For the first time, paddle sports fans will be able to canoe through the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in the UK, as the nation’s canal charity launches a new ‘bucket list’ experience.

This summer, waterways charity Canal & River Trust is offering three long weekends of guided canoe trips through Standedge Tunnel, which spans 3.5 miles under the Pennines between Marsden, near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, and Diggle in Lancashire.

This awe-inspiring tunnel, one of the seven wonders of the waterways, is an extraordinary feat of engineering, taking over 17 years to dig by hand. Those taking the trip through the tunnel can see just how it was constructed, whilst enjoying a unique paddling experience.

The Trust already ensures safe passage for boats travelling on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal through Standedge Tunnel. But this is the first time that the charity is running paddle trips through the tunnel.

Sean McGinley, regional director for Yorkshire & North East at Canal & River Trust, explained the charity’s decision to launch these trips: “We’re excited to launch a new chapter in the history of Standedge Tunnel, a real wonder of the waterways. 

“Our charity is working harder than ever to keep our historic 250-year-old canal network alive. This experience is one of the many ways people can help support our work, contributing to the vital funds needed to help us maintain our 2,000-mile network of canals and assets, while discovering this amazing treasure under the Pennines.”

Gordon McMinn, volunteer team leader and qualified paddle sports instructor at Canal & River Trust, who is coordinating the trips, said: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list opportunity for keen canoeists to paddle though this magnificent tunnel and explore its 3.5 miles. It will give participants a real sense of this remarkable tunnel, one of the seven wonders of the waterways, which is steeped in history. The trips just emphasise that life’s better by – or in this case, on – water.”

There will be 18 paddle trips over nine days in June, July and August. Each trip, which takes approximately two hours, will be one way only, from either Marsden to Diggle or Diggle to Marsden.

Participants will use Canal & River Trust’s open canoes for the trips and will be guided by trained staff and volunteers from the Trust. All PPE (helmets, buoyancy aids, lights) can be provided by the Trust; however, participants are welcome to use their own helmets and buoyancy aids for the trip.

Participants will need to plan the return leg of their trip, which could be a breathtaking and picturesque seven-mile walk back over the hill or, for those who have had enough exercise, there’s a local bus (Arriva 184) and local taxi services.

Dates for the trips are 28, 29 and 30 June; 26, 27 and 28 July; and 23, 24 and 25 August.

Places, which cost £100 for two people in a tandem canoe or £55 for a solo paddler in a canoe, are limited due to the nature of the experience, and are bookable on Canal & River Trust’s website: Paddle sports at Standedge | Standedge (

For non-experienced paddlers, the charity is also running taster canoe and stand-up paddle (SUP) sessions at Standedge this summer. Dates and details on how to book these will be released on the Trust’s website shortly.