For paddlers of all descriptions, the coastline, lakes and rivers of Northern Ireland can provide the ultimate in fun and excitement, or the best in peace and tranquillity.
Flat-water kayaking, sea kayaking, river kayaking, white-water kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding and canoeing are all easily at the paddler’s command in Northern Ireland.
Everywhere you go, you’ll discover boatyards, marinas, jetties and a wealth of hire operators and tour specialists full of local pride and the giant spirit of Northern Ireland – all ready and willing to help you heighten the experience of taking to the water.
The twisting Northern Ireland coastline, full of wide bays, secluded beaches, towering cliffs and a rich variety of habitats, is absolutely ideal sea kayaking territory, with County Down’s Strangford Lough high up on the must-try list.
The largest sea inlet in Britain or Ireland, is an outdoor adventurer’s dream. It’s dotted with countless coves, harbours, quays and piers, and more than 70 islands. Discreet wild camping is allowed on some of the islands, so if you’re into a spot of kayak camping then you’ll love it here. Go it alone, or try the Strangford Lough Activity Centre, which offers kayak and canoe hire, tuition and a range of cool tours.
With world-famous sights such as the Giant’s Causeway and the Old Bushmills Distillery, the Causeway Coast is another sea kayaking hot spot. Get the most out of your paddle with the likes of Causeway Coast Kayaking Tours, who can guide you on kayak and food tours, moonlight kayaking, trips to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and more.
If you prefer freshwater to saltwater a good idea would be to slip into Lough Erne and the peaceful lakelands of County Fermanagh. These vast lakes and network of waterways are perfect for tranquil kayaking and canoeing and there are numerous places to hire from. Try the Water Activity Zone in Enniskillen or Castle Archdale Marina, which offers sit-on-top kayaks and Canadian canoes that are great fun for everyone.
Once you have paddled a while you will find it easy to moor up and enjoy a picnic or a lakeside meal in one of the many pubs, restaurants, cafés and hotels that dot the shores of Upper and Lower Lough Erne.
Canoe trails also abound in Northern Ireland, with the likes of Lough Neagh, the largest inland lake in the UK and Ireland, the River Bann and the River Blackwater all offering peaceful escapes, diverse wildlife and historical sites to explore.
City-based experiences on the water include a two-hour stand-up paddle-board trip on the River Foyle, which flows through Derry~Londonderry. Far and Wild can provide all the gear and take you on a relaxing exploration that lets you see the famous Walled City from a whole new angle
In Belfast you can take a kayak trip around the harbour and the River Lagan quays. Bryson Lagansports will provide a waterborne perspective on how the city has changed since the Titanic was launched there in 1911.
For paddlers in search of white-knuckle thrills, head for the Mourne River running through the Mountains of Mourne. It’s probably the best white-water experience in Northern Ireland.