Exploring the Isle of Skye by Kayak

Have you thought of visiting Skye for an island-based kayak adventure?

The Isle of Skye is the largest of all the Inner Hebrides and also happens to be the home for some of Scotland’s most eye-popping scenery. Although it might take a long time to make your way out there, it’s certainly worth the journey.

In this guide we’re going to break down everything you need to know in order for you to sort out your sea kayak adventure in Skye, whether you’re a complete novice or an expert simply looking for some local guidance:

Getting there

If you’re travelling with your own kayaks then you’ll probably want to drive yourself there. Depending on where you live this could either be a gargantuan challenge or a simple skip across the water.

Regardless of the time of year that you’re travelling it’s always a good idea to check the weather before you travel, as many of the roads on the island are single tracks and can be eroded in bad weather. Otherwise, public transport will be able to take you on to the island. Trains frequently running to Mallaig from Glasgow requiring a change to a ferry, or you can catch a train from Inverness to Kyle, followed by a bus to Skye.


Although the Isle of Skye is full of stunning landscapes and seemingly endless rugged wilderness, there are still plenty of places to stay with a decent range to suit many types of budgets.

At the top of the range you’ll find Hotel Eilean Iarmain (from £260 per night), a stylish hotel experience which offers boutique styling with a whiskey distillery and restaurant on-site. A little cheaper (and also on the south side of the island) is the Kings Arms Hotel (from £125 per night); cheaper still are the likes of the Skyewalker Hostel (from £40). Of course, should you wish to make the ultimate saving you can always choose to wild camp.

Hiring kayaks

If you’re leaving your kayaks at home or trying out kayaking for the first time then you’ll no doubt be looking for a place to hire some vessels.

If you’re an experienced paddler suitably qualified then you can hire sea kayaks from Explore Highland for a minimum of two days for £70 (although you’ll need to hire at least four boats for this time) – you can check out their site for their complete price list.

Getting a guide

The best way to experience Sea Kayaking in Skye is by joining an organised group, this way you are supplied with all the equipment and tuition you need in addition to having a qualified guide who will be able to show you all the best places on the island.

There are a number of companies that specialise in providing this service. Once more, Explore Highland offer a good range of Kayak adventures, you can also check out Sea to Skye Xperience for a similar range of activities.

Wild Camping & Kayaking

Have you considered combining wild camping with your next sea kayaking adventure?

Wild camping might divorce you from a few home comforts (toilets, running water) but it also gives you a chance to experience nature in its truest form. If you’ve just got the taste for sea kayaking and fancy testing your skills over a longer distance then you should think about taking part in a long distance tour supported with some wild camping.

As you may or may not know there are legal provisions in Scotland that permit residents and visitors alike to ‘wild camp’ on almost any form of  ‘enclosed land’ in the great outdoors. Understandably, this does come with a handful of caveats and rules that are worth looking over before you decide to head out on your first camping.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act of 2003 was put in place to ensure that all people have statutory access to Scotland’s great outdoors, this access is granted as long as those people do so responsibly whilst caring for the environment and keeping in mind others’ privacy and livelihoods. If you want to get the complete low down on this law then it’s best to head to the official website for Scottish Access Code – but we’ve boiled down the basics so that you can get a head-start before planning your routes.

The Scottish Outdoor Access code can be split up into three key principles:

Respect other people

This goes beyond simply being polite to others, whenever you’re exercising your right to access it’s important that you do so whilst respecting the privacy, safety and livelihoods of those living, working or enjoying the land.

The Land Reform Act gives you the freedom to walk across pretty much any enclosed lands in Scotland, but you need to ensure that you are not disturbing livestock, trampling on produce or otherwise damaging someone’s livelihood. Likewise, managers of land are required to respect visitors’ use of the land.

Look out for the environment

The most important tenet to remember when enjoying the land in Scotland is to leave it as you found it. That means making sure that you leave no trace of your time spent on the land.

A few holes in the ground from your tent pegs are acceptable, but any meals should be cooked on a burner and wood should never be chopped from trees to create a fire. The environment is easily contaminated so you should also be sure not to bring any invasive plants onto the land with you. Getting rid of Japanese knotweed is hard enough to from a back garden, let alone the great outdoors!

Consider your personal responsibility

Whenever you venture into the great outdoors it’s important that you consider your personal responsibility. Any adventure, whether it’s a simple hike or a 5-day sea kayak expedition, comes with its own unique set of risks.

It is impossible to eradicate all risks from a trip regardless of how many assessments you take – the best way to stay safe is to remain constantly vigilant and keep in mind your own safety, as well as the safety of others.

From Inverness to Dornoch: A Simple Paddle

There are some days when it’s fun to see what you’re capable of…

I spend the majority of my time on the water taking groups out onto peaceful lakes, gently drifting by mountains and soothing first-timers’ nerves, so every now and again it’s fun to set a challenge for myself.

It’s easy to forget about the simple pleasures of taking a sea kayak out onto the open water when you’ve spent so long drifting around the same old routes, so it was with a thrilling sense of eagerness that I set out for a days’s paddle from Inverness to the pleasant seaside resort of Dornoch. The distance of just over 30 miles was certainly not an easy one to tackle in the space of a day, but with everything that I needed packed into my trusty Riot Edge 11 all I needed was an early start to get on my way.

To beat the morning traffic I made sure to get dropped off at my starting point of Inverness the night before, where a friend of mine was kind enough to put me up for the evening. Inverness is a fine town to visit for a few days with a lovely selection of places to eat and welcoming pubs, perfect for an evening of quiet pint sipping. Unfortunately for us, the ‘sipping’ portion of the night turned into ‘quaffing’, which inevitably led to us groggily stumbling home at an ungodly time whilst I dimly wondered what it would be like to set off for a 33-mile paddle on a killer hangover…

Thankfully, my host was kind enough to serve me a full cooked breakfast before I left. I hungrily wolfed down the gloriously greasy plate before wondering how I was going to cope with an intense day of paddling on a full stomach of booze.

I usually recommend newcomers to have a good night’s sleep and a big meal before they tackle a long day of paddling, I’d somehow managed to do the exact opposite of that and soon found myself alone and drifting down the River Ness and out into the Moray Firth.

All fear of sea sickness left me as I carefully glided the Riot Edge out onto the serene waters of this awe inspiring body of water. I had around 30 miles of smooth paddling ahead of me and although I knew that the distance was still a lot to get done in the day, I had a quiet confidence that I’d be able to get it done before nightfall. There’s something powerfully hypnotic about taking a kayak out onto the open water by yourself, the ripples made by the nose of your vessel creating a ceaseless pattern in the water that is only interrupted by the dip of your oars into the water.

This journey was not what I’d call an exhausting one, I was able to easy myself up and out of the mouth of the Moray Firth only having to drop my skeg a couple of times to correct my course. As the sun set of over the distant mountains I spotted the beaches of Dornoch and my friend waving me in, a barbecue emitting a warm glow that made my heart sing.

It had been a good day.

Thanks to Bill Terrence-Smith who was kind enough to offer us a glimpse into his fun day out by himself.