Places to Paddle in the North West

Places to Paddle in the North West

The North West of England is home to some truly unique coastlines and stunning lakes. With so many places to paddle in the North West, we have pulled together just a couple of our highlights. With coastlines, the Lake District, Cumbria, and a few cities too, there is a huge amount of water in this area. So let’s get into it and see what the North West of England has to offer!

St. Bees Head, Cumbria

Carved from sandstone, the cliffs around St Bees Head boast a brilliant red colour. This coastline is abundant with places to explore, wildlife to see, and relics of the past to hunt down. With easy access to the sea from the seafront, the possibilities for adventure are endless.

The sandstone cliffs are home to England’s only colony of black guillemots, as well as a number of puffins. This alone makes St Bees head a place to visit, and paddling on the sea will give you a great vantage point. Years of sea water on the soft sandstone have shaped the cliffs into the sights they are today. One thing you wouldn’t expect to see while paddling on the sea is a waterfall, but along these cliffs you will be able to spot one nestled into a mossy cleft. 

Along the coastline you can spot many historic relics. Atop the cliffs the remains of Saltom Pit can be seen. Opened in 1729, it was a long standing coal mine that still marks the landscape. You may also spot the Haig Pit buildings, Cumbria’s last working deep coal mine that runs out underneath the seawater. Closed in 1986, the buildings are now open as a coal mining museum. 

As you find places to land and explore, you will notice how the soft sandstone has had many rockpools carved out. These are now home to a multitude of wildlife, from honeycomb worms to colourful plants. 

One of the most diverse coastlines in the area, boasting a wide range of views, this is a truly unique place to paddle. As always when paddling at sea, make sure you follow all the safety advice, check the weather, and let people know where you are heading out to. But most importantly, enjoy!

Do I need a waterways licence?

No. You do not need a licence to paddle here. As the water is coastal, it is open for all to use.

st bees head

Derwentwater , Lake District

Based in the Lake District, Derwentwater is Keswick’s local lake so prides itself in many accessible and scenic walking and paddling. If you are a keen Star Wars fan, then you may even recognise the scenery as the planet Takodana from the Force Awakens. Parking at the Lakeside Car Park gives easy access to the lake via the Keswick Launch office. You may have to speak to the office before launching. Alternatively there is a great deal of open access shoreline around the lake that you can access it from. For more information check out this map of the lake from the Lake District National Park.

Once on the lake, you will see a number of islands dotted around, four larger and nine smaller. A private island that can only be admired from the water, and the largest one on the lake, is the Derwent Isle. However, if you are experienced enough to venture out to the middle of the lake you will come across St Herbert’s Island. Named after a hermit priest that inhabited the island who died in 687 AD, its shores are open for the public to land on and explore. The sandy beaches make it a lovely location for a picnic. 

An abundance of campsites, boat hire, cafes, and beaches surrounding the lake make it perfect for a family day on the water. The footpaths that run around the lake also make it ideal for a joint adventure with those not too keen to water.

Do I need a waterways licence?

No. You do not need a waterways licence to paddle on the Derwentwater. 

derwentwater lake summer

Royal Albert Dock & Queens Dock, Liverpool

Situated in a historical setting, the Liverpool docks are are some of the most recognisable in the country. Since 1846, the Royal Albert Dock has been in use for loading and unloading ships that would come in from the River Mersey. Nowadays, the dock is more accustomed to boats of leisure and groups partaking in watersports. 

The development of the old warehouses around the edge of the waters has transformed the docks into the top multi-use tourist attraction outside of london. All five of the old warehouse buildings are Grade 1 listed, making for a beautiful environment to be paddling in. You can find a number of companies conducting kayak and SUP tours of the Royal Albert Dock and Queens Dock, taking full advantage of the water there. 

The warehouses provide great shelter for the water, making it calm and still. This makes for a gentle paddle around the docks. Perfect for paddleboards, kayaks and canoes, this area of water is perfect for an afternoon or morning’s adventure. 

Do I need a waterways licence to paddle the docks?

Yes. You need a licence to paddle on the docks. You can get one as part of a British Canoeing membership.

liverpool docks

Bridgewater Canal

As the first canal in Britain to be built without an existing waterway, the Bridgewater Canal has a special place in history. Stretching for 65km, the canal runs from Runcorn to Leigh and includes the iconic Barton Swing Aqueduct. 

One of the more tranquil paddle trails to explore on this canal is one from Worsley to Manchester. Beginning in a small picturesque village of Worsley, you immediately see the most pictured building in Greater Manchester. The black and white building is called the Packet House, and it is where Queen Victoria took a short canal trip in 1861. However, you may want to save some space on your camera. Just around the corner is the country’s only lighthouse on a canal. 

This canal trip will take you past many historic landmarks that show some of the industrial past of the area. As you come towards Manchester you will paddle intoTrafford park. Here is where the old Barton Power Station used to be, a coal fired plant built in 1923. It made use of the canal system, having coal delivered directly from the water. 

Your next point of interest is The Trafford Centre, the UK’s largest shopping centre. In this area Kelloggs also has its factory, so on the right day you can smell cornflakes being made. Here the canal splits into two, one way taking you to the Cheshire ring, the other straight towards Manchester. This is the route you will take on this paddle trail. 

You will pass past the Old Trafford football stadium, home of Manchester United. From the water you will get an unforgettable view of the stadium. This is only half a mile down the canal from the BBC’s media city, where if you are lucky you might be able to spot a celebrity or two at work. Your paddle finishes at the YHA at Castlefields, just a mile further down the road. Ending in the city centre, this is a paddle of contrasts and historic landmarks. Definitely worth the adventure.

Do I need a waterways licence to paddle on the Bridgewater Canal?

Yes. You will need a licence to paddle on the Bridgewater Canal.

barton swing aqueduct