Kayaking in Somerset
Somerset has many fantastic and enjoyable Kayaking opportunities albeit probably lesser known than the nearby counties of Devon and Cornwall, but quality paddling options are available.
From tackling the tough tidal currents of the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel to the tranquillity of kayaking on some of the lesser known rivers such as the River Tone, Somerset has much to offer the enthusiastic paddler. Kayaking in Somerset whether it be on one of the many rivers or on the sea offers you a distinct opportunity to view the county from a completely different vantage point.
Here we’ve outlined some of our top picks for Kayaking Somerset including details on where to hire kayaks and source kayak experiences in Somerset (if you don’t have your own). We also include some maps, routes and info links all of which should ensure you have a well organised and enjoyable kayaking experience in Somerset county.
As always, when planning an excursion to Kayak anywhere in the UK, please ensure you’ve checked the law regarding river licensing for pleasure craft, and that you’re well aware of any launch fees when kayaking on some of the UK’s lakes and on any private property waterways.
Kayaking Somerset Rivers
With around 50 rivers criss-crossing Somerset finding some river paddling options shouldn’t present a problem. Some of the rivers are little more than tiny streams but many are navigable and here we list out top picks for river kayaking in the cider county..
Kayaking The River Brue
The River Brue is a slow running 31 mile long river and whilst it’s ideal for beginners it offers plenty of enjoyment in terms of wildlife, history and scenery.
The river has been navigable since pre-historic times and has been a vital artery for trade since the Iron-Age. In World War 2, the River Brue was part of the GHQ Line which was vital to Britain’s defences against possible invasion from Nazi Germany. You can physically feel the history as you slowly paddle past some of the gunnery pillboxes dotted along the banks of the Brue.
The section west of Glastonbury is pretty much all paddle friendly with the part of the river that lies up-stream east of Glastonbury presenting far more challenges in terms of weirs, water depth and blockages such as weed, reeds and the like.
Expect to see eels, birds of all kinds, snakes, lizards, water vole and even otters!
Kayak Hire on The River Brue
The most well-known of the River Brue operator for Kayak Hire is probably the folks at Wall Eden Adventure located just outside of East Huntspill.
Kayaking The River Tone
The River Tone is around 21 miles in length and its watery heritage boasts a farming and industrial past.
Dammed at its source as it exits the Exmoor National Park for the formation of the Clatworthy Reservoir, the River Tone flows easterly through Taunton to its eventual arrival at the River Parrett near Burrowbridge.
The section of river East of Taunton is the easiest navigable part for kayakers drifting through sprawling countryside and farmland.
Expect to see ancient stone bridges, mills, waterwheels and aqueducts. And again, along with the River Brue, there seems to be a healthy population of otter in the River Tone which is always a positive on any of the UK’s waterways!
Kayak Hire on The River Tone
Operating out of Taunton’s purpose-built Centre for Outdoor Activity & Community Hub (COACH) is Channel Adventure where you’ll find kayak hire along with rental canoes or paddleboards.
Kayaking The River Yeo
The River Yeo is about 28 miles in length but much is actually tough to navigate due to water levels and reeds, water weed etc. However, the tranquil stretch of water from Ilchester to where the River Yeo joins the River Parrett in North Somerset can be a very enjoyable stretch of water to whittle away a day.
You can extend the length of the kayak journey if you wish, by continuing on the River Parrett all the way to the Tutshill Sluice where it meets the Bristol Channel.
Kayak Hire on The River Yeo
Your best bet for hire is probably the Langport Boat Hire Company which is actually on the River Parrett but only a mile or so from the end of the River Yeo. Kayaks, canoes, pedalos, and paddleboards are available from their Langport hire facility.
Well known canoe paddler Andy Ballard has documented traversing some of the River Yeo in this awesome short clip from Forest Films. Whilst Andy is obviously in a canoe and not a kayak you can get a real sense of this northern part of the River Yeo to it’s confluence and beyond.
Kayaking The River East Lyn
The East Lyn River is definitely NOT for the faint hearted and one of the best waterways to provide challenging white water grades. The river itself rises in Somerset in the Exmoor but actually meets the ocean at Lynmouth which is just over the border in Devon.
One of Britain’s best rivers for white water, this is definitely an exciting waterway for advanced paddlers and whilst quite shallow in places can be navigable for many days after heavy rain. Obviously, the winter months are the best time to attempt the grades 3-5 stretches as the water levels are far more consistent in the colder months.
Kayak Hire on The River East Lyn
If you’re gutsy enough to attempt this waterway then it’s highly likely that you’ll have your own equipment. However, if you’d like to learn to be competent in white water the guys at Dovey Coaching will certainly be able to help you out and you can check them out on their website.
Check out the challenging drops on the East Lyn River as captured by Hugh Graham below!
Kayaking Somerset Canals
Much of Somerset’s canals now lie derelict having been abandoned long in the past for varied reasons from bankruptcy to bad planning. There are still a few places to launch however and even a couple of the derelict canals, after a bit of rain, can provide an afternoons paddling enjoyment.
Kayaking the Bridgewater and Taunton Canal
Whilst only 14.5 miles in length the Bridgewater and Taunton Canal passes through the very diverse lowland areas of Somerset. Much of the canal’s length has been designated by Natural England as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) most likely because of its populations of rare birds and plants so there is plenty to see when paddling.
