Narrowboat holidays are fantastic for families, offering the chance to set off on an adventure together, learning how to navigate the waterways and speak the boating lingo, as well as spotting wildlife, exploring traffic-free towpaths and visiting waterside pubs and attractions along the way.
So if you are thinking of packing up and shipping out this October half term, take a look at our top 8 destinations, all suitable for beginners:
1. Glide through the Usk Valley to Brecon and back – the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal offers 35 miles of quiet countryside to explore with incredible views of the Brecon Beacons. From our canal boat hire base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, on a week’s break boaters can cruise through the wooded Usk Valley to the pretty market town of Brecon and back. Along the way, boaters can stop off at Llanfoist to take the old tramway into the Black Mountains, the Georgian town of Crickhowell with its 13th century castle, and Talybont-on-Usk, with walking access to Blaen y Glyn waterfalls. The total journey there and back travels 51 miles, passing through 12 locks and takes around 25 hours.
2. Visit Georgian Bath afloat – on a short break from our narrowboat boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, right next to the spectacular Caen Hill flight of locks, canal boat holiday-makers can travel west to the beautiful World Heritage Status City of Bath, famous for its stunning Georgian architecture. Along the way, boaters travel across two magnificent aqueducts crafted out of Bath stone and can enjoy stopping off at some excellent canalside pubs, including the Barge Inn at Seend, the Lock Inn at Bradford upon Avon and the Cross Guns at Avoncliff. Arriving at Sydney Gardens just outside Bath City Centre, boaters can find quiet moorings just a 15-minute walk from Bath’s major attractions. The journey to Bath takes around nine hours, travelling 19 miles and passing through eight locks.
3. Amble along the Ashby to Snarestone and back – on a week’s holiday from our boat yard at Braunston, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to the pretty village of Snarestone and back, travelling a total of 47 miles, passing through eight locks and taking around 32 hours. This largely rural route takes boaters up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby and on to Hawkesbury Junction to join the Coventry Canal. Five miles later, boaters can transfer onto the peaceful lock-free Ashbury Canal, which winds peacefully through countryside for almost the whole of its 22-mile length. From Carlton Bridge to Snarestone, the canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Along the way, boaters pass close to Market Bosworth and the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field. Here in 1485 the reign of Richard III ended and Henry Tudor became Henry VII, the first of the Tudor monarchs.
4. Visit the historic Yorkshire mill town of Hebden Bridge…on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation through the Calder Valley to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills. Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, the journey to Hebden Bridge covers seven miles, 10 locks and takes around five and a half hours. Once at Hebden, boaters can moor in the centre of town to enjoy a good choice of pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops and markets as well as stunning walks up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags.
5. Explore Birmingham by boat – with more canals than Venice and incredible canalside regeneration areas like Brindleyplace, there’s no better way to explore Birmingham than by boat. From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes just five hours to reach City Centre moorings at Gas Street Basin, the perfect base for exploring the many attractions of Britain’s vibrant Second City, including the fantastic Thinktank Science Museum. With no locks along the way, it’s a great route for beginners to enjoy testing the waters.
6. Potter to Sale and back via Lymm – from our canal boat hire base at Acton Bridge on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, it takes around eight peaceful hours, travelling 22 miles and passing through just one lock to reach Sale Bridge. Along the way, narrowboat holiday-makers encounter the 1,133-metre long Preston Tunnel and cruise along a section of the Bridgewater Canal, which passes through the pretty town of Lymm.
7. Cruise through the Scottish lowlands to Linlithgow and back – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at the Falkirk Wheel boat lift, it’s a peaceful five-hour cruise through the Scottish lowlands along the Union Canal to the historic town of Linlithgow – perfect for a short break (three or four nights). The route starts with a journey through the Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first rotating boat lift which replaced a flight of 11 locks and then passes through two tunnels and two aqueducts, plus miles of peaceful countryside before reaching Linlithgow. Once there, narrowboat holiday-makers can visit the beautifully preserved remains of Linlithgow Palace on the shores of Linlithgow Loch, the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, and sample some of the town’s excellent eateries, including the award-winning Four Marys pub.
8. Travel across the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular on the network. On a short break from our canal barge hire base at Trevor, boaters can travel seven peaceful miles to Ellesmere and back, with just two locks to pass through and the magnificent World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, with stunning views of the Dee Valley below to travel across. Once at Ellesmere, boaters can explore the famous Mere with its historic castle, woodland paths and fascinating wildlife.