Some paddlers come whitewater rafting for the adrenaline, others to immerse themselves in nature not water. Ashley Charlwood of the National White Water Centre selects the Welsh rafting experiences for both.

A natural river

With about 9km of natural river, the National White Water Centre is the only commercially rafted stretch of water in the UK that compares to whitewater rafting worldwide. The Tryweryn river mixes the intensity of an Olympic-grade whitewater course and a journey through the National Park – it has the highest density of otters in North Wales. Plus it’s a beautiful river.

Your first rapid

A big rapid is intimidating the first time you hear it; you really sense the power of the river. You’ll help the guide position the approach, but won’t be able to see where you’re going. Then your boat suddenly accelerates and you’re into the rapid, ducking the spray and listening to commands from the guide. That’s a massive rush.

A journey to enjoy

River Dee, Denbighshire
River Dee, Denbighshire
River Dee, Denbighshire

While the upper Tryweryn has five sections of rapids over 1.5km, here the River Dee rapids are less continuous, so there’s time to breathe between sections of whitewater – there are sections of grade 3-4, then 2-3 then another 3-4 section over 4km. In other words, time to enjoy the journey on a lovely river.

Welsh nature

 A lot of rafting is about not knowing what’s around the corner. You may see something unusual – I see otters when I’m the first on the Tryweryn – and usually dippers and yellow tits. And it’s also about being in the countryside. On natural rivers you’re under a canopy of trees, going through dappled sunlight into warm sunshine like something from Lord of the Rings.

A gentle adventure with nature

Very much a journey through classic Carmarthenshire rural woodland – old forest and green rolling hills. River Teifi, the queen of rivers (it’s the longest river that rises and exits in Wales) has kingfishers, otters and leaping salmon and only three whitewater sections, so rafting here is a mix of being in nature and gentle adventure. A great family trip.