places with water coming through means plenty olf water for a gorge run.  Just three or only two then gorge is very low. Headbanger at this level is dangerous.

"0" to "2"  gorge poses some issues,  as Fairy Steps becomes more pushy, Headbanger begins to get safer, Witches cauldron can be powerful and Constriction can be a no go (portage RHS)

"2" to "3.5" the river is playful on the run in, Fairy Steps is easy and Headbanger is gone. Run through from there is powerful and a waterfall opens up the RHS of Constrictioon making for a safer line.

3.5 and above the river is a swirling ride with one very big rapid at Constriction, which by now can be run on left at Grade 4 - 4+.
Upper level, take your pick but be ready for a long chase in event of a swim.


At Woollen Mill in Spean Bridge the car park  (GR222815), behind the shops is privately owned by Edinburgh Woollen Mill. Technically it is private. Car park spaces on far RHS are not, I think. In practice The Woollen Mill turns a blind eye as long as paddlers don't overfill spaces and leave countless vehicles for too long.  This means more cars at takeout - see comments below.....!
There are some alternatives.

1) At extreme low water (i.e. when the rock shelf visible above Spean Bridge only has water coming through in two or three places) drive to High Bridge Cross roads - 1km south on A82, , turn right and drive 1 km to a layby approximately GR203815 and carry down through marshy woods, thereby missing out the easy shallow or shingle rapids.  Here the river banks are bedrock.

2) Park in village somewhere (some spaces in Corriechoillie Road and Station Road) and walk to same put in via car park or through grounds of the small Catholic church (and down through marshy wood behind) on Corriechoillie Road.

3) Warm up by going up Corriechoillie Road to Cour Bridge (GR247811), walk along woodland path for 200m to confluence with Spean, put in there and enjoy very best of middle Spean, an extra 1 hour and 3km  nice paddle including complex 2m (3+) ledge run by different routes and then continue into gorge.

.................Ironically, not leaving too many cars at Woollen Mill means placing more vehicles at the takeout where there are also issues with a certain gentlemen Jim who lives in the house adjacent Mucomir Power Station. There is a large layby here (GR183838). Do not park too close to bridge as vehicles need space to wait to cross the single track bridge.At takeout park considerately and above all don't lean ANYTHING on the fence and do not show Jim your bum!! :-) It is also possible to park in large layby further down the road, some 400m past Mucomir power station.  Also, another 300m downstream is an area to park beside a double gate that leads onto waste ground by the river (GR177840), just before the road bends into Gairlochy.

Update at 16 September 2013.  At low water levels be particularly careful at the nasty drop at Headbanger (GR196830)  This rapid lies right below the high transmission electricity line that crosses the gorge.  Look ahead down the gorge to judge when you have reached it as the rapid look innocuouis from above and is anything but. Grade 5.  In the last few years an archway/siphon formed on the left side of the main drop and water began to sluice through there.  Problem is that at very low levels this has reduced the flow over the right hand side where you have to paddle and made the run harder.  It is possible to beat your chest or arm on the right side of the drop or worse.  Last week I went down and the arch had finally collapsed.  Now even more water goes left and the same problem persists excepting there is no alarming siphon any more.  You can see a picture here:

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