Scottish Kayak Trail
Coast Scotland: (ZZ-SK-WS02)
The Scottish Sea Kayak Trail is Europe's first long distance sea kayak trail, stretching from Gigha in the south to the wonderful Summer Isles in the north. This trip is designed to allow you to experience some of the best parts of the southern and central parts of the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail over a number of day trips. Rather than camping, accommodation is provided at sea kayaker friendly west coast inns, meaning that you always have somewhere warm and dry to return to after a day on the water. The Trail itself is completely unmarked and undeveloped so the sea kayaking offered is a pristine experience. Under the watchful eye of our experienced guides, you can develop your sea kayaking skills while discovering the amazing seascapes and wildlife of Scotland’s west coast. Each day we move a little further north, enjoying the fantastic sea kayaking to be found along the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail.
At the end of each day, you can enjoy a hot shower and a visit to the local restaurant or pub for dinner before snuggling down with your duvet in our cosy accommodation. If you (like us) you enjoy your sea kayaking and your home comforts in equal measure, then look no further than this itinerary!
The Scottish Sea Kayak Trail has made the National Geographic's 2011 “50 Tours of a Lifetime” and Outside Magazine’s coveted ‘Travel Hot List for 2011’
Scottish Sea Kayak Trail: Central
This trip explores the central part of the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail, introducing you to wonderful areas such as Loch Linnhe, the Sound of Mull, Loch Sunart and the Sound of Arisaig.
Scottish Sea Kayak Trail: South
This trip will introduce you to wonderful coastlines such as the isles of Gigha, Luing and Seil, Loch Craignish and Loch Melfort.
On these accommodation based sea kayaking trips, you will stay in two different locations.
For the first two nights, we stay at a Highland inn located on the shores of Loch Sunart. Accommodation is in a choice of twin or double rooms.
We then move slightly further north and spend the final 3 nights based in a traditional inn which is located right beside the beach in a sheltered bay in the Sound of Arisaig, south-west of Fort William. The traditional inn has been the hub of the community for years and is a great place to eat, drink and share a joke with the locals. The accommodation is in a choice of double or twin rooms. Best of all, however, is the inn’s shoreline location which means that you can walk out of your door and jump straight into your sea kayak each morning!
For the first 2 nights, you will be based in a 3-star small hotel located on the shores of Loch Fyne, in the heart of Argyll and an ideal base to explore the Isles of Islay, Jura and Gigha. This welcoming, informal hotel is the perfect place to come back to after a day of paddling: enjoy the fresh local catches in the hotel restaurant or sample the vast array of stunningly smooth malts in the bar. All bedrooms are a welcoming, snug and safe haven from the elements, with an elegant blend of contemporary design and a truly Scottish twist.
For the next 3 nights, you are based in a comfortable 3-star hotel which is located on the shores of Loch Melfort. The owners pride themselves on offering the very best in service, tranquil accommodation, tasteful decor and
a gourmet dining experience (the restaurant has been awarded two Rosettes by the AA every year since 2000) all set amongst the stunning romantic scenery of the Scottish West Highlands. All bedrooms have magnificent sea
views over Asknish Bay towards Jura, Shuna and Scarba which will take your breath away.
not charge single person supplements to people booking on their own.
However you will be expected to share a room with another person of the
same sex. It may be possible to book a single room on request, provided
one is available at an additional charge
Breakfast and packed lunch are included each day. Naturally, vegetarians and most other dietary requirements are willingly catered for – simply let us know in advance. For the evening meals (not included), we visit some of the
nearby pubs and inns, which offer good food at reasonable prices.
This itinerary is graded overall as "Moderate". This is based upon a combination of the required skill level and experience, fitness, and the general demands of the expedition.
Our sea kayaking holidays graded ‘Moderate’ are suitable for those with at least 5 previous days of sea kayaking experience, and it is preferable if at least some of this was under instruction.
The kayaking will be in coastal waters with few open crossings and you can expect to kayak up to 12km in a day, although this will be subject to weather and wind conditions. You should be confident on the water but the ability to Eskimo roll is not required. You should have a good level of fitness as you can expect up to 6 hours of sea kayaking each day, with plenty of breaks onshore to stretch your legs. You will also need to be able to help carry the kayaks to and from the water each day.
To help you decide if you are fit enough for this trip, ask yourself:
Are you prepared for 6 hours activity each day, perhaps paddling into the wind which can be hard work?
Do you have at least 5 days of sea kayaking experience, with at least some of that under instruction?
Our sea kayaking team consists of the best guides in Scotland – all of whom are passionate about our country and will share their vast knowledge and experience with you. Equally important to the technical skills of our guiding
team is a sense of humour and the ability to ensure that a wide range of clients of all ages and abilities enjoy the very best Scotland has to offer.
