The best rivers to canoe or kayak in Scotland

With several major rivers, large wilderness areas, and lots of National Parks, the beautiful scenery of Scotland is home to some of the best places to go kayaking or canoeing in europe. The highlands are especially great for whitewater enthusiasts, providing rapids of all grades. If you enjoy being out at sea, there are great sea kayaking expeditions off the West Coast and in the Hebrides. Check out our sea kayaking tour. If exploring Scotland from the water tickles your fancy, check out this introduction to kayaking and canoeing in Scotland.

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! So… Where are the best rivers for canoeing and kayaking in Scotland ?

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CANOE AND A KAYAK ?

Well the difference is relatively simple; it’s related to the position in the boat and the type of paddle they use to propel the boat. In a kayak, the paddler is seated and uses a double-bladed paddle pulling the blade through the water on alternate sides to move forward. In a canoe, the paddler kneels and uses a single-bladed paddle to propel the boat forward.

CANOEING AND KAYAKING LICENSE FOR SCOTLAND

Scotland’s outdoors provides great opportunities for open-air recreation and education, with great benefits for people’s enjoyment, and their health and well-being. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 ensures everyone has statutory access rights to most of Scotland’s outdoors, if these rights are exercised responsibly, with respect for people’s privacy, safety and livelihoods, and for Scotland’s environment. Equally, land managers have to manage their land and water responsibly in relation to access rights. The Code is based on three key principles, and paddlers have a responsibility to:

-Care for the environment

-Take responsibility for our own actions

-Respect the interests of others

The Paddlers’ Access Code, which revolves around care for others, the environment and responsibility for your actions, must be followed of course, and you will also need a license to dock your kayak or canoe in certain places, and for using locks on the Scottish canals.

THE BEST RIVERS TO KAYAK OR CANOE IN SCOTLAND

1. RIVER SPEY

Spey river (©Tom)

The River Spey is located in the northeast of Scotland. It is the ninth longest river in the United Kingdom, as well as the third longest and fastest-flowing river in Scotland. It is important for salmon fishing and whisky production. The River Spey is one of the classic open canoe journeys in Scotland and in the UK. The Spey has stretches of flat water and lochs, gentle moving water and exciting grade 2 rapids. It can be paddled as a complete journey or, if using the agreed access and egress points, can be broken down into superb day paddles. The Spey starts its journey high in the mountains at Loch Spey, and flows down to the sea passing many villages and beautiful rural spots on the way. There are usually many wonderful wildlife sightings when on the river, ranging from ospreys to dippers, otters and salmon. The journey down the River Spey from Lochain Uvie to Spey Bay is 135 kilometers. It is a stunning journey to complete and should be a must on every paddler’s tick list. Check our trip for more information.

2. RIVER TAY

Scotland’s longest river, the river Tay can be canoed in sections or – if you’ve got a good bit of time on your hands – in its entirety. It runs from the slopes of Ben Lui in the west of the country across to Loch Tay, where the river then starts proper, and from there it runs over to the east coast at Dundee where it joins the sea via the Firth of Tay. Aberfeldy, not far from Loch Tay, is a particularly popular spot for kayaking, with beginner options on the loch itself. but if its proper white water you’re after, head for Grandtully. The place takes its name from the gaelic term “garan tullach” or “rough mound” – and it’s certainly rough.The Grandtully rapids include the “boat breaker” and are some of the trickiest on the River Tay (they’re rated at grade 3 out of 5) so you want to have a reasonable amount of experience under your belt before heading there. Contact us for more informations.

3. RIVER FINDHORN

One of Scotland’s classic white water rivers, the Findhorn can be found in the north east of the country, flowing into the Moray firth. It attracts paddlers from around the country with rapids ranging from Grade 2 to Grade 4. Particularly past the point of Randolph’s Leap – a viewpoint with a nice bit of Scottish folklore behind it – there’s great kayaking opportunities, and the scenery round here – as in so much of Scotland – is absolutely stunning too. Contact us for more informations.

4. THE CALEDONIAN CANAL

@Tom – Caledonian canal

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 Adventures-Scotland. The detectives among you will have worked out that the Caledonian Canal is not actually a river. It’s a canal. The first clue was in the name. But we thought it was worthy of a mention on this list since it grants access to the Great Glen Canoe Trail – a beauty of a kayak trip, traversing the legendary Loch Ness. Contact us for more informations.

5. RIVER TEITH

@Tom – River Teith

The River Teith flows out of the picturesque highland town of Callander draining the hills of the Trossachs. This beautiful river travels along the valley floor, giving us great opportunities to see plenty of wildlife as well as getting our adrenaline buzz on the rapids along the way. The Teith can be done as two possible sections (about 2-3 hours each) or 1 long-ish day. Contact us for more informations.

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Inspired ? Check out our canoe & kayak holidays.

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