01690 720214

Introduction to Canoeing

Course Overview

A five-day course introducing you to the basics of handling an open canoe. Develop your boat handling skills both solo and as part of a tandem crew. Consolidate your new-found skills whilst travelling the estuaries of North Wales and tackling the tranquil rivers and simple whitewater.

Experience Required

none necessary

Scheduled Dates

Detailed Course Notes

You should be 18 years old to attend this course.

Who is it for?
This course is for anyone who would like a safe and enjoyable introduction to the sport of canoeing.  You do not need to have any previous paddlesport experience, but should be physically fit.

Course Content

The first days will be spent locally, developing your basic boat handling skills.  During the remainder of the week, we will pursue all the skills learnt to explore the beautiful estuaries and rivers of North Wales.  On our way we will look at the following areas:

  • Boat handling skills for tandem and solo crews

  • Safety principles of the sport of canoeing

  • Journeying

  • Improvised sailing (if appropriate)

  • Poling (using a pole to push off the bottom in shallows)

  • Tracking and lining (using ropes from the shore to guide upstream)

Useful Books

  • Path of the Paddle by Bill Mason
  • Song of the Paddle by Bill Mason
  • Paddle your own Canoe by J. McGuffin

What's Included In The Price?

Whether you choose to stay with us or you have alternative accommodation nearby, the following items are included in the total cost.

    Free tea, coffee or selected hot drinks for the duration of your visit
    Afternoon tea & homemade cakes
    Kayak or canoe hire
    Secure boat storage (if you choose to bring your own boat)
    Equipment hire
    Free (low-speed) wifi access in the bar & dining room
    In course transport
    Railway station pick up & drop off (please call to arrange)
    Parking with CCTV surveillance
    Free use of climbing wall, gym, MTB skills course & rolling pool

    If you choose to stay with us, these items are also included in the total cost:

    Accommodation the night before your course
    Accommodation during your course
    Breakfast & evening meal
    Bar Lunch/packed lunch

Accommodation For This Course

Plas y Brenin Main House

Your course is based at Plas y Brenin, The National Mountain Sports Centre in Capel Curig, North Wales, LL24 0ET.

If you are staying with us,

If you have chosen to add accommodation onto this course or holiday it is usually in the main house in a comfy en-suite room (normally shared with another guest). Each room has tea and coffee making facilities and all bed linen and towels are provided.

This includes accommodation the night before your first day. Your room will be available from 6pm. On your last day you will need to vacate your room by 10am. It is sometimes possible to arrange to stay an extra night please phone 01690 720214 for availability and cost.

Secure storage facilities, showers and toilets are available for you to use on your departure day once you have checked out of your room should you need them, please ask at reception.

Also included, if you chosen to add accommodation, are all your meals - breakfast, packed lunch, afternoon tea and freshly baked cakes and a three course evening meal. Please bear in mind an evening meal is not provided on the night before your course or on the last day of your course but our bar will be serving meals from 7.00pm until 8.45pm.

If you are are not staying with us but coming in each day,

If you choose to come in daily for your course or holiday you will need to arrive ready for a 9am welcome talk on the first day. For the rest of your course or holiday you will need to be here for 9.15am. We return from a full day of activity, usually in time for tea and cakes at 5pm (included).

There are more activities from 5.30 - 6.30 on some days of your course or holiday, please check on the first day.

For most of our awards and qualification courses there will be further evening sessions on some days which you need to attend, please check on the first day.

There is an 8pm adventure talk by one of our coaches on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday evenings which you are welcome to come to. Find out more about the upcoming talks here.

On the final day you will be finished by 5pm.

For courses based on-site our bar will be serving lunches from 12pm until 2pm or you are welcome to bring a packed lunch.

If your course is based away from the centre then you will need to bring a packed lunch with you. Each evening our bar serves evening meals from 7pm until 8.45pm if you wish to eat here.

You can arrange to have any of the following meals - breakfast, packed lunch and a three course centre dinner, by contacting our customer services team on 01690 720214 or

follow this link for more details

What Equipment Do You Need To Bring?

  • Thin fleeces/thermals/rash vest for going under a wetsuit

  • Swimming costume/trunks

  • Wetsuit boots (or training shoes you're happy to get wet)

  • Wetsuit socks to wear with wetsuit boots/training shoes if cold

  • Warm clothes for when you get off the water

  • Warm hat, gloves, neck gaiter/buff, sun hat

  • Towel

  • Waterproof jacket and trousers

  • Drinks bottle

  • Flask

  • Lunch bag/box

  • Personal first aid kit

  • High factor sun screen

  • Midge repellant

  • Notebook and pen

The following items are available for you to borrow from our equipment stores free of charge so you don't need to rush out and buy them.

