Loch Canoeing In Scotland: Top Locations & Pro Tips
There are endless opportunities for loch canoeing in Scotland with over 30,000 scenic lochs scattered across the country.
If you want to see the country’s unique lochs from a truly unbeatable perspective, then Canoeing across Scotland is one of the best ways to do it. By paddling on the lochs, you get to experience nature up close, and really connect with the sounds, sights, and fresh air.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about loch canoeing in Scotland. We’ll go over some of the best lochs to paddle on, as well as answer all of your questions before you embark on this type of adventure.
Can You Canoe the Lochs in Scotland?
Scotland is renowned for its stunning natural landscapes, including many freshwater lochs that are ideal for kayaking and canoeing. Some popular lochs for outdoor activities include Loch Ness, Loch Lomond, Loch Tay, and Loch Shiel, among others.
Each of these lochs offers a unique experience with varying levels of difficulty and beautiful scenery. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you could even make a multi-day trip and combine canoeing or kayaking with camping. In fact, some of the best camping places in Scotland are around these great bodies of water.
It's essential to be well-prepared and consider factors such as weather conditions, safety, and permits, as regulations can differ from one loch to another. It's always a good idea to check with local authorities or outdoor adventure organizations for the most up-to-date information and any necessary permits or guidelines before embarking on a kayaking or canoeing trip in Scotland.
The 8 Best Lochs to Canoe in Scotland
Looking for places to get out on the water in Scotland? Many amazing lochs offer a truly unique Scottish experience. All of these lochs could be considered some of thebest places to kayak in Scotland.
To help you narrow down your options, here are some of our favourites;
1. Loch Ness
Loch Ness is undoubtedly one of Scotland's most iconic lochs, celebrated for its famous mysteries and its striking beauty.
As you embark on a kayaking journey on the dark waters of Loch Ness, you'll find yourself surrounded by an atmosphere of intrigue and awe. The loch's inky depths and looming mountains contribute to an atmosphere of enigma that has captivated the imaginations of people worldwide.
Paddling along the shores of Loch Ness, you'll have the opportunity to absorb the breathtaking vistas of the Great Glen and, of course, keep an eye out for the elusive Loch Ness Monster.
The loch's size and depth make it an ideal location for extended kayaking excursions, and the experience is both surreal and unforgettable.
2. Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond, nestled at the southern edge of the Scottish Highlands, is a paradise for outdoor lovers. Its sheer size and picturesque surroundings mean you can spend hours on the water without getting bored.
The southern shores of Loch Lomond are a highlight for kayakers. A voyage on these tranquil waters unveils the beauty of the Trossachs National Park, filled with islands, secluded bays, and charming inlets.
Paddling on Loch Lomond presents the chance to absorb the grandeur of Ben Lomond and the surrounding mountains.
The loch has a diverse range of areas to explore. From sheltered areas of calm water, suitable for beginners, to rugged shores which require a little more know-how, it caters to kayakers of all levels. This makes it an ideal destination for those seeking a versatile experience.
3. Loch Tay
Loch Tay, situated in the heart of Perthshire, is a Scottish gem that is loved by outdoor enthusiasts for its serene environment.
Enveloped by imposing mountains, this loch invites you to explore its placid waters. Canoeing on Loch Tay is a peaceful endeavour, perfect for those who want to connect with nature and unwind.
The surrounding landscape, with its rolling hills, verdant forests, and the scenic village of Kenmore, adds to the loch's charm.
4. Loch Shiel
Loch Shiel, located in the West Highlands, provides kayakers with a more remote and untamed setting.
Paddling along this loch is a voyage into a wild and rugged world of natural splendour. The surrounding mountains, including the iconic Ben Nevis, create a dramatic backdrop as you traverse the loch's waters.
Loch Shiel is also famous for the historic Glenfinnan Viaduct. Keen-eyed Harry Potter fans may also recognise this loch from a few scenes in the movies. Exploring here is like stepping back in time, into the heart of Scotland's untamed wilderness.
5. Loch Morar
Loch Morar is Scotland's deepest freshwater loch. It has a maximum depth of 310 m (1,017 ft).
Those who venture out on this loch are treated to a unique experience on crystal-clear waters. As you paddle along Loch Morar, you'll be immersed in its pristine beauty. The rugged shores and mountainous terrain create a sense of isolation and serenity.
The loch's depths are a subject of curiosity, and you may find yourself contemplating the mysteries concealed deep beneath its surface. There is even a legend that Morag, the sister of the Loch Ness monster, swims in these depths!
6. Loch Awe
Loch Awe, situated in Argyll and Bute, is the longest loch in Scotland, offering kayakers an opportunity to explore a landscape brimming with history.
As you navigate the waters of Loch Awe, you'll discover a blend of ancient castles, dense woodlands, and tranquil countryside.
The ruins of Kilchurn Castle, perched on a rocky islet, are a highlight of this kayaking destination and a definite favourite spot for photographers.
