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Self drive narrow boat barge, has anyone done this?

We rented a self drive narrow boat barge in Ireland and spent a week cruising on the Shannon River pulling into little villages at night to explore. We were thinking of doing the same in Scotland and wondered if anyone has done and what the experience was like. The portion of the Shannon-Erin waterway that we were on had waterway docking for the barge at night. We will spend perhaps 3 weeks in Scotland with one being on the barge as we did in Ireland. I don't know if we will miss out on the Scotland experience by doing this or if it's better to do a driving tour of the country and forget the barge.
Thanks for you any information you can share.

Posted by
8293 posts

Just what I was going to say, Rebecca!

Posted by
5677 posts

Well, in Ed's absence, you'll have to make do with me. I've not done the tours, but I did know enough about Scotland to know where to look. There are two areas of Scotland with canals that I know about. One is near Glasgow and and the central belt. It has the Lanark Wheel as a cool attraction. The other is up north and is the Caledonian Canal. That was the one that I first thought of. I am not sure about renting the narrow boats, but clearly holidays happen on the canals.

I will say when I think of boating in Scotland, I think about a sail boat cruise in the Western Isles on a boat like this one. :) If you've got three weeks, I would also definitely rent a car. There are wonderful places that you can really only get to by car. Let me know more about you interests and I'll be glad to help.


Posted by
2615 posts

not a lot of narrow boats in Scotland and the areas used are pretty limited.
this company might be able to offer you something.
many years ago we did a family holiday on a narrow boat in the heart of England canal system,but that was nearly 40 years ago,England does have a much wider choice for this sort of activity that Scotland. again the Hoseason's link will give you info.

Posted by
1594 posts

As Unclegus says if it is specifically a narrow boat holiday you want, you are better off looking south of the border, specifically the English Midlands, where the canal network is better for this kind of holiday. The big canal in Scotland, the Caledonian Canal up the Great Glen, does have pleasure craft using this but not the narrow boat kind.

Posted by
1 posts

JudyH here, hoping for the same Scotish narrowboat experience. It looks as though the Lowlands offers the more variety but not the Wheel. Has anyone done canals/waterways here? There will be 2 of us so some walking, car rental, train could be included to expand our area. Suggestions?

Posted by
1594 posts

The thing with the canals is the terrain of Scotland generally counted against it. We really only have one canal of that type, the Forth and Clyde which is linked with the Wheel.

If you want to go on a canal holiday in the UK, realistically you are looking at our neighbours to the south.

Posted by
1283 posts

We rented a motor boat (i.e. NOT a narrow boat) on Caledonian Canal ( 6 years ago (and one on Shannon 3 years ago).

As you know if you tried it, it is a wonderful relaxing way to spend a week, but you will be limited to the Canal area. We thoroughly enjoyed the Nessie Museum and Fort Augustus.

If you are in Scotland 3 weeks, then 1 week spent on the canal, will be a relaxing vacation-in-vacation.

Happy trails.

Posted by
169 posts

Thank you all for your input. We may spend 1 week in Wales on a narrow boat (or perhaps forget it all together) then 2 weeks in Scotland. Still deciding, we have more than a year before we go......

Posted by
17 posts

Hi Sue,

We're in Scotland now, just starting our month-long trip. We have rented a narrow boat and will start that portion of our trip on Saturday. We'll report back and let you know what we think.