Top 5 Canal Boat Holidays on the K&A

Caen Hill Flight of Locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes

From soaring aqueducts and dramatic lock flights, to prehistoric landscapes, ancient trees and the World Heritage Status City of Bath, the 87-mile long Kennet & Avon Canal offers canal boat holiday-makers the chance to enjoy some of England’s most beautiful countryside.

Linking the Bristol Avon at Bath with the Thames at Reading, the Kennet & Avon Canal was completed in 1810.  It has 105 locks along its length, including 29 at Devizes, where the dramatic 16 locks in a row scale Caen Hill, considered to be one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. 

Drifters offers narrowboats for hire from five bases on the Kennet & Avon Canal.  To celebrate, here’s our guide to the Top 5 canal boat holidays on the K&A:

  1. Visit Georgian Bath afloat – on a short break break from our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Hilperton, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel west to the beautiful World Heritage Status City of Bath, famous for its stunning Georgian architecture and fascinating Roman Baths.  The 12½-mile journey to Bath passes through three locks and takes around seven hours.  Along the way, the route passes, the historic town of Bradford on Avon with its fascinating 14th century Tithe Barn, and over the beautiful Avoncliff and Dundas Bath stone aqueducts.  Once moored up at Bath, it’s a short walk into Bath City Centre to visit some of the City’s many attractions, including the magnificent Royal Crescent.
  2. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey – from Drifters’ canal boat rental base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, it takes around 20 hours, travelling 27 miles and through 53 locks to reach the historic town of Hungerford, perfect for a week afloat.  Along the way, boaters travel up the spectacular flight of 16 locks in a row at Caen Hill and cruise through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, passing close to prehistoric Avebury and along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest, home to over 7,000 ‘Ancient’, ‘Veteran’ and ‘Notable’ trees, including the Big Belly Oak believed to be over 1,100 years old.  Once at Hungerford, narrowboat holiday-makers can dine at a choice of pubs and browse dozens of antique shops.
  3. Cruise through to the Berkshire countryside to Newbury & back – on a short break from our narrowboat holiday base at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Berkshire, it takes around seven hours to reach Newbury, cruising through nine miles of beautiful countryside and passing through 11 locks.  Along the way, the route passes the canalside Rowbarge pub at Woolhampton and The Swan at Thatcham, and from Bull’s Lock No.88 it’s a short walk to the Bowdown Woods Nature Reserve.  The picturesque market town of Newbury has plenty of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs, as well as a racecourse, theatre, arts centre and market square.
  4. Cruise to Bradford on Avon – on a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath, boaters can reach the historic town of Bradford on Avon in around four hours, passing the Claverton Pumping Station with its 200-year water-driven pump lifting water 48ft from the River Avon to the canal above.  There’s a series of historic pubs and waterside eateries to enjoy along the way, including ‘The Cross Guns’ at Avoncliff, ‘The George’ at Bathampton and ‘The Angelfish Restaurant’ at Monkton Combe, with panoramic views across the Limpley Stoke Valley.  At Bradford on Avon, there’s a great choice of independent shops, cafes and restaurants to enjoy, including the canalside Barge Inn and The Cheese Shop.
  5. Reach Reading & The Thames – on a two-week break from our narrowboat rental base at Devizes, boaters can cruise for 55½ miles to reach Reading, passing through 84 locks along the way and travelling for around 38 hours.  Along the way, boaters will enjoy some of the very best countryside on the UK canal system, and as well as tackling the awesome flight of Caen Locks, the route passes through the stunning Vale of Pewsey and the North West Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Along the route, there’s a series of pretty towns and villages to explore, including Pewsey, Wootton Rivers, Great Bedwyn, Little Bedwyn, Kintbury and Hungerford, Newbury and Aldermaston, as well as the fascinating Crofton Pumping Station, home to two of the world’s oldest working steam engines. Once at Reading, boaters can moor up to visit the Oracle Shopping centre and enjoy a meal at one of the many waterside restaurants there.