The 40 Lochs Kayak Challenge in Argyll & the Isles
Are you ready for an exciting paddling challenge this summer?
Then why not take part in our 40 Lochs Challenge!
Argyll & the Isles is home to some of Scotland's most stunning and accessible fresh water and sea lochs and we're pretty sure you will love a paddle in them, on your kayak or canoe! Working with local experienced paddlers Geoff and Vonna, we have created a list of 40 lochs across Argyll and the Isles for you to explore and see Scotland's Adventure Coast from a different perspective.
Use the interactive map below or our area-by-area list to plan your 40 Loch adventures. Zoom in to locate the lochs across Argyll & the Isles and click on each to get the name, length and type of loch; sea or freshwater. Start your adventure here!
Two key tips
The 40 Lochs vary in length and ease of access. Some are sheltered and others very exposed – please do your homework so you know what to expect. And as all keen paddlers know, be aware of the local weather forecast and tide times for when you will be paddling. Understand your own level of competence for the conditions you will encounter on each Loch and ensure everyone paddling with you does likewise.
How you can take part
We don't have many rules at all, it's easy to take part and most of all gives you the perfect excuse to come back and try something new and different!
- You can kayak or canoe any of the listed lochs, in ANY order, and in your own time.
- There's no time limit at all. Do as many as you like this summer, or take a few years, it's entirely up to you!
- Each paddle is not a race. In fact, we encourage you to take your time and soak up the scenery.
- You must participate safely at all times by following water safety guidance and letting someone know where you are and expected return time.
- Simply complete the entry form each time you complete 10 and we'll reward you with a Wild About Argyll 40 Lochs Kayak Challenge digital badge.
- You can include lochs you've paddled previously too.
What lochs will you kayak?
Parking, Access & Camping
Since the Land Reform Act 2003, outdoor enthusiasts in Scotland have a legal right of responsible access to open land and water by foot or kayak. Every paddler has a right to cross open land to a launch point. However this does not apply to vehicles crossing private land and you may find you have to carry or trolley to a launch point. Normally however the most difficult task is finding somewhere to park the vehicle. Argyll & Bute Council as access authority maps core paths and launch points.
The Access Rights stretch to wild camping , provided due respect is given to those working and living in the locality. You will find suitable camping places on virtually all the 40 lochs. Roadside camping is problematic and, in the case of Loch Lomond, illegal. Consequently we suggest that boats capable of carrying your camping equipment (Canoes or Sea Kayaks) are preferred.
Any activity involving water can be dangerous; paddling is what is termed a “Risk Assumed” sport. In reality paddling is probably safer than crossing the road and certainly safer than skiing if simple precautions are taken and you avoid windy conditions. In poor conditions however a capsize is possible. Emptying, getting back into the boat in deep water or rolling it back up should be practised even though you will probably never need the skills if you take appropriate precautions.
There are many texts (e.g. The Canoeing Handbook published by the BCU) which contain advice on what to wear and on various other pieces of equipment (boats, tow lines, PFDs, Radios etc etc) and how to use them. We do not intend to reiterate the excellent advice proffered other than to reinforce the advice that you should always carry a first aid kit. We would also add that mobile phone reception is limited in some areas and it is still sensible to carry a tracker or emergency beacon.
The nature of Lochs is that they usually offer some shelter from any wind. However the shape of the surrounding mountains, particularly in “fiords”, can also have a tendency to accelerate the wind from some directions. If you are setting out in winds of F4 and above, take considerable care; the consequences can be fatal. Tidal flows at the narrows at the mouth of lochs such as Loch Feochan, Loch a Chumhain, Loch Creran and Loch Etive, require knowledge of tides and slack water if you want to go through them. The mouth of Loch Etive, the Falls of Lora, is dangerous in some wind/tide conditions.
The reality is you need a vehicle to get to the lochs and if you are aiming to do a number on a trip, then a vehicle that provides a bed for the night might be very useful. One way trips on Loch Lomond and Loch Fyne are possible using Citylink services that follow the lochside. On the other two huge lochs, Loch Awe and Loch Etive there is no transport at the far end.