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Great Glen Canoe Trail

Canoe Trails & Routes

Great Glen Canoe Trail

The Caledonian Canal has brought life to the Great Glen. By opening up the waterway a whole range of industries became possible.  The Great Glen Ways offers the outdoor enthusiast three ways to cross the country coast to coast - by boot... by bike... by boat!
The Great Glen Canoe Trail is yet another example of what adventures await outdoor enthusiasts. With the number of paddlers taking on the Great Glen by boat (canoe and sea kayak), the trail required to be formalised to forward plan and manage both current and future usage.

Glasgow to Edinburgh Canoe Trail

This follows the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals, runs through some of Scotland's most densely populated communities. The trail was launched in summer 2014. The 87km trail links the two city centres from Pinkston Basin in North Glasgow to Edinburgh Quay at Fountainbridge, less than 1km from Edinburgh Castle and Princes Street Gardens. It passes through Port Dundas, Falkirk, Polmont, Wester Hailes and Sighthill in Edinburgh.

Argyll Kayak Trail

This project was delivered by Argyll and Bute Council and the Oban based social enterprise, Stramash. The Argyll Sea Kayak Trail offers great sea kayaking off the west coast of Scotland. The coastline offers a huge variety of paddling and sights for sea kayakers. See the official website:

River Spey Guide

River Spey information has been contributed by SCA River Adviser: David Craig, The Beeches, Station Road, Newtonmore. PH20 1AR. Tel. 01540 673826 & Mobile 07870 338110

River Spey - General Information

OS Maps: Sheets 35, 36 & 28. Also Harveys “Speyside Way” (Waterproof) Map 

A major Grade II/III river that can usually be relied upon to give reasonable water levels in all seasons. Flows past the Cairngorms, through Badenoch and Strathspey and into the Moray Firth at Spey Bay.
There is nothing highly technical on the river, however, on sections downstream of Grantown-on-Spey there is a good number of entertaining Grade II rapids.
Popular trout and salmon fishing each day during the season (February to September, No salmon fishing on Sunday).

The river is navigable for most of its length - almost from the source at Loch Spey (where the Spey shares a watershed with the turbulent River Roy). A major hazard occurring just above Laggan Bridge is the Spey Dam, which like the River Roy takes the Spey's waters and takes them westward (this time to help power an aluminium smelter).  However, much water and a lot of portage are normally required to make these higher reaches navigable.  Although Laggan Bridge is a fairly good access point, Newtonmore is normally recognised as the highest reasonable starting place. Roads run close to the river throughout its length. At all times whilst enjoying this wonderful river, please:

  • Park, launch and land with care and consideration at all locations.
  • Leave absolutely no litter. If you brought it in, then please, you take it out - and, if practical, that left by other previous less caring, less responsible persons.
  • On departure from any camping site no evidence should remain of your being there. Perhaps only the odd temporarily flattened blade of grass. Good guidance is contained in the SCA environment pages.
  • Whilst taking statutory, responsible access as per the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, please respect the activities of other river users and residents. Follow the Paddlers' Access Code.

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River Spey - Route Description

The Spey is a major river that can usually be relied upon to give reasonable water levels at all seasons. Probably one of the most beautiful rivers in Britain, flowing past the Cairngorms, through Badenoch and Strathspey and into the Moray Firth at Spey Bay. Whilst, before venturing on to the Spey unguided one should be a proficient paddler, there are very few highly technical rapids on the river. On sections downstream of Grantown-on-Spey there is a good number of entertaining Grade II rapids.

Truly a ‘water-path’, this river is navigable for most of its length ~ from source at Loch Spey (where the Spey shares its water shed with the turbulent River Roy). A major hazard occurring above Laggan Bridge is the Spey Dam, which like the River Roy steals the Spey's waters and takes them westward (to help power an aluminium smelter). However, good water-levels and much portage are required to make the very highest reaches navigable. Approx 1km upstream of Garva Bridge is a short Grade III rapid requiring care and at Garva Bridge the rapid is impassable in low water conditions and Grade III standard if ‘navigable’. Although Laggan Bridge is a fairly good access point, Newtonmore is normally recognised as the highest reasonable starting place unless river is fairly high. Roads run close to the river throughout its length.


