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Holiday routes for first-time boaters

Each year hundreds of people take to the water on a canal boat holiday for the first time. But where's the best place to go if you're a boating beginner? Read on for some inspiration.

Planning your route in advance will help you find good mooring spots

There are so many beautiful places on our canal and river network that the sky is your limit. Here are some ideas for canal boat holiday routes that should give novice boaters a gentle introduction to life afloat.

This article first appeared in the Drifters Waterway Holidays blog and is reproduced with their kind permission. Drifters have hire boat bases at each of these locations.

1. Discover the Brecon Beacons afloat

Man walking along towpath by canal with autumnal colours

The beautiful Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park, meandering 35 miles from Brecon to the Pontymoile Basin. This stunning waterway, with very few locks, offers holiday-makers incredible mountain views and some of the darkest night skies in Britain.

2. Amble along the Ashby

A sedate journey along the 22-mile, lock-free Ashby Canal is perfect for canal boat holiday novices. Boaters can amble quietly past the historic town of Market Bosworth and the site of the Battle of Bosworth, where in 1485 Richard III lost his crown to Henry Tudor.

3. Enjoy Birmingham by canal

Brindley Place, Birmingham

With no locks between Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, and city centre moorings at Gas Street Basin, just a stone's throw from Brindley Place, a trip to Birmingham is great for newcomers.

It takes five hours to reach Gas Street Basin, passing through four tunnels along the way and past popular waterside pubs, like the Hopwood House at Hopwood.

4. Experience the lovely Llangollen Canal

From Chirk on the Llangollen Canal, the peaceful journey to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen and back offers a fantastic short break for beginners.

As well as the magnificent World Heritage site of Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts to pass over, there are just four locks to go through and views to die for.

5. Journey through the Peak District

Bridge over Caldon Canal

A journey along the peaceful Caldon Canal offers a lovely way to experience this beautiful National Park in the heart of England. It's an easy introduction to canal boating for beginners.

Starting at the National Garden Festival site, home of the industrial potteries, it's a gentle 12-hour cruise along the Caldon Canal to Froghall Basin and back, perfect for a short break.

6. Wonder at the World Heritage City of Bath

From Bradford on Avon on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire, in the southern foothills of the Cotswolds, Georgian Bath is a six-hour, one-lock cruise away.

The route passes over two stunning Bath-stone aqueducts and past a series of historic waterside pubs, including The Cross Guns at Avoncliffe.

Once there, holiday-makers can use their boat as a base to enjoy all that Bath has to offer, including the Roman Baths, the Holburne Museum, eateries and shops.

7. Cruise through the countryside to Braunston

Two boats travelling through a lock

From Stretton, on the North Oxford Canal near Rugby, the pretty canal village of Braunston is a peaceful 15-mile cruise away. There are only three locks on this route so it's an easy short break for first-timers.

The journey meanders through scenic wooded countryside and a series of quiet villages with rural pubs, including the Barley Mow at Newbold and Royal Oak at Hillmorton.

Last Edited: 08 September 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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