Norfolk Broads- 10 reasons to hire a boat on the Broads

The Norfolk Broads is the perfect destination for your next holiday. Known as ‘Britain’s magical waterland’, the Broads offers 125 miles of navigable waterways, and of course, the best way to discover it all is by boat! With picturesque towns and villages, waterside pubs and plenty of visitor attractions, the Broads is just waiting to be explored on your next holiday. All ages are catered for, making it a fantastic choice for a family holiday and with dogs welcome on most of our boats; you can even bring your four-legged friend.


1. Visitor attractions

You won’t be short of options on the Norfolk Broads! There are plenty to choose from for adults and for children. BeWilderwood, an award winning forest with tree-houses, zip wires and wooden bridges is great fun for a family day out. Thrigby Hall also comes highly recommended, take a tour of the gardens or go and visit the tigers and red pandas!

2. Norwich

The beautiful city of Norwich can be easily reached from the Norfolk Broads. Norwich is the most complete medieval city in the UK and hosts an abundance of restaurants, pubs, bars and shops. It is in the top 10 UK shopping destinations, with four department stores, independent and boutique shops, and not one, but two shopping centres.

3. Food and Drink

Let’s just say you’re not going to go hungry or thirsty! Many pubs and eateries include locally sourced produce on their menus, giving you a real taste of Norfolk. There are many independent, unique places to choose from, including some lovely quaint tearooms and coffee shops.

4. Fishing

There is an incredible variety of fish to catch, making it one of the best known angling locations in the UK. No matter how experienced an angler you are, fishing on the Broads can be a rewarding experience. There are free fishing platforms located on the Broads, or alternatively, why not fish off the back of your very own hire boat!

5. Spectacular Scenery

The views on the Broads are like no other, with wide open skies, day and night you’ll be surprised by the breathtaking scenery. It truly is an area of natural beauty, with the lakes, streams and waterways surrounded by rolling countryside. It’s a great location for budding photographers so don’t forget to take your camera!


6. The Coast

The seaside town of Great Yarmouth is accessible from the Norfolk Broads. We recommend mooring at Acle and jumping in a taxi. For a fun day out pop down to the pleasure beach and visit the arcades near the sea front or just have a day sunbathing with an ice-cream or two! If you’re more of a sports enthusiast, pop to Greater Yarmouth and try out some water sports or go cycling or horse riding.

7. Rest and Relaxation

They say that boating is the fastest way to slow down, so if you feel the need to get away from it all, the Norfolk Broads could be just the place! Travelling between just 3-6 miles per hour you’ll experience a completely different pace of life. Hire a boat with a sundeck and make the most of the sunbathing opportunities in the summer months.

8. Pubs
As expected, there is a great deal of choice when it comes to pubs! Some are set in stunning locations, offering great views of the Broads while enjoying a drink or a pub meal. The pubs on the waterfront give you a great opportunity to sit and watch other boaters cruising past, or maybe even to spot some wildlife. Many of the pubs are dog-friendly so you can bring them along with you!

9. Shopping

As mentioned before, Norwich is somewhat of a must to visit for shopping fans. Gift shops and farm shops are aplenty on the Norfolk Broads, giving you a chance to sample some of that local produce, and get some presents for those back home. A visit to the Broads wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the infamous ‘Roys of Wroxham’ department store, where you can find anything from gardening tools to toiletries.

10. Wildlife

The Broads are well-known for its wildlife, no matter what time of year you decide to visit. Home to a selection of birds and mammals, including otters, hares, bats, deer and even seals! It’s a haven for keen bird-watchers, being home to kingfishers, owls, grebes, marsh harriers and if you’re very lucky you might even spot the super-rare bittern!


No previous experience is necessary to hire a cruiser on the Broads; full tuition is provided as are buoyancy aids for both adults and children.

Search for your 2017 boating holiday:

Visit our website: or give us a call on 01252 796 400.

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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 also the MAD Museum in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Anderton Boat Lift

Anderton Boat Lift

There are some impressive feats of engineering to discover 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. Furthermore, 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 in addition, iPod docking system.


