Featured image of Llangollen Canal. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Llangollen_Canal_UK.jpg
Known for their tranquil settings and slow-pace, canal holidays have become a popular holiday choice. However, there’s much more to canal holidays than just cruising along. Whether you’re into wildlife, history, the arts or cycling along the countryside, a canal holiday can offer something for everyone.
With this in mind, here are four activities that you can incorporate into any canal holiday.
Whether you’re an experienced angler or a novice, fishing is a popular pastime for narrowboaters. Most of the UK’s canals are packed full of different species of fish including carp, ruffe, perch, roach, gudgeon and even the odd goldfish!
To fish on the canals, all anglers will need a current Environment Agency Rod License, which is a legal requirement for fishing in all fresh water. You will also have to be a member of an angling club that rents one of the Canal & River Trust’s waters and have a waterways wanderers permit.
Naturally, it’s a criminal offence to poach any fish that are native to the canals. Please fish respectfully.
2. Nature Spotting
If you plan your holidays around exploring wildlife then you’re in luck, as the UK’s canals are home to tonnes of creatures and critters. You’ll also have the added benefit of them being right outside your canal boat as you cruise along! It’s a fantastic setting for wildlife enthusiasts.
Here are some of the species you might come across:
Amphibians: frogs and newts
Birds: canadian geese, kingfishers, mallard ducks, coots, grey herons and cormorants
Fish: barbel, bleak, chub, dace, pike and roaches
Insects: dragonflies, grasshoppers and butterflies
Mammals: badgers, otters, dormice, water voles, polecats and stoats
If you want to identify the best routes for finding wildlife, the Canal & River Trust have a handy
3. History Trips
Holidaying by narrowboat is a charming and nostalgic way to travel through the UK’s ancient villages and towns – perfect for history buffs.
If you pass through Cambridge, you’ll be treated to the city’s beautiful architecture from its many colleges of the famous university. It’s also full of local charms including antique centres, art galleries and historic workshops.
Stopping at Ely will give you the opportunity to explore its stunning cathedral. There are also historic narrow streets, a medieval gateway and timbered houses alongside a stunning waterfront.
Lune Aqueduct, image source – http://fishinginlancashire.co.uk/canals/lancaster-canal/
Looking for a canal with particular historical interest? The Lune Aqueduct trail on Lancaster Canal is full of fascinating stories on Lancaster’s canal barges, old mills and even unexploded bombs. It’s a 200ft historical paradise.
One of the main selling points for canal holidays is your freedom to stop at leisure moorings and venture out further. This is ideal for boaters who are cycling enthusiasts, as the majority of canal towpaths in the UK are bike-friendly, some even have designated cycling routes. They’re perfect for exploring the areas surrounding the canals.
Worried about where to store your bike? No need! Bikes can normally be stored on deck on the roof, but it’s worth noting that roof storage can be an issue for low bridges and tunnels. The best solution is to invest in some folding bicycles that are easy-to-store onboard in bow lockers.
Here are some of the best canal cycling routes to try:
Peak Forest Canal Cycle Trail, Marple
Distance: 6.1 miles
Home to some of our best canal engineering triumphs, Peak Forest Canal features the famous Marple Locks, one of the steepest flights in the country. Cycling route highlights include a river crossing through an abandoned chapel and swooping gravel descents.
Coventry Canal Cycling Route
Image source – https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5711453
Distance: 13.5 miles
Coventry Canal’s cycling route is filled with modern and historic industrial heritage. Sites of interest include Ricoh Arena and the Hawkesbury Junction, where the Coventry Canal joins the Oxford Canal.
Regent’s Canal Cycling Route
Distance: 4.6 miles
A particularly great route for kids, this route starts in Regent’s Park before moving onto the Regent’s Canal towpath. You’ll pass by London Zoo, providing you with great glimpses of their tigers, wallabies, warthogs and more! The route the loops back towards Camden Market, where you can hit the shops and grab a bite to eat before heading back to your canal boat.