Take to the water in one of the national parks - Britain’s breathing spaces. There are lakes, coastlines and rivers ideal for all kinds of water sports, surrounded by stunning scenery.

The Broads, Loch Lomond & the Trossachs and, of course, the Lake District are well known for gentle open-water for canoeing, windsurfing, sailing, small motorboating, or taking it easy on a gentle cruise.

But other national parks also have lakes, reservoirs and canals to add some water-based fun to your visit. Grimwith reservoir in the Yorkshire Dales offers sailing, windsurfing and canoeing, as do Llangors Lake and Pontsticill Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons and Llyn Tegid, the largest natural lake in Wales in Snowdonia National Park. Wimbleball Lake in Exmoor also offers a host of watersports, fishing and an easy access bird hide.

River runs

As well as lakes and reservoirs, some rivers are suitable for kayaking and canoeing. The River Wye and River Usk in the Brecon Beacons are popular paddling routes, and the River Dart in Dartmoor is open for canoeing and kayaking from October to March.

Rivers are home to many wildlife species and access restrictions are in place to ensure that canoeists can enjoy the rivers whilst preserving the environment. The rivers access site has information about access agreements.

Canoeing, Broads National Park © Fraser Johnston

A canoists on a reed lined river at dawn

Traditional wherry boats, Broads National Park

Wooden boats with large sails sailing on a wide river

Llangors Lake, Brecon Beacons National Park

A thatched roundhouse reflected in a lake

Pen Y Bal, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Heather hill in front of a wide u-shaped bay under blue skies

Fishing boat, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

A small fishing boat on water between a pebbly beach and a mountain across the water

Bala Lake and Arran Hills, Snowdonia National Park

Lake with rocks and trees on the shoreline

View over Derwentwater from Latrigg, Lake District National Park

View over a lake nestled between high fells with a town on the near shore

Head for the coast

If you like your water with waves, Pembrokeshire Coast has 260 miles of stunning coastline where you can get on, in and under the sea with canoeing, sailing, fishing and diving. Traveling by sea in a canoe or sailboat let’s you get close to the sea birds, seals and porpoises that live along the coastline.

Exmoor, the New Forest, the North York Moors and Snowdonia National Parks also have miles of stunning coastline scenery, from cliff-top walks to boat-filled harbours.

Fishing

Because we manage our national parks to conserve the environment and wildlife, you’ll find clean rivers teaming with wildlife and ideal for fishing. The River Tyne running through Northumberland National Park is considered to be England's premier salmon river, with rainbow and brown trout found here and in other areas of the park.  Dartmoor National Park also offers river fishing for wild brown trout, sea trout and salmon.

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park also has salmon and trout river fishing as well as sea fishing for mackerel, Pollock and Wrasse. Windermere, the largest lake in England, in the Lake District National Park has migratory fish like salmon, and also the chance to catch the local delicacy: charr -- a fish that was left in the lake after the last ice-age.

The Broads have great coarse fishing, with bream, eel, perch, rudd and trench and offers bank and boat fishing, and Llyn Tegid in Snowdonia National Park also has great coarse fishing with pike, perch, trout, grayling and eels in the water.

Fish are an integral part of freshwater ecosystems and there are often ‘closed seasons’ around breeding times. In England and Wales all fishing must be done under a rod licence, in Scotland you will need the permission of the land-owner. More information about how to fish legally, safely and where the best spots are, are available from the Environment Agency (England and Wales) and the Scottish Executive.