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  • Narrow boat holidays on the UK Canals

    choose a traditional narrowboat...

  • Norfolk Broads boat hire

    or a luxury Norfolk Broads cruiser...

  • Sailing a traditional yacht on the Norfolk Broads

    or skipper a traditional yacht...

  • Operating locks on a canal boat holiday

    work the canal locks...

  • Dine out in a Norfolk Broads waterfront pub

    & enjoy the many waterside pubs...

  • Relaxing on a barge amid scenic landscapes

    or just escape the crowds...

Find your perfect boating holiday today. Use our live availability search of over 1,800 self-drive hire boats from a choice of more than 80 UK bases. Reserve online at direct prices or call our boating team on 01252 796400.

Frequently Asked Questions About Boating Holidays


About Waterways Holidays Limited

Located in Aldershot, Hampshire - Waterways Holidays is an online boating holiday specialist offering live availability and booking on over 1600 boats from more than 60 locations across the England, Wales, Scotland and France. Boating holidays are available for self drive hire on a wide choice of narrowboats on the canals and Rivers Thames and Severn, cruisers on the Norfolk Broads and River Thames and both traditional and modern sailing yachts on the Norfolk Broads. On the French canals we can offer modern style peniches, cruisers and narrowboats cruising on the waterways of the Burgundy region and the Canal du Midi.

Established in 2001, our booking team are all experienced boaters and can offer independent expert telephone advice as well as help you find the right boating holiday to suit your requirements. We work directly in close partnership with every boatyard featured and take bookings on behalf of the owner of your selected boat. Your holiday contract is always direct with the owner/operator of your boat at the direct booking price.

We have the widest choice of locations on the canals of the UK with narrow boats available in Scotland, Wales and England, including the popular Llangollen Canal, Shropshire Union and Kennet and Avon canals, the Pennine canals including the Rochdale, Leeds & Liverpool and Huddersfield Canals; the historic Trent & Mersey Canal, the winding North and South Oxford Canals, the Grand Union Canal and the quieter routes of the Caldon, Ashby, Lancaster and Monmouth & Brecon canals.

River navigations include the River Wey and River Thames in the South of England, the mighty River Severn passing through Worcester down to Tewskesbury on the River Avon and the River Ouse through the city of York.

To the east of England we have the rivers and waterways around Cambridge and Ely to discover and the Northern and Southern Broads.

If you fancy cruising for a short break and visiting one of our cities by boat, there is variety of weekend or midweek breaks available for London, Bath, Reading, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Stratford upon Avon, Guildford, Warwick, Worcester, Chester, Edinburgh or Glasgow, Norwich and York.

For the latest news and information why not visit our Waterways Holidays Blog which has more detailed information about holiday inspirations, boating with special needs and special offers. You can also follow Waterways Holidays on Twitter.

Waterways Holidays Limited

47 Station Road, Aldershot, Hampshire GU11 1BA

Registered in England No 4906301 VAT Reg. No. 822 5606 43

Telephone 01252 796400(Lo-Call)

Office Hours: Monday to Friday 09:00 - 19:00, Saturday and Sunday 09:00 to 17:30

Why not spend a relaxing riverside holiday at one of our waterside self-catering holiday cottages located in Wroxham at the heart of the Norfolk Broads? Each cottage sleeps up to 8 guests. CLICK HERE for full details and online availability.

Which boatyards do we work with?

Waterways Holidays is delighted to offer holidays in partnership with many leading hire boat owner/operators including:

Alpha Craft (Norfolk Broads)

Anglo-Welsh (Canals and River Thames)

Armada Boat Hire (Canals)

Ashby Boats (Canals)

Barnes Brinkcraft (Norfolk Broads)

Bespoke Executive (Canals)

Black Prince Holidays (Canals)

Calmer Cruising (River Thames)

Cambrian Cruisers (Canals)

Canal Boat Cruises (Canals)

Canal Boat Escapes (Canals)

Canal Breaks (Canals)

Canal Cruising Co. (Canals)

Canal Experience (Canals, River Thames)

Capercaillie Cruisers (Canals - Scotland)

Castle Narrowboats (Canals)

City Boats (Norfolk Broads)

Claymoore Narrowboats (Canals)

Clifton Cruisers (Canals)

Countryside Cruising (Canals)

Countrywide Cruisers (Canals)

Crest Narrowboats (Canals)

DRL Marine (Norfolk Broads)

Eastwood Whelpton (Norfolk Broads)

Farncombe Boat House (Canals)

Ferry Marina (Norfolk Broads)

