Canal Boats on Stratford-on-Avon Canal in Henley-in-Arden, England

A unique way to explore Great Britain is by canal boat or narrowboat. Not only is it a fun way to see some sights you can’t get to by car, bus or train, you’ll experience first hand how some people lived and worked over a century ago, and how some still do today. You’ll navigate through and learn how to operate locks as the canal rises over and descends back down natural landforms.

There are many canal systems throughout Great Britain to choose from that enable you to sightsee in both urban areas, such as the Manchester Ship Canal, Birmingham Canal Navigations and the Regent, Oxford and Hertford Union Canals in London, and rural England such as the Stratford-on-Avon Canal (pictured) and the Grand Union Canal, as well as canals in Wales and Scotland.

Canal boats, which are usually no more than 7ft in width, range in length from 20-70 ft long, and cater to couples, families and groups of up to 12 people.

I have enjoyed a fun family narrowboat cruise on the Oxford Canal in Warwickshire and Oxfordshire to celebrate my dad’s 70th.

Even though it was early March and cold and wet outside (most of the time), it was warm on the boat and lots of fun learning how to steer the narrowboat and open and close the sluice gates and quite a work out opening and closing the lock gates.

A canal boat vacation can be active and leisurely at the same time especially if there are a group of you. The boats go at a snails pace, so there is plenty of time to take in the sights and sounds. With many people to take turns in steering and operating the locks, others can choose to relax deckside taking in the scenery or walk along the canal path when passing through locks.

There are pub stops along the route for lunch and dinner, but be sure to check the map for local pubs as well as opening times first. Our navigator miscalculated and we had to trudge through muddy fields at night to go for dinner…a fun experience but boy were we muddy when we reached our destination. And it wasn’t a regular pub; it was a top-notch restaurant! Despite how we looked, we received a warm welcome and delicious, albeit, expensive food.

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