Touring Trip Grades










In order to give you some idea of the type of trip and conditions you might experience trips are graded from A (lowest) to C (highest). They can vary from a day paddle on a sheltered inland loch to the exposed headlands, cliffs, crossings and tide races among some of
Scotland’s rugged coastline and islands. If you are a newcomer you should start off on a Grade A trip so that you can judge your capabilities against other paddlers and minimise the risk to yourself.

Grade A
is in sheltered water. You should be capable of paddling 20km (12 miles)per day in Force 2/3 conditions.

Grade B
is in more challenging waters and may include tidal streams, exposed headlands, and open crossings between islands. You should be capable of paddling 25km (16 miles) per day in up to Force 4 conditions. A Four Star paddler would feel comfortable on such a trip.

Grade C
You should be capable of paddling in more difficult conditions than Grade B for a longer time.








International River Grading System

Moving water, unobstructed and without technical difficulties. There may be small waves and riffles to challenge the paddler.

Waves, small stoppers and other minor obstructions to avoid. Eddies and cushion waves may be strong.


Waves, stoppers and technical difficulties are more severe. There may be drops and powerful constrictions. The main distinguishing factor of Grade 3 water is that the paddler will have to follow a recognisable route to avoid obstacles and hazards.


Severe waves, drops, stoppers and other obstructions. The route is not easily recognisable and will usually require careful inspection from the boat or bank. Grade 4 encompasses a wide range of rivers, from those with pool-drop rapids to those with extended continuous rapids; so there is a huge variation in difficulty. It is common to distinguish easier grade 4 rapids by grading them as 4- and harder rapids as 4+ (or in some cases, 3/4 or 4/5).


Extremely difficult rapids with precise and technically demanding routes to be followed. Stoppers, currents and waves will be powerful and inspection is essential.

All of the above carried to extremes. Grade 6 usually means unrunnable rapids, which may just be possible in certain conditions.

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