If you’re looking for a relaxing break then what could be more tranquil than a canal boat holiday in the UK? Hiring a canal boat for a week and being left to work the locks and steer your boat through the UK Inland Waterways can be a liberating and calming experience.
The UK has many canals and navigable rivers; did you know there are more miles of canal in Birmingham than there are in Venice? Birmingham might be substantially larger but the point remains – Britain is full of canals and waterways. They were first used during Roman occupation, and used for irrigation, but the Romans also created additional canals to link rivers together. Canals were an essential part of the Industrial Revolution, as roads at the time were unsuitable for a large volume of traffic. Canal boats were a lot quicker, could carry heavy loads and were safer for the transportation of fragile items.
Today canal boats are primarily used by tourists and holiday-makers looking for a relaxing holiday, cruising on the water at a leisurely pace. Hired canal boats can be surprisingly modern and spacious, and typically come with central heating, a kitchen and a lounge. A guide will usually come to instruct you on operating the boat and educate you about canal etiquette.
Most canals in the UK can accommodate boats that are between 55 and 80 feet long, but some canals are larger, such as New Junction Canal and the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, which can accommodate boats of up to 230 feet in length.
If you’re thinking about hiring a canal boat, there are a number of things to consider. You need to be reasonably fit – two adults can easily handle a narrowboat, but for long journeys you might consider taking more people to spread the work. As the boat cruises along, one person steers the boat while the rest of the crew can soak up the scenery or even walk alongside the boat on the towpath. At locks, one person should stay on-board the boat to steer while another works the lock mechanism.
Canal boating holidays are growing in popularity, and are no longer the preserve of boaters and nautical types. They are becoming particularly popular with husbands-to-be who are looking for a more relaxing stag-do. Boats can be hired and tuition about locks provided, so you can navigate your own way around the country.
Alan Cairns writes on a number of subjects including outboard motors and canal boat holidays on behalf of