Every now and then in a diver’s career you need to do something a little bit different. So for a change, instead of hitting the west coast or the quarry, Torsten, Wojciech, Kimon and I took a wander inland to the Linn o’ Dee, near Braemar.
After picking up Kimon and Torsten, we met Wojciech at Ancrum, did some fills, sorted out paperwork and packed the gear, then we headed off. On the journey northwards we drove up past Glenshee, keeping a look out for red deer, ravens and listening out for the red grouse go-peck,go-pecking away. Once we arrived at Braemar we had a short break before following the narrow road along to the Mar Lodge estate. The Dee looked relatively calm as we drove beside it, which augured well for some good diving.
The Linn is a turbulent series of cascades and pools which has cut through a shelf of hard rock creating a narrow, steep-sided gully though which the watercourse runs. As we carried the equipment down, there was a definite sense of anticipation at the thought of throwing ourselves into the rich, brown waters.
We got the kit organised and set up, tied the rope to a handy tree and had a briefing, The water level was fairly low, and the river was more subdued than I’ve seen it previously, but it was still going to be interesting for the guys who hadn’t done it before.
Torsten and I went in first. Trout dashed around us as we dropped down into the dark, peaty water. I got settled on the bottom and checked my camera , as Torsten descended to join me. We OKed each other and then moved slowly upstream to the lip of the first pool. A dead salmon lay at the base, presumably having exhausted itself trying to push its way further up the river. I carefully went up over the lip keeping close control of my buoyancy as the waters surged around me. A short series of passageways lead through the rocky gully, the walls displaying meandering layers of metamorphic rocks, such as gneiss, sparkling with slivers of quartzite and mica-slate.
As we pressed on to the next pool, a single salmon could be seen circling round and round in the bowl before it shot off into the gloom. Then on to the following pool, which is a little higher up and only a few metres deep, but plenty big enough to find a quiet spot to rest; and wait to see if any fish would swim past and try to fight their way further on.
After a while we had a go at trying to clamber into the upper pool, through a narrow gap partially blocked by a large red boulder, but there was no way we could make any headway against the current. We had a couple of attempts each but kept being thrown back across the width of the pool by the force of the water.
After Torsten’s final attempt, we decided to drift back downstream and explored some of the nooks and crannies on the way, seeing several more salmon and a perhaps a dozen small trout. We lazily glided along with the flow of the current, twisting occasionally to get through some of the windier gaps and finally came out in the shallows at the end of the gorge.
Kimon and Wojciech were there to help us get back up the slope, and then it was their turn. Wojciech managed to push his way through to the upper pool, before they both drifted back down to the shallows. After a few more dives each where we added eels and a rather ill-looking toad to the list, we had lunch and chatted to various passers-by who were fascinated by how deep the river was, “Were we looking for anything in particular?”, “Is it really cold?”.
Another dive for each of the buddy pairs which gave us a bit more time to take photographs and check for more salmon, and then we wrapped it up for the day. I did manage to check out a nice group of common spotted orchids near the exiting point before we left. Thankfully minimal hassle from midges, only light rain showers, and pleasant temperatures all made for a great day’s diving.