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The 18 Best Canal Boat Holidays UK

Dec 2023, by Aquavista

Best Canal Boat Holidays UK


Welcome to our top 18 list of the best canal boat holidays in the UK for 2024!

If you’re planning a boating holiday this year and want to enjoy life on the slower side, this blog is for you. 

From the historic Kennet and Avon Canal to the picturesque Norfolk Broads and beyond, we’ll give you a whistlestop tour of the best canal routes in the UK.

And we’ll even show you some of our best nearby mooring spots for the perfect night’s sleep on the water. 

Let’s get into it:

1. Kennet and Avon Canal


  • Distance: 87 miles
  • Number of Locks: 104


First on our list of the best canal boat holidays in the UK is the iconic Kennet and Avon Canal.

Stretching over 87 miles, this waterway connects the River Thames to the Bristol Channel. 

It’s widely known as one of the most beautiful canals in the country, with a rich history and scenic landscapes to make any boater fall in love. 

One of its highlights is the Caen Hill Locks, a flight of 29 locks near Devizes in Wiltshire - considered an engineering marvel. 

The canal passes through charming towns and villages, including the beautiful city of Bath, with its famous Roman baths and Georgian architecture. 


Kennet and Avon Canal Maximum Boat Dimensions

  • Length: 21.95m
  • Width: 4m
  • Draught: 1.1m
  • Headroom: 2.4m

Where to Moor Near Kennet and Avon Canal? 


2. Leeds and Liverpool Canal


  • Distance: 127 miles
  • Number of Locks: 91


As the longest canal in Northern England, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal spans 127 miles, showcasing a blend of industrial heritage and scenic beauty. 

After leaving the Merseyside city of Liverpool, the route travels through beautiful East Lancashire, across the Pennine Countryside, before exploring the stunning villages around the Yorkshire Dales.

Noteworthy attractions include the Five Rise Locks in Bingley, and the vibrant cities of Liverpool and Leeds with their cultural landmarks and museums. 

Leeds and Liverpool Canal Maximum Boat Dimensions 

  • Length: 18.9m
  • Width: 4.3m
  • Draught: 1.14m
  • Headroom: 2.15m

Where to Moor Near Leeds and Liverpool Canal?



3. Trent and Mersey Canal


  • Distance: 93 miles
  • Number of Locks: 76 


The Trent and Mersey Canal is the ultimate cross-country adventure for boaters, covering 93 miles of stunning English scenery.

As the first long-distance canal in England, Trent and Mersey is overflowing with history, including Heartbreak Hill, the canal town of Shardlow, and much more.

The route is perhaps best known for Anderton Boat Lift, an impressive hydraulic lift, and the nature reserve at Fradley Junction.

Whatever you choose to see, you can’t go wrong with exploring the Trent and Mersey Canal - our third entry in our list of the best canal routes in the UK. 


Trent and Mersey Canal Maximum Boat Dimensions 


  • Length: 21.95m
  • Width: 2.13m
  • Draught: 1m
  • Headroom: 1.75m


Where to Moor Near Trent and Mersey Canal?



4. Warwickshire Ring


  • Distance: 104 miles
  • Number of Locks: 121 


The Warwickshire Ring, sometimes known as the Midlands Ring,  is a circular route encompassing various canals, including the Grand Union Canal and the Oxford Canal. 

Due to the variety of sights and canals within the ring, it’s one of the most varied canal routes in the UK. 

It offers a great mix of rural landscapes that boaters love, with quaint villages like Braunston and historic towns like Warwick all waiting to be explored. 


Where to Moor Near Warwickshire Ring?



5. Thames Ring


  • Distance: 245 miles
  • Number of Locks: 176


The Thames Ring showcases the iconic River Thames and connecting canals, providing a diverse and eclectic combo of tidal and non-tidal rivers.

This iconic route leads from the bustling city of London to the surrounding countryside and is a must-see for any visitors to the Capital.

Highlights include passing through the heart of central London via Regent's Canal and exploring rural stretches like the Oxford Canal.


Where to Moor Near Thames Ring? 


6. Lancaster Canal 


  • Distance: 41 miles
  • Number of Locks: None


Renowned for its stunning scenery, the Lancaster Canal winds through the countryside of Lancashire and Cumbria, offering 41 miles of lock-free cruising - the longest in the country.

While you can see some seriously pretty sights from your boat, the canal provides access to some great spots for gentle walking, cycling, and even canoeing.

Some great trails and routes are nearby, with the Lancaster Walk and Lune Aqueduct Trail among the most popular. 

Notable attractions include the Lune Aqueduct and the charming town of Garstang. 

