Try Kayaking (or Canoeing) on Your English Language Holiday

This blog gives you a glimpse of one of our English language holiday activities: Kayaking on the River Tay.

A day off from practising English? Not at all, it’s outdoor activity-based learning. Activities like this are a great way to form a permanent bond with your English.

Once you are bonded, wherever you go, be it work or pleasure, you will have a lovely strong core of English supporting you.

Meet Perth City Tours

Our friends at Perth City Tours want to share the wonder of the riverscape with you, and give you in-depth knowledge of what you can see.

As well as enjoying the beautiful City of Perth from a whole new angle, as you paddle along you will learn much about the industry,  history and ecology of the River Tay.

It’s a fantastic chance to chat about all things urban and ecology from an interesting viewpoint and with real experts.

Read this blog for a taste of an immersion English language holiday activity at Blue Noun Language School.

I’ve used a lot of idioms, phrasal verbs and expressions in this text. First, read to the end without trying to make sense of them. Then return to the text and try to work them out form the context. (Make a not of any you don’t know). 

English learners, there’s a practice exercise for you at the end! 

Which Lucky English Language Learners Went Kayaking on the River Tay?

Ahem, well there’s a couple of English idiomatic expressions to be used here. Firstly, I wanted to ‘test the water.’

Secondly, (the odd expression) ‘what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.’

Lastly, the ancient proverb, ‘all work and no play makes your English teacher really boring’.

Ok, so I made the last one up (it’s ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,’ – which any horror fans will know from the 1980′s film, The Shining.)

Blue Noun English Language School day out!

But enough about horror films, yes, you’ve guessed it. This time it was team Blue Noun taking the oars (paddles).

If we really need an excuse, we were celebrating Kenny’s birthday.

I also wanted to see if this canoe tour would be a good addition to our English language school activities menu.

Most of all it’s because I’ve been following Perth City Tours on Instagram for a while. They post amazing shots of water wildlife and write posts about river ecology.

I’ve been dying to have a go! 

English language holiday activities Perth City Tours Kayaking River Tay

First in the Water

We met Chris on the slipway, right in the heart of Perth City Centre for a quick chat about water safety, then got kitted up with life jackets and paddles. 

Ours was his first trip out this year. On this date (April 25th) Scotland was slowly emerging out of its second national Lockdown due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. One of the first restrictions to be eased was the permitting of inter-regional travel. As our little independent language school is in Crieff, Perthshire, the national restrictions permitted us (Crieff residents) to join him.

Like Blue Noun, Perth City Tours relies heavily on national and international tourism as their main customer base and just like us, Chris’s business had been at a standstill waiting for his tourist customers to return to Perthshire safely.


Young Blue and I teamed up in one boat (I figured if anyone was going to dunk her, it should be me).

Ruth, 2021


An Introduction to Kayaking

It felt great to get outside and try something new. Chris was obviously delighted to get his business going again. He clearly loves his job (and what a job!).

In addition, the sun was shining, hot after what had felt like a remarkably long winter. With broad grins, we lugged the two twin kayaks down to the waterline keen to get out on the open waves!

NB: In fact, this isn’t stretching an idiom as much as you might think.

This part of the River Tay is actually tidal.

Chris plans his trips to coincide with the tide coming in, taking the sting out of the return part of the tour (paddling upstream).

The movement of the two opposing water forces actually creates a very smooth, glassy surface for the boats to sit calmly upon,  while strong, well-matched currents battle it out below.

Young Blue and I teamed up in one boat (I figured if anyone was going to dunk her, it should be me).

Kenny and Chris shared the second kayak.

Before we had even left the slipway, we had learned about the River Tay bursting its banks (later on we would paddle past the city flood gates). It’s a rare event, but severe (Perth City Centre is almost flat).

English language holiday activities Perth City Tours Kayaking River Tay

There’s Something Fishy Going on


All the photos on this page are taken by Chris. (I was unwilling to gamble my precious DSLR on my ability to not capsize).

It wasn’t a problem. Chris always takes a waterproof camera out with him and emails the photos over later. I have run a fisheye lens filter across them (the InshOt app – in case you are interested).

It seemed appropriate as the Tay is a salmon river.

This process also inspired me to tell the rest of our trip from a fishy viewpoint. As a narrator, I want to give you all the remarkable and wonderful ecology facts we learned from Chris, but I’m aware that might spoil a trip with him, should you take one.

There is so much to learn on the river and I am reluctant to give it away.

Discovering it by boat is so magical.  (Ask him about farming beavers, it’s extraordinary!)

Let Chris’s photos and two imaginary salmon, personified  (in my head with New York accents) speak for themselves.

Fish Tales

What’s all that noise about?

More humans in the green floaty things, and bad news I’m afraid – there’s a wiggler with them.

Oh no, there goes my peace and quiet. What on earth is she doing?