  • Wetsuit

  • Paddling cag

  • Buoyancy aid

  • Helmet

  • Dry bag

  • Large kit bag (for wet paddling kit)

  • Boat

  • Paddle

  • Spraydeck (if kayaking)

Our equipment stores stock wetsuits socks which you can purchase if you find you need them during your course

Customer Reviews For This Course

Canoeing and Cake


This course provided an excellent balance of introducing and then developing basic canoeing skills in flat water and moving water environments. Whilst there was an outline programme available the instructors were very flexible, shaping the syllabus to meet the needs and abilities of the group. As a consequence there was never a feeling of pressure to push beyond what you were comfortable with, yet there were plenty of opportunities to stretch yourself. Having never really canoed before this course was a superb overview of the full spectrum of canoeing basics - understanding the water, technical paddling skills, safety and rescue, choice of boats, personal equipment and group management. Most importantly for me, it was almost all delivered 'on the water'. There were also plenty of opportunities to discuss other paddle-sport disciplines with the many expert instructors, or to learn about wider outdoor pursuits at the evening lectures.
In general terms, the Plas-y-Brenin centre is in a fantastic location, with welcoming and helpful staff who are always on hand to advise. The leader instructor for our course, Chris Evans, was outstanding. The rooms are comfortable, bar has a reasonable selection of beer and you will really miss the cake when you leave! The only (minor) downside is that the wireless internet is pretty poor and limited to few locations.
In summary, if you are new to the world of canoeing, I cannot recommend this week strongly enough. I will definitely be heading back to PYB in the future, for now it is time to practice what I have learnt!

Even 'oldies' can enjoy this course :-)

Debra Burbery

I went on to this course very unsure of what I was letting myself in for and wondering whether I would cope with the physical side of it all (being 57 & female) but I needn't have worried quiet so much! The instructors (Chris & Jenifer )were empathetic and responded to all our group's sometimes seemingly daft questions with charm and gave us confidence that we could achieve more than we thought we could. I was glad I survived the capsize drill in one piece in the pool (I was not looking forward to that) but it came in handy a couple of times when I had a unexpected but exhilarating dunking when trying some small rapids on moving water! The lake paddling was testing in the windy and showery weather conditions but we had plenty of time to try out/practise the new skills we had learnt. By the end of the 5 days I had learnt new skills,pushed my unfit body to do more than I thought I could, found a sport that I could carry on with and made a few new friends. Maybe I gained a few bruises but they will fade but my memories and enjoyment of a sport that I hadn't really considered before will last a long, long time. Thank you.

Brilliant open canoeing in lakes and rivers

Brilliant week of open canoeing with my husband. Tandem and solo on flat water and moving water. Tuition was first class. Instructor had a gift for changing communication styles to suit each individual thereby not upsetting either myself or my husband! A true gift.
Also known as the "divorce boat" I would encourage tandem canoeing as a means of developing effective communication.
We will certainly return to PYB. The facilities were good and the staff friendly. Food excellent. PYB seems to be able to cater for every need.
We were also blessed with 4 days of wall to wall sunshine. Blissful.


A brilliant course from start to finish.

Fabulous Week Learning to Canoe

Trudy & Adrian Davies

We would certainly recommend Plas y Brenin and this course to anyone who is interested in open canoeing. We learnt so much on this course, it has given us the confidence to go out and paddle on different types of water. The tuition from our instructor Karl was excellent, we learnt in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and his patience and humour made an enjoyable week. The facilities at Plas y Brenin are great, you are surrounding by beautiful scenery, all of the staff are helpful and friendly, the accommodation is comfortable and clean and the food is superb and there is plenty of it! - but after a day out on the water, you will be ready to tuck into everything - especially the delicious cake at 5 o' clock! We can not fault anything at Plas y Brenin, it surpassed all our expectations. We can not wait to return for another course, the only problem is deciding on which one to do next!

A great introduction to open canoeing

John Robinson

I would thoroughly recommend this course, which gives an excellent introduction to open canoeing. Plas Y Brenin is a great place to stay as well, with good food and accomodation. Don't miss the inspirational evening talks!

