Posted by: Rose | November 20, 2009

Glen Roy

I’ve just enjoyed a wet AND warm week in Scotland. Oh, kayaker’s heaven. It was a case of third time lucky; I finally got some water and experienced a whole array of new-to-me rivers. It was also a chance to encounter the River Roy in its full splendor by paddling from the head of the Glen to Roy Bridge.

There’s something quite special about Glen Roy. The road follows the river, only to come to a sudden termination at the head of the valley. All that lies ahead of you is the catchment divide between the Roy and the Spey, plus a few sheep. The road eventually leaves the trees and the few scattered houses behind and the Glen suddenly opens out into a vista of craggy slopes leading to mountain tops and the river down below. I like to believe that kayakers are the only people who know that this spectacular Glen exists, except that it has one claim to fame….

Parallel Roads, Glen Roy. Photo by Tom Crow.

Glen Roy is renowned for its Parallel Roads. There are three distinctive lines that run across both sides of the valley which are the remains of shorelines from an ice damned lake that filled the valley during the last stadial, the Younger Dryas (Loch Lomond stadial). This cold period lasted a brief 1300 years and terminated around 11,640 years BP*, the start of our current interstadial, the Holocene.

With respect to the geology of the River Roy, the Parallel Roads are less than the blink of an eye. The Roy flows through the Grampian Group and Appin Group, both sediments of Precambrian age (around 750 to 540 million years old) that were deposited in the Iapetus Ocean. These sediments were then metamorphosed during the mountain building of the Caledonian Orogeny which joined England and Wales to Scotland.

The sedimentary layers, metamorphism and consequent schistose fabric (alignment of minerals) within the Grampian Group is the reason for the instability of the geology in the Roy Gorge and the cause of the evolution of the rapids on the river.

*BP means before present and actually equates to 1950, the advent of radiocarbon dating.

PS What is it with Scottish kayaking trips and breaking boats???

Head of the Glen. Photo by Ol Renison.

Wish You Were Here, River Roy. Photo by Simon Knox.

Mamba's days are numbered, Wish You Were Here, River Roy. Photo by Ol Renison.

Escaping Roy Gorge...



  1. […] the mountain building of the Caledonian Orogeny, the same event that metamorphosed the sediments in Glen Roy. Glencoe is famed as the location that developed the theory behind the process of caldera […]

  2. Looks like a great place to visit. I’m going to put down Glen Roy in my list of places to visit.

    Nice pictures. Since all the pictures are by different people, (and I assume different cameras) I wonder if the quality of the pictures, “an almost sort of watercolour look”, is from the post processing prior to inclusion, or is just the result of the conditions at the time, sky and light combining with the natural colours of the area.



    From Victoria, Southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

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