Top 9 summer canal boat holidays for beginners
Every year more people take the plunge and set sail on an adventure afloat on Britain’s beautiful inland waterways network.
You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat and it’s easy for first-timers to learn to operate our boats.
As part of our narrowboat hire, we provide you with expert boat steering tuition. And our series of ‘How to’ videos give step by step instruction on everything from switching the boat engine on to the best way to tie your ropes when mooring up.
When you arrive at one of our boat yards, we’ll take you through our nationally accredited handover. And we’ll make sure you’re comfortable and in control before you set off. As well as our Youtube videos, 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 guide to our top 9 summer short breaks for beginners:
1. Head to Birmingham lock-free
With no locks between our canal boat rental base at Tardebigge and Birmingham City Centre, this five-hour cruise is perfect for novice canal boaters. The first half of the journey passes through fields, woods and villages, before gradually becoming more urbanised. Once you reach the centre of Birmingham, there are over-night moorings at Gas Street Basin, with easy access to Brindleyplace waterside restaurants, Sea Life Centre, glitzy Mailbox shopping and other leading attractions.
2. 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 offers a fantastic short break holiday for beginners. The route includes the experience of travelling across the incredible UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, with jaw-dropping panoramic views of the Dee Valley 38 metres below.
3. Dip your toe in the water at Bath
From our base at Sydney Wharf on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Bath, it takes just four hours to cruise 10 miles to the lovely market town of Bradford on Avon. There’s just one lock to pass through and two stunning Bath stone aqueducts to glide across. And there are popular canalside pubs to, including The George at Bathampton, Cross Guns at Avoncliff and Barge Inn at Bradford on Avon.
4. 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 through the Staffordshire countryside. There are just five locks to pass through, and you’ll pass canalside pubs at Wolseley and Rugeley. At Fradley, you can enjoy refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn. And you can enjoy spotting wildlife along the woodland trail and boardwalk at Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
5. Take to the tiller along the Thames
From our Oxford base at Eynsham, you can enjoy a Thames boating holiday. It takes just over three hours, passing through four locks to reach City centre moorings in Oxford. Many of the locks along the Thames are manned, so there’s often help on hand for newcomers. Once in Oxford, you take time to explore the city, including the famous Bodleian Library, Carfax Tower and Ashmolean Museum.
6. Navigate 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. The route passes through the beautiful Cheshire countryside and villages. There are historic local pubs to enjoy along the way, including The Ring O’Bells at Christleton and The Shady Oak at Bates Mill Bridge. Once in Chester, you can take time to explore this cosmopolitan ancient city. Attractions include: a Roman Amphitheatre and city walls, Chester Rows shops, 1,000-year old cathedral, racecourse and award-winning Zoo.
7. Cruise along two canals to Hillmorton
From our Stockton base, it takes around seven hours to cruise to the pretty canal village of Hillmorton. Starting on the Grand Union Canal, you’ll transfer onto the North Oxford Canal at Braunston. Along the way, you’ll pass Napton on the Hill, with its popular Kings Head pub. And the canal village of Braunston, home to a choice of places to eat, including the historic Admiral Nelson. The journey to Hillmorton passes through just six locks, including the three locks at Hillmorton, where lock keepers are on hand to help. And there’s a choice of pubs at Hillmorton, including the Stag & Pheasant.
8. Test the waters on the Leeds & Liverpool
Setting off from Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, the journey to Gargrave and back is nice and easy for beginners. The route travels 12 miles through the Yorkshire countryside. It passes through just three locks, and takes around 6½ hours. Along the way, you’ll pass through Skipton, home to one of the best preserved medieval castles in England. At Gargrave, there are plenty of pubs, including The Mason’s Arms and Cross Keys Inn. Gargrave is on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, with over 680 square miles of some of England’s finest walking country to explore.
9. 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. The journey to Chirk takes around eight hours and passes through just two locks. The route passes Whixall Moss nature reserve and historic Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. At Chirk, where the Llangollen Canal crosses the Welsh border, there’s a choice of canalside pubs and the National Trust’s medieval Chirk Castle to visit.Tags: canal boat hire, canal boat holiday, Go North Wales, Grand Union Canal, Kennet & Avon Canal, Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Llangollen Canal, narrowboat hire, narrowboat holiday, Oxford canal, River Thames, Shropshire Union Canal, Thames boating holidays, Trent & Mersey Canal, Visit Wales, Welcome to Yorkshire, Worcester & Birmingham Canal