Updated on January 28, 2023 by Axel Hernborg

Axel Hernborg

With a massive range of geographies, from lowlands to mountains and great valleys, it’s probably not much of a surprise that the United Kingdom has such an extensive and intricate set of rivers and waterways, that have been instrumental to its history, time and time again.

Whether they have been economic or agricultural centers or simply beautiful hotspots of nature that are perfect for hiking through, they have left their mark on the people and lands that they travel through!

As we have already mentioned, rivers are often very popular nature spots for tourists, but there are so many waterways, that finding just a few can be quite a challenge, especially if you are unfamiliar with them.

That’s why we have created this small guide for you, to help show you some of the best or most prominent rivers in the United Kingdom.

There are plenty of other rivers that didn’t quite make the list, but these are some of the most major out there.

River Thames

Starting us off with probably one of the most famous rivers in Europe, we have the River Thames, which famously runs through and past the Greater London area and the surrounding areas.

However, the River Thames is so much more than the relatively small area that covers the British capital.

The river itself starts from several smaller channels, known as ‘The Isis’ that feed it from the Cotswolds, and eventually coalesce into the Thames that we know and admire in Gloucester, which travels eastward until it exits into the North Sea

This results in a river that clocks in at around 215 miles (or 346 kilometers), making it an exceedingly long river, especially by British standards.

This length that stretches across the south of England makes it the single longest river that is entirely based in England in the UK, and the second largest on the island, and by quite a margin as well!

Being a river that at least partly goes through the capital of the UK, the River Thames is probably the most famous river in the country, with it being a part of countless pieces of media and literature, as well as a place where plenty of water sports are practiced and held, from rowing to even swimming in some locations.

River Nene

While certainly not as famous as the River Thames, the River Nene is certainly a main feature of the landscape and countryside of Northampton, with its long length of around 105 miles (or 169 kilometers) does still make it one of the longest in the United Kingdom.

Major Rivers In The UK (1)

The river itself rises from several smaller channels in Northamptonshire, and moves through Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, before flowing into the North Sea

What’s perhaps most impressive is that a good chunk of the river can be traversed, from North Hampton, all the way to The Wash, where the river spills out from East Anglia and into the North Sea

River Severn

Remember how we said that the River Thames is almost completely unchallenged in size, being the largest river solely in England, and the second largest in the UK?

Well, on a completely unrelated note, here is the River Severn, the River Thames’ big brother.

Clocking in at 220 miles (or 354 kilometers) long, it just beats out the Thames by a few miles, making it the largest river in both Wales and England, which the river flows between.

The river starts from many tributaries, mostly based around Plynlimon, wales, before flowing into Western Gloucester, and circling back down to Southern Wales and into the Irish Sea.

River Avon

Now, time for a river that many British folks will likely be at least a little familiar with.

The River Avon is perhaps best known for its unique etymological history.

See, the word Avon or ‘Afon’ translate into ‘River’ in its native Welsh, meaning that the river’s name is technical ‘River ‘River’, though it doesn’t exactly carry the same weight and recognition ad the Thames or Severn.

What the River Avon might lack in widespread knowledge and acclaim, it certainly does make up for in length, being in the top 20 at number 19 in the longest river found in the United Kingdom, at around 

River Don (Scotland)

Not to be confused with another River Don that runs through South Yorkshire that is also in the UK, the Scottish River Don rises from the Grampians mountain range (see more about UK mountains here), and flows through Aberdeenshire, before exiting the mouth of the river into the North Sea, at a length of around 81 miles (or 131 kilometers).

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it.

Some of these rivers are big and world, famous, whilst others here might be a little on the smaller side, and have more hidden gems than shining diamonds.

However, all of them have massive stretches of waterways to explore, whether you’re a native of the island or a visitor that is looking to absorb as much of the natural beauty as possible!

Locate and name major rivers in the UK.