An education on the UK waterways

Teach your children something new this October half term. A canal boating holiday can be a great way to get children outside and active, learning whilst having fun. Each canal and river has something different to offer and gives children the chance to engage and experience something completely new.

The canals and waterways of the United Kingdom have played an important role in our history. Before railways, the canals were used as the main method of transporting goods around the country. There are many canalside museums available to visit on a narrowboat holiday, including the Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne on the Grand Union Canal, the Black Country Living Museum in the West Midlands and MAD Musuem in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Anderton Boat Lift

Anderton Boat Lift

There are some impressive feats of engineering to be discovered along the 3000 mile canal network. Work from some of the greatest architectural minds is showcased along the waters, including the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal, designed and built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop. The Anderton Boat Lift is another impressive structure, standing at 72ft, it provides passage from the River Weaver down onto the Trent & Mersey Canal below. More modern marvels include the Falkirk Wheel; the world’s only rotating boat lift, connecting the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals in Scotland.

Learning how to operate locks, swing bridges and lift bridges is all part of the experience of a canal holiday. Children can get hands-on from around the age of 7 operating the canal and river structures under supervision.  After a day in the fresh air, full of activity and sight-seeing, your family can relax onboard with some more traditional features including solid fuel stoves, perfect for those autumn evenings. Some of our narrowboats have surprisingly modern features including, a TV/DVD with freeview, Wi-Fi and even an iPod docking system.

child-lock

Working the locks

No previous experience is necessary to hire a narrowboat; full tuition is provided as are buoyancy aids for both adults and children. To search for your half term family boating holiday visit our website www.waterwaysholidays.com or give us a call on 01252 796 400.

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Boating in Beautiful Burgundy!

Dawn, a team member at Waterways Holidays took her family to France in May to enjoy a boating experience with a different flavour on the canals and rivers of Burgundy. She has been kind enough to share her holiday experience with us in her travel log:

After many years of boating on the UK canals, we decided it was time to try something different and enjoy a boating holiday in Europe, but with so many waterways across Portugal, France and Germany to choose from where to start! After some discussion, we decided on beautiful Burgundy in the heart of France. We were attracted by the prospect of historic towns, medieval villages, prestigious world-renowned vineyards and traditional Burgundy gastronomy. And we were not disappointed.

Arcy sur Cure

Arcy sur Cure

So it was with excitement and anticipation that we boarded the shuttle at Calais for the 35 minute crossing for our very first boating holiday in France. The car journey through France was very easy with plenty of Aires for picnicking and comfort breaks, and took about six hours. We arrived in the lovely provincial town of Vermenton also known as ‘Land of Beautiful Hills’ (about 20 minutes drive south of Auxerre) in full sunshine at about two o’clock in the afternoon, having first visited the local supermarket to stock up on a few basics before boarding.

Our French boating partners were so welcoming. We were invited to board our home for the next week, a Linssen 33.9AC 10 metre long cruiser, to check out the facilities and unpack prior to tuition. What a beautiful, stylish and comfortable cruiser. We were all blown away by the quality and specification of the boat. Tuition and the safety handover took about 45 minutes which included being accompanied through the nearby lock. Interestingly, unlike the UK, all the locks on the French waterways have lock keepers who operate the locks for you, but if you’re the sort of boater who really enjoys operating locks, they are more than happy for you to get involved. By the way, never disturb a Frenchman’s (or women’s) lunch break, they prize it highly and locks are closed over the lunch time period, usually from midday to around 1.30pm, so you’ll need to plan your stops around this.

Day 1

Our instructor jumped off the boat at the lock and we were on our way. Our adventure would take us from Vermenton, on a one way cruise, through the stunning landscape of Burgundy to the quaint town of Tonnerre following the course of the Canal du Nivernais, the River Yonne and the Canal de Bourgogne. We were very impressed that a full itinerary was provided for us on board with recommendations for overnight moorings, places to eat and drink and places of interest, to ensure we would get the most from our travels and didn’t miss any of the historic and enchanting villages and towns along the way.

