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Little baby me was born in the UK, so I’ve spent lots of my life around some of the region’s biggest, longest and busiest rivers.
In this article, I’ve given you a quick insight into lots of them.
I’ve brought you some fun facts on the top 10 longest rivers in the UK, along with information on how you can find and explore them. I’ve covered the cities they run through, the things they’re famous for, and the distance each one clocks in at.
Here’s a quick disclaimer, before we kick off: the officially-accepted lengths of rivers change over time. No, I don’t know why either, but I’ve tried to give you the most current and correct facts and figures. Anyway, on we go!
1. Severn River
Estimated length: 220 miles / 354 kilometers
First up on our list, the Severn River is the longest river in the UK measuring 220 miles / 354 kilometers. It runs through both England and Wales, stopping off in central Wales, and lots of England’s western stretches. Its major cities are Shrewsbury, Worcester, Gloucester and Bristol.
If you want to explore the river in depth, you can tackle the Severn Way, the longest riverside walking trail in the UK. Measuring in at 224 miles (360km), it runs the entire length of the river, with a few added miles for people who just can’t stop walking. Obviously, if you can’t be bothered with the full thing, you can just explore a small stretch instead.
Fun fact: During certain times of year, when flows are heavy and tides are high, it’s possible to surf on some small sections of the Severn River.
2. Thames River
Estimated length: 215 miles / 346 kilometers
The most famous river in the UK, the Thames is most well-known for running through London.
But because it’s in a massively populated part of England, it also runs through lots of other built-up places, including Oxford, Abingdon, Reading, Henley-on-Thames, Windsor, and Kingston upon Thames. It prefers metropolises to rural regions, like a character from Sex and the City.
Just like the Severn River, you can explore pretty much all of the Thames River on foot, by following the entire length of the Thames Path, another brilliant waymarked trail. It’s much more famous than the Severn Way, but it’s a little shorter. The whole thing measures in at 184 miles (294km).
If you prefer exploring on two wheels, there are also lots of great bike rides (both long and short) along the banks of the Thames.
Fun fact: The Thames River is home to more than 100 species of fish, and more than 80 islands.
3. Trent River
Estimated length: 185 miles / 297 kilometers
The first river we’ve featured that ducks under 200 miles, the Trent River’s biggest city is Nottingham. It also hits Stoke-on-Trent, close to where I went to university (though I don’t know why you’d care about that).
Anyway, some people reckon the Trent River is the boundary between the north of England and the nation’s Midlands region (but because I’m from Newcastle, I think the border is much further north).
Fun fact: The Trent River is one of the most popular big-river fishing spots in England. So if you want to catch bream, carp, pike and loads more, get your rod out and head to the Trent.
4. Wye River
Estimated length: 155 miles / 250 kilometers
Here’s where things get controversial.
Up to now, it’s all been plain sailing (or plain flowing, if you like terrible river-related sort-of puns). But there’s some contention between fans of the Wye and fans of the Great Ouse (coming up next), as different sources can’t seem to agree on which one really is the longest.
But like all good researchers, I’ve gone with whatever Wikipedia says. Unless I’m gonna go out and measure the rivers with a ruler, that’s the best I can do. So, we’re listing the Wye River as the fourth-longest river in England.
Anyway, the Wye River runs through both England and Wales—and for most of its southern half, it functions as a natural border between the two. It’s the most rural river we’ve featured so far, passing through lots of towns, villages and remote areas.
Fun fact: Despite its massive size, there’s only one city along the banks of the Wye River. It’s Hereford, in case you’re wondering.
5. Great Ouse River
Estimated length: 143 miles / 230 kilometers
There are loads of British rivers called ‘The Ouse’. Spoiler alert: there’s even one coming up next.
But of them all, this is the biggest.
As we’ve covered, some people think the Great Ouse River is bigger than the Wye River. But most people disagree, so that’s what we’re doing too. We’re crowd pleasers here at TravelMedium.
The Great Ouse meanders through England for the entirety of its length, running somewhere between the south of England and the Midlands.
The biggest settlements it courses through include Milton Keynes, Newport Pagnell and Bedford, but it also passes through loads of lovely rural places including St. Ives, Godmanchester and Ely.
Fun fact: If you want to walk the whole river, you can tackle the Ouse Valley Route, a source-to-sea trek clocking in at 142 miles (229km).
6. Ure River/Ouse River
Estimated length: 129 miles / 208 kilometers
Alright, this one’s a bit complicated. You might have noticed that this entry has two rivers in it. That’s because the Ure River and the Ouse River are connected to one other—and combined, they form the sixth-biggest river in the UK.
