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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

    Donald and Paul make an awesome team. Both are great teachers, have a wealth of historical, wildlife & 'all things relating to Scotland' knowledge, they are very understanding and have a great sense of humour. Donald's ingenious dry paddling lesson resulted in me having an eureka moment and Paul went beyond the call of duty to ensure we had butter for our first breakfast when it had been accidentally left out of our provision box! So that, combined with their culinary skills, you couldn't ask for more.

    Sharyn Robinson
    Sea Kayaking - Outer Hebrides
    Reviewed on 08/09/2019

    Donald is really skilled as a leader and teacher. He is very good with people. He is also very knowledgeable about Scottish history, wildlife and culture which added a great deal of extra interest.

    Paul is a great teacher and has excellent skills and knowledge about kayaking. He is interested in everyone and has a great sense of humour.

    Both guides worked well together to make the trip a fantastic experience and also great fun.

    Frances Burnett
    Sea Kayaking - Outer Hebrides
    Reviewed on 04/09/2019

    Two great guides: Donald's experience and advice and Paul's enthusiasm made a good trip even better

    Rory Newman
    Sea Kayaking - Outer Hebrides
    Reviewed on 02/09/2019

    Donald and Sarah were supportive in every way--they were attuned to everyone's needs while also modeling the importance of working as a group. They were knowledgable about paddling, history, and nature. They made the trip fun, safe, and pushed me to be a stronger and more expert paddler. Fabulous job all around.

    Jennifer Groppe
    Sea Kayaking - Outer Hebrides
    Reviewed on 19/08/2019

    TEAM WILDERNESS RESPONSE:
    Thanks so much for your feedback. As a regular traveller on our sea kayaking trips we really value your input to help us make improvements, and we hope we'll be welcoming you back again in the future for some more adventures.

    Alasdair Thomson
    Sea Kayaking - Outer Hebrides
    Reviewed on 02/08/2019

    Both Donald and Sarah were excellent, supportive and genuinely nice folks

    Craig Hanson
    Sea Kayaking - Outer Hebrides
    Reviewed on 23/07/2019

    Donald and Sarah were fantastic - they clearly function well as a team and I appreciated how Donald (while clearly in charge) ensured there was space for Sarah to use her strong leadership skills as well. I very much appreciated a break from decision making, cooking and organizing. I felt safe and cared for.

    Tobin Day
    Sea Kayaking - Outer Hebrides
    Reviewed on 17/07/2019

    Donald and Howard are excellent - hard to see what else they could have done.

    William Inness
    Sea Kayaking - West Coast Explorer
    Reviewed on 25/06/2019

    Couldn't fault the guides. Very knowledgable and experienced. The group always felt safe in their hands and following their decisions. Loved hearing all about their adventures. On a particularly windy day we managed to have an afternoon of focusing on sea kayaking skills. I found this really useful and enjoyed putting my new skills to use on the following days. Donald's tubes were also a highlight! Donald and Howard were easy to get along with, as was the rest of the group, which made the trip that bit more enjoyable.

    Elizabeth Bywater
    Sea Kayaking - West Coast Explorer
    Reviewed on 23/06/2019

    Superb day to day palnning and communication
    Instilled confidence amongst the less experienced like me.
    Affable and very interesting conversation

    Barrie Woodcock
    Sea Kayaking - Outer Hebrides
    Reviewed on 12/06/2019

    Outstanding. Excellent and any other superlative you may wish to add. Donald and Paul were an outstanding team in every way. They were both incredibly hard working, cheerful, friendly supportive. They had a difficult task as the winds were strong and two days we could not kayak. They turned into tour guides and introduced us to the Isles of Lewis and Harris.
    The 3 days on expedition were only possible because they came up with a routes which was safe and fascinating despite the still strong winds and considerable fetch. They must have worked through dozens of scenarios to achieve the trip that they finally offered.

    NO Words are adequate to praise their efforts.

