Trekking the UK on the Water

I have written a bunch of blog posts on Africa, South and Central America. Wonder why I haven’t posted any travel adventures in Europe? Well partially because I love the culture in Africa and South America and partially because I like to go places where people like you which can be hard to find sometimes in Europe when you’re American.  But I have been all over Europe and here is my first post on Europe, more will follow.

 How about a unique way to travel around England that is inexpensive, unique and fun?  Narrowboats? What the heck is a narrowboat? Well in the 18th and 19th century people needed a way to carry goods to the interior areas within the UK so they built a series of canals and locks all over the country to move goods from ports to other locations.

In modern times narrowboats have become a form of recreation or home. Narrowboats can be no wider than 7’ so they can fit through the locks and channels but they can be up to 72’ long. That’s right 72’!

How in the world would a novice manage to take a 72’ boat through narrow canals and locks? Well I thought the same thing until Lou and I rented one for the day. These boats are extremely slow, at top speed they barely go faster than you can walk at a fast pace (max speed is 4 miles per hour) so it takes quite a bit of the fear factor out of the process. To rent a narrowboat you don’t need any experience or qualifications, the rental agency will give you a short training course and off you go.

You can rent a boat for a day, a week or a month. You can sleep on the boat or map out hotels or B&B’s along the canals to stay along your way. You can search out pubs or small towns for shopping. One thing you shouldn’t do if you are going to rent a narrowboat is be in a hurry. During the busy season, primarily when the kids are out of school, you may find yourself queuing up at locks for an hour or more. See when you come to a lock you have to pull the boat into the lock, close the gate, flood the lock and move on. This can be a real learning adventure but be ready to sit back and enjoy the English countryside.

The best time to go is in the spring or fall when the weather is warming up, the kids are in school and there are less tourists around. But this can be a great experience for a family so you decide. Renting a narrowboat can be an excellent experience for the kids as you plan your route, navigating, or even driving for older children. Many firms will even allow the family dog.

Most boats have a galley, so you can load provisions and cook your own meals or you can stop at pubs along the way. English pubs are famous for everything from fish and chips to gourmet meals and plenty of cold ale.

So now for the big question, how much does it cost?  That all depends on the length of the boat, the number of berths and the time of year but you can expect to pay $900 to $1400 for a full week. Now how much would it cost for a hotel room that would sleep 4 people (2 rooms) for a week in England, $150-$200 per night per room then add the cost of a rental car because the narrowboat is your lodging and transportation?  

Here is an example,  

Debbie is a great cruiser stern narrowboat for two sets of adults with two permanently made up double beds. Alternatively the rear double bed can be made up by us as two singles, so she is also ideal for a family with two children or two friends. She has a comfortable front cabin with freestanding armchairs.

  • Full central heating with radiators and airing cupboard
  • Carpeted throughout (Except kitchen and bathroom areas)
  • Double beds 6’3″ x 4″ interior sprung mattresses.
  • Single beds 6’3″ x 2″ interior sprung mattresses.
  • Double Glazed front windows
  • Color TV / DVD Radio / CD player
  • Full size shower
  • 140 gallon stainless steel water tank
  • 4 ring cooker, oven, grill
  • Electric Fridge with freezer compartment
  • Cigar lighter plug point for mobile phones, camcorders
  • Macerator toilets to discrete tanks

To rent Debbie for the week of May 15th it is $1289.00. Debbie can be found at this website

Now let’s take a look at where you can go, there are all kinds of canal routes that you can take, some that make a loop and others that are a straight line with a drop off spot. Almost any narrowboat site will have various routes for different lengths of trips. Here is a great website that will give you the complete low down and a whole listing of rental firms

Our day out on the English canals was a memorable experience. I have always wanted to go back and do a full week which is why I decided to do some research and post this information. I hope that this spurs some interest and gives the reader a unique and different idea on how to tour the UK and truly experience the culture.