UK boating holidays get top marks from holidaymakers


Free nationwide canal boating taster sessions on offer in April

“There is nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats” – so said Ratty in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, and it’s a sentiment shared by holidaymakers, according to new research from the charity that works to protect and preserve the nation’s historic canals.

86% of people who took a quintessentially British holiday aboard a hire boat on the 2,000 miles of canals and rivers cared for by the Canal & River Trust would definitely recommend it to others, while an impressive 95% felt their holiday was value for money. Once people have discovered the delights of spending time on the water, they are likely to come back, with 80% of respondents being return visitors.*

Matthew Symonds, national boating manager at Canal & River Trust, says: “Our unique British canals are enjoying a second golden age. Still navigated by boats just as they were hundreds of years ago, these days people recognise that spending time on the water is a tonic for mind and body. Boating holidays are a way people can step back in time and connect with our nation’s living heritage, and it’s fantastic to see that people find them so rewarding.

“At a time where we’re becoming more aware of our impact on the world, exploring the varied landscapes of Britain aboard a narrowboat is a holiday that is great for our wonderful historic canals and better for the environment than jetting overseas.”

And on Sunday 23 April 2023, Drifters Waterway Holidays, the largest consortium of canal boat operators, is offering people the chance to find out for themselves by trying canal boating for free at 16 locations across England and Wales. The taster sessions, which will be on from 11am to 4pm, will include free short trips on skippered narrowboats, and the opportunity to look round holiday-hire boats at many of the locations.

Haley Hadley, of Drifters Waterway Holidays, explains: “Travelling at just 4mph through peaceful countryside, past canalside pubs, sleepy villages and vibrant waterside towns and cities, canal boat holidays are often described as ‘the fastest way to slow down’. Around 450,000** people enjoy holidaying on Britain’s canal network and around a fifth of hirers are new to our holidays each year. Our free canal boat taster sessions are a great way for people to find out what makes canal boat holidays so special and to see if this sort of holiday would work for them.

“We look forward to welcoming people to our open day events and we are hoping around 3,000 visitors will get afloat that day, including many families enjoying a day out by the water.”

For further details of Drifters’ Open Day events and to download a free voucher for a boat trip, go to

For more information about canal boat holidays, go to or call 0344 984 0322.

For more information about the work of the Canal & River Trust including how you can volunteer or donate visit