Canoes along the shores of Coniston Water

There is no better way to explore the lakes of the Lake District than by boat, and if you are looking for something more adventurous than a traditional steamer ride, then canoeing might be for you.

A canoe is an open narrow boat that is manoeuvred through the use of paddles. Unlike kayaking that uses a double ended paddle, canoeing, also known as Canadian canoeing, uses a single ended paddle.

What Canoeing Involves

Canoeing takes a number of forms. In the Lake District, the most popular canoeing activity available is recreational canoeing where participants may take a gentle paddle around a lake or along a river. Some activity companies also offer white water canoeing, with boats specially designed to withstand the forces of choppy waters. Canoeing also has a sporting element with professionals competing in a variety of races from short sprints to long marathons.

What to Wear and Bring

The type of clothes that you should wear for canoeing very much depend on both the weather and the sort of activity you are planning to do. For instance, it’s unlikely that you will need a wetsuit for a gentle paddle around a lake, but you might need waterproofs if it is raining. In white water canoeing, you will certainly require a wetsuit, but it might be that your activity company provides one and it is best to check in advance. Non-swimmers will need buoyancy aids.

Ensure that you have enough refreshments to last you for your activity and a mobile phone to call for help if required.

Where to Canoe in the Lake District

There are three options for canoeing in the Lake District, which include bringing your own canoe to use on the lakes, hiring a canoe to take out for the day, and for the complete canoe novice, joining a guided canoe tour. Below we describe a bit more about each option and the best companies to look into for all of your canoeing escapades.

1. Bringing Your Own Canoe to the Lake District

If you have your own canoe, you can simply use it on one of the permitted lakes as outlined in this document from the Lake District National Park Authority.

2. Hiring Canoes for Personal Exploration

A number of locations around the Lake District have canoes available to hire for people experienced in canoeing who just want to take a canoe out to explore. These include:


The Lake District National Park Authority’s visitor centre on Windermere has a plethora of activities available, including canoe hire.


Glenridding Sailing Centre

As well as offering a range of courses, this centre located at the southern end of Ullswater has a range of boats available to hire.


Coniston Boating Centre

Operated by the Lake District National Park Authority as a non-profit making company, Coniston Boating Centre has a great selection of boats available to hire.


Derwent Water Marina

Accredited by the Royal Yachting Association, the marina offers professionally led courses and taster sessions, as well as having boats available for hire.


3. Guided Canoe Tours in the Lake District

However, for complete novices we would recommend you use an activity company to provide you with a guided session. There are a number of companies offering a range of canoeing experiences, some involving leisurely paddles, others with more thrilling white water canoeing.

West Lakes Adventures

Various canoeing sessions are available through West Lakes Adventures, including sessions on lakes and rivers, and expeditions.


River Deep Mountain High

Based at Coniston, River Deep Mountain High are able to offer an authentic “Swallows and Amazons” experience through their canoeing sessions.


Keswick Adventure Centre

Canoeing sessions are held on Derwentwater with tuition on basic skills and competitive games.


Mobile Adventure

Beginners are invited to canoe on Derwentwater or Thirlmere, whilst those with experience can test their skills on a white water course.


Keswick Canoe and Bushcraft

From half day sessions, to an overnight canoeing expedition, Keswick Canoe and Bushcraft will get you closer to the wilderness through their canoeing sessions.


Adventure North West

Adventure North West excitingly offers a Swallows and Amazon’s inspired adventure session where you can canoe to the famous 'Wild Cat Island' (Piel Island). This one is perfect for children, as they then get to explore the island and toast marshmallows / pop popcorn on a fire as an added bonus! The company also offers an array of other canoeing sessions in Coniston, allowing you to take part in games on the water.



Whether you're a beginner or an enthusiast, Adventure.Outside has a canoe trip for everyone with expert staff that can teach you everything you need to know and give you a fun day out. You'll have the opportunity to stop for an ice cream or coffee along your route and, for the more adventurous, you can go for a hot brew on one of the Lake's islands. There is also the opportunity to go 'Canoe Orienteering,' which will give you the opportunity to explore the lakes and teach you mapping skills. 

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