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      Donald Thomson

      Solid | Knowledgeable | Mariner

      Mini Bio

      I have been kayaking in Scotland and abroad, for over 40 years, on the sea, rivers, and lochs. I’m a kayaker, but have been seen occasionally kneeling with a single bladed paddle! I was the youngest Senior Instructor (now level 3 coach) when I qualified on my 18th birthday and went on to gain the highest coaching qualification of Level 5 in both Inland and Sea. My passion is Sea Kayaking where I focus my efforts on training and assessing for the BCU 4* and 5* leader awards. I lead several expeditions a year in Scotland and occasionally overseas, and have achieved a number of firsts, including the first return St Kilda trip, and the Orkney, Fair Isle, Shetland crossings.

      My passion is passing on the knowledge I’ve gained over the years to all abilities. From basic strokes to those starting kayaking, through to advanced boat handling skills for those who want to take their paddling further. I particularly enjoy supporting and developing those with a few miles under their belt who want to lead groups and expeditions to the places I love.

      I have an extensive knowledge of the Scottish coast, and islands, the people, and the history that makes Scotland such a special place. For me, I enjoy nothing better than passing it on to those who like me love Scotland.

      Place to Play

      A hard question. Scotland is a world class sea kayaking destination. If I had to choose it would probably be the Outer Hebrides, particularly the southern isles – I love the remoteness. Closer to home the Sound of Luing and associated Islands and tide races – lots of interest and challenge in a small area.

      Not a lot of people know this

      I am the only person to have kayaked to all the Scottish islands (as defined in Hamish Haswell Smiths book Scottish Islands). 169 before you ask!

      Qualifications Read More
      • Level 5 Coach Sea and Inland, Advanced Proficiency
      • (5*) Leader, Sea and Inland, Senior Instructor
      • Surf, Rescue Award, 4 and 5* Leader Sea Trainer and Assessor.
      Biggest Adventure Read More

      As mentioned, I have kayaked to all the Scottish Islands, the last of which was N Rona, 50 miles N of Lewis. It took 5 years before I was successful and finished my quest. I also lead the first successful return kayak trip to St Kilda in 1991.

      Specialist Subject Read More

      I have an in-depth knowledge of the Scottish Islands, and in the history and folklore, associated with them and the rest of Scotland.

      Publications Read More

      Over the years I have contributed articles on various trips to the Scottish Paddler and the Sea Kayaking Magazines. I also contributed information to Doug Copper for his North and East Coast of Scotland guidebook and wrote the foreword.  I Also contributed to the Wilderness Scotland blog on 5 best trips in the Outer Hebrides.

      Adventurer's Stories about Donald

      Good sense of humour, able to be reassuring whilst challenging at the the same time. In retrospect it may have been useful to have a " I know this is obvious but if you capsize this is what to do, this is how we will indicate rocks etc" at the very beginning of the the trip as it was only during the trip that some people seemed less sure of what to do or expect. Maybe a brief mention of what to do in choppy seas, near rocks etc before getting there would be a useful to remind to less confident paddlers( this was not a problem to us but others did say that they would have appreciated this information)

      Helen Spence
      Sea Kayaking - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail Central - The Jacobite Coast
      Reviewed on 19/08/2018

      Competence already mentioned.

      Mandy Addison
      Sea Kayaking - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail Central - The Jacobite Coast
      Reviewed on 13/08/2018

      Don and Sarah worked well togther. They both looked after us and inspired great confidence!

      Anne Balchin
      Sea Kayaking - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail Central - The Jacobite Coast
      Reviewed on 12/08/2018

      Donald would be the best ever kayak guide I have had on one of these kayak touring holidays. We have been on 5 now in various countries. He would be in the top 1% around the world

      Glenn Rigden
      Sea Kayaking - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail South - The Whisky Coast
      Reviewed on 09/10/2017

      Better than excellent. Donald was patient and calm throughout the whole trip. He was very generous with his knowledge of kayaking, totally calm and in control when I decided to see an underwater view , great sense of humor, we not only learnt so much but have to say that this was the best trip and the best quide we have had. W

      Jacqueline Richardson
      Sea Kayaking - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail South - The Whisky Coast
      Reviewed on 17/09/2017

      Donald Thomson was an excellent guide and made for a truly great trip despite the occasional spell of dodgy weather! Safety was paramount. Extremely well looked after throughout. Great decision making, great organisation and great company! Donald then surpassed all expectations by bringing us a pod of dolphins on the final morning of the trip. It rained but..who cared?!! A big thank you to Donald, for everything.