Vermenton Branch

Vermenton Branch

We were cruising west on the Vermenton Branch of the Canal du Nivernais, which follows the River Cure for 4km passing through the pretty village of Accolay to join the River Yonne. Our mooring for our first stop was to be Cravant, 6km and three locks’ away. Arriving about 5pm in the afternoon we set off for a wonder around this ancient village. Cravant was once a fortified village and you can still see the remains of the old moats. There is a beautiful 15th century church and, as with most French villages, enjoys a market every Saturday morning. Having already planned to eat on board the boat for our first evening, we spent a short interlude to sample a glass of Chablis and a cold French beer at the Bar/Brassiere O’Jouvence in the centre of the village prior to enjoying our evening meal. One thing we did notice, however, was that generally bars and brassieres are open for breakfast around 7 o’clock in the morning and, because of this, they tend to close around 7 or 8 o’clock in the evening. So if you’re hoping to go out for an evening drink without eating, make sure you go early or you’ll be disappointed. Restaurants are generally open for lunch from 12 to 2 o’clock and reopen for evening meals at 7 o’clock.

Day 2

We were very excited about our second day cruising. After passing through the village of Vincelottes, we stopped off at Bailly to visit the caves or cellars which house the fruits of the region’s labours, the famous Crement de Bourgogone; the region’s equivalent to Champagne. The cellars at Bailly are housed in immense underground quarries which once provided stone for the construction of Parisian housing. There is an easily accessible mooring pontoon at the foot of the cellars. We enjoyed a guided tour of the four hectares of underground galleries as well as tasting the region’s wines. Tastings completed and a few bottles purchased and stowed on board and we were off to Champs sur Yonne. The canal is separated from the river by a stone wall, an amazing feat of engineering that has fortunately defied the most devastating floods of the Yonne for many years. Like many of the moorings we visited, the moorings at Champ sur Yonne had information about vineyard tours. The wine producers around Chablis offer free of charge transport from the waterside to their vineyards and visitor centres.

Day 3

Our third day’s cruising would take us to the outstanding town of Auxerre. Auxerre was one of the highlights of our week. The town is particularly noted for its production of Burgundy wine, including the world-famous Chablis, as well as the impressive cathedral of Saint Etienne, which dominates the riverside. In 1995 Auxerre was named ‘Town of Art and History’. Allow plenty of time to do this town justice. Moorings at the port were chargeable and cost between €6 and €9 according to the size of your boat. I should also say that we found that most quays asked for a mooring fee. Some were free of charge, but if you needed fresh water there was always a small charge.

Auxerre by night

Auxerre by night

Day 4

A stop off at Gurgy on the fourth day was interesting with a visit to a Burgundy Snail Farm with a visitors centre showing how snails are produced and prepared. Then we continued on the river to Migennes where we left the river and entered the Canal de Bourgogne via the deep lock, which I have to admit, was a little hairy. Unable to see the top of the lock or the lock keeper, we heard a yell from above and slowly a large hook on the end of a rope came into view. We passed our mooring rope over the hook and it slowly disappeared again. Slowly, but surely, the lock filled and we emerged into sunlight once more. We were heading to our next mooring at Brienon sur Armancon, where another of our boating partners is located. The town was ravaged by two fires in the 17th and 18th centuries, but despite this several very attractive buildings survived including a big oval wash house built in 1792. The moorings at Brienon are particularly well serviced offering a supermarket, laundry facilities and post office.

Day 5

On to Saint Florentin the next day, another highlight. Stunningly beautiful, in addition to the canal, the town also boasts two rivers; the Armance and the Armancon. The town, which takes about 15 minutes walk up a fairly steep hill to reach, is lively with a good amount of shops and several good restaurants, as well as a magnificent church built between 1500 and 1614 and famous for its stained-glass windows of the Troyenne School. The area North of Saint Florentin, in particular the small town of Chaource, is famous for its production of cheese, goat’s cheese in particular. Sampling the local cheese is a must! It’s delicious.

Day 6 & 7

The second to last moorings of our holiday were spent at Flogny la Chapelle, another pretty town with good amenities. Then onto Tonnerre, the last stop of our holiday. The town has a really welcoming port and the staff were on hand to greet us as we arrived. Once moored we had time to stroll across the footbridge to the centre of the town to visit the Fosse Dionne, a circular basin fed by a natural spring that was used as a public washing place, as well as the church of St Pierre which is perched on a rocky terrace offering panoramic views of the town and the surrounding countryside. To the north of Tonnerre is the small wine growing region of Epineuil. Here they produce excellent red, white and rose wines from the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, which are consider being some of the very best Burgundy wines produced. We spent our last evening enjoying a fabulous four course dinner at a family run restaurant in the town recommended by the staff at the port, Le Saint Père. A truly fitting end to an amazing journey through Burgundy.

