GUIDE TO THE RIVER TAY
(Stanley to Thistlebrig)
NAME OF RIVER: Tay
WHERE IS IT?: Tayside, just to the north of Perth
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: The put in is a car park by the river (NO 11920 33700) - see access hassles below. To find it from the village of Stanley, follow the sign for Stanley mills along King Street but turn left at the end instead and drive up Mill Street for a few hundred meters until you see Linn road (marked by one of those yellow salt bins). Drive all the way to the bottom of this road. It is single track so please drive carefully. Park in the car park or near the gate if the car park is closed. You can get on here and paddle up towards Campsie Linn, or follow the track opposite the driveway to the big riverside houses up to a put in above Campsie Linn. It’s a bit of a walk, but less getting in and out of your boat than the paddle up.
The take out is all the way back through the village to the south on the B9099 to Thistlebrig car park (NO 10623 32048), just before the de-limiter signs at the edge. There is usually plenty of space to leave vehicles here. The river is down the long set of steps on the opposite side of the road.
If you would prefer a take out with less steps, you can paddle the 2.5km of grade 1 to Luncarty. There is a new (short) set of steps here built with open canoes in mind up to a flat path along to a very small parking area (NO 10056 29916). To find this from the road, turn off the main road through the village at the mini roundabout onto Marshall way. Turn left at the next mini roundabout, then right onto Taypark road. Take the third left and follow to the parking spot. Parking is very limited here, so you may need to leave vehicles in the village. The take out is obvious from the river as the mouth of a tributary.
APPROX LENGTH: 4km, 6.5km to the Luncarty take out
TIME NEEDED: 20 minutes to all day, it depends on how much you play!
- The fisherfolk, ah the fisherfolk. Stanley is a very heavily fished section of the Tay, especially the area around Campsie Linn and the put in. Park and paddle with due consideration - most of them are fairly friendly. You are most likely to run into problems at the islands around Campsie Linn when there are no routes through without disturbing one of the myriad fishing lines, or in the put in pool by the car park, where the landowner has been known to get a bit ticked off at any and all kayakers.
- The put in car park is open to paddlers through a coded lock. This is through a monetary agreement with the SCA (see http://canoescotland.org/news/river-tay-gate-stanley), so please be responsible in the use of this, it’s been a bit of a saga over the years.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Always paddleable, gauge at http://canoescotland.org/where-go/wheres-water
GRADING: Grade 2/3.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Campsie Linn, fishermen, the first slowly collapsing weir develops spikes after floods and is not recommended as a playspot.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: From the put in car park, you can paddle straight downstream, but you are missing out about 1km of grade 2/3 rapids and the infamous Campsie Linn. If you decide to walk up the track, you will arrive at the top of Campsie Linn and you can slide down the banking into the pool. Paddling up can be a good idea for beginners and those too lazy to walk far, though you still need to walk a bit!
You can paddle straight upstream from the put in pool to a sandy beach on an island where you will find you cannot paddle any further. Get out here and walk up the footpath into the forest. On your right through the trees is a pool - get back in here. This is an excellent pool for coaching when the water level is medium to high as the outflow from the drop at the top forms good eddyline.
This long rock wall is Campsie Linn, the biggest volume waterfall in the UK - admittedly it’s only about a meter high. The river left side is the one everyone has heard of and the most dangerous. The eddy line here produces the biggest inland whirlpools in the UK and when the river is running high they are monstrous. In low water they are good fun to take for a spin! When the Tay is pumping, a tubing wave forms here that is surfable by people better than me. The eddys around here are very dynamic in high water and move quickly - not a place for the inexperienced. Swimming here generally involves a long chase to get person and kit to a bank.
One space to the right is a straight drop with a sticky hole and an undercut right wall. The cliff beside this is great for jumping off. The other side of this cliff is a shoot runnable only in very high water when it is a grade 3 bounce. The shoot next to this runs into the coaching pool and forms a big fluffy, flushy hole with more water. To the right of this is the final chicken shoot, grade 2 at most, and generally used by open canoeists and tourers, though watch out for overhanging trees.
