Canal Boating in the UK Waterways: Information and Travel Tips

Enjoy canal boating through the British inland waterways and coasts with these traveling tips.

Canal boating is indeed one of the most fun and adventurous activities for travel seekers. The excitement and zest level up in canal boating through the British waterways. Because why not? Britain’s attractive and fascinating views are an ultimate refreshment to mind and soul and are something to cherish. 

The best part of canal boating is, the views keep changing as you pass by. Britain has over 2,000 miles of canal and river routes for cruising. Therefore, before stepping on to canal boating, get some information and tips about canal boating in the British water channels.

How to Choose a Site for Canal Boating?

Choosing a site for canal boating is not a hard job where you have the internet to search for. You can also select a place which you have always wanted to explore or previously loved. Moreover, you can take recommendations from a friend who has gone for narrow boating in Britain. Don’t worry about the routes, the boat company that you hire can help with the routes you want to explore. 

The site you choose should depend on your and your companion’s preference. Suppose, if urban chillness attracts you, then choose routes within Birmingham and Manchester. If rural peace attracts you, then there are numerous choices for rural waterways. 

If you are new to canal boating and visiting Britain for the first time, then the four canals suggested here can help you to choose from:

  1. Warwickshire Ring

One of the most rewarding routes to explore is the Warwickshire Ring, which has a grand route of 104 miles on the Oxford, Coventry, and Birmingham canals. You will enjoy Oxford’s ecclesiastical peace, Coventry’s industrial heritage, Birmingham’s city buzz, and much more within this Warwickshire ring. In the Warwickshire Ring, you will enjoy both urban and rural landscapes while boating.

  1. Leeds and Liverpool Canal

This epic 127 miles canal is best for viewing the magnificent northern landscapes of Britain. The canal of Leeds and Liverpool, is one of the longest single waterway canals ever built. You will enjoy the developed factory towns throughout the route that now have restaurants, cafes, and galleries. In between your navigation, you can enjoy some time there. 

  1. Kennet and Avon Canal

If you are going canal boating with family, then the peaceful water and soothing towpaths of Kennet and Avon canal are perfect for you. It routes 87 miles, connecting London and Bristol. This canal is famous as a slow rural canal.  

  1. Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal

Known as the Mon and Brec Canal, it is one of the most peaceful canals in Britain. Surrounded by small villages and conventional infrastructure covered with ancient trees, the canal will fill your eyes with greenery. This 36-mile canal runs within Brecon and Pontymoile and has only six locks. If you want to escape the city turmoil temporarily, then do visit Mon and Brec Canal to refresh yourself for a while. 

Estimate Cost of Canal Boating

The cost of canal boating depends on a variety of factors and is different from any other holiday trip. You should consider the number of people with you, the quality of the boat you are hiring, the length of a break, and the year’s time. 

Apart from this, you also need to take into account whether you will be involved in other activities in between.

Estimated, a canal trip for 3-5 days for two people will cost a maximum of 350 pounds, and for an entire week will cost up to 500 pounds. If more people are added, the overall cost becomes more affordable. You can distribute the cost among everybody. 

What is the Travel Limit?

In the summer, you are allowed to travel 4-7 hours a day. Even if you cruise at four mph, you can travel up to 80 miles in a week. That gives you enough time for other leisure activities, food and much more. 

However, you should not waste time in leisure activities as these can be done later too, but use your time to travel through all the locks of the canal to make your boating experience worthwhile. To travel through the British canal locks, it takes a maximum of 15 minutes for each canal. Also, consider the waiting time as there could be a boat queue in the peak season.   

  • How to Calculate Travel Time

Boat are not permitted to cruise at more than 4mph. Also, each canal takes 15 minutes to pass by, as mentioned earlier. So, you have to add the number of miles of your chosen canal to its number of locks and divide it by four. That’s how you will get a rough travel time.

  • Best Time for Canal Boating

If you want to enjoy most of the daytime, then long days of summer are suitable. Moreover, summers are also comfortable to travel. Because of the weather, you can enjoy site-seeing while enjoying some drinks under the sun.

Winters are great if you want to enjoy more of the night view of city lights. However, you should avoid snowy winters as all you will see around is snow!   

Do All Canal Boats Travel in the Same Route?

Like road transports, canal boats do not have any rule of route direction. They can go either back or forth. However, the riders need to be hearty and patient to prevent waterway traffic. Suppose, upon entering a lock or bridge, if you see a boat parallel or slightly ahead of you do not try to overtake it but let it enter first. Falling into waterway traffic is difficult to resolve. Plus, it will also waste your and other cruisers’ time.   

To Buy a Boat or Hire:

If you are a foreigner who wants to enjoy the perks of canal boating in Britain, then hiring a canal boat is preferred unless you have billions to buy a boat for just holiday fun. However, if you are a British resident and a boating nomad, then you can buy a canal boat if you have the money to spend. Check out and pick a boat at the desired price. 

Things to Remember While Canal Boating

  • Modern Canal boats are much more organized and better built, keeping the riders’ convenience in mind. They are fully equipped with furnished kitchens and self-catering. You can carry your own groceries to cook food that will save you money on buying food. Or, take ready-to-eat packaged food for quick and easy meals. 
  • You do not require any license or experience to operate a canal boat. Training will be provided to you, along with teaching all the safety measures. Moreover, each member will be provided with life jackets to enjoy the view on the decks. Life jackets are a must for children if they want to play on deck. 
  • While canal boating, you should never stress about deadlines. Instead, enjoy the view, towpaths, and everything you have come for. If possible, slow down the boat to enjoy each of the landmarks and sites that attract you. Through canal boating, you should make memories of life!

Dos & Don’ts of Canal Boats

  • No matter what weather you choose for canal boating, carry raincoats with you. You never know; the places you will be cruising might be rainy. If it keeps raining, you will have to stay inside the cabin instead of enjoying the sites. 
  • Calculating miles and travel time constantly can give you anxiety. Therefore, avoid calculating time; instead, enjoy the journey. 
  • If you want to take your pet with you for boating, then do consult the boat hiring company whether their boats are pet-friendly or not. Nowadays, most boats are made pet-friendly to accompany their owner. 
  • Do not rise the speed over 4 mph because the dimension of canals is designed based on the weight of boats. Even a modern and high-efficiency boat engine cannot go over 4miles per hour.  
  • Apart from staying on the boat throughout the navigation timing, you can also walk or cycle along the towpaths. The towpaths are also a part of the canal, so it is legal to use them too. If you are waiting in waterway traffic, take a stroll on the towpath. Moreover, if you have your pet dog along, you can go for a quick evening walk with your pet on the towpaths.  

Final Thought 

So, these were some brief info and tips regarding canal boating in British waterways. If you are still wondering whether it will be worthwhile to spend money on canal boating through the British canal, then rest assured it will be. Take your time and select a canal that matches your imagination. Moreover, you will be guided by the locals and the boat hiring company about boating. Clear all your doubts and gain every possible information from them for a successful canal boating experience.   

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