The trip price includes the following services:
- 2 nights accommodation at a 3-star small hotel near Loch Fyne
- 3 nights accommodation at a 3-star hotel on the shores of Loch Melfort
- Breakfast and packed lunches each day
- All transport throughout the trip, starting and finishing in Inverness
- All specialist sea kayaking equipment, including sea kayaks, paddles,
spray decks, paddling jackets and buoyancy aids
- The services of our experienced and knowledgeable sea kayak guide
throughout your trip
The price does not include:
- Transport to and from the holiday start/end point
- Travel insurance and personal equipment
- Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
- Incidental personal expenditure e.g. alcoholic drinks, laundry, etc
- Any other items not mentioned as included
Group size is limited to 8 as we believe this makes it easier for our guides to
offer personal attention and wildlife-viewing possibilities are also enhanced.
Our groups vary widely in terms of age and this diversity always adds to the
holiday experience. We welcome anyone with the relevant sea kayaking
experience, a reasonable degree of fitness, plenty of enthusiasm and an
appreciation of the fantastic scenery on offer!
A Typical Day
Waking up in your comfortable bed, you will be rested and ready to go! Over
a relaxed breakfast, taken at about 8am, the guide describes the day ahead.
On your exploratory paddles, you will journey through crystal clear waters - the turquoise colors on a sunny day will have you thinking you are in the tropics! During the day, we’ll keep our eyes open for marine life in the form
Highlights Sea Kayak Trail: Central
of seals, porpoises and dolphins, although whales are occasionally spotted too. On the shoreline, otters can sometimes be seen, while the bird life is plentiful with seabirds and also Golden Eagles and other birds of prey soaring high above. When paddling in the Sound of Arisaig seals and otters are a common site as well as a wide variety of seabirds. After a day out on the water, you will return to the accommodation, where there will be time to freshen up with a hot shower before dinner at a local inn. After dinner we enjoy a drink, often admiring a Highland sunset over the loch before retreating to the lounge to discuss our day and the opportunities for tomorrow. By the end of the trip, you will have paddled in and got to know two of Scotland’s best sea kayaking locations. You will have admired magnificent mountain and coastal scenery and laughed a lot during the relaxed evening meals. When the time comes to depart, we do hope that you will find yourself wondering which trip to come on next.
Day 1 – Welcome and onto the water!
You will be met by your guide at Inverness Railway station and we’ll transfer to Loch Linnhe for an afternoon paddle, refreshing your skills and introducing you to the wonderful West Highland scenery. Late afternoon, we transfer to our first accommodation, located on the shores of Loch Sunart.
Day 2 – The Scottish Sea Kayak Trail: Sound of Mull
Today we have a choice of areas to paddle in. One option is to head south to the Sound of Mull and Loch Aline, which is part of the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail. This stretch of water is a good place to encounter all kinds of marine wildlife such as dolphins and minke whales. After an enjoyable day's sea kayaking, we return to our accommodation late afternoon.
Day 3 – Sea Kayaking in Loch Sunart
Loch Sunart forms the southern boundary of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula and offers some lovely sea kayaking. We can explore the islands of Risga, Carna and Oronsay, all of which offer interest to sea kayakers. We will look out for sea otters which are often spotted in this sea loch. Further west lies Ardnamurchan Point - this is one area that we will not sea kayak to as it is the most challenging section of the whole trail, and is for experts only! If time permits, however, we will drive to the point to admire the magnificent sea views. We then transfer to our next accommodation, a classic West Highland inn located on the waterfront with views across the Sound of Arisaig.
Day 4 – Sea Kayaking in Loch Moidart and Castle Tioram
After breakfast, we continue our journey along the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail. Today we explore the sheltered waters of Loch Moidart, kayaking past the dramatic ruins of Castle Tioram (dating from the 13th Century) to Eilean Shona (the beautiful island'). This is one of the most stunning places on the West Coast. Paddling past stands of Caledonian pines on the shoreline, we can paddle round the point all the way back to our waterside inn, passing an abandoned village along the way.
Day 5 - Sea Kayaking through the Arisaig Skerries
Heading north from the inn, we enjoy one of the best day trips by sea kayak anywhere in the world - kayaking through the Arisaig skerries. These beach-fringed islands which guard the entrance to Arisaig are home to countless seals, otters and seabirds, while basking sharks are also regular visitors. Even without any wildlife, it still makes for an amazing paddle through the turquoise waters of the skerries. On clear days, the Atlantic views west to the mountains of Rum and Skye are magnificent - this really is Scottish sea kayaking at its best.
