East Grampian has a superb and varied coastline, from huge sandy beaches, to high cliffs, rocky skerries, and picturesque little harbours. What better way to explore all this than by sea kayak!
A unique aspect of sea kayaking is being able to get so close to the transition between land and sea, where no other boat can venture. A particularly attractive bit of coast for sea kayakers lies between Peterhead and Cruden Bay – the rock is beautiful pink granite and you can enter the big collapsed cave “The Bullers of Buchan” and see the gothic remains of Slaine’s Castle, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula. A favourite day paddle is between Stonehaven and Catterline, including Dunottar Castle, some excellent caves, an impressive tunnel and, best of all, the seabird cliffs of Fowlsheugh. It is awe-inspiring to witness the noise, smell and sight of 130,000 seabirds – mainly guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes – from the sea. While it is tempting to paddle close to the birds, a better way to experience the majesty of the cliffs and the maelstrom of birds is from further back. In any case, it is crucial not to disturb the birds while they have eggs or chicks (May to mid-July) – if the guillemots start “bobbing” their heads, you are too close! It is also worth being reticent of entering caves during this time, as that is where shags (the smaller relative of the cormorant) nest.
Close encounters with the resident bottle-nosed dolphins and harbour porpoises are always a possibility, and seals are common here and are often encountered sleeping in the back of caves. They appear to be fascinated by kayakers, often following closely behind. One young “cocky teenage” grey seal has even been known to attempt to climb onboard!
While for much of the East Grampian coast the tidal flow is not a great consideration, some areas do warrant careful tidal planning, such as around Troup Head. Sea conditions in Grampian can be rough since there is no shelter from the North Sea swells, and there are long stretches of coastline with no easy landing places, making for quite committing paddling for experienced kayakers. Serious consideration of the weather and sea conditions is essential, as is safety kit including a means of communication (e.g. VHF radio, flares, Personal Locator Beacon), together with training and experience in sea kayaking. This can be gained through local clubs or through commercial training centres or guided trips (see links).
It is important to park considerately as many launch spots are working harbours and some harbours charge for parking or a launch fee. Sea kayakers tend to have an excellent reputation for environmental awareness sometimes even remove as much flotsam and jetsam from the lunch beaches as they can fit in their hatches, and the local Grampian sea kayak clubs take part in the annual “beach clean-up” events.
Grampian-based Kayaking Clubs:
Guided Trips Including trips to Grampian Coast:
Other Sea Kayaking Courses and Trips: