Which rivers in the Scottish Borders are ideal for beginner kayaking?

Kayaking is an invigorating sport that harbours in its wake an enchanting blend of adventure and tranquillity. It’s an opportunity to explore the great outdoors, be one with nature, and experience the world from a wholly unique perspective. When it comes to novice-friendly kayaking locations, the Scottish Borders region is an eminent destination. The region is studded with a myriad of picturesque rivers, lochs, and a slice of the sea, making it a paddling paradise for beginners. Let’s paddle through the Scottish Borders and discover the ideal rivers for you to kickstart your kayaking journey.

Unveiling the Scottish Borders

The Scottish Borders is a captivating region located in the south-eastern part of Scotland. It is blessed with a surplus of natural beauty, from its rugged hills, verdant forests, to its lowland valleys. Yet, the true allure lies in the region's spectacular water bodies. Its rivers, lochs, and coastal areas offer myriad opportunities for water sports enthusiasts.

Home to a plethora of rivers, the Scottish Borders is a haven for kayaking. The rivers here are not just bountiful but also diverse, ranging from tranquil and gentle, ideal for beginners, to challenging and wild, perfect for the more experienced paddlers. For starters, let's meander through some of the rivers that are well-suited for novice kayakers.

Tweed River: A Paddler’s Paradise

The Tweed River is one of Scotland's great rivers, a scenic waterway that meanders through the heart of the Borders. Its calm waters and moderate speed make it a favourite among beginner kayakers. This river also offers an array of wildlife and historic landmarks, like the historic Melrose Abbey and the iconic Tweed Bridge, to make your kayaking experience even more enchanting.

Unlike many other rivers, the Tweed's water levels remain fairly consistent throughout the year, so you can plan your kayaking trip without worrying about seasonal fluctuations. However, always remember to check local weather and water conditions before setting out.

Kayaking on the River Teviot

The River Teviot, a tributary of the Tweed, is another excellent option for beginners. It's a tranquil river that runs through a beautiful valley, offering a serene paddling experience. The river is also teeming with wildlife, offering a chance to spot otters, kingfishers, and even seals on occasion.

The River Teviot is also home to several towns and villages, which means there are plenty of places to start and finish your kayaking adventure. One recommended route is from Hawick to Kelso, a journey that will take you past historic landmarks and stunning countryside views.

Canoeing on the Whiteadder Water

Don't let the name fool you - the Whiteadder Water is a river that offers a different paddling experience. It meanders through a rural landscape, with gentle, meandering stretches interspersed with small rapids that add a touch of excitement without being too demanding for beginners.

This river is also a popular spot for canoeing. If you're looking to diversify your paddling experience, canoeing on the Whiteadder Water could be a great way to do so. It's similar to kayaking, but the wider, open-top canoe allows for a more relaxed pace and the chance to carry more equipment, such as picnic supplies for a leisurely day out on the water.

Sea Kayaking at Eyemouth

If you're eager to venture beyond rivers and into the sea, the coastal town of Eyemouth is the place to go. Here, the North Sea presents a different challenge for beginner kayakers, with its tides, currents, and waves. However, the sheltered harbour at Eyemouth makes it a safe place for beginners to experience sea kayaking.

With Eyemouth's rich marine life, you might get the chance to paddle alongside seals and dolphins while taking in the stunning coastal views. Plus, there are several kayaking schools and rental services in the town that offer beginner-friendly courses and equipment.

Indeed, the Scottish Borders region, with its diverse water bodies and beautiful landscapes, is a great place to embark on your kayaking adventure. Whether it's the tranquil Tweed River, the serene River Teviot, the adventurous Whiteadder Water, or the challenging North Sea at Eyemouth, there's something for every beginner kayaker in this vibrant region. So grab your paddle, get on the water, and start creating your own unforgettable Scottish kayaking stories.

Paddle Boarding on the River Ettrick

The River Ettrick, a tributary to the River Tweed, offers a serene setting for paddle boarding, one of the most relaxing and enjoyable ways to experience the sport of paddling. The calm, slow-moving waters of the Ettrick are ideal for this activity, allowing beginners to easily balance and manoeuvre the board.

This river starts its journey in the rolling hills of the Scottish Borders and winds its way through picturesque landscapes, dotted with charming villages and open farmlands. Paddle boarding on the Ettrick not only offers stunning views but also the chance to spot a variety of wildlife, including herons, otters, and even the occasional roe deer.

Several outfitters along the river offer paddle board rentals and instruction, making it easy for beginners to get started. The river is also easily accessible, with several car parks located along its length for convenient entry and exit points. As always, remember to check local weather and water conditions before setting out on your paddle boarding adventure.

The Great Glen Canoe Trail: A True Canoeing and Kayaking Challenge

For those seeking a more adventurous kayaking experience, the Great Glen Canoe Trail is a perfect option. Stretching across Scotland from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east, this 60-mile waterway route crosses several bodies of water, including Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal.

While this might not be a river in the Scottish Borders, it is a remarkable journey that offers a blend of lake, river, and canal canoeing and kayaking. The trail is marked with signposts, making navigation easy even for beginners. There are also plenty of wild camping spots along the trail, allowing for multi-day trips.

The Great Glen Canoe Trail offers paddlers the chance to experience the beauty of the Scottish Highlands, with stunning mountain vistas and a rich array of wildlife. This adventure might be a bit more challenging than the rivers in the Scottish Borders, but with the right preparation and guidance, it's an achievable and rewarding journey for novice paddlers.


The Scottish Borders and beyond offer a wealth of opportunities for beginners to get their feet wet in the invigorating sport of kayaking and paddling. Whether it's the tranquil waters of the River Tweed, the picturesque beauty of the River Teviot, the adventurous rapids of the Whiteadder Water, the exciting challenge of the Great Glen Canoe Trail, or the serenity of paddle boarding on the River Ettrick, there's a paddling adventure waiting for everyone.

Beginners can take advantage of the many services available, from kayak rentals to guided tours and instructions, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience on the water. Remember to respect the natural environment, adhere to safety guidelines, and always check local weather and water conditions before setting out.

In the end, it's all about seizing the paddle and creating your own unique adventure. So, whether you choose to kayak, canoe, or paddle board, the Scottish Borders and its diverse bodies of water will not disappoint. It’s time to embark on your journey and create your own unforgettable Scottish paddling stories.