Linssen 33.9AC

Linssen 33.9AC

In all, we only cruised three to four hours per day, which was perfect as it allowed us to enjoy lazy lunches soaking up the sun and to have an opportunity to see the sights of this beautiful region of France. In total, we navigated 91 km and passed through 43 locks, but it felt far less as we weren’t doing all the hard work.

Our car was waiting for us at Tonnerre, having been transferred from Vermenton. We left Tonnerre on Saturday morning following the contours of the rolling hills covered in emerging vines which would become grape laden by the end of the Summer homeward bound. Sad to be leaving this region of France that has given us so much pleasure but with memories and tastes to last until our next visit!

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Book your October half term boating holiday

Beat the back-to-school blues by booking a boating holiday in the October half term. With options on both the Norfolk Broads and the UK canals available, there are plenty of locations to choose from. Boating holidays in autumn give you the chance to experience the UK waters in a completely different light; with the sun still shining (hopefully) it’s a far more peaceful time to explore the waterways and cosy water-side pubs along the way.

autumn-middlewich

Middlewich in Autumn

 

With plenty of events to keep the kids occupied, the Broads is the place to be for an action-packed holiday. Have an outing to the forest adventure park Bewilderwood and join in with their spooky Glowing Lantern Parade for Halloween. Alternatively, swap the water for the rails and take the kids for a ride on the Spooky Express from Bure Valley Railway near Wroxham. For the animal enthusiasts visit the Hillside Animal Sanctuary and meet some of their 2000 residents including horses, donkeys, pigs and cows.  If the kids are bigger fans of reptiles, try the Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens and visit the crocodiles and snakes. For boating holidays on the Broads, select ‘Norfolk Broads’ from the drop-down list in our search.

Filby broads

Filby Broads on the Norfolk Broads

 

Get the whole family involved on a holiday on one of the UK canals- working the locks and bridges and navigating the waterways is a team effort. Take the opportunity to recharge your batteries and admire the wonderful autumnal colours as you cruise along the canals. Take a trip down Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal or the Shropshire Union Canal to make the most of some of the most beautiful scenery on the UK canals in the autumn. To search for a more relaxing break in October half term, choose Monmouth & Brecon or Shropshire Union under the ‘select a waterway’ section of our search.

autumn-cruising-nerys-fb

Autumn cruising on the Mon & Brec Canal

 

For Halloween-themed events on the canals depart from our base at Sowerby Bridge and visit the Standedge Tunnel and Visitor Centre for a haunted disco on the 26th October, or try your hand at a pumpkin carving class on the 27th.  Birmingham also has a lot to offer for Halloween; visit Cadbury World with its fancy dress competition for the kids or the Black Country Living Museum for an evening with street performers, fire-jugglers, tricks and treats, watch birds of prey hunt at night and take a trip into the mine. Drayton Manor is hosting its very own ‘spook-tacular’ event, along with a firework display every evening from the 28th-30th October. To explore Birmingham by canal, search for city breaks in Birmingham, departing from Alvechurch or Tardebigge.

shropshire

Crusing down the Shropshire Union Canal

 

For more information on any of these destinations please visit our website or give us a call on 01252 796 400.

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Narrowboat hire in Scotland

Scottish lowlands

Scottish Lowlands

 

A boating holiday on the Scottish canals gives you the opportunity to explore and meander your way along both the Forth & Clyde Canal and the Union Canal, linked together by the impressive Falkirk Wheel. The once derelict canals have been wonderfully restored and have opened up some of the most beautiful waterways in the United Kingdom for you to discover, with some fascinating attractions along the way.

 

The Falkirk Wheel

The Falkirk Wheel is conveniently located at our Falkirk base, situated between Edinburgh and Glasgow. It is an ideal starting point for your Scottish canal holiday. The Falkirk Wheel, opened by Her Majesty, The Queen in 2002, is a rotating boat lift that connects the Union Canal (towards Edinburgh) and the Forth & Clyde Canal (towards Glasgow). Before the wheel, the canals were joined by a series of 11 locks which took almost a day to travel through. The Falkirk Wheel is the only rotating boat lift in the world, standing at a whopping 115ft high, it can carry 8 boats at one time and raises them by an impressive 79ft from the Forth & Clyde canal at the bottom to the Union Canal at the top. There is no charge but it is recommended to book your passage through the Falkirk Wheel in advance.

