Originally Posted by JSP
Keep this thread updated please mate.
OK John, here is a quick run down of my experiences last week.
I launched at the Dores Inn slipway. The slip seems to be owned by the pub rather than actually public - but there were no charges (but we did have lunch - food very good!). The staff were polite and helpful and the guy from the "Nessie spotting caravan" was particularly helpful - pointing out areas of deep water either side of the slipway where I could leave the boat with the engine down whilst sorting out trailers, cars, wives, children etc. The slip itself is reasonably narrow and the finished surface stops before the water is deep enough to get the boat off. So we found ourselves pushing the trailer in deeper (by hand as we don't have a tow vehicle suitable for immersion) - that worked OK with a little 4m boat - but those with bigger boats might find the rocky bottom tricky to push over. [Anyone planning to launch with Jetskis should note that they are not permitted to use the slipway]. Once you are launched there is an area off the beach marked with small buoys/floats which is not intended for powerboats to use except when coming and going from the slip, and then at < 5knots.
Having launched we kept the boat at Brachla Harbour on the 'North' shore of the loch. I had previously emailed the Clansman Hotel (who are at the Harbour). So armed with that information arrived at reception expecting to pay my dues - the staff didn't know anything about overnight storage of boats and sent me to the Jacobite Tours office on the harbourside, they also knew nothing - and to be honest didn't seem that keen [the harbour is mostly used by their boats]. Unearthing the original email and returning to the hotel I found "Rory", paid my £5 a night and he sent me back to Jacobite to agree where to keep it that would cause them least inconvenience. They then suggested that "if I was happy with it where is was, on the beach, I just leave it there" as it would be safest from the random antics of the Caley Cruisers boats who use the harbour. I agreed subject to the weather staying OK (but was thinking WTF have I paid to beach a boat) - it was mill pond calm at the time. He insisted he was trying to protect my boat rather than not wanting me there - but I got the feeling that although they don't own the harbour they think they do! An hour later the weather had turned and was kicking up some real waves - so I changed the plan and found a corner of the harbour (bring several fenders as its rusty corrugated metal). And think about "chaff protection" for the ropes - as one of mine was worn through about 20% overnight.
It worked out fine and we had a few trips out on the loch.
There is a slipway at the harbour but they are not allowed public access from the main road.
There is another 'public' slipway at Fort Augustus - I didn't explore it in detail - but it didn't look a whole load better, someone was recovering a reasonable sized Drascombe when we passed so it can't be too bad.
The harbour at "Urquhart bay" would also provide a safe haven - but we didn't explore it (there didn't seem to be any food in the viscinity).
If anyone is staying in the Abriachan area, the old disused pier looked like it would make a suitable makeshift mooring in all but the worst conditions. If I was going back that would be my choice - as it would save the "hassle" finding someone at Bracla who was interested - and its only a mile away if the weather did kick up. It looked fairly secure as finding it from the road was pretty tricky and overgrown.
The loch is certainly big enough to entertain a small boat for a few days and a boat is a good way to access bits of the "south" shore - where the road doesn't go. With a bigger boat or more time on your hands the rest of the canal and the other connected lochs would be worth exploring - but with a young family we didn't think these very big locks were the place to be "playing". With older kids (say 8+) this would keep them amused.
Hope that helps anyone considering a trip.