Day 6 - Final morning’s paddle
After breakfast at the inn, we’ll enjoy a morning sea kayaking before we make our way back to Inverness. We often explore either Loch Ailort (easily accessed from in front of the inn) or Loch nan Uamh. We follow the coastline of the peninsula with its rich history of the Jacobite rebellion of the 1740’s. This is a great way to end the trip and we can reflect back on the experience as we load up the vehicle and trailer and make our way back to Inverness, arriving late afternoon.
Highlights Sea Kayak Trail: South
Day 1 – Welcome and onto the water!
You will be met by your guide in Oban and we’ll transfer south to the Kintyre Peninsula for an afternoon paddle, refreshing your sea kayaking skills and introducing you to the wonderful southern Highland scenery. Late afternoon, we transfer to our first accommodation, located on the shores of Loch Fyne.
Day 2 – The Scottish Sea Kayak Trail Begins!
From our hotel, it is a short transfer to the put-in point and the start of the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail. If conditions are good, we may paddle across to the Isle of Gigha, one of the prettiest Hebridean islands. Alternatively, we can explore West Loch Tarbert and its many small islands and skerries. We return to the hotel late afternoon.
Day 3 – Sea Kayaking in Loch Craignish and Skerries
There are many possible destinations today as we leave our hotel and travel north a short distance, crossing the Crinan Canal along the way. Our likely destination is Loch Craignish, which offers good sea kayaking in fairly sheltered waters. Its many islands are dotted with the remains of ancient sites such as forts, chambered cairns and sculptured stones. Overnight at Loch Melfort.
Day 4 – Sea Kayaking: Croabh Haven and Shuna
Today we sea kayak in the bay directly in front of our hotel. We can plan our route over breakfast, surveying the bay from the breakfast room's panoramic windows. There are many small islands and ports to explore and we will land in a few places to explore on land as well.
Day 5 - Sea Kayaking: Luing and Seil
A memorable day of sea kayaking as we explore the beautiful Seil Sound. If conditions are good, we may kayak to the island of Easdale, which is home to the World Stone Skimming Championships! If tides are right, we may paddle along a narrow channel and under the Bridge over the Atlantic - you'll be amazed at its span!
Day 6 - Final morning’s paddle
After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll enjoy a morning of sea kayaking, either on Loch Melfort or in the Sound of Kerrera, completing our exploration of the southern section of the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail. We return to Oban mid-afternoon in time for people to connect with trains.
PLEASE NOTE - The itinerary may be subject to change due to weather conditions and other factors.
Rates and Dates for Scottish Kayak Trail
Accommodations in small 3-star hotels (no camping), breakfast and lunches, 5 days of guided sea kayaking, all transportation throughout the trip
Transfer and Other Options:
South Itinerary: Transfer from Oban included
Central Itinerary: Transfer from Inverness included
Meeting: Oban (South) / Inverness (Central)
Transfer: Oban / Inverness
When the sun shines in Scotland, it is the best place in the world to be! And although the Scottish climate is renowned for its variability, it is not nearly as rainy as you may think. Even if you get caught in the rain, you will see
What To Bring: EQUIPMENT LISTS
waterfalls and rivers come to life, and the mountains take on an atmospheric appearance which can be very dramatic.
During spring and early summer, meadows of wild flowers bring an abundance of colours to the landscape and it is a great time to experience Scotland’s rich wildlife and birdlife. May and June are the driest and sunniest months and a recommended time to visit Scotland, with normal daytime temperatures of 15 – 18°C. The northerly latitude also means that Scotland enjoys 4 hours more daylight than London, with the most northerly regions barely getting dark during the weeks around midsummer.
July & August are the warmest months with normal daytime temperatures of 18 – 22°C. This is a popular time to visit Scotland but our trips are based in genuine wilderness areas far from the crowds. Scotland’s famous purple heather is at its best in late August, especially in areas such as the Cairngorms.
Late summer brings generally settled weather as we pass into September and October, with normal daytime temperatures of 14 – 16°C. Autumnal colours begin to emerge with birch and rowan trees throwing up particularly bright colours which complement the reddish hue of the hillsides, roamed by well-camouflaged red deer.
The sea temperatures are not as cool as you may expect, generally being between 10 -13°C throughout the year.
The following lists are designed to help your preparation and packing for your trip. The list is not exhaustive and, given the range of personal references, does not include all clothing that will be required for general use.
Having suitable equipment and clothing will help make your trip even more enjoyable, especially if the weather is less than perfect at any time.
We recognize that sometimes it is difficult to decide exactly what to bring and what will be most suitable. We are, of course, pleased to advise based on our experience so do not hesitate to contact us if you have any queries.