Lots of rivers actually drain into the Ouse, but the Ure River is the biggest of them. It starts in the northern part of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, then runs south for around 74 miles (119 km) until just northwest of York. At this point, it connects to (and becomes!) the Ouse River, before heading south for around another 55 miles (89 km).
Because the geography is quite complicated, people debate the details of exactly how long these big boys are. But the numbers above are what’s generally accepted (or at least thereabouts).
Fun fact: The Ouse River flows through York. If you plan on exploring the Ouse, you should absolutely stop off in York—it’s one of the prettiest cities in northern England.
7. Tay River
Estimated length: 117 miles / 188 kilometers
The first Scottish river on our list, the Tay River runs through the eastern part of Scotland’s central stretch. It hits the city of Perth before flowing into the sea on the eastern shores of Scotland. It also meanders through Kenmore, Aberfeldy and Dunkeld, all of which are worth a visit.
Following the banks of the Tay is a great way to explore a massively-underrated part of Scotland. Not many people come here, but way more people should.
The Tay River is probably most well-known for its links to fish. It’s one of the best salmon rivers in the UK, and people come from all over the world to nab bulging bags of the little pink critters.
Fun fact: At its widest point, the Tay River is around 2-miles wide (3.2km)—and is capable of carrying more water than the Thames and the Severn combined.
8. Clyde River
Estimated length: 109 miles / 176 kilometers
Our second Scottish river, the Clyde is mostly associated with Glasgow, the biggest place it flows through. Along its city-center banks, there are loads of hangout spots and tourist attractions, and a hefty 20 bridges.
Just like the Tay River, the Clyde is well known as a top fishing spot. But because it’s pretty populated and accessible, it’s also good for bike rides and walks, both long and short. The most famous is The Clyde Walkway, a 40-mile (65km) hiking route running south from Glasgow to New Lanark.
9. Spey River
Estimated length: 107 miles / 172 kilometers
Our third and final Scottish river, the Spey is a little less famous than the Tay and the Clyde, but it’s nearly as big.
Found just north of the Tay River, it runs through loads of lovely villages and towns, including Newtonmore, Kingussie, Aviemore, Boat of Garten, Grantown-on-Spey and Aberlour.
Another fishing river, it’s famous for its salmon. But because the Spey River runs through the northern part of the Cairngorms, it also has lots of great bases for exploring hikes and hills.
Fun fact: The Spey River is the fastest-flowing river in Scotland. Because of that, large stretches are great for canoeing, and people come from all over Scotland to tackle its challenges.
10. Nene River
Estimated length: 100 miles / 161 kilometers
Last up on our list of the 10 longest rivers in the UK is the Nene River, which runs through some of eastern England.
Like lots of the rivers we’ve already featured, it’s best explored on your two little feet. If you want to tackle the whole thing (and a bit more), have a go at The Nene Way, a long-distance waymarked trail measuring in at around 110 miles (177 km).
The Nene River passes through Northampton, Wellingborough and Peterborough, then flows into an area known as ‘The Wash,’ a massive bay on England’s east coast. It’s one of the broadest estuaries in the UK.
Fun fact: Along the eastern part of the Nene River, close to The Wash, you have the Nene Washes. This is a specially-protected wildlife area with lots of rare and migrating birds, including birds of prey.
Table of the Top 10 Longest Rivers in the UK
|1||Severn River||220 miles / 354 kilometers|
|2||Thames River||215 miles / 346 kilometers|
|3||Trent River||185 miles / 297 kilometers|
|4||Wye River||155 miles / 250 kilometers|
|5||Great Ouse River||143 miles / 230 kilometers|
|6||Ure River/Ouse River||129 miles / 208 kilometers|
|7||Tay River||117 miles / 188 kilometers|
|8||Clyde River||109 miles / 176 kilometers|
|9||Spey River||107 miles / 172 kilometers|
|10||Nene River||100 miles / 161 kilometers|
There you have it—our speedy introduction to the top 10 longest rivers in the UK. Thanks for reading.
Whatever you want to know about outdoor adventures and attractions in the UK, we’ve probably already covered it—we have guides on hiking, cycling, skiing, multi-day adventures and lots more outdoor escapades. So stick with us for much more!
Paul is a handsome and hilarious travel writer and travel journalist from the UK. He’s hiked, hitchhiked and laughed his way through more than fifty countries, and he’s always looking for a new place to call home. Originally from Newcastle, he’s lived all over the UK, spent more than three years in Asia, and most recently lived in Vietnam. Here’s his website.