The Anthem of the Novice Canoeist

Peter White

To Plas y Brenin this old man came
From St Albans, Peter is my name
To learn to paddle a canoe
(I'm always trying something new).
But I'm unteachable! Thank Heaven,
PyB has this man Chris Evans;
A competent, reassuring man
If anyone can teach me, this man can.
A five-day learning trip became
The holiday of a life-time:
The feel of body, paddle, boat
In increasing harmony afloat,
At one with water, current, breeze,
Moving with improving ease.
With stimulated mind and heart,
Of the environment I became part.
A variety of waters we tried,
Estuary on a falling tide,
Canal and lake, moving water and still,
Each requiring a different skill.
One thing that I thought I'd never
Find in Wales was prolonged good weather
And the comfort and friendliness
Was PyB at its very best.
Images remain,of tide-water surging
Swirling eddies, sandbanks emerging:
Water whispering against paddle-blades
Is this North Wales or the Everglades?
Narrow water, both banks within reach,
The crunch of boat on gravel beach.
Back home, serene , these images I ponder.
I capsized twice, but didn't stay under.
The strain on arms and shoulders eased
And I've forgotten the pain in the knees.

Peter White, 03-07 June 2013

Go Canoeing!

Janet Wallace

Just had a terrific 5 days on Intro to Canoeing. Didn't know how it would go as I am 65, which could have proved difficult for me or the Instructor ..... but it didn't!
Andy - from London - who had been canoeing for 7 years and kayaking for 15 was the perfect Instructor for me. He was all the P's ... professional, proficient, personable and patient! I completed the course with a river trip of about 7 miles on the Dee, which is a level 2 river in terms of rapids, of which we encountered 4 with no capsize! He has suggested I now find a local canoeing club to join and perhaps another course next year. Hope you are still there in 2013 Andy! Cheers Janet Wallace

Get paddling your own canoe!

Peta Butcher

This was a present for my husband's 50th birthday. I wanted us to do something challenging, taking us right out of our comfort zone, making us feel proud of ourselves and that we might even want to do some more of when we got home. Also we wanted something to do in a week that wasn't more than a few hours drive from the South Coast.

We were faced with abysmal weather conditions (strong winds and rain) for newbies taking to a tandem canoe for the first time ever but our delightful instructor Chris 'the Canoe' Evans (as I christened him) just got us into the boat and paddling against all the odds! I am not a natural size or shape for canoeing but managed to haul myself up from a scrunched up sitting position at the back by holding onto the 'yoke' and pulling myself up. The guys were a great help, offering stabilising arms and shoulders whenever I was climbing in or out of the canoe. Great charm and patience from both Chris and my husband!
The first two days were spent on the water being shown what the options were if were to take up the sport seriously at a future stage. Different makes and models of canoe, different hull shapes, different bow shapes, different seating layout, different paddles, lengths, capabilities. I liked the 'rock basher' paddle - tough as old boots.

We capsized (unplanned and planned!) into freezing cold water but the kit loaned to us from the onsite Stores (run by the lovely Jim and his team) was ideal and kept us warm, if not totally dry. However, I really do think you need to love the water - being on it, near it, in it.

Incredibly uncomfortable beds and ambient noise (not unlike a youth hostel) were the only let downs in an otherwise magnificent week of paddling opportunities with Chris (and his colleague instructor Louise on the final day). We paddled up & down a river, along a tidal estury, around a large lake and Adrian went down a canal without me one day. We certainly became more confident as the days progressed. The catering was brilliant, and the staff helpful and cheerful. Excellent value.

We would do it again but would probably stay in a hotel next time.

When all's said & done, we loved it!

Everything that it says on the tin + a bit more

Ted Malden

A very lumpy mattress long past its use by date & a room with noisy refrigeration units directly outside the window. This was very poor. Everything else about the accommodation & domestic facilities, food ,cleanliness, etc, was very good.

The Course; Good equipment, good facilities and the instructor appeared to know what he was doing too. Managing a group of disparate people whilst they engage in a new, challenging, sometimes stressful activity in occasionally adverse conditions always has the potential to make an interesting day at the office. Chris Evans handled this with complete aplomb.

However, whilst enjoying our PYB lunch sheltering on the lake shore from the wind and rain another group (not PYB) paddles up to take lunch in the same location. This group..s instructor promptly produced a stove and kettle and provided her students with a hot beverage. Mr Evans reaction was to suggest they had booked the deluxe package. So whilst Mr Evans may have excellent paddling/life saving/teaching and managerial skills, he still has some way to go in the hospitality department.

Mother and daughter learn to canoe together and are still on speaking terms!