    Colin Bradshaw
    Sea Kayaking - Outer Hebrides
    Reviewed on 10/06/2019

    The two guides were excellent, they really make the trip memorable. The enthusiasm they show really makes the whole holiday special

    Peter Douglas
    Sea Kayaking - Outer Hebrides
    Reviewed on 10/06/2019

    Guide was great, though I think his initial briefing could have been more comprehensive. My husband capsized early on - prior to any practice of use of spray decks..... I've just done a days kayaking off Studland and the guide there got us to practice release of spray decks etc early on.

    My skeg kept sticking although this was not initially diagnosed - leading to a slightly frustrating time until it was sorted. Donald was the ultimate professional in how he dealt with it.
    Very clear instructions to us and incredibly knowledgeable about all things kayaking and all things Scottish.
    Great locations chosen and very conscientious in looking after us - eg he put up the emergency shelter for us at lunchtime when it was cold and made sure we always had midge cream when we needed it.




    TEAM WILDERNESS RESPONSE

    We are delighted to hear that you enjoyed your kayaking trip with us. Our guides alway try and strike a balance between providing enough information and trying not to provide too much information on an initial briefing. This is to try and not overload clients on the first day and is also based in the knowledge that they are on hand to assist whenever may be required on an individual level.

    We appreciate that some clients may wish more information earlier and your guide will certainly take this feedback into consideration for the future - thank you.

    Rachel Starling
    Sea Kayaking - The Scottish Highlands
    Reviewed on 09/06/2019

    Donald was an engaging, warm and knowledgable guide. He had a great knowledge of all things Scottish and engaging with the wide range of topics touched on during our holiday. Despite my inexperience I felt completely save in his hands. However I did do a wet entry at the introduction on the first afternoon due to trying to attempt to practice an emergency stop without being told to brace the legs.
    I did appreciate his selection of a different area or loch each day and restaurant/pubs for the evening meal. All were good and had great views. This really made a great end to each day.
    He was always keen for us to be happy/warm/comfortable with what we were doing. So much so that on day he towed my wife and myself across a sea loch due to sudden winds/swell beyond my capabilities which he quickly recognised.


    TEAM WILDERNESS RESPONSE:

    We are delighted to hear that you had a great time your kayaking trip with us. Our guides alway try and strike a balance between providing enough information and trying not to provide too much information on an initial briefing. This is also based in the knowledge that they are on hand to assist whenever may be required on an individual level. It is good to hear that you felt perfectly safe with our guide throughout the trip and that a hearty meal finished off a great day on the water.

    Jonathan Chequers
    Sea Kayaking - The Scottish Highlands
    Reviewed on 09/06/2019

    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 - The Atlantic Coast
    Reviewed on 19/08/2018

    Competence already mentioned.

    Mandy Addison
    Sea Kayaking - The Atlantic 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 - The Atlantic 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 - The Atlantic 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 - The Atlantic 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 - The Atlantic Coast
    Reviewed on 25/09/2016

    Professional accomplished reassuring and wonderful hosts with humor

    Elva Harpin
    Sea Kayaking - The Atlantic 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 - The Atlantic Coast
    Reviewed on 16/09/2016

    Knowledgable, supportive and provided flexibility when required.

    James Chapman
    Sea Kayaking - The Atlantic 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 - The Atlantic Coast
    Reviewed on 15/08/2016

    Friwnfly, knowledgeable, well preared and good fun

    Peter van Dijken
    Sea Kayaking - The Atlantic 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 – Introduction Course
    15th May - 19th May 2021
    2 place(s) left CONFIRMED £875 Book Now
    Sea Kayaking in The Outer Hebrides
    7th Aug - 13th Aug 2021
    5 place(s) left CONFIRMED £1,255 Book Now
    Sea Kayaking – Introduction Course
    28th Aug - 1st Sep 2021 Women only departure
    5 place(s) left CONFIRMED £875 Book Now
    Sea Kayaking – The Summer Isles
    4th Sep - 9th Sep 2021
    6 place(s) left CONFIRMED £935 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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