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Donald Thomson

Donald Thomson guideMe in 3 – Solid | Knowledgeable | Mariner

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! This includes kayaking to  North Rona, which is  50 miles into the Atlantic.

Qualifications – 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.

Mini Bio/Experience – 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.

Biggest Adventure – 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 – 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 – 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
Competence already mentioned.
Mandy Addison
Don and Sarah worked well togther. They both looked after us and inspired great confidence!
Anne Balchin
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
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
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
delighted to receive individual forward stroke instruction
David Lovett
Top team
Despite not seeing an otter!
David Stanley
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
Both Donald and Judy were excellent
Marta Marjan
Absolutely love them
Irene Grijzen
Two superb guides who really made the trip
Rory Newman
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
Guiding simply could not have been bettered.
Sue Thomason
Both Donald and Paul were brilliant, and together they made a super team! We couldn't have asked for anything better.
Anne Balchin
Very professional and experienced kayak guides, knowledgeable about the local culture and wildlife, excellent trailer-driving skills :)
Helen Fielder
Donald is an excellent, confidence-inducing and good fun guide.
Ann Hull
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
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
Clearly very experienced and good company, while providing a lot of information on the area.
Brian Hammond
Professional accomplished reassuring and wonderful hosts with humor
Elva Harpin
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
Knowledgable, supportive and provided flexibility when required.
James Chapman
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
Friwnfly, knowledgeable, well preared and good fun
Peter van Dijken
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
Happy to have had Donald as a guide - knowledgeable, experienced & highly hospitable!
Jelena Farkic
I consider myself very lucky to have had Donald as my guide. Patient, knowledgeable, expert coach, good company. First Class
Gillian Pilkington
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
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
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
Donald was very knowledgeable and helpful.
Rita Morgan
Excellent! Perfectly prepared, competent, skilled, considerate, great sense of humor.
Petra Grell
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


Donald's Photo and Video Gallery

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© Donald Thomson / Wilderness Scotland

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