There are few things more relaxing than cruising along a gently flowing river, or across the glass like surface of a lake of a loch, listening to nothing but the ripples from your bow. Whether you’re just out on a pleasant day’s paddle or a multi-day journey Canadian canoes, touring kayaks, and even sit-on-tops are all perfect for exploring the waterways of the UK. Here are a few suggestions on some of our classic touring trips and destinations, but there are plenty more out there, just waiting for you to discover them.
The River Wye is one of Britain’s most scenic and unspoilt rivers and has long held a special place in the hearts of UK paddlers. From its source deep in the Welsh mountains, from the streams of Plynlimon, the River Wye flows through scenic countryside passing through Hay-on-Wye, Hereford, Ross-on-Wye along its way. It supplies a little whitewater excitement as it tumbles over the gentle rapids at Symonds Yat, and then calmly continues on through Monmouth and Tintern until it finally reaches Chepstow where it joins the Severn Estuary.
The lower Wye Valley with its steep wooded cliffs is particularly good for touring paddling and you’ll see wildlife and birdlife aplenty as you float along. If you just want to spend a few hours cruising along it is possible to hire canoes for a day trip. But for those who want a little bit more adventure, the Wye offers the keen paddler a 100-miles of touring, and the opportunity of multi-day paddling trips and there are plenty of campsites and riverside pubs along the way if you decide to go for it.
The UK’s largest river, the Severn is the Wye’s big brother and also rises from the flanks of Plynlimon in the Cambrian Mountains in Wales. As it flows from its source to its mouth in the Bristol Channel it covers an impressive 350km. it’s narrow and twisting in its upper reaches, but its scenery is stunning and the Jackfield Rapids supply a small shot of adrenaline for those seeking excitement. Although the Severn can be fearsome in flood, it can become very shallow over gravel beds in some places during the drier months, notably, as it flows through the picturesque town of Bewdley. It then broadens out as it flows slowly along its way to the city of Worcester. There are many locks and weirs to negotiate along the way, but they’re all canoe and kayak friendly and it’s a fairly easy job to get out and walk round. In parts, such as near the marina at Stourport you may well be surrounded by ‘Gin-palaces’, especially during the summer months, but in other’s you’ll have the whole river to yourself. Again the Severn can offer multi-day trips, camping is harder to come by but there are some fantastic riverside pubs that offer accommodation. If you fancy something shorter then there are plenty of stretches along its length that offer good day trip runs.
The most famous river in the UK! Although it flows directly through the heart of the capital there’s a whole lot more to the River Thames than just London. It becomes officially navigable at Cricklade in Wiltshire and the upper stretches of the river offer some great touring potential. Further, downstream the river had grown in stature. There are plenty of easy access and egress points along the way and even a few riverside pubs. At Runnymede, you can moor up and then take a short walk to where the Magna Carta was signed! Shepperton and Sunbury are great spots and you could journey downstream further to the historic palace at Hampton Court. After Teddington the Thames becomes tidal, so it’s a more serious venture, but more experienced paddlers will love the unusual view that the river offers of our Capital City and cruising past such powerful landmarks as the House of Commons with Big Ben looming and the London Eye just downstream is certainly a special paddling experience.
The Lake District
The Lake District certainly has its share of good canoeing venues. As well as sporting some fine rivers the beautiful lakes, from which it takes its name, are perfect for a spot of an open boat or touring fun. And with the area’s equally stunning hills and mountains it can offer some brilliant multi-sport style days out. Derwent Water, Ullswater and Windermere are all popular paddling destinations, or go a little of the beaten track and visit the majestically deep waters of Waswater. The whole area is bustling with B&Bs, youth hostels, bunkhouses and campsites, so it’s an ideal location for a paddling holiday.
The Scottish Lochs
Too numerous to name, but no guide to touring destinations would be complete without a mention of Scotland’s Lochs. The more famous ones, such as Loch Ness and Loch Lomond are worthy of their fame, but there are many, many more that will grant you a wilderness paddling trip that you’ll never forget. Another fantastic trip is to paddle coast-to-coast using the lochs and the Caledonian Canal; it’s an absolute classic multi-day touring trip, bur watch out for the midges in the warmer months!