What to wear whilst kayaking
When kayaking, wetsuits / drysuits are not provided or required as capsizes are rare and if you capsize, we simply paddle to the shore so you can change into dry clothes. However, if you have any specialist water sports clothing, you are welcome to bring it along and wear it. Most people kayak wearing light-weight, quick drying layers on their upper half, with the specialist kayaking cagoules we provide as the outer layer. On their legs, they wear either waterproof trousers or shorts. Cotton clothing is not recommended as it takes a long time to dry and will not keep you warm once wet.
With regards to whether or not to wear gloves, you will get a much better grip if you paddle with bare hands and you will find that your hands tend to keep warm whilst paddling anyway.
We recommend the following clothing for our sea kayaking holidays:
General Clothing & Equipment
- Wellington boots (recommended) or Neoprene boots are ideal for paddling, although many people wear sports sandals or an old pair of trainers with a pair of thick woollen socks (your feet will get wet at some point!)
- Lightweight Trousers such as ME Approach Pant
- Waterproof trousers
- Shorts (or bring ‘zip-off’ trousers which convert into shorts)
- Light-weight, quick drying base layers such as ME Crux T Baselayer
- Fleece jacket
- Sun hat / baseball cap
- Sunglasses - with a buoyant head strap, just in case!
- Buoyant strap, as above, for glasses if you wear them
(you will want to have this close to hand when kayaking)
- Sunscreen and lip balm
- Insect repellent and midge net
- Warm hat
- Water bottle or hydration pouch e.g. camelback, platypus.
- A clean dry cloth for wiping your sunglasses
Overnight Equipment (no camping)
- Warm, comfortable clothes for evening wear (these double as a spare set)
- Sandals, trainers or similar footwear for the evenings
- Personal wash kit
- Any personal medicines
- Fully waterproof jacket (we provide specialist cagoules for sea-kayaking)
- Small day sack for keeping personal kit to hand
- Camera (as long as you have a fully waterproof bag or box for it e.g.
Splash Box by Go Products - small waterproof container, available in Tiso)
- Spare film / memory card and batteries for your camera
- Plastic Tupperware style box for storing food for packed lunch
Please note that soft-bags are requested for ease of storage in our vehicle - no sturdy suitcases please.
We will provide all necessary group equipment including:
- Sea kayaks (Capella 166 - with retractable skegs, adjustable footrests, backrests and three storage hatches)
- Paddles (left and right handed options are available, various lengths)
- Buoyancy aids
- Spray decks
- Kayaking cagoules / jackets
- 2 x dry-bags per person
- Other specialist equipment including maps and first aid kit
Personal First Aid Kit
The following is a list of recommended items. Although most of these items are generally available at the start and at the end of the route, it is always more convenient to have a ready supply. This is particularly relevant to any
- Antiseptic cream
- Plasters, bandages, adhesive tape, zinc oxide tape
- Moleskin or Compeed for blisters
- Scissors, tweezers and safety pins
- Anti-inflammatory drugs e.g. Ibuprofen
- Analgesics e.g. Aspirin
- Anti-diaorrheal drugs: e.g. Imodium
- Re-Hydration salts or solution e.g. Dioralyte
- Throat lozenges & Dextrose glucose tablets
- Water purification tablets
- Insect Repellent - we recommend natural based solutions or Avon Skin so Soft
- Contact lenses and glasses (if appropriate)
Packing & Re-Packing
Please arrive with your kit in a soft holdall or rucksack - no sturdy suitcases please. When we arrive at the put in point on Day 1, you will be issued with two dry-bags (1 large and 1 medium) which will take your paddling kit and
It will take a bit of time to sort kit out before we begin kayaking (this is affectionately known in Scotland as “faffing”!). However, this will ensure that your equipment remains dry and secure each day. You may want to place
valuable items such as wallets or cameras inside polythene bags within the dry-bags.
When it is time to pack your kayak each day, you will have three storage hatches in which to store all of your kit and as we are only day paddling, you will have lots of room. The largest hatch, located to the rear of the kayak, is an oval opening and extends back inside the kayak for around a metre, narrowing as it reaches the end.
Directly behind the cockpit is a small day hatch, which is round and extends across the width of the kayak. This is ideal for storing equipment that you would like to have close to hand e.g. your lunch, snacks, a warm hat, camera, lip balm, sun screen, cloth for wiping sunglasses, etc. There is a middle sized hatch to the front of the kayak, which is a round opening and extends forward for around a meter, narrowing as it reaches the end.
There is elastic meshing to the front and rear of the cockpit and this is ideal for lashing down hydration pouches and maps etc.
The picture below is of the type of kayak we use and will give you a good idea of the layout of the boat with its hatches and meshing. The front of the kayak is at the right hand side of the photo.