Scotland is an intoxicating blend of stunning scenery and sophisticated cities. Its breathtaking landscapes harbor some of the largest areas of wilderness left in Western Europe, with spectacular sea stacks and rock formations, thundering waterfalls, and the jaw-dropping vistas of the northern Highlands. The rugged mountain terrain and convoluted coastline of the Highlands and islands offer unlimited opportunities for adventure.
The clash and conflict of Scotland’s colorful history can be seen in the many prehistoric remains. Mysterious standing stones, muscular towers, and richly symbolic Pictish stones make the distant past a constant presence. From desolate stone fortresses looming in the mist, to majestic towers above historic towns, to luxurious palaces, Scotland has a full range of castles that reflect its turbulent history and tense relations with its southern neighbor. Most castles have a story to tell of plots, intrigues, imprisonments, and treachery--some are even rumored to have ghosts stalking their halls.
Whisky plays a significant role in Scotland’s culture as well. Derived from the Gaelic uisge bagh, meaning ‘water of life,’ whisky has been distilled in Scotland for more than 500 years. More than 100 distilleries are still in operation, producing hundreds of varieties of single malt. Learning to distinguish the smoky, peaty whiskies of Islay from, the flowery, sherried malts of Speyside or delicate lowlands’ malts has become a popular past time.
Sparsely populated with large areas of wilderness, Scotland is an important sanctuary for animals of every kind. Mid-summer is the high season for bird watching, with opportunities to see the golden eagle, white tailed sea eagle, osprey, comcrake, capercaillie, crested tit, and Scottish crossbill. Red deer roam the uplands, pine martens and wildcats stalk the forests, and dolphins, whales, otters, and, orcas splash about in the northern waters.
The elaborate coastline and countless islands of Scotland’s western seaboard are widely recognized as some of the finest sea kayaking areas in the world. Paddling your own kayak allows you to explore remote islands, inlets, creeks, and beaches that are inaccessible on foot, and also provides an opportunity to get close to wildlife such as seals, otters, dolphins, and seabirds.
Our trip begins and ends in Kingussie, a small and historic town town located within the boundaries of Cairngorms National Park and the Scottish Highlands. Located on the main train line between Edinburgh and Inverness, Kingussie is easy to get to from either location (see "Day 0" in the detailed itinerary below for more details).
Embarking on our 8-day tour from the famous West Highlands, we enjoy the best short hike in Britain before sliding our kayaks into the surprisingly temperate and crystal clear waters of the Sound of Arisaig. This coastline of secluded bays, deep inlets and long white sandy beaches is a haven for wildlife including grey seals, otters, and even the harmless but very large basking shark. As we kayak through the countless tiny islands that punctuate the azure waters, we gaze out to the striking outline of the Isle of Skye.
Returning east, we travel back into the Cairngorms National Park, which will celebrate its 15th anniversary in 2018. The largest national park in Scotland, the Cairngorms is known for its ancient forests, sweeping vistas, wildlife, and whisky! We enjoy some easy to moderate hikes (with a challenging climb or two for good measure) to appreciate the scenery and rich history of the region. We also take the time to visit Dalwhinnie distillery on the southwest edge of the park as well as local pubs within its borders, tasting and learning along the way how the local tipple (drink) is created. The rich, evocative, and complex properties of the single malt whisky is said to be the true taste of Scotland.
Rest assured, to tipple is not the only way to enjoy the taste of Scotland. The country is shaking off its once dismal culinary reputation as the land of deep-fried Mars Bars, and now boasts countless regional specialties, farmers markets, artisan cheese makers, smokeries, and microbreweries. Feast on fresh seafood mere hours after it was caught, beef and venison that was raised just a few miles away from our table, and vegetables that were grown in a local organic garden.
We trust that your Scotland adventure will be full of adventure, history, scenery, wildlife, and sensory delights.
ROW Sea Kayak Adventures' takes pride in the significant and beneficial economic impact this trip has to the region. We stay in local hotels, eat in local restaurants, hire local guides, and buy all of our food locally. This itinerary is designed to minimize travel (and therefore fuel consumption) while still offering clients a fulfilling experience of the Scottish Highlands. We stay in three hotels, each of which is owned and managed by locals. The accommodations source much of their food locally, reducing food miles and reinvesting in the local economy.
We hire local guides who provide insight to life in Scotland through firsthand experience! Not only are they qualified hiking and and sea kayaking guides, they have been through a “Wilderness Guide Training” program that includes a module on “Leave No Trace” responsible travel ethics.
This trip supports two environmental charities in Scotland: The John Muir Trust and Trees for Life. We offer direct financial support to these charities and our local staff volunteers each year to help with various projects.
Why ROW Sea Kayak Adventures?
ROW Sea Kayak Adventures has a long and personal connection to Scotland. In fact, owner Peter Grubb celebrated his 8th birthday there many years ago! The research for this trip was conducted recently and we are delighted to be partnering with one of Scotland’s finest outfitters to bring you this multifaceted adventure.
On our remarkable Scottish journeys, you get to experience the true spirit of Scotland from the Highlands to the coast. Exploring by foot and by kayak allows you to experience the country in two distinct, yet magnificent ways. This trip offers an excellent opportunity for guests to interact with locals, providing an authentic cultural element. Experiencing the rich culture of the region is equally as life-changing as gliding in your kayak through the surprisingly turquoise water. The beauty and serenity of the Scottish coast is truly breathtaking, and a perfect place to appreciate simply “being.”
Our guides provide insight to Scotland’s intriguing history, with plenty of stories, myths, and legends to share. We also provide top-quality kayaking gear so you enjoy your adventure to the fullest!