About us

Frequently asked canal boat holiday and narrowboat hire questions

Do I need a licence to drive a canal boat?

You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat and it’s easy to learn how to operate a boat.  When you arrive at one of our boat yards, one of our experienced instructors will guide you through everything you need to know.  The boat handover process, which includes instruction, takes around one-hour.

How do canal locks work?

A lock is a chamber with gates at either end.  By emptying or filling the chamber with water, boats can move up or down a canal. With the lock gates closed, open the sluices (paddles) to let the water in or out.  When the water level under your boat is the same as the level it’s moving to, you can move your boat in or out of the lock.

Our boat handling tuition includes guidance on how to work a lock and the Canal & River Trust has advice here.

Can I bring my dog on a canal boat holiday?

Our holidays are pet-friendly and dog-friendly.  Up to two well-behaved dogs are welcome on all of our canal boats. One pet travels free of charge and the second costs £25 per short break or £35 per week-long canal boat holiday.

How do I book my narrowboat?

To book your holiday, BOOK ONLINE or call our booking team on 0117 304 1122. Any of our expert staff will be pleased to assist you and provide more details and conditions of hire.

How long will my holiday be?

We offer a range of holidays from three-night weekends and four-night midweek getaways, to one week, 10-day, two weeks, or more! Cruises can start on a Friday, Saturday, Monday or Tuesday, depending on the boat you choose.  Holidays from Silsden are offered every day of the week except Wednesdays.

What is a narrow boat?

Narrowboats are 6 feet 10 inches wide and usually made of steel. Britain’s canal system was designed around the use of narrow boats.  Some canals are narrow with locks that can just fit one narrowboat in at a time (for example the Stratford Canal). Others are broad so they can fit two narrowboats in one lock or one wide beam boat (for example the Grand Union Canal).  Narrowboats are sometimes called ‘canal boats’, ‘barges’ or ‘long boats’.  Wide beam boats are also called ‘broad beam boats’, ‘canal boats’ or ‘barges’.

What’s the difference between the narrowboat sterns?

The stern (back) of a ‘canal cruiser’ narrowboat is usually larger and has more open space. Access is easier and there is space for five crew members as well as the person steering. A ‘semi-traditional’ stern has a larger area for the rear deck protected by solid sides. It offers less weather protection for the person steering, but several people can usually sit on the lockers in the deck space.

Will my narrowboat have heating?

All our narrowboats have gas central heating with radiators throughout for cosy year-round canal boat holidays. Some of our boats also have a multi-fuel stove.

Will my narrowboat have flushing toilets and hot water?

Yes.  The toilets on our boats are fully flushing high specification chemical toilets and the showers are fed by the boat’s water tank.

Can I cook onboard my narrowboat?

All our boats have well equipped kitchens (galleys) with a full size gas oven, a small fridge, pots and pans, crockery and cutlery. Some also have microwaves.

What bedding is provided?

All bed linen is provided – sheets, pillows, pillow cases, duvets and duvet covers to suit the combination of single and double beds on your narrowboat for each of the crew members.

Are towels provided?

Yes, towels are provided at all our bases except Silsden.  At Silsden towels are only supplied to overseas visitors.

Do you supply life jackets?

Buoyancy aids are available on arrival at the boatyard. They are not automatically provided as they have to be individually sized for each narrowboat crew member. We keep a range of sizes to suit adults and children so please request buoyancy aids on your canal boat holiday booking form.

Can I charge my mobile phone?

Yes.  Our boats have 240 volt 3-pin sockets powered by the on board batteries. Some of our boats also have USB portals.  Only charge devices when the engine is running to avoid draining the boat’s batteries.

Can I bring my hairdryer?

Your narrowboat has a 12v electrical supply and a 12v hairdryer will be supplied on board as part of your boat inventory.

Can I bring my hair straighteners?

Hair straighteners are usually less than 1,000 watts so you can charge them on our boats.  The same applies to cool boxes, blenders, phone and computer chargers.

Are there any electrical appliances I can’t bring?

Yes. Unlike at home, there is a limit to the power that is available on a narrowboat. Our canal boats have a device called an inverter, which converts the power from the onboard batteries into a 240-volt supply. Power is measured in watts. For example, a standard household light bulb uses 60 watts and a kettle can be as much as 3,000 watts. The inverters have a power limitation of 1,000 watts, which excludes many domestic electrical appliances. Every domestic electrical appliance has a label on it indicating its power consumption, so, anything above 1,000 watts is not permitted. Usually, the following are more than 1,000 watts and therefore are not permitted on our canal boats: kettles; irons; hairdryers; vacuum cleaners; any form of heater.

The golden rules: If the appliance is above 1,000 watts then don’t bring it onto the canal boat. No electrical appliance should be left plugged in unattended. Only use one appliance at a time. Wherever possible, run the narrowboat engine whilst using the appliance so that you are charging the batteries. Finally, remember that it’s impossible to guarantee that a battery powered supply system will be able to provide a constant supply of power to any electrical device, including and importantly, medical appliances. This is because the batteries are charged when the engine is running; as soon as the engine is turned off, then the electrics will start to run the battery down quite quickly. If you need to bring an electrical medical appliance with you on your canal boat holiday, talk to us first.

Do your boats have WiFi?

Yes, we’ve installed internet hubs on all our boats, except those from Silsden. These hubs give you free 1GB WiFi access, connecting you to the internet from aboard your boat, signal permitting. They come with a limited amount of download, so they are no subsitute for the your home broadband.  They work in a similar way to a smartphone, so are at the mercy of signal strength, which is likely to be poor in rural areas.

