Best canal boat holidays for beginners
Every year more people experience the delights of holidaying on Britain’s beautiful inland waterways network.
You don’t have to be an expert and you don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat. It’s easy for first-timers to learn to operate our boats and as part of all our narrowboat holiday packages, we provide hirers with expert boat steering tuition.
With our nationally accredited handover, we’ll make sure you’re comfortable and in control before you set off. There is a manual on board every boat if you need to check on anything and our engineering teams are on hand 24 hours a day to help over the phone or come out to you if you need them.
So, if you’ve thought about taking a canal boat holiday, but you’re not sure where to begin, here’s a list of our top 7 short break narrow boat holidays for newcomers for 2024 to get you started:
- Learn the ropes on the Llangollen – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular on the network. With just two locks along the way, the seven-hour journey from our boat yard at Trevor to Ellesmere and back offers a fantastic short break holiday for beginners. The route includes the experience of travelling across the incredible UNESCO World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, with jaw-dropping panoramic views of the Dee Valley 38 metres below.
- Dip your toe in the water at Bath – from our Bath base on the Kennet & Avon Canal, it takes just four hours to cruise to the lovely market town of Bradford on Avon, with just one lock to pass through. Skirting the southern foothills of the Cotswolds, the route passes over two stunning Bath stone aqueducts and past the popular Cross Guns Inn at Avoncliff. Bradford on Avon is an architectural treasure chest with many beautiful buildings, including the magnificent 14th century monastic stone Tithe Barn.
- Float gently along to Fradley – from Great Haywood, you can head south along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Fradley Junction, where the Coventry Canal meets the Trent & Mersey. The journey takes around five hours, travelling 12 peaceful miles and passing through just five locks. At Fradley, take time to enjoy refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn and follow the woodland trail around the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
- Take to the tiller along the Thames – from our Oxford narrowboat hire base at Eynsham near Witney, you can enjoy a Thames boating holiday. It takes just over three hours, passing through four locks to reach Oxford City centre moorings and many of the locks along the Thames are manned, so there’s often help on hand for newcomers. Once in Oxford, you can take time to explore all that this fascinating city has to offer, including the famous Bodleian Library, Carfax Tower, Ashmolean Museum and traditional pubs like the Lamb & Flag, steeped in literary and film history.
- Cruise up the Shroppie to historic Chester – it’s a seven-hour, nine-lock journey to the ancient city of Chester from our Bunbury base on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire. The route passes through glorious English countryside and villages with historic local pubs, including The Ring O’Bells at Christleton and The Shady Oak at Bates Mill Bridge. Once in Chester, take time to explore this cosmopolitan ancient city, with its Roman Amphitheatre, city walls, Chester Rows shops, 1,000-year old cathedral, racecourse and award-winning Zoo.
- Test the waters on the Leeds & Liverpool – setting off from Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, the journey to Gargrave travels 12 miles with just three locks to pass through, and takes around 6½ hours. Along the way, you’ll pass through the historic town of Skipton, with one of best preserved medieval castles in England. Once at Gargrave, there are plenty of pubs, including The Mason’s Arms and Cross Keys Inn, and as it’s on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, there’s also over 680 square miles of some of England’s finest walking country to explore.
- Cross the border into Wales surrounded by breath-taking scenery – from Whixall Marina on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, on a short break you can cruise to Chirk and back in 16 hours, with just two locks to pass through. The route passes Whixall Moss nature reserve and Ellesmere, also known as the Shropshire Lake District, where visitors can enjoy strolling round the Mere’s Victorian gardens, woodland paths and historic castle. At Chirk, where the Llangollen Canal encounters the Welsh border, there’s a choice of canal side pubs and the National Trust’s Chirk Castle, one of several medieval marcher fortresses built on the Welsh-English border.