Once you’ve had your fun out of or in the whirlpools, there is a taily spot behind a wall in the middle of the river, beside the outflow from the coaching pool. Right below this a one-shot wave forms at med/high levels. Back down to the put in pool and there are surf waves at med/high levels on river left at the bottom of the big island.
After the put in pool is the weir. This is collapsing more with each flood and revealing more iron spikes each time, so use due caution. There is a clear easy channel through the middle and another down the far right, though this is harder to get right. They are obvious from the pool above. There is a long boat surf wave forms here at around 4 - 5 on the gauge, when all iron spikes should be waaaay underwater, though I’ve not tried to surf it.
Below the weir on the left are some good catch-on-the-fly surf waves at many different levels. Some even have party surf potential! There are some good eddies on the left at the bottom of this bouncy section for coaching eddy lines and at med/high water levels a small surf wave forms beside the top one (by the red cliff).
The next corner is called hellhole for no apparent reason! When the levels are high (2.5 - 3 ish) you can follow the left bank around to a large swirly eddy next to a big cliff. This eddy services a brilliant surf wave where flatspins are the move to make. The eddy service is unconventional (you sort of grind up the cliff right next to the wave) but the wave is worth it. Directly below this at levels where the wave is working are some massive standing waves that you can get air off the top of. In lower levels there are surf waves on river right before the rapid and in the center of the river.
A flat stretch below this leads to Stanley Mills. There is a wave/hole feature forms at one of the eddies on the left here above 3 on the gauge. At high levels an annoying one-shot wave forms in the middle of this rapid that is angled so you can’t easily stay on it.
Round the next corner you can marvel at the houses perched on the cliff above as you drop into the last grade 2/3 rapid. A bimbly start can lull you into a false sense of security as the crux is right at the end - a wave or hole with plenty of cross currents and whirlpools appears as the river is funneled into a tighter gap. Above 3 on the gauge Thistlebrigg wave forms on the left here - a big intimidating feature that serves out exciting bouncy rides.
The take out is a set of rock steps on the right after the final hole - there is plenty of space along here to pick up the pieces.
Between 2 and 3 on the gauge, Wee Eric Wave forms just below the take out. This a great wave with eddy service at lower levels and flat spins for days at higher levels. There is an easier take out here that doesn’t involve the precarious rock steps, however you do have to walk a lot further.
Walk upstream on the path and follow the many many steps up to your car.
OTHER NOTES: This is a busy section and often if you arrive with one car you can blag a lift off someone.
For a longer trip you can start at Isla bridge by parking at the Meiklour Beech hedge and walking to the Isla beside the road bridge along the edge of the field. The section to Campsie Linn is grade 1/2.
For playboaters in high water, this combines well with a trip on the Ericht.
Also see the park and play Thistlebrig guide for more info on the last two playspots.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Kirsten Rendle, St. Andrew's Uni and J Sigbrandt.
If you would like to submit updates, new guides or photos, email ukrgb.scotland AT gmail DOT com
Lots of spikes between the MIDDLE and the RIGHT channels (plus a few elsewhere) were a result of storm damage and general weir degradation. Removed where accessible down to below normal summer low water levels.
However, other bits (notably a large concrete and steel pad to the left of the MIDDLE channel) are unstable or in motion and winter highs may well create new dangers. Please be careful.
I see the river has dropped a lot more since the weekend - it isnt this low usually is it in April?
Anyway, is this on the left of the main central chute, or river left?
Mícheál Ó Céilleachair - These very sharp spikes are in the eddy just below the weir at Stanley. The river is low at the moment but at slightly higher levels they will be just under the surface. Be careful. These are particularly nasty.
Main Stanley concrete weir - 3 shoots - river left has a large metal spike about a foot long right in the middle sticking up vertically. Unfortunately had nothing with us to shift it. It is difficult to see - about 8-10inches below water surface. Anyone running it would stand a high risk of it slicing through boat.