The Best Canoeing and Kayaking Holidays in Scotland

Scotland, a land of misty mountains, serene lochs, and rugged coastlines, is a paddler’s dream come true. With its mesmerising landscapes and water bodies ranging from placid to wild, Scotland offers unparalleled experiences for both canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts. This guide will provide a comprehensive look into the best places in Scotland for a canoeing or kayaking holiday and what to expect from them.

Why Choose Scotland for Canoeing or Kayaking Journeys?

Scotland’s varied landscapes, with its deep glacial lochs, winding rivers, and coastal waters, provide diverse opportunities for paddlers of all skill levels. Whether you are a novice looking for calm waters and scenic beauty or an experienced paddler seeking the thrill of white-water rapids, Scotland has it all.

Moreover, the weather, while unpredictable at times, is part of the charm. Be prepared to experience sun, rain, and everything in between, sometimes all in a single day! But worry not, the dramatic changes in weather often lead to some of the most breathtaking views and rainbows you’ll ever witness.

A group on a canoeing holiday with Active Outdoor Pursuits
Setting up camp as part of a canoeing journey with Active Outdoor Pursuits

Holiday Expeditions with Active Outdoor Pursuits

If you’re wondering where to start, Active Outdoor Pursuits is a seasoned operator offering a plethora of canoeing and kayaking journeys in Scotland, tailoring each experience to your needs.

Arisaig Adventure:

Considered the crown jewel of kayaking holidays in Scotland, the waters around Arisaig on the west coast beckon sea kayakers from all over. The waters around Arisaig shimmer in shades of turquoise and azure, bordered by pristine white sandy beaches. As you paddle, the silhouette of the Small Isles dances on the horizon, providing a stunning backdrop. This journey isn’t just about the scenic splendour; it’s a wildlife lover’s dream. Expect encounters with seals basking on the rocks, otters playing along the coastlines, and a myriad of seabirds soaring overhead.

River Spey Descent:

Flowing through the heart of Scotland, the River Spey is a delight for adrenaline seekers. Its waters rush in gushing rapids, punctuated by calmer stretches, all ensconced within the embrace of dense Scots pine forests. Amid the journey, we’ll pause to savour the renowned Speyside malt, offering a tantalising “wee dram” from the heart of whisky country. As you navigate its waters, the allure of premier salmon fishing awaits, and the myriad of wildlife gracing its banks adds to its reputation as a top-tier British river.

Glenfinnan and Loch Shiel

The journey commences at Prince Charlie’s Monument at Glenfinnan. As you set off, you’ll witness the Glenfinnan Viaduct, an architectural marvel that has been immortalised in the Harry Potter films. From here, you paddle into the tranquil Loch Shiel. As you glide on the loch, the surrounding mountains cast their reflections on the water, creating an ever-changing canvas of beauty. This journey is also a trip back in time, as Loch Shiel has witnessed significant events in Scottish history, adding a layer of depth to your adventure.

Inverpolly Adventure:

Embark on the Inverpolly adventure, a guided canoe and trekking journey through Scotland’s pristine wilderness. The North West Highlands house undulating heather moorland, peat bogs, and serene lochs. Amid ancient woodlands and towering Torridonian Sandstone peaks, we explore glacial lochs, climbing peaks via remote routes. Nights are spent camping by rivers and sandy coves, immersed in nature’s beauty.


Great Glencoe Canoe Trail:

Carved by a geographic fault, this trail divides Scotland, presenting a journey rich in both challenge and revelation. As you embark from Fort William, the Caledonian Canal introduces you to the ancient landscapes that have borne witness to countless tales of yesteryear. The journey then beckons you to the expansive waters of Lochy, Oich, and the illustrious Loch Ness. And while the legends of Nessie might entice many, it’s the trail’s blend of historical landmarks and the mysteries of the Highlands that truly capture the essence of this Scottish adventure.

Loch Tay and River Tay Descent

Nestled amidst towering peaks, Loch Tay sparkles in the Scottish sunlight, offering paddlers an oasis of peace. But as you progress, the calm waters of the loch give way to the spirited currents of the River Tay. The descent is a thrilling journey, where each bend brings forth a new challenge or a picturesque vista. Ancient forests flank the river, their beauty reflecting in the shimmering waters.

Knoydart Canoe Expedition

The Knoydart Canoe Expedition unveils remote mountains, deep lochs, tragic history, and Scotland’s finest pub! An exceptional journey suited for experienced paddlers. Knoydart, Scotland’s wildest mountain range with just one settlement, Inverie, reached by boat or foot — is a uniquely Scottish experience. Once home to 400 residents before the 1853 clearances, Knoydart is embraced by Loch Hourn and Loch Nevis.

A group taking part in a canoeing journey

The Benefits of a Guided Canoeing and Kayaking Holiday in Scotland

While the allure of solo adventure is strong, there are undeniable benefits to embarking on a guided canoeing and kayaking expedition in Scotland. These curated experiences offer a blend of convenience, safety, camaraderie, and expert guidance that can enhance your overall journey.

Opting for an experienced operator like Active Outdoor Pursuits grants you access to local knowledge and expert guidance that enhance your experience. Seasoned guides intimately understand waterways, interpret weather conditions, and provide insights into landscapes, history, and wildlife. Their expertise ensures a safer and more immersive adventure, providing peace of mind with the necessary equipment, training for beginners, and navigation through potential hazards, even during emergencies.

Canoeing and kayaking expeditions in Scotland also unveil optimal routes and hidden gems, enhancing your time on the water. Joining a group trip adds a social dimension, fostering new friendships, shared experiences, and camaraderie around campfires. Our canoeing and kayaking journeys benefit both novices and experienced paddlers, offering skill enhancement through personalised instruction, and expanding your appreciation for ecology, geology, and cultural significance.

While stunning landscapes leave an impression, it’s often the shared moments, laughter, and connections that arise during guided trips that create unforgettable memories, enhancing the overall experience.

Two people on a kayaking expedition
A group under a canopy resting after a day of kayaking on an Active Outdoor Pursuits journey

Book Your Adventure Holiday Today

From the tranquil waters of Arisaig to the rugged North West Highlands, each journey unveils a unique facet of Scotland’s natural beauty. While the temptation of solo exploration is strong, guided experiences, like those provided by Active Outdoor Pursuits, offer expert guidance, safety, camaraderie, and local insight that elevate your adventure.

These curated trips ensure optimal routes, hidden gems, and shared moments, creating an unforgettable tapestry of memories against Scotland’s stunning backdrop. Whether you’re drawn by calm waters or exhilarating rapids, a guided canoeing and kayaking holiday in Scotland promises not just an exploration of landscapes, but a deep and meaningful connection to this remarkable land. Contact us to find out more about our canoeing and kayaking journeys.

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