SUPExploration

10 UK paddleboard adventures to tick off

Written by Lucy Grewcock
From pub-to-pub cruises to awesome offshore adventures, you need to try these SUP outings.
Ullswater has a big lake feel about it
Ullswater has a big lake feel about it
A decade ago, few Brits had heard of Stand-up Paddleboarding, let alone given it a go themselves. Today, ‘SUPing’ is one of the UK's fastest growing watersports, with hire centres, tuition and guided SUP tours offered up and down the country. If you've already graduated past basic balancing and are keen to get exploring, here are 10 awesome outings to tick off, from pub-to-pub cruises to epic offshore adventures. There are hire centres near most of these spots and, particularly if you’re unsure about tides and currents, it’s worth going with a guide.

1. Ullswater, Lake District

Best for: Big lake downwinders
Paddle the length of Ullswater
Paddle the length of Ullswater
13km long, 60m deep and watched over by mighty Helvellyn Mountain (635m), Ullswater has a big lake feel about it. Paddling its length is one of Lakeland’s ultimate SUP tours – the three-hour, one-way trip starts from the Steamer Pier car park in Glenridding village and finishes at Pooley Bridge in the north. With southwesterly winds funnelling down the lake, Ullswater is also a great place for downwinders – 30mph winds generate a 3-4ft rolling wave that’s easy to ride. Contact the friendly people at Ullswater Paddleboarding to hire boards or book a guided tour.

2. Mawddach Estuary, Mid-Wales

Best for: Pub-to-pub paddling
Easy days on the Mawddach Estaury
Easy days on the Mawddach Estaury
With wide waters fringed by forested hillsides and overlooked by the peaks of Snowdonia National Park, the Mawddach Estuary is made for cruisey SUP tours. Set out at high tide for a pub-to-pub paddle between the George III at Penmaenpool and the The Last Inn in Barmouth, where the river spills into the sea. Contact SUP Barmouth for kit hire and guided tours; they’ll also deliver and collect your boards from either end, so you don’t have to paddle back post-pint.

3. Stackpole Quay to Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire

Best for: Coastal wildlife
Explore the Pembrokeshire Coastline by SUP
Explore the Pembrokeshire Coastline by SUP
Limestone cliffs, sandy bays and crystalline waters – Pembrokeshire’s National Park coastline is a spectacular place to SUP. The sheltered southeast stretch between Stackpole Quay and Barafundle Bay is particularly scenic – here you can join Outer Reef Surf School on a guided paddle past cliffs and caves, with dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks for company. Outer Reef also do a camping SUP tour in Haven Estuary, while surfers could nip around the corner for the Atlantic swell.

4. Symonds Yat, Wye Valley

Best for: All levels
Glide your way through Symonds Yat
Glide your way through Symonds Yat
Glide your way past kayakers, canoeists and peregrine falcons as you SUP through this forested river gorge, which skirts the border between England and Wales. A few miles upstream, Kerne Bridge is a good place to launch (the footpath by the road-bridge leads down to the riverbank) – it’s a beautiful paddle from here to the The Saracens Head pub at Symonds Yat. Experienced SUPers could continue downstream to the Wye’s Grade 2 rapids, those with stamina could start 13 miles upstream in Ross-on-Wye, and beginners could book a tour with SUPYOFI at The Old Ferry Inn.

5. Burgh Island, Devon

Best for: A circumnavigation
Circumnavigate Burgh Island by SUP
Circumnavigate Burgh Island by SUP
This tidal island and its famous Art Deco hotel provided the inspiration for two Agatha Christie novels. You can circumnavigate the island in an hour or so, exploring its nooks, crannies and caves en route. Hire a board at Discovery Surf on Bigbury beach and paddle in either direction around the island. Once you’ve completed the loop, reward yourself with a pint at Burgh's 14th century pub, The Pilchard Inn.

6. Cuckmere Haven, East Sussex

Best for: Sunset and moonlit meandering
Wiggle your way along the Cuckmere Meanders
Wiggle your way along the Cuckmere Meanders
The Cuckmere Meanders in East Sussex are cut off from the main river and sea, making them super safe and unaffected by tides and currents. Drive here at sunset with your own board (an inflatable is easiest to transport) and pull up right by the water's edge. Wiggling your way through shallow reedy waters, it takes an hour or so of paddling and a couple of portages (carrying your board) between oxbow lakes, to reach the beach. After a break on the pebbles, paddle back beneath the stars.

7. River Cam, Cambridge

Best for: History and architecture
Cruise past Trinity College in Cambridge
Cruise past Trinity College in Cambridge
Swap punting for paddleboarding and glide along the Backs past historic Cambridge colleges. Bring your own board and set off just downstream of Jesus Lock (at Jesus Green). Heading west from here, you’ll pass Magdalene, St John’s and Trinity, as well as King’s, Queen’s and St Catharine’s college before you drift beneath beautiful Mathematical Bridge. If you’ve got the stamina for a longer day out, continue to Grantchester’s Orchard riverside gardens for earl grey and scones before retracing your paddle strokes back up the river.

8. The Rabbit Islands and North Coast 500, Scotland

Best for: An epic SUP safari
Careful of currents en route to the Rabbit Islands
Careful of currents en route to the Rabbit Islands
Launch your board from the tiny hamlet of Talmine in Scotland’s far north and head to the uninhabited Rabbit Islands. Deserted shores and white sand beaches await but you’ll need to check the local tides and currents before you set off. To explore more of the Highland coast, follow the North Coast 500 driving route, SUPing along the way – five hundred miles of lochs, beaches and rivers, this touring circuit boasts everything from hidden coves to epic surf. Based in Aberdeen (the route’s official start and finish point), Paddle Surf Scotland can sort you out with boards and trip planning.

9. The River Tay, Perthshire, Scotland

Best for: Whitewater rapids
Riding the River Tay rapids
Riding the River Tay rapids
Cruise along Scotland's longest river, meandering past mountains and spotting salmon and otters en route. Several sections of the Tay are SUP heaven, with a selection of rapids to keep you on your toes. For whitewater SUPing, the fast waters and standing waves between Stanley to Thistlebrig are fantastic; for beginners, the calmer waters that wind past Tay Forest Park between Ballinluig village and the historic town of Dunkeld are easier. Hire kit, get advice or book a tour with Paddle Surf Scotland.

10. Strangford Lough, County Down, Northern Ireland

Best for: Island exploring
Explore the islands of Strangford Lough
Explore the islands of Strangford Lough
Enclosed by the Ards Peninsula, Strangford Lough is the UK’s largest inlet. Riddled with channel mazes and peppered with more than seventy islands, it’s a fantastic place to explore by SUP. If you’ve got your own kit, Killyleagh in the southwest corner has lots of great places to paddle to, including Salt Island Bothy and Daft Eddies restaurant on Sketrick Island. If you need to hire a board, head to the east coast and join NI SUP for a six-mile downwinder between Greyabbey and Ards.