Kayaking in Scotland – River Tay, Perth

River Tay, Perth Loop

Tay Country, Perthshire

Explore the old Scottish capital, Perth City from the water perspective. This Fair City has been shaped by the mighty River Tay, running through it’s heart. These waters are tidal so for your comfort we will use double sea kayaks, making a novice friendly trip. Other crafts are also available, contact us to discuss.

Perth offers over 2000 years of fascinating history facts which we can share with you or at least as much as we can fit into this guided tour. We will tell you as well about some amazing wildlife we have encoutered here; herons, beavers, kingfishers, ottres, buzzards, ospreys and occasionally seals!

Distance: 6.4km

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate, depending on tide and river water level





Meet us in the heart of the city. A small slipway on the right bank of the Tay just upstream of the railway bridge. It’s a short walk from the South Inch Park



Some kayaking experience necessary. Suitable for age 5+




Warm clothes, no jeans, suitable for the weather, including shoes you don’t mind to get wet, that’s it. We will have dry bags available so you can carry spare hats, gloves, food, camera, drink and any medications safely with you.


Main point (at the moment) for Outdoor Explore is from Willowgate Activity Centre (Trust run company offering taster sessions to schools, stag, hen parties) – postcode PH2 7JU, next to Perth’s Sailing Club (easy to find by sat nav), with access to toilets.


Additional landing spots:

  • Pontoon under M90 Friarton Bridge, east shore at Willowgate Fisheries
  • A causeway linking east shore and north edge of Moncrieffe Island
  • West shore in Perth has few sets of stairs located by the flood gates
  • Pontoon in South Inch Park, west shore at Fergusson Gallery
  • Slipway, west shore, north end of Perth’s port


Brief river description

River Tay takes west side (river right) of Moncrieffe (Friarton) Island in Perth City. A causeway (ford – underwater road to the island) located at the north-east edge of the island allowing slower flow river left, manageable even for novice paddlers to travel upstream.

Take upstream direction, to start with. Follow the river left shore for easier travel, e.g. if very windy day, high water flow, little paddling experience by participants… Travel towards the top of the island and return to the main flow of the River Tay once reaching city centre. Take river right all the way back.

You might come across 3 shallow areas, maybe even portages, tide dependant when taking river left side of the island. First one between Willowgate Fisheries pond and the eastern railway bridge. Second under the eastern railway bridge and third, most likely to happen at the causeway. The last one, after trying on many water levels it’s easier to manage when portaging on the mainland, east shore rather than through the island.


Portages will be avoided if high water takes place exactly when you are crossing the causeway. Check tides every time you traveling to built own experience and know what to expect.


Historical facts

  • Railway bridges (west and east one) built originally on 1849 have been updated in 1864. Built by the present iron and masonry viaduct opened in May 1864, designed by B. H. Blyth [1819-1866] and erected by Lee & Freeman at a cost of about £27 000. More can be found here.

Perth City – an ancient capital of Scotland. Called by Roman Bertha/Perth is translated as “wood” from Cumbric and Pictish Gaelic languages and from Celtic as “Aber The”, meaning “mouth of the Tay”. More can be found here.

St Matthews’s Church – an iconic structure at the west shore of the River Tay. Constructed in 1871, a very interesting place to be for anyone who has an interest in architecture, stained glass, history, war memorabilia and more. More can be hound here. 

It’s also worth reading about the road crossings in the city, it’s Georgians waterfront and botanical aspects of the city. Théâtre, museums and parks are also a good idea to point along the way



Often we came across oyster catchers, herons, beavers, buzzards, osprey, deer, dippers, otters, salmon. There have been records of seal even reaching the city!


Some of these animals will be more active during the day, some towards evening (e.g. beavers). Traffic on the water also will affect it (recently launched city boat tours – check Perth City website for timings), rare but still happening larger ships coming in to Perth Port and jety skies launching from the Port’s slipway.



Tide dependant, you can extend the trip by another 1.5km when reaching the old road bridge in Perth. Even more when you can paddle as far as Scone Palace and back to Willowgate Activity Centre within two and a half hours!

River Tay is the longest one in Scotland. It’s 117 miles (188km) long, starting at Allt Coire Laoigh, Ben Lui, Scottish Highlands. It becomes tidal from Perth. The River Tay is Scotland’s longest river and the United Kingdom’s 7th longest river and largest river by water volume discharge, at 100 cubic metres per second.

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