Debbie & Jane

Thank you for a great 5 days canoeing.
The instructors, Adam and Sid, managed to introduce us to loads of skills. Monday saw us learning basic paddling manouvers on the lake next to the center and progressed to white water canoeing on Friday (Jane's favourite day). In between we learned rescue techniques, how to use a sail, how to lash the canoes together and pack the canoe for a multi-day trip. We had a taste of canoeing on slow and fast rivers, lakes and estuaries - all within easy reach of Plas y Brenin.
I was particularly impressed with the way both instructors sensitively handled our 'mother / daughter' relationship - allowing us both to gain loads from the course and still have fun. The mix of solo and tandem canoeing was really helpful.
We now have the confidence to plan our own canoe trip for later in the summer - THANK YOU

As ever, the accommodation, staff and food at PYB were excellent - A BRILLIANT WEEK !

A fantastic week

Kate and Roger

We had never tried canoeing before or been to Plas y Brenin, and really did not know what to expect, but we had a wonderful week. The instructors were great - enthusiastic, encouraging, skilled and good fun. They made the course challenging but relaxed as well. The equipment was good and we were very impressed with the thought given to health and safety.

Everything else was excellent and what a lovely place Plas y Brenin is to stay. We would like to thank all the staff, especially all those who make the running of the centre so efficient and prepare the food, it was very good and much appreciated before or after a damp day's paddling.

We hope to be back in the future. Right now we are building on our canoeing skills on the Lincolnshire waterways having bought a canoe with Pete's help.


3 Star open canoe training

Dave Bennett

PYB is idealy positioned for this type of course with a lake, small jet and a river section on its door step. Our instructor Rosemary Powell, fine tuned our paddling strokes and triming of the canoe over the two days. PYB has ample stores of equipment so it was a good chance to try out kit and boats. The course is useful as it benchmarks where you are at, and highlights what you need to do to pass the 3 star test.



2 adults 3 kids we had a taster for canoeing and enjoyed it with our instructor Judith who was very good and helpful to adults as well as the kids. We had gone along hoping to try kayaking but we still enjoyed this even though rather over priced.

I'm not being paid to write this!

Kevin Steele, Chester

I cannot heap enough praise on Plas y Brenin and this course... but I'll give it a go!

The location of PyB is excellent .. providing immediate access to a variety of small rivers, streams and lakes and, further afield, the tidal rivers and coast of north Wales.

The centre itself is set on two lakes and a stream, where you'll learn the basic techniques. From there, the river eventually flows for a mile or two, where it meets a fantastic white water stretch that can be tackled on the second day of the course .. possibly solo!

(I have only ever paddled twice before attending the course and have never had any previous tuition.)

In a group of five, tuition focused on both tandem and solo paddling, with plenty of individual attention. Tuition was arranged according to the wishes and capabilities of the group and the vagaries of the weather, but every day was different, interesting and challenging. Route planning, weather, tides, choice of equipment, and safety and rescue techniques were all covered. I was amazed at how much was packed in to the five days .. how much I didn't realise I didn't know (excuse the 'Donald Rumsfeld', but you know what I mean) and how much I learned.

The tuition must have been good, because I left .. after only five days of paddling .. feeling confident of tackling pretty much anything.

As for food and accommodation. Food was really good, with huge quantities to fuel you up for the next day. Packed lunches were provided and afternoon tea and cakes were a treat after several hours hard labour! The rooms were clean and the centre quiet at night... no late night parties .. much too civilised (and knackered) a crowd for that! As a non-drinker I'd take a little radio for the evenings, as an alternative to the bar .. although on three evenings there were optional general interest lectures to attend (if you could stay awake after the day's exertions).

Overall, there was a really nice atmosphere about the place, sharing in the company of lots of like-minded people .. albeit there for different activities .. and very friendly staff. A nice place to spend a week.

As I said, I can't recommend Plas y Brenin enough and I'll be going back there again.

Les Cuthbert

Very enjoyable couple of days. Learned new skills and acquired a taste to return at a future date to try longer course. Both instructors supportive, helpful and patient. Should not have gone to evening frostbite lecture. A bit too scientific although this was probably because of Mountain Medicine Course that was taking place over the weekend. Accommodation was fine, food was substantial and filling, although meal times seemed to start later than advertised. Would recommend course to others.

Not found what you were looking for?

You can hire one of our coaches instructors or guides from only £250 per day. They'll tailor the day to suit your aims and aspirations perfectly.
You can enjoy one to one coaching for that cost or if you get together as a group, depending on the activity, you can split that cost between up to 6 of you. If you are a group we can run any of our courses on a date that suits you and your friends. Or you could just write your own agenda for a week or weekend and we'll price it up for you - with or without accommodation. What's more, just like out normal course fees, our private instructor hire charge covers all your equipment too. Click on the link below to fill in a request form and one of our coaches will call you back (or e-mail if you'd prefer) to discuss things in detail with you.

Fill in a Callback Form

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