Top 5 places to learn a watersport

Tiree Kitesurf Academy by Harry Newton Photography

Photo: Harry Newton

Need a summer challenge or looking for an active holiday? How about trying a new watersport – you might well end up hooked for life! Here’s our pick of places to learn the fun way

1 Wild Diamond, Inner Hebrides

Wild Diamond – With its wild beauty, sparkling beaches and near-guaranteed wind and waves, the Inner Hebridean isle of Tiree has long been a mecca for surfers, windsurfers and, more recently, kite surfers. Owned by Willy and Kirsty Maclean, the two have 25 years of experience between them. Loch Basaphol is the base for tuition at all levels – from one-hour kite flying taster sessions to advanced wave jumping. Or you can sample the latest craze, SUP (stand-up paddleboarding, a cross between surfing and paddling) on a one-day course.

2 Galloway Activity Centre, Dumfries & Galloway – With rolling wooded shores, Loch Ken, on the edge of Galloway Forest Park, makes an attractive spot for an active day or getaway. This established centre combines an extensive fleet of dinghies, windsurfers, kayaks and canoes with friendly, qualified instructors to introduce even the most hesitant to the joys of the water. Simply dip your toe in with a fun, two-hour taster session or family multi-activity day, or go all the way with a residential RYA course. Lochside accommodation includes the bunkhouse, camping and ‘glamping’ in a yurt, tipi or chalet.

3 Scottish Watersports Centre, Cumbrae, Ayrshire – Set on the island of Cumbrae, surrounded by safe waters but with easy access to the open sea, this is Sportscotland’s national training centre for watersports. Sailing, power boating, windsurfing, kayaking and more are offered across a full spectrum of accredited courses – from try-out days for novices, to week-long courses and even instructor training. For residential courses, accommodation is provided in comfy lodges. The Centre is also a good choice if you want to sample yachting – be it on a weekend cruise or five-day RYA course aboard one of its two yachts.

4 Loch Insh Water Sports Centre, near Aviemore – Set on the Spey, surrounded by woodland and the superb scenery of the Cairngorms, Loch Insh is a family business offering mixed-activity family fun days, single sport courses and instructor courses in windsurfing, dinghy sailing, power boating, canoeing and kayaking, all run by qualified and traineee instructors,recognised by AALA. The splendid setting makes it a great choice for an outdoor break, with on-site accommodation in the bed-and-breakfast lodge or self-catering chalets… and plenty else to do in the area.

5 – Coast 2 Coast Surf School, East Lothian – A short hop east from Edinburgh is Belhaven Bay, the base for this well-regarded outfit offering tuition in surfing, body boarding and SUP for everybody, from total novices to old beach hands. For the more adventurous, C2C also runs tours to the Western Isles, combining surfing, body boarding and SUP. “We might paddle to an uninhabited island on a SUP, towing surfboards to surf un-ridden beaches and points… just super cool adventures!” says proprietor Sam Christopherson.


As with learning any new skill that carries a risk of injury, it’s wise to choose professional instructors. So before booking, check that the instructor or school is qualified with or accredited by the appropriate body. The RYA is the body for all boating (dinghies, keelboats, power boats) as well as windsurfing; the International Kiteboarding Organisation and British Kite Surfing Association are the ones for kite surfing. For paddle sports it’s the British Canoe Union and for surfing, body boarding and SUP, it’s Surfing GB

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