The Scottish Sea Kayak Trail in 2019
I wrote the book which created this trail because I was scared.
I knew someone else would inevitably come up with the idea of a sea kayak trail along Scotland's west coast. So I decided to write the guidebook first in an attempt to establish some fundamental environmental principles for such a trail.
I was right. There is now an 'official' trail along part of the route.
I hope those behind the new Argyll Sea Kayak Trail, and particularly those who paddle it, will share these principles.
As sea kayakers we have little environmental impact when enjoying our chosen pastime. Operators of seal-watching cruise boats may disagree, but we are behaving responsibly if we follow the wildlife codes summarised in my book and linked to from this website.
Our impact comes on dry land. So the principles and advice in my book are designed to help minimise that impact.
Traffic - vehicles and trailers crowded into tiny villages for launching, landing and especially parking can have a huge impact locally and globally. Many coastal communities rely on a steady flow of summer tourists so scarce parking places occupied by paddlers inevitably causes resentment. Parking charges were indtroduced in many places in 2018.
There are global environmental implications for daily movements of vehicles to and from launch sites. The whole ethos of my guide to the Scottish Sea Kayak trail is to encourage camping as part of multi-day trips, maximising the number of days spent on the water while limiting the number of vehicle movements required. You could paddle the entire 500km trail and move your vehicle only once. Which brings us to the second area of impact...
Wild camping - when we land to eat or camp, we inevitably impact the local environment. Our impact can last a few hours or decades depending upon how we behave. From selecting our site to how we perform toilet duties, we have a duty to minimise the disruption we cause. My book devotes a section to encouraging best practice camp craft.
Crucially, it does not recommend places to camp. It is far less harmful to the environment, and individually far more satisfying, for kayakers to seek out their own adventures and campsites.
From the start I knew others would use the idea of a Scottish Sea Kayak Trail. There are now kayak rental and guiding services. Wilderness Scotland uses the trail as a marketing narrative, proudly proclaiming they do no camping. Their tour version of the trail was listed by National Geographic as one of the world's 'Tours of a Lifetime', and Outside Magazine's 'Travel Hot List', so perhaps they've got it right.
An 'official' Argyll Sea Kayak Trail has also been created, running from Helensburgh to Oban and covering a little of the same waters as the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail. The website provides some helpful informtaion - Paddle-argyll.org.uk