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The Time Our Boat Engine Failed in the Middle of Loch Tay

Boat Trip Down Loch Tay in Kenmore, Scotland

It was mid-July in the Scottish Highlands, in a small village called Kenmore. Kenmore is perched on the eastern end of a loch known as Loch Tay. Loch Tay is in fact the sixth-largest loch in the whole of Scotland and at its deepest part is over 150 metres deep. There is a whole host of gorgeous walks and mesmerising pockets of rural Scotland to be seen here. If you are curious to learn more about the best of Loch Tay, I’ve put together a list of my favourite things to do.

Kenmore is located deep in the Scottish Highlands, in an area famed for its rich, natural landscapes and heritage. There’s a reason that so many tourists flock to the Scottish Highlands each year. You can learn more about the exciting things to do in the Scottish Highlands.

We were only staying in Kenmore for 2 full days, and with so much to do in this gorgeous pocket of Scotland we had to hit the ground running with an ambitious itinerary. Day 1 would include a boat trip down Loch Tay.

Where to Stay in Kenmore?

We were staying in a one-bedroom cottage facing Kenmore beach called ‘The Saddle’. The cottage was part of the ‘Kenmore Hotel’. It was a gorgeous cottage – modern and decorated to a high standard.

Kenmore is only a small village and being located in the heart of it meant we had easy access to ample activities. For example, it was only a 10 minute walk from our cottage to the boating centre.

Lodge Cottage in Kenmore, Scotland

Where to Hire a Boat in Kenmore

There was only one place where you could hire a boat from and that was Loch Tay Boating Centre, where there were around 3 or 4 boats to choose from. We wanted to choose the fastest boat but they informed us that it was unreliable and you couldn’t go out in the water for very long as it tended to break down. So, instead we went with the more reliable boat.

It was a small boat with a single outboard on the back.

Boat Pier on Loch Tay in Kenmore, Scotland
At the harbour, ready to go. Our boat was a slightly smaller, white version of that blue one
Boat Trip Down Loch Tay in Kenmore, Scotland
Boat Trip Down Loch Tay in Kenmore, Scotland

My Experience Hiring a Boat in Kenmore

Off we went! I have a Day Skipper’s license which often comes in handy when chartering boats. You didn’t need a license here though. A license is only required to drive larger boats. The boat wasn’t the fastest in the world but it was fast enough. The outboard roared away as we left the shore behind, heading into the middle of the loch. The boat effortlessly broke through the waves whilst the wind raced through our hair. The sky gradually turned into a deep grey.

Then, it happened. The motor shut down.

Ella on Boat Trip Down Loch Tay in Kenmore, Scotland
The engine just stopped … it suddenly dawned on me why there was a solitary ore in the boat

We were very far away from shore when this happened. The village of Kenmore was barely more than a dot on the horizon. I glanced at the single ore in the boat. How would we paddle back to shore with one ore? Surely we’d just spin in circles? We sat, two shivering heaps, wondering what to do. The boat was aimlessly drifting, gradually pulling us back to where we came from. I suppose after two or three hours, we may end up back where we started? The sky was darkening above us.

We tried everything we could to get the motor going again but nothing would work.

Fortunately, there was a laminated sheet in the boat which had the mobile number of the charter centre. It was even more fortunate that we actually had signal. The middle of a loch surrounded by pine forests isn’t where you’d expect to get much phone signal. We called for help. At first, they were extremely surprised at what had happened. They tried to give us guidance on how to get the boat started again. Nothing worked and we had already tried most of it. They decided to send someone out but it would likely be another 20 minutes until they reached us.

So, we waited. Eventually, we noticed a small black boat, speeding through the loch towards us. With relief, we realised it was the little rescue boat, coming to our aid. We noticed that the rescue boat was a lot faster than ours. It didn’t take it long to reach us. The man jumped onto our boat and started trying the engine. At first nothing seemed to happen but after a good 5 minutes, he finally got it working. Yay!

Our rescuer returned to shore and we continued our voyage down Loch Tay.

Boat Trip Down Loch Tay in Kenmore, Scotland
Boat Trip Down Loch Tay in Kenmore, Scotland
Boat Trip Down Loch Tay in Kenmore, Scotland
Boat Trip Down Loch Tay in Kenmore, Scotland

We journeyed for a couple of hours. Originally, we were hoping to make it to the other side of the loch but the loch was much bigger than we originally thought. When we finally turned around, we thought that maybe we had made it half way.

It was certainly scenic on the water. The loch was a navy blue colour, almost black. There were hardly any boats out on the loch so the water’s surface was like a mirror, the reflections of proud pine-covered hills virtually unbroken, except by the odd ripple. What added a lot to the atmosphere were the looming grey clouds overhead. I normally love clear blue skies but the threatening clouds felt so right for this environment. The Scottish Highlands aren’t known for being sunny!

When we finally returned to the harbour, it was a trauma mooring the boat. I know – I have a skipper license, I should know how to do this! The pressure threw me off and we almost beached ourselves in the shingle. I seemed to pull myself together and reversed the boat up to the pier where the people who we hired the boat from were waiting. Land! It felt almost strange to be on land again and I could still hear the deafening roar of the motor in my ears.

After a tiring morning on the water, it was time for a nice cup of tea! is a free online resource. If you have found this website useful for planning your adventures, you can show your support by buying me a coffee. Thanks so much!

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