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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.