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Canoeing and Kayaking In Scotland - 3 experiences

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Best Canoeing and Kayaking in Scotland

Scotland offers canoeing and kayaking like nowhere else in the UK. Providing some of the most remote destinations, stunning mountain ranges and vast wild green spaces. It’s hard to believe the Scottish Highlands are in the UK, as they offer a sense of being on the other side of the World, with incredibly mountain peaks, valleys, rivers and trails. Whilst there are a wealth of rivers to explore, there are an estimated 31,460 Lochs which often provide a more sheltered environment for kayaking and canoeing - an excellent place to practice for beginners. There are 11 major Rivers in Scotland which offer a wealth of opportunities for kayaking and canoeing (with the necessary licenses):
  • River Tay - 193 km (120 miles)
  • River Spey - 172 km (107 miles)
  • River Clyde - 171 km (106 miles)
  • River Tweed - 156 km (97 miles)
  • River Dee - 137 km (85 miles)
  • River Don - 132 km (82 miles)
  • River Nith - 112 km (71 miles)
  • River Forth - 105 km (65 miles)
  • River Findhorn - 101 km (63 miles)
  • River Deveron - 98 km (61 miles)
  • River Annan - 79 km (49 miles)

Often for more tranquil canoeing and kayaking in Scotland, you can explore one of the 30,000+ lochs. The largest Lochs in terms of volume of water are as follows:
  • Loch #1: Loch Ness at 7.45 km³ of volume and 56km²
  • Loch #2: Loch Lomond at 2.6 km³ of volume and 71km²
  • Loch #3: Loch Morar at 2.3 km³ of volume and 27km²
  • Loch #4: Loch Tay at 1.6 km³ of volume and 26.4km²
  • Loch #5: Loch Awe at 1.2 km³ of volume and 39km²
  • Loch #6: Loch Maree at 1.09 km³ of volume and 28.6km²
  • Loch #7: Loch Ericht at 1.08 km³ of volume and 18.6km²
  • Loch #8: Loch Lochy at 1.07 km³ of volume and 16km²
  • Loch #9: Loch Rannoch at 0.97 km³ of volume and 19km²
  • Loch #10: Loch Shiel at 0.79 km³ of volume and 19.5km²

Each one offering different views, paddling experiences and places to explore. As well as lochs, the two National Parks of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs and The Cairngorms National Park are hot spots for canoeing and kayaking in Scotland.
Canoe and Kayaking in Scotland

Canoeing and Kayaking the Cairngorms National Park

For beautiful views of the CairnGorms mountain range, white sand beaches and an abundance of wildlife, Loch Morlich is one of the best places to get out and kayak in Scotland. Canoes and Kayaks are available for hire and the lake can be relatively calm, yet with the stunning backdrop of the beautiful Cairngorms. Explore more Kayaking and Canoeing in Scotland

Canoeing and Kayaking Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond offers a great, tranquil place for beginners to practice their kayaking and canoeing skills. If you don’t have your own boat, there are several watersports centres to hire equipment or get instructor sessions or tours. Explore more Kayaking and Canoeing in Scotland

Great Glen Canoe Coast to Coast Canoe in Scotland

Depending on how extreme you’re feeling you can either canoe/kayak for a couple of hours or take on the full challenge of paddling down the whole 100km of the spectacular Caledonian Canal. The route travels from Fort William to Inverness and comes across 29 locks, 4 aqueducts and 10 bridges. It’s a varied stretch of water travelling through calm and still canals all the way to rougher wide-open water sections such as Lock Locky, Loch Ness and Loch Oich. You can do this unsupported, if you have experience, plan sufficiently far ahead and have all the necessary equipment (including boats). Starting off in Fort William and travelling to Inverness is often the recommended route due to the normal prevailing winds. Completing the challenge over 4 days in open canoes is popular, although other routes and itineraries are available. Often with evenings broken up between camping, hostels and hotels, this is a great way to see a huge amount of Scotland. Explore more Kayaking and Canoeing in Scotland
Canoe and Kayak in Scotland

Where can I go canoeing or kayaking in Scotland?

Unfortunately there are all sorts of restrictions on where you can canoe or kayak in UK as many bodies of water are owned by different organisations and there are more specific protections in place. It’s not quite as simple as just rocking up to your closest river and going for a paddle. There have been stories of authorities asking to see licenses and being able to fine those canoeing and kayaking without a license.
There are some places where licenses aren’t required, like paddling in the sea, estuaries or most tidal water (which can often travel quite far up many rivers). However, these are the areas that require skill and experience to go paddling. Nevertheless, estuary and sea kayaking can offer some of the most rewarding experiences with sightings of seals, a wealth of other animals and stunning coastal scenes.
Canals and inland rivers can be great places to kayak and canoe as waters can be easier to navigate and manage than tidal waters. However, for many inland rivers in the UK you’ll need to work out whether you are able to canoe or kayak there due to both private restrictions and licensing restrictions. In England or Wales, check out the British Canoeing website for the rivers where you can canoe or kayak under their membership. For Scotland and Northern Ireland, check out the relevant authorities too. If there are any questions, you’re best off sending them a message to see what license is required (if any) for your stretch of river. Restrictions also exist for where land is privately owned (e.g. beaches), where there are environmental protection schemes such as Nature reserves, where there are military bases or activity happening or where there are restrictions due to safety such as avoiding shipping lanes, waste disposal or dangerous wrecks.
Canoeing and Kayaking in Scotland

