Kayakers on Loch Chon


Kayaking & Canoeing Holidays in Scotland

Scotland is a paradise for paddlers, with many different types of kayaking and canoeing pursuits available. All you have to do is choose a vessel, pick up a buoyancy aid, grab a paddle and decide where you would like to go.

If you're a complete beginner or you're still trying to find your sea legs, not to worry. There are many opportunities to try out kayaking lessons or even venture on a kayaking course to get you up to speed. Don't worry about equipment either, you'll be provided with all the essential gear when you arrive. Maybe just remember a spare change of warm clothes for after! 

Our rivers, lochs and coastlines. Keep reading for more information and how to kick start your Scottish kayaking holidays.

Types of Kayaking and Canoeing Trips in Scotland

In Scotland you will come across a variety of types of kayaking, from sea kayaking, open canoeing, kayaking activities for families and more. Kayaking is a popular watersport for individuals and families alike to try out on their holiday in Scotland and is something you can find on offer in all corners of the country.

Loch and river kayaking

Kayaking on the Caledonian Canal
Kayakers on the Caledonian Canal by Neptune's Staircase near Fort William

Kayak on Scotland's lochs and rivers and you'll be paddling through some of the country's most beautiful and remote wildernesses. Take in staggering landscapes and wildlife as you float on a tranquil loch or tackle a flowing river complete with thrilling, white-knuckled stretches of river rapids.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started: 

  • Inverness - Try the incredible Great Glen Canoe Trail, which travels from coast to coast through an ancient route of rugged mountainous landscapes in northern Scotland! In Your Element provide a choice of kayaks, canoes and guided tours for all experience levels - also servicing other northern locations, Aviemore, and Loch Lomond.
  • River Tay - Weaving its way through Perthshire, the Tay is one of Scotland's longest and most famous rivers, offering steady conditions for both beginners and advanced kayakers. Outdoor Explore offers kayak trips and courses in tandem and single crafts.
  • Loch Morlich - Located 10 minutes from Aviemore, Loch Morlich is a great place to try out kayaking. Loch Morlich Watersports offers equipment hire, lessons, activity days and a range of courses all on site.
  • Loch Lomond - Experience what it's like to paddle on the largest body of fresh water in mainland Britain with Hidden Adventures. They provide a range of fun, hands-on safari-style adventure experiences on one of the best lochs to kayak in Scotland.

Sea kayaking

Sea kayaking Brodick
Sea kayaking in Brodick Bay, Arran

Scotland is one of the best destinations in the world for sea kayaking as it boasts hundreds of miles of secluded beaches, cliffs, caves, tunnels, and beautiful blue waters. You'll be able to explore curious coves, paddle alongside the local wildlife and make a voyage to distant isles, all the while taking in some refreshing sea air. Sea kayak holidays in Scotland vary from day trips to multi-day expeditions. You can also take part in sea kayaking courses and learn how to sea kayak in Scotland's beautiful waters. 

Here are a few ideas for sea kayaking in Scotland:

  • East Neuk of Fife - Explore the beautiful East Neuk of Fife coastline by sea kayak with East Neuk Outdoors. The Firth of Forth's unique geography and environment offers a varied selection of trips to suit all levels while taking in some amazing wildlife and history.
  • Orkney, Shetland, Skye and the Outer Hebrides - Some of the most spectacular and challenging sea cliffs, arches and tunnels in Europe can be found in Orkney, including the famous Old Man of Hoy. Sea kayaking holidays with Wilderness Scotland offer a wonderful way to explore the coastline of the Highlands and Isles, including Orkney, Shetland, the Outer Hebrides and the Isle of Skye.
  • Scottish Sea Kayaking Trail - Journey through some of the most scenic parts of Scotland on the unique Scottish Sea Kayaking Trail, a challenging 500 km voyage. Stretching from the Isle of Gigha off the Kintyre Peninsula to the Summer Isles near Ullapool, the trail can be undertaken in four holiday-sized sections or as one, long glorious journey. The trail has been voted a top European tour of a lifetime by National Geographic.
  • Argyll Sea Kayak Trail - Split into eight sections and stretching for 150km in length, the Argyll Sea Kayak Trail hugs the stunning Argyll coast and takes in the Crinan Canal, otherwise dubbed 'Britain's most beautiful shortcut'.

