The 5 best Waterway Holidays in the UK


Published on: 14 February 2018

Article type: General News


Exploring the UK by its network of canals and waterways can be an exciting way to see a new perspective of its much-loved cities and countryside. With over 2,000 miles of inland canals, rivers, lochs and broads to explore in Britain, there is plenty of choice for the seasoned-skipper and novice shipmate alike when it comes to holidaying on the great British waterways.

Avon Waterways

Exploring the UK by its network of canals and waterways can be an exciting way to see a new perspective of its much-loved cities and countryside. With over 2,000 miles of inland canals, rivers, lochs and broads to explore in Britain, there is plenty of choice for the seasoned-skipper and novice shipmate alike when it comes to holidaying on the great British waterways.
 
Classic Canal Routes
For those not phased by negotiating their way through the many locks and swing bridges of the UK’s canal network, boating on the miles of navigable inland waterways that Britain has to offer can be a beautiful and rewarding holiday choice. These classic canal routes are infamous for meandering through the quintessentially British countryside, with plenty of opportunity to soak up the history and drama of the landscape floating past you too.
 
1. The Avon Ring
The Avon Ring is a network of two rivers and two canals that make up 109 miles of waterway to explore. This canal journey features the longest flight of locks in the UK, at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham canal section of the ring, as well as England’s longest aqueduct (Edstone Aqueduct) located in the Stratford-upon-Avon canal. The Avon Ring also encompasses 5 major cities in England: the southern outskirts of Birmingham, Worcester, Tewskesbury, Evesham and the birthplace of William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon. When passing through Stratford-upon-Avon, you are able to moor-up opposite The Swan Theatre - home to the Royal Shakespeare Company- and perhaps even take in a play. If you time your journey correctly on the Stratford-upon-Avon canal, you may even be fortunate enough to spy the vintage steam train, The Shakespeare Express, chugging along the leafy banks of the canal.
 
2. The Llangollen Canal
If you are looking for more dramatic scenery alongside the tranquillity of your boating holiday, then cruise along the Llangollen Canal, which crosses the border of the picturesque countryside of England into the spectacular valleys of Wales.One of the most notable points along the journey has got to be the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Known as ‘the stream in the sky’ the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is a breath-taking feat of engineering, completed by Thomas Telford in 1805. Towering 120ft above the valley floor below, Telford’s masterpiece boasts sweeping views of the surrounding countryside, partly due to its lack of railing on one side of the canal! 
 
Lock-Free Boating
If you are a narrowboat-novice and tackling the miles of locks that are synonymous with a canal boat holiday strikes terror into your heart, fear not. There are lock-free waterways that can be enjoyed by even beginner-boaters.
 
The tranquil network of rivers and manmade lakes known as the Norfolk Broads, have been a favourite amongst holiday-goers since the 1930s. Renowned for its unending skies and twinkling waters, the 125 miles of lock-free cruising at the Broads National Park is perfect for those seeking a laid-back waterway experience. Options for boat hire include anything from canoes and kayaks to sail boats and motor cruisers. Stretching from the historic city of Norwich all the way up to the miles of sandy coastline, the reed-fringed broads are dotted with quaint market towns, sleepy villages and waterside pubs to explore.

City Escapes
Although meandering through the UK’s countryside onboard a boat is an incredibly peaceful way to holiday, unique and exciting holidays can also be had in the heart of Britain’s cities and docklands. If you are looking to explore the top urban destinations that the UK has to offer, but do not fancy the traditional commute of a city-stay, river cruises and canal boats are still the perfect option.

4. Edinburgh & Glasgow
The Forth & Clyde and the Union canal network connects Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, and one of its other major cities, Glasgow. Explore Edinburgh’s iconic landmarks such as the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat. Once you have soaked in as much of the beautiful mix of Georgian and medieval architecture throughout the city as possible, head back to the Union canal and cruise your way through the landscape that lies between Edinburgh and Glasgow. On route between Edinburgh and Glasgow, you will pass over the magnificent Almond Aqueduct and alongside picturesque villages before reaching the town of Falkirk. Within Falkirk is The Falkirk Wheel, a rotating boat lift, roughly the height of eight double-decker buses, that connects the Union canal with the Forth & Clyde canal. Once through this section, it is onwards past 13th century villages and a Roman fort, before reaching Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow. Glasgow’s stylish centre has plenty to explore and is a cultural hub for art galleries, ballet, theatre and opera.
 
5. Bath
If you would like a touch more luxury on your river cruise, why not commandeer a narrow boat and explore the stunning city of Bath. Bath is infamous for its iconic weir, honey-coloured stone buildings and of course, its royal crescent. Bath is also connected to the Kennet & Avon Waterway, where you can pootle through its peaceful waters and verdant verges, discovering charming Cotswold villages, such as Bradford-on-Avon, along your way. Whether you are looking for the tranquillity of a laid-back river cruise between Scotland’s most exciting cities, the breath-taking drama of a narrow boat journey through the borderlands of England and Wales or the excitement of the locks, weirs and aqueducts of the English countryside, the UK has a seemingly unending network of waterways to explore and enjoy.