The Best Family-Friendly Canoeing and Kayaking Spots in the UK

By Rhonda Carrier

When it comes to spending quality time with your family outdoors, canoeing and kayaking are hard to beat. Not only do they allow you to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but they also provide an opportunity to explore new places and create lasting memories together. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced paddler, the UK offers a variety of fantastic locations for canoeing and kayaking with kids. In this article, we’ve rounded up some of the best spots in popular family holiday destinations across the country.

Falmouth, Cornwall

Nestled in Cornwall, the charming harbor town of Falmouth is a perfect destination for a family break. With its beautiful beaches, such as Gyllyngvase, Swanpool, and Castle, there are plenty of options for enjoying the water. You can rent canoes or kayaks from various water-sports centers in the area and set forth to discover hidden beaches and coves. Elemental UK, a well-known water sports provider, offers fantastic activities for kids in Falmouth.

Portland Bill, Dorset

If you’re looking for a safe and accessible location for family water sports, Portland Bill in Dorset is an excellent choice. Whether you prefer guided tours or independent exploration, this spot has it all. You can embark on a kayak tour to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast, where you’ll be surrounded by geological wonders. Keep an eye out for nesting terns and colonies of hares as you paddle along Chesil Beach and the Fleet Lagoon. Check out our feature on a family camping holiday in Weymouth, Dorset for more inspiration.

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Alderney, Channel Islands

For a unique kayaking experience, head to Alderney, a picturesque island with its powdery-white beaches and historic forts. The Alderney Wildlife Trust even provides transparent canoes, allowing you to get a closer look at the marine life and fascinating relics like the remains of a Roman breakwater in Longis Bay. Discover more about this charming island in our feature on a family break on Alderney.

River Thames, Buckinghamshire

Just an hour away from the bustling city of London lies Bisham Abbey, an ideal starting point for a fantastic canoeing adventure. Paddle upstream towards Henley-on-Thames, passing through Temple Lock and Hurley Lock. As you navigate the river, take in the stunning sights of beautiful riverside houses and picturesque spots like the Harleyford Estate. Moose Canoe, Kayak & SUP hire provides a variety of options for families, including large Canadian canoes, single and double kayaks, and SUP paddle-boards. Don’t forget to treat yourself to an ice cream from Marlow’s riverside park on your return. For an extended adventure, consider staying overnight at Hurley campsite.

River Wye, Herefordshire

Immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) as you embark on a delightful canoeing journey. With a range of trips available, from center-based and half-day excursions to multi-day trips and rapids adventures, there’s something for everyone. Make the most of your time in this area by exploring other outdoor activities, including climbing, archery, high ropes, and zip-wiring in the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean.

Beacons Water Trail, Wales

The Brecon Beacons National Park and Brecon Canoe Club have collaborated to create the Beacons Water Trail, a wonderful route for exploring the beauty of the River Usk and the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal. As you paddle from Brecon to Talybont-on-Usk, you’ll encounter fascinating sights such as the Brynich Aqueduct and the Ashford Tunnel (remember to bring a torch to spot oncoming narrowboats!). This trail is perfect for families looking to enjoy the great outdoors.

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River Mersey, Northwest England

While the River Mersey is renowned for its iconic ferries, it’s also a hidden gem for paddling enthusiasts. The Mersey Canoe Trail, the UK’s first National Canoe Trail, stretches 27km from Stockport to Carrington. However, if you’re with younger kids, you can enjoy an easier 5.5km paddle from Heaton Mersey to Northenden in Manchester. Along the way, you’ll pass interesting landmarks such as Tudor Speke Hall near Liverpool, Liverpool John Lennon airport, and the Royal Albert Docks in central Liverpool.

Derwentwater, Lake District

Situated just south of Keswick, Derwentwater offers breathtaking scenery perfect for canoeing. With a variety of canoe options available, including solo, tandem, family, rafted, and voyageur canoes, there’s something for every family. Make the most of your visit by taking a refreshing dip in the lake’s wild swimming areas. Don’t forget to bring your swimming gear or a wetsuit!

Cragside, Northumberland

Owned by the National Trust, Cragside is not only famous for its Victorian house, gardens, and woodland but also for its fantastic kayaking, canoeing, and SUP paddle-boarding opportunities. Take a guided lake tour or join a lesson to enhance your water sports skills. There are even special events available exclusively for kids at Tumbleton Lake.

Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, Scotland

If you’re seeking a blissful canoeing and kayaking experience in the heart of Scotland, look no further than Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park. The park encompasses mainland Britain’s largest body of freshwater, offering a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. With its numerous islands, bays, and narrow straits, you can explore the area without coming into contact with other people. Additionally, Loch Long and Loch Goil are perfect for coastal sea-paddling, while Loch Lubnaig offers sheltered beauty.

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Lough Erne, Northern Ireland

Lough Erne, with its diverse and picturesque landscape, is one of Northern Ireland’s most popular canoe trails. Suitable for all levels of ability, including beginners and families with young children, this maze of bays, narrow channels, islands, and peninsulas is a haven for wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for kingfishers, otters, and herons as you paddle along. For a true wilderness experience, consider wild camping along the quiet shore or on some of the islands. If you prefer a dose of history, don’t miss visiting landmarks such as Enniskillen Castle, Devenish Tower, and the Crom Estate.

So, whether you’re looking to explore the stunning coastlines, tranquil lakes, or picturesque rivers, the UK offers a myriad of options for a memorable family canoeing and kayaking adventure. Get ready to create unforgettable experiences and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. For more hand-picked family activity holidays in the UK, visit East Coast Paddle Sports.

Remember, safety is of utmost importance. Always check the weather conditions and follow proper safety guidelines when enjoying water sports with your family. Happy paddling!

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