Open Canoeing

Open canoe Loch Tay
Canoeing on Loch Tay, Perthshire  

In most cases, a canoe is a long, open boat used for exploring calmer waters. These boats can accommodate solo paddlers as well as a few friends at once. Take it at your own pace, and get to know Scotland's waters. You might even have space to bring a picnic with you.

Many activity centres across the country offer canoeing trips for all ages and abilities. You can choose from a few hours paddling in the water, or extend this to multi-day trips to remote lochs where you will discover Scotland's true wilderness. Discover the wide range of canoeing courses available with Scottish Canoe Association.

Here are a few ideas for open canoeing in Scotland:

  • The Great Glen Canoe Trail - This 96 km stretch of the Caledonian Canal is the first trail of its kinds in Scotland. Running from Fort William to Inverness, the Caledonian Canal offers fabulous options for paddlers of all abilities and can be enjoyed as a long distance canoeing challenge or a relaxing day paddle. Paddle solo or in two with Kushi Adventures, or book a paddling holiday and lessons with Snowgoose Mountain Centre, based near the foot of Ben Nevis.
  • Forth & Clyde and Union Canals - Hire a canoe and travel from Glasgow to Edinburgh with Bridge 8 Hub using only paddle power. Following the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals, make your way from one great city to the other following the 87 km trail that winds along Scotland’s central belt.
  • Scotland’s rivers and lochs - For a real adventure on moving waters, why not visit one of Scotland’s rivers, such as the Spey, Tweed, Dee, Etive, Orchy or Findhorn? They offer everything from gentle jaunts downstream to extreme challenges, and are all popular canoeing locations meandering through some of the most picturesque countryside in Scotland. If it comes to lochs, lochs Tay, Goil, Insh are all popular canoeing spots with dedicated watersports centres close by.

FAQs About Kayaking & Canoeing in Scotland

  • What's the difference between a kayak and a canoe? 

The main difference between a kayak and a canoe is the way you sit in it. In a canoe you generally kneel and in a kayak you generally sit with your legs in front of you. They can both be for one person or multiple people and both can have open or closed cockpits. The second difference is the type of paddle you use. In a canoe we use a paddle with one blade and in a kayak we use one with two blades.

  • Can I kayak or canoe anywhere in Scotland?

Yes, you can canoe or kayak on most bodies of water in Scotland. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act (2003) and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code provides a right of responsible access to most land and water, however, paddlers have a responsibility to care for the environment, take responsibility for their actions, and respect the interests of others.

  • Can I camp from my kayak or canoe in Scotland?

Camping around the coastline of Scotland and on islands and islets is permitted, as long as you follow the guidance in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and camp responsibly. A journey in a sea kayak or canoe with all your camping equipment is a unique way of seeing the best of what Scotland has to offer. With over 10,000 kms of coastline and over 700 islands to explore, sea kayaking and canoeing in Scotland really is world class.

  • Do I need a permit to kayak or canoe in Scotland?


  • Can I kayak or canoe on Scottish lochs?


What are the best lochs to kayak or canoe in Scotland?

There are over 30,000 lochs and lochans across Scotland, so there are plenty to choose from! If you have the experience, equipment and skills you might want to paddle the Great Glen Canoe Trail from Fort William to Inverness, which includes lochs Lochy, Oich, Ness and Dochfour.

We would always advise that those that are new to paddling or are not familiar with Scottish waters and weather should join an instructor-led experience for safety reasons - many or our lochs are often quite exposed and affected by the weather. You can find out more about lochs in Scotland and there's lots of great information on where to paddle and how to stay safe on the Scottish Canoe Association website.