Holiday on the canals

Canal holidays are more popular then they’ve ever been - and with good reason. UK canals are in the best condition of their two hundred year history, and with the pinch we’re all feeling on our purse strings there’s never been a better time to give it a go.

Enjoy life in the slow lane

Canal holidays offer the peace of the countryside, sightseeing in historic towns, country pubs, working the locks or just getting away from it all for a relaxing break at your own pace. Canal holidays allow you the freedom to cruise through the unspoilt heart of the British countryside enjoying life in the slow lane.

Canal Boat, Barge or Narrowboat?

Most British canals were designed with locks just 7 ft wide and 70 ft long. This meant that a particular style of boat was needed – narrowboats. They are sometimes incorrectly described as barges, but barges are generally wider and cannot cruise on narrow canals.

A truly modern experience

Over the last twenty years, the canal system has been revamped by the development of the leisure industry, and what began as a freight transport system, is now a unique holiday experience. Alongside the revitalised system has been the development of brand new boats, designed and constructed to provide comfortable holiday hire craft.

Given the restrictions of width, the living accommodation in the modern canal boat is impressive. A canal boat offers all the comforts of a modern home, including central heating, and is powered by a quiet, smooth running engines.

Where to go

One of the many great things about a boating holiday on the canals is that you chose both the pace and the itinerary. For young families there are undemanding routes with amazing views and new things to see and do every day. Larger crews who want to cover more ground during their canal holiday, could try a one-way trip, or a circular trip – also known as a cruising ring. This allows you to travel further without retracing your steps.

For a first cruise, it’s advisable to choose a route without too many locks. As a rule, if you wish to avoid too many locks, choose a route which doesn’t go in and out of Birmingham, or which crosses the Pennines.

What your crew must do!

A boating holiday suits almost everyone, but your party should include at least two fit adults. If you don't have two fit adults, a hotel boat cruise may be a good alternative. When cruising, you need one person to steer. When you reach locks, one person should remain on the boat the other goes ashore to work the paddles and gates. Children will be happy on the boats, and can help with the locks or walk the towpath. A couple could hire a small boat, but if you are choosing a route with lots of locks, it’s best to have extra adults on board.

How do locks work?

Locks are used to lift or lower boats from one level to another. On waterways like the Thames and Scotland's Great Glen, the locks are manned and operated for you during the summer. But on canals, locks are much smaller and can be easily operated by your crew.

What do you need to know about boats?

Nothing! While it might seem a scary idea travelling down the waterways for the first time, it isn't difficult, as long as you take your safety seriously. No driving licence is required for boat hire on inland waterways.

So sit back, take it easy and enjoy your canal holiday.

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