Aug 10th, 2014
Yesterday we went on a trip we have been promising ourselves since we moved in and hired a boat to go out on Loch Goil.
It was J’s birthday during the week, so I booked the boat for myself, J, R and (introducing my brother) N. The evening before the guys had stayed over and I made a Moroccan feast which seemed to go down quite well, but for our boat picnic I am ashamed to admit that due to pressures of time I resorted to M&S in Dumbarton. I did however pack it all up into our rather swish picnic hamper/rucksack which I bought last year and has all the bells and whistles (plates, glasses, napkins etc).
We set off from the Loch Goil Cruisers base (half way between Lochgoilhead and Carrick Castle) at 10am with the boat hired for the whole day – we were hoping to make it either to Arrochar or Ardentinny. The process of hiring the boat from http://www.lgc-motorboathire.co.uk/ was pretty straightforward – I put in the web form in the afternoon and heard back the next morning that they had a boat for us which I then confirmed by email. One thing to note, however, which is not clear on the website is that they do not take card payments so make sure to have plenty of cash to pay for it. When we got there the boat was ready and the friendly guy taking the payment explained how the controls worked and where you can and can’t take it. Basically going to the end of Loch Goil and back takes about three hours (for a leisurely pootle looking at wildlife). After that if you like you can turn left at the end and go into Loch Long towards Arrochar – but you are not allowed to turn right towards Ardentinny. Actually this makes a lot of sense because that is the direction of the open sea and these little cruisers which are fine for the loch don’t seem to be that seaworthy. You also have to stay away from the MOD areas (I would imagine that you would find that out quite quickly if you get too close).
The boat was basic but pretty nice – would comfortably take eight people and has a covered area for when it (inevitably). Without being indelicate I would say that there are no toilet facilities and there is nowhere to moor – so watch your fluid intake! We set off with N driving – very easy on the open Loch compared to the Norfolk broads where we went a few years ago.
The first thing we saw was the seal colony about a mile out towards Carrick Castle. There were about 15 of them basking on the rocks and paying absolutely no attention to the boat. It is pretty much invisible from the road which explains why we have never seen it before. Immediately after that (unfortunately for me while I was driving at the time) we saw a group of porpoises ahead of the boat. These must be pretty common in Loch Goil because I have heard from a few people who live on the loch side that they see them all the time. Nonetheless it was quite a thrill to see them.
Pushing on we got a good view all along the coast, including of the mystery houses at the end of the peninsular which do not have any road access and are presumably only accessible by boat (though no boats are in evidence when you look at them from the sea). On the way we saw gannets, cormorants, oyster catchers and a variety of gulls. We also saw a nice roe deer stag which was grazing on the shore and looked fearlessly at the boat.
Unfortunately, arriving in Loch Long, the weather suddenly deteriorated and it started to pour with rain and get quite choppy. Two fast police launches went past us at speed and waved when it was obvious that four middle aged people in a slow hired boat probably did not constitute a major terrorist threat. Rather than push on to Arrochar and get soaked, we decided to turn back.
We got back to Lochgoilhead about 3pm – so we really didn’t need to have paid for more than six hours. Having said this – if you wanted to go right up to Arrochar and/or do a load of fishing – the nine hour option would still make sense.
We had a really good day and I would do this again. J did point out, however, that if there are Three Men in this particular boat – the only role it leaves over for me is Montmorency the dog!