Scots kayak tour on par with Grand Canyon

A SPECTACULAR sea kayaking route along the west coast of Scotland has been named as one of the 50 greatest tours in the world.

The world renowned National Geographic Traveler magazine ranked the trip between Loch Linnhe and the Sound of Arisaig, alongside white water rafting in the Grand Canyon, trekking in Tibet and cycling by the Danube as one of the 50 Tours of a Lifetime.

The guided section, part of the 310-mile trail from Gigha to the Summer Isles off Ullapool, is the only UK entry on the list and one of only 11 based in Europe.

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Among the other activities to make the top 50 are an exploration of three different parts of the Arctic in Greenland, Iceland and Norway on a research vessel; a visit to Canada's Great Bear Lake; exploring the Rain Forest in British Columbia on a wooden schooner; a hiking and kayaking tour of the Galpagos Islands and tackling the Inca Trail in Peru on horseback.

The top 50 experiences were chosen from thousands of tours worldwide and were described by the magazine as "an antidote to the average".

National Geographic's Margaret Loftus writes: "With its rugged nooks and crannies, Scotland's sparsely populated western coast is prime paddling country.

"This guided trip shows off the highlights of the 300-mile Scottish Sea Kayak Trail, from Loch Linnhe to the beach-fringed islands of the Sound of Arisaig, teeming with seals, otters, dolphins, minke whales, and basking sharks."

The trail is run by Wilderness Scotland, a VisitScotland activity provider based in Edinburgh, set up in 2001.

It is for moderate paddlers with some experience and can be done over five days covering about ten miles.

Stevie Christie, co-director of Wilderness Scotland, said: "We are absolutely thrilled that our Scottish Sea Kayak Trail has been included on this prestigious list.

"Paddling through turquoise waters to white, sandy beaches, you're surrounded by the spectacular west-coast scenery for which Scotland is renowned.

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"It's a trip as rich in wildlife as it is in history as we explore some of the locations made famous by the Jacobite Rebellion."

The entire trail can take a month or more to complete, but visitors often pick out the best sections for a two week trip.

It is split into four sections - Swift Waters Flowing, from Gigha to Oban; Lord of the Isles, from Oban to Mallaig; Big Mountains, Big Seas, from Mallaig to Kyle of Lochalsh; and Northlands, from Kyle to Ullapool.

The routes take kayakers through some of Scotland's most spectacular scenery and an area rich in history and renowned for its marine wildlife.

Simon Willis, who wrote a guide to the trail, once said: "I cannot guarantee the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail will change your life. But it might." Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said it was fantastic to see a Scottish company recognised in this way.

"Our international marketing department often uses the Wilderness Scotland sea kayak trail as a showcase for this country's magnificent outdoors."