Man Begins Year-Long Kayak Journey Around Scotland

In May 2019, Nick Ray leapt into the sea from a Scotland ferry in an attempt to end his life.

Three years later, he has embraced the country’s coastlines not as an escape from life — but as a new beginning in it.

Ray ventured into the ocean on Sunday from Tobermory, Scotland with a fully packed sea kayak. He plans to spend the next 12 months exploring the country’s famously beautiful coast — while offering honest commentary about his struggle with depression.

He left on August 28, on his 59th birthday, with plans to return on the day he turns 60.

“For 365 days, I’ll live from my kayak, self-sufficiently and simply, camping wherever I reach every day,” Ray wrote on his website.  “For 12 months, I’ll explore the incredible coastline of Scotland, following my heart, my inquisitiveness, and my dreams.”

A longtime guide for Outward Bound, Ray finished several impressive kayaking trips over the last few years. That includes a 2,960km kayak journey around Scotland in 2015. And there’s plenty more where that came from: the country’s wealth of islands means it offers an incredible 18,743km of coastline, according to Marine Scotland.

For his latest trip, Ray plans to eschew specific goals for a more whimsical approach. He looks forward to just letting himself explore.

“The nature of this adventure is to not set goals,” Ray said. “Where I paddle will be up to me and the weather. I don’t have goals of achieving high mileage, making notable open sea crossings, or specifically reaching defined locations. I have dreams and aspirations, islands to explore, wildlife I’d love to encounter, and people I’d enjoy meeting.”


Kayaking for mental health

Originally from Zimbabwe, Ray has developed a loyal following online. Not only through videos of his incredible wildlife encounters, but also because of his frank discussions about living with depression.

In his lengthy blog posts, Ray seemingly holds nothing back, detailing his 2019 suicide attempt and the ways he continues to battle depression.

He has more than 36,000 Twitter followers and recently started a new YouTube channel as well.

Across platforms, Ray writes in a candid voice, reflecting on his ongoing struggle, and the way that kayaking helps him cope.

“Fighting depression is determined hard work. It can be exhausting and right now, today and over recent days, I feel exhausted,” Ray wrote last May. “When I’m worn out, as I feel I am at the moment, suicidal thinking is very much an aspect of my reality.”

Ray told the BBC that he doesn’t want to come across as a kind of Influencer showing off a life that’s out of reach for most people.

He has continued to publish about his journey primarily because of the positive response from those following him.

“But folks came back to me to say that I am helping,” Ray said. “It was really lovely to hear that…people feel buoyed by that.”


An exciting year ahead

Ray packed the essentials into his sea kayak, including a tent, flares, and stove — everything that he will need for a year of camping.

He doesn’t have much to be worried about, given that Ray literally wrote the book on kayaking around Scotland. He published a guide about his 2015 journey to every lifeboat station around Scotland. Available on Amazon, the book provides all the info necessary for someone to follow in his wake.

It won’t be an easy trip, but Ray believes that hardship and discomfort make the journey worthwhile.

“I’m not entirely looking forward to journeying and camping through a Scottish winter, but I’m relishing the challenge,” Ray said.

Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is also a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. When he’s not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he’s hanging out with his dog Campana.