The aim of our expedition was to Open Canoe the reverse route taken by Bonnie Prince Charlie on his return to Scotland in the year 1745, whilst being completely self-sufficient. We also wanted to learn how to cook over an open fire, how to set up wild camps, simple survival skills such as carving tools, but most importantly we wanted to have a great time in the wilderness. The expedition team was drawn from Sea Cadet units across the UK, our expedition aimed to push our personal canoeing skills with a focus on living in the outdoors and teamwork in a challenging environment.
On the first night we arrived at Glen Shiel Hotel excited at the prospect of camping in the wild. Our first three campsites gave us picturesque views of Loch Shiel, and tic filled grasses on the fourth night, while on the fifth and sixth night we made camp on an isolated rocky island in the sea loch. There seemed to be a large swarm of midges which followed us from campsite to campsite, although some of the places definitely had more than others.
We saw and explored numerous sites some of which included: several salmon farms; the loch facing abandoned house of Mike Tomkies (reclusive writer and naturalist); woods full of deer skeletons; St Finian’s Isle containing recent and ancient graves, a castle surrounded by the sea loch and the area around most of the campsites we stayed at. We also went mackerel fishing and had a successful catch of 18 fish which were later turned into a very tasty supper.
During our short visit to Scotland we saw many animals including otter, stoat, seal, heron, salmon, deer and unidentified jumping fish; footprints from deer, pine marten and fox; fishermen on the river Shiel; countless midge swarms and a multitude of tiny tics.
The cuisine on the trip was wonderful, each day revealed a new dish. Some highlights of the food were haggis with swede and potato mash; chicken couscous; chilli con carne; cooked breakfast with black pudding; dumpling and meatball stew and freshly caught mackerel (some cooked in sea soaked newspaper and the remainder filleted and stuffed with shallots and foraged wood sorrel). We all took turns to cook over the open fire, be ‘fire doctor’, wash up and make a countless number of brews.
We would all like to thank Ulysses trust for helping to fund the expedition, HQSO-Paddlesport for planning the logistics, Jed and Bonita for leading the trip, Rob and Fran for driving the minibus, and Southampton Unit for making the transport possible.
Report Written by: OC Sophie Butler (age 14, Salisbury Unit) photos by OC Elizabeth Butler (age 14, Salisbury unit)
OC Sophie Butler (Salisbury Unit), OC Elizabeth Butler (Salisbury unit), CI Robert Butler (Salisbury Unit), AC Victoria Hayward (Warsash Unit), AC Holly Hayward (Warsash Unit), LC Lily Stringer (Evesham Unit), LC Frederick Stringer (Evesham Unit), CI Fran Faulkner (Windsor and Eton Unit), LC Jason Kerry (Banbury Unit), PO Gareth Crapnell (Barry Unit), led by CI Bonita Best (Abingdon Unit) and Jed Yarnold (True North).