Things to do | Outdoors | The 10 best ways to enjoy Britain's waterways

The 10 best ways to enjoy Britain's waterways

Fun on the Water

Autumnal Punting in Cambridge Source:tad2106

Punting in Cambridge


In Britain we’re lucky enough to have a staggering variety of water to splash in, sail across or simply admire for its soggy beauty. From lakes, lochs and the sun-baked South Coast to wild Welsh waterfalls, we’ve toured Britain to bring you the best watery activities.

1. Punting, Oxford and Cambridge

Punting along the wandering rivers of Britain’s most ancient and good-looking university towns is one of the finest ways to spend a sultry summer’s day. Soak up the architectural splendours of Cambridge’s college backs or float down the River Cherwell at Oxford .

2. London Rib Voyages, London

See London from the Thames at blistering speeds with London Rib Voyages, the Thames tour with a difference. Small, highly manoeuvrable boats whisk you by London landmarks at speeds of up to 35 knots and stand-up comedians make for humorous and knowledgeable guides.

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3. Coasteering, Wales

Britain has given the world many sports, but none use the natural beauty of Britain quite like coasteering. Here's how it works: pick a stretch of British coastline, preferably one with craggy cliffs, foaming swells and sea caves. Next, don a wetsuit and, with the help of an expert guide, climb, swim, jump and abseil your way along. Often you'll have seals for company.

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4. Surfing, UK-wide

While Britain may not have the largest waves, we do have great surf for all abilities. Try Croyde in Devon, Newquay in Cornwall and Freshwater West in Wales. Bournemouth has leapt onto the surfing radar with the construction of Europe’s first artificial surf reef opened in 2009.

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5. Loch Ness cruises, Scotland

Monster or no, Loch Ness remains one of Britain’s most beguiling spots. Over 20 miles long, a mile wide and 700ft at its deepest, its murky waters, surrounded by lush countryside, are an undeniable Highland highlight. Take a trip with Jacobite Cruises to explore the ruins of Urquhart Castle, the shining expanse of the loch itself and learn about the mysteries of Nessie.

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6. Canal boating, UK-wide

Chugging down one of Britain’s inland waterways is a relaxing way to see the country and Britain has hundreds of miles of canals to explore. Embrace the slower pace of life, stop at canal-side pubs, negotiate locks and soak yourself in the serene atmosphere.

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7. Kayaking and canoeing, River Wye

Carving its way between the English and Welsh borders, the Wye is truly picturesque. It’s also one of the best places for kayaking and canoeing in the UK. You can paddle all the way downstream from Glasbury-on-Wye, through the book town of Hay-on-Wye, down to Hereford, Monmouth and the Severn Estuary.

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8. Waverly steamship cruises, UK-wide

The Waverly is the last seagoing paddle steamer in the world. She’s a beautiful ship, with chuffing funnels, slick varnish and gleaming brass. Take a cruise on the Waverly or her sister ship, the Balmoral, through Scotland’s lochs and islands, the Bristol Channel, the Thames or along the South Coast.

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9. Gorge walking, Lake District and the Brecon Beacons

Pick your way up river over boulders, wade through fast-flowing streams and clamber up waterfalls. Throw in a bit of caving, some rock climbing and a good soaking and you’ve got gorge walking. Black Mountain Activities and Blue Ocean Adventures offer gorge walking packages in the Brecon Beacons and River Deep Mountain High have a similar set-up in the Lake District.

10. White water rafting, UK-wide

Surging down boiling rivers at high speeds is a real adventure and England, Scotland and Wales all have either natural or manmade courses to test all levels of experience. White water hotspots include the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham, the National White Water Centre in Snowdonia and the rivers Tay, Tummel, Braan, Orchy and Ericht in Scotland. You can also try out the purpose-built Olympic course at the Lee Valley White Water Centre .