      Stephanie Reid
      Sea Kayaking - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail South - The Whisky Coast
      Reviewed on 14/09/2017

      delighted to receive individual forward stroke instruction

      David Lovett
      Sea Kayaking - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail North - Gaelic Coast
      Reviewed on 12/08/2017

      Top team
      Despite not seeing an otter!

      David Stanley
      Sea Kayaking - Introduction Course
      Reviewed on 31/07/2017

      we missed two days due to weather being too windy, but the guides priority was our safety, the whole group where happy with the decisions they made. Their extensive knowledge of the area meant that when we were on the water we explored the area fully and had good 'brewing' stops.

      Jenny Stanley
      Sea Kayaking - Introduction Course
      Reviewed on 30/07/2017

      Both Donald and Judy were excellent

      Marta Marjan
      Sea Kayaking - Introduction Course
      Reviewed on 29/07/2017

      Absolutely love them

      Irene Grijzen
      Sea Kayaking - Introduction Course
      Reviewed on 29/07/2017

      Two superb guides who really made the trip

      Rory Newman
      Sea Kayaking - Introduction Course
      Reviewed on 23/07/2017

      Guiding simply could not have been bettered.

      Sue Thomason
      Sea Kayaking - Introduction Course
      Reviewed on 22/07/2017

      Friendly, committed and very professional guides. Especially impressed with Donald being able to come it last minute as a replacement and running it so well.

      Douglas Dowie
      Sea Kayaking - Introduction Course
      Reviewed on 22/07/2017

      Both Donald and Paul were brilliant, and together they made a super team! We couldn't have asked for anything better.

      Anne Balchin
      Sea Kayaking - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail North - Gaelic Coast
      Reviewed on 20/07/2017

      Very professional and experienced kayak guides, knowledgeable about the local culture and wildlife, excellent trailer-driving skills :)

      Helen Fielder
      Sea Kayaking - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail North - Gaelic Coast
      Reviewed on 09/07/2017

      Donald is an excellent, confidence-inducing and good fun guide.

      Ann Hull
      Sea Kayaking - West Coast Explorer
      Reviewed on 25/06/2017

      Donald and Tim were both excellent guides who complimented each other and looked after us really well. They were helpful, organised, knowledgeable and great fun. They even managed to make the day where we could not kayak at all interesting and enjoyable. Thank you both again.

      Kerin Sanders
      Sea Kayaking - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail Central - The Jacobite Coast
      Reviewed on 07/10/2016

      Donald Thomson and Tim Willis were terrific guides. They were highly skilled, organized, informative, kind and confidence inspiring. They did an excellent job adapting to changing weather conditions. They were also a lot of fun.

      Ellen Slater
      Sea Kayaking - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail Central - The Jacobite Coast
      Reviewed on 03/10/2016

      Clearly very experienced and good company, while providing a lot of information on the area.

      Brian Hammond
      Sea Kayaking - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail Central - The Jacobite Coast
      Reviewed on 25/09/2016

      Professional accomplished reassuring and wonderful hosts with humor

      Elva Harpin
      Sea Kayaking - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail Central - The Jacobite Coast
      Reviewed on 18/09/2016

      Paul and Donald were great!.Got a lot of tips to refine my paddling, and always felt safe on the water, even in rougher conditions. The 1:4 guide:client ratio really helps too.

      Caitlin Miron
      Sea Kayaking - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail Central - The Jacobite Coast
      Reviewed on 16/09/2016

      Knowledgable, supportive and provided flexibility when required.

