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Summit to Sea Expedition in Scotland

Traverse the Cairngorms National Park and canoe the rapids of the River Spey all the way to the sea

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Trip Ref #10341

Summit to Sea Expedition in Scotland

Traverse the Cairngorms National Park and canoe the rapids of the River Spey all the way to the sea

4 nights
United Kingdom
3 days off work
Up to 8 people
Central Inverness, Scotland

Wild camping



Based on 32 reviews

You'll need some hiking experience under your belt, canoe training is provided but some time on the water would be useful

Climb Cairn Gorm, the legendary 4000ft mountain right at the heart of the UK’s largest National Park

Brave the cold waters and wild swim in stunning Loch A’an, over 2000ft above sea level.

Tackle the notorious ‘washing machine’ section of the River Spey as we canoe through whisky country, camping on riverbanks as we go.

Day 1

Climb the Cairn


15km · 750m up · 600m down

Meet your host in Inverness and hop in the bus to the Cairngorm ski area, the launchpad of your expedition. Having packed your overnight kit and laced up your boots, you’ll skirt round the winter playground of the Northern Corries, ascending to the summit of Cairn Gorm, 1245 metres above sea level. Summit bagged, it’s downhill to Loch A’an for a quick revitalising dip before heading north via the Fords of Avon to Coire Odhar for a true mountainous wild camp for the night.

Day 2

From boots to boat


20km · 150m up · 650m down



Up early to continue your push north, you’ll hike out from the mountains, through the ancient pines of the Abernethy Forest National Nature Reserve to the little village of Nethy Bridge. Following a mile or so of quiet lanes, you’ll reach the River Spey where your canoe will be waiting for you. You’ll quickly repack your kit into the canoe before hitting the water and paddling to your first riverside wild camping spot. Time to kick back with a wee dram and do a spot of stargazing from the fireside.

Day 3

River cruising



After your short introduction to the river yesterday, things ramp up today as you begin to get a feel for the River Spey. Your guide will fill you in on the rich cultural and industrial heritage of the Spey Valley, whilst flanked by the dramatic backdrop of the North East Highlands. Having learnt a few skills to help you handle your canoe, you’ll hit the notorious ‘Washing Machine’ section at the end of the day which gives you the opportunity to shoot a grade 2 rapid if you wish. All part of the fun!

Day 4

Into the rapids



A big day today as you progress downriver through the heart of the famous Speyside whisky region. More fun grade 1-2 rapids on the menu as the river picks up speed on its race to the sea. There’s still time to soak up the vast wilderness of the Spey though. Keep your eyes peeled for ospreys and otters, before setting up camp for the night near Craigellachie.

Day 5

To the sea!



After yesterday's action, things will feel a little more relaxed today with the end of the expedition in sight. You’ll follow the meandering river and start to smell the sea air as Spey Bay approaches. This beautiful coastal reserve on the north Scottish coast is home to dolphins year-round - with a stroke of luck they might even be there for your finish line party! After packing up, it’s time to jump back in the bus to Inverness for your return journey home.



Local, certified canoeing and hiking guides


4 nights wild camping


Munch on tasty food throughout


To and from Inverness from the start point


All your canoeing, camping and safety equipment

Not Included

Travel to and from the start point

Personal expenses

Visas where required

Day 1

Wild camping · Twin share




Day 2 – Day 4

Wild camping · Twin share




Day 5

Departure day




What is the food like?

For breakfast, there'll be cereal, bread, tea and coffee. For lunch, you can expect wraps with a variety of fillings, soup, and some home-baked delights. Dinner will be 3-courses including pate and oatcakes, followed by a pasta or rice dish and some home-baked snacks for the canoeing section. Snacks and drinks will also be available between meals. The food will be a bit more basic for the first night in the hills as you will be carrying everything but once into your canoes, there will be more variety. Vegetarian, vegan and most dietary requirements can be catered for.

What is the accommodation like?

Wild Camp

You’ll wild camp in twin share tents in remote and beautiful spots in the mountains and by the riverside. Accommodation is basic but what's lacking in facilities is made up for in peace, wild nature and star-studded skies.


For solo travellers wanting their own personal space, you can request your own private tent on the trip (subject to availability). See Optional Extras for prices. Just request when booking. A solo tent will be provided for all solo travellers free of charge until the end of June due to Covid-based restrictions.

The Area




Central Inverness

08:30 on Day 1


Inverness town centre, train station, bus station, or your accommodation in town.

Early afternoon on Day 5


You’ll meet your host in the car park at the Tesco Metro on Tomnahurich Street in Inverness at 08:30. You will then be transferred by minibus to the Cairngorms. We recommend you arrive the night before to ensure you don't miss your transfer.

Your trip will end in Inverness mid-afternoon. Your host will transfer you to the town centre train station, bus station, or your accommodation in Inverness. It is also easy to get a 25-minute taxi ride to Inverness Airport to catch a flight from late afternoon onwards. Please don't book any onwards travel before 17:00 in case of bad weather and a delayed arrival into Inverness.

Travel options

Inverness is well served by train routes and flights. There is a daily Virgin Trains East Coast from London King’s Cross to Inverness, and a number of route options within Scotland with ScotRail. There are also direct flights from across the UK and Europe.

What about all the carbon?

We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

Enjoy 12.5% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 12.5% discount to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

What's included?

Your host will supply you with the following kit to carry & use:

For the hiking part of the trip:

  • Lightweight Tent (20 litres)
  • Lightweight sleeping mat (5 litres)
  • Cutlery, mug, bowl, plate (2 litres)
  • Food, snacks etc (2 litres)
  • Stove, Gas (5 litres)

For the canoeing part of the trip:

  • Bigger Tent (25 litres)
  • Buoyancy Aid (i.e. Life Jacket)
  • Canoe, Paddles, Helmet
  • 1 X 60 litre River Storage Barrel
  • More food!
  • Waterproofs (if requested)

Please let your host know an indication of size for the waterproof clothing and helmet on your passenger information form. Either an extra small, small, medium, large or extra-large. An approx guess will do.

What do I need to bring ready to go hiking on Day 1:

  • 60-70 litre hiking rucksack with comfy waistbelt (For kit below plus all the hiking list above)
  • A rucksack liner or dry bags for your kit/sleeping bag to stay dry in heavy rain
  • Sleeping bag (3-4 seasons, think down to 0*Celsius, Scottish mountains can get quite chilly!)
  • Waterproof breathable jacket with hood, suited to mountain walking
  • Waterproof Over Trousers, suited to mountain walking
  • 1x Hiking BOOTS suited to rough, rocky & wet mountainous terrain! (Not shoes/ Not trainers)
  • 2X pairs of good quality hiking socks
  • 1X set of hiking clothes to wear, quick drying and not cotton/denim!
  • Spare socks, underwear for day 2
  • Warm hat and gloves
  • Sunglasses (ideally with a retainer for canoeing days).
  • Sun cream because it’s always sunny in Scotland! (But seriously please take some).
  • Midge repellent spray/cream and Midge net/hood- YOU NEED THESE!
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, mini toiletries (ideally, environmentally friendly.
  • Swimsuit & small towel/travel towel for a dip in the loch, should you fancy it?
  • Torch (preferably head torch) & spare batteries.
  • Small freezer zip lock bags/dry bags for personal things like phone, wallet, mask
  • 2x 1 litre Water bottle(s) or similar- Full of water ready to go please
  • A few of your favourite snacks (extras in case we don’t have ones you like).
  • COVID 19 Face covering & small bottle of hand sanitizer
  • Personal Medication, Antihistamine/Hay fever tablets, creams lotions and potions etc

Please note that cotton (hoodies) and denim (Jeans) clothing are not recommended for our trips, as they have no thermal properties and get heavy when wet

What you need to have packed separately for Canoeing, on the afternoon of Day 2 (this will be dropped off for you on Day 2)

  • 2 more sets of paddling clothes (lightweight, quick drying trousers, socks, base layer top & fleece).
  • 1 set of warm, evening clothes (clothes that will keep you warm) as they may get smoky and dirty.
  • 1x Canoeing shoes or Trainers or Wellies that will get wet everyday
  • 1x Dry lightweight trainers for evenings around rugged campsites (No flip flops/sliders please)
  • Optional - a pair of neoprene socks would help keep your feet warm when paddling
  • Optional - a pair of grippy cycling gloves to protect their hands when paddling
  • Shorts in case it’s a sunny week, woo hoo!

Bear in mind when packing - that all your personal kit, including sleeping bag and part of a tent - needs to fit into a 60-litre canoe barrel (about the size of the expedition rucksack you should bring).

If you like to snack, please pack your own light snacks - remember they must fit in the bag!

To Consider please:

There is a lot of planning that goes into helping make your trip run smoothly and you can help this by:

Day 1: Please turn up ready to Hike! Boots on, water filled up and Covid 19 Mask ready to wear in our vehicle. Have your extra canoeing kit & spare travelling bags separate. These will be returned to us the next day (Day 2).

When we get the canoes and your extra kit the following day: we can take away your spare smelly hiking boots/clothes and rucksack etc and they will be returned to you on the last day (Day 5) to repack all your personal belongings at the end of the canoe trip.

When packing your personal kit, e.g. sleeping bag, teddy bears, I-pads, kitchen sinks and glamorous clothing etc, please bear in mind that you need to carry this for miles. It also needs to fit into a 60-litre rucksack, then a 60-litre river storage barrel along with a tent, stove, sleeping matt and food etc! So please travel as light as you can, and please re-consider taking heavy or high value items. We give you good quality equipment, however, we cannot guarantee things will stay dry!

Food and community:

We will provide all meals and snacks from the first lunch onward. During the expedition we may ask the group to share their aims for the trip, help collect firewood, boil some water for brews and help the guide set up the kitchen or chop vegetables (all optional). We believe that small things matter and getting involved around camp will help enrich your experience. This trip gives you a chance to take time out from your usual routine, make bonds and create memories.

*Requests for optional extras can be made after booking on your “My Bookings” page

Solo Tent Occupancy

Payable Before Departure

Solo Tent Occupancy

Per Person

- Hannah(October 2021)

Much better adventures did it again! What a great trip, varied, challenging and fun and well supported by the local guide. I would highly recommend this trip through this company.

- Jeremy(October 2021)

The trip was superb. Alternatives were quickly offered following reports of dangerous wind conditions. Outstanding guide and support throughout. Amazing food by our host, Scott, and all the kit was well specified and otherwise provided. The group was amazing, everyone mucked in and the achievement was one I will never forget. I will be booking with MBA again in the future!

- Robert(September 2021)

This trip was excellent from start to finish. What a great opportunity to get out into the wilderness and see some of the beauty of Scotland! We saw salmon being caught, an Osprey diving and catching fish and plenty of the local midge! Slightly tougher than I was expecting but you get fed so well that our energy levels remained high!

- Josh(September 2021)

100% recommend this trip, it is definitely a challenge though! Found tough at times but so rewarding as an experience. Food was amazing, far exceeded my expectation on that front! Hike to summit was incredible and the scenes from the canoe stretch were great. Our guide was funny and knowledgable and ran the trip perfectly.

- Marcus(September 2021)

Thoroughly recommend this trip,Chris our host was professional on every level and then some,amazing guy. Food was excellent, the camp locations where stunning, glad we got the mountain trek out of the way first was hard going but then that was what I wanted tbh and the canooing on the river was amazing especially when I he sun was shining.Got bit wet on the final part but that was all part of the fun. Feel nourished in everyway from the food to being out in nature this way to the guys I've spent time with and got to know,feel like a different person,many happy memories will stay with me x

- Jamie(September 2021)

The trip was quality from start to finish and surpassed my expectations and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it! The trip overall was challenging but was all worth it for the stunning views, experience and company! Colin our guide was fantastic and made the trip what it was, very knowledgeable, friendly and funny ! He also ensured we got the best out of our trip by asking each of the group what they wanted and expected and checked how everyone was throughout which was nice! The food was also great, I suffer from a dairy allergy and at no point did I feel like I was missing out and Colin made every effort to ensure I was catered for!

- Aisla(September 2021)

What a fantastic week! The hiking section was wet and windy for us but still fun to be in the hills swimming and making friends with deer (and ticks!). Loved the canoeing, so relaxing yet a good chance to practice skills negotiating the rapids. Chris was a brilliant guide and we ate like kings and queens- food far exceeded my expectations! We had a super group and lots of laughs. Still daydreaming about campfires, jumping salmon and that haggis and whisky sauce...

- Austin(September 2021)

Can't fault this trip! Our group leader Chris was amazing and very talented as a chef too. So many great memories, thank you!

- Nicola(September 2021)

Great trip. Take an old school digital camera and leave your phone at home or in your rucksack after the hiking....you won't regret it. Great decompress from the real world.

- Charlie(September 2021)

I had a wonderful experience on this trip. Our local guide Chris was brilliant, there was amazing camp food (never the same meal twice). All the equipment we were leant was in great condition. The wild camping was great, we had a couple of camp fires and the group got on really well.

This is a physically challenging trip as you have to carry all your gear up a mount and back down. Handling the canoes takes some skill but also some strength during the rapids to negotiate the turns.

You need to have a good level of fitness for this trip - you will be walking for 2 days with your overnight kit and can expect your rucksack to be approx 12-15kg with water included. You will need to take a share of the food and camping equipment with you while hiking which will add to the weight. You will need to feel comfortable walking with this weight for several hours back to back. There is no previous experience needed for the canoeing, your host will provide instruction as you go, however it can be useful to have had some experience on the water in a canoe or kayak previously.

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

The Scottish summer is usually warm but you can expect some rain, even if it's just a little. Prepare for anything and think ‘layers.’ Conditions in April and May will be slightly cooler, with the potential for frost at night. Kit-wise, the main thing is a warm sleeping bag, or an additional bag liner if you feel the cold more.

Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

Travel insurance is compulsory for all of our adventures and you are required to provide your policy information before departing.

Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure. We also strongly recommend it includes cancellation and curtailment insurance, should you be unable to join your trip for specific reasons such as illness.

We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last-minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

You're in good company. Our adventures are typically made up of a mix of solo travellers and small groups of two or three friends who simply love adventure, pushing themselves and meeting awesome like-minded people. See here for more info about our lovely bunch of Much Better Adventurers.

Want to book a private trip? Just tap ‘Private Group’ in the dates and prices tab.

Your trip is led by carefully curated local hosts and expert guides. See here for more info about the guides we work with.

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