Well, she was paddling in the wrong direction to start with. Seems now she’s put down her paddle and is trying to crawl right out of the big green floaty thing… right in the middle of the river.


Wait… do we eat wigglers?

No, too big. And it makes the humans cross and shouty.

English language holiday activities Kayaking River Tay

What in the world are they talking about?

The beardy one –  the one who knows what he’s doing  –  is explaining how really big floaty things come up the river a couple of times a week to load and unload: and that Perth is an international port.

Pfft. Very noisy. Should be banned if you ask me. 

I think they are now going to paddle around the island and see the beavers.

With a wiggler making that much noise? Not likely!

English language holiday activities Perth City Tours Kayaking River Tay

Oh wait, they’ve spotted some ducklings! Really young ones. 


Hold your sea horses, the humans are too close, stay hidden.

We’ll eat them later.

English language holiday activities Perth City Tours Kayaking River Tay


Yup, they are heading for the island now. They are definitely hoping to see the beaver colony. The big splashy one looks quite excited about it.

The female human is still just trying to keep the wiggler from escaping. 

I never understood the mammal method. Too involved. Too much work.

How about we swim round and warn those big-toothed, hairy guys to hide. We can’t be having this every Sunday!

Totally! It will be like Piccadilly Circus around here if humans start spotting beavers all the time.  

English language holiday activities Perth City Tours Kayaking River Tay

Eager Beavers!

‘I told you so. They are looking at the beaver lodge now. The beardy guy knew just where to find it.

Good thing we got here!

Yups, those guys are sitting tight inside.

That’ll teach them to bring wrigglers onto my river. All those toes and sticky fingers in the water. Egh.

And all the shouting!

It’s an impressive lodge, those beaver guys have been busy.

Yups, always gnawing away. Busy as a beaver!

Beavering away (let’s out a smug air bubble at it’s own joke). Oops.

English language holiday activities Perth City Tours Kayaking River Tay


Aw, look at the big splashy guy. He’s still staring at the bank hoping to see them.

Tee hee hee, poor schmuck! Hey fellow!  We warned them! It just takes one beaver to slap its tail and they all hide. 

I feel kind of sorry for him. Wait, what’s the female up to now?

Wee one overboard hopefully. I’m getting peckish!

No! she’s reaching for a stick… it’s got beaver teeth marks on it!…




English language holiday activities Perth City Tours Kayaking River Tay


Aw yuck!  She just gave it to the splashy guy as a souvenir.

Happy birthday darling, here’s your stick’.

Your chewed up stick!

Poor dude! He needs that like I need a bicycle! (laugh so hard a cascade of bubbles hit the water surface).

Oh, that’s torn it.

Let’s get out of here!

I’m going to get me a duckling…

English language holiday activities Perth City Tours Kayaking River Tay

More about Perth City Tours

  “We offer guided history walks, river kayak tours and wildlife safari all year round. Explore Perth, an ancient Scottish capital with us. Visit the historical sites, admire stunning scenery and look out for some amazing wildlife.”

If you are in the region (or not) don’t hesitate, they are great! 

Find them here.

Can’t make it to Perth?

Their instagram is brilliant. Follow them here.


Top of our English language holiday activities menu!

If you have made it this far, well done! (We don’t normally carp* on and talk so much nonsense). We really just wanted to share with you our latest addition to our English language holiday activities menu – kayaking on the River Tay with Perth City Tours – because we had such a whale of a time. 

Our language school blog covers a wide range of topics. Some are a lighthearted look at Scotland, others an in-depth look at art and culture.

If you’ve liked this blog, you might want to read another funny one, with tips for visiting Scotland.


Make the Most of a Trip to Scotland with 7 Unusual Midge Tips


*This is a pun, the correct expression is ‘harp on‘. 


 Additional notes for English learners

This blog is packed full of idioms.

The best way to learn idioms is in a natural context, such as this kind of text.

Unless you are a strong language learner, don’t try to memorise lists. It can be confusing and unnecessary. You can speak English perfectly well without using idioms, and using old-fashioned ones (such as, it’s raining cats and dogs) really doesn’t help make your English more natural sounding.

What idioms can do well, is give you the joy of language when you discover them within a context or conversation, and unpick what they mean.

Idiomatic language is colourful and beautiful. Have fun with them.

Add any useful ones to your own linguistic tool belt, but don’t get swamped.

NB: for creative and visual English language learners: a quick sketch, as an illustration, can help you memorise them forever.



Your Blue Noun English Language Challenge is:

Have you ever been in a boat? Tell us about it.


English Language Tip:

The question is in the present perfect tense, but the answer doesn’t have to be! If you are talking about a past, finished event use the past tense: unless saying in some way that it still affects you (eg. and I have been afraid of sharks ever since).

Practice  here!  As usual, write as much as you like in the comments – and if you would like us to check &  correct your English, write CP  (correct please) at the end.


Live language learning!



“Have you ever been in a boat?”