See Britain by SUP: the best places to paddleboard

Activity, Watersports, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Lucy on 19th May 2021

See Britain by SUP

Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP for short, has taken the UK by storm. The growth of this relative newcomer to the water sports world has surged in recent years, with lockdown giving its popularity another sharp spike – so much so that The Times dubbed paddleboarding “the sport of 2020”.

And it’s not hard to understand why - the idea of gliding along silky-smooth waters through wild, leafy waterways sounds pretty idyllic. Paddleboarding can be done by all ages, solo or in groups, is relatively easy to master, and comes with a string of health benefits – both mental and physical.

According to a study featured in the BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation journal, SUP has been proven to cause significant improvements to an individual’s aerobic and anaerobic fitness, core strength and self-rated quality of life.

SUP yoga

But where to SUP?

If you opt for inland waterways, you’ll experience calmer waters than those on the coast, which is particularly great if you’re new to the sport. Plus, often, there are no tides to contend with.

We’ve done our research into the best inland SUP spots throughout the UK, breaking it down by region. And if you need somewhere tranquil to stay nearby, you can always browse our cottages with waterside views

Alternatively, if you’re a SUP newbie and have some burning questions before plunging in, check out our FAQs with a paddleboarding pro.

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Paddleboarding in the Lake District

Stand-up paddleboarding in the Lake District

TOP PICK: Wastwater

The Lake District has to be one of the best places to SUP – just picture paddling through its lush green landscape of steep grassy slopes punctuated by peaks. You could choose one of many lakes to SUP in the Lake District, but Wastwater has one of the most striking backdrops. It draws fewer crowds than some of its more famous neighbours, offering a wilder, back-to-nature paddleboarding experience among dramatic mountain scenery. Look out for Scafell Pike, England’s highest peak, as you go. Check out West Lakes Adventure for SUP lessons.

Other places to paddleboard in the Lake District:

  • Coniston Water
  • Derwentwater
  • Ullswater
  • River Derwent

SUP in Cornwall

Stand-up paddleboarding in Cornwall

TOP PICK: River Fowey

Located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Cornwall’s Fowey Estuary teems with wildlife, marine plants and rare habitats. It’s a gorgeous spot for a leisurely paddle. If you’re bringing your own board, park at Caffa Mill Car Park and head upstream towards Golant, a popular feeding ground for birds. SUP school Paddle Cornwall is based here, and if you’re in need of refreshments, the Fisherman’s Arms pub occupies a tranquil spot overlooking the river. At the top of the estuary, in Lostwithiel (approx. 4 miles from Golant), there are saltmarshes flanking the river - a rare sight in this part of the UK.

Other places to paddleboard in Cornwall:

  • River Gannel
  • Camel Estuary
  • Helford River
  • River Fal

Stand-up paddleboarding in Norfolk

Stand-up paddleboarding in Norfolk

TOP PICK: River Bure

The River Bure is the longest river in the Norfolk Broads, snaking its way past marshes, reed beds and wet woodland. Common wildlife sightings along the river include Egyptian geese, cormorants, water vole, a variety of butterflies, and occasional otters. There are plenty of places to paddleboard nearby, with a variety of launching points along the river. A lovely SUP route runs upstream from Horstead Mill towards Buxton. Stop for a halfway picnic in Buxton or call in at The Recruiting Sergeant in Horstead on your return. For paddleboarding lessons on the River Bure, check out Secret'SUP.

Other places to paddleboard in Norfolk:

  • Hickling Broad
  • River Wensum
  • River Yare

SUP in the Cotswolds

Stand-up paddleboarding in the Cotswolds

TOP PICK: Cotswolds Water Park

This sprawling water playground near the Cotswold town of Cirencester features a vast network of manmade lakes. It’s one of the largest lake systems in Europe, home to thousands of breeding birds and a wealth of wetland habitats. The lakes are privately owned, so you need to know which ones cater to which leisure activity. There are SUP schools dotted throughout the park, such as Cotswold Water Park Hire, which has the benefit of being close to the main car park along with a variety of cafes and a picnic area. There are also SUP opportunities at Cotswold Country Park and Beach and neighbouring Waterland.

Other places to paddleboard in the Cotswolds:

  • River Coln
  • Gloucester & Sharpness Canal

Paddleboarding in Wales

Stand-up paddleboarding in Wales

TOP PICK: Llyn Padarn

If you’re planning a trip to see Mount Snowdon and are looking for somewhere to paddleboard nearby, try Llyn Padarn. From the centre of the lake, you’re rewarded with one of the best views of soaring Snowdon, plus the hordes of crowds are non-existent. The sheltered waters make it one of the best SUP spots in Snowdonia. And if you stop on the banks for lunch, there’s a slate museum to explore as well as the Lone Tree to find - a famous natural landmark sought out by photographers far and wide.

