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Long Boat Holidays in England

We are looking at having a long boar holiday on one of the English canals. Are there any reccomendations people would have for a long boat holiday companies and routes?
Thanks, Thad

Posted by
33301 posts

Long boats = Vikings.

Narrowboats = British Canals.

There are dozens of good companies, and many many routes.

One week or two?

Where will you be before and after the holiday?

How many in the party?

I loves me a bit of canal work.

Posted by
111 posts

I went on a canal boat holiday (a while ago! In 2006!) and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was with my pavers and our route went down the Thames, which was good as at the locks there were people to operate the locks for us.

Posted by
6113 posts

Nigel has asked most of the pertinent questions. As most of the canals are self operated, I would also question how many people in your party? The Cheshire ring is best with at least 3 people onboard ie one to steer and one for each lock gate as there are lots of time consuming locks that’s hard work for just 2 people.

Most trips are for a week. How long do you have?

Posted by
286 posts

My wife and I have just recently returned from our 2nd narrowboat holiday, Our first was in 2016 for 10 days and our second was this June for 7 days. I have a few comments:

  1. Spend the night prior to picking up your boat in the local area. This allows you to do grocery shopping and last minute prep at your “leisure”. On our first trip we went from the train to the boat with about 40 minutes to do grocery shopping. That was mistake.
  2. Avoid July and August. The canals are very busy at these times. On our first trip it was the end of July. This last time it mid June. Much less traffic to contend with.
  3. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Don’t plan on spending more than 6 hours traveling. More is not fun. On our first trip I planned on 10 for the round trip. I backed off when I realized at day 5 we wern’t going to make it and have any fun.
  4. The plan that worked for us is to eat breakfast and lunch on the boat and eat dinner at a canal side pub. Basically cruise from pub to pub.

If you have more questions, I can try to answer.

Good luck

Posted by
440 posts

We've done two canal trips. One, about 25 years ago on the Avon Ring out of Evesham, and the other last year (2017) out of Bath on the Kennet and Avon Canal. Both were for 2 weeks in late April-early May. There was just the two of us and while we were definitely busy handling the locks, the really busy areas usually had people around to help out.

Here's our recommendations:

  1. Don't travel in summer holiday season. The canals are extremely busy and it will take forever to navigate some of the locks and find moorings near towns, or to take on water, etc.
  2. The farther away from London, the less busy the canals are. The last trip we took was extremely busy with holiday traffic and full timers . It made it difficult to find moorings when you want to stop near towns, and you couldn't travel very fast.
  3. Bring work gloves to handle the ropes and locks.
  4. We loved the Avon Ring. Nice and quiet and lovely countryside and towns.
  5. We had breakfast and most lunches on board. Many of our dinners were in local pubs.
  6. Wifi was less than reliable onboard, so pubs were our friends.

Use the Waterways Holidays website to look for companies and routes, and then do a TA/google search for comments. There are many companies and some are better than others. You may also find useful comments about what people thought about the routes.... something we should have done prior to our last trip.

Posted by
33301 posts


Your other posts indicate that you use a wheelchair.

Will you be able to steer the boat without alterations being made to the tiller? There are very few hireboats which are disabled friendly. I have a bit of experience with narrowboat hires and my experience is that they have take a fair bit of clambering up and down to the tiller, into the main cabin, and back out again, and the boats are, well, narrow, as are internal passageways. Locks are not difficult but require a fair amount of effort to open and close - you are moving a couple of tons of wood and steel in the water. Some able bodied folk have difficulty both with the windlass and with moving the gates.

That said, I have a wheelchair bound friend who with her husband lives on an adapted boat and together with their son they manage quite well.

The towpaths around locks and the descent from most locks is quite steep.

Posted by
22 posts

Yes, I use a wheelchair but I am during some research for a young man who is doing some postgrad work in Birmingham. I took a trip like this in Lancaster in the 70’s (pre wheelchair days) and really enjoyed it. However, as I recall, it could be a scramble to get to those pubs. I am glad I did it when I did. Thanks, Thad

Posted by
239 posts

Llangollen Canal is quite fun, if only to experience going over the Pontecysylte aqueduct. Great fun, if a little hair-raising.

Posted by
1314 posts

A long time ago, my brother, myself and two friends took a narrowboat up the Leeds and Liverpool Canal from Gargrave, near Skipton in Yorkshire to Blackburn in Lancashire, and back. Took us a week. The trip was a curious mix of beautiful Dales scenery and industrial revolution history (dark satanic mills and all that!).

I also recall that we were having one of our infrequent dry summers too and then, as now, the locks were chained open overnight to conserve water (I rather gather the current situation is a bit worse than then and some stretches of the canal are totally closed at the moment). But if you are planning a trip for next year I would guess that a similar scenario is fairly unlikely!

Try searching for a company called, I think, Pennine Cruisers.

Posted by
33301 posts


You haven't said when your (or those you know) trip is planned for.

As mentioned by Ian just above, some large and busy canals are being shut now or at the end of the month because there is not enough water to keep them going.