Fox Boats (River Nene/Canals)

France Afloat (French Canals)

Galleon Marine (Canals)

Goods Hire (Canals)

Guildford Boat House (Canals)

Herbert Woods (Norfolk Broads)

Heritage Narrowboats (Canals)

Kate Boats (Canals)

Kris Cruisers (River Thames)

Lime Farm Marina (Canals)

Maestermyn Marine (Canals)

Marine Cruises (Canals)

Maffett Cruisers (Norfolk Broads)

Martham Boats (Norfolk Broads)

Middlewich Narrowboats (Canals)

Mid Wales Narrowboats (Canals)

Minervois Cruisers (French Canals)

My River Cruising (River Thames)

Napton Narrowboats (Canals)

Navigator Holidays (Canals)

Norbury Wharf Ltd (Canals)

On The Wey (Canals)

Oxfordshire Narrowboats (Canals, River Thames)

Pintail Boats (Canals)

Portharb Holidays (Canals, River Severn)

Richardsons (Norfolk Broads)

Rose Narrowboats (Canals)

Sally Narrowboats (Canals)

Shire Cruisers (Canals)

Swancraft (Norfolk Broads)

TEK Narrowboats (Canals)

Twyford Wharf (Canals)

UK Boat Hire (Canals)

Union Canal Carriers (Canals)

Valley Cruisers (Canals)

Water Farm (Canals)

Welsh Gateway Canal Holidays (Canals)

Welsh Lady Cruisers (Canals)

Willow Wren (Canals)

Woolfall Narrowboats (Canals)

Wyvern Shipping Co. (Canals)

We offer online availability for each of these holiday companies. Your boating holiday booking via Waterways Holidays is always made directly with the operator on your behalf and your hire contract will be direct with the owner/operator of the boat and is therefore subject to their operating terms as shown on each boat details page.

To go directly to our main site please click here: All Canals, Rivers & Norfolk Broads.

If you would like a boating holiday on one of our cruisers or sailing yachts on the Norfolk Broads please visit: Norfolk Broads

In addition, we offer a wide selection of Waterside Holiday Cottages through our specialist partner company Waterside Breaks.

How do I find a suitable holiday?

Decide where you want to go. Select the number of berths you require, the month in which you would like to take your holiday and whether you want a weekend (3 nights), midweek (4 nights) or week. Click on search, the results should appear in seconds! The results will show boat name, details, type of boat (narrowboat, widebeam cruiser, sailing yacht etc.), start and finish dates, and location of your starting base together with suggested holiday cruising routes (by clicking on the hire base name). Click on the thumb nail picture to open a new page showing full information together with any extras payable. Once you have chosen a holiday, click on the Email button or telephone us on 01252 796400 to make a provisional reservation.

What happens when I reserve a boat?

When you click on the Reserve button, a form appears with the details of the selected boat, dates etc. Complete the form with as much information as possible, the more the boat operator knows of your requirements the easier it will be for everyone! Ask questions in the Message box. Click Send. Details of your reservation are then forwarded to us. On receipt of your request, we will verify that the requested dates and boat are still available and contact you (normally within the same or following day) directly by phone or email to confirm your booking.

Please note that your booking is not finalised until a confirmation has been received directly from the holiday operator and a deposit has been paid in accordance with the operators' booking terms and conditions. These are available on the boat details for each boat on the search results page or supplied by the holiday operator when confirming your booking request. Your provisional booking is made directly with the holiday operator. Waterways accept no liability on behalf of any hire operators for any bookings, changes of availability or any costs incurred directly or indirectly in the use of this service.

What types of boat are available?

There is a large range of boats to choose from. They generally fall into 4 categories: cruisers, narrowboats and widebeam (up to 14') often referred to as barges and sailing yachts. There are wide variations in length, beam (width) and internal layout, fittings etc. The search results will indicate the boat type and you can click on the thumb nail picture to find out more about your selected boat.

Waterways Holidays can offer a unique purpose built 4 berth narrowboat which has been designed by a wheelchair user. The boat is called 'Beatrice' and is based on the North Oxford Canal near Rugby. Please see her details via this link: Beatrice. She sleeps 4 people in 2 double beds. To check availability please type the name Beatrice directly into the search box where you can search for a specific boat by name below the main search box.

What is a boating holiday like?

Boating holidays appeal to a wide variety of interests. You can get away from it all on the tranquil backwaters of the rural canals with their quaint waterside pubs, or explore the normally hidden channels through major towns and cities with a wealth of architectural and industrial history only accessible by water. Your boating holiday offers many places of interest to stop along the way for the whole family.

