I am investigating booking a canal holiday where we would hire a boat and cruise a canal. Target date July 2021. We do not have any time restriction or a specific canal chosen. Just really unsure if this would be worth the time and money. Does anyone have any experience with this type of holiday? if so, what canal would you choose. Thank you.
Any reason why Scotland?
England has a lot more canals, and more canal holiday options. As an example, Google "Cheshire Ring".
Thank you for your response. We plan to be in Scotland in July 2021 and were thinking about adding a canal holiday as an alternative way of seeing Scotland. Our trip currently consists of doing some driving, and a couple of Rabbies tours. None the less, I will check out your suggestion.
There aren't many canals in Scotland because canals and hills do not mix.
There are some canals in the central Lowlands, that is the Glasgow-Edinburgh area where most people live.
The one exception is the Caledonian Canal, which runs coast-to-coast through the Great Glen between Fort William and Inverness. This includes traversing the largest loch in the Great Glen - Loch Ness.
see here for info: https://www.scottishcanals.co.uk/canals/caledonian-canal/
I can’t offer any Scottish canal information, but in 2003 we rented a British “narrowboat” in Southern France, and spent almost 2 weeks on the Canal du Midi, traveling slowly. The boat was narrow, and also slow, with a small engine, and a snug fit for 3 of us. It came with bicycles for potentially riding along the canalside or to nearby towns, but they were mostly rusty and unusable.
It was a different way of traveling, certainly a good way of experiencing part of France for a change of pace, but we’ve never done it again. For better or worse, the lock workers were on strike in France the whole time, so we couldn’t have had their help getting thru locks when going “upstream.” I understand there are (or were) places in the world where boat operators are allowed (or expected) to get themselves thru the locks. It turned out to be a non-issue, as we never made it up to any lock, before turning around and slowly backtracking to where we’d started. The boat had a small galley, where we fixed meals, but pulling over and walking into a town for dinner at great restaurants was a treat.
We were passed over and over by much bigger powerboats flying Netherlands flags. They must’ve come from far away to cruise the canal. But then so had our boat, when the English couple who ran the rental operation had brought boats down to France. One of the most entertaining and unexpected moments on the canal was when we heard bells, and looked over to one side of the boat. For about 10 minutes, hundreds of sheep came running along the canal, bells ringing, maybe moving to a new pasture.
Going on Cyn's observations - British narrowboats are designed to go at the speed limit on British canals, which is 4 mph or walking speed. Most British locks are operated by the boat crew.
I agree that compared with English or Welsh canals there are very very few in Scotland.
For a real adventure, you could hire a longboat out of Falkirk, and cruise the Union Canal or the Forth and Clyde Canal. For a further treat, you could take your longboat on the Falkirk Wheel, which connects the two. Apparently it's free for private longboats to use the wheel, but you have to reserve in advance.
This may help: www.waterwaysholidays.com/scotland_canals.htm
Happy sailing, or canaling, or whatever the term is for taking a longboat on a canal!
One of the best visits to Scotland we’ve done was walking the Great Glen Way, staying on a 12 berth barge every night. Have a look at www.caledonian-discovery.co.uk to see what the barge(s) are like - we sailed on Fingal, but now there’s a second, Ros Crana.
Admittedly this is not sailing your own exclusive boat, and you might not fancy hiking the Great Glen, but they do all sorts of trips - cycling, canoeing, sailing, nature/wildlife even musical weeks in addition to hiking and Munro’s bagging. Or, as they say, you can stay aboard and watch the world drift past as the barge moves to each overnight stop.
The boats sail the Caledonian Canal which is a series of short canals linking several lochs between Fort William and Inverness. One goes north, the other heads south and at the end of each trip they turn round and head back in the other direction - but you’ll see all this on their website. Early booking advised - I’m guessing they are booking 2021 now!
Hope this gives you food for thought!
Thank you all for your input.
Ian, the Caledonian Discovery barge has really peeked my interest. Understanding that you walked the Great Glen Way everyday, did you find the time you did spend on the barge as 'trapped'. After day 4 or so. Trying to find a nice way of saying were you able to get away from the other 10 or so passengers and have alone time?
So appreciate your input! Darla
Sure, you could go sit in the Scottish sun on Fingal’s roof in front of the wheelhouse and drink unlimited cups of tea. Or if in the right spot, go to another barge, The Eagle, moored on a stretch of the canal which was a floating pub (slightly more riotous), or just buy a beer form Fingal’s supply and have a moment or just mooch about on the canal side - you don’t have to go far to be alone if that’s what you want. However we would return from our daily walk, shower, beer/tea followed by evening meal. Once the large communal table was cleared, the ‘map’ of the walk would be taken from the wall - it’s about eight feet long! - and we’d discuss the day’s route and tomorrow’s plans - the map is so big the guide would be kneeling on the table pointing out the route, places of interest, etc., with a deer antler!
During the day there was no compunction to walk ‘mob handed’ but there was always a Fingal guide at the back to ensure nobody went astray. It’s Scotland - apart from the places of habitation, it’s pretty quiet!
I should add nothing much is compulsory. So if you wanted to go read or write your journal, there were other seats available in the saloon, although, yes, the rest of the group were there most times. I couldn’t suggest retreating to your cabin as they are tiny (see the pictures) but we had the best night’s sleep you could imagine, amazingly comfortable! On the plus side it stays light outside in summer (if the weather is OK) until very late!
On our trip we were with four other friends in a small group and the other six were a small group too. I don’t think this is the norm though. The other group referred to us as ‘The A Team’ because they said it looked like we knew what we were doing. Appearances can be deceptive!
sit in the Scottish sun
sun? in Scotland?
I was largely utilising irony there, Nigel!
Although we actually did sit on the roof and drink tea on a memorably sunny day wiggling our naked tootsies in the sun after a day’s hike. I mean, looking a gift horse in the mouth and all that!
We took this trip some years ago and enjoyed it: https://www.leboat.co.uk/boating-holidays/scotland/caledonian-canal-loch-ness.
Other options we haven't tried (yet) are: