River Tay

I was surprised to discover that the River Tay, in terms of volume of discharge, contains more fresh water than any other river in the United Kingdom.  It shouldn’t have come as a shock as it has a catchment area of nearly 2,000 square miles, much of it mountainous.  Downstream of Perth the river becomes tidal and it was this stretch of the river that we explored on Sunday morning.
The morning dawned damp and overcast. But we were keen to get on the water when we met in the small village of Newburgh, which is on the south shore of the River Tay.  The tide had just turned and the plan was to use the ebb tide to carry us in the direction of Dundee and the famous bridges.
It was a journey of 11 nautical miles, a distance which slipped quickly past but didn’t seem to require too much effort.  The tide seemed to be doing most of the work.  I was surprised to see a number of seals. One in particular seemed to be enjoying his morning break, feeding on rather a large fish and in no hurry to move out of our way.
Coming from Jersey, I enjoyed paddling past relatively long stretches of wooded shoreline.  An environment which is relatively rare on the island.  The sight of deer running through the fields or walking along the shore was an added bonus.
The dominant feature of the paddle though was the Tay Railway Bridge.  The original bridge was opened to railway traffic on the 1st June 1878.  On the evening of the 28th December 1879 a violent gale was blowing.  At 7.13 pm a train headed across the bridge but disappeared in the darkness.  The exact number of people who died isn’t known but thought to be 74 or 75.
The events of that evening were described in the poem by Willaim McGonagall, “The Tay Bridge Disaster.”  I remembering studying it for English A Level at school.  So bad that it was shown to us as an example of how not to write poetry.
Paddling under the new bridge and seeing the remains of the old bridge, one couldn’t help but reflect on the events of that night, 150 years ago.  It was a fitting place to complete our Sunday paddle on the River Tay.  Thanks once again to the enthusiasm and knowledge of Piotr, the owner of Outdoor Explore.

Newburgh
Leaving from the slup at the western of the village of Newburgh. It was just after high water so we were able to use the ebb tide flowing out of the Firth of Tay.
Bear and Staff
Just downstream was the Bear and Staff. Carved into the hillside in 1980, it was a rather interesting feature.
Firth of Tay
The coastline isn’t spectacular but it was enjoyable and contained a number of surprises. We saw a number of deer either along the beach or running across the fields.
Firth of Tay
Along the south shore there were a number of ruined cottages, which may have been left over from the fishing industry.
Dundee
As we approached the Tay Bridges we could see the oil rigs, which are being worked on in Dundee.
Shipwreck
There were two shipwrecks on this section of the River Tay, one either side of the railway bridge. The one to the east of the bridge was probably used in helping to salvage items after the disaster on the bridge in 1879.
River Tay
Nicky approaching the Tay Railway bridge from the east. With a span of 2.75 miles it is an impressive structure.
Tay Bridge
Looking along the gap between the remains of the old railway bridge and the new one. The term new is used loosely, as it opened in 1887.
Fibreglass kayak
This looked like a 1970’s or early 80’s general purpose fibreglass kayak. Wedged on a steep hillside its origins were clearly a mystery.

Perth

Following the pattern of kayaking in cities, on Friday evening it was the turn of one of Scotland’s newest city, Perth.  A quick search produced a number of options but we were really successful in that we selected Outdoor Explore, a relatively small company based in eastern Scotland.
We met the owner Piotr at The Willowgate, just downstream from Perth on the River Tay.  Whilst we were waiting for Piotr, an osprey flew past, which we took as a positive sign.  As soon as Piotr arrived we unloaded kayaks, added the final items of kit and in what seemed like a few minutes were ready to launch.
The plan was launch and head upstream towards Perth in the hope that we would see some of the beavers, that have come to call this stretch of water home.  Sadly we didn’t see the beavers although we saw plenty of evidence of their activity.  We did see plenty of other things though, which would attract the attention of kayak tourists.
Piotr was so much more than a coach, he was a passionate leader, his enthusiasm and knowledge about the river and its surroundings was infectious.  Our journey through Perth was so much more than a paddle.  We did manage to push the current and we were able to get through the arches of the oldest bridge to span the river, the return journey was so much easier!
The biggest surprise of the trip was that we were on the water for over two and a half hours, we only really noticed how long we had been out when it went dark!  We didn’t paddle that far but what we saw and heard was fascinating and all within the boundaries of  what is know as “The Fair City”, thanks to Sir Walter Scott and the publication of his book “The Fair Maid of Perth in 1828.

Perth
Nicky testing the kayaks before leaving Willowgate Activity Centre
Perth
Approaching the bridge which carries the M90 across the River Tay. Just upstream from where we launched.
Tree
This tree clearly shows the impact of Beaver’s, although we didn’t see any just being in their territory gave us a thrill.
Piotr
Piotr, our knowledgeable guide, clearly getting animated about a topic which he was passionate about. He was full of information about the area around Perth and his willingness to share he knowledge was one of the real highlights of the evening.
Nicky in Perth
Nicky with part of the Perth skyline behind. Light was starting to fade fast at this point.
Perth Bridge
Just upstream of the Perth Bridge, which was completed in 1771 and is still in use today. Designed by John Smeaton, sea kayakers may be more familiar with one of his earlier designs, the Eddystone Lighthouse.
Perth activities
The light was fast disappearing as we returned to the Willowgate Activity Centre.

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