Best UK Destinations for Canoeing in Winter
There is a lot to enjoy about canoeing in summer; floating down a calm river with sunlight coming through leafy green trees, dancing off the water. Compared to that lovely scenario, winter canoeing seems rather uninviting. The days can be bitter, are a lot shorter and the water very cold. But get a perfect, crisp day, with no clouds in a blue sky and grass glittering in morning frost and you have a perfect, magical day for paddling.
Canoeing in winter also means you are more likely to have a stretch of coastline or river all to yourself and a lovely reward of crackling fire sipping hot chocolate when it’s over. We have put together some of the best winter canoeing destination in the UK you may want to check out this season after browsing through our canoes and canoe paddles for sale.
The Norfolk Broads
The Norfolk Broads are an area of wetlands and home to an array of wildlife. The Broads are a National Park and include several Sites of Special Scientific Interest within the network of rivers, lakes and secluded channels. These rivers and channels also include marshes and fens and have over 200km of navigable waterway. Combined with the Suffolk Broads, there is a lot of wetland to explore, and people come every year on engine and man-powered boats to traverse the waterways. However, the best way is by canoe, which allows you to get up-close to the wildlife and enjoy the tranquillity the Broads has to offer.
Cumbria and the Lake District make for prime canoeing, and it is a charming place to paddle all-year-round. Derwent Water is one of the best for winter, and you can enjoy the waters largely to yourself. Canoeing around Derwent Water, beginning and ending at Keswick is great to do on a cold day; take as long as you want to explore the islands, head for the mouth of the River Derwent and challenge yourself on the flow. Derwent Water has several launching places around the lake to both start from or stop at.
The River Thames
The River Thames 218km journey from Gloucestershire to Surrey (it is 346km in total length) is a magnet for boats of varying sizes and mode of powering, including canoes, particularly in the summer. However, for canoers, the best time to hit the Thames is in winter. A great trip for the colder months is the Swift Ditch Loop from Abingdon in Oxfordshire. Paddling upstream from the weir and lock towards Oxford brings you to the entrance of Swift Ditch and the old course of the river before it was diverted. Other great routes along the Thames include the stretch near Hurley upon the Thames and the weirs around Chertsey, Shepperton and Sunbury. Of course, weird paddling should be done only if you know what you’re doing.
The Pembrokeshire Coast
The Pembrokeshire coast in south-west Wales was the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the UK and the only coastal National Park. For sea canoers, the coastline has everything you could wish for, with stunning beaches, imposing cliffs, peaceful estuaries and island crossing for the more experienced. The Pembrokeshire Coast is an ideal year-round canoeing destination with its dramatic geography, and sheltered inlets provide places to go for shorter coastal explorations.
The River Wye
The River Wye and surrounding valley attract many people throughout the year due to its stunning beauty and walking opportunities. The Wye’s Upper and Middle, surrounding the towns of Rhayader, Builth Wells and Boughrood, make for great day trips, with some white water to experience too. A popular year-round spot is near the Welsh / English border and Monmouth. The 300m Symonds Yat rapid is quieter in the winter regarding people using it and considered to be one of the best in the UK. Monmouth has lots of great cafes to head to after your paddle to warm up in too!
The North Norfolk Coast
An overlooked gem of sea canoeing is North Norfolk’s coast, but timing your visit is important due to the large tides of the coast which could leave you with a lot of walking. If you do time it right, there are several beaches to use as launching points, Brancaster being a good one when the tide is in, as it has access straight to the water and good parking. The North Norfolk coastline is abundant in bird life and barrier coast formations that are great to explore. The coastline is beautiful in winter if you are prepared for the cold, and the towns and villages have pubs, cafes and restaurants to head to after a day on the waves.
The Great Glen
The Great Glen reaches across Scotland and is perfect for anyone looking to spend a few days exploring on their canoe. The canoe trail route through the Great Glen takes you over misty lochs, past historical castles and breath-taking hills and mountains and through the man-made Caledonian Canal. The canoe trail on the Great Glen has provided even better opportunities for canoers, with several facilities available. You can find more information about how to plan a trip through the Great Glen at greatflencanoetrail.info.
Winter Canoeing Precautions
Keep an eye on the forecast beforehand and look out for worsening conditions when out on the water. Bear in mind flows in winter can be faster, so take this into account when planning canoeing trips and decide carefully about getting into the water.
The consequences of getting cold and wet in winter can escalate quickly if not dealt with, so dress for the worst in winter, as a fall into icy water can take your breath away and disable you. Always wear a personal flotation device, and carry spare dry, warm clothing with you.
Take provisions with you, not just a light snack. Have a Thermos or two filled with a hot drink and hot soup.
Have an exit strategy in place in case things take a turn for the worse, always tell someone where you are going and avoid paddling alone – company always makes paddling more fun!