Longest rivers in the UK. Photo: KnowInsiders
Longest rivers in the UK. Photo: KnowInsiders

Rivers play important roles in the UK including transportation of human and goods across cities and towns, major sources of water for households and industries, a source of hydroelectric power, and an important habitat for some of the UK’s indigenous wildlife. The rivers are also famous for the sporting activities including canoeing, boat racing, and sailing.

The Longest and Beautiful Rivers In The United Kingdom

Rank Longest Rivers in the United Kingdom Length
1 Severn 220 miles
2 Thames 215 miles
3 Trent 185 miles
4 Great Ouse 143 miles
5 Wye 134 miles
6 Ure-Ouse 129 miles
7 Tay 117 miles
8 Clyde 109 miles
9 Spey 107 miles
10 Nene 100 miles

Which are the 10 Longest and Beautiful Rivers in the UK?

1. Severn River

Photo: Educalingo
Photo: Educalingo

The Severn along with its seven estuaries is England’s longest river. Rising at an altitude of 610 meter on the northern slopes of Plynlimon in Wales, the Severn flows southward towards the Bristol Channel draining an area of 4,350 sq miles before joining the Atlantic Ocean. The Severn Bridge, a 990 meter suspension bridge over the river, connects London to South Wales.

2. Thames River

Photo: Park Grand London Lancaster Gate
Photo: Park Grand London Lancaster Gate

The Thames River is England’s second longest river, and the United Kingdom’s second longest as well, after the Severn with a length of 215 miles. It flows through Southern England passing through several cities including London, Reading, Windsor, Oxford, and Henley-on-Thames. The Thames drains the entire of Greater London and flows into the North Sea via the Thames Estuary. It has its source at Themes Head and Seven Spring. The river contains around 80 islands including the large estuary marshlands and small islets covered with trees. Several wildlife species including birds, fish, and aquatic mammals inhabit the River Themes. Tourists flock the river for sightseeing tours and boat ride. The river also has many bridges including the Swinford Bridge, Folly Bridge, and London Bridge which facilitate crossing from one side to another.

3. Trent River

Photo: TRENT100
Photo: TRENT100

The River Trent is the United Kingdom’s third longest river with a total length of 185 miles. It has its source at Staffordshire and drains parts of the Midlands and eastern Birmingham. The river goes through Nottingham, Burton upon Trent, and Stock-on-Trent and joins River Ouse at Trent Falls forming Humber Estuary that finally empties its waters into the North Sea. It is known for periodic flooding, especially after storms and snow melt sometimes making the river change its course. River Trent provides habitat for some birds’ species including wading birds and wildfowl. The river is used for recreation with several activities offered on the water and the river banks including rowing, sailing, and canoeing among several water sports.

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4. Great Ouse

Photo: Envirotec Magazine
Photo: Envirotec Magazine

The Great Ouse river has several sources in the Syresham village area of Northampton and drains an area of 3,236 sq miles. The river is important for its barge-based commercial navigation and flows past the counties of Northampton, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk.

5. Wye River

Photo: The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

Only four rivers in the whole of the UK are longer than the River Wye, which follows a route which takes it close to the border with Wales. In fact, it actually forms part of the border as a natural obstacle.

The Wye Valley is an area of outstanding natural beauty, drawing plenty of visitors.

Begin at the charming Old Wye Bridge in Chepstow with its five graceful curved iron arches or delightful Ross-on-Wye. Join the literati at the Hay-on-Wye festival or hike to Symonds Yat to take in the extraordinary view.

6. Ure-Ouse River

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

The River Ure is a river in North Yorkshire, England, approximately 74 miles long from its source to the point where it changes name to the River Ouse. It is the principal river of Wensleydale, which is the only one of the major Dales now named after a village rather than its river. The old name for the valley was Yoredale after the river that runs through it.

7. Tay River

Photo: www.islamouth.co.uk
Photo: www.islamouth.co.uk

The River Tay is the longest river in Scotland and the seventh-longest in the United Kingdom. The Tay originates in western Scotland on the slopes of Ben Lui, then flows easterly across the Highlands, through Loch Dochart, Loch Iubhair and Loch Tay, then continues east through Strathtay, in the centre of Scotland, then southeasterly through Perth, where it becomes tidal, to its mouth at the Firth of Tay, south of Dundee. It is the largest river in the UK by measured discharge.

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8. Clyde River

Photo: Czech Nymphing
Photo: iStock

The River Clyde is a river, that flows into the Firth of Clyde in Scotland. It is the eighth-longest river in the United Kingdom, and the second-longest in Scotland. Flowing through the major city of Glasgow, it was an important river for shipbuilding and trade in the British Empire.

9. Spey River

Photo: Czech Nymphing
Photo: Czech Nymphing

The River Spey is a river in the northeast of Scotland. It is the ninth longest river in the United Kingdom, as well as the third longest and fastest-flowing river in Scotland. It is important for salmon fishing and whisky production.

10. Nene River

Photo: Flickr
Photo: Flickr

Nene is a river in the east of England that rises from three sources in Northamptonshire. The river is about 100 miles (160 km) long, about 3.7 miles (6.0 km) of which forms the border between Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. It is the tenth-longest river in the United Kingdom, and is navigable for 88 miles (142 km), from Northampton to Wash.

The origin and meaning of the River Nene's name are unknown. The earliest known examples, which date back to the 10th century AD, have been linked to Indo-European root words for snow, rain, or washing, but a direct connection is purely speculative. According to the British toponymist and medieval scholar Victor Watts, "The name is certainly pre-English, possibly pre-Celtic'. The same name appears in the Neen, the former name of the River Rea in Shropshire, which is retained in the hamlet of Neen Savage.

Conservation Of Rivers In The United Kingdom

Rivers in the United Kingdom have long been under intense pressures from pollution, climate change, water extraction, and other detrimental human activities. Due to these negative factors, several conservation measures have been put in place to safeguard the rivers. These measures include the UK Rivers Network which aims to mobilize the communities to identify with the rivers and take part in the conservation efforts. Companies have also been challenged to treat and safely dispose waste away from water bodies.

What is the longest river solely in England?

The second question which is sometimes asked is 'What is the longest river which is completely in England?'. It makes sense that this will not be the longest river that flows through England, since it has already been proven that this was the River Severn, which is the longest river in the UK but has a portion within the country of Wales. The longest river solely in England is therefore the River Thames. The length of the River Thames is 215 miles, or 346 kilometres for those who prefer metric. As can be seen, this is only slightly shorter than the length of the River Severn.

There is some dispute as to the exact source of the River Thames. However, it is somewhere within a small part of the English county of Gloucestershire. The River Thames flow approximately east through a number of English counties. After leaving Gloucestershire the River Thames flows through Wiltshire for a while, before entering the county of Oxfordshire. The River Thames flows through the historic city of Oxford, before continuing through Oxfordshire and into Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. Here it passes through the towns of Reading, Henley-on-Thames and Windsor. The river then flows into Surrey where it flows through the capital city, London. The River Thames then continues eastwards through Essex and Kent, before discharging into the Thames Estuary.

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