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 you can also 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. There are so many waterways across Portugal, France and Germany it’s hard to choose where to start! After some discussion, we decided on beautiful Burgundy in the heart of France. The prospect of historic towns, medieval villages, prestigious world-renowned vineyards and traditional Burgundy gastronomy attracted us. 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. There are 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. We were left to check out the facilities and unpack prior to tuition. What a beautiful, stylish and comfortable cruiser. The quality and specification of the boat blew us away. 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 help. By the way, never disturb a Frenchman’s (or women’s) lunch break, they prize it highly. Locks close 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. An impressive, full itinerary was on board. There were recommendations for overnight moorings, places to eat and drink and places of interest. This was 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. This 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 famous for its production of Burgundy wine, including the world-famous Chablis, as well as the impressive cathedral of Saint Etienne, which dominates the riverside. Allow plenty of time to do this town justice. Moorings at the port 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. There is a visitors centre showing how they produce and prepare the snails. 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. Despite this several very attractive buildings survived including a big oval wash house built in 1792. The moorings at Brienon are useful and offer 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. They produce excellent red, white and rose wines from the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, which are considered  some of the very best Burgundy wines. 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. This 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. 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. It has given us so much pleasure 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 more peaceful time to explore the waterways and visit cosy canalside pubs.


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 rails and take the kids 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 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,  you can also 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 also 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.


Crusing down the Shropshire Union Canal


For more information on any of these destinations:

Please visit our website or you can also 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. With some fascinating attractions along the way.


The Falkirk Wheel

The Falkirk Wheel is between Edinburgh and Glasgow at our Falkirk base.  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, taking 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:


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! Built as a monument to the heavy horse industry in Scotland, the kelpies are 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:



Departing from the Falkirk Wheel is the perfect place to begin your holiday on the Scottish waters. You are able to visit both cities in an active one week cruise. Cruising towards Edinburgh, you’ll venture through the Falkirk Tunnel, an impressive tunnel (631m), cut through solid rock and stone. You’ll also go across the Almond Aqueduct; Scotland’s largest at 420ft long, standing at 76ft high.  There are a great variety of attractions on offer in Edinburgh. 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. As is the Scotch Whisky Experience for those partial to the occasional scotch.



Falkirk Wheel at night. Photo credit:



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 journey to Glasgow very scenic. People often describe it 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.  Scotland’s largest city is the ‘cultural hub’ of Scotland, there are 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 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

Travelling across the Welsh and Shropshire borders, the Llangollen Canal features 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 also 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 visit. You can explore the whole of the Mon & Brec Canal 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’s original purpose to transport lime, coal and iron. The lime kilns at Goytre Wharf have been preserved and now also 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 or call our specialised boating team on 01252 796400.

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Luxury Widebeam boat Larkspur

alsoFancy 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 also 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 also 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.

You do not need experience to hire ‘Larkspur’; you will receive a full 2-hour tuition session on arrival at the boatyard.

Widebeam boat near Bathampton

Widebeam boat near Bathampton

To check availability:

Have a look at our website or you can also 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. In honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, ‘Zoe’ was originally named ‘Jubilee’. She appeared in the very first Broads holiday hire boat brochure published over 100 years ago. She is also 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 is now back to her former glory, undergoing a major restoration project.  Today she continues to give holiday makers an absolutely unique sailing experience. Zoe now also has a brand new suit of sails (including a top sail). The design, very close to her original sail plan (using a set of drawings only recently discovered).

You can hire Zoe for weekly and also 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: 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 apparently 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 got its name 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.

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. 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 is Warwick castle. 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. It 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. Make sure you bring your waterproofs- water droplets from the roof of the tunnel are frequent!

The Canal Museum is 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 also 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 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 you can reach Bath 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 796400.

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Posted in Holiday Inspirations by Waterways Holidays. Comments Off on UK Boating Holidays – Tips and Attractions to suit the whole family

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