 

falkirk wheel mountains

Falkirk Wheel. Photo credit: ScottishCanals.co.uk

 

The Kelpies

The Kelpies structure is another must-see, located on the Forth & Clyde Canal either side of a lock, at a staggering 100ft tall it is the largest equine structure in the world, with each of the horses weighing 300 tonnes! The Kelpies were built as a monument to the heavy horse industry in Scotland, based on heavy-horse breeds such as Shires, Clydesdales and Percherons. A 45-minute walking tour of the Kelpies is available at their home at the Helix, Falkirk. Arrival to the Helix by boat is welcomed- just cruise into the Kelpies Hub through the Forth & Clyde lock.

 

Falkirk Kelpies

The Kelpies. Photo credit: Scottishcanals.co.uk

 

Edinburgh

Departing from the Falkirk Wheel is the perfect place to begin your holiday on the Scottish waters as you are able to visit both cities in a one week cruise. Cruising towards Edinburgh, you’ll venture through the Falkirk Tunnel, an impressive tunnel of 631 metres, cut through solid rock and stone. You’ll also go across the Almond Aqueduct; Scotland’s largest at 420ft long, standing at 76ft high.  Once in Edinburgh you’ll be spoilt for choice with the variety of attractions on offer. There’s something for all ages, with shopping, and the Edinburgh Zoo, home to the UK’s only giant pandas. Edinburgh Castle, recently named the top UK heritage attraction is also worth a visit, along with the Scotch Whisky Experience for those partial to the occasional scotch.

 

Wheel_06

Falkirk Wheel at night. Photo credit: Scottishcanals.co.uk

 

Glasgow

On your way to Glasgow from Edinburgh you’ll get to experience the Falkirk Wheel once again, this time descending onto the Forth & Clyde Canal.  The scenic journey to Glasgow is often described as one of the most attractive stretches of canal in the UK; it will take you through the villages of Kirkintilloch, Cadder and the village of Auchinstarry which hosts the remains of a Roman fort. Once you reach Scotland’s largest city, which is known as the ‘cultural hub’ of Scotland, due to it being the home of many museums and galleries, along with the Scottish Opera and Ballet and the National Theatre. For the shopping enthusiasts, there is a huge variety of high street and designer shops to explore. One week before you start your journey to Glasgow, a phone call to Scottish Canals Boat Movement is necessary to book passage through the Bonnybridge road bridge lift.

 

For more information on Scottish boating holidays, visit our website www.waterwaysholidays.com/scotland_canals.htm or call our specialised boating team on 01252 796400.

 

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Boating holidays on the Welsh waterways

The canals in Wales host some of the most beautiful scenery on all of the waterways in the UK. With either the north of Wales or the south available to choose from, the Llangollen and the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal both have a lot to offer on your boating holiday.

 

llangollen ponty

Pontcysylle Aqueduct, Llangollen Canal

 

The Llangollen Canal

Located aross the Welsh and Shropshire borders, the Llangollen canal is the host of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct nicknamed ‘the stream in the sky’ and the smaller Chirk Aqueduct. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the highest and longest in the world, carrying an impressive 1.5 million litres of water. It has achieved World Heritage Status, being of specific cultural and physical significance. The aqueduct is fed by the Llangollen and Horseshoe Falls, a scenic semi-circular weir, one of the historic landmarks along the 6 mile Llangollen History Trail walk. Once you’re on the canal there’s plenty to see and explore. Horse-drawn boat trips to the Horseshoe Falls are available if you fancy letting someone else take over the reins and relaxing for a while.  The enchanting town of Llangollen itself is worth a visit, with a steam railway and plenty of charming pubs. The village of Chirk also has some exciting attractions, on and off the water, including the ruins of Dinas Bran Castle, a 460-yard long tunnel and the Chirk Aqueduct, at 710-foot long and 70 metres high, it spans across two countries, allowing its users to travel across the England-Wales border.

