Canals - Narrow Boat Breaks

Like to take your holidays at a relaxed pace enjoying the fresh air and countryside, then how about a UK canal holiday? These days narrow boats come with all mod cons. They can take family or friends on routes past a variety of places from cities, amusement parks to beautiful countryside.

The boats

Narrow boats typically come with modern kitchens, heating, showers, toilets and comfy beds. Most boats are hired according to the number of sleeping berths which tends to be anything between 2 - 12 people. Typically the less berths on the boat the cheaper the hire cost. The size of the boat you need will depend on how many are going in your group. You also need to take into account the boat layout. A families layout requirements may well differ from that of a group of friends. Some boats allow the saloon sitting area to be converted for sleeping at night. This reduces privacy, but means a smaller and cheaper boat.

The internal layout of boats will differ according to how they have been fitted out. Most boats will have decks at the front and rear. The rear deck can be long which allows other passengers to sit with the steerer or the more traditional working narrow boat short style which allows the steerer to get some protection from the weather.

Mastering the boats is straightforward. The hire company will take you through all you need before you set off. Despite narrow boats often being as long as an artic truck, they are easy to handle and within a few miles you'll hopefully feel like an old hand.

As a guide to the standard of boats The Quality in Tourism Inspection Scheme run by Visit Britain grades boats from 1 to 5 stars. The stars are awarded for factors such as services, facilities, quality and comfort of the boat.

The hire companies

There are many hire companies from large companies such as Hoeseaons to smaller independent family run businesses. You can see fairly comprehensive list of hire companies at Canal Junction or UK Canals.

or if you'd prefer your searching done for you try one of the canal hire broakers such as Waterways Holidays or Discount Boat Hire These aren't extensive searches of all suppliers, but they can save you some work.

The routes

As has been mentioned Canals don't just go through the country side and small villages. They were originally built to bring goods into the cities. Birmingham for instance has more canals than Venice. Other cities with canals through them include Bristol, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Oxford and Warwick.

Some routes go close to amusement parks which can add variety for the kids. More experienced cruisers may want to go for one of the circular routes. Others may want to look for the route with least locks. There is a good guide to the different canal routes in the UK at Canal Junction.

What to remember when you go

Remember that storage space on a canal boat is limited. Don't take heaving suit cases; in fact don't take suit cases at all. Collapsing bags such as canvas ones when empty store away in much less space. Most hire companies will give you an idea of what to pack. Essentials include the pessimistic warm clothes and water proofs to the optimistic shorts and t-shirts.

Other items recommended include sunglasses, sun screen and non slip shoes. Some people will want to take bikes, but you should check with the operator first. As they can cause scratches and not all operators are keen on them.

Helping you on your journey.

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