For a proper sporting adventure, you can’t beat sea kayaking. Flitting around Scotland’s coastline, ducking in and out of caves and getting to grips with nature. Ren Deakin offers his personal guide.
In a sea kayak you’re stepping into an ancient and traditional vessel. The word ‘kayak’ literally means ‘hunter’s boat’, and they were first created by the Inuit - arctic seal and whale hunters - using wooden frames covered in seal skin. Today we still use the technology of the Mesolithic age, but materials have changed significantly. European settlers covered the frames of their kayaks in fabric, then in the 1950s fiberglass and in 1984 the first plastic kayak was produced.
Despite these changes kayaks remain sturdy, light and versatile and for a unique and ecologically-friendly perspective of Scotland’s coastline, there are few activities quite like sea kayaking. It’s also one of the best ways to experience Scotland’s wildlife, as sea birds and other marine wildlife seem to tolerate a kayak more than powered craft.
Gently gliding along in these silent boats, and with the blessing of clear blue seas, paddlers are almost guaranteed to get up-close and personal - whether it’s with inquisitive seals, mischievous otters, playful porpoises or diverse birdlife. Indeed, sea kayaking is described by some as ‘the new mountaineering’ for the very reason that it offers such a rich and diverse sporting experience.
Once in the water, coastal conditions can vary from beautiful sheltered bays to awe inspiring rugged coastlines battered by storms and powerful tides. Although it can be hard going, no previous canoeing experience is required and all companies will tailor the trip to reflect the ability of the paddler. Plus, sea kayaks are stable and easily driven - often with a rudder-system fitted for effortless steering - and as well as providing boats and paddles, many companies will also supply spray-decks, buoyancy aids, wetsuits and waterproof cagoules.
So whether you choose a one day excursion or a longer trip, you can rest safe in the knowledge that yours will be an ephemeral experience. You will see scenery and wildlife at its natural best and, most importantly, you’ll be leaving it that way. Kayaks follow and create no paths or erosion and even your footsteps on the beaches will be washed away by the tides.
Before you book, ensure that your guide is BCU (British Canoe Union) qualified. Visit www.bcu.org.uk for more information.
Skyak Adventures Based in Skye and running courses year-round, main claim to fame is that they once took Ben Fogle and the Countryfile crew for a paddle around their local waters. Call 01471 833 428 or visit www.skyakadventures.com
Sea Kayak Scotland Situated on the scenic Isle of Seil, near Oban, Sea Kayak Scotland employ local instructors with intimate knowledge of the area - so you’ll be in expert hands. Call 01852 300 770 or visit www.seakayakscotland.com
Rockhopper Offering half, full or multi-day trips, Rockhopper allow you to explore a beautiful and remote area of the West Coast (just outside Fort William). Call 07739 837 344 or visit www.rockhopperscotland.co.uk
G2 Outdoor Run by ‘passionate paddlers’ who are more often in the water than not, G2 Outdoor are based in Aviemore and have courses to suit every level of paddler. Call 01479 811 008 or visit www.seakayakinginscotland.co.uk for more information.