When Paul And Ray Took Kevin Down The Spey…

Kevin Callan and Justine Curgenven dancing on a beach
Kevin and Justine display a positive mental attitude during a very wet day on the River Spey. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Somewhere along the line a plan was hatched. It was born of a number of idea fragments which had been circulating for several years. Whenever I spoke with Kevin Callan – in person or on the phone – the plan progressed (or regressed) an increment or two.

Eventually the stars aligned and the trip was a go. Kevin was to fly to the UK for the Welsh Canoe Symposium, which is organised by my good friend and colleague, Ray Goodwin.

As well as the multitude of canoe workshops on offer, Frontier Bushcraft runs bushcraft workshops at the event. So three of us – Ray, Kevin and I – would be present in the same place for the first time in three years. All we needed, then, was another adventurous loony to make an even number (for no apparent reason) and raise the adventure (and fun) stakes further.

So, it came to pass, after the symposium weekend we would be joined by ace sea kayaker Justine Curgenven, then the four of us would travel to Scotland to make Kevin’s dream come true – the unforced combination of a canoe trip and whisky tasting. This would be on the River Spey, one of the best canoe tripping rivers in Scotland, which happens to flow through one of the world’s finest whisky producing regions.

Ray and I guide trips on the Spey every year. But this would be a trip with a difference, tailored for Kevin (i.e. more whisky). While it was bespoke, we laid on a few surprises for Kevin along the way too.

This all sounds fun (and it turned out to be) but, as we progressed into November, we were right on the cusp of the days being too short. Back home, Kevin would likely have mothballed his canoes for the winter already. But here in balmy Britain, things don’t freeze up like they do in the continental cold of Canada. So it was we headed down the Spey in dusky days of November for a Spey paddle and whisky tour. The results are in the video below…

The above video is the version Kevin took on his speaking tour in North America over the winter of 2016/2017. It was very well received. The only question now is, when can the four of us get together for another madcap adventure…?

If you enjoyed this video, let us know in the comments below.

If you’d like to see the (longer in total) 12-part serialised version of this trip, you can start with part 1 here.

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Paul Kirtley is Founder and Chief Instructor of Frontier Bushcraft. He has had a lifelong passion for the great outdoors and gains great satisfaction from helping others enjoy it too. Paul writes the UK's leading bushcraft blog. He is the author of Wilderness Axe Skills and Campcraft, as well as having contributed to several other books. Paul has been involved in teaching bushcraft since 2003. He is also a Canoe Leader, British Canoeing Level 3 Canoe Coach and UK Summer Mountain Leader.

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2 Responses

  1. Achal
    | Reply

    The sudden happening and unplanned trips are the most awesome ones. And a good trip can make you alive! 😀

  2. Marcel (Buck) Lafond
    | Reply

    When Paul and Ray
    Took Kevin down the Spey,
    ‘Twas like the rain in Spain
    Falling mainly in the plain,
    ‘Cause the whiskey and the scotch
    Uncontrollably were despotch’d
    As all flowed merrily down the stream
    Zigging and zagging, singing and wagging
    Their paddles dripping with H2O.
    Who knew that Christine would go?
    That all would be dancing a disco
    As they chuggalugged from port to port.
    The whole lot proved to be good sports.

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