Words: Lucy Grewcock (Wild Guides Author)
Canoe beneath mountain peaks in Snowdonia, glide towards the Welsh coast, or plan family adventures across the country’s biggest lakes. Wales is packed with incredible places to paddle, from lazy rivers to white-water rapids. The gentlest journeys are accessible to all – these slower-paced adventures allow you to soak up the serenity of mountain lakes, enjoy the relaxed pace of river-life, and spot kingfishers, otters and leaping salmon from water level.
Rigid canoes can be tricky to transport but there are some excellent inflatable models, or Wales has no shortage of canoe centres offering hire. Any adventure can be enriched with a picnic basket packed with Welsh cheeses, freshly-baked bread and other local delights, while the fantastic choice of campsites and glamping spots means you can immerse yourself in the watery wilds of Wales from dawn until dusk.
Llyn Geirionydd – Snowdonia
Set in Snowdonia’s quiet north-east corner, this mile-long lake is surrounded by hills and has a stunning setting on the edge of the Gwydyr Forest. For an easy adventure, park in the lakeside car-park and launch your canoe from the slipway on the small slate beach. Explore the waters, take a dip if its warm enough, then pull up on the banks for a picnic or barbecue. Powerboats are permitted here, and it can get busy on summer weekends but the setting is so serene that you won’t mind sharing it. Nearby, you could scramble through the gorge to Klondyke mine ruins or spend the night at the semi-wild campsite of Cynllwyd Bach.
Glasbury – Upper Wye
Rich with kingfishers, otters and Black Mountain views, this stretch of the Wye near Glasbury is glorious. Launch your canoe upstream from the slipway below Erwood bridge, and paddle downstream for a dip in the secluded pool at Boughrood, then continue to Glasbury village for lunch or cake at the River Café. Cosy-up in a Mongolian-style shelter at Kite Hill Yurts, complete with a wood burner and camp kitchen. For a longer adventure, carry on to Hay-on-Wye. To arrange canoe hire and transport, contact 'Want to Canoe?' or Wye Valley Canoes.
Llyn Tegid – Lake Bala
Explore the length (3.7 miles) and breadth (0.5 miles) of the largest natural lake in Wales. Lined with ancient oaks, the gravel shores make for easy launching, and its clear waters are safe for swimming. Paddle all the way down its length and back (11km) or circumnavigate the shore (13km) beneath a backdrop of southern Snowdonian mountains, while the narrow-gauge railway chugs along the eastern shore. Camp on the shore at Pant-Yr-Onnen campsite and light a beach campfire surrounded by twisted oak roots.
Newbridge on Usk – River Usk
The River Usk has a wild and secretive feel, with clear mountain waters that flow away from most main roads. Canoeing is allowed anywhere downstream of Crickhowell, where there are lots of lovely stretches through pastoral meadows – be sure to have your picnic hamper at the ready. The section near Newbridge on Usk is well worth exploring, with miles of pretty meanders upstream of the bridge. Stay in a Persian-style tent with Severn Valley views at Penhein Glamping.
Holme Lacy – River Wye
Ideal for a self-guided canoe safari, this remote and bucolic stretch reaches for several miles from St Cuthbert’s Church at Holme Lacy to beyond Capler Camp (an Iron Age hill fort) and All Saints’ Church at Brockhampton – one of the most important early 20th-century Arts and Crafts buildings.If you don’t have your own canoe, try Ultimate Canoe and kayak for hire. Good places to stay locally include the basic riverside camping beneath Grosmont Castle at Lower Tresenny Farm and the riverside YHA near Goodrich.
Whether it’s a multi-day expedition or a half-day jaunt, any Welsh canoe trip feels like a real adventure.
With plenty of room to stow your picnic and camping gear, you have the freedom to paddle at your own pace and pull up on the banks when you please. Along the way, you can detour down backwaters and watch wildlife in action. And when the morning light dances on the water or the sun starts to sink at the end of each day, you can put down your paddle, take it all in, and simply drift.
For more inspiration on wild adventures this Autumn take a look at Wild Guide Wales and other Wild Guides.
About the Author:
Lucy Grewcock - Travel Writer & Author
Lucy Grewcock is an award-winning travel writer and author of Wild Guide – Southern and Eastern England, which won ‘Travel Guide Book of the Year’ at the 2015 Travel Media Awards. She has worked on several other books in the Wild Guide series as a researcher and proofreader.