Sailing a narrow boat along one of Britain’s most idyllic canals is easier than you think, and it makes for a great short break to be enjoyed with friends and family.
Hilperton marina is a short walk from Trowbridge station in Wiltshire. There you can hire a narrow boat before heading off on a cruise along the Kennet and Avon canal towards Bath.
Opened over 200 years ago, this super-highway of its day revolutionised the transport of goods between London, Bristol and the rest of the world. Following the expansion of rail and road networks during the twentieth century, the canal system fell into disrepair until, in the 1980s, groups of narrow boat enthusiasts began restoring it. The canals are now busier than ever, and have become a major inland waterway leisure activity with 2,000 miles of navigable rivers and canals to explore.
A trip from Trowbridge to Bath takes around three nights, one way. It will take you via some great landmarks, including the fabulous Avoncliff and Dundas aqueducts, and allows you a glimpse of some impressive wildlife. And that’s all before you reach the awesome Bath.
After a comprehensive introduction to the vessel, with its six beds, two bathrooms, fully equipped kitchen and spacious lounge (including a TV and on-board Wi-Fi!), an experienced instructor takes you out for some manoeuvring and steering practice.
Some boats are up to 66 feet in length, but don’t worry, after a couple of hours you’ll feel like an old pro.
Canal locks are unmanned so there’s plenty of hopping on and off and heaving the lock gates open and closed. Remember and plan for self-catering – you can’t count on there being a restaurant or a pub nearby.
Canal life is slow (maximum speed is 4mph), but there’s no rush. Canal boating is a chance to take a step back from the hectic world of busy schedules. Everyone living on the canal is friendly, and passing boaters will more than likely say hello, as will walkers on the tow path.
Drifters Waterway Holidays offers over 580 canal boats for hire from 45 bases across England, Scotland and Wales. 2017 hire prices, including tuition, start at £395 for a short break (three or four nights) and £625 for a week on a boat for four people. Narrowboats range from 32ft to 70ft and can accommodate from two to 12 people. For more, visit drifters.co.uk or call 0344 984 0322