It’s time to start planning spring and summertime trips and we’ve got five incredible places, recommended by some of our favourite paddlers, for you to add to your list. Where are you planning to paddle this spring?
River Spey, Scotland
recommended by Chris Brain
Often when people talk about the River Spey in Scotland, they mention the incredible scenery, beautiful water and a feeling of adventure and remoteness. You’ll hear them say ‘Scottish Classic’ and ‘a must-do trip’ and without a doubt, it really should be on your list of places to go regardless of what type of paddling you enjoy. Along its 135 kilometre length, there are stretches of the Spey perfect for short day-trips and also overnight and multi-day camping trips.
As you travel down the river the scenery feels typically Scottish, with incredible woodland, rolling hills and the smell of whiskey mash from the distilleries faintly in the air. The water always has something to keep you entertained along the way and rarely does it feel like you are simply paddling to cover distance, the rapids are rarely above grade 2 along the entire length of the river.
For the true Spey experience, I recommend a relaxing tandem canoe paddle with a partner, taking three or more days to wend your way downstream taking in the best camp spots and taking time away from the hurley burley.
Useful – River Spey Canoe Guide guidebook by Nancy Chambers
Stackpole Quay to Broadhaven, Wales
recommended by Sarah Leighton – @fitforadventure_
The paddle between Stackpole Quay and Church Rock, around Stackpole Head and finishing at Broadhaven South beach is a relatively short three kilometre journey. The cliffs are epic and the water is incredibly clear. You’ll paddle from the calm and sheltered paradise beach of Barafundle Bay around Stackpole Quay where you’re suddenly exposed to the prevailing wind and choppy sea.
Depending on conditions at the point itself, even if you have planned the tides and weather window perfectly, you’ll need your wits about you and your sea legs switched on, but the rewards are worth it!
Useful – a tidal atlas or guidebook like Welsh Sea Kayaking by J. Krawiecki & A. Biggs
recommended by Cal Major
The Lake District has loads of options for places to paddle, but Derwentwater is probably my favourite. Surrounded by peaks, from the Keswick end the lake feels never-ending. It’s often quite sheltered, and there are a few little islands in the middle to explore.
There’s so much to explore on Derwentwater, and paddling is definitely the best way to experience the place, but I have a couple of minor words of caution: be careful if you see green swirls in the water, as that may be algae, some of which can be dangerous if ingested in large quantities, and keep an eye out for signs saying the lake is experiencing it. Always wash your kit thoroughly if you’re paddling in more than one lake, as there are non-native species in some lakes whose spread needs to be limited, and they can be carried by things like wetsuits and boards.
Once you’re done paddling, head over to the best burger place in Keswick, The Round, which serves the best vegan burger you’ll ever taste (and a range of incredible meaty options too).
Get a map – for paddling access to each of the Lakes from the Lake District National Park office right here
The Thames Valley, England
recommended by Paul Robertson
Majestic willows and royal boat clubs. Pack your lunch in a wicker hamper and put on your straw boater.
So much more than just London’s main waterway, the Thames flows for over two hundred miles through idyllic English countryside. Countless pubs line the banks to serve food and drinks to thirsty travellers. If you’re acrobatically inclined there are weirs and play spots to keep you entertained too.
Ever since Jerome K. Jerome’s classic novel Three Men in a Boat charted a waterborne trip from Kingston to Oxford, the Thames has represented the epitome of relaxed scenic boating in the English countryside. Pour some Pimms, pack a picnic, and you’re all set for a wonderful day messing about in boats.
Travel in comfort – twenty-six trips are detailed in the wonderful Pub Paddles guidebook
Solva Harbour, Wales
recommended by Bonnie Middleton – TYF Adventure
Solva is a picturesque village a few miles from St Davids, with plenty of options for food and drinks it’s a great place to finish an afternoon on the sea, we love the homemade Welsh cakes served at Mamgu’s. There is paid parking in the harbour however keep in mind that it does get busy.
Getting the tides right is really important here, be sure to check them before planning your trip and consider how much water will be left in the harbour when you finish your paddle otherwise you’ll have to carry your boats up the dry harbour, which isn’t too fun if you’ve got tired arms from paddling!
You’ll be able to seek shelter from any wind or swell making it a good place to practice manoeuvres before heading out to open water. Before you leave the safety of the harbour walls, you will find a small pebbled beach to your left called Gwadn which you can relax on in between paddles.
If you’re feeling up to it you can venture out to the open sea and head left or right out onto the coastline, both offer incredible views with lots to take in. Our favourite stretch is heading right and aiming west along the incredible sea cliffs. Immediately on the right, you’ll find a beautiful natural arch that you can paddle through. When you’re kayaking along this stretch of water it is important to stay close to the cliffs and coves, if you cut across bays and go into deep water you may find the wind is stronger and the conditions are harder to paddle.
Check out – some more Pembroke classic trips over on TYF adventure blog with their beginner’s guide to kayaking in Pembrokeshire.