The Scottish sea kayak trail

Voted by National Geographic as ‘Top European tour of a lifetime’, the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail is Europe’s first long distance sea kayak route.

It would take a lifetime to kayak every nook and cranny of the Scottish west coast. Argyll and Bute alone, just a small section of the coastline in the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail, has 2,704 km of coast and this is more coastline than in the whole of France along both its Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts.

Meandering its way along 477 km (296m) of wilderness coastline from the island of Gigha in the south to Ullapool in the north, this route is a bite sized chunk.

It would take several weeks to paddle in one go but it has been broken into four manageable sections for weeklong kayaking tours.

The trail was conceived with wild camping in mind, is split into four manageable sections and has hundreds of isolated spots, sheltered coves or wilderness beaches to make camp along the route.

Scottish Sea Kayak Trail – Section 1

The first section is from Gigha to Oban, which is a 124km journey (77 miles).

Gigha is a small community owned island off the Kintyre Peninsula and at the end of Loch Fyne and Oban is a good transport hub offering onward ferries to other islands for kayakers wanting more and a good train network for those heading home.

Oban also offers the opportunity to re-stock at Sea Kayak Oban and Anglers Corner.

Scottish Sea Kayak Trail – Section 2

The next section is from Oban to Mallaig with many kayakers choosing to paddle up the Sound of Mull.

However, I would suggest that the Sound of Mull is an unremarkable stretch of coastline with ugly passing car ferries and, stretching in a very straight line for some 20 miles, is not the most exciting route.

If kayakers are looking for beautiful wilderness coastline, I would suggest paddling around the Ross of Mull, past Iona, The Wilderness, Inch Kenneth, Eorsa (or Snake Island), Ulva, Staffa, Gometra, Calgary Bay, Tobermory and on to Mallaig, the journeys end for the second section of the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail.

This route offers some of Scotland’s most spectacular geological and historical sites which many people cross the globe to see: the remote spiritual pilgrimage island of Iona with its ninth century abbey and pristine white beaches and azure waters, Staffa Island and its spectacular Fingal’s Cave (the most famous basalt column cave in the world), the deserted and remote wilderness Treshnish Isles and Calgary Bay, regularly voted in Scotland’s top three best white sand beaches.

After all of this 60-mile journey, which will take most paddlers the best part of a week, a good pint in Tobermory is more than deserved.

From Tobermory kayakers can return to Oban or continue to Mallaig.

Scottish Sea Kayak Trail – Section 3

This section starts at the tiny village of Mallaig and stretches for 47km to Kyle of Lochalsh.

Starting from a train station, easily accessed from elsewhere in the nation, this is a popular and short stretch of the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail.

The route passes Loch Nevis and Loch Hourn and goes up Kyle Rhea to the narrow strait dividing the Isle of Skye from the Scottish mainland.

Scottish Sea Kayak Trail – Section 4

This section starts at Kyle of Lochalsh and stretches 156km to the Summer Isles, an archipelago of wilderness islands way north of Skye in the mouth of Loch Broom.

I presume one would beach at Polbain where the road reaches a south facing beach for a possible kayak collection point.

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