Llangollen Canal, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Llangollen Canal, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

 

The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal is often referred to as Britain’s prettiest canal. Peaceful, scenic and rural, the Monmouth & Brecon Canal is the perfect choice for an unwinding, relaxing holiday. Passing through the Brecon Beacon’s National Park there are plenty of quaint country pubs and villages to stop at and explore. The whole canal can be explored in a one week holiday, along the way you may encounter a variety of wildlife including kingfishers, herons, frogs and even the occasional otter.  The canal is now over 200 years old, it was originally created to transport lime, coal and iron. The lime kilns at Goytre Wharf have been preserved and now form part of the Goytre Wharf & Canal Visitor Centre, one of the attractions along the Monmouth and Brecon Canal. The 36 mile canal gives you the opportunity to get a full canal experience, hosting an aqueduct, a tunnel, lift-bridges and 6 locks.

Cruising down the Mon and Brec Canal

 

For more information on Welsh boating holidays, visit our website www.waterwaysholidays.com/wales_canals.htm or call our specialised boating team on 01252 796400.

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Luxury Widebeam boat Larkspur

Fancy a boating holiday with that extra bit of added luxury?

The widebeam boat ‘Larkspur’ is perfect for a family or friends holiday, sleeping up to 6 people, with an extra 4ft of width compared to traditional narrowboats; it’s like being on a quaint, floating holiday cottage.

Luxury widebeam boat saloon area

Luxury widebeam boat saloon area

Located on the beautiful Kennet and Avon Canal, in Bathampton, there are plenty of locations to explore on your holiday. Take a trip into the picturesque city of Bath, a city steeped in history, famous for its architecture and home to the original Roman Baths. Or for the more adventurous, tackle the Caen Hill Locks, the longest continuous flight of locks in the country!

‘Larkspur’ is fully equipped with a kitchen-diner area, featuring a cooker, oven and grill,  and a fridge with a freezer compartment. A dining table and chairs and a sofa, which converts into an extra double bed, along with a contemporary wood burner stove, completes the set-up for the saloon area. A selection of board games are available to provide the evening’s entertainment if you choose to spend it on the boat.

No previous experience is needed to hire ‘Larkspur’; a full 2-hour tuition will be given to you on arrival at the boatyard.

Widebeam boat near Bathampton

Widebeam boat near Bathampton

To check availability have a look at our website www.waterwaysholidays.com or call us on 01252 796400 to find out more.

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Zoe Celebrates 120 Years!

In this year when HRH Queen Elizabeth celebrates her 90th Birthday, the Norfolk Broads hire yacht ‘Zoe’ is celebrating her 120th. year!

Zoe celebrates her 120th. birthday!

‘Zoe’ celebrates 120 years making her the UK’s oldest working hire boat

Built in 1896 by Ernest Collins of Wroxham as a lugsail rigged counter stern hire yacht, she was originally named ‘Jubilee’ in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. She appeared in the very first Broads holiday hire boat brochure published over 100 years ago and is now thought to be the oldest self steer holiday hire boat available anywhere in the UK.

After many pre-war years of providing visitors with enjoyable sailing holidays on the Norfolk Broads, Zoe sadly fell into a state of disrepair and remained an abandoned hull, rotting in a field until her re-discovery in 1945. She was then restored to her former glory and today continues to give holiday makers an absolutely unique sailing experience.  She has recently been fitted with a brand new suit of sails (including a top sail) based, it is believed, on her original sail plan (using a set of drawings only recently discovered).

You can hire Zoe for weekly and short break holidays to discover for yourself the magical inland waterways that make up the Broads National Park. For prices and availability of Zoe plus our full range of classic and modern self steer Broads yachts, please visit www.waterwaysholidays.com/sailing_holidays.htm or call our boating holidays team on 01252 796400

 

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UK Boating Holidays – Tips and Attractions to suit the whole family

 

Looking for a bit of inspiration for your next UK holiday? We’ve looked at some of the top attractions either on, or very close to the waterways all over England. Whether you’re after a relaxing, scenic holiday or one packed full of adventure- there’s something for everyone on the UK waterways.

