#0027: By Eck
Updated: Aug 18, 2020
I'm halfway across Loch Eck when the rain begins to fall.
The sun had been shining when I pushed off from under the graceful, arching Scots pines of Jubilee Point a couple of hours earlier. Now, the wind shifting from my back to hit me side on, those same pines are waving to me, beckoning my kayak back to the safety of the shore.
On the western flank of the loch, uninhabited since the Iron Age ended two thousand years ago, the looming, craggy hills begin to close in. Legend has it that, following his arrest after Argyll's failed rebellion against the monarchy in 1685, Archibald Campbell, Ninth Earl of Argyll and son of the First Marquis, who ordered the siege of Asgog almost forty years earlier, instructed his staff to hide the Campbells' legal documents in the caves of those crags. In doing so, Campbell protected his estate from forfeit, ensuring the future of his line and guaranteeing the clans dominance for centuries to come.
Those caves are for another adventure, though.
I turn away from them and paddle harder.
Eck is by no means largest loch in Cowal but out here, on the water, it stretches into the distance to the north and south, my kayak a speck on its surface. Crossing the water, it's impossible not to notice the deep trough of the valley. It wasn't slowly eroded into being by a river or a burn. It was ripped into existence by the glaciers which covered Scotland in its entirety during the last ice age.
As the ice subsequently retreated, glacial waters flooded the valley, stretching as far as the Firth of Clyde, making Eck a sea loch, like the wild, fjörd-like inlets which define the landscape of so much of Argyll. Without the ice to weigh it down though, the land began to rise, cutting Loch Eck off from the sea.
Below me, deep in the trough, a relic from those distant times swims silently through the cool, dark water. As glacial run-off mixed with the salt water of the Clyde, an opportunity arose for sea fish to migrate to fresh water. The powan did just that and, when the loch was separated from the sea, found itself trapped in an isolated ecosystem, such that Loch Eck and neighbouring Loch Lomond, another former sea loch, are now its only natural habitats in Scotland.
Back on shore, the rain stops as quickly as it began and the sun breaks through the cloud once more. It clears the air. It chases away the mist clinging to the treetops. It explodes in a thousand points of light on the rippled water.
Although overshadowed by the mountains above it and by its bigger brothers to the east and west, Loch Eck remains my favourite of all the waters of Cowal. Perhaps that's because of its idiosyncrasies. It's small, yet vast. It's tranquil, yet wild. It's freshwater borne of sea. Or perhaps it's because it's just so beautiful.
But, by Eck, it's worth a visit.