Holistic Highs | 23rd October 2023
What’s SUP? Seven of the best places to go paddle boarding in the UK
Sensational UK destinations for Stand Up Paddle boarding
Are you keen to have a go at Stand Up Paddle boarding but unsure of where to go and how to start?
Paddle boarding has surged in popularity over the past few years and shows no sign of going out of style. And the good news is you don’t have to jet off to dive in as there are many wonderful places to enjoy a spot of paddle boarding in the UK.
This watersport’s allure owes much to the fact it strikes a captivating balance between relaxation and adventure: you get to experience some of the thrill of surfing but with the serenity of kayaking, which also means it's easier! While accessibility is a major draw —it is a great option for all levels of fitness — the health benefits of paddle boarding are legion.
Its full-body engagement — you’ll be strengthening your core and those glutes— and the experience of moving through the water in natural settings, offer an unparalleled sense of mindfulness and escape, making it a perfect fit for those seeking both physical and mental rejuvenation.
Grab your SUP boards, we’ve picked seven of our favourite destinations for paddling in style…
1. Newquay, Cornwall
Newquay is the home of British surfing and, thanks to its incredible variety of beaches, headlands and scenic coastline, it’s also top of the list for those seeking beautiful places to paddle board.
And of all the prime stretches of sand, Fistral Beach, the UK’s biggest and most famous centre for surfing, now also attracts a steady stream of paddle boarding enthusiasts. Beginners can take advantage of calm waters in the bay, while more experienced paddlers can venture into the Atlantic swells for more exhilarating challenges. Here you’ll find excellent SUP paddle boarding tuition and wetsuits, SUP boards and life jackets for hire. One of the very best surf schools in Newquay, Fistral Beach Surf School offers lessons whether you want to ride the waves or explore the coastline.
When paddle boarding the conditions do need to be suitable. For Fistral, this means little or no surf alongside very little wind, and if you’re hiring or having a lesson, you’ll also get sound advice on whether conditions are conducive before you head off.
Where to stay: For access to the best watersports action in the UK, The Headland Hotel & Spa, situated on the Newquay seafront, is hard to beat. Here, you can hit the surf and also indulge in restorative treatments in the award-winning spa.
2. Dartmoor, Devon
While the Devon coast and Burgh Island provide some exciting opportunities for paddleboarding in the UK, Dartmoor has recently emerged as a hotspot, especially in the summer months when sporty tourists and local aficionados flock to Dartmoor National Park. Hike the distance in this area of outstanding natural beauty, and you’ll be rewarded with sparkling crystal clear waters surrounded by lush greenery.
The waters are pretty calm throughout Dartmoor, so even inexperienced paddlers can practice their skills and enjoy everything the National Park has to offer. Some of the most popular places to paddleboard in Dartmoor include Spitchwick, Hexworthy Bridge, Holne Bridge, Haytor Quarry and Drogo’s Wei.
Where to stay: The celebrated Bovey Castle — a five-star gem of a hotel is ideally situated in the rolling valleys of Dartmoor National Park. Fine dining, a luxury spa and a championship golf course deliver the wow factor.
3. Kew Bridge, London
The original home of SUP in the capital, Kew Bridge is the place for paddleboarding in London, providing an unexpected urban oasis. The serene waters of the Thames offer a unique perspective of the city's iconic landmarks and with its easy access and a growing community of enthusiasts, Kew Bridge has evolved into a popular hub.
Here you’ll find Active 360, the largest SUP provider on the tidal Thames, based under the arches of the historic bridge. Here, you can get paddleboarding tuition, learn how to use the Thames Tideway safely, and enjoy access to changing facilities and showers. The operator also offers opportunities to learn more about the river environment on SUP Natural History Tours..
Where to stay: PoB Hotels offers an unforgettable stay at five-star retreats The Hari, Belgravia, The Capital Hotel, Apartments & Townhouse, Knightsbridge, and The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences, Mayfair. All located in central London and ideal for guests to enjoy all that the capital has to offer, as well as a luxury hotel experience.
4. Ayrshire, Scotland
Stand up paddle boarding is a superb way to explore South West Scotland’s majestic lochs, coastline, wildlife, and tranquil scenery. And Ayrshire is a captivating destination, where rugged cliffs and pristine beaches converge to create a picturesque playground for water sports fans.
The expansive coastline offers varied routes for exploration by paddleboard that are suitable for both beginners and advanced paddlers, The best places to paddleboard in Ayrshire include Loch Doon, Bogton Loch and the River Doon, and you’ll find a good selection of operators offering lessons and SUP paddle boards for hire.
Where to stay: Glenapp Castle not only offers a superlative hotel stay experience but also a wealth of active adventures, including guided paddle boarding trips and tuition with friendly, expert instructors for an unforgettable Scottish escape.
5. Lake Keswick, Lake District
Lake Keswick, nestled within the breathtaking Lake District, beckons paddle boarders with its serene waters set against a backdrop of rolling hills and lush greenery. The calm waters of the lake provide an ideal setting for beginners to hone their skills, while experienced paddlers can embark on more challenging journeys, soaking in the splendour of one of England's most cherished natural landscapes.
Specialist operators such as Keswick Adventures offer introductory lessons and plenty of advice for keeping your balance and paddling correctly, as well as paddle boarding trips on the waterways of Keswick for individuals, families and groups.
Where to stay: Arguably the finest hotel near Keswick, Armathwaite Hall Hotel & Spa is a stunning 17th century country house surrounded by 400 acres of woodland and within easy reach of the watersports action.
6. River Avon, Worcestershire
When it comes to messing about on the water with a SUP board, Worcestershire is another winning choice. The glorious River Avon flows from Alveston weir above Stratford-upon-Avon, through Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire to where it joins the River Severn at Tewkesbury. The Worcestershire stretch offers numerous delightful spots for boarding action and lazy SUPing, including a lovely downstream paddle through the Vale of Evesham in rural Worcestershire, between the two market towns of Evesham and Pershore.
Leading paddle boarding operators in Worcestershire include the award-winning WitteringSUP, based on the River Avon at Arden Sailing Club in Defford. Here, you can enjoy a range of experiences, such as private 1:1 SUP coaching, group lessons and join a SUP River Safari for beginners.
Where to stay: The Elms Hotel & Spa, a beautiful manor house nestled in a charming countryside idyll, offers the perfect luxury boutique hotel experience with fine dining and spa treats galore.
7. Bala, Wales
Bala, located in the heart of Wales, boasts the stunning Llyn Tegid, or Bala Lake, which serves as an inviting playground for paddle boarding enthusiasts. The lake's tranquil expanse offers a perfect setting for beginners and families, with gentle waters that facilitate learning and leisurely exploration. The surrounding Snowdonia National Park provides a breathtaking backdrop, creating an atmosphere of pure escapism.
Expert tuition, taster sessions and great paddle boarding adventures on the lake are provided by specialist operator, Bala Watersports, and all the kit you need is also available for hire.
Where to stay: The majestic Palé Hall Hotel, a Grade 11 listed Victorian country house situated on the fringes of Snowdonia National Park with gardens rolling down to the banks of the River Dee, is the ultimate five-star abode.