 

The Anderton Boat Lift

Situated in the North of England is the Anderton Boat lift. An impressive structure, located on the banks of the River Weaver in Cheshire. Built to lift cargo boats from the river below, to the Trent and Mersey Canal above, the lift went under major restoration in 2002, costing around 7 million pounds. Visitor moorings are available should you wish to stop off and grab some lunch at the visitor centre, offering spectacular views and the chance to discover the history of the lift. To view this waterway attraction, search for holidays departing from Preston Brook, Anderton, Acton Bridge, Middlewich or Northwich on the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Anderton Boat Lift

Anderton Boat Lift

Alton Towers

Heading close to Stoke-on-Trent, just a short taxi ride from Froghall on the Caldon Canal, you can find yourself at the impressive Alton Towers, one of the UK’s biggest attractions. There’s plenty to do for all ages, including some of the most famous rollercoaster’s in the United Kingdom. For the children there are lots to choose from, why not visit the farm, have a go on the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride or enjoy the views from a cable car. To take a trip to Alton Towers search on our website for breaks from our base at the ‘Peak District’ from here it would take around 7 hours cruising (each way) to get to Froghall, alternatively book from our base on the Caldon Canal for a shorter journey to Alton Towers.

 

Cadbury World and The Gas Street Basin

Moving into the Midlands now and onto Birmingham- where there are said to be more canals than in Venice! A very good option for those with children or adult-only groups, as there’s plenty to do and see. Cadbury World is a great option no matter what age! If you’re coming by narrowboat you can moor up at the purple Bourneville Station and enjoy a fifteen minute stroll following the fingerposts into Cadbury World. Once inside you can enjoy a 4D chocolate adventure, chocolate making, and have a spending-spree in the world’s biggest Cadbury shop! The Gas Street Basin is in the centre of Birmingham, it is known as the heart of Britain’s canal network. The basin is 200 years old and aptly named due to it being the first street to have gas lighting in Birmingham. Brindleyplace, the canal-side development has plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes. The clubs of Broad Street are very close by, making Birmingham an appealing location for a stag or hen-do! To experience all that Birmingham has to offer, search for holidays departing from our bases at Alvechurch or Tardebigge on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal.

Gas Street Basin

Gas Street Basin

Dudley Tunnel and The Black Country Living Museum

Dudley, in the West Midlands, is an exciting option when considering a holiday on the waterways. The Dudley Canal trust provide excursions through the tunnels, mines and caverns, and you can explore Dudley Tunnel (the second longest tunnel on the UK canals) from the comfort of your own hire boat, via the Dudley Canal Trust’s free towing service. Dudley Canal Trust hosts a range of special events throughout the year, including Santa Boat Trips from the 5th December. Very close by is the Black Country Museum, a 26 acre open-air museum where you can explore a recreated 19th Century village, take a trip down a coal mine and catch the tram to the canal-side village. Canals were essential to the Black Country, providing the industrial area with the ability to transport heavy cargo. The museum hosts the last original steam-powered narrowboat in the world named the ‘President’.

 

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle is easily accessible from the Grand Union Canal, just 8 hours (each way) from our base at Stockton. A perfect place to stop for a fun day out with the kids, Warwick castle is home to the ‘Horrible Histories Maze’, the castle dungeons and ‘The Mighty Trebuchet’- the largest, fully functioning catapult replica in the world.  Further along the Grand Union Canal is a fun, but challenging flight of locks. The Hatton Flight- dubbed ‘The Stairway to Heaven’ by boaters, consists of 21 locks, allow yourself at least 2.5 hours to pass through the 2-mile stretch that climbs 45 metres.

Hatton Flight

Hatton Flight

The Blisworth Tunnel and Canal Museum

Heading further South, The Blisworth Tunnel is the longest self-navigable tunnel on the UK canal network that is still in frequent use. Located on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, the tunnel was originally built to provide a link between London and the Midlands. The tunnel has a tragic history and is claimed to be haunted by the workers who lost their lives working on the tunnel since the start of its construction in 1973. The tunnel is 1 ¾ miles long and takes around 45 minutes to an hour, be prepared and bring your waterproofs- water droplets from the roof of the tunnel are frequent! The Canal Museum is just south of the Blisworth Tunnel, in the town of Stoke Bruerne on the Grand Union Canal. Here you can learn the history of the Canal Network and discover the stories of the boat families, leggers and lock-keepers who worked on them. Check our website for departures on the Grand Union Canal from Linslade to experience the Blisworth Tunnel and the Canal Museum.

