Go with the flow! Messing about on UK rivers
We’ve always had good thames on rivers. And as our August blogs so far currently include things to do at the seaside and our top five UK water theme parks , we thought we’d continue the flow with our favourite UK rivers, what to do once there and where to bed down nearby.
If rivers too float your boat, pond-er these to get going:
At the longest river in the UK, the River Severn is first and not severnth on our list and starts in Powys for a 221-mile flow through Shropshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, ending up at the Bristol Channel. It rises in the same Cambrian mountains as the River Wye, a UK fave with canoeists and anglers.
River Severn cruises with afternoon sails, evening meals or entertainment evenings are available from Upton, Tewskesbury or Worcester; self-drive boats and guided fishing tours from Upton, and narrowboat hire for a day trip from Stourport (alas, we suspect that narrowboats do have to be returned).
Brook House Farm Camping and Caravan Site is on the banks of the Severn and has fishing available on a Severn stretch yielding barbel into double figures. Firepits are available for hire to sizzle supper with produce from the farm shop; we recommend a cider/wine too for supper on the Severn bank. Once off the river, the Severn Way passes the site, but if this just isn’t enough walking for you, the Brook House owners can arrange a shuttle bus for you to join the nearby Offa’s Dyke Path.
Luxury bell tents start from £60 a night (one is dog-friendly); camping pods from the same, and pitches in the family or adults-only field from £18.
The soon-to-be site of the Pitchup.com houseboat/office (if we say it often enough it might come true), the Thames is the second longest river in the UK at 215 miles, the longest solely in England and flows along the Thames Path National Trail, voted the second best urban hike in the world.
Rowing, kayaking, sailing, canoeing and fishing all take place at various points on the river in London, Oxford and Henley-on-Thames (don't swim in the Thames unless you're experienced or David Walliams), with hundreds of clubs to pick from for those who fancy a punt.
If you prefer spectating while you sip something, cheer along the puffed players in the University Boat Race every March or April and the Henley Royal Regatta in July (both part of the summer season darling), or shun the usual London tours for a Thames dinner cruise. Water good idea.
White Mark Farm at Watlington is near the Thames at Henley, Wallingford and Marlow, at the foot of the Chiltern Hills in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has the National Ridgeway path running alongside. Non-electric tent pitches start from £13, with up to two dogs free.
Close to the Thames at Marlow, Home Farm Camping and Caravan Park has fully-furnished bell tents – champagne bucket included – from £80 a night and the village pub right next door. Oh buoy.
Dam. We’re dithering over our favourite Scottish rivers, but are going Taywards as it’s the longest river in Scotland, narrowly flowing further at 117 miles than the Spey (107 miles) and the Clyde (106 miles). The Tay is one of the most popular salmon fishing rivers in Britain and still holds the British record for the 64lbs specimen caught here in 1922. Fish along its many tributaries and lochs for salmon and trout, or let someone else land dinner while you go whitewater rafting and canoeing from Aberfeldy to Grandtully.
Many Tay trippers go like ducks to water to the esteemed Tayview Caravan and Camping Park on the river bank, with views over the Tay Estuary from many of its camping and glamping pitches. The park has an on-site diner and is close to Montieth for shops, pubs, restaurants and takeaways. Glamping cabins sleeping up to four and with TV, fridge and heating start from £46 a night; electric pitches start from £20.
The River Tay flows into luvverly Loch Tay, above which the weary whiterafting can limp to the spectacular scenery, Boathouse restaurant and heated wigwams, glamping domes and woodland cabins of Aberfeldy’s Loch Tay Highland Lodges , which also has boats for hire to try for trout and salmon on the loch. Wigwams start from £40, domes from £75 and the woodland cabins from £80.
Campsites in the Scottish Highlands and Islands
Not the longest river in England by an, er, long shot, but one of our faves because it’s just so poetically purty. The Avon’s 85 miles famously flow through Shakespeare's old stamping ground Stratford-upon-Avon from the river's source at Naseby in Northamptonshire, and have all sorts of dramatic activities available from nightly ghost or dinner cruises to daily narrowboat hire, paddleboating, kayaking and guided fishing trips.
(Plus, there was a crocodile spotted in the Avon near Bristol earlier this year: what a snappy story.)
On land, all the better to spot large lurking reptiles, Shakespeare’s Avon Way follows the river from Nasey to where it joins the Severn at Tewkesbury, passing through Warwick, Stratford upon Avon and Evesham.
Pick a pod, pitch, lodge or static caravan around Stratford-upon-Avon from £17 a night to bed down after a day on the Avon. Budget boaters can book non-electric pitches from £17 and electric from £18 at small family-run Dodwell Park two miles from Stratford: avoid car parking charges in town by taking the bus that stops outside the site.
At luxury Wootton Park , the posh pods are so well-equipped they even come with bathrobes and hairdryer; Stratford-upon-Avon is about five miles away. Pods at the park start from £65, sleeping up to four.
Also really rather luxurious, nearby Riverside Caravan Park has a Shakespeare Lodge sleeping up to six from £550 for seven nights, hobbit huts overlooking the Avon from £115 for three nights (from 12 September), and two-bedroom caravans from £295 for three nights from 5 September.
Campsites in Stratford-upon-Avon
The Tamar is the teeniest trickler in our list at 50 miles long, flowing along the Devon/Cornwall border from four miles outside Bude to the sea at Plymouth Sound.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (along with the rivers Tavy and Lynher), with rare species to see in its mudflats and ancient woodland. Lots to see and do on land, then: waterly, go for canoeing and kayaking between Gunnislake and Calstock; sea trout and salmon fishing in several spots, and sailing and whitewater rafting from Saltash.
Rush to Bude for a Tamar trip and a stay at Woodview Campsite , with a stream to its south flowing into the river and a family team who know what’s what all around the local area. Mixed pitches with optional electric start from £12 a night.
Also at Bude for watery sorts are the two lakes, fishing, dinghy, canoe, windsurfers and pedalo hire at Tamar Lakes Campsite , which has furnished camping pods sleeping up to four from £50 a night.
River Ouse, York
River Wensum, the Norfolk Broads
River Eden, Cumbria
River Tweed, Scottish Borders
Campsites in the Scottish Borders
Take the plunge: ten top outdoor swims
Carpe diem: the Pitchup.com guide to fishing in the UK and Ireland