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Canal Boating Holidays

Updated on July 11, 2010

Boating on the UK inland waterways

I'm interested in canal boats, barges and narrowboats on the UK canals and rivers or England Wales Scotland and N. Ireland, collectively known as the UK Inland Waterways. Canal boating holidays seem to be the best way to get an introduction to the lifestyle before committing to a life aboard.

After I started looking into it, I was amazed to discover just how many canals and navigable rivers there are in the UK to choose from. I've been on canal boat holidays on the Thames and the Norfolk Broads - the two most well known inland waterways - and also on the recently restored Kennet and Avon  canal, the Leeds and Liverpool canal and I think on the river Severn as a youth. We must have been on the canals through Birmingham as well because I remember mooring up at Gas Street Basin, right in the cetre of the city once. 

But there are so many more:

The longest canal is the Grand Union Canal, at 286 miles, mainly connecting London with Birmingham. Then we have the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at 142 miles, it's pretty obvious which two northern cities that one connects, and the Grand Junction Canal from Braunston to the Thames. Still coming down in overall navigable length we have the following major canals in England:

  • Trent and Mersey Canal
  • Middle Level Navigations
  • Kennet and Avon Canal
  • Oxford Canal
  • Shropshire Union Canal
  • Lancaster Canal
  • Wilts and Berks Canal
  • Leicestershire and Northamptonshire Union Canal
  • Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal
  • Chesterfield Canal     
  • Bridgewater Canal
  • Manchester Ship Canal
  • Bude Canal
  • Aire and Calder Navigation
  • Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal

And then there are many more shorter canals, plus a handful also in Wales and Scotland such as the magnificent Llangollan  canal with it's aquaduct, the Monmouth, Brecon and  Abergavenney canal, the Caledonian Canal which connects lochs right across Scotland from East to West coasts.

Northern Ireland has the new Shannon–Erne Waterway, at 39 mies connecting Lough Erne in County Fermanagh with the river Shannon in the Republic of Ireland.

So there are many different canals and waterways to choose from when considering canal boat holidays, and even on the same canal you could design a large number of routes to suit any length of stay. 

Peaceful Canal Boating Holidays

A quiet stretch on the Kennet And Avon Canal.
A quiet stretch on the Kennet And Avon Canal.

Canal Boat Holidays

I decided that canal boat holidays would make a perfect relaxing break for getting to know the inland waterways and started off with short hotel boat break on the Kennet and Avon canal. Hotel boats are less well known way taking to the waterways. Instead of hiring a canal boat for a week or a short break, and being left to your own devices to work all of the locks and steer the boat, you get to share a boat as the guest of its owner who runs the crew and even cooks and washes up for you.

Canal Boat Holiday Quiz

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Exciting Canal boat holidays - boating through a long tunnel


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    • Linnit profile image


      8 years ago from London

      I fancy a few days on the Llangollan canal . It sounds glorious!


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