The Lyon (pronounced the same as Lion) is a very pretty river which joins the Tay just upstream of Aberfeldy. Thanks to summer releases from dams in its upper reaches it makes a good option for getting some grade 4 paddling under your belt during those dry summer months. In general the river is of similar character and difficulty to the lower Tummel, with better scenery but perhaps slightly lower quality whitewater. However the pretty gorges are also known to hide some dangerous rock formations under the surface, meaning your group leaders will need to keep their eyes off the scenery and closely on the rapids ahead.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: To reach the take out, cross the Tay at Aberfeldy and follow the B846 to Keltneyburn. Turn left off the main road (crossing the Keltneyburn river) and follow this road along Glen Lyon until you cross the river at the Bridge of Lyon (NN 72799 46641). This is your take out. There is limited parking in the laybys either side of the bridge. For the put in double back on yourself for about 1 km and take the first left. Follow the road the rest of the way up the glen. Put in at a layby by an obvious flattening near a footbridge where the road comes close to the river (NN 69985 47206).



ACCESS HASSLES: Glen Lyon is a fairly “Sporting” glen, and hill walkers in the past have had issues getting to the munros in the upper valley. I’ve not heard of any major issues for kayakers but it’s still something to be aware of.

When parking at the bridge at the takeout be sure not to block any driveways!

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Runs regularly in the summer due to dam releases from the upper reservoirs. The dates for these are usually published on the SCA website but note that it takes about 12 hours for the water to work its way down to the gorge after the start of the release. Outside of dam releases this run goes regularly and needs only a small amount of rain to bring it up. There is a sepa gauge on wheresthewater and the calibrations appear to be pretty accurate. At the bridge of Lyon the river should look shallow but floatable for the trip to be on.

GRADING: 3/4(5)


The very first rapid first gorge has recently collapsed to make an ugly drop with a very tight line down the middle and siphons on the hard left and right. It can be run at grade 4+ ish but it is almost difficult to inspect and impossible to portage. While it is still possible for an experienced group to deal with this, a club trip will have serious difficulties and you would probably be better going to the tummel instead.

Macgregor’s leap is an ugly grade 5 near the end of the run and most will want to portage. As you approach the final gorge you will want to get out and work out where this drop is, but you can eddy hop pretty close to it so long as you are careful – don’t paddle on unless you can see the next eddy! Portage is possible on both sides but probably easiest on the right.

The bedrock in this valley is pretty funky and seems inclined to make a lot of undercuts and other hazards. None of the rapids are especially hard so in most cases this is not an issue, but if you have a risk of swimmers you will want to be extra tight on your safety setups.


You have a nice warm up to begin with as from the put in the river is flat and flows over a few shingle banks as it slowly cuts its way into the first gorge. Nothing too difficult presents itself until you go round a corner to see an ominous horizon line with a huge boulder blocking your view of the rapid to follow. Inspection is possible but difficult by scrambling up the gorge walls on the left bank. This drop collapsed recently and is now an ugly grade 4+ with siphons both sides. It is pretty much impossible to portage (see hazards). With a snazzy map from Murray Peden and some scrambling, you may be able to skip the first bit of the river and put on below this. A few more nice 3/3+ rapids take you through the gorge until you reach the final drop of this gorge, which consists of another multiple choice of 2 narrow slots with not much line of sight. The best line is to do a grinding boof in the left hand channel, but inspection/portage is easy river left. The gorge now opens out somewhat and flat water leads you to Trouble (grade 4-). This is a long rapid consisting of a few slides finishing in a small hole and a narrows. Inspection is a little tricky but there is plenty of room to pick up pieces before Lyonheart (grade 4), which is a bit harder but thankfully is easily inspected/portaged river right.

You are now approaching the gorge into Macgregor’s leap. This gorge hides some of the best whitewater on the river, but unfortunately it all ends in a horrible grade 5 so it quickly becomes a “go as far as you dare” affair. Folks who are new to the river will want to get out river right as soon as the rapids start getting bigger and inspect the entire gorge. There are multiple eddies in the gorge from which you can escape, so an experienced group can eddy hop almost down to the final drop and do a Norwegian portage on river left round the disgusting bit. Larger club groups will almost certainly want to leave the whole lot alone. There are portages on both banks, though neither is straightforward. The right requires climbing a deer fence, so the left is recommended, but getting over the rocks and through the trees to the "path" is still a pain. Get out on a pebble beach just before the "point of no return" to take the left route. Macgregor’s leap itself can be run at grade 5 but is at its worst in low water, when all of the water bounces off a big boulder and slams into the undercut gorge walls. In higher water you can boof straight over the top of this but safety is recommended!

As you exit the gorge from Macgregor’s leap the river now apologises to you for your recent portage by saving the very best drop on the river until last – a Boof to Relyon (4-). This drop is a perfect 1 m boof ledge which is nicely  placed for doing multiple laps. It’s a great place to run a boofing clinic for your club, and you can stay here as long as you can be bothered, since from here it’s just a short float through shingle banks down to the bridge at the takeout.


Lawrence Muller has a video on YouTube showing the rapids post rockfall (CONTENT WARNING: offensive language).

If you paddle this run and find that the situation with the first rapid has changed then let us know. As it stands the run is no longer worth the effort for most groups because portaging the ugly drop is a long and difficult hike which then misses out a lot of the good rapids. A real shame on such a pretty and reliable run, so it’ll be good news if it comes back!

If you have a fair bit of water around I am told the nearby River Keltneyburn is a good fun blast!

See how many “Lyon” puns you can come up with! “they said it was high – they were lyon…”  

“I’ll be lyon on the cold hard ground! Ohh!”

“Can you see a clean Lyon?”

There is a nice park and huck drop in the upper reaches of the lyon at bridge of balgie, which can be easily lapped at class 3+/4 depending on level.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Jon Harwell, Neil Farmer, Lawrence Muller also Michael Meaden, Rik Hensman, Paul Marshall, Ian Grieve and Iain Bethune. Thanks to Murray Peden for the map.

If you would like to submit updates, new guides or photos, email ukrgb.scotland AT gmail DOT com


Paddler: Jennifer Hartnett, Photo: Jon Harwell


Paddler: Jennifer Hartnett, Photo: Jon Harwell


Paddler: Neil Raitt, Photo: Jon Harwell


Paddler: Jennifer Hartnett, Photo: Jon Harwell