A Guide To Canal Boat Breaks In The United Kingdom

Canal Boats UK

There are a number of canal waterways in use in the UK and several have undergone recent regeneration to make them more accessible, so there has never been a better time to take a canal boat break and explore the British countryside.

You generally don’t need to have any experience or special licenses to hire a canal boat and the navigational system is very simple. Most providers will give a thorough demonstration before you set off and you will typically have access to support throughout your journey should you need it.



Canal Boat Holidays have increased in popularity over the last few years and the quality of boats for hire and marina amenities really reflects this. You can expect boats to come with all the creature comforts of any holiday home and many marinas offer laundry facilities, a shop and even a caffe or bar.

Canal Boat Trip
Canal Boat Trip by McTumshie

The Thames

A cruise along the River Thames offers spectacular views across the English countryside and access to historic towns, landmarks and the city of London. Boaters can enjoy stopping off for riverbank picnics, walks in Royal parks and tours of historic landmarks such as Eton College and Windsor Castle.

Stop at Oxford and admire the wonderful architecture before climbing Boar’s Hill and being rewarded with panoramic views of the city. Alternatively, pay a visit to the impressive Tudor era Hampton Court Palace, which was home to King Henry VIII.

There is a diverse array of wildlife to be seen along the Thames including herons, kingfishers, otters, rare-breed cattle and swans that belong to the Queen. After a morning of admiring the flora and fauna why not stop at one of the many archetypal English villages such as Cookham or Marlow for some traditional food in one of the waterside inns.



Norfolk Broads

The Norfolk Broads are perfect for those seeking some relaxation in the idyllic surroundings of rural England. The region is synonymous with boating and it is one of the most popular areas to cruise in the UK. The Norfolk Broads has a long history of boat-building, which can still be witnessed in many of the villages today and visitors can also enjoy waters-ports and fishing.

Stop at one of the many nature reserves, visit the Norfolk Brewery, drop into the Lowestoft Maritime Museum or drift from market town to market town and enjoy the warm local hospitality and tales of boat-building days gone by.

The Norfolk Broads are particularly ideal for beginners who have concerns about using locks as many areas of the Broads are lock-free.

Norfolk Broads
Norfolk Broads by Whamehtie



Caledonian Canal

Situated in the magnificent Scottish Highlands, the Caledonian Canal stretches from Inverness to Fort William and is flanked by beautiful mountain and moorland scenery. Visit the historically significant village of Fort Augustus for a lesson in Highland culture or embark on an excursion for the elusive Loch Ness monster.

Alternatively, those who enjoy staying active can take advantage of one of the many mountain biking tracks or walking trails, or even bag a Munro before heading into Inverness for some shopping.

There are also various places along the canal to stop for some salmon fishing and boaters can expect to see a range of wildlife including dolphins, herons, deer, eagles, red squirrels and even the occasional wildcat.


Lily regularly writes on several subjects including travel, lifestyle and family. She has undertaken several canal boat holidays and her work has featured in various specialist websites and blogs.

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