Britain’s waterways are bursting with history, culture, and beautiful surroundings allowing anyone who takes to the water an opportunity to enjoy luxury travel and discover picturesque villages and rolling countryside from a special and unique perspective. With a little exploration, you can set your next boating holiday apart. Discover sleepy little towns just off the beaten track, relax on a beach, or seek out adventure in a spectacular hiking location as you travel in the peace and luxury of Britain’s canal networks.
Wherever you plan to go, this guide is sure to offer some incredible suggestions to make your British boating holiday the most memorable yet.
1. Barton Broads, England
It is only when you finally get moving on the biggest wetland in the UK that you will see why the vast Norfolk Broads are one of the most essential destinations in the world for a boating holiday. Formed from a system of connected rivers, the seven main rivers and 63 broads have been named in the Top 100 Sustainable Destinations in the UK and was awarded the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas in 2006.
Barton is the second largest of the Broads and there’s an annual sailing regatta held every August at the Norfolk Punt Club, who have their clubhouse in the middle of the broad! A great way to spend a day is hopping off your boat and exploring Barton Broad Boardwalk by foot. At its southern end this mystery trail is accessible to all – leading you through swampy, wildlife filled woodland. The route includes resting places and tapping edges along the way before emerging to give a surprise panoramic view over Barton Broad.
2. Isle of Arran, Scotland
Scotland is home to perhaps the most mysterious body of water in the UK in Loch Ness, making a boating holiday on the Caledonian Canal a spectacular but busy way to see Scotland.
If you are looking visit somewhere more isolated, The Isle of Arran offers a secluded atmospheric location that is ideal for a peaceful hike in the dramatic mountains, or across miles of rugged coastline that are just waiting to be explored. Arran has a circumference of just 56 miles, but packs in plenty to keep the whole family entertained.
The adventurous members of your group will enjoy visiting beauty spots including Glenashdale Falls, the Machrie Standing Stones and King’s Cave, while the less adventurous can spot red squirrels in Brodick Castle gardens or spectacular seabirds along the coast. Located on the gulf stream, Arran also has the delightful anomaly of palm trees along the south coast.
3. Brecon Canal, Wales
As much beauty that England has, many of the most stunning locations in the UK are actually found in Wales. The Gower Peninsula, for example, was the first place in Britain to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is currently one of five AONBs in Wales. By enjoying these incredible locations by boat, you will be treated to a very unique and peaceful perspective of these natural treasures.
Running through the Brecon Beacons National Park, the Brecon Canal is perfect for any type of holiday as it offers many activities for the kids, as well as being ideal for a tranquil escape to nature with your partner. Cyclists will enjoy an 8-mile route along the disused railway line through the beautiful wooded Cyldach Gorg while fishing, golf and horse riding are also available.
4. Kennet & Avon Canal, England
Covering 87 miles between London and the Bristol Channel, the Kennet & Avon Canal, fondly known as the K&A, moves through West Berkshire and the Cotswolds, offering breathtaking views of some of Britain’s finest natural sights.
Originally opened in 1810, the canal had fallen into disrepair, but in 1990 it was reopened by the Queen after a £25million grant helped fund the development of both the canal and resources along the water.
Today, thousands of visitors enjoy boating, walking and cycling breaks on the K&A. The route is packed with destinations that are ideal for family days out. From Bradford-on-Avon to the historic city of Bath, there is so much to explore and enjoy.
5. The Cheshire Ring, England
One of Britain’s original cruising rings, the Cheshire Ring is joined to six canals in the north of England. From Cheshire to Rochdale, via Manchester and Macclesfield, this ring can take almost a week to complete and so is ideal for leisurely narrowboat breaks.
Especially notable locations along the route include the 250-acre deer park and working mill at Dunham Massey Hall. Castlefield Canal Basins also offer a fascinating historical leg to your break.
The Anderton Boat Lift is an incredible feat of engineering that has to be seen to be believed. Built in 1857 to lift cargo boats from the Weaver Navigation to the Trent & Mersey Canal, it remarkably continued working until 1983. It has since been restored with a visitors Centre, making for a very unique boating experience.
The greatest thing about boating holidays is the amount of variety that you can incorporate into your break. By choosing your locations carefully, the combination of history, nature, and entertainment will make each trip more unique and memorable than the last, so what are you waiting for? Hop onboard and begin the trip of a lifetime.