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Selected Trips

    Scotland's Best Sea Kayaking

    By Tim Willis
    More by Tim

    Top 10 Scottish Sea Kayaking Spots

    Wilderness Guide Tim Willis has paddled and guided all over the world, so he knows a thing or two about sea kayaking and what qualifies as a good place to do it.

    “I’m delighted to say that for me, paddling in Scottish waters is hard to beat.”

    1. Vatersay to Mingulay

    scottish sea kayaking

    Where: The Outer Hebrides
    Grade: Moderate Plus
    Features: The rocky scenery – cliffs are on a scale rarely seen anywhere else in Scotland, complete solitude.
    Tide: Streams run fast between the islands, opposing streams can cause problems, waters are often turbulent.

    “We paddled into enormous caves, under colossal arches, next to gigantic basking sharks, puffins and playful seals. It was the most memorable days sea kayaking I have ever enjoyed.”

    2. The Sound of Arisaig

    Scottish Sea Kayaking

    Where: West Highlands
    Grade: Moderate Plus
    TripThe Sound of Arisaig expedition
    Features: This is the nearest you will get to paddling in the Caribbean in Scotland – golden sands and crystal clear waters.
    Tide: Waters are sheltered inside the skerries, but can be rough on the outside depending on the swell and wind.

    “If I had one last day to paddle on the planet, I would come here. Nothing beats getting lost in the myriad of skerries with their turquoise waters and golden sandy beaches. Time seems to stand still here and there are endless skerries to explore and dolphins to look out for.”

    3. Luskentyre to Taransay

    Scottish Sea Kayaking

    Where: The Outer Hebrides
    Grade: Moderate Plus
    Trip: The Outer Hebrides expedition
    Features: Sea caves, sandy beaches, views to Harris and the ultimate sense of peace and quiet.
    Tide: Mostly gentle – the weather is the biggest hazard, significant down draughts are present when winds come from the N or NE.

    “On a sunny day, the colours of the water in this area are beyond description. You could happily spend hours not paddling and just trying to take in the extraordinary landscape that is constantly changing as the sun moves around the sky.”

    4. Upper to Lower Loch Torridon

    Scottish Sea Kayaking

    WhereThe North West Highlands
    Grade: Easy
    Trip: Introduction to Sea Kayaking Course
    Features: Surrounded by mountains to the north, all of which are over 3,000ft in height.
    Tide: Often negligible, generally sheltered and calm.

    “Paddling underneath the amphitheatre of mountains that surround the loch, is a wonderful experience. We often pick mussels off the rocks, which we cook later that evening. The sunsets that often finish each day are magnificent.”

    5. Loch Maree

    Scottish Sea Kayaking

    Where: The North West Highlands
    Grade: Intermediate
    Features: All of the loch’s islands are conservation areas – the largest of which is the only island in Britain to contain a loch that itself contains an island.
    Tide: No tide as such, since Loch Maree is an inland loch, however, generally calm and sheltered, but can be choppy in high winds.

    “An inland freshwater loch that is often used on stormy weather days. This is often regarded as Scotland’s most scenic loch and you understand why as soon as you glimpse it. Gorgeous wee islands clad in Scots Pine trees are great fun to paddle beside and it’s always with a heavy heart that you leave this area at the day’s end.”

    6. Applecross to the Crowlin Islands


    Where: The North West Highlands
    Grade: Easy
    TripIntroduction to Sea Kayaking
    Features: Unique natural harbours, fine views to Raasay, Rona and the Cuillins of Skye, relatively sheltered.
    Tide: Sheltered – an ideal first open water crossing, streams are fairly negligible.

    “Applecross is a wonderful village with a fabulous pub, a perfect place to end a day of sea kayaking. The journey out to the Crowlin Islands is not only very scenic with views out to Rona, Raasay and the Small Isles, but the Crowlin Islands themselves are full of magic and mystery and a joy to paddle through, often with glimpses of otters. There have been human settlements here for 8,000 years.”

    7. Loch Morar

    Scottish Sea Kayaking

    Where: West Highlands
    Grade: Moderate Plus
    Trip: The Sound of Arisaig expedition
    Features: Of glacial origin with very deep sides, contains five sizeable islands.
    Tide: No tide as such, since Loch Morar is an inland loch.

    “Another loch often used on those super windy days, although I have paddled here on many occasions on calm, blue sky days and never left anything but delighted. This is the deepest loch in the UK and it feels very remote when you are out on the water and paddling east towards the mountains. Halfway along the loch on the northern side, there is a small track that takes you over a hill to Tarbet, on the shores of Loch Nevis. A welcome chance to stretch your legs and enjoy the sweeping views over to Knoydart.”

    8. Loch Moidart

    Scottish Sea Kayaking

    Where: West Highlands
    Grade: Moderate
    Features: Very remote, craggy hillsides, exceptionally tranquil.
    Tide: Generally calm.

    “Launching onto the loch next to Castle Tioram is hard to beat, it’s an impressive backdrop. The island of Eilean Shona sits in the middle of the loch giving two options to paddle past – the north channel and the south channel. Once past the island, which was leased to J.M. Barrie in the 1920s to write Peter Pan, the loch continues down towards the sea, where a number of small islands are located just at the entrance. These would not look out of place in the Bahamas, with their crystal clear water and white sandy beaches. The deer you may see along the nearby hills will most certainly remind you that you are indeed in Scotland.”

    9. The Summer Isles

    Scottish Sea Kayaking

    Where: The North West Highlands
    Grade: Moderate plus
    Trip: The Summer Isles expedition
    Features: Sandstone cliffs, uninhabited islands and sheltered lagoons.
    Tide: Generally sheltered waters, although some exposed pockets are subject to wind and rough seas.

    “The Summer Isles are a very special part of Scotland. Even the journey up to the put-in point, near Achiltibuie, will amaze you. The hills of Assynt are my favourite in the country and are so full of character. They are usually visible from the kayaks wherever you are on the Summer Isles. There are arches to paddle under, caves to explore, incredible wildlife to spot, wonderful islands to explore and these make for excellent camping with their mesmerising views out across the isles to the sea and Outer Hebrides beyond.”

    10. Loch Carron

    Scottish Sea Kayaking

    WhereThe North West Highlands
    Grade: Moderate
    Features: An abundance of mountains and natural harbours, islands and rocky beaches.
    Tide: Reasonably sheltered, tidal streams are fairly negligible.

    “Another great sea loch to paddle on is Loch Carron. A drink in one of the many fine pubs and restaurants in the charming village of Plockton is a great reward for a day out on the sea.”

    What is it Like Sea Kayaking in Scotland?

    Check out our Scottish Sea Kayaking video below, filmed around the Knoydart peninsula and see what it is like to sea kayak in these pristine waters on a Wilderness Scotland adventure.


    Our Sea Kayaking Trips

    Feeling inspired to venture out onto the tranquil waters of Scotland on a grand sea kayaking adventure? Check out our range of sea kayaking trips – we offer adventures for beginners and seasoned kayaking enthusiasts alike.

    Meet the Author: Tim Willis

    “Having travelled and enjoyed adventures in much of the world, for Tim there is nowhere more beautiful, dramatic and captivating than home in Scotland. Travel has made Tim realise just how lucky he is to live in a country with so much history, tradition, scenic beauty and incredible accessibility. In his words "It is a total pleasure and a great privilege to host and guide visitors to Scotland each year."”

    View profileMore by Tim

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