Stay on a boat
Explore England's waterways
hether you want to be captain of your own ship or let others take the helm, England’s boating holidays allow you to see England in a very special way, from the towside walks to the pretty riverside and canalside pubs, but above all, the peace and tranquillity you’ll encounter along the way. Let the 21st century fade into the background as you explore England’s backwaters.
You can make this holiday as luxurious as you want to; including having gourmet meals delivered to your boat. Moored on the Kennet and Avon canal, the three spacious Moonraker boats – all of which have whirlpool baths - will allow you to visit such landmarks as Bath and Bristol alongside numerous idyllic villages as well as the famous Caen Hill flight of 16 locks; a must for any canal enthusiast.
The Thames - England’s most famous river – stretches all the way from Gloucestershire to London and beyond. Based at Datchet, in boats that sleep between 2 and 10 people, a holiday on one of these cruisers will allow you to explore some of the history-filled landmarks that run along its course, including Windsor, Oxford and Runnymede where the Magna Carta was signed while kids can let off steam at Legoland and Thorpe Park.
This is a chance to explore the heart of England. Choose from the light and airy, brand new Spring Valley, the more traditional Elan Valley – a tug designed for two with a large picnic area - or the Weaver Valley which sleeps up to 10. All of them allow you to embark on a blissfully relaxed holiday. There is an impressive number of routes to choose from – you can head to Oxford, explore the Black Country; children are sure to want to visit Cadbury World near Birmingham.
From the outside, this fleet of four canal boats may look traditional but all of them are newly built. Filled with clever touches of luxury, including hairdryers, even the engines come with silencers so that you can appreciate the quietness of the countryside as you travel along. The Mercia marina in Derbyshire is the base for a wide number of routes, including circular ones, allowing you to take things just as easily – or energetically as you like.
Leather sofas, kingsize double beds – there’s plenty of luxury on this fleet of narrowboats and a huge choice of routes. Based at Napton near Coventry, at the junction of the Oxford and Grand Union Canal and at Autherley, at the junction of the Shropshire and Union and Staffs and Worcs canal network, you’ll be able to explore some of the quieter waterways, including the Caldon and the almost lock-free Ashby canal.
Let someone else take charge on this trip. With room for just eight passengers, it’s a friendly way to see the countryside as well as cities such as Liverpool, London and the Manchester Ship Canal, with delicious meals and cabins that are suitable for both single people and couples. And with someone else doing all the hard work, you’ll be able to relax, whether it’s admiring the landscape, painting it or taking a gentle walk along the towpath.
Based at Preston in Lancashire, this small but perfectly designed narrowboat has room for just three passengers in a double and a single cabin. Owners Steve and Gill Cookson will spoil you with gourmet food as you explore quiet stretches of the English canal system; the cruises take in England’s great Northern cities such as Liverpool, Birmingham and Leeds as well as quiet rural gems such as the River Avon and the Shropshire Union canal.
Concentrating on the canals of Yorkshire, hiring one of these narrowboats will let you cross the Pennines, visiting market towns such as Sowerby Bridge and the West Riding and giving you the chance to explore National Trust properties and moorland. Owners Nigel and Susan Stevens will give you advice about routes and some great canalside pubs. As an added bonus, the boats welcome dogs.
In the heart of the fenlands, you can rent these narrowboats by the week, for a short break, even for the day. Rated five stars and sleeping between 2 and seven people, you’ll also find bicycle racks on most of the boats; perfect for exploring the outlying villages along the Rivers Ouse and Nene, landmarks include the majestic Ely Cathedral.
Based at Warwick and Stockton, there’s a huge selection of narrowboats to choose from at this family-run boat yard. You’ll be able to cruise at a gentle pace to a variety of destinations including Stratford-upon-Avon where you’ll be able to moor in the shadow of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, watch a play and then stroll back to your boat at night; a longer three week trip will allow you to take in the famously beautiful Llangollen canal that runs between Shropshire and Wales.
Rugged hills dotted with fluffy sheep and new born lambs.Yorkshire Dales
Sign up to our eNewsletter for the latest travel news, top events and great ideas for holidays and breaks in England.