Choose The Best Canal Boat Holidays In The UK

There’s no doubt that a canal boat holiday on the UK’s inland waterways is one of the most unique boating holidays you can experience. With over 2,700 miles of UK canals and rivers  connecting up to form a fascinating network of navigable waterway, a canal boat cruise is a unique way of exploring over 200 years of waterways history.

Black Prince offers boating holidays on luxury narrowboats from nine locations across England, Wales and Scotland, from which you can explore famous historical sites as well as beautiful countryside locations.

Which Is The Best Canal To Holiday On?

Each canal in the UK offers a unique backward glance into some fascinating times in history. The Bridgewater Canal in Cheshire is famous as being one the earliest examples of a working canal, built for the transportation of coal and other goods vital for the development of Manchester. Today, it’s a beautifully peaceful wide waterway in Cheshire that you cruise from our canal boat hire base at Acton Bridge.

One of the longest canals in the UK is the Grand Union, running 137 miles with 166 locks from London to Birmingham and also one arm to Leicester. You can cruise on the Grand Union from our hire base in Warwickshire, visiting Stoke Bruerne in the south or Warwick if you head north.

There are shorter, less well known canals that are perfect for short breaks, including the Caldon Canal in Staffordshire (arguably the prettiest stretch on the inland system) and the Llangollen in Wales, which offers a stunning route through the Dee Valley and across the World Heritage site, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

UK Waterways Locks

Locks on our waterways network allow the canal boat to move up and down hills. With many canals built to transport minerals and stone from the hills into local towns, it was very common that canals had to navigate their way through some changing terrain.

There are many different types of locks but ‘pound locks’ are the most common that you’ll see on the canal and river network. These can be single, broad, double, stop and staircase locks and flights.

They work by altering the level of water on the canal. Boats enter the lock chamber, commonly made of brick or stone, and this chamber is closed with the lock gates. The paddles on the lock gates are then raised and lowered to control the water flow and either raise or lower the boat depending on whether you wish to go uphill or downhill.

Most of our canal boat routes will involve the operation of locks, although you can choose a lock free route or if you take a canal boat holiday in Scotland, the locks will be managed for you by the Scottish waterways staff.

Do I need a boat licence?

You do not need a special license to drive a barge, canal boat or narrowboat on UK canals.

Full coaching will be provided on your arrival at your hire boat base. This British Marine accredited boat handover is designed to leave you feeling knowledgeable and confident in handling the canal boat. We recommend that one member of your party is the nominated ‘skipper’, with at least one other person attending the boat handover session.

All Black Prince Narrowboats are licensed to use the canal network in the UK. If you wish to cruise on a river it may be necessary to buy a licence for that. Our team will advise you on which rivers require licences to cruise.

If you are new to canal boating, then we recommend you read through our new to narrow boating pages on this website so that you can feel more prepared before you embark on your cruise.

Types of boats

You can choose from two classes of boat – our Classic range and our Signature range.

Our Classic range has a wide variety of berths available, from two to 10 berth, with similar high-quality fixtures and fittings being used across the fleet. The boats vary slightly in layout and in length, depending on how many bedrooms each boat has.

The Signature is our newest range of boats, with stylish interior designs and modern touches such as wireless charging mats, multiple USB ports, bespoke mattresses and black out blinds in all bedrooms.

You can check out photos, layout plans and 3D tours of our high quality narrowboats here, plus see what’s included in the boat inventory and watch a video introduction to the boat.

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Canal Boat In The Uk?

You can hire a Black Prince canal boat for various durations, including a 3, 4, 7, 10, 14 or 21-night break. We also offer bespoke lengths of holidays, simply call our team to discuss options.

Prices can vary by start date and by hire base. The easiest way to check the price of a canal boat holiday is to start a holiday search on the website, choosing the dates, location and number of people that wish to holiday, and our quick booking system will show you our live availability, together with pricing options.

You can reserve your holiday online by paying a deposit, either online or over the phone, with the full balance of your holiday being due three weeks before your holiday due date. Or you can reserve with our reservations team, find full details on our Contact Us page. 

Frequently Asked Questions

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A canal boating holiday are often said to be very relaxing breaks. Our self-drive boats are relatively easy to drive once you get used to the tiller steering. We recommend that you have a good level of physical fitness, as you will be frequently getting on and off the boat, using ropes to pull the boat in and moor up etc. plus you may have to open and close lock gates, depending on your chosen route.

Black Prince canal boats are relatively easy to drive. All of the boats have a simple tiller to steer the boat and then a lever handle to throttle up the engine to drive the boat forward or backward into reverse. You will have a coaching session on driving the boat on your arrival at your hire base.

Black Prince offers a range of boat types, which can vary in price depending on how many people are on board and the date you wish to travel. We recommend that you check prices and availability using our online holiday search function. Prices are per boat, include all your boating equipment plus self-catering inventory and bedding, plus car parking at your hire base but excludes fuel.

A canal boat is any type of vessel that can be used on a canal. A narrowboat is a particular type of craft that is by definition ‘narrow’. There are some canals and locks in the UK waterways system that can only be accessed by narrowboats.

You can have traditional narrowboats (with a small space at the stern (back) of the vessel), a semi-trad narrowboat (with additional seating at the stern), barges (wider boats traditionally used for carrying cargo), wide-beam boats (wider than a narrowboat, more usually used as houseboats), and tugs (designed for towing).

You do not need a special license to drive a canal boat. Full coaching will be provided by British Marine accredited trainers when you arrive at your Black Prince hire base.


Call today on ++44 (0)1527 575 115 and a Black Prince team member will be happy to help!

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