CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Canal Boat today CLICK HERE

Take a boating holiday

PUBLISHED: 17:50 27 March 2014 | UPDATED: 18:05 27 March 2014

Archant

Never been on a canal boat before? Worried that it might be too difficult for you? There’s no need to be concerned: hundreds of first-time hirers do it every year.

The basics of canal boating are very straightforward and your hire company will provide a full handover, which includes familiarising you with controlling the boat. They will normally accompany you through the first lock, too, making sure you understand everything.

Above all, everything happens slowly and the canals have been described as ‘the fastest way of slowing down’ – it’s the relaxed pace of life that attracts so many people to the waterways.

There is a fascinating variety of canals and rivers to explore in the different areas of our beautiful and historic waterways network – it might be peaceful, quiet countryside you’re looking for, or an energetic week with lots of locks, some glimpses of our industrial heritage – or even a chance to cruise under Spaghetti Junction (yes, really!)

But whatever you choose, don’t spoil your holiday by taking on too much, it’s better to try an out-and-back trip for your first time – then you always know how long it’ll take you to get back to base. And, on the way back, you can visit the places you missed on the way out – and anyway, canals always look different from the opposite direction.

Here’s a quick guide to some of the UK’s waterways to help you enjoy a waterborne holiday!

Wales and Scotland are famous for their stunning scenery – but that’s not all their waterways have to offer. They also feature some of the finest feats of engineering by canal-builders from the 18th Century to the present day. The most famous of those engineering achievements is the spectacular Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, carrying the Llangollen Canal a dizzying 127ft above the River Dee. Take the Union Canal from Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh and you will find yourself crossing three of Britain’s most impressive aqueducts dating from two centuries ago, before you arrive at our newest waterways wonder. The Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift, links the Union Canal to the Forth & Clyde, which crosses Scotland from coast to coast and links to the heart of its largest city, Glasgow.

For a lazy cruise try a trip along Britain’s longest river: the Severn. The few locks are all worked for you by keepers as the broad river passes through miles of quiet countryside from Stourport down to Gloucester with its historic docks and waterways museum. For those keen on exercise, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal has no fewer than 58 locks in its 30 miles – plus five tunnels too. The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal has 54 locks, a couple of aqueducts, and some unique features including barrel-roofed lock cottages and ‘split’ bridges with a gap to pass the towrope through in the days of horse-drawn boats

England’s most famous river is the Thames, and you can cruise it all the way from Inglesham in Gloucestershire, where it isn’t much bigger than a large stream, right down to London. In the upper reaches it flows through quiet, remote countryside; further downstream you will cruise through famous and historic riverside towns such as Oxford, Henley, Marlow and Windsor. From Reading the Kennet & Avon Canal heads westwards, cutting right across the country to Bristol Docks.

Despite their industrial origins, the East Midlands’ waterways pass through quiet, unspoilt, rolling countryside. The Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal climbs to the remote 20-mile Leicester Summit before descending the spectacular Foxton Locks. The Oxford Canal, an important trunk route in its early days, is now a quiet rural backwater and the Coventry Canal’s name might conjure up visions of industry, but the truth is that most of its route is rural.

The Eastern waterways are different. Instead of the traditional English canals with their old-fashioned locks and hump-backed bridges, this is a system based on rivers and land drainage channels. But it isn’t any the less interesting for that: the rivers Nene and Great Ouse flow from the Midlands towards the Wash, passing riverside villages, towns and cities, and descending through distinctive locks with vertically-rising guillotine gates. The Middle Level Navigations system is a unique network of waterways built to drain the fenlands and has a unique atmosphere, a number of villages and towns where the waterway follows the main street in a style a little reminiscent of the Netherlands, and the wide open views of ‘big sky country’.

A little bit out on a limb, the north-eastern waterways are quite different. Based mainly on broad rivers rather than canals, several of them including the Aire & Calder Navigation and the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation can still be seen doing the job they were built for – carrying cargo – but today it’s big motor barges moving several hundred tons rather than the old horse-drawn boats of yesterday. Other parts of the system are purely recreational these days reaching right up into the Pennines Pennines on, say, the Leeds & Liverpool or the Rochdale.

To help you decide on places you might like to do, don’t forget we’ve just produced a brand new, colourful countrywide Map of the Inland Waterways.

0 comments

More from Canal Boat

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Propelled an electric motor powered by a huge array of solar panels, this style-packed 70-footer shows how technology is marching on

Read more

Is it electric, ask towpath walkers as a soundproofed Beta provides a beautifully peaceful power plant on this 60ft semi-trad

Read more
October 2018
Friday, September 7, 2018

How do you buy a narrowboat and spend five days a week renovating it while on maternity leave, without letting on to your husband? Katy-Felicity Butler-Brown tells us how it was done...

Read more
October 2018
Friday, September 7, 2018

We ask the experts how to keep your perfect paintjob

Read more
September 2018
Friday, September 7, 2018

To help you enjoy uninterrupted cruising, here are the top five causes of breakdowns and how to avoid them

Read more
September 2018

Boating Leisure Services are back in the winners’ enclosure with an elegant craft full of future-proofed features

Read more
September 2018

Seasoned boaters Audrey and Mick Rogers know what they like so the only destination to head for was one of the country’s top builders

Read more
June 2018
Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A bespoke boat means you can really tailor your design to fit your dreams. And if that means an extended cabin and a gigantic bed, JD Narrowboats are happy to oblige

Read more
April 2018
Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Why wait years for a bespoke build? Adam braves the last blast of winter to test a top notch spec boat that is ready to go

Read more
May 2018
Wednesday, March 28, 2018

In response to the rising number of boaters buying moorings, British Waterways Marinas Ltd has issued some simple but important safety tips

Read more

Most Read

Newsletter Sign Up

Canal Boat monthly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Like us on Facebook



Follow us on Twitter