Canoeing is fast becoming a regular recreation activity in Northern Ireland – whether you’re in a sit-on-top or tucked in with your oars and a picnic we’ve got a list of canoe trails that will allow you to get out more canoeing this summer!
There are 9 canoe trails across Northern Ireland, if you feel confident enough to test the waters. A canoe trail is an interesting or challenging stretch of water which offers public access for canoeists to paddle. It is indicated on a map showing its associated facilities such as jetties, slipways, car parks and toilets. At designated access points, information panels provide additional details of its features and that of the surrounding area. Canoe trails may be paddled as a whole section or in sections.
Going by boat gives you the chance to slow down and enjoy the scenery. The real beauty of touring by canoe is that you can choose your own pace and savor every moment.
One of the most popular trails that suits a range of abilities with a maze of bays, narrow channels and innumerable islands and peninsulas in Upper Lough Erne is perfect for families or those new to canoeing.
The Lower Lough Erne, known as the ‘broad lough’ by locals can be very rough in strong winds so we don’t recommend this area unless you’re an expert paddler. It’s also important to be aware that geographically, the ‘Upper’ is actually the more southernly of the two.
The benefit of paddling on Lough Erne is that you can often start and finish from the same place, therefore there is no requirement for shuttles. However, many of the local canoeing hire providers will be happy to offer a shuttle service.
The surrounding area and quiet shores of Lough Erne are ideal for anyone seeking a true wilderness experience as there are great spots for wild camping and lots of wildlife to view along the water. The trail is also connected to numerous historic lough-side venues.
Lough Neagh is the United Kingdom’s largest inland lake with a shoreline of over 90miles. Historically, Lough Neagh was used as a hub when transporting goods via waterways but it is used now primarily for recreation and as an important conservation area.
The Lough Neagh Trail is linked to the Blackwater Trail and the Lower Bann Trail, which when put all together equals a mammoth 109.6mile paddle from the most southern part of Northern Ireland to the north coast and the Atlantic Ocean.
Lough Neagh is suited to both novice and experienced paddler as the diverse shoreline combined with the vast open water offers a multitude of options and difficulty, however, during windy periods it can become extra challenging as the large waves build up on the open water.
The North Coast Canoe Trail covers a mighty 67.8mile long coastline paddle which can be followed in either direction but we recommend going with the flood tide which takes you from west to east and finally south.
It’s made up of six sections, with lots of access points to choose from which means you can stop to rest and check out the many ancient castle and tourist attractions along the north coast. Overall, this trail is more suited to experienced paddlers, but it does have good opportunities for moderate paddlers to enjoy the scenery, wildlife and local history. All is not lost for inexperienced paddlers wishing to explore this iconic coastline – there are several local operators offering guided trips allowing you to enjoy the surroundings whilst the experts look after the rest. You might see a dolphin or two along your journey if you’re lucky!
If 67.8 miles doesn’t sound like a big enough challenge, you can extend this trail by joining up the Foyle Canoe Trail and the East Coast Canoe Trail.
To find all of the canoe trails across Northern Ireland visit our interactive map and use the Canoe Trail filter.
Canoeing is an adventure sport and as such should be treated with respect. If you are new to the sport, it is advisable to join an organized club or take some lessons with a canoeing provider, both options will offer expert coaching. Full details can be found at www.canoeni.com
You can also book onto a Get Wet Stay Safe safety session if you are 18+.
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