Canal Boating for newbies(11 Posts)
We are looking at spending our family holiday this year on a canal boat but we're unsure where to start! Can anyone give us any advice, esp regarding which rivers/areas are best for inexperienced hirers. We want enough locks to occupy the DD's (age 10 and 6) but not too many to make them resent Locks.
Both DH and I have spent plenty of time on the Norfolk Broads on cruisers but presume with regard to equipment on board, the boats are similarly kitted out?
I'm also worried re mooring as I know in Norfolk, esp during the peak summer season, public moorings can get busy. Are there more places to moor on a canal?
Any other tips people can pass on?
my dh went on a weekend around Birmingham. you could do a weekend first and see if it suits you then you would know a bit more about the sort of thing you were looking for.
We did the llangollen canal as 1st timers a couple of years ago. it was amazing! Just 2 locks but the aquaducts - Wow.
Stopping wasn't a problem. You can moor up most place with your own pins etc you don't need a fixed mooring. We might have had a mooring issue at llanglloen, just just ned to arrive there in the morning not late in the day .
As long as your 6yr old isn't going to fall in loads you'll be fine. Be aware there is limited electric and almost no internet though.
We did Caledonian Canel. Wow. We had a boat not a barge. Started Ft William and up to Inverness. Marvellous views. Mad to cross Loch Ness to and navigate loads of locks at Fort Augustus. By then though we were good at it!
It was a fab holiday.
Thanks for your replies, it's given me some ideas.
I'm thinking we might be better doing a shorter trip as our first time, just got to persuade DH. As much as my girls are getting excited about the holiday, I wonder how long it will be before reality sets in. We tend to go self catering on holiday so used to no internet , but usually we been out and about during the days or had a swimming pool to distract them!
Shockingly, I have never been to Scotland but would love to visit so maybe that's a thought for the future
We hired a canal boat for a day last September.. Kids aged 12 and 9.. We all really enjoyed the day.. But now would not consider a holiday.. My 9 year old bores easily and loves a pool on holiday.. The locks were fun for a day but maybe more of a chore for a week!!! Try out a day and see how you all find it
We did it several times when the children were the same sort of age as yours and older and we all loved it. The only draw back is the unpredictability of the weather - it's less fun in the pouring rain! Mooring is never an issue, as you can stop anywhere on the canal banks. I second the idea of a long weekend to see if you all enjoy it.
I was going to suggest the Llangollen canal. It's so stunningly beautiful and no locks to speak of. The stretch from Chirk to Llangollen is quite high up so even though you are on a canal you get amazing views.
Canal holidays are not my thing really, but we stayed in a cottage beside the llangollen canal which is the best of both worlds for me.
The Llangollen is beautiful but very, very busy in summer. The Oxford canal is lovely and the locks are not difficult to manage. Grand Union also good but the locks are double width and can be a bit heavy to operate, though there will usually be other boats going through at the same time so the work is a bit easier. Don't do the Kennet and Avon as a first timer...the locks can be fearsome! The Shropshire is apparently beautiful.
There will be plenty of people around and most of them willing to give a hand to less experienced boaters.
The Braunston area (Rugby) is great too.
I think you will have a wonderful time, just take it slowly, watch what others are doing and ask for help if you need it.
Rembrandt has posted what I was about to say - that as a first timer, single locks would definitely be easier. Whilst the Llangollen is lovely, it can be really busy even out of school holidays, and especially near the Aqueduct. The Oxford is really pretty, and also the Mon and Brec. We did a short break on the Mon and Brec to Brecon and back, that might be a good way to see whether you like it? We've never had a problem mooring in the evenings - as has been said, you can pick where you want to stop (as long as mooring is permitted there obv) and use your pins to moor.
You can use Canal Plan to help you work out a route and see how many locks any particular route might have, and how long it might take to get there.
With the boat, I guess the first consideration is the length. Obviously the longer they are, the slightly more tricky they are to steer, but you soon get used to them and everyone is really helpful on the canals if ever you're struggling . Some boats are fitted with a bow thruster, these are a bit easier to manoeuvre. The odd bash here and there is inevitable, we once took a brand new boat out and she came back with a number of bashes and scratches; the boat yard didnt even mention it.
There are various stern layouts for the boats, you can find out more here as there might be one sort that suits your family better.
Another thing to look at is the layout. We prefer a reverse layout which has the kitchen at the back and beds at the front so that in bad weather, whoever is steering isnt isolated from everyone else at the front of the boat. That might not suit everyone though as some people like to be able to sit inside and look out of the front of the boat
Internally, boats are usually well equipped and often have wifi and satellite TV. All have decent showers, microwaves, fridge and a cooker (we've even had a bath once!). For beds, you'll need to decide whether you want fixed or ones you make up/ a mixture of both.
Hopefully your children would really enjoy it - there will be lots of other children so it can be really sociable. Even walking to a canalside farm shop can be an adventure!
Sorry for the long post by the way. Oh and one last thing, if you do go, dont take suitcases. If you take squashy bags, they tuck away much more easily and can be used to collect provisions en route.
We have been several times but always go with another family. If the weather is bad we found the children/teens won't emerge and help but they all play a board or card game while we do the locks. The Kennet and Avon is great if you avoid the Caen flight. It's restored fairly recently so in great condition and a good towpath. We get a boat that splits so each family has a bathroom. Don't plan too much as things can take longer than you expect. Load the boat with food, home made cakes and emergency chocolate and wine is a must. When things go wrong and it's raining, emergency chocolate solves everything. Often this turns out to the best bit everyone remembers anyway.
Buy a Nicholson guide - it shows the routes and lists local pubs and shops and is indispensible.
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