sea kayaking west coast of scotlandThanks to Jim Krawiecki (, Tue 1 Jul 2008) who gives us a quick guide round the best sea kayaking coastlines in Europe.  Scotland features in this list, unsurprisingly.

Europe has a terrific variety of coastlines that offer differing sea kayaking experiences, both on our own shores and further afield. The UK arguably has the lion’s share of coastal drama, so you don’t have to travel overseas to reach a world-class sea kayaking destination. But there are also many unique coastal characteristics on the coasts of mainland Europe, which can be reached almost as easily as remote corners of the British Isles.

1. Shetland
These are the islands with raw northern exposure. They share the same degree of latitude as southern Greenland but have a surprisingly mild climate. Ocean swell features heavily here and has shaped the rugged coast with sea cliffs interspersed with small beaches and coves. The main distinguishing feature of the Shetland coastline is the number of sea caves which are huge and often complex structures hundreds of metres long with side passages and collapsed roofs where shafts of sunlight shine into the crystal blue waters from above.

  • Flights from many regional UK airports. Ferries from Aberdeen.  It is possible to paddle from the ferry terminal on Shetland. Guidebook: The Northern Isles from

2. West coast of Scotland
With its islands and sea lochs this is the honey pot of European sea kayaking destinations. The western isles of Jura and Islay, with distilleries at Craighouse Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain, form part of a kayaker’s whisky trail. Deep sheltered sea lochs provide endless days of adventure when inclement weather makes paddling on the open sea too difficult. Remote deserted beaches with white sands make for perfect lunch stops. The perfect getaway for sea kayaking enthusiasts from the world over.

3. Isle of Man
A hidden gem at the geographical heart of the British Isles and a relative newcomer to the tick lists. The coastline is as varied and beautiful as any in the UK, all packed into one island. Manx waters attract large numbers of basking sharks during the summer months.

  • Flights from most regional airports. Ferries from Heysham & Liverpool,

4. Anglesey
The turbulent waters and tidal races in the Menai Straits, at North Stack and Penrhyn Mawr, test the skilled and experienced. But Anglesey’s sheltered east coast with near shore islets of Ynys Dulas and Puffin Island can provide trips of a gentler nature and are perfect for the wildlife enthusiast in search of porpoises, seals and birdlife. The rocky shores of Rhoscolyn are the perfect playground for the pursuit of “rock-hopping” where kayakers weave their craft through small gullies and inlets.

5. Isles of Scilly
This archipelago has a warm and sunny microclimate far removed from the rest of the UK. The inner parts of the Scillies lie within a sheltered, shallow lagoon in which it is possible to paddle in most weather conditions. In favourable weather, thrill seekers will be tempted to engage the Atlantic swell and the dramatic reefs that adorn the outer ramparts. A visit to St Martins will be rewarded with the chance to devour an enormous and wholesome Cornish pasty from the celebrated St Martins bakery.

6. Brittany
All of the drama of the UK coastlines but warmer, with fine wines and sumptuous seafood. What could be more satisfying than picking a bag full of mussels from a rocky shore and taking them to a nearby sheltered sandy beach to seer them in butter and garlic over a portable stove? Be sure to wash this delicacy down with a glug of white wine kept cool in the bottom of your kayak. Brittany is most suited to taking your car. If the weather is bad in the north along the Cote de la Granit Rose, head south for the sheltered waters of Le Golfe du Morbihan.

  • There are a number of sea kayaking centres linked through Ferries from Plymouth to Roscoff.

7. Norway
Norway adventure outdoor paradiseNo collection of sea kayak venues would be complete without including the Norwegian fjords and islands. The ultimate experience is the Lofoten Islands. This is a mountainous archipelago with deep blue shimmering seas where kayaking trips can be combined with climbing and mountaineering. Wilderness is just around the corner yet civilisation is reassuringly close at hand. The fjords and island groups close to Bergen are more accessible for the first timer.

  • Ferries from Newcastle.

8. Sardinia
A fantastic archipelago of sea-weathered granite sculptures and islands dominate the northeast corner close to Palau and La Maddalena. Here you can pick and choose your adventures. Short, laid-back day trips to longer expeditions – you could even make the crossing of the Bonifaccio Straits to Corsica! It is best to go either before the main holiday season begins (April/May) or after it finishes (September/October).

  • Sea kayak hire, accommodation and airport pickups etc. Flights to Olbia

9. Croatia
Island hopping along endless chains of sparsely populated island coasts. The shores of Croatia are largely steep and rugged with pine forests. But it is the chains of offshore islands with limestone cliffs, deserted beaches and iridescent waters that have distinctive appeal. Sea kayaking adventures can begin conveniently close to, and include unique views of, the historic the city of Dubrovnik.

  • Day trips to expeditions from Flights London to Dubrovnik from

10. Greece
The Greek islands with their taverna culture are where sea kayaking becomes especially civilised. It is possible to paddle from one island to another, day after day and never have to “rough it”.  Just make sure that you land on that idyllic sunset beach overlooked by a welcoming taverna with rooms for rent.

  • Easy day trips to adventurous multi-day island-hopping expeditions to the famous collapsed volcanic caldera of Santorini. Return flights to Athens from Return ferries to Milos.

[Jim Krawiecki is the co-author of Welsh Sea Kayaking]