Loch Awe is a place where history and natural splendour harmoniously coexist, making it an ideal location for kayakers with a penchant for both cultural and natural exploration.
7. Loch Maree
Loch Maree, found in the Northwest Highlands, is a loch enveloped by ancient Caledonian pine forests. This is the fourth-largest freshwater loch in Scotland (when ranked by surface area). The loch has 5 large islands and over 60 smaller ones, most are densely wooded. Exploring these islands by boat is a unique experience.
The tranquillity of the loch is punctuated by the call of birds, the rustling of trees, and the stunning reflection of Slioch Mountain in the waters. This loch is an important breeding site for many water bird species, notably the black-throated diver.
8. Loch Leven
Loch Leven, located in the Scottish Lowlands, offers a delightful blend of natural beauty and birdwatching opportunities from your boat.
Paddling along the loch's waters, you'll explore numerous small islands and inlets, each with its unique charm.
Loch Leven is renowned for its rich birdlife, and it's a haven for birdwatchers. You can spot various waterfowl, including swans and geese while taking in the tranquil views of the surrounding hills and countryside.
Kayaking or Canoeing on Loch Leven is a leisurely and educational experience, making it an ideal destination for those with an appreciation for wildlife and scenic beauty.
What You Need to Know About Canoeing on Lochs in Scotland
Canoeing on the beautiful lochs of Scotland is an adventurous and rewarding experience. However, there are several essential things you need to know to ensure your safety and enjoyment while paddling on these pristine waters.
Here are some important things to keep in mind when you go loch canoeing in Scotland.
Weather and Conditions
Scotland's weather has a reputation for being unpredictable. It's not uncommon for there to be rapid changes in wind, rain, and temperature. Always check the weather forecast before heading out and be prepared for changing conditions.
Wind can significantly affect your kayaking experience, so be aware of the wind direction and strength, especially on larger lochs.
Ensure you have the right kayaking equipment, including a suitable kayak, paddle, personal flotation device (PFD), and safety gear. Dress in layers to stay warm and dry. A spray skirt is useful for keeping water out of your kayak in choppy conditions.
Let someone know your kayaking plans and expected return time. Carry safety equipment such as a whistle, first aid kit, and navigation tools. Make sure you have basic kayaking skills and are aware of self-rescue techniques.
Be prepared for emergencies. Carry a communication device such as a waterproof VHF radio or a mobile phone in a waterproof case. Understand the process for calling for help if needed.
Familiarize yourself with the loch's layout and have a map or GPS device with you. Lochs like Loch Ness and Loch Lomond can be vast, and navigation aids are essential.
Local kayaking clubs and shops can be excellent sources of information. They can provide guidance on routes, conditions, and any local tips for a successful kayaking trip.
Respect the Environment
Scotland's lochs are beautiful, natural places. These areas are home to various wildlife, including birds, fish, and, in some cases, seals. Respect their natural habitats and observe wildlife from a distance to avoid disturbing them.
Show respect for the environment by keeping noise to a minimum, and refraining from camping or picnicking in sensitive areas. Follow the Leave No Trace principles to preserve the natural beauty of these areas. Pack out all your trash and dispose of waste properly.
Choose A Skill-Appropriate Location
Choose a loch and route that matches your skill level. Some lochs are more challenging than others, and conditions can change rapidly. If you're a beginner, consider taking a guided tour or kayaking with an experienced friend.
Guided Loch Canoe Trips in Scotland
Canoeing with a guide adds a sense of security and takes away the stress of planning the details of your canoe trip. Guides are also a wonderful source of information on the natural surroundings, history, climate and culture of Scotland.
Some guided tours of Scotland also include other fun activities, like hiking, fishing, or even whisky tasting.
When considering a guided loch kayaking tour in Scotland, be sure to check the tour provider's website for details, reviews on tour lengths, skill levels, equipment provided, and booking information.
Paddlers in Scotland generally have the right to canoe or kayak on most bodies of water under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act (2003) and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
However, it's crucial that paddlers exercise responsible access, maintain environmental care, take accountability for their actions, and respect the interests of others.
Can I Camp From My Canoe in Scotland?
Yes, you can camp from your kayak or canoe in Scotland, thanks to the country's generous access rights and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act (2003).
This allows for Scotland wild camping, and many paddlers take advantage of the right to camp along the shores of lochs and rivers.
However, it's essential to follow responsible camping principles, including Leave No Trace practices, and be aware of any specific restrictions or guidelines that may apply in certain areas.
Scotland loch canoeing is a truly special experience. And if you combine it with camping or hiking, then you’re going to have an unforgettable Scottish adventure.
Just make sure that you understand the safety of kayaking in Scotland’s lochs, and pick the right lochs to paddle in at the right time of year. When you get out there and try loch canoeing in Scotland, you’ll experience the true magic that this country has to offer.