Safety Advice for Canoeing and Kayaking

A license is just one small part of the puzzle when it comes to working out where and when to paddle. See our list below on things to consider before going canoeing or kayaking:
  • Weather, flow, tides and visibility: Attention should be paid to the flow of the river by checking the environment agency website and others. A significant flow on the river can be caused by excessive rain, often hundreds of miles away, that over a number of days, pour into the river can cause significant currents. Whilst its often hard to see ‘flow’ just by looking at the river the National River Flow Archive can provide specific information on the flow to enable you to decide if it’s worth the outing. Often, it’s much nicer to paddle in calmer waters, rather than battling a surging river and having greater risk around meanders, bridges and other boat vessels, so this is something to consider. Likewise, wind, tide, weather and visibility should be taken into consideration when planning your canoeing or kayaking trip.
  • Conditions within your level of capability Always err on the side of caution when going out in your canoe or kayak and make sure you’re comfortable with the conditions of the water
  • Tell your friends: Let people know where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Ideally go with a group of people so if someone falls in, you’ll have others to help or raise the alarm
  • Get training: Book in a canoeing or kayaking instructor course or experience days on Beyonk
  • Practice falling in drills: In calmer waters and with the supervision of an instructor, practice how to fall in and what to do when you do fall in, so you’re prepared on what to do
  • Consider wearing safety equipment such as buoyancy aids, which can be life-savers in many scenarios even if you’re a strong swimmer. The water temperature, flow or taking a knock to the head can all present risks that will make your swimming skills useless and a buoyancy aid life-saving
  • Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions of your paddle. Don’t risk getting soaking wet and cold in the rain if you’re going out for prolonged periods
  • Be aware of waterway restrictions, from boating lanes, military operations and more, to avoid any dangers
  • Make sure to get stacked up on nutrition and water to maintain energy levels if you’re going for over an hour's paddle.
  • Take a communication device, mobile or radio in case of emergency and call 999 if needed.

Canoe and Kayaking In Scotland Best Routes

Where can I go canoeing or kayaking in Scotland?

Unfortunately there are all sorts of restrictions on where you can go canoeing or kayaking in Wales, as many bodies of water are owned by different organisations and there are more specific protections in place. It’s not quite as simple as just rocking up to your closest river and going for a paddle. There have been stories of authorities asking to see licenses and being able to fine those canoeing and kayaking without a license.
There are some places where licenses aren’t required, like paddling in the sea, estuaries or most tidal water (which can often travel quite far up many rivers). However, these are the areas that require skill and experience to go paddling. Nevertheless, estuary and sea kayaking can offer some of the most rewarding experiences with sightings of seals, a wealth of other animals and stunning coastal scenes.
Canals and inland rivers can be great places to kayak and canoe as waters can be easier to navigate and manage than tidal waters. However, for many inland rivers in the UK you’ll need to work out whether you are able to canoe or kayak there due to both private restrictions and licensing restrictions. In Wales, check out the Canoe Wales website for the rivers where you can canoe or kayak under their membership. If there are any questions, you’re best off sending them a message to see what license is required (if any) for your stretch of river. Restrictions also exist for where land is privately owned (e.g. beaches), where there are environmental protection schemes such as Nature reserves, where there are military bases or activity happening or where there are restrictions due to safety such as avoiding shipping lanes, waste disposal or dangerous wrecks.

Canoe and Kayak Clubs, Hire and Lessons in Scotland near me

Search through our map of hundreds of canoe and kayak clubs, places to hire equipment or find lessons. If you’re looking for something specific, drop us a message and we’ll find it for you.
Canoe and Kayaking In Scotland Best Routes

Canoeing and Kayaking for Families and Kids in Scotland

Canoeing and Kayaking are great family friendly sports. Canoes are more of the stable and spacious choice that allow for gentle and calm paddling experiences. Kayaking also offers the option for two-seaters that are a great way to bond with a friend or family member. Sea Kayaks and Touring Kayaks are incredibly stable, like Canoes, so it's more difficult to fall in or get wet. When it comes to the types of water to look out for, calmer water makes for a more enjoyable experience with kids. Look out for local lakes or canals for safer and more tranquil paddling. The beauty of canoeing and kayaking are that they are 'sit down' sports. The level of fitness required for both - at entry level - is relatively low, so most people can get involved with the sport.

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