Do I have to do a canal ring route?

You can choose from an out and back canal boat cruise, which is the most commonly selected option, or a canal circuit route. Most canal ring routes require between 6 and 10 hours cruising a day, depending on the route chosen and the narrowboat hire base you start from. If it is your first canal boat holiday or you have young children, we recommend selecting an out and back route so that you can decide how much time you want to spend cruising and how much time exploring attractions along the way. There are numerous places to turn your narrowboat, known as ‘winding holes’, along the way. For experienced and larger crews, the canal ring routes offer a rewarding and varied narrowboat holiday with plenty of locks to operate.

Can we bring bikes?

You’re welcome to bring a maximum of two bikes at your own risk, but please bear in mind that the only place to store them is on the roof of your narrowboat, so you will need to bring an old blanket or other protective cover to lay on the roof. You will also need to take great care of low bridges and overhanging obstructions. You cannot place the bikes inside the canal boat at any time, to avoid damage to furnishings, so you will also need to bring a suitable lock and chain to secure bikes when leaving the narrowboat.

Can we fish?

You are welcome to fish subject to holding the appropriate rod/fishing licences for the waterway that you are on but please don’t bring live bait onto your narrowboat.

Where can we park our cars?

Your canal boat holiday cost includes car parking at the boatyard. Please note that parking space is limited at some yards, so ensure you minimise the number of cars you bring where possible. Parking is at your own risk.

Do we have to pay for a licence?

Your canal boat will be licenced for the waterway it is on, whether canals or a river. You will have to pay a visitor licence if taking a narrowboat from the River Thames base at Oxford onto the canals or if taking a boat from any other base onto the River Avon or River Thames.

Can I cruise at night?

Hire boats are not permitted to cruise after dusk or before dawn – you will need to be moored up by nightfall.

Where can I moor up?

You can moor free of charge anywhere along the canal towpath providing you avoid lock waiting areas or mooring within 50m of bridges. On the Thames and other rivers, mooring sites are provided which may be free for 24 hours or there may be a small charge when mooring on privately owned or managed land, such as National Trust properties.

How fast does my narrowboat cruise?

Your narrowboat will travel at a maximum three miles per hour on the canals, equivalent to a comfortable walking pace, but you will need to go slower past moored boats or where the depth of the canal is shallow to avoid creating a wash that can damage the canal bank. Each lock will take around 20 minutes to negotiate from start to finish.

Can I drink and drive?

For the safety of yourself and others, you must not drive a narrowboat under the influence of excess alcohol. Doing so would also invalidate your damage waiver.

How old do you have to be to cruise the boat?

The minimum age of the hirer is 18. It is essential that for safety your narrowboat holiday crew comprises at least two adults. Crew members under 18 may drive your narrowboat under supervision of the hirer or another member of the crew over 18 years of age.

What inventory is on the boat?

Your narrowboat is fully equipped for self-catering and includes all crockery, cutlery, pots, pans and glasses as well as bed linen and cleaning materials. We will send a full inventory list with your canal boat holiday booking confirmation.

What time do I pick up and return the boat?

Your narrowboat will be ready from 3pm and should be returned to its canal boat base by 9am on the morning of your departure.

Can I find out more ahead of my holiday?

Yes, we have a boat handover video which gives you the heads-up on everything you need to know. And if you’d like to take some training before your holiday, we offer an RYA approved training course in boat handling. To find out more, call our bookings team on 0117 304 1122.

What if we break down or have an accident?

Our teams are on hand 24 hours a day if you need our help. The emergency number is featured in our boat operating manuals.

Which side of the canal should I be on?

Unless there’s another boat coming towards you, you’ll steer down the middle as it’s likely to be shallow near the edges. When you do meet an approaching boat, keep to the right.  We’ve published some tips for canal boat holiday beginners here Top 12 Canal Boating Tips for Novices – Anglo Welsh Ltd.

How do I steer?

Turn the tiller to the left to make the boat turn right and vice versa.

How do I stop?

Use the reverse gear to bring the boat to a slow stop and then return the throttle to neutral.

Where can I moor up at night?

You can moor on the towpath.  Just don’t moor next to locks, bridges, opposite turning points or on a water point.  You can find more information in the Canal & River Trust’s Boaters’ Handbook video.

Which route should I choose?

Suggested routes can be found from each of our base pages on our website or in our brochure. Maps and guides can be purchased through our booking team on 0117 304 1122 or on arrival at most of our locations.  Or you can plan your route online via canal route planner Canal Route Planner – CanalPlanAC

What should I pack for my canal boat holiday?

Our canal boats are like floating holiday cottages so you’ll find many of the home comforts already on board, including a well-equipped galley kitchen, bedding, bed linen and towels.  From all weather gear, binoculars and a torch, to phone chargers, canal map and a first aid kit, we’ve published a list of useful items to pack here.

So why choose Anglo Welsh?

Over 55 years providing unique canal boat holidays in England and Wales.
Modern and spacious narrowboat and wide beam barge hire – from 2 to 12 berths.
Wide choice of narrowboat hire locations and canal boat holiday destinations.
Canal boat holiday routes for novices & experienced boaters.
Flexible holiday booking, no hidden costs.
Family friendly and pet friendly holidays.
Great days out on the water.
Luxury canal boat hire and Thames boating holidays.

Anglo Welsh. So much more than narrowboats

...but don't just take our word for it