Wild Camping by Loch Coruisk

Camping in the highlands had seemed like a good idea at the time.

We upgraded our camping gear (waterproof tent, airbeds, gas stove, decent backpacks), bought some Adventure Food, and flew to Scotland. The plan was to camp on the Isle of Rum on our first night, then beside Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye, then book into the Sligachan hotel for well-needed showers. The problem with this, however, was that a lot of boats were involved, from Skye to Rum, Rum to Skye, and Skye to Loch Coruisk, and high winds were preventing the rig boats getting out to Rum. So the plan changed, and we headed straight to Coruisk.
Isle of Rum
The Isle of Rum above, looking just how I always imagined Neverland would
Loch Coruisk
er… and our actual destination ahead. I think we were all wondering at this point what exactly we were in for.
Loch Coruisk

Well, some of us were. Others were busy posing…

The boat dropped us off on the shore, and we headed over the headland to search for a good place to set up camp. Coruisk is a water-filled caldera, a volcanic eruption millions of years ago resulting in the jagged peaks and swathes of solidified magma you will find there. Boulders of honeycombed pumice are scattered across the loch’s shores, and tendrils of cloud often wrap around the peaks like drifting smoke. It is also very wet, and we spent a lot of time bouncing up and down to determine whether the squelching peat beneath our feet would sustain a tent.
Loch Coruisk
Tom modelling our sexy – and very useful – head-torches
Loch Coruisk

Then the midges found us.

We were woefully unprepared for the ensuing onslaught. Luckily I had a bottle of Amazon-rainforest strength fly repellent, that was frantically dug out of my bag. Do not get this stuff on your lips. It burns. Then your mouth goes numb. I had also brought smoke-coils as we always used these on Nauru, and I figured tropical mosquitoes had to be worse than Scottish midges, but there were just too many midges. The fly-repellant stopped them biting, but did not deter the clouds that swarmed around us, filling our lungs and obscuring our vision. It felt like we were in some kind of crap horror film. Katy and I erected the tents together as quickly as possible, being unusually polite to each other.

“When you have a moment, could you possibly pass me one of those tent pegs you’re holding?” [Shaking head fiercely with eyes closed].

“Oh of course, so sorry” [handing over tent peg in between flapping arms around face, before sprinting away to higher ground for a brief reprieve].
Loch Coruisk
Our wonderful little tents. Very easy to put up and, miraculously, both waterproof and midge-proof
Loch Coruisk
Loch Coruisk

The view from outside our tents. Not bad eh!

Once both tents were secure, sleeping mats blown up and sleeping bags unrolled, I leapt into the porch of mine and Tom’s tent, zipped myself inside, and sat there for a good five minutes regaining my composure. I have no idea what Katy was doing at this point, as I felt like I’d temporarily lost my mind. Perhaps she was doing the same.

Tom returned around then with our bags (we had been forced to drop them and run, carrying only the tents, so he had taken on the responsibility of lugging them over to our campsite). We grabbed gas stove, water, mugs, tea bags and Adventure Food, and scrambled down to where the loch flowed into the sea. A wide expanse of dry rock and a gentle breeze kept most of the midges at bay here, as did constant movement. We were able to perambulate around the area, like druids circling their ceremonial gas stove, clutching much needed mugs of calming sleep-tea.

Revived, we held a brief council of war, and elected to head to higher ground to try and eat our dinner in peace. We climbed as high as we could, searching for a rocky outcrop sufficiently far from water that the midges would be deterred. The views were spectacular, but there was no escape. It was like being hunted by tiny, flying velociraptors, only eluded by our keeping on the move. Katy and Tom returned to the flat rock on which we had made tea, and began to prepare dinner. At this moment however, the sun set, the sky turned carmine and I grabbed my camera.
Loch Coruisk
Loch Coruisk
DSC_1368 (800x533)
Midges
‘Wow, what a beautiful photo. What on earth has caused those glittering specks like fairy-dust in the sky Jade?’ Midges. That’s what. Goddamned midges swarming towards me and confusing the flash on my camera.
Loch Coruisk
Loch Coruisk
Loch Coruisk
If you follow the river’s path down, just before you reach the sea you can see a tiny Tom and Katy making our dinner on a finger of rock that juts into the river
Loch Coruisk

Our Adventure Food supper was surprisingly good. Packets of dehydrated meals need only the addition of boiling water, a fierce stir, then a 10 minute wait as they resume the appearance of food inside the bag they come in. I pulled out a bottle of Oban for us to share (whilst packing my backpack in London I had made the difficult but absolutely correct decision to bring whisky instead of my camera tripod), and as darkness descended the midges finally abated.

Waking up in the wild is the most amazing experience. The air is crisp, the sun gleams like silver on the loch’s surface below you, and the percussive impact of the view hits you as soon as you unzip your tent. After another Adventure breakfast (Katy and I somewhat suspicious of how they crammed 600 calories into a small bag of sugary porridge and raisins), we packed up our gear and got a boat back to Elgol.

Loch Coruisk

Has anyone else survived Scotland’s midges? There must be a support group for us somewhere.

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3 thoughts on “Wild Camping by Loch Coruisk

  1. I still have the scars. We learned to choose more exposed cliff top sites well away from peat bogs and open water… the wind blows the midges (and possibly the tent) away…

  2. Pingback: Arriving in Hong Kong | Cocktails and Country Tales

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