My husband and I are both avid walkers / hikers but for a long time have been wanting to get into kayaking. Both of us have kayaked in the past. Separately we did it on school trips - many years ago - at adventure/team building week locations (for Americans, think of a summer camp that lasts a week and you do a bit of everything once or twice). I've kayaked on both a lake and the sea, he has just kayaked on the sea. Both of us did capsizing as well. Together we've probably totalled a weeks worth of experience kayaking, enough to know we both enjoy it.

We're in the UK, and likely our options for locations are either the local canal (Bucks grand union arm), local rivers (the Thame/Thames), travelling to the Lakes (Lake District) or travelling to the coast and kayaking on the sea. It is unlikely we will do any rapids or white water currently. We will be more likely to be on lakes/canals than the sea but the sea is an option for weeks/weekends away.

We know we will need licenses in the UK to kayak on any body of water, life jackets, paddles, etc. Just to note we'd also prefer two singles rather than a tandem.

A few things I would like to know before getting started:

  1. After a few hours scouring the internet and getting overloaded with information, could someone provide a reliable UK book / website with kayaking information?

  2. If we got a sea touring kayak, would that be acceptable on canals/lakes or would it be better to have a light touring kayak instead (or as well as)?

  3. What would be the minimum requirements for a repair kit?

  4. Does anyone know of a location in the UK where you don't need a license?

Due to licenses we'd obviously like to keep equipment costs down, but is it possible to go too cheap - and if so could someone give me a reasonable minimum spend on a kayak? (for the UK so in pound sterling, if in dollars can you take into account most things in the UK are more expensive than the US?)

Update: We ended up talking to a nice guy over at Canoe England who confirmed their licences for us. We've purchased our kayaks - after much discussion with the kayak company we went for sit-on-tops - from a Cornish company and are now waiting for them to arrive. Thanks to Rory and Vclaw for your help.

  • Thanks Rory, all rivers and canals are registered waterways though. But doesn't look like you need one for the coast for that.
    – Aravona
    Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 13:26
  • I have answered with an expansion - not all rivers and canals count as registered waterways for this purpose.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 13:27

5 Answers 5


Some answers:

1 - British Canoeing is an excellent website for this sort of thing.

2 - It would be acceptable to use a sea kayak.

3 - Completely depends on your kayak. For a quick temporary repair, you may be able to get away with a patch and glue (costing about £5) but you'd be better off with cloth tape and fibreglass resin if you have the time to let it cure.

4 - You only need a licence for registered 'waterways' - read their licences page. which also gives some rivers which do not need a licence.


4 - In Scotland, you have a general right of access under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. This applies to just about all land and inland waters, and allows non-motorised recreation and passage. So this includes kayaking and canoeing on rivers, lochs and canals. These rights are dependent on being responsible, eg avoid disturbing other people or damaging the environment.

The Scottish Canoe Association have produced a Paddler's Access Code which summarises these rights and responsibilities.

Most canals in Scotland are managed by Scottish Canals. You do not need a licence to paddle on these. If paddling on the Caledonian Canal - which is part of the Great Glen Canoe Trail - then Scottish Canals recommend registering with them in advance. This ensures you have understood all of the safety information, and lets you be informed of any works which could affect your trip.

  • This is one of the reasons I love Scotland. I wish England adopted this access code. Great answer; thanks for all the links. Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 13:28
  • Don't be misled by the masses of incorrect boat=no in OpenStreetMap data. It seems to be added by users either applying the English default rule or misunderstanding the tag as meaning unsuitable for boats rather than prohibiting them. Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 14:11

The other answers address your question pretty well but I think you might have jumped in a bit head-first with your research and that maybe the question that you should be asking is "What's the best way of getting into kayaking"

The best thing to do is go find your local club - it's by far the safest, cheapest, friendliest and most effective way of getting going.

Clubs will be running beginner sessions around this time of year and should provide you with all of the equipment and expertise you need.

At the very least you'll learn the basic skills and learn first-hand the answers to the kind of questions you have above. More likely is you'll discover the breadth and depth of the sport and the rewards that it holds.

Best of luck and I hope that either way you have a wonderful time.

ps. I recommend that you have a look at this site it has a bit more info on paddling (largely whitewater but also touring etc) in the UK. They'll be the best people to ask about what's available in your area and should be good for general advice.


For question 3; as a minimum I would carry an epoxy stick, which is a clay/putty like substance which cures very quickly and can be used to fix minor cracks and holes that can be caused by dropping your kayak etc. See: When you ding your plastic kayak, epoxy can patch it for example.


Regarding Q2, a sea kayak might be a little too big and expensive for your needs, as beginners. A recreational kayak -- a bit of a cross between a sea kayak and a whitewater kayak -- is more general-purpose, and is often far less expensive than a sea kayak or a whitewater kayak.

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