Paddling in Caithness and Sutherland
There are caves, geos, beaches, sea lochs, estuaries and islands to explore. Please note the coastline can be committing with very strong tides places especially around headlands and in the Pentland Firth. Ensure you are aware of the tidal conditions and weather forecasts.
Perfect for: Sea kayak, stand up paddle board (conditions and venue allowing)
The North Coast has some of the best surf in the world. Numerous kayak surf championships, including World Championships, have been held here. There are surf breaks for all abilities. Be aware that due to the popularity of the area for surfing, some venues can be busy with other surfers.
Perfect for: Kayak surf, stand up paddle board surf (conditions allowing)
There are numerous lochs and rivers to paddle on. Depending on the time of year some areas are popular with anglers or have nesting birds.
Perfect for: Open canoe, white water kayak, stand up paddle board, kayak tour, canoe tour, stand up paddle board tour
While enjoying paddlesport in the area, we ask you to follow:
- Scottish Outdoor Access Code
- Scottish Canoe Association good practice guides
- Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code
Enjoy your paddling experience whether on holiday, having a day trip or a weekend adventure. Before you head off on your paddle please carry out your safety checks and if going on the sea follow RNLI Guidance.
Information on paddling in the area can be found in the following:
General (Rivers, Lochs and Sea)
- Paddlesport Scotland: An SCA guide for Canoeists, Kayakers and Paddleboarders (2021)
Covers areas around Thurso; Ullapool and Bonar Bridge
- Scottish Canoe Classics, Twenty Five Great Canoe & Kayak Trips (Palmer, 2015)
Includes information on paddling trips in the North West area
- Scottish Whitewater: The SCA Guide (2018)
Includes information on rivers in Inverness-shire; Ross & Cromarty; Sutherland and Caithness
- Scottish Sea Kayaking - Sixty-Two Great Sea Kayak Voyages (Cooper, 2022)
Includes 9 trips on west coast of Ross-shire & Sutherland; 5 trips on the North coast and 2 trips on the east coast of Caithness & Sutherland
- North & North East Coasts of Scotland Sea Kayaking (Cooper, 2014)
Includes 12 trips on the North Coast and 5 on the East coast of Caithness
- Lands Skye & North West Highland Sea Kayaking (Cooper, 2017)
Includes 21 trips on the West coast of Sutherland and Ross & Cromarty
- Lands End to John O' Groats West and North Coasts Sea-Kayaking Pilot (Murphy, 2022)
This Pilot, in the form of handwritten notes and diagrams includes one day journeys which link Kinlochbervie on the NW coast of Scotland to John 'Groats in the NE - taking in all the major headlands and tide-races. Copies are only available by contacting Andy Murphy.
- Surf UK (Alderson)
A guide to Britain's surf beaches
- The Stormrider Surf Guide Europe
Concise break reports describe the waves and the surrounding environment, combined with the unique Stormrider symbols, depicting wave height range, swell window, bathymetry, wave type, optimum tide and wind.
Check out our local paddlesport clubs, affiliated to the Scottish Canoe Association:
With thanks to Ken Nicol @ Pentland Canoe Club for all these fantastic photos!
Explore paddlesport equipment rentals and suppliers:
Activities, Tours, Rentals