Canoeing on the Wye

Eli Bishop By Eli Bishop

With the summer holidays well underway our thoughts are turning to how we can fill them with new and exciting activities! #GetOutside Champion, Eli Bishop, gives her tips on how to have the best canoeing adventures on the River Wye.

The River Wye

Living in the Wye Valley I feel very much part of the river which wends its way from its source up on Plynlimon in mid Wales to the Severn Estuary in Chepstow some 251 m kilometres away.

For much of its length the river forms part of the border between England and Wales but more importantly the river has rights of access from Glasbury to Chepstow which makes it the most popular destination for people who fancy pootling about on the river in a canoe…

My earliest memories involve messing about on and in water. It is central to so many happy times and when I bore my kids with old family photos they all revolve around water. Be it the sea, rivers, lakes or streams.

I was born deaf and had to have a series of operations as a young child so I wasn’t able to learn to swim until I was 6, so until then I had to sit on the side-lines and watch everyone else having fun. Suffice to say, as soon as I could swim (not very well) I was in there, with bells on.

As a family we had a mirror dinghy which lived in a yard by Bristol Docks. She was a beauty called Miss Piggy and my Dad would take my brother and I sailing every weekend.

Then, when I was 10 years old my brother moved in to Scouts (in those days girls weren’t allowed) and discovered kayaking. My Dad being my Dad (generally awesome) found a second hand, big green fibre glass kayak second hand and Kermit the Kayak was born.

Preparing before you paddle

Kermit the Kayak was magic, despite the fibre glass rash on the legs, the lack of foot rests, the unbelievably uncomfortable seat (it was more like an upside down dustbin lid), I was hooked.

I fell in love with that feeling of being close to the water, of having to read its path and work with it to get a safe course down a river. And now, I am a British Canoeing Coach and Leader and love taking people out on the river.

But how do you get to come and play? I’ll tell you!

Canoeing on the Wye

A quick internet search of ‘canoe the wye’ and you will be inundated with companies who are running canoe hire, guided trips, lessons and even stag and hen parties. Canoeing the River Wye is really, really popular.

So one of the easiest ways to get you and your family on the river is to use one of these companies. Having worked with most of them at some point there isn’t much between them, but there are some things I would look out for when booking…

Eli in her kit

4. When issued with a buoyancy aid check that the spongy bit inside fills the fabric, that there are no gaps. Make sure all the straps have working buckles.

It may well look faded but that’s ok as they fade really fast in the sun. Also make sure the equipment has a CE mark – I know it’s picky but life it pretty cool so let’s do all we can to live it!

5. Kids – MUST wear buoyancy aids that are close fitting so you can’t pull it off over their head. Even if they can swim.

6. Warm kit – even if it really hot and sunny, take some dry clothes (the company should provide a dry barrel or bag for your trip) with warm layers. It is the UK after all. Also take high energy grub and a flask. (Not of cider!)

Canoeing on the Wye

1. Don’t go for the cheapest option, look at TripAdvisor and Facebook reviews.

2. If you have never been in a canoe or kayak before I would highly recommend a guided tour, you will be with a local, informative guide (like me!) who knows the river well, its nature, the landscape and you will not only have an amazing trip but learn so much in the process

3. If you just want to Hire and Go then please check the equipment you are issued. It is not necessary to wear a helmet in either a canoe or a kayak on slow moving water, but you must wear a buoyancy aid.

If you are going down the Symonds Yat rapids, please, please wear a helmet as it is really rocky and they are really hard when your head hits them!

Still water canoeing

7. Alcohol – I know the idea of drifting down the river with a cider in hand is amazing but alcohol and water don’t mix well, so I’m not saying don’t, just be sensible.

8. Be aware that the land alongside the river is Private unless there is an obvious landing stage. If you are going to stop and pop for a call of nature, or have a picnic then leave no trace!

9. The wildlife is amazing, Swans can’t break your arm (really, they can’t) but if they have young they can get a bit hissy so respect them and keep your distance

10. Have fun! Be safe, be mindful of others and enjoy the river.

Some companies I would recommend are:

Inspire2Adventure - For guided canoe and kayak trips, they also deliver Stand up Paddle Boarding sessions.

Wye Canoes - Canoe hire from Ye Olde Ferrie Inn Symonds Yat, they also provide guided trips and Stand Up Paddle Boarding with their associate company SUPYOFI.

Wye Valley Canoes - Based in Glasbury where the right of navigation begins, the trip from Glasbury to Hay-on-Wye is absolutely stunning and a classic.

For more information about canoeing on the River Wye visit Wydean Tourism.

Published 12/08/2019

Eli Bishop By Eli Bishop


Eli Bishop is happiest climbing mountains and paddling rivers for mental wellbeing.

Find out more about Eli Bishop here.