• Jonny Hawkins

5 Must paddle grade 3 rivers in Scotland

With so much amazing whitewater in Scotland it’s not hard to find sweet rivers to paddle. Here are my 5 favourite grade 3 runs all with personalities as varied as the Spice Girls.


River Garry - This dam release run has it all. Brilliant play waves, a beautiful gorge and even a few friendly drops to practice your boof. The sun seems to always shine, the rapids are plentiful and enough space between each to sort out any problems. There’s even an easy walk back up the riverbank, so you can paddle the main bulk of it again and again and again…..

Surfs up on the River Garry

Lower Roy - This fast and exciting run makes for an excellent club trip with lots of good rapids and features to play on. As the river level rises so does the fun factor, but rescues do become a bit more entertaining. There is a great final rapid past the road bridge but why stop there when the Middle Spean awaits.

Dropping into the amazing gorge on the Garry via Hey Diddle Diddle

Upper Brann - Perthshire meets the Alps with this classic section. Starting high up in the glen this section offers loads of excitement for the grade and winds its way through some splendid scenery. There are two grade 3+ rapids near the end of the run which offer good practice for those wishing to move up onto grade 4 rivers.


River Loy - This brilliant tree lined run is a highland classic. Starting with some nice grade 2 you are soon into the main bulk of it with a few brilliant ledge drops that can all be inspected on the drive up. My favourite bit of the run by far is the tunnel at the end that passes under the caledonian canal. Just watch out for the hidden wave half way down.

Jon Harwell paddling an awesome rapid under Oykel Bridge Photo Jennifer Hartnett

River Oykel - This high water run in the middle of nowhere is well worth the drive north. Just getting there feels like an adventure and the big water nature of it brings the Himalayas to the Highlands. It needs a fair amount of rain to bring it up but too much turns it into full on grade 4. The only catch is Oykel Falls, a big chunky rapid that is definitely worth portaging if grade 5+ isn't your jam! After that, the fun continues down to the take out.


And for those seeking a little more excitement…. The Upper Roy is truly a wild mountainous run. Starting high up in the remote Glen Roy, it begins by weaving through some brilliant bedrock features, then through boulder gardens with towering mountains all around. There is one grade 4 rapid that can easily be inspected and portaged or paddled if you are feeling brave. The difficulty slowly eases before a horizon line marks the start of the Roy Gorge, another absolute classic but perhaps saved for another article...

Awesome snow-melt paddling on the Upper Roy

There is loads of great information about these rivers in the new Scottish White Water guidebook which can be bought here. I hope you have found some inspiration here to get out and enjoy some classic Highland white water!


Highland Kayak School can make sure your precious river time is optimised, contact us if you would like us to sort out the faff and provide you with a wicked time on the water.

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