In addition to that contained within the Scottish Land Reform Act, which allows for responsible pedestrian; cycle; horse and non-motorised boat access, there is a public right of navigation on the River Spey. ‘Navigation’ extends to movement over the water, up, down and across stream.

The River

Canoeists can start a scenic, leisurely paddle from opposite the campsite at Spey Bridge just above Newtonmore. The stretch to Kingussie can be shallow but offers a variety of small, fun rapids ~ ideal for a first time experience on moving water. Apart from a couple of minor rapids below the Ruthven Bridge at Kingussie, the river meanders slowly through the Insh Marshes, an important bird sanctuary, and into Loch Insh ~ a major pool in the River Spey. Fallen trees and overhanging branches are the main hazards on these upper sections.

Below Aviemore there are some short, easy rapids but once past Boat of Garten the river moves slowly through very flat land. This slow moving stretch continues to around Broomhill Bridge. (Just below Broomhill, at Boat of Balliefurth ~ GR. 013245 ~ is an ideal, easily accessed campsite.)

The majority of rapids throughout the length of the Cairngorms National Park area are Grade I (Laggan to Delliefurie Burn below Cromdale). However,on the approach to Grantown-on-Spey, the river becomes rocky and once through the road bridge the water starts to move more decidedly seaward. We have now moved into the prime fishing beats of the Spey. Going under Advie Bridge it is worth, in low water conditions, moving river right to under the second ‘arch’, beyond the middle support, to avoid the rows of post stumps remaining under the left ‘arch’ from a previous bridge structure. From Ballindalloch the river offers a variety of Grade II rapids.

The Ballindalloch to Knockando section includes the best of the white water on the Spey. Suitable for and popular with proficient paddlers, this is the single most paddled section of the river. Please alleviate any potential parking problems at the Ballindalloch site by moving vehicles on down to Knockando, where there is ample parking space. Alternatively, one can access the bridge from river right close by the bunkhouse situated in the old Ballindalloch Railway Station. The shuttle on this section is very easily done by bicycle using the Speyside Way, making for a shorter journey, on the return to Ballindalloch from Knockando. As well as being environmentally friendly, using bicycles in shuttles here can avoid potential parking problems at the Ballindalloch parking/launch area as it minimises vehicle numbers and requires no vehicles to be left at the start point.

Downstream of the bridge at Ballindalloch the River Avon (pronounced Aann) enters the Spey from the right. Here, a more interesting Grade II rapid on a double bend introduces the heavier section of the river. Next is Blacksboat Rapid (GR. 181380), a location where the river bed drops fairly sharply and, particularly in low water conditions, the Spey's waters are funnelled into a straight, fast flowing, turbulent water chute providing a real, natural roller-coaster ride. Running parallel with the river at this point, and on downstream to Spey Bay, is the Speyside Way. This is a scenic long-distance footpath stretching to Aviemore, with a spur to Tomintoul, following part of the route of the dismantled Strathspey railway line and from Tugnet along the coast, almost to Buckie. Some 800 metres below Blacksboat Rapid is the disused Blacksboat Station, which now serves as a very basic camping area at the side of the Way. No facilities are available except for a cold-water tap, situated on the side of the large, old goods-shed.

One is now in an area where small places are big in worldwide terms of malt-whisky names. In a little over two kilometres below Blacksboat Bridge the river bends and one can see the chimneys of the Tamdhu Distillery, signalling the approach to Knockando ~ probably the best known of all Spey rapids (and a fine malt!). At Knockando the river provides interest in most conditions although, as with many of the Spey rapids, it can become a little "washed-out" when the river is high. The access and egress point is immediately below the rapid on the left bank with a steep path leading up to the old disused railway platform. For ease of loading and unloading and carrying boats it is possible to park on the old railway line by the top of the access path. However, as the railway line is now part of the Speyside Way the track should not be obstructed.

