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May 04, 2022 6 min read

Paddle Boarding the Peak District

The Peak District is an upland area in Northern England that forms the southern end of the Pennines and spans mostly across Derbyshire, as well as extending into five other counties. 

The Peak District became the first national park of England and Wales in 1951 and sees millions of visitors flock to witness the incredible landscapes each and every year. The district is made up of the Dark Peak, a series of high gritstone moorlands, and the White Peak, a limestone plateau with distinctive white-grey colored rocks.

The valleys and gorges of the Peak District are also home to waterways that are perfect for paddle boarding, so if you’re in need of a new UK paddle boarding destination, grab your SUP and let’s get into the best places to paddle board in the Peak District. 

Cromford Canal

People with their dogs near cromford canal

Cromford Canal lies in the Derwent Valley Mills and was originally built in 1794 as a waterway to carry coal and limestone to and from the area’s iron industry. 

The canal stretches over 14.5 miles, with the Southern end being a local nature reserve that is a refuge for threatened and declining species, like grass snakes and water vole. 

Cromford Canal is a popular British canoeing destination, but due to the nature reserve, limited permits are available, and the number of canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards are strictly controlled. 

Numerous car parks can be found along the canal and once you’ve finished your paddle for the day, the picturesque scenery makes an incredible leisurely stroll and picnic stop. 

Dragonflies, canal-side cottages, bridges, and tunnels can be found and seen along the canal, so you truly can unwind and take in the beautiful British countryside, all from the comfort of your SUP. 

River Derwent

concrete houses near derwent river

The River Derwent is the largest river in the Peak District and flows for over 50 miles throughout the county of Derbyshire before joining the River Trent just south of Derby. 

The Derwent flows into three large reservoirs that were built in the early 20th century to aid in the demand for water for the cities of Nottingham, Sheffield, Leicester, and Derby. The Howden and Derwent Reservoirs were built before 1916 and later were joined by the largest of the three, LadyBower Reservoir in 1935. 

As the river flows, the landscape drastically changes and you can expect to paddle through waters surrounded by limestone, wooded areas, and high cliffs. Bridges, mills, and an abundance of wildlife can also be found along the river, providing you with the perfect paddling scenery. 

The river supplies different levels of water conditions and you can expect to find water grades suited to everyone. The seven-mile stretch from Bamford to Calver provides calm waters with a slight difficulty increase towards the end of the run. 

Darley Dale to Matlock Stretch and the Slalom Course is suitable for white water paddlers who want to practice their paddling skills on slightly more intense rapids. The final sections of the river occasionally see some rapids but are mainly calm and slow-flowing.

Visitor centers, car parks, cafes, and toilets can be found along the River Derwent and its country parks. 

Carsington Water

Control tower reflections at carsington water

Carsington Water is a fantastic UK destination for a large selection of outdoor activities. 

Cycling, walking, fishing, watersports, and horse riding are regularly enjoyed at the waters between Wirksworth and Kniveton, with plenty of toilets, shops, and outdoor areas surrounding the reservoir. 

The Carsington Water reservoir was built in 1980 and is the ninth-largest reservoir in the UK as it is able to hold up to 7,800 million gallons of water. 

Water sports companies around the reservoir offer kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding classes, all of which come with an instructor and equipment rental. If you prefer to use your own gear, you can pay a small launch fee and set off next to the visitors' center. 

Tittesworth Reservoir

autumn trees near tittesworth reservoir

Tittesworth Reservoir in Staffordshire is on the edge of the Peak District National Park and is another fantastic place to take your SUP and enjoy everything that the English countryside has to offer. 

The reservoir was constructed in 1858 and pumps 28 million liters of water a day to homes and businesses in the area while also acting as a storage tank for the water of winter floods. 

Bird watching is extremely popular around Tittesworth and privately owned water sports companies provide sailing, kayaking, raft building, and of course, paddle boarding lessons. 

If you want to take your own SUP, a small launching fee is required at Tittesworth, with parking locations dotted around the area. 

Peak Forest Canal

Peak forest canal near a bridge

The Peak Forest Canal has 15 miles of scenic calm waters that are a haven for the paddling community because of its four launch points and car parks located along the water’s edge. 

The canal was originally built as a transport system for lime and gritstone in 1800 and can now, with the use of a paddling license, be paddled down for hours, starting from Lockside, Marple all the way to the canal basin. 

Two low bridges, and swing bridges, can be found along the canal, as well as a large variety of flower species. 

LadyBower Reservoir

LadyBower reservoir peak district uk

LadyBower reservoir is the largest reservoir formed off the River Derwent and was completed in 1943 to help with the demand for water in the industrial towns of the Peak District. 

After paying a tariff to the LadyBower Fishery, SUP anglers can enjoy fishing for rainbow trout and brown trout from the edge of the water or from their paddle boards. 

If you’d like to get into SUP fishing, check out our How to Fish From a Paddle Board: A Beginners Guide.

Many companies provide paddling classes around the reservoir, but you can also take your own SUP and paddle to your heart’s content. The beautiful scenic steep hills and wildlife are best observed from the water, so grab your SUP and get going!

Tips for Paddling in the UK

The UK is known for its unpredictable weather and it’s important to start your paddle boarding trip off well equipped. Here are some top tips to paddle boarding in the UK:

  • Dress appropriately - Rain or shine, ensure you’re wearing adequate clothing for the expected weather conditions. As the UK weather can change fairly quickly, packing an extra coat or a bottle of sunscreen is a great idea to keep you prepared for all weather conditions. 
  • Plan your route - No matter where you paddle, it is important to plan your route and inform someone of this route before you head out. 
  • Check the weather forecast - As we mentioned before, the weather is unpredictable, but you should always check the weather forecast before heading out to give you a rough idea of the conditions you’ll be paddling in. 
  • Practice paddling in shallow waters - If you’re new to paddle boarding, it’s a good idea to get the hang of the sport in calm shallow waters before tackling more intense water.
  • Wear a PFD - Wearing a life jacket can save your life in an emergency.  
  • Check if you need a license - Some UK rivers and waterways require a license to paddle on, so check the water and purchase the required license before you start paddling. 
  • Arrive early - Especially in the summertime, the waters in the UK see a huge increase of visitors, and arriving early can give you an extra hour or two of peace and quiet before the chaos begins. 

Interactive Map

FAQ’S

🏆 Can I paddle on LadyBower Reservoir?

Yes! You can paddle board on the LadyBower Reservoir either through one of the privately owned water sports companies or with your own personal SUP. 


👍 Can you take your own paddle board to Carsington Water?

You can take your own paddle board to Carsington Water, but there is a small launch fee required. 


🏝️ Can I paddle board on the River Derwent?

The River Derwent is a haven for paddle boarders as the water conditions vary from calm flat waters to white water in certain sections. 13 launch sites can be found dotted along the river with 6 public paddling routes. 


❓ Can I launch a paddle board anywhere in the UK?

Certain waterways require a paddling license to paddle on, so it’s extremely important to research the area you’re wanting to paddle in before heading out.

Megan Bryant
Megan Bryant

Based in Bali, her favorite SUP spot is the GILI Islands themselves. Travel is another passion of hers - she dreams to see the entire world one day.


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