      James Chapman
      Sea Kayaking - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail Central - The Jacobite Coast
      Reviewed on 21/08/2016

      Both Donald and Paul provided excellent guidance on our day trips, providing paddling tips. They also were calm when guiding us on the coast when the wind picked up-we were capable but needed confidence. They were also organised without being pushy, we never felt rushed. Good job!

      Amanda Gordon
      Sea Kayaking - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail Central - The Jacobite Coast
      Reviewed on 15/08/2016

      Friwnfly, knowledgeable, well preared and good fun

      Peter van Dijken
      Sea Kayaking - Scottish Sea Kayak Trail Central - The Jacobite Coast
      Reviewed on 14/08/2016

      Donald and Sarah were wonderful to paddle with. Their knowledge of the area and the history were incredible, and they taught me a lot more about Scotland than I was expecting to learn! Both guides were very fun and funny, and they handled the group effortlessly. Given the nature of trips that I've seen or lead before, I was very pleasantly surprised that they let the paddlers with more experience have some free reign. I was especially impressed that they slipped in a large handful of moments where everyone got a chance to lead or practice different skills.

      Joshua Cohen
      Sea Kayaking - West Coast Explorer
      Reviewed on 26/07/2016

      Happy to have had Donald as a guide - knowledgeable, experienced & highly hospitable!

      Jelena Farkic
      Sea Kayaking - Introduction Course
      Reviewed on 19/07/2016

      I consider myself very lucky to have had Donald as my guide. Patient, knowledgeable, expert coach, good company. First Class

      Gillian Pilkington
      Sea Kayaking - Introduction Course
      Reviewed on 16/07/2016

      They were very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. They were happy to give paddling advice and instruction when asked as well. That was much appreciated.

      Melinda Whong
      Sea Kayaking - West Coast Explorer
      Reviewed on 02/07/2016

      they were friendly and helpful and had to deal with challenging weather conditions, they did their best despite the bad weather. Well organised and good standard of paddling, offered good tips for kayaking techniques

      John Burrell
      Sea Kayaking - West Coast Explorer
      Reviewed on 28/06/2016

      Donald and Sarah were really great!! Very knowledgeable, very friendly, were not fazed by the poor weather conditions. Made us all feel comfortable and happy at all times!

      Helen Millson
      Sea Kayaking - West Coast Explorer
      Reviewed on 26/06/2016

      Donald was very knowledgeable and helpful.

      Rita Morgan
      Sea Kayaking - Outer Hebrides
      Reviewed on 13/06/2016

      Excellent! Perfectly prepared, competent, skilled, considerate, great sense of humor.

      Petra Grell
      Sea Kayaking - Outer Hebrides
      Reviewed on 09/06/2016

      Thank you Donald, we had a great time! Your knowledge not only about sea kayaking but also about the islands, history, etc. was outstanding.

      Daniel Stucki
      Sea Kayaking - Outer Hebrides
      Reviewed on 05/06/2016

      Book a trip with Donald

      Trip / Departure Availability Status Price Book
      Sea Kayaking – The Scottish Highlands
      25th May - 30th May 2019
      1 place(s) left CONFIRMED £1,345 Book Now
      Sea Kayaking – West Coast Explorer
      15th Jun - 20th Jun 2019
      3 place(s) left CONFIRMED £955 Book Now
      Sea Kayaking – West Coast Explorer
      3rd Aug - 8th Aug 2019
      5 place(s) left CONFIRMED £955 Book Now

      Make Trip Private

      Sometimes it's nice to get family and friends together and travel privately for some quality time. This means you benefit from all the features of the group departure, including hand-picked accommodation and expert local guides and we'll take care of it all. Then you can make your choice of departures dates and we'll get back to you to finalise the details.

      We work together with our team of guides to decide which departures they lead each year. As part of that, guides provide available dates that they are free to be booked. This means that any of the dates you see in the first field of the form below, could be perfect for your private departure or customised tour.

      Donald's Gallery

      © Donald Thomson / Wilderness Scotland

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