The sun was shining, the water turquoise and the sand an off-white. I closed my eyes for a moment feeling the warmth of the sun on my face (a rare occurrence in this country) – I was brought back to life by my teetering kayak which had just been launched into the picturesque coastline near Arisaig on the west coast of Scotland, one of the world’s most spectacular coastlines. I feel foolish for often forgetting how close I live to such natural beauty and blessed for this past weekend when I was reminded. I’d never been sea kayaking before.
Sea kayaking is a paddling sport that was developed for open water. This sport is great for a variety of ages and fitness levels. Paddling a sea kayak utilizes your arm and shoulder muscles, but sea kayaking isn’t a race (unless you want it to be) and as an activity can be as leisurely or active as you make it. Personally, I found the experience to be an enjoyable and reflective activity and was awe-struck by how amazing it felt to glide across the water once I attained a certain level of speed. I went sea kayaking in Arisaig, a village on the West coast of the Scottish Highlands just North of Fort William. From Arisaig there are boat and wildlife tours to the near by islands of Eigg, Muck and Rum part of the Small Isles in the Scottish Inner Hebrides. Local wildlife includes whales, dolphins, porpoise, otters, puffins and seals amongst others. My friend owns kayaks of his own but suggested a guided sea kayak trip with Rockhopper Sea Kayaking. Rockhopper is based near Fort William and offers half, full and multi-day sea kayak trips exploring the Scottish coastline. We booked a full day trip and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The weather forecast was reasonable for Scotland: grey but dry. We were pleasantly surprised to find that despite a slight wind, the sun was shining all day and the temperature to be quite reasonable. Our group contained 6 people including our guide, Stewart. Because the weather was so good and our group felt up to it, we went up the coastline, basking in the natural beauty of the area. Throughout the course of the day we traveled approximately 15 km and took in a variety of experiences from gliding across still water to small slightly capped waves. We stopped three times throughout the day at small islands to take a wee break and look around. Wildlife wise, we saw birds and seals. I’d never seen a seal anywhere outside a zoo so I enjoyed the experience. Out of curiosity or boredom, there were a few young seals that took to following us throughout the day. Although they never got terribly close, they were close enough to get some nice pics of them bobbing in and out of the water or sunning their bellies on the white beaches. I truly enjoyed the experience and intend to do this many more times before I leave Scotland.
My friend recommended Rockhoppers and they were great. Our guide, Stewart, was very knowledgeable about the area, tides, etc. and very professional. They are highly rated on Tripadvisor and I wasn’t surprised that reviews of them I found online reflected my own experience: absolutely amazing. The weather was superb, the views breathtaking and the kayaking was an absolute blast! If you haven’t tried it, DO IT. If you find yourself in Scotland, definitely visit the Highlands and take in the beauty of the North West coast, you’ll not be disappointed.
What To Bring
Rockhopper provided kayaks, paddles, life jackets (buoyancy aids), spray decks and a dry cag.
- Dry bag – to keep a spare set of clothing in case you tip over and anything else you bring along.
- Lunch and snacks!
- Drinking water
- Camera to catch some nice photo opps
- Water shoes or wellies – trainers are fine, but they will get wet when you stop at an island or are headed back to sea. Wellies are probably the best, warmth wise, but I was happy with the flexibility and comfort of my water shoes. I plan on wearing them the next time I go as well.
- Spare polar fleece and dry clothing just in case
- Sunglasses – I didn’t end up using mine but I can see how they would come in handy.
- Sunblock and a hat – I cannot stress these items enough. You are out on the water where the sun is reflected. If you’re lucky enough to get good weather like us, you’ll want/need some sunblock and a hat to deflect the sun’s rays.
- Lip salve – something to keep your lips moisturised when you’re out and about in the wind.
For more information on Arisaig, Scotland – how to get to, what to do and where to stay.
For more information on the health benefits of sea kayaking, this is a good (and recent) article by LiveStrong.
I recommend Rockhopper as a sea kayak guide as I had a good experience with them. This post is not sponsored and all of the opinions expressed here are reflective of my positive experience with Rockhopper.