Looking for information on renting narrow boats to travel canals of England. We are planning a mid-week short trip without too many locks in mid-September. We want scenery and friendly villages. There will be 4-6 of us and no one has any experience.
There are all kinds of places to rent them and all boats are pretty much the same for a particular size. You'll need the longer one and it's still going to be crowded. With six, somebody is going to sleeping on what was a table during the day.
You don't need any kind of experience. They give you an orientation and a bit of practice. A ten year old kid can work the locks alone -- each lock takes about twenty minutes. Without locks, you average close to three miles an hour. You can only run the boats during daylight.
If you can find a way to stock up on food and such beforehand since the shops in the marinas are skimpy and expensive.
With the above limitations and all the logistics involved, I wouldn't bother for less than a week. We've done a batch and never found bad scenery or absence of villages/towns. I'd be hard-pressed to work out of Nottingham again, however.
We've done 2 narrowboat cruises and loved every minute of it. The biggest selection of boats is from www.abcboathire.com which is a group of 4 of the biggest hire companies. We were 2 couples and both times we rented the same style which was the "Medway" class from Viking Afloat (one of the 4 companies). We looked at a lot of floor plans and this was the best as it had a W/C at each end so we didn't disturb the other party. It was 57 feet long and I wouldn't it want any longer. 6 people means you'll be either crowded or in a much longer boat. Locks are easy and fun. You don't get possession of the boat until 3pm so we just shopped at local supermarket before departure. We did have a loose menu plan. Some nights you may berth near a pub.
We did a 4 day out of Rugby towards Warwick and back. This was an ideal first time out.
The second was a 7 day out of Whitchurch to Llangollen and back (over 2 aquaducts).
The staff will take you through a short training session including a lock if close by.
The "Pearson's Canal Guide" for your particular route is invaluable for planning. Gives every pub and lock etc. plus times to travel between points.
If I can be of further help please feel free to contact me.
I and various combinations of family members and friends have been exploring the English canal network for many years. It is a wonderful way to visit the British countryside, as well as the towns and cities that are situated on the canal network. I have found that the scenery is wonderful in most places and the people are generally very friendly and helpful. It is best to not be too ambitious about how far you plan to go each day, then you will have time to explore the towns and to visit nearby touristy sites.
Some people will caution you about the cramped quarters on narrowboats, but I always remind my crew members that one can always get off the boat and walk along the adjacent towpath whenever the togetherness gets to be a bit overwhelming. We tend to always have at least one place to visit each day and this gets people off the boat. With 6 of you on board, you can visit canalside pubs and tea rooms or do some grocery shopping on a daily basis -- the boat fridges are quite compact. There are lots of web sites with information about hire companies and canals, plus blogs written by avid narrowboaters. The information given by the previous posters is also a good place to start.
Hope that you have a great time. If you are on the Trent and Mersey or the Staffordshire canals, we just might pass one another, since I will be going over for my annual trip in mid-September.
The Brecon / Monmouthshire Canal goes through lovely scenery. Also consider the Kennet & Avon Canal east of Bath but avoid the Devizes section which has a large chain of locks. The Llangollen Canal also goes through lovely scenery but does include a massive aqueduct that you might find very scary due to the sheer drop from the rim.