At the instigation and subsequent provision of ground by Knockando Estates, linked with funding from sportscotland, in May 2002 a new toilet and changing rooms facility was opened at Knockando Rapid, for use by paddlers and walkers. This is an excellent example of an estate working hand in hand with the governing bodies of sports. Many thanks are extended to the Wills family for their forward thinking and co-operation. Situated river left, half way up the riverbank, by the steps just below the end of the rapid, the unit comprises a male and female changing area and “composting toilet”. Please endeavour to leave the facility cleaner than when you arrived. Any “foreign objects” dropped down the toilet will completely negate the composting process. However, a handful of the sawdust (provided in bins) should be thrown down the toilet after use. To ensure long term access to this key facility, we must make every effort possible to use these facilities with all due care and respect.

The scenery from Knockando to Fochabers is some of the most picturesque on the Spey with an interesting variety of rapids. This is an extremely pleasant, entertaining section underestimated, indeed unknown to many paddlers. Many appear to assume that only the Ballindalloch to Knockando section offers white water. In the final twenty miles to the sea the river passes through steep, tree laden banks, past stunning red cliffs and pinnacles of ancient, iron-rich glacial deposit. Then one moves into flatter land but still presenting a number of entertaining rapids and very few slow pools. There are many key salmon fishing pools on this section.

BEWARE ~ At Craigellachie, if landing at the Boat of Fiddich Pool, because of sharp brick-work underwater from a fallen wall, avoid cutting in above any angler fishing high up in the pool. Rather give a wide berth towards river-left before landing downstream of the black fishing shelter (river-right). On the approach to Boat o’ Brig beware of a large boulder situated in the middle of the flow, at a left-hand bend know as ‘Otter Hole’. Then on the Braewater Estate approx. 1½ miles above Fochabers, after the final section of red sandstone banking, look out for on river right two large croys (~ man-made rock dykes built out into the water). These obstacles are probably the most likely to cause boat wreckage on the whole of the Spey. However, with care, they can be avoided. Many large uprooted trees present on the section below Fochabers ~ requires care in choosing lines through the ever changing single banks. In approaching the lower, tidal section, in certain conditions, severe turbulence can occur, thus making paddling quite difficult. It is inadvisable to enter the sea in conditions of off-shore winds. This said, for most of the time this whole final section is a very pleasant approach to the waves at Spey Bay, where the fresh meets the salt.

(In addition to the O.S. maps listed at the start of this guide, Harveys Maps have produced an excellent waterproof map (ISBN 1-85137-337-3) which covers the length of the Speyside Way. This publication would be a valuable asset for anyone navigating the Spey, downstream of Aviemore.)

River Spey - Accommodation and Contacts

Tourism Offices:

Newtonmore 01540 673253  
Kingussie 01540 661297 Easter ~ October
Aviemore 01479 810930  
Carrbridge 01479 841630 Easter ~ October
Grantown on Spey 01479 872773  
Dufftown 01340 820501  
Elgin 01343 542666  

Canoeist-friendly Accommodation

  1. Invernahavon Caravan Park, Glentruim, Newtonmore. PH20 1BE 01540 673534 - Kenny and Susie Knox
  2. Speybridge Camp/Caravan Site, Newtonmore 01540 673275 - Sandy Leslie
  3. The Beeches (B&B), Station Rd. Newtonmore PH20 1AR 01540 673826 - Jude and Dave Craig
  4. Newtonmore Independent Hostel, Main Street, Newtonmore. PH20 01540 673360 - Peter and Kathryn Main,
  5. Strathspey Hostel, Main Street, Newtonmore PH20 01540 673694 - Laurie Skuodas
  6. The Laird’s Bothy, 68 High Street Kingussie. PH21 1HZ 01540 661334
  7. Loch Insh Chalets, Kincraig. PH21 1NU 01540 651272 - Andrew Freshwater
  8. Lagganlia Centre, Feshiebridge, Kincraig. PH21 1NG 01540 651265 - Ian Ross
  9. Glen Feshie Hostel, Balacroick, Kincraig. PH21 1NH 01540 651323
  10. Dalraddy Holiday Park, Dalraddy, Aviemore. 01479 810330 (This site is just 1.2km from the river. Accessible via a rough track leading from the river GR859071)
  11. Speyside Lodge/Caravan Park, Aviemore PH22 1PX 01479 811688
  12. Pine Bank Chalets, Aviemore 01479 810000 - Judith and Alex Burns-Smith
  13. Aviemore Bunkhouse, Aviemore 01479 811181
  14. Aviemore Youth Hostel, PH22 1PR 01479 810910
  15. Rothiemurchus Caravan/Camping Park, Coylumbridge PH22 1QU 01479 812800
  16. Loch Morlich Youth Hostel, Glenmore. PH22 1QY 01479 861238
  17. Glenmore Camping/Caravan Park, Glenmore. PH22 1QU 01479 861271
  18. Glenmore Lodge (National Centre) Glenmore. PH22 1QU 01479 861256
  19. Boat of Garten Camping/Caravan Park, PH24 3BN 01479 831652
  20. Nethy Station Bunk Houses, Nethybridge 01479 821370 - Patricia and Richard Eccles
  21. Abernethy Centre, Nethybridge 01479 82279
  22. Boat of Balliefurth Campsite (Approx. 3k Downstream of Broomhill Bridge) River right. (Not Balliefurth Farm) Signposted by river ‘Camping This Side’. Please pay at white house 500m along track - Adelaide and Ronnie Macpherson. Booking advised 01479 821435
  23. Ardenbeg Bunkhouse, Grant Road, Grantown on Spey 01479 872824 - Rebecca Reid. Shuttle service available
  24. Grantown-on-Spey Camping/Caravan Park. PH26 3JG 01479 872898
  25. Cromdale Centre, Cromdale. 01224 208446 - Aberdeen City Council, Leisure Development
  26. Ballindalloch Station Bunkhouse, Cragganmore 01540 651272 - Andrew Freshwater
  27. Ballindalloch Station small campsite with toilet and car parking, Cragganmore, off A95. Access from river from left bank below bridge and walk across bridge to site or look out river-right for a style (not easily seen from the river) approx. 150m. upstream from metal bridge. Then access across field (kindly agreed by Colin Robertson, the farmer) to gate on south side of field. Please close and securely tie the gate as often cows and a ‘friendly enough’ bull in the field.
  28. *Blacksboat Station Camping Area. Cold tap only facility available, situated on the recently refurbished, large goods-shed now used as a store by the Speyside Way Ranger Service.
  29. Aberlour Gardens Caravan/Campsite, Aberlour. AB38 9LD 01340 871586 - Simon and Denice Blades. Shuttles may be available. GR 282433
  30. *Boat o' Fiddich Park Camping Area, Craigellachie. Camp area is located in Fiddich Park by the car park & public toilets. Designated canoe parking area ~ L-shaped fencing, complete with tethering rings ~ 25 metres north/downstream of the black fishing shelter. Use steps upstream of the fishing shelter to gain access on to the Speyside Way. At top of steps, turn left along the Way; continue 300 metres along the track under the bridge. Camping is on the flat areas beyond the car park and wooden toilet building. When paddling away from this location endeavour to stay river-right until the next rapid. (Please avoid using the litter-bin located by the fishing shelter.)
  31. Burnside Caravan Site, Fochabers 01343 820511 - D G Christiem, GR 350582 Speyside Way Sites - Moray County Countryside Ranger, Aberlour, Banffshire 01340 881266

Minibus shuttles, including to/from Spey Bay - Jake Strachan, Grantown 01479 870025, 079211 85088 - small canoe trailer available