Also part of the GHQ Line the canal passes by World War 2 pillboxes, tank traps, and fortifications designed to restrict Hitler’s movements in the case of a UK invasion.
There are only 7 locks to navigate should you kayak the entire stretch of the canal
Kayak Hire on the Bridgewater and Taunton Canal
The friendly people at the family-run Somerset Boat Centre – which is almost smack bang in the middle of the canal just outside of the town on North Newton – offer kayak, canoe and paddle board hire along with motorboats and narrowboats.
Kayaking Somerset Lakes
Surprisingly, there are actually very few lakes in Somerset with most being man-made. Also surprisingly, many permit fishing and swimming but not kayaking. Here is our take on the best lakes in Somerset to Kayak.
Kayaking Wimbleball Lake
Somerset’s Wimbleball Lake on the South Eastern fringe of the Exmoor National Park offers the perfect setting for total beginners to learn how to kayak with their Have A Go Kayaking courses that are run regularly throughout the season (April to October).
At the time of writing, launching your own kayak on Wimbleball costs £8 which includes you parking fee but you must also have your own insurance to paddle the lake.
You are usually requested to stay within site of the Activity Centre’s Hire and Launch point hut (operated by South West Lakes), when self-launching on Wimbelball but with a 9km circumference and a length of 4kms there is plenty of water to explore so for any experienced paddler….well let’s just leave it at that shall we!
Wimbelball is not just for kayakers as with an adventure playground, a café, an archery range, a high rope course and more, this Somerset Lake has proven to be a very popular family destination. Even dogs are permitted on kayaks believe it or not, although ironically, they are not allowed to enter the water!
Kayak Hire on Wimbleball Lake
Anything to do with hiring of kayaks or the launching of kayaks is administered by South West Lakes via the activity centre and its best to pre-book everything just to be sure you don’t miss out.
Kayaking Cheddar Reservoir
Only recently (2017) were paddlers given permission to Kayak on the Bristol Water managed Cheddar Reservoir, however, there is a catch! To kayak on the lake you have to be a member of the Bristol Corinthian Yacht Club. The good news is as this is a members club operated by members for members there isn’t actually a fee to become a member so just go right ahead and apply here.
Again, much like Wimbleball, this piece of paddling water is better suited to families as with its proximity to the town of Cheddar the entire area is a bit of a tourist magnet truth be told.
Nevertheless there is plenty to see in terms of wildlife when kayaking around Cheddar Reservoir and you are likely to spot eels, pike, roach, perch and more in the waters as well as an abundance of bird life on and above the water.
Kayak Hire on Cheddar Reservoir
All water sport activity on Cheddar is managed by Cheddar Watersports which is administered by the Bristol Corinthian Yacht Club. However, they do not hire kayaks and only have paddleboards available so if you are interested in kayaking Cheddar you’ll need to have hired the equipment elsewhere or bring your own equipment.
Sea Kayaking Somerset
As the coastline of Somerset runs along the Bristol Channel it has an impressive tidal range so kayaking on the sea should not be attempted alone as the water can be incredibly dangerous at the wrong time of day especially for beginners. Safety 101 dictates that you should have DEFINITLY checked out and had a thorough understanding of the tides and weather conditions before you attempt sea kayaking in Somerset.
The RNLI has some of the best information available for ensuring you prepare adequately for any paddling excursion on the sea so check out their Kayaking and Canoeing Page now.
Kayaking Porlock Weir
The small settlement of Porlock Weir is a great starting point from which to explore the sea in north Somerset.
The dramatic coastline of the Exmoor National Park is a fantastic paddling backdrop with much of this coastline inaccessible by foot. Thus, sea kayaking can open up a whole world of brilliant paddling options with some amazing views that few people ever get to see. You’ll sight the highest sea cliffs in England, hidden golden sandy beaches, caves and more!
The developing saltmarsh in Porlock Bay is home to many different bird species and as the waterways in the marsh can be narrow getting up close and personal with some of them is mandatory.
Kayak Hire at Porlock Weir
Without a doubt, the experts in this area are the awesome team who operate Exmoor Adventures. They not only hire out kayaks, paddleboards and canoes but they have a number of courses, training, and tours to suit all budgets and kayak skill levels.
Burnham-On-Sea stands at the mouth of the River Parrett so offers paddling options on the river, on the Parrett Estuary and sea kayaking about Bridgewater Bay right on the Bristol Channel. Explore the beach and paddle around the historic pier.
Several small rivers flow into Bridgewater Bay forming one of the largest marine nature reserves in the South West – the Bridgewater Bay National Nature Reserve.
But beware, as with a tidal range of 15 metres, low tide can present a 2.5 mile wide mud flat which can be a dangerous place to get stuck. The Burnham Area Coastguard Rescue Team does a fabulous job in this area and has been responsible for a number of rescues of kayakers and paddle boarders stuck in the mud on the flats near Burnham-On-Sea. So again folks, please make sure you have thoroughly researched the tides in the area before thinking about kayaking here.
Where to Kayak in Somerset
There are, of course, many more places to Kayak in Somerset than these few destinations we’ve listed in our blog.
Maybe you’ve enjoyed some time paddling the Somerset Levels during flooding, or perhaps you have some insights to decent kayaking options around Bath or Glastonbury, so, if you do have a favourite Somerset kayaking destination – then we’d love to hear from you.
Happy paddling everyone!