Other places to paddleboard in Wales:

  • River Conwy
  • River Wye
  • Swansea Canal

Stand-up paddleboarding in Scotland

Stand-up paddleboarding in Scotland

TOP PICK: Loch Tay

Serene, secluded, and surrounded by dramatic landscapes, Scotland’s lochs are the ultimate SUP destination. There are hundreds of good places to paddleboard in the Highlands, but Loch Tay, Perthshire’s largest, is surely one of the most picturesque. Surrounded by towering mountains, the backdrop here is breathtaking. Launch from the pretty lakeside village of Killin, famous for its thundering Falls of Dochart, and begin by paddling along the gentle canal towards the loch. After passing beneath a few bridges, the glorious mountain-framed view unfolds before you.

Other places to paddleboard in Scotland:

  • Glencoe
  • Loch Laggan
  • River Quaich
  • Loch Lomond

SUP in Devon

Stand-up paddleboarding in Devon

TOP PICK: River Dart

The lower reaches of the River Dart in Devon make for a scenic and leisurely paddleboarding trip. Follow the meandering course of the river as it flows from Totnes to Dartmouth, passing bushy woodland and rolling green hills. Seals have been known to frolic in these waters, so keep your eyes peeled. At a large horseshoe bend in the river, you’ll pass Sharpham Vineyard, which has two landing areas so you can stop off for lunch at their popular café. The Paddle Shack in Dartmouth offers SUP lessons and excursions.

Other places to paddleboard in Devon:

  • Wimbleball Lake
  • Spitchwick
  • Sharrah Pool

Paddleboarding in the New Forest

Stand-up paddleboarding in the New Forest

TOP PICK: Beaulieu River

Beaulieu is a picturesque village in the heart of the New Forest with a tranquil river flowing peacefully to the Solent. The sheltered setting makes the river a good place for paddleboarding, though note that it’s privately owned so you’ll need to pay a small launch fee. Flanked by areas of special scientific interest, Beaulieu is a brilliant choice for nature lovers; look out for vibrant blooms in Exbury Gardens as you pass, as well as seabirds near Gull Island. The mouth of the river is at Buckler’s Hard, an 18th-century shipbuilding village with a fascinating maritime museum and a good pub for lunch.

Other places to paddleboard in the New Forest:

  • Hamble River
  • New Forest Water Park
  • Keyhaven River

Paddleboarding FAQs

SUP advice from an expert

New to paddleboarding and not sure where to begin? We’ve got you covered. Asking an expert is key to mastering any sport, so we called on keen SUPer Will Rogers, co-founder of SUPboarder Magazine, for his tips and advice on all things SUP.

With the right kit, some good balance and a few expert tips, it’s possible to get to your feet within the first 20 minutes on a paddleboard. According to Will: "Many people manage to avoid getting wet on their first go”.

However, “although SUP is simple, being on the water presents dangers and risks - wind, tide and water movement can all change quickly”.  He recommends taking a lesson with a qualified instructor to begin with in order to stay safe on the water and to learn key skills.

Generally, “wherever there’s water you can SUP”. If you’re paddleboarding on canals, lakes and rivers, you’re likely to need a licence – a membership with British Canoeing will give you access. Estuaries, however, are usually accessible without a permit.

Bear in mind that “ease of SUPing is hugely affected by the wind and weather, so when choosing your location, check the wind strength and direction to make sure it’s going to be suitable”. You can check information about each location using online tools such as GeoSUP.

All you need is a board and a paddle! When launching, you want to make sure the board’s fin is at the back and doesn’t touch the bottom – so wade out a bit if you’re starting at the shore. Begin on your knees and start paddling out. When you’re ready, rest the paddle on the board in front of you, put your feet where you were kneeling, find your balance by looking straight ahead, and off you go! Will advises watching a few video tutorials before you get started. 
  • Swim calmly to the side of board
  • Hold on to the board and catch your breath - there’s no rush 
  • Much like climbing out the swimming pool with no steps, kick with your legs underneath you to propel you up and push up with your arms from the board at the same time
  • Use the handle or other side of the board to help pull you on if needed 
  • Wearing a slimline buoyancy aid with fewer buckles on the front will make it easier to climb back on 
  • Thicker, inflatable SUPs might also make it harder as they float higher
  • If struggling, get someone else to hold the other side of your board whilst you climb on to prevent your board tipping over.
Warm clothes and sun protection are key. Be prepared to spend longer on the water than you anticipated, and consider whether you will be warm enough to paddle safely back to shore if you fall in. Be mindful of cold-water shock too, which can occur in water temperatures under 15 degrees Celsius – so not just in winter. Layering your clothing is a good idea because “you can get warm when paddling in colder conditions or colder in a breeze in warm conditions”.

Self-catering cottages with places to paddleboard nearby

Ready to see Britain by SUP? Make a holiday out of it and stay close to some of the best SUP spots up and down the country. Head on over to our collection of cottages with waterside views to start mapping out your SUP adventure.

Cottages with waterside views



Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.