There is also plenty to do on the water itself, including piloting your own boat, operating locks, exploring backwaters, and maybe taking in a little fishing or soaking up the sun! The slow pace of the waterways is one of the main attractions to many and because you travel only as far as you wish each day, your holiday can be as relaxing or as energetic as you choose. The Norfolk Broads are especially popular for fishing - don't forget your rod licence!

How do the locks work?

Locks are used to lift or lower boats from one level to another and can be found on almost all canals and many rivers. On major rivers and waterways such as the Thames and in Scotland's Great Glen, the locks are manned and operated for you during the summer. On the canals, the locks are much smaller and are operated by you and your crew.

Operating locks is very simple and part of the fun of a boating holiday. Care must however be taken around locks and your hire operator will brief you fully when you collect your boat. The lock consists of a chamber into which your boat passes, plus a gate or gates at either end. The lock has openings (paddles or sluices) at the top and bottom to allow water in and out of the chamber to raise or lower the water level and the boat. These paddles are opened and closed by the crew using a lock handle on the winding gear at the top and bottom of each lock. It sounds a little complicated, but you will soon find that operating locks is very easy and great fun.

There are no locks on the Norfolk Broads.

Do I need any previous boating experience?

No. It is not necessary to have any previous boating experience to hire a self-drive boat, unless you are hiring a yacht - please ask us for further information about yacht hire as sailing tuition can be arranged with RYA registered trainers. With the cruisers and narrowboats your holiday hire operator will provide you with training on arrival at your selected hire base. This will include how to steer your boat, daily boat checks, operating locks and safety instructions. Don't be afraid to ask questions to ensure that you are completely confident and can get the most enjoyment from being captain of your own vessel.

Do I need a licence?

No driving licence is required for a hire boat on the inland waterways. Your boat will however be licenced to use the waterways local to your chosen hire base and this will be included within your holiday cost. If you wish to venture further afield onto other waterways, you should check with the operator if a separate licence is required. This will usually be payable by you prior to departure and will last for a fixed number of days. This is the case if you wish to spend part of your holiday on the canals and a few days on the Thames as both are managed by different licencing authorities.

What is included in the holiday price?

Your holiday hire cost will include the self-drive hire of your chosen boat for the rental period, together with bed linen, a full inventory of equipment for self-catering, gas for cooking, hot water and heating. Sometimes there may be extra person charges or under occupancy discounts.

On the UK canals, this will normally (but not always) include the cost of all fuel used. In France, Ireland and the Norfolk Broads, it is more usual that the fuel cost is excluded (or a fuel deposit is paid) and the you have to pay for the fuel used at the end of the holiday.

Most narrowboat companies provide free car parking for the duration of your holiday. If booking a holiday on the Norfolk Broads, fuel is not included in the price, nor car parking.

By clicking on the picture of the boat in the search results, more details can be found about any additional costs.

Can I take pets?

Well behaved pets are welcome on many boats. Your chosen operator can confirm that they accept pets on your selected boat. Please include details on the holiday reservation form. A small charge may be applicable.

What should I take with me?

Your boat will be very well equipped with all necessary cooking utensils, crockery etc. In addition, wet weather overalls are generally provided for the helmsman (although hopefully not used too much!). Life jackets are always available on request, especially for young children.

Additional specific items you may want to bring include towels (sometimes included), tea-towels, a torch, camera, binoculars, a good waterways guide (such as Nicholson's), enough food supplies for a couple of days cruising (check the location of convenient shops along the waterway with your hire operator), non-slip soft deck shoes and protective gloves (for working locks). Remember also that the sun's rays are much more powerful when you are on the water, so sunglasses, protective cream and a sun hat are recommended to avoid burning.

Where can we stop overnight?

On the UK canals, you can stop overnight anywhere along the towpath side without charge. You must however avoid mooring overnight within 50 metres of a lock or other navigation landmark to allow other boats to pass unhindered.

On most other navigations, there will be clearly marked places where you can moor for the night or during the day. On some main Rivers this may involve a small mooring charge. On the Norfolk Broads some overnight mooring is free, while for others there may be a charge of typically £5 per night.

How far can we travel in a day?

On most of the inland waterways the maximum speed is around 4mph - a brisk walking pace, (between 3 - 6mph on the Norfolk Broads), however the average speed is closer to 3mph. In calculating how far you can to travel in a day, you should work on the basis of lock miles. To do this count each lock as one mile and add the distance in actual miles to make lock miles. Divide this by 3(mph) to give the total time in hours to cover the required distance including locks.

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