Kayaking 3,220Km Around Britain

Dougal Glaisher is attempting to kayak 3,220km around the UK. The 23-year-old paddler started his journey in Suffolk on June 2. From there, he headed down the east coast to the southeast corner. He then turned clockwise along the south coast.

On day 13, he crossed the Bristol Channel to Wales. After 16 days, he made it to Ireland. He is currently in Ardglass, Northern Ireland.

Two friends joined him for the formidable crossing of the Irish Sea to Ireland. Luckily, they had glassy waters for the whole distance. A pod of 30 dolphins accompanied them.

It hasn’t been all clear skies. While paddling from Kynance Cove to St Ive’s, fog reduced the visibility to around 100m. He saw something sticking out of the water that he thought was a buoy. As he got closer, he heard an engine and saw a periscope. It was a submarine. It surfaced at a distance, and the crew came out onto the turret to wave to him.

Kayaking around the UK presents several challenges. Foremost among them are a number of open crossings, some up to 100km long. Strong tides are common, and heavy shipping traffic presents obstacles, especially in poor visibility. And of course, he is up against the ever-changing British weather.

The route. Image: dougalsepicadventure.com


An unusual diet

In 2019, Glaisher was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He is carrying all his food with him on this journey. He had to plan carefully to ensure not only that he is well-fueled, but that his blood sugar levels remain at a safe level. This was a struggle, particularly during the first few days.

“My body is in shock from the extreme exercise and lack of routine and so doesn’t respond as normal to insulin or food,” he wrote on social media. “It goes crazy. Plus I’m very scared of going low at sea as it makes me feel dizzy and sick and could lead to [losing consciousness]. Just had my first one of the trip — lying on the beach, luckily.”

Photo: Dougal Glaisher/Facebook


In addition to food and a gas stove, he has a tent packed into his kayak for those nights in the wild. Still, a number of people in the surfing and kayaking community have given him hot showers and hospitality along the way. Most nights, he has had a roof over his head, so his expedition is not entirely unsupported. Though he is going largely solo, a few friends have joined him for short sections.

Despite his youth, Glaisher is an experienced kayaker. In 2021, he kayaked 5,500km from Cherbourg, France to Venice. He has also represented Great Britain on an international level. He wants to break a speed record by kayaking around Britain within 50 days. The current record is 67 days, held by Joe Leach, who completed the circumnavigation in 2012.

Photo: Dougal Glaisher/Facebook


To paddle faster, he is using a surfski — not usually used for expeditions — rather than a normal sea kayak. He modified it to include storage hatches. He also used this vessel in 2021 when he paddled from France to Venice.

Glaisher has been averaging around 80km a day so far. You can track his progress (and blood sugar levels) here.

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.