Scotland's national forests give you access to beautiful waterways and lochs, and the opportunity to enjoy them in many ways. Whether swimming, sailing or paddling, it’s a great way of getting close to nature. However, you should always be extremely careful near, and on, open water and take all precautions to ensure a safe trip. Check out our water safety page for more useful information.
Slip quietly through the forest on a canoe and you’ll enter the natural world through a very special back door. You might come across an otter fishing by the bank, or families of ducks swimming in long geometric lines. Silence is key here. Stop and watch from a distance, then move on gently so you cause as little disturbance as possible.
There are plenty of inland lochs and rivers to explore. Try Loch Awe or Loch Eck, or to get lessons and hire equipment, visit Loch Morlich in Glenmore Forest Park. The rivers and lochs of Queen Elizabeth Forest Park are all superb, while the 60 mile-long Great Glen Canoe Trail is an unforgettable trip for adventurous paddlers.
Adrenaline, strength and skill combine when it comes to white water paddling. There are put-in points for this exciting sport at forest car parks on some of Scotland's most challenging rivers, like the River Orchy and the River Garry.
But, you need to know what you're doing. Make sure you have the right gear and be with people you trust. Follow all water safety advice. Please check local conditions, follow the Paddlers Access Code (PDF 350KB) and be respectful of other river users.
Worth their salt
Some forests give access to sheltered ocean bays and beaches, or have car parks from where you can carry your sea kayak to easy launch sites like the one at Loch Eynort on Skye.
It's best to paddle in small groups, taking care to avoid nesting seabirds and all sea life. The Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code and the Scottish Canoe Association's Sea Kayaking Guide both have good tips on taking care of wildlife while you paddle.
Wherever you go on the water, you are responsible for your own safety. Check weather and water conditions, always wear a personal flotation device, know what to do in an emergency and avoid going out on your own.
Get more advice on our water safety page, and great information about staying safe and enjoying the water from our partners: