Paddling the Tweed

It was around this time last year that we had a bright idea. Or at least copied someone else’s. Looking out the window enjoying the view of the Tweed flowing past and the gorgeous hills beyond, we spotted a group of canoeists readying themselves by the Kingsmeadows car park. Even from afar, it was easy to sense their excitement as final preparations were made for a trip downstream.

Why on earth had we not thought of it before? What better way was there to explore this wonderful river than by paddling along it? That was it – a decision had been made. A few calls later and we’d rounded up a posse – or should that be flotilla? – of like-minded souls who also fancied a paddle along the Tweed.

Unlike those we’d spotted before in their fancy open canoes, our mode of transport was a pair of sit-on-top kayaks – rather more modest vessels, but ones that had already proved themselves in the surf off various East Lothian beaches. Our group consisted of four adults, three young children and a Parson Russell terrier.

Unsurprisingly, we drew plenty of attention, plus a few wisecracks, as we readied ourselves on the river bank. But before long, we were off – destination Innerleithen, some six miles downstream. After an initially bumpy start as we flailed around trying to find deeper channels of water, we paddled serenely beneath the Priorsford footbridge, passing a statuesque heron before leaving Peebles behind.

Save for the odd manoeuvre to avoid families of ducks, the paddling was straightforward, which left us free to watch the world go by. Wonderfully wild in places, with mature trees lining the banks and the rounded hills in the distance, the river quickly took a hold on us. We saw things that are only possible to spot when on the water: fish leaping for unseen prey on the surface; dippers bobbing on rocks; secret gardens that back down to the riverbank; and – in one magical moment – the blue blur of a kingfisher whizzing past.

All in all, it took two hours to paddle (or mainly just float) our way downstream to the bridge at Innerleithen – although the trip was not without mishap. The combination of a sharp bend, a brief section of rapids and a fallen tree caught one of the boats out, resulting in three wet paddlers and a very cross terrier. But no harm done. All just clambered back onboard and continued on their way.

Once at Innerleithen, we were met by friends who wanted a quick play in the kayaks before driving us back to our cars at the start point. In truth, we didn’t want to stop and vowed to all hook up again for a second journey to explore further downstream. And we’d urge others to do exactly the same!

Photography: Richard Rowe

Further info

For a great guide to canoe touring in Scotland, including on the Tweed, check out–-Forts-and-Castles-a-paddle-along-a-Centuries-old-line-of-battle

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