Cruising on the Grand Union Canal

Cruising on the Grand Union Canal

Caen Hill Locks and the Roman Baths

Down to one of our more Southerly bases and to The Caen Hill Locks, located on the Kennet and Avon Canal, they are the longest consecutive flight of locks in the country. With 29 locks in total, it can take around 5-6 hours to complete the flight, which raises your boat 237ft in two miles. For those looking for a more relaxing holiday, just a short distance from the Caen Hill Locks is the beautiful city of Bath. Bath has plenty to offer, including a fascinating history, architecture and of course the famous Roman Baths. The baths are one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world, dating back to 70 AD. With water temperatures reaching 46 °C, the Roman’s used to believe the water was a mystical work of the Gods, unbeknown to them; the baths were built on a natural hot springs. Bath and the Caen Hill Locks can both be reached from our base at Devizes; you should allow yourself a week to reach Bath from here. For shorter breaks Bath can be reached from our bases at Bradford on Avon or Monkton Combe.

Caen Hill Locks

Caen Hill Locks

For more information on any of these destinations please visit our website or give us a call on 01252 796 400.

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Questions for first time boaters

Here at Waterways holidays we thought it would be helpful for those of you considering your first boating holiday to put a few frequently asked questions together.
Previous experience is not required so a boating holiday is an exciting, fun option to consider when choosing your holiday. It is a perfect way to discover the British countryside at a slow and relaxing pace, taking in the scenery as you cruise along.

Canalside Pub

Canalside Pub

How many people can you fit on a narrow boat?
12 people is the maximum number allowed on a hire boat, this includes infants.

Can you go boating alone?
Yes you can go boating alone; however it is recommended that you choose a lock-free route, like the Norfolk Broads as locks can be tricky to operate on your own. It is also worth noting that some boating companies have a minimum of two people policy.

What are the different types of boat available to hire?
Narrowboats, widebeam boats, motor cruisers and sailing yachts are the main types of boats available to hire.
There are three different types of stern available: a traditional, a semi-traditional and a cruiser stern. The traditional stern narrowboat generally has the smallest amount of space. The semi-traditional narrowboat has a larger rear deck with seats, so this type of narrowboat is ideal for those with children. The cruiser has the largest area on deck so that more of the crew members can stand together with the steerer.
A widebeam boat is like a traditional narrow boat but much wider and allows for more space inside.

Are they difficult to drive?
All boats are relatively easy to drive. You will receive full tuition when you arrive at the boat yard for your holiday, with the exception of the sailing yachts which require you to have previous experience. All of the boats apart from the motor cruisers have a tiller, which you will get used to during the tuition session and with a bit of practice! The boats move at a slow pace so there’s plenty of time to get used to the steering.
Motor cruisers are the most familiar to people as they have a steering wheel. Some of the more modern motor cruisers have bow thrusters which make them easier to moor.

Can the boat run out of fuel?
Normally the boat will hold enough fuel to last you 10-11 nights so for shorter breaks you will be very unlikely to run out. The only reason you would have to top up is if you were going for a longer period. You can top up with fuel at any boat yard.

How do you operate a lock?
You will be provided with a windlass (a lock key) which will enable you to turn the gear to let water into or out of the lock. To enter the lock the water level must be the same as the water level you are entering from. Once the boat is inside the lock you close the paddles to stop water flowing straight through, then open the paddles at the opposite end to let water into/out of the lock. Once the water level in the lock is the same as that ahead of you the lock gates can be opened and the boat can exit the lock.

Cruising through a lock on a canal boat

Cruising through a lock on a canal boat

How do you secure the boat when you’re not on it?
You lock the boat like you would lock a car. We recommend keeping valuables out of sight and the curtains closed when not on the boat.

What entertainment is available on board?
There is usually a Television, generally incorporating a DVD player, so do bring your DVDs along with you. A radio is usually provided on board. Feel free to bring your own cards and games and of course feeding the ducks along the way will provide some entertainment! WiFi is also available on some of our boats.