Lancaster Canal Maximum Boat Dimensions <h3>

Length: 22m

Width: 4.3m 

Draught: 0.9m

Headroom: 2.5m 


Where to Moor Near Lancester Canal? 


7. Cheshire Ring 


  • Distance: 97 miles
  • Number of Locks: 92


The Cheshire Ring is another stunning multi-canal route, which includes the Bridgewater Canal - the first canal built in the modern waterways era.

From Preston Brook Tunnel, boaters can see some of North England’s prettiest sights, showcasing diverse landscapes from rural countryside to industrial heritage. 

Alongside the iconic Heartbreak Hill, other top sights in the area include passing cities like Manchester and picturesque towns like Poynton. 


Where to Moor Near Chesire Ring? 



8. Oxford Canal


  • Distance: 77.5 miles
  • Number of Locks: 46


As one of the most beautiful canal routes in the UK, Oxford Canal belongs on any list of the best canal boat holidays in the UK.

Flowing slowly through the rich Oxford countryside, boaters will enjoy a rural escape free from large-scale developments.

From the university city of Oxford, all the way to the three spires of Coventry, the Oxford Canal boasts tranquil rural scenery, passing through quaint villages and historic towns. 

Highlights include the “Cathedral of the Canals,” the striking All Saints’ Church in Braunston, and the picturesque town of Banbury.

Oxford Canal Maximum Boat Dimensions <h3>


  • Length: 21.96m
  • Width: 2.13m
  • Draught: 1.23m
  • Headroom: 1.83m


Where to Moor Near Oxford Canal? <h3>


9. River Wey


  • Distance: 87 miles


The River Wey is the longest and main tributary of the River Thames, offering two branches taking boaters to Hampshire and West Sussex.

Like most rural canal routes, boaters can expect some seriously beautiful sights, with picturesque countryside and historic landmarks like Dapdune Wharf a common sight. 

The canalised sections provide a serene journey through unspoilt nature and countryside and are a must-visit for London and South East boaters in 2024. 


River Wey Maximum Boat Dimensions


  • Length: 71’6”
  • Width: 14’0” wide


Where to Moor Near River Wey? 



10. Regent’s Canal 


  • Distance: 8.6 miles
  • Locks: 12


You can expect a lot of things from London, but a calm and serene environment is likely not at the top of your list.

Perhaps this is why the Regent’s Canal is one of London’s best-kept secrets. 

Meandering through the heart of London, boaters can expect a tranquil and colourful escape from the city’s famed hustle and bustle.

From Little Venice’s colourful narrowboats to Regent’s Park, London Zoo, and even Camden Market, you can expect a unique trip to London along this canal route. 


Regent’s Canal Maximum Boat Dimensions


  • Length: 22.36m
  • Width: 4.22m
  • Draught: 1.28m
  • Headroom: 2.64m


Where to Moor Near Regent’s Canal?




11. Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal


  • Distance: 35 miles
  • Number of Locks: 6


Traversing the Brecon Beacons National Park, the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal offers breathtaking views of the Welsh countryside.

Spanning 35 miles, this peaceful waterway winds through valleys, providing a serene escape for nature lovers. 

Its unique features include the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Talybont-on-Usk, a picturesque village with pubs and walking trails.

Due to the few locks, Monmouthshire and Brecon canal is a great choice for beginners.


Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal Maximum Boat Dimensions


  • Length: 16.76m
  • Width: 2.1m
  • Draught: 0.75m
  • Headroom: 1.7m


12. Forth and Clyde Canal


  • Distance: 35 miles
  • Number of Locks: 39 locks


Linking the east and west coasts of Scotland, the Forth and Clyde Canal offers a glimpse into Scotland's industrial past. 

First opening in 1790, the canal provides large stretches of stunning scenery but is perhaps best known for its man-made attractions. 

The Falkirk Wheel is the world’s only rotating boat lift and connects Forth and Clyde to the Union Canal. 

Another must-visit site is The Helix, an eco-park home to The Kelpies - a pair of 30m tall horse-head sculptures outside Falkirk.


Forth and Clyde Canal Maximum Boat Dimensions 


  • Length: 19.2m
  • Width: 5.02m
  • Draught: 1.4m
  • Headroom: 3m


13. The Middle-Level Navigation


  • Distance: 90 miles


Although the name might not be the most enticing, the Middle-Level Navigation is an incredibly unique stretch of waterways every UK boater needs to see.

It spans the Fens in Eastern England and offers a one-of-a-kind cruising experience through a man-made landscape.

The channel was created for drainage in the 1600s, and it travels through fields, wind farms, and beautiful towns and villages like March and Whittlesey.

Keep your eyes peeled for otters and barn owls, with the Fens an active home to major wildlife and conversation efforts.

