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Jonny Hawkins: Circumnavigating Scotland by Sea Kayak

Jonny HawkinsJonny on East Sands, St Andrews

Less than a year before paddling around Scotland, Jonny Hawkins had never sat down in a sea kayak in his life. All it took to get the idea rolling was a bit of inspiration and nine months of planning. Today he's living proof that you don't need to leave the UK to have a world-class adventure holiday.

This month Essential Travel was lucky enough to get firsthand tips from Jonny for our article on How To Sea Kayak. For those of you who are as intrigued as we are about his trip, we decided to catch up with him again and ask a few questions about the highs, lows and origins of this incredible undertaking.

If you'd like to see more pictures and read about Jonny's experience of the journey, check out his blog, Circumnavigate Scotland.

Essential Travel: How did the idea to circumnavigate Scotland come up?

Jonny: I was listening to a chap speaking about his sea kayaking expedition around the whole of the UK in 80 days and got inspired. I had never sea kayaked before and thought that as well as being a cool challenge, it would be a great way to see the beautiful country of Scotland.

Essential Travel: How long did it take to plan?

Jonny: From having the idea to setting off it took nine months. I had to attend training courses, get the right gear, find sponsors, select a route and learn how to deal with strong winds and tides. I got a lot of advice from chatting to and emailing people - they pointed me in the right direction of books and courses. As it was my first time doing anything like this, I wasn’t sure how to go about planning, so I just hoped that I was doing enough.

Jonny HawkinsJonny and his friends, Giles and Bruce

Essential Travel: Who went with you?

Jonny: Friends joined me for the first half of the trip and then I was on my own after that. The five of them each completed short legs of the journey with me, which was fun as we could chat during long crossings and share some of the difficult decision making. I found paddling alone more scary and sometimes frustrating, but also quicker and very rewarding. I have enjoyed coming home and reminiscing about the trip with my friends, but will never forget the ecstatic highs and horrible lows whilst on my own.

Essential Travel: How much fun did you have? Any highlights?

Jonny HawkinsScotland's beautiful coast

Jonny: The trip was incredible. The west coast of Scotland is one of the best places in the world to sea kayak. Huge mountains funnel fast tidal streams and the incredible wildlife surrounding you makes for pretty special days. The highlight of the trip was paddling on my own with a pod of twenty bottlenosed dolphins as they jumped out of the water and played with me.

Essential Travel: What was the biggest challenge that you and the others faced?

Jonny: The weather in Scotland is very unpredictable, so kayaking against strong winds or in thick mist was extremely difficult. At times paddling on my own was very tough. When conditions were hard or I was tired, it was difficult to keep moral up, but then the sun would come out or I would find a cool campsite and I'd be happy and smiling again.

Essential Travel: Would you recommend this trip to other people?

Jonny: Yes! I would recommend sea kayaking to everyone. It's a great way to see some incredible sights, meet amazing people and have an epic adventure or two along the way to tell the grandkids. You can plan fun day trips to go fishing and swimming off secluded beaches or something a bit more challenging, anywhere in the world. The great thing is that sea kayaking is now very accessible with a lot of boat hire companies and guides popping up all over the place, so you have no excuse!

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Clayton Truscott

Clayton Truscott

Clayton is a comfortable traveller, having grown up in a small city that was far away from everything. He spent lots of time in the car as a child, driving up and down the coast of South Africa on surfing trips with his family. After studying abroad in the United States and spending a year working in London, he moved to Cape Town, where he completed a Master's Degree in Creative Writing. He now works as a freelance writer for various travel, surfing and action sports publications.