Canal boating holidays that every boater will want to try this year

Canal Lane Bridge 'Plattbridger', Flickr CC2.0

Canal Lane Bridge 'Plattbridger', Flickr CC2.0 - Credit: Archant

Is there anything better then holidaying on a canal? Life slows to a walking pace allowing you to enjoy the breathtaking views and abundant heritage that the waterways have to offer. We’ve picked 8 different holiday locations that are perfect for every type of boater.

Union Canal Sunny Day 'Hamish Irvine' Flickr CC2.0

Union Canal Sunny Day 'Hamish Irvine' Flickr CC2.0 - Credit: Archant


The Llangollen takes roughly 3 days to cruise (one way), cutting through hilly countryside, tree-lined lakes and the foothills of Snowdonia. Explorers can experience the half-timbered buildings of medieval Whitchurch, or wander through the quaint markets of Ellesmere. The Llangollen crosses the border between England and Wales and has an amazing combination of picturesque views and breathtaking feats of engineering. Undoubtedly the most notable being the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct that sits on top of 126 feet high masonry towers with a dramatically sheer drop on the non-towpath side.

The Avon Ring

The Avon Ring is a perfect combination of history and heritage, culture and vibrant, modern city scenery. This is an easy two-week cruise, you will however, require an Avon Licence in order to follow the route. The Avon Ring alternates between steep flights of locks to provide some exercise for the crew, and hours of lock-free cruising, where you can take in the picturesque views and greenery at your own leisure. It cuts through Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare and home to the Royal Shakespeare Museum. The city of Worcester, famed for its historical importance and beautiful 12th century Cathedral that sits overlooking the River Severn.

The Kennet & Avon

The K&A has some of the most beautiful countryside that Britain has to offer. Taking almost a week to cruise, it threads its way through Bristol Docks then follows the Avon as it meanders into Bath, before climbing through many locks, culminating in the spectacular Caen Hill flight leading to Devizes, followed by a gentler descent to meet the Thames at Reading. This route offers a wonderful contrast of the breathtaking views of the National Trust forest: Leigh Woods and the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the vibrant cafes, bars and attractions of the Bristol Harbourside to the stunning 18th century, classical architecture of Bath. The small canal village of Honeystreet, and market towns Newbury and Hungerford are perfect for exploring. You will almost certainly find a lovely coffee shop or canal-side pub like The Pelican offering home cooked food and a great atmosphere.

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Oxford Canal

The scenery, the lift bridges, the narrow locks, the Oxford is arguably one of the prettiest canals that the UK’s waterways have to offer. Boaters can pass slowly through the charming stone villages of the English countryside stopping in at an abundance of traditional canal pubs along the way. The Oxford is perfect for idyllic, easy-going walks to work off all of the delicious pub food you’ll be enjoying.

The London Ring

Taking approximately a weekend to cruise, the ring is followed clockwise directly into the heart of London. The route goes through Little Venice to the Paddington Basin giving boaters the opportunity to see London Zoo, Regent’s Park and the Camden Lock Market. You can then move on to the Limehouse Basin which offers an amazing selection of Restaurants and Pubs before entering the Thames tideway for the highlight of the trip, the journey through the heart of London via Tower Bridge, The London Eye, the Houses of Parliament. This is also a busy tidal river which you’ll be sharing with freight barges, large passenger boats and other sizeable craft, and is therefore best suited to experienced boaters in suitably reliable craft, and with the benefit of local knowledge.

The South-Pennine Ring

If you’re experienced narrowboaters and searching for a challenge, then this circular route that crosses the Pennines twice could be a monumental achievement. As the route passes through the Pennines boaters can experience what is possibly some of the most dramatic upland scenery in the UK. Not to mention the Standedge Tunnel – the longest canal tunnel in Britain. The South Pennine is a strenuous journey and rather lock intensive – those who decide to brave it will need to be active and up for the challenge. Please note that parts of the Rochdale Canal and Calder & Hebble Navigation are currently still being repaired after the winter flood damage, so you’ll have to wait until later this year to cruise the ring – but we promise it’ll be worth waiting for!

Caldon Canal

This canal has outstanding scenery and is perfect for any boaters that also enjoy cycling or walking. The Black Lion Pub - is nestled away in the Churnet Valley - although isolated is a must visit, it serves incredible local ale and even has a boaters store. There is also the Churnet Valley Steam Railway that will transport you back to the traditional days of railway travel. Visitors can take a delightful 10½ mile journey on a rural line that passes through beautiful countryside known to many as ‘Staffordshire’s Little Switzerland’. The Caldon Canal is a dead-end so it’s often bypassed by boaters heading past on the Trent & Mersey through Stoke-on-Trent. This is a shame, as it’s a real ‘hidden gem’ but keeps it quiet for the boaters who do go there allowing for a very peaceful and relaxed trip.

Canal du Midi

For anyone who fancies something a little bit different this canal is a haven for boaters who visit from all over the world to bask in its beautiful scenery. A holiday along the Canal Du Midi will take you past a dizzying number wine growing areas, endless fields of sunflowers, quaint French villages and numerous wonderful cafes. The glorious weather, the wine and the delightful green waters will make for an unforgettable trip.

Struggling to decide which route is best for you? Take a look a look at these beautiful photos of some of canals from above:


Regent’s Canal

Oxford Canal

Canal Du Midi