  • Norfolk Broads <h2>
  • Distance: 120 miles

As an area of outstanding beauty, you can’t go wrong with a canal boat holiday to the Norfolk Broads.

Also known as The Broads National Park or Broadlands, the area offers a jaw-dropping look at Norfolk and Suffolk.

Renowned for its wildlife and picturesque landscapes, it's a haven for boating enthusiasts and attracts many holiday boaters every year.

Nature lovers will find much to love at the Norfolk Broads, with the otter and heron a common sight. 

You’ll even find grey and common seals thriving at the nearby Horsey Mere. 


14. Llangollen Canal


  • Distance: 46 miles
  • Locks: 21


If you’re looking to explore beautiful Wales countryside, the Llangollen Canal is the perfect gateway.

Crossing the border between England and Wales, the canal is well-regarded as one of the UK’s most scenic routes.

Although the countryside on offer is certainly worth seeing, some impressive feats of engineering bring boaters from far and wide.

Chief among them is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a world heritage site that doubles as Britain's tallest navigable aqueduct.

Other incredible sights include Horseshoe Falls and Chirk. 


Llangollen Canal Maximum Boat Dimensions


  • Length: 21.95m
  • Width: 2.08m
  • Draught: 0.70m
  • Headroom: 2.13m


15. Caledonian Canal


  • Distance: 60 miles
  • Locks: 29


The 60-mile Caledonian Canal is another of the best canal routes in Scotland.

Spanning the Great Glen in Scotland, the canal connects various lochs and offers stunning views of Ben Nevis. 

Alongside the highest mountain in the British Isles, you can also find Neptune’s Staircase and the world-famous Loch Ness - home of the legendary Loch Ness Monster.

And for those looking to stretch their legs, there are plenty of walking opportunities alongside some Caledonian Canal cycling.


Caledonian Canal Maximum Boat Dimensions 


  • Length: 45.72m
  • Width: 10.67m
  • Draught: 4.1m
  • Headroom: 27.4m at the Kessock Bridge.

16. Stratford-upon-Avon canal


  • Distance: 25.5 miles
  • Locks: 54


Although one of the shortest canal routes on this list, you can expect some eye-catching sights along the Stratford-upon-Avon canal.

Running from Birmingham to William Shakespeare’s Stratford, the canal winds through picturesque landscapes and connects to the Avon River, offering boaters a peaceful and tranquil journey through the English countryside.

The canal route is often split into two sections, the Northern Stratford and the Southern Stratford.

The Northern Stratford route starts at Kings Norton Junction and travels to Kingswood Junction and the Grand Union Canal.

Meanwhile, Southern Stratford is perhaps the most scenic, running past the conservation area of Wootton Wawen. 


Stratford-upon-Avon Maximum Boat Dimensions 


  • Length: 21.95m
  • Width: 2.13m
  • Draught: 1m
  • Headroom: 1.83m

17. Fossdyke Navigation


  • Distance: 11.3 miles
  • Locks: 1


Dating back to Roman times, the Fossdyke Navigation is one of Britain’s oldest canals.

The canal connects the River Wiltham to the River Trent. 

While mainly flowing through stunning countryside, it connects to the gothic and historic city of Lincoln.

The canal has a remarkably flat landscape, allowing boaters to enjoy jaw-dropping sunrise and sunset views.

And as it flows through Lincoln, you can see the spectacular Lincoln Cathedral from the canal. 

Walkers and cyclists will also find plenty to love about this route, with the Fossdyke Canal Trail a must-see. 

Canoers are also in luck, with 10 miles of lock-free paddling at the Fossdyke Canoe trail. 


Fossdyke Navigation Maximum Boat Dimensions 


  • Length: 21.3m
  • Width: 4.64m
  • Draught: 1.52m
  • Headroom: 3.43m

Canal Boat Holidays for Beginners FAQs 


Do you need a license to drive a canal boat?


In the UK, a special boat license is not required for most canal boat holidays. However, if you’re renting a boat, some operators may provide safety training before departure.


Where can I find narrowboat moorings?

Narrowboat moorings are readily available along most canals and waterways. Choose from designated mooring spots or pubs/hotels that offer mooring facilities. 

We’ve got a total of 29 mooring locations and marinas where boaters can rest and stop. 


How do canal locks work?


Canal locks are used to raise or lower boats between different water levels. 

They work by controlling the flow of water in a chamber, moving the water level up and down to allow boats to move through.

 A windlass (an L-shaped tool) is used to open and close locks. 


What’s the Maximum Speed Limit? 


The speed limit for canal boats is usually around 4 miles per hour to ensure a peaceful and safe journey for all boaters and wildlife. 


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To moor with us at King Bromley Waterside & Marina please get in touch

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01543 417209
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