Classic canoe trip from Cairngorm National Park to the Sea

Spey Descents by Canoe

Journey down the most famous highland river, The Spey, from the mountains to the sea. This is a classic journey, using traditional canoes, getting you up close to nature. Bring a waterproof camera to capture the beauty of the landscape and those special animal sightings like Ospreys, Otters, and jumping salmon. We have canoe trips on the river Spey of 1-5days. 5 day canoe trip is from source in the mountains to the sea. 2 or 3 day canoe trips pick some of the best bits.

Come canoe the River Spey from where it becomes navigable, through the Cairngorms National Park, all the way to the sea, a classic highland adventure known as ‘The Spey Descent’!

This trip is suitable for everyone, from those who have never canoed before to those with years of experience. We’ll teach you the skills you’ll need or improve on skills you already have as you descend the river, starting on easy water and progressing to the more exciting white water in the later part of the trip.This trip is suitable for everyone, from those who have never canoed before to those with years of experience. We’ll teach you the skills you’ll need or improve on skills you already have as you descend the river, starting on easy water and progressing to the more exciting white water in the later part of the trip.

This is a great trip for lovers of nature. Wildlife sightings include Oyster Catchers, Herons, Osprey, Otters, Deer and leaping Salmon. The trees, flowers and mountain views are hard to beat.

For the full descent allow 5 days to enjoy your trip as well as learn some skills and take in the sights on the way.

For those with less time available, such as a long weekend, we can pick three of the best sections for you to sample on the 3 day itinerary.

Typical Itinerary

Plan to arrive in Aviemore the night before your trip begins to enjoy some local beers whilst awaiting the morrow's excitement.

DAY 1 - Kincraig to Boat of Garten

We launch and then paddle across loch Insh, where we frequently watch the Ospreys before leaving the loch and starting our journey towards the sea.

The section of river we cover on the first day is perfect for introducing you to the canoeing skills you'll need later in the trip. On this section you'll look right into the heart of the Cairngorm mountains, seeing Ben Macdui the second biggest mountain in Britain and the other great mountains which make up the Cairngorms. Stopping off by the side of the river for lunch, we then pass through Aviemore and run some easy rapids before reaching today's destination, Boat of Garten.

DAY 2 - Boat of Garten to Cromdale

The first half of the day we journey toward Grantown on Spey with mellow water conditions. With a tail wind we get to sail our canoes on this section. You see another great view of the Cairngorm mountains before the Cromdale hills arrive into view. Sand Martins dart in and out of there river bank homes, Golden Eye ducks will fly by and this is a great part of the journey to relax and soak up the environment. As we pass under the first and then ancient bridges of Grantown we run some good rapids and then a few more easy ones of the way to Cromdale.

DAY 3 - Cromdale to Ballidaloch

Today you'll feel the river growing in width and current as our progress is more greatly assisted by the flow. We pass several large islands with amazing flowers and an untouched wild feel to them, making great places to stop for the packed lunches. Then a few rapids that are a taste of what's to come in abundance tomorrow.

DAY 4 - Ballindaloch to Aberlour

The most famous section for White Water, with rapids up to grade 2, which by now you have the skills to deal with, although you'll still catch the odd wave into the boat. If you feel the need we'll give you wetsuits for today's section so that if you go for a swim it's more fun. Most of the journey is more comfortable in normal clothes, but we give you a full kit list before you come on the trip and supply all the canoeing gear you need.

We pass Knockando distillery and its old steam railway station, a great place for lunch. No steam railway runs here now, the Speyside way follows where the trains once transported the Whisky out from the many distilleries. Here alone is also Cardhu and Tamdhu distillery and soon we pass bridge of Carron with it's distilleries. Then on towards Aberlour where you'll be able to try some Whisky for your self at the Mash Tun pub where we finish the day.

DAY 5 - Aberlour to Spey Bay, Where the river flows into the sea!

The rapids ease, but there are still lots of fun waves and rapids to paddle as well as amazingly varied scenery to enjoy on route to the sea. We pass Rothes, then the sandstone pillars before Fochabers. The last few miles are strewn with old Scots pine trees, washed down from the ancient forests, which you paddled through earlier in the trip. The river spreads out and we get to choose from multiple channels as the river braids. You'll likely see Artic turns and Oyster catchers amongst the many birds as we approach the sea passing a RSPB reserve and then the sea. The waves may be crashing on the shore or there'll be a sunny calm, either way it's a beautiful place to finish this epic trip from the mountains to the sea. Time for a coffee and cake in the Spey bay cafe, before we load up and head back to Aviemore.

The 3 Day Itinerary

We choose the 3 best sections from the 5 day trip based on the prevailing water levels and time of year, to give you an excellent canoeing trip. The first day is on an easier section where we can introduce you to the skills and then day two we tackle the classic Ballidalloch to Bridge of Carron section, which includes the Knockando rapids. Then its Aberlour to sea section for day three.