5 of the best UK kayaking routes

try out some of the best UK kayaking routes
Photo: Paul Smith, Rock & Water Adventures

When it comes to the best UK kayaking routes, you’re spoilt for choice. From the longest freshwater loch in Scotland to breathtaking views of 2,000-year-old cities, out on the water you’re able to get close to nature in ways you rarely can on dry land.

To help you make the most of what the UK’s waterways have to offer, we picked the brains of one of the country’s leading canoe and kayak manufacturers, Venture Kayaks. Together, we’ve come up with five of the best UK kayaking routes, ranging from one-day trips to multi-day adventures. And you won’t have to worry when it comes to equipment either, as we’ve provided the perfect kayak or canoe to tackle each route.

Lower Dee, North Wales

Starting in the town of Llangollen, the Lower Dee is famous for its whitewater. This means if you like your rapids, you’ll definitely want to give it a try. The 13-mile stretch down to Erbistock boasts whitewater at every turn and passes under the stunning World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (pictured above).

Ideal for experienced paddlers and novices alike, the Lower Dee has just the right level of water and is great across all seasons. It never fails to impress: especially the pub at the end!

Whether you want a tandem or solo adventure, the Venture Afon is an excellent canoe to take out on the rapids of the Lower Dee. It’s manoeuvrability ensures you’re always heading in the right direction, while the modern design means you’re able to tackle the water in style. 

Ullswater, Lake District

Nestled at the foot of the beautiful Helvellyn Range, Ullswater is a large natural lake. And at 7 miles long, it’s easy enough to paddle the full length of Ullswater in a single day.

As with all large bodies of water, conditions vary with the weather. But in the height of summer, Ullswater is a paradise for paddlers, especially the southern end near Glenridding.

When it comes to unwinding on the water, look no further than the Venture Islay Cruiser Kayak. At 378cm long and with an easy-access cockpit, the Islay Cruiser is all about comfort. The luxurious padded seat offers the snuggest of fits, while the stability and easy manoeuvrability allow you to make the most of your surroundings.

Loch Awe, Scotland

At over 25 miles long, Loch Awe is the longest freshwater loch in Scotland. The distance and remote location make this an ideal multi-day kayaking route. And if you want to camp out in the wild, head to the northern shores of Loch Awe as night falls because it offers up much more in the way of natural shelter.

For those with a little less time, Loch Awe still boasts fantastic one-day experiences. If you head to the north-eastern area of the loch, you’ll find the village of Dalmally. Here, there are a small number of hotels, shops, and a few pubs – all of which guarantee a warm welcome to any weary adventurers!

A wild expedition on Loch Awe requires equipment that matches your adventurous ambitions, making the Venture Prospector 165 the perfect companion. The wide beam, symmetrical hull, and soft tumblehome mean it excels in the wild (or on whitewater) and is sure to keep performing even when fully loaded.

some of the best UK kayaking routes

River Ouse, York

The River Ouse is a splendid paddle through York, boasting unique views of a city that’s over 2,000 years old. Starting at Nether Poppleton (to the north of the city), you’ll glide through a river wilderness, before the banks turn from willow trees to busy pedestrian thoroughfares as you reach York itself.

Look out for tourist boat piers as you make your way through the city. Because here, you can moor up and enjoy a cup of coffee or even a pint. On a warm summer’s day, this is sure to hit the spot!

Two or three adults can cruise along the River Ouse in the Venture Ranger 162. The flat hull provides you with supreme stability, while the canoe’s low profile design means you can tackle everything from gentle lakes to whitewater rapids with ease – even if the wind picks up.

Combe Martin Bay, Devon

On a sunny day, you’ll struggle to find a better place to paddle anywhere in the world than Combe Martin Bay. Situated on the North Devon coast, you can explore the highest sea cliff in England (Great Hangman), as well as spot both porpoise and Peregrine falcons.

Many kayakers spend the whole day exploring Combe Martin. But for those who are a little more adventurous, why not extend your trip to take in Ilfracombe to the west, or Heddons Mouth and Lynmouth to the east.

The P&H Virgo is the ideal kayak for a trip to Combe Martin Bay. It packs in all the essential features you’d expect, including a low profile deck for easy rolling and re-entry, as well as high levels of stability that let you adventure into the unknown with real confidence.

The UK’s best kayaking routes

To find out more about all the equipment you need to tackle some of the UK’s best canoeing and kayaking routes, visit www.venturekayaks.com.

Writing credit: Adam Robson (www.tnroutdoors.co.uk), Dan Wilkinson (www.danwilkinson.org), Darren Sherwood (www.channelevents.co.uk)