Canoeing in the UK
When it comes to canoeing locations, the UK is spoilt for choice. From gentle inland waterways to the rough and tumble of the varied coastline, you’ll find that there’s a place for every paddle-sport enthusiast in the British Isles. Whether you’re brand new to the sport or an old hand, there’s plenty to interest, challenge and motivate you out on the water. The best way to experience the joy of British canoeing is to get out there and try it yourself. Wherever you are in the UK, we have the perfect recommendation for a top notch canoeing location for you.
England’s first ever coast-to-coast canoeing route takes in the north of the country’s extensive canal ways, spanning from Liverpool to the Humber. Totalling over 160 miles, this is not a route to undertake lightly but it can be broken up into manageable smaller chunks. A particularly enjoyable stretch is the Skipton to Leeds section, including the impressive Bingley Five Rise Locks and taking in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. This canoeing route project, titled the Desmond Family Canoe Trail, only began in 2015 so you could be one of the first to master it!
The River Orchy in the West Highlands of Scotland provides ample opportunity for some thrilling white water action; incorporating class 5 rapids and the treacherous Falls of Orchy, this is a route reserved for experts only. Well worth the risk if you’ve got the skills to back it up! Of course, it’s also a great excuse to take in the pristine air of the Scottish mountains and try out some really wild canoeing fun.
The Brecon Beacons National Park plays host to a variety of different canoeing locations, including some great spots for beginners. There are plenty of gentle flowing waters upon which you can practice your craft and lots of support on hand from local canoe hire businesses should you get stuck. If you’re after an easy and pleasant introduction to the sport, then you couldn’t find a more beautiful place to head to.
In Northern Ireland
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan then you may have heard mention of a different River Blackwater, but the one located in the south of Northern Ireland is perfect for a meandering coast along calm waters. After 20km it segues handily into Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in Britain and an ideal place to try some inland lake canoeing. Once you arrive at the Lough you have over 150km of trail to explore by canoe, or you could even attempt the ambitious paddle from the south of the country all the way to the Atlantic Ocean in the north.
Great Britain has experienced some stand-out moments on the canoeing world stage, recently winning 2 gold and 2 silver medals in the Rio Olympics along with 3 gold and 2 bronze in the 2016 Paralympic Games. Many distinguished canoeists call the UK home and it is a popular hobby across the country. However, the life of an accomplished canoeist is not all about being on the water. In order to prepare for events like the slalom, an individual sprint or a long distance trail, professional canoeists need to keep their minds sharp. Activities like mindfulness training, cerebral games and visualisation all play their part in getting athletes like Joe Clarke ready to compete.
Liam Heath MBE
Surrey-native Liam Heath has certainly proven that he’s a force to be reckoned with over the course of his canoeing career. He is currently the most successful British Olympic canoeist ever, winning multiple medals in both individual and team events, and holds the world record for the K1 200m. He even received an MBE in 2017 and has Honorary Doctorates from not one, but two, UK universities. His success just goes to show how far competitive canoeing can take you in this country.
Jeanette Chippington MBE
Jeanette Chippington was already a Paralympic gold medallist for swimming before she became involved in paracanoeing in 2013, at the insistence of a friend. She went on to dominate the sport, winning gold medals in both the World Championships and the Paralympics and receiving her MBE in the 2017 New Year Honours list alongside fellow canoeist Heath (see above). She is a titan of the sport and is still fierce competition after such a varied and successful career.
Claiming the very first Team GB kayaking gold in the Men’s K1 must have been a proud moment for young slalom canoeist Joe Clarke. He was just 23 when he won the Olympic medal and received full recognition from his country when he joined colleagues on the Queen’s 2017 New Year Honours list. He has been racing since he was just 11 years old and is certainly an athlete to keep watching over the coming years.
As you can see, the UK not only has the perfect training atmosphere for every aspect of canoeing, it also has the athletes with the determination, skill and know-how to represent the country in the sport. Head out to one of the places mentioned in our guide today and you could be feeling like the next Liam Heath in no time.