Man Kayaking Through Waves

Where to Kayak

Where to Kayak

The British Isles are made for kayaking - there is a wonderful variety of water to choose from. On the inland waterways, the canals, rivers and lakes offer simple touring on placid water, through to challenging white water descents.

If you have some experience and own a kayak, you can explore the waterways without any instruction, but it is best to start on calm rivers or canals and work up gradually to rougher waters or coastal waters.  

Kayaking on Canals

There are over 3,000 miles of canal to explore in the UK. These 'water highways' are an ideal environment to learn on and most people will have a canal near them. but you will need a licence.

Kayaking on Rivers and Lakes 

The UK's rivers and lakes provide great kayak opportunities for both recreational and competitive paddlers. Rivers are graded according to an International Grading System 1-6, with grade 1 representing calmer rivers, but not all inland water is open to kayakers, some is privately owned and the law on access/navigation rights is unclear. Before you set off on your trip, please contact The British Canoe Union which has an Access Officer in each region who can advise you about local canoeing waters.

Get a Licence

You will need a licence to paddle on the inland waterways. These can be purchased as part of British Canoe Union (BCU) membership, or from one of the three organisations which runs Britain's waterways. 

  • British Waterways manages most of the canals and rivers including the Severn, Trent and Yorkshire Ouse.
  • The Environment Agency manages the River Thames, the River Medway, and the rivers of East Anglia.
  • The Broads Authority manages the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.

Map Your Route

If you want a pre-planned route see the BCU's canoe trails, or if would prefer to plan your own route, view a map of the UK's waterways.

Kayaking on the Sea

The coastline of Britain provides superb kayaking water, some of which is remote with spectacular scenery - off shore islands, sea cliffs, wildlife. There are no restrictions, but coastal kayaking demands knowledge and skill. New paddlers are strongly advised not to embark upon any coastal cruise without adequate personal ability, training and knowledge.

Get some training

Explore the UK's waterways and coast in confidence with expert kayak tuition from British Marine approved training providers.


The Great Glen Way & Caledonian Canal