UK watersports centres you can get to by train

Outdoor adventures by train aren’t just possible, they’re great fun. To help me live a more sustainable life, I’ve been researching train adventures for the the last two years now, and I’ve discovered that travelling to my adventure destination by train adds to rather than detracts from my outdoor experience.

Because I can see so much outdoors from the train window. 

So far I’ve had fun wild camping, outdoor swimming, bridge crossing and even beach bivvying. And walking of course. My favourite train walking routes are my station to station walks and I’ve completed and written up plenty of others.

But apart from swimming, I haven’t had any water sport adventures by train.

You know the sort of thing, learning to paddleboard, taking surfing lessons, gaining a kayak qualification, learning to sail or even white water rafting. So I thought (to encourage myself as well as you) I’d put together a list of UK watersports centres you can get to by train.

The good news is, there are more than you think!

UK water sport centres near train stations

I must mention my friends at Land and Wave in Dorset here. I haven’t included them as they’re not walking distance from a mainline train station. They are however easy enough to get to by steam train, so look them up if you’re in the area.

Land and Wave – Dorset

Although these days I’m more likely to be found in the water than on it, I do have a history of watersports adventures here in Devon. I’ve kayaked on the River Dart, sailed across Torbay, and fallen of my son’s paddle board many times.

Here are my suggestions for car-free water sport adventures you can have here in the UK.

1. Coasteering in South Devon

  • CompanyReach Outdoors
  • Location – Goodrington Beach, Paignton, Torbay
  • Nearest train station – Paignton
  • Walk time from station – 20 minutes
  • Cost – £45 per person (2024)

What is coasteering? If you don’t know yet what coasteering is, this is your chance to find out. A combination of rock scrambling, rock jumping and sea swimming, coasteering gives you the chance to explore the coastline in a very new way.

Can I do it? Coasteering is exhilarating and if you want, can include some high jumps into water but you’ll find your instructors are really good at tailoring the route to suit your confidence and ability levels. I usually prefer the slow descent options.

Plus you’ll be wearing a wetsuit, floatation device and helmet.

2. Learning to surf in Cornwall

Cornwall and surfing are synonymous so it might be no surprise to find there are plenty of surf schools in Cornwall. If you love sustainable travel, you’ll also be pleased to hear that Cornwall has train stations to take you directly to some of its favourite surfing beaches, plus car-free available surf schools in Newquay and St Ives.

Here are a couple of examples:

Cornwall surf lessons by train

  • Company – St Ives Surf School
  • Location – Porthmeor Beach, St Ives
  • Nearest train station – St Ives station
  • Walk time from station – 15 minutes
  • Cost – £45 for a group lesson
  • Company – Fistral Beach Surf School
  • Location – Fistral Beach, Newquay, Cornwall
  • Nearest train station – Newquay station
  • Walk time from station – 30 minutes
  • Cost – £45 for a two-hour group lesson

3. Expeditioning by sea kayak in Scotland

If you’ve seen pictures of kayaks gliding over empty white sand beaches, the chances are you were looking at a sea kayaking expedition in Scotland. With its inlets and coves, the Scottish coastline is perfect for sea kayaking, and with Scotland’s access laws, wild camping on beaches is an added bonus.

  • Company – Arisaig Sea Kayak Centre
  • Location – Arisaig, Scottish West Coast
  • Nearest train station – Arisaig station on the West Highland Line (or a pick up from Fort William station)
  • Walk time from station – 13 minutes
  • Cost – 3 day expedition in the Sound of Arisaig £420

4. Learning to sail in Cardiff

Cardiff must have one of the most beautiful city waterfronts in the UK, so where better to learn to sail than the stunning Cardiff Bay. The Cardiff Bay barrage was built to contain water from local rivers and create a deep, freshwater area for everyone to enjoy. Cardiff Sailing Centre is situated to take great advantage of these quiet waters.

  • Company – Cardiff Sailing Centre
  • Location – Cardiff Bay
  • Nearest train station – Cardiff Bay
  • Walk time from station – 25 minutes
  • Cost – RYA Dinghy Level 1, two days, £240

5. Experiencing white water rafting in Hertfordshire

River Exe – Devon

Running white water rapids in a raft is fast and exhilarating. Negotiating the eddies and flow of a white water course will be the job of your qualified instructor but everybody in the raft will have to put in the effort to make sure you finish where you were supposed to and the right way up.

Many of our favourite UK white water rivers are tricky to access by public transport but Lee Valley White Water Centre is easy to reach by train. You won’t even need to bring your own raft!

  • Company – Lee Valley White Water Centre
  • Location – Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire
  • Nearest train station – Waltham Cross
  • Walk time from station – 25 minutes
  • Cost – individual rafting session £60

How to choose a watersports provider

Land and Wave – Dorset

All watersports come with the possibility of risk so it’s important to make sure you embark on water activities with appropriately qualified instructors and correctly registered organisations.

Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations

If an organisation wants to provide charged-for adventure (including watersport) activities to anyone under 18, they need to hold an AALA licence unless each young person is accompanied by their own parent or guardian (this doesn’t include schools or voluntary groups such as Scouts).

Even if you don’t have any young people in your party, AALA licensing is a good marker to look out for when you’re choosing your watersport provider.

You should also expect the organisation you choose to have adequate public liability insurance.

Instructor qualifications for watersports providers

If you have concerns, don’t be afraid to ask about the qualifications of your watersports instructor. There are national and international governing bodies for different adventure sports. These regulate the training and assessment of coaching and instructor qualifications.

Some outdoor instructors will hold a number of different qualifications. These may need to be regularly updated, and their accompanying first aid qualification almost certainly will.

It’s worth remembering that some instructor qualifications are for certain types of water (for example inland water), times of year, or water conditions.

We’ve given examples below of the minimum instructor qualification you should be looking for from your watersport provider.

Surf instructor qualifications UK

  • Recognised organisationISA (International Surfing Association)
  • Minimum surfing instructor qualification – ISA Surf Instructor Level 1

Sailing instructor qualifications UK

  • Recognised organisationRYA (Royal Yachting Association)
  • Minimum dinghy sailing instructor qualification – RYA Dinghy Instructor
  • Minimum yacht sailing instructor qualification – RYA Cruising Instructor
  • Minimum windsurfing instructor qualification – RYA Start Windsurfing Instructor

Canoe instructor qualifications UK

  • Recognised organisationBritish Canoeing
  • Minimum paddlesport instructor qualification – British Canoeing Paddlesport Instructor Level 1

Paddleboard coach qualifications UK

Both the ISA and British Canoeing offer SUP instructor qualifications.

  • ISA Paddleboard instructor qualifications – ISA Flat Water SUP Instructor, ISA Surf SUP, ISA Open Water SUP
  • British Canoeing SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) instructor qualification – British Canoeing Stand Up Paddleboard Instructor

Coasteering instructor qualifications UK

  • Recognised organisation – NCC (National Coasteering Council)
  • Coasteering instructor qualification – Coasteering Guide Award

Other train adventures available

If watersports aren’t your thing or it’s the middle of winter and you don’t feel like getting wet, I have some good news for you.

I have plenty of alternative train adventures right here on the blog. Just click ‘Adventures by Train’ above and find one that suits you (or the British weather!)

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