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Holidays for first-time boaters

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

Family walking on canal towpath Family walking on canal towpath

First of all, rest-assured that your hire boat operator will take you through all of the basics before you set off. As for location, we have so many beautiful places on our canal and river network that the sky is your limit.

Here are some ideas for narrowboat holidays that should give novice boaters a great introduction to life afloat. This article first appeared in the Drifters blog and is reproduced with their kind permission. Drifters have hire boat bases at each of these locations.

1. Discover the Breacon Beacons afloat – the beautiful Man walking along towpath by canal with autumnal coloursMonmouthshire & Breccon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park, meandering from 35 miles from Brecon to the Pontymoile Basin. This quiet waterway, with very few locks is nice and easy for beginners and offers holidaymakers incredible mountain views and some of the darkest night skies in Britain.

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

4. Enjoy Birmingham by canal – with no locks between Tardebigge on Brindley Place, Birminghamthe Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, and City Centre moorings at Gas Street Basin, just a stone’s throw from Brindleyplace, 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.

5. 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 holiday for beginners. As well as the magnificent World Heritage status Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts to pass over, there are just four locks to pass through and views to die for.

6. Journey through the Peak District –  a journey along the peaceful Bridge over Caldon CanalCaldon Canal offers a lovely way to experience this beautiful National Park in the heart of England, and 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.

7. 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, canal boat holiday makers can use their canal boat as a base to enjoy all that the World Heritage Status City of Bath has to offer, including the Roman Baths, the Holburne Museum, eateries and shops.

8. Cruise through the countryside to Braunston – from Stretton on Two boats travelling through a lockthe 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 date edited: 3 April 2017