The charity making life better by water

Ten canals to scratch off your paddle bucket list

With numerous convenient entry points our canals and rivers are an excellent place to start your paddleboard, canoe or kayak journey. As well as being a great way to get fitter, closer to nature and the benefits of being on water, it will give you a unique perspective of where you live.

Two people wearing Canal & River Trust branded clothing stand up paddle board along the canal

Thanks to the efforts of our teams and volunteers who care for these waterways, you may find the perfect paddling spot is right on your doorstep. Two million people regularly take to our waterways in canoes, kayaks or paddleboards - isn't it time you tried it too?

If you're looking for tips on how to get started, join us at one of our Let's Paddle taster days. If you're ready to explore, here are our ten favourite places to paddle:

Lancaster Canal, Lancashire

Lancaster Canal

The Lancaster Canal was constructed at the beginning of the 19th century and quickly became a popular waterway for moving coal and limestone through north west England.

Today there are fewer boats on this stretch of waterway, even during the busiest sections or in the height of summer, so it is the perfect paddling spot.

As you quietly take in a full 360° of rural British countryside, enjoy 66km (41 miles) of lock-free paddling. For those of us who yearn for an easy, hassle-free day out on the water, this is by far the biggest benefit, which is matched by the stunning surroundings.

Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Liverpool to Goole

Jo Moseley

If you are looking for a challenge, you could tackle the ‘big one', our 162-mile long coast-to-coast canoe trail.

This grand waterway adventure is not for the faint-hearted as it involves carrying your boat or board around 91 locks, including the 21 lock Wigan flight and Bingley's famous Five Rise staircase. You'll also paddle under the summit of the Pennine hills and through a mile-long tunnel at Foulridge.

You can do it all in one go and book accommodation along the way, or break it up into smaller stages. Whichever way you do it, you'll have a real sense of achievement and memories to last a lifetime.

Llangollen Canal

A beautiful view from the board at Lyneal on the Llangollen Canal

The Llangollen Canal is on many paddlers' bucket lists. At 41 miles long, you could spend several days exploring the canal.

Start your journey at Hurleston Junction on the Shropshire Union Canal, slightly west of Crewe and meander through the beautiful Shropshire countryside, before crossing the border into Wales and continue your journey the picturesque and popular town of Llangollen.

As well as passing through pretty towns, you'll also cross two aqueducts.

Nottingham & Beeston Canal, Nottingham

Paddleboarders on the canal

The 2.5 miles and three locks of the Nottingham & Beeston Canal make this an ideal after-work paddle. The canal takes you through the heart of Nottingham city centre and along its vibrant waterfront, where you could pause for a drink or a bite to eat.

Regent's Canal, London

Two groups of paddlers on two canoes paddling on a canal with tall buildings on the skyline

London looks very different when viewed from the canal.

On a nice day, the Regent's Canal is a true jewel to paddle along. See if you can spy the monkeys as you pass by London Zoo. Pause for a rest and take in the scene at busy Camden Locks.

The Paddington Arm and Limehouse Basin are also connected by the canal, which runs across the city from west to east. You could head along Limehouse Cut and continue your journey around the impressive Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The Worcester & Birmingham Canal, Birmingham

Moored boats in central Birmingham under a pedestrian bridge with restaurants lining the canal and pedestrians passing.

The Worcester & Birmingham Canal is one of the longest in the Midlands - 30 miles and 58 locks in total. The canal, which is an "offshoot" of the River Severn, runs all the way from Worcester to Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham.

With more canals than Venice, Birmingham is a great place to explore afloat. Contrast the bustling cafes and pubs around Gas Street Basin with the quieter and greener stretches of the city.

The Roundhouse run guided tours throughout the summer).

Oxford Canal, Oxford

Nancy Campbell kayaking on the Oxford Canal

Paddling out from the centre of Oxford into the suburbs, you'll get a unique perspective of this historic university town.

Continue your journey and you will pass by chocolate box market towns and villages such as Thrupp, Cropredy and Aynho.

The canal is home to an abundance of wildlife, including a thriving population of the critically endangered water vole.

Pocklington Canal, Yorkshire

Discovery Day at Canal Head on Pocklington Canal

The Pocklington Canal is only 9.5 miles long and has just three locks, perfect for a day's paddling. You'll pass through three sites of special scientific interest (SSSI's).

Dragonflies, damselflies, aquatic plants, kingfishers, grey herons, curlews...it's easy to see why wildlife-lovers flock to this canal. Look closely in the hedgerows and reedbeds as you paddle by, what other wildlife can you spot?

Gloucester & Sharpness Canal, Gloucester

Woman and boy sharing a paddleboard and smiling

This canal combines a variety of remarkable structures with distinctive architecture. Everything from enormous swing bridges to elaborate bridge keepers' homes can be seen. It truly combines the ancient and the new.

But it's not just about the past and the buildings. Spectacular views of the Severn Estuary, the Forest of Dean, and the Cotswold valleys may be seen from the canal.

A combination of inland and coastal birds can be seen along the path, which will delight wildlife enthusiasts.

River Soar, Leicester

Canoes on river, with people and marquees on path nearby

With eight rivers and 70 miles of water, Leicestershire is a great place to head to with your boat or board.

Try the River Soar canoe trail which runs from Trent Lock, near Long Eaton, through the heart of Leicester and on to Narborough. You could spend three days doing the full tour or enjoy half or full-day circular loops.

Download your the River Soar Trail leaflet to discover more about the Leicestershire river.

British Canoeing

If you would like to know more about the best access and launch points, British Canoeing have great resources to get you started.

Visit their website and learn more about their Go Paddling initiative.

Last Edited: 23 September 2022

photo of a location on the canals
newsletter logo

Stay connected

Sign up to our monthly newsletter and be the first to hear about campaigns, upcoming events and fundraising inspiration