With its miles of rivers and canals and hundreds of lakes, plus its stunning coastline, the United Kingdom is perfect for those who love canoeing. There are some restrictions – many stretches of water flow through private land which requires prior permission to traverse and to canoe along rivers and canals you need a license but there is ample scope for anyone to get out on the water, having only to travel a few miles from home for a launch-point.
For amateur canoeists and especially anyone planning to tackle white-water or coastal canoeing, it’s vital to have some training beforehand to ensure you’re in command of your craft. A few lessons on a flat, enclosed patch of water such as Tallington Lakes in Lincolnshire will give you the basics. Their Pro Shop also sells a wide range of canoeing equipment including clothing and buoyancy aids, which are a vital part of learning to canoe. Due to the fact you will be battling with mother nature, you’re never 100% in control so always ensure you have the best equipment possible to keep you safe while having fun!
Here are four of the most enjoyable journeys you can take by canoe in the UK.
Scotland – Great Glen Trail
Cross the country coast-to-coast on this 60-mile trip. You’re travelling along the Caledonian Canal, which links four lochs including the legendary Loch Ness, so bring along a waterproof camera in case you encounter the wee beastie. Depending on your craft you could manage it in around 3 days, but stretching it to 5 it will allow you to take in the glorious Highlands scenery at leisure. The route covers a very diverse range of waters and bear in mind it’s not unknown for waves to reach 3m high where Loch Ness meets the North Sea around Dores Beach, so this final segment is best left to the more advanced. There are abundant opportunities for wild camping along the route.
Wales – Beacons Trail
You’ll be passing through some of Britain’s most attractive countryside on this journey, which covers the River Usk, and the Brecon and Monmouth Canal. For wildlife-lovers it’s a dream, with red kites, kingfishers, otters and heron populating the banks, so keep a pair of binoculars handy. If you’re planning to go through the Ashford Tunnel then remember to bring a whistle and torch so you can alert passing power boats to your presence. There’s also a small patch of rapids to contend with – reward yourself afterwards with a tipple at one of the many great pubs along the way.
England – River Nine
The Nene, which runs from Northampton to Peterborough, is generally considered one of England’s most pleasant canoe journeys with leafy scenery throughout. There are several suitable launch points including the charming village of Wansford, which on a sunny day is a lovely place to pass the afternoon. It’s also not far from Tallington Lakes, so you can expect the local pros to be able to give you some advice.
Northern Ireland – Foyle Trail
This splendid 53km run, finishing in the Atlantic, passes through both Northern Ireland and the Republic. With astonishingly diverse scenery from peaceful countryside to the heart of urban Derry and the coast to Moville, it makes for a pleasant seaside town. You may be accompanied part of the way by friendly flocks of geese and ducks. It finishes in Lough Foyle, where you’ll encounter mussel boats, as the Lough is a mussel and oyster fishery. Occasionally at the far end basking sharks are seen as well but have no fear, they’re no threat to canoeists.