Loch Etive is a tidal loch that reaches the sea in Connel, just north of Oban on the west coast of Scotland.

Divided from the sea by the dramatic tidal Falls of Lora, Loch Etive boasts a resident seal colony and some of the most dramatic mountains in Scotland on either side. The loch is 30km long and up to 150m deep.

Falls of Lora

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The tidal Falls of Lora is found at the mouth of Loch Etive in Connel, just north of Oban in Argyll.

Due to the narrowing of the loch and the unusual rock formations situated under Connel bridge, the Falls become active on the ebb tide when the tidal level in the sea (the Firth of Lorn) falls below the level of Loch Etive.

At slack water and on weak to moderate tides, there's not a great deal to be seen, but as the tidal variations approach springs, things really get going. At maximum springs, the tidal variation reaches over 4 metres, which is when the fun really starts. At such times, the Falls turn to a roaring torrent of white water with a number of standing waves and interesting features with draw kayakers from all over Scotland and indeed the world.

At the peak, flows of an incredible 10-12kts have been recorded through the Falls of Lora.

Image: Emily Woolard

Connel Bridge

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Formerly a railway bridge which carried trains between Connel and Ballachulish, the steel cantilever bridge at Connel was built in 1903 and converted to take road traffic from 1914 onwards.

The railway closed in 1966 but road traffic continues to use Connel bridge as the main route connecting the south side of Loch Etive with the north, and Oban with the town of Fort William.

Before the bridge, there was a foot passenger ferry across the loch, and before road traffic was allowed to cross in 1914, a rail bus was available for pedestrians wanting to cross the bridge.

The structure is still impressive by today's standards and requires a great deal of specialist maintenance to keep it functioning properly. The bridge has beautiful views out to the west across the Firth of Lorn, with the Isle of Mull visible in the distance on a clear day. To the east, the view stretches up Loch Etive into the mountains and the Munro peaks of Ben Cruachan and Stob Diamh can be seen, often with snow on the tops.

Image: Emily Woolard

Seal colony

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Loch Etive is home to a colony of seals. The colony is mostly made up of common seals, however a large grey male has been seen in the same area since early 2020 and is nowadays often spotted alongside the common seals under Connel Bridge.

The seals used to make their home past the Bonawe narrows in a relatively inaccessible collection of skerries (rocky islets in the loch), but these days they're much more easily seen as they have taken to hauling out on the tidal island directly underneath Connel Bridge. This means pedestrians and road users can watch the colony easily as they pass by.

When the tide has come in completely and covered the island, the seals head either out to sea or inland to look for food, and they often pop up near to the Kilmaronaig islands next to the A85 between Connel and Taynuilt.

When we first moved to the area, there were around 20 seals in the colony. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength, and in recent years we have personally counted up to 49 seals on the island at any one time. If you're heading out on a walk near the bridge, be sure to take your binoculars with you!

Image: Emily Woolard

Kayaking

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Loch Etive is a kayaker's paradise, both sea and river specialists alike. The River Etive offers excellent river kayaking opportunities, and daredevils in play boats will have a fabulous time on the tidal Falls of Lora.

Sea kayakers can enjoy the sections of moving water as a result of the strong tides at the entrance to the loch, as well as the (usually) more serene conditions further inland. Equally fun is the stretch from the mouth of Loch Etive round to Dunstaffnage and Ganavan, and even into Oban Bay and around the Isle of Kerrera. Tides and wind conditions vary greatly and can change quickly, so this is not beginner-level kayaking but is great fun for those at intermediate skill levels and above.

Image: Emily Woolard

Fishing

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Credit: Hunter Brumels / Unsplash

Fishing in Loch Etive and the River Etive is excellent, with the area around Bonawe (north shore) and Taynuilt (south shore) home to some of the very best spots.

You'll find cod, pollack, mackerel, coley, whiting, stake and hake among many, many others. The River Etive is great for salmon fishing and surrounded by incredible scenery.

Image: Unsplash / Hunter Brumels

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