The Falls of Lora

During my moving water obsession, I took the North Staffs BSAC including my bride to be Nicola up to Oban to dive the deep clear water of the area, the wreck of the Breda and also one of my favourite drift dives “The Falls of Lora”

This famous Scottish drift dive is in the estuary near to Oban and is the stretch of water that runs under the Connel Bridge. This is a tidal dive and currents approaching the bridge run at 8 knots and as the water shallows from 30m to 8m under the bridge speeds of up to 13 knots can be achieved. Certainly fast enough to have our diver heavy inflatable pushed backwards even under full power from a 40hp outboard!

Entering the water 100 metres away from the bridge, Nicola and I are roped together and as soon as we submerge we are separated from the other divers and pulled down to 30 metres. We are swept along underwater channels like starfighters on the Death Planet, the force of the water puts our fins on our backs and we steer with our arms out and subtle body movements to sweep past or over rocky obstructions, to turn your head is to feel your dive mask pushed across your face so we fly looking straight ahead, always careful not to get ourselves into a constricting passage that can trap us.

We surface after an exhilarating dive beyond the bridge only to find ourselves pulled into the centre of a 20-metre wide whirlpool. It’s not strong enough to pull us down but swimming out with dive gear on is impossible! We have two alternatives, either ditch the gear and swim out or let the whirlpool take us down and then exit at the bottom. I explain to Nicola that these whirlpools can be swum out of at the bottom and that there are often up eddies there to take us back to the surface.

She has absolute faith in me and we dump the air out of our stab jackets and drop down the centre of the whirlpool to find bottom at 30 metres. Here all is calm and we are able to surface usually well downstream from the whirlpool.

As we drift on the surface we see other members of our dive group, some in their original buddy pairs and others solo having been separated on the dive. I’m surprised how the flow of water isn’t uniform across the full width, with the water running at different speeds in different spots and even back eddies going in the opposite direction. We watch bemused as other divers in faster-moving water overtake us and try as we might are unable to swim into their stream of water just a few metres away.