Gliding across the still, glistening water as the sun sparkles across the gentle ripples of each stroke, there’s nothing quite as serene, tranquil or quietly epic as paddleboarding. It’s just you, the board and a paddle, exploring some of the most untouched places in the most peaceful way possible, smoothly moving across the deep blue water with each strong pull -- and there’s never been a better time to take off on a road trip and explore somewhere new with your SUP.
From calm waters to serious surf breaks, paddleboarding lets you take the adventure anywhere you want to go: freshwater lakes and inner-city rivers, saltwater coastlines and even the open ocean. But with so many options on the menu, knowing where to point your paddleboard can be the tough part.
So to help you plan your next SUP trip, here are our favourite off-shore places to explore, from gentle pub-to-pub journeys to wet n’ wild adventures.
Looking east across Tongue Bay in the far north reaches of Scotland is the almost-undiscovered hamlet of Talmine, and in the waters beyond it lie the deserted shores of Rabbit Islands. This is paddleboarding heaven. Made up of three small islands, each boasting pristine white sands and the most postcard-perfect picnic spot. What’s more, it’s on these islands that Bonnie Prince Charles was rumoured to have lost The Hazard in 1745, a sailing ship loaded with gold for the Prince. But it’s not just the islands off Tongue Bay that are worth exploring because the rest of this Highland coast is pockmarked with five hundred miles of open water fun. From huge lochs to beautiful beaches, rambling rivers to hidden coves -- this is a trip worth planning.
At 7½ miles long and 70 metres deep, Ullswater is the second-largest lake in the Lake District and the ultimate playground for paddleboarders. Sitting beneath the impressive Helvellyn Mountain between Pooley Bridge and Glenridding, this deep valley was carved out by a long-extinct glacier and is flanked by some of the most breath-stealing sights, from moor-covered fells to the razor ridges of Cumbria's mountains. But the best part of it all is the southwesterly wind that funnells down the lake, creating easy-to-ride waves around 4ft high to roll across the surface, making it the ideal spot for downwinders.
Cornwall isn’t short of epic paddleboarding spots, but head to the south coast where the seas are dancing with wildlife and you’ll find a paddleboarding paradise by the name of Mount’s Bay, glistening in the warm sun just off Marazion Beach. Paddling across these glass-clear waters is like nowhere else in the UK. Look up and you’re met with an idyllic view of St Michael’s Mount piercing the horizon, while below you is a circus of sealife, from jellyfish to starfish to the occasional seal breaking through the waves. But they’re not the only wild things you might sea because, head further out and you might catch a glimpse of something a little more startling, especially in the late-summer months when dolphins and basking sharks are known to flash their fins.
Wales is a landscape made from a thousand pinch-yourself sights, and the Mawddach Estuary is one of the most striking of them all. Flanked by forested hillsides, wild wetlands and the mighty mountains of southern Snowdonia, this is a paddleboarding trip you’ll want to check off, not least because you can start and end your dark-water adventure at different pubs. Putting paddle to water at high tide, start your journey at the George III pub in Penmaenpool and then ride the river until you reach The Last Inn at Barmouth, where the river finally spills into the sea. So pack your bags, gather your mates and enjoy this memory-making pub crawl like no other.
Scotland has always been known for its wild landscapes, and they don’t get any more epic than the Isle of Skye. From jagged mountains and glistening lochs to velvet moors and nerve-rattling sea cliffs, the ‘cloud island’ has long been the ultimate destination for an adventure. Yet, for paddleboarders, Loch Harport is the pinnacle. Straddled by the mist-covered headlands of the Cuillin mountains, this loch is a proper wilderness escape and a must-visit for SUP enthusiasts, the snow-capped peaks reflecting in the still dark waters below you. And when you’re done exploring by paddle, you can warm up with a snifter of malt whisky at the Talisker Distillery on the shoreline.
The Pembrokeshire coastline is exquisite. Everywhere you explore along this dramatic stretch is loaded with breath-snatching views. Limestone cliffs, sandy bays, hidden caves and sparkling waters. That’s what makes it the perfect playground for paddleboarders, especially the sheltered region between Stackpole Quay and Barafundle Beach. In short, this place is pinch-yourself scenic and you’ll get to paddle beneath the towering cliffs and explore centuries-old caves. But head further out into the open water and you’ll find yourself paddling amongst porpoises, dolphins and basking sharks -- memories that will never fade.
This place is one of those magnificent secret spots that we were reluctant to share, but everyone should have the chance to explore the labyrinth of creeks around Burnham Overy Staithe, especially at sunset. Simply park your car on the water’s edge, inflate your board and then wind your way through the saltmarsh maze, the flat water reflecting the deep red watercolours of the sky, stopping to pick fresh samphire as you paddle past tiny islands, wooden sailboats and millionaire’s houses. And if you time the tides right, you can lay down on your board and stare up at the stars as the tide carries you back to the start.
Connected to the open sea by The Narrows, a 700 metre-wide strait, Strangford Lough is the UK’s largest inlet, contoured with channel mazes and fringed by more than seventy humpbacked islands. And it’s these half-drowned knolls of boulder clay that make this such an epic place to explore by SUP. From wiggling in and out of the heaped ice-age boulders to making your way to the Salt Island Bothy to riding the six-mile downwinder between Greyabbey and Ards, this is a place to pop on your paddleboarding bucket list.
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