Top 5 Sea Kayaking Spots on the North Coast 500
Posted on Nov 03, 2015 by Zoe Newsam
Cliffs, beaches and wildlife galore! The North Coast 500 offers a wealth of sea kayaking opportunities.
Wilderness Guide Zoe Newsam shares her Top 5 Sea Kayaking Spots on the North Coast 500.
When Wilderness Scotland asked me to write about my five favourite places to paddle on the North Coast 500 I thought ‘Great! I can think of loads…’. And then I thought ‘…where on earth do I start?’ The truth is, I have lots of favourite places along the route. And I mean LOTS so that question makes me feel like a kid in a sweetie shop – soooooo much to choose from!
The north coast of Scotland has everything. Sheltered lochs that are great for beginners, sandy beaches great for fun in the surf, stunning islands and lots of wildlife. Don’t forget the fastest tidal waters in the UK and the British mainland’s tallest sea cliffs. From beginner to expert; from a couple of hours exploring a pretty bay to a multi-week expedition – there’s something here for everyone. Catch me on a Wilderness Scotland trip, buy me a coffee (see my last blog post!) and I’ll tell you more. But for now, here’s a small selection…
Beginners: Circumnavigation of Loch Shieldaig
Shieldaig village, with its lovely sheltered setting on the shore of Loch Torridon, makes a perfect start and finish for a variety of trips. Take a wee paddle around Shieldaig Island, home to a nesting pair of White Tailed Sea Eagles or take a longer trip around the perimeter of the loch.
- Our Introduction to Sea Kayaking trip is a perfect way to explore this area and learn some new skills.
- Learn how to spot White-tailed Eagles
Improver: Summer Isles
Just an hour from Ullapool, the Summer Isles have a real feeling of remoteness yet offer sheltered waters in most weather conditions. Enjoy both sandy beaches and sea cliffs. Spot seals and, if you’re lucky, perhaps a porpoise or two. If the weather is good then you should venture to the exposed side of the islands and you get a real sense of the vastness of our Atlantic coast.
- Join us for Summer Isles expedition and get to know these lovely islands.
Intermediate: Rabbit Islands
Heading to the north coast now, and a much under-rated area for sea kayaking. The Rabbit Islands and Eilean nan Ron sit at the mouth of the Kyle of Tongue, a stunning but remote area. With sandy beaches, caves and arches, this area should be high on any sea kayakers wish list.
- Mix it up with both sea kayaking and hiking on our Scottish Highlands trip
Advanced: Dunbeath to Berriedale
Now, we’re heading into advanced territory and an area that’s a well-kept secret. Every sea kayaker loves the west coast of Scotland – but how many have been to the north east? The coast south of Wick – and in particular the section from Dunbeath south to Berriedale – is quite a place. It could reduce even the hardiest and most salt-encrusted sea dog to a puddle.
There are one hundred and fifty meter cliffs dropping straight into the sea and thousands of sea birds. And to top it all off, An Dun, a huge arch that gives the optical illusion of paddling down a steep hill. This is exposed water, with no landings except on the calmest days. If you’re happy in this type of environment it will blow your mind!
- Stop off for a paddle on the North Coast 500 self-drive trip
Experts only: Cape Wrath
As I said earlier, this area turns me into a kid in a sweetie shop…and for me this is the cream of all trips. Cape Wrath: a name that conjures up images of rough seas and big cliffs. It doesn’t disappoint. This is a holy grail of a trip and might be the highlight of many sea kayakers entire paddling career.
A memory that will stay with me forever is arriving under the Cape Wrath lighthouse under my own steam. I turned the corner and with the lighthouse in view completed the 40km trip without landing. Travelling these distances without landing is the reality of this trip! Of course you can see the lighthouse from the security of terra firma. Just catch the wee ferry and minibus. But when you look down on those waters imagine kayaking round that corner…
- Take up a new sea kayaking challenge with our red graded Outer Hebrides Island Hopping trip.
Just remember: the sea is a powerful element. Please give it the respect it deserves. If you don’t know your kayaks from your canoes or your sweep strokes from your stern rudders, fear not! Why not book onto one of our introductory trips and learn from an expert? It’s a great way to travel – you won’t regret it!
- Learn to sea kayak with our introductory course in Torridon and Applecross
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