How far can you travel in a week?
This is a difficult question to answer as it entirely depends on how many hours you cruise for a day. You can only cruise between dawn and dusk and must return your boat back to the place of departure. Generally people cruise for between 4 and 9 hours a day, at a speed of 3-4mph. Operating a lock takes around the same amount of time (15 minutes) as it does to travel one mile. If you add the amount of locks and the actual miles you wish to travel, and then divide by 3, it will work out how long the journey will take. It is also worth noting that the engine needs to be kept running for 3-4 hours a day to keep the boat ticking over.

Are boating holidays suitable for people of all ages?
Yes, as long as you are fit and able. Boating holidays are ideal for families, children if supervised can even steer the boat! You do need someone over 18 on board.

Can you take pets with you?
Yes, 95% of our boats are pet friendly. We do usually ask the sizes of dogs as floor space can be limited on the boats. Some boats will allow a maximum of two dogs so it is worth checking. Other animals are allowed, we’ve even had a duck!

Is there a fridge or freezer on board?
On the narrowboats, widebeam boats and motor cruisers there will always be a fridge, some have a small freezer compartment but not always, so we do not usually recommend bringing frozen goods. The majority also have cookers with gas hobs and a microwave can sometimes be provided.
Sailing yachts do not always have these facilities so it is worth specifying which facilities are necessary for your holiday.

What is the minimum and maximum time you can hire a boat for?
There is a minimum of three nights over a weekend for our boat hire, but some people decide to return the boat Sunday afternoon instead of Monday morning which is generally fine to do. The hire charge will however remain the same regardless. The longest is usually for 14 nights but you can hire for longer if there is availability.

Can you do a one-way trip?
There is one boatyard in Northern England that will allow you to do a one-way trip if you have previous experience. If you have no previous experience you generally always have to come back to the same departure point, so do please bear this in mind when planning your route. For holidays in France you can also book one-ways trips.

Can you fish from the boat?
Yes but you have to have a rod license. There is also no live bait allowed on board and you do have to be moored. Bringing your own equipment is also essential as boat yards do not provide it for you. There is a fishing season between 16th June to 14th March on the Norfolk Broads and some inland rivers.

Boating in Birmingham

Boating in Birmingham

To find out more visit our website or give our specialised boating team a call on 01252 796400.

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Posted in Holiday Inspirations by Waterways Holidays. Comments Off on Questions for first time boaters

Taking your first family boating holiday – The Norfolk Broads

If you are thinking about trying your first family boating holiday, the Norfolk Broads is a great location to get afloat. Consisting of a series of rivers and open Broads (connected lakes) the Broads extend from North Norfolk all the way down to the Suffolk borders, offering you 125 miles of easy lock free cruising. With stunning scenery, beautiful thatched waterside cottages, a good choice of waterside pubs, an abundance of wildlife and a rich history, the Broads is a truly unique holiday destination.

Boating on the Norfolk Broads in Coltishall

Boating on the Norfolk Broads in Coltishall

As the newest of the UK’s family of National Parks, the Broads is often referred to as ‘Britain’s magical waterland’ and it is Britain’s largest protected wetlands and third largest inland waterway. It is home to some of our rarest plants and wildlife (over one quarter of all of the rarest UK species can be found in the Broads). This includes swallowtail butterflies (best seen by taking a gentle walk on the Barton Broad boardwalk), otters, marsh harriers and grey seals.

So what can you expect when taking your first Broads boating holiday? Firstly, on arrival to collect your boat, you will be given full instruction on all of the features and facilities followed by a trial cruise with a trainer. This takes around 30 minutes (more on the canals where lock instruction is provided). You are then ready to set off on your adventure.

After a relaxed day cruising (broken by a lunch in a waterside hostelry) you find a mooring for the evening. This may be on the rivers (normally free of charge for overnight stays) or on the open waters of a beautiful Broad (allow around £10 per overnight stay). You can then explore the local villages and attractions on foot, try the locally brewed ales, try a spot of fishing (check dates for the open season) or simply chill out in the comfort of your boat in front of the TV or with some alfresco dining (weather permitting).

At the end of your holiday, you return your boat to the same location you collected it (usually by around 9am) where your car is waiting. All that remains then is to plan your next adventure afloat!

To find out more about taking your family on a Broads or canal boating holiday, call our team of specialist boating advisors on 01252 796400 today.

Posted in Holiday Inspirations by Waterways Holidays. Comments Off on Taking your first family boating holiday – The Norfolk Broads