The Scottish Sea Kayak Trail in 2020
I wrote the book which created this trail because I was scared.
A sea kayak trail along Scotland's west coast seemed inevitable so I decided to write the guidebook first to establish some environmental principles.
There is now an 'official' trail along part of the route. I hope those who paddle the Argyll Sea Kayak Trail will share these principles.
2020 has been designated the year of West Coast Waters. It's a tourism initiative to bring more visitors to the west coast of Scotland and, hopefully, explore it in environmentally sensitive ways such as canoe, kayak and wild swimming.
If you're here in 2020 you'll see a lot of the logo below, and clicking it will take to you a website where you can find out more.
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 .
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 introduced in many places in 2019 including Oban and Mallaig - .
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. 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 -