Kayaking, Canoeing & Rafting

White Water Rafting In The UK | Top Spots & Best Places to Learn

A guide to the best white water rafting spots in the UK

White water rafting in the UK gives you the chance to try out some awesome rapids right on your doorstep. While flying to exotic locations for white water rafting holidays is definitely a blast, there are so many great rivers and white water centers in the UK that it would be a crime to miss them.

UK white water rafting has it all including Olympic level white water parks, dam fed waterways and wild rivers where you can enjoy stunning scenery and rub shoulders with the local wildlife.

The Linn of Tummel, River Tummel – Photo:

Whether you’re a seasoned rafter or dipping your paddle in the water for the first time the UK has a grade of rapid to suit you, from chilled out 1s and 2s all the way through to edge of your seat class 5 white water. So if you’re looking for some local rapids, check out our guide and get ready to go white water rafting in the UK.

Man Made Sites

Lee Valley White Water Centre – Photo:

While they don’t have the wilderness or mystery of a natural river, man made white water centres are a phenomenal resource for rafters allowing them to go white water rafting in the UK whatever the weather. White water centres give you a guaranteed water flow, almost zero walk in and walk out time, supervised courses if you need a rescue and best of all hot showers and a fresh cuppa within minutes of getting out of the boat. They’re a great place to learn rafting for the first time, have a bit of a play or perfect your technique and you can get stuck in without having to drive into the middle of nowhere.

There are several top white water centres in the UK. Probably the most famous is Lee Valley the £31m venue that was built for the 2012 Olympics. Sitting just outside London in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire this centre offers a 300m course with plenty of cool features and a giant deck area to chill out on after a hard day’s rafting.

Cardiff International White Water – Photo:

I you want to go white water rafting in Wales, check out Cardiff International White Water, sat at the southern end of the city’s bay area. There’s 250m of white water fun to be had here and it’s an easy bus or train ride from Cardiff city centre.

Other centres to look out for include the UK’s first artificial white water course the Nene White Water Centre in Northampton and the Tees Barrage International White water Centre in Stockton on Tees.

Dam Fed Rivers

White water rafting on the Tryweryn river – Photo: geograph.

Bridging the gap between wild rivers and white water centres are dam fed rivers. These are naturally formed rivers that are given a boost by water released from nearby dams which create enough flow for white water sports to take place. Without dam feeding some of these rivers would be impossible to raft while dam feeding is used to supplement low water flow in others during drier months.

Dam releases are regularly scheduled, making it possible to pick the days that are best to go rafting. You can usually find a list of release dates for your local area online like this handy guide from the Scottish Canoe Association. There are rivers like this across the country which make it possible to go white water rafting in the UK almost all year round.

White water rafting on the Tryweryn – Photo: Phil Parsons

The Welsh National White Water Centre is one of the top dam fed sites in the UK. Based on the Tryweryn river in Snowdonia National Park, the centre has the best of both worlds, a stunning natural setting and reliable white water throughout the summer. Fed by the Llyn Celyn reservoir, rafters can enjoy water flows up to 12 cubic meters per second, creating grade 4 rapids across the managed river bed.

Heading north the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland plays host to some of the best dam fed white water rafting in the UK. Within the park the river Findhorn has something for everyone with class 2 to 5 rapids set in rugged Scottish scenery. Just outside the park the river Garry offers playful grade 3-4 rapids with big bouncy waves and plenty of surfing opportunities, eventually running into the more intense river Tummel.

Natural Rivers

The Blackwater River, Northern Ireland – Photo:

If you’re going white water rafting in the UK then you’ve got to check out the unspoiled natural rivers that criss cross the kingdom. These waterways offer up a challenge just as nature intended, no pumps, no dam feeding, just you and the river.

If you’re just getting started with rafting then the Blackwater in Northern Ireland is a great place to begin. Dividing counties Tyrone and Monaghan, this gentle class 2 river forms part of the border between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, offering broad, wide bends with some fun white water thrown into the mix.

White water rafting in Scotland is the next logical step up when you’re ready to progress. Scotland’s longest river, the 117-mile long Tay offers plenty of opportunity for rafters. This is a great spot to go for longer white water raft tours and the river’s centre piece, the popular Grand Tully Rapids, will raise your game up to class 3.

You can find some great rafting on the Welsh River Wye too, which has some very chilled and scenic sections but also comes with class 4 rapids and up to 8ft standing waves.

Big Thrills

Eas Urchaidh waterfall on the River Orchy – Photo:

If what you really want from white water rafting in the UK is a challenge then look no further than Scotland’s river Orchy. Flowing fairly low in the summer and with no dam feeding, it won’t be until winter and early spring that you can take on the Orchy, but it’s worth the wait. Boasting some of the toughest rapids in the UK, including the 6m high Falls of Orchy, this is class 5 white water that will give you a true rafting rush.

If you want some big summer thrills then rafting the Tummel in Scotland’s Cairngorms Naional Park is sure to please. Fed by releases from the Clunie Dam the Tummel season runs from June through to September, letting you have fun in the sun on its grade 4 to 5 white water. Make sure you don’t miss out on the Linn of Tummel, an 18ft two tier waterfall that ranks among the top spots for white water rafting in the UK.

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