‘If you have never navigated the Wye you have seen nothing.’ William Gilpin, 1782
The 18th century tourist William Gilpin was right when he said, ‘If you have never navigated the Wye you have seen nothing’. Afloat you see the landscape from another angle and, if you are lucky, come face-to-face with wildlife. You may spot an otter, or have a close encounter with a leaping salmon, or see peregrine falcons catching pigeons from their cliff ledge haunts. The joy of a canoe is that it will take you to stretches of the river you cannot access on foot, far from roads and traffic, where you can find tranquillity and peace. At each turn of the river you are treated to unexpected views, including medieval castles and riverside churches.
Hire a canoe and explore on your own, or choose one of the companies who offer guided canoe trips down the gorgeous river Wye. You will find everything on offer from shooting the rapids at Symonds Yat to canoe bivyying and sunset paddles. If you are looking for accommodation close to canoe launch and landing points then Canoe the Wye provide details of a good selection of places to stay along the river.
In the early 20th century there were more than 25 boatmen plying their trade at Symonds Yat, handing out little cards promoting their river excursions to passengers alighting from trains at the station. A couple of boats still operate today from The Saracen’s Head in Symond’s Yat East, generally between March and October. Short cruises aboard the Kingfisher and the Wye Pride are a great way of finding out about the local history of the area as the captain gives a commentary as you make your way through the Wye gorge.
There is another ‘boat’ at Symonds Yat – the intriguing hand ferry at the Saracen’s Head. This is the only surviving traditional hand pull ferry still working on the Wye. These hand-powered ferries were very common in the Wye Valley, linking communities living on either side of the river and enabling foot passengers, cargoes and even animals to cross the Wye. The ferryman pulls on an overhead cable which is connected to the boat by a rope. This stops the ferry from drifting downstream, although it doesn’t run when the river is in flood. At Symonds Yat the ferry saves a 5 mile car trip to reach the other side, or 3 miles walking via Biblins Bridge!
Stand-up paddle boarding is one of the fastest growing watersports in the UK. It’s the perfect way to explore the Wye Valley, watching the world go by whilst enjoying physical activity. Gliding down the Wye you will find the scenery on either side is full of wildlife. You can opt for a single paddle board or try out a mega-SUP accommodating up to eight people! These operators offer Stand-up paddle boarding: