frequently asked questions

Is this the holiday for me?

Yes!  Canal boat holidays are great for families with children of all ages.  The younger members of the group enjoy all elements of a boating holiday including planning the routes, operating the locks and even having a go at steering (under careful supervision of course!).

Beyond the canal boat itself, kids are spoilt for choice for things to do. Activities available to you include fishing, cycling, walking, pony trekking, hill walking, climbing and canoeing. When the weather isn’t good or when the younger ones just need time to relax there’s even a TV / DVD player plus WIF (available on request).

A canal boat holiday is a perfect experience for groups of family or friends wanting to spend time together.  You have the opportunity to completely break away from everyday life and relax on the waterways. There are a variety of Black Prince boats to choose from, from 2-berth to 10-berth, with one or two shower rooms and WCs, meaning that everyone has their own space.  You can enjoy taking it in turns to drive the boat and manage the locks, and of course eating out becomes a very social experience!

No previous experience is needed to hire a canal boat.  Our expert Black Prince team will meet and greet you on arrival and provide you with a full handover for operating the boat.  We’ll talk you through the facilities on board, how to drive the boat, how to operate a lock and everything else you need to know for your holiday.  Our handovers are British Marine Federation accredited and all of our bases have been audited to BMF levels to make sure we maintain a high standard.   The boats are easy to handle (easier with practice!), with one lever controlling speed and forward or reverse direction.

Certain elements of a canal boat holiday, such as getting on and off the boat, holding and tying off the boat ,and operating the locks will demand a certain level of every day fitness.

In general you do not need a licence to drive a canal boat, however there are certain stretches of river that you do need a river licence to navigate – these are the River Avon, River Thames and Nene.  If you want to navigate the River Thames a VHF Licence is also required or you can hire a guide to take you along this stretch of river.  Please request this guide at time of booking.

The main hirer of the canal boat must be aged 25 years or over.  Though there is no age limit for driving the boat, the Hirer warrants that whenever the boat is driven by a person aged under 18 years they will always be under close supervision of a competent adult.

The route you choose depends on what kind of holiday are you looking for.   If you want to completely relax and potter along then choose a route where you don’t have to travel a lot of hours in one day and don’t have many locks to tackle.

Alternatively if you want something more adventurous and to cover a great distance then go for the longer routes such as the Rings.   You can also choose to stay in the countryside, or enjoy a mix of countryside and towns.  Take a look through our route pages for ideas or call one of our expert team for advice on what would suit you best.

Locks allow canals to go up and over hills. They can be single locks or ‘flights’ which can be anything between 3 or 30 locks in one go!  A lock is a chamber that the boat sails into and water is let in or let out depending on whether you are travelling up or down, and then you sail out of the other end.

Don’t worry if at first the idea of a lock is a little daunting.   The Black Prince team at your chosen base will cover locks as part of the handover, and you’ll generally find either lock-keepers or other holiday makers more than eager to lend a hand should you need it.  Once you’ve done your first few, you’ll find you have a good process in place with your team and working the locks becomes enjoyable!

No, you can choose a route that doesn’t have any locks, although these tend to be shorter routes. If you are planning a longer holiday such as one or two weeks you will come across locks.

You can easily check the number of locks on any route on our route pages.

We have a large selection of pet friendly boats but please keep them off the furniture and bedding.  The first pet is free of charge, there is a charge of £30 for the second pet (payable on arrival at the base) and no more than 2 pets please. The intention to bring pets must be clearly stated at time of booking as some boats are pet-free.

Yes. Walkway doors can be used for privacy between each of the bedroom areas on most of our boats.

What do I need to know about the canal boat?

You don’t need a licence or previous experience to drive the boat, so yes, any adult can drive a canal boat. The boats are easy to handle with one lever controlling speed and forward or reverse direction. Children enjoy the experience of steering, but ensure that a responsible adult supervises them at all times.

A minimum of two people will be needed to crew a Black Prince boat. This is so that you can easily control the boat through locks and swing bridges . Older children can be very helpful, but remember that the hirer is responsible for their supervision. We regret we cannot hire to single-handed boaters, however experienced.

A Black Prince boat can sleep between 2 and 10 people, depending on the size.

All the necessary boating equipment will be provided, plus everything for a self-catering holiday.

For every fixed bed we provide an interior sprung mattress, duvet and cover, a pillow and pillow case, a mattress protector and sheet. For beds made up in the evening in the lounge area, we also provide bedding. For holidays of 2 weeks or more additional bedding and towels are provided.

The kitchen comes fully equipped with a hob, oven and grill, fridge with small freezer compartment and all cutlery, cups, glasses ad plates etc.

The shower rooms are kitted out with toilets, a shower and sink. We provide one bath towel per customer.

Please click here to view our full boat inventory

Each boat is equipped with a life-ring and buoyancy aids are available free of charge. These come in four sizes to suit toddlers to adults and will be individually fitted before you leave.

Yes, bedding and towels are included in the hire charge. For every fixed bed we provide an interior sprung mattress, duvet and cover, a pillow and pillow case, a mattress protector and sheet. For beds made up in the evening in the lounge area, we also provide bedding. We provide one bath towel per customer. For holidays of 2 weeks or more additional bedding and towels are provided.

There is a 12v/USB charger point on each boat and inverters are also available to hire from the base, allowing you to use a normal plug (max 100 watts).

There’s a fixed in hairdryer on board but unfortunately hair straighteners will not be able to be used due to the amount of power that is required.

The boat has a 110 gallon water tank which should be refilled daily from water points along the canal. Your boat will have a full tank of diesel which is adequate for 2 weeks. The diesel fuel you have used will be charged upon return of the boat and the cost per litre will be slightly lower than supermarket prices. . (2020 – average cost £15 per day). The boats will typically use between 1.2-1.7 litres per hour depending on driving style. The central heating systems are oil fired, which will also use diesel during colder periods.

You are more than welcome to visit one of our canal boat bases before your holiday to view a boat. Please bear in mind that during busy periods the boats may be being cleaned or they may all be on hire, so it’s best to phone beforehand and arrange a suitable time to visit.

Canal cruising is largely safe for all the family and will be for you as long as you remember a few of the basics.

Accidents and incidents are rare on canal boats but as with any holiday that involves water it’s sensible to take precautions.

Falls tend to be the most common accident, whether it’s over a rope or into the canal! Reduce the risk by stepping off from the stern (the back of the boat) onto the shore, don’t jump. Avoid walking down the side of the boat or on the roof. Keep the boat tidy and all the ropes neatly coiled and keep a torch handy for night time.

Collisions tend to happen when you’re driving too fast or not paying enough attention. Take your time and slow down past other boats and when you can’t see ahead.

If someone falls in the water then immediately put the boat into neutral or turn off the engine. This will prevent anyone being put in danger by the propellor. Then assess whether they need a life-ring or help getting out of the canal. In most narrow canals adults should be able to stand up and wade to the bank. If you feel someone must go into the water to help, make sure they take a rope and life-ring with them.

You can stop for the night almost anywhere along the canal bank, much of the canal network is managed by the Canal & River Trust. Watch out for prohibited signs, such as by the water taps, or where it is unsafe, such as on a bend or close to a lock.

Riverbanks, however, are private property, so mooring, except in designated spots provided by the navigation authority or a boating association, is at the discretion of the landowner.

If in doubt, use official visitor moorings, ask the advice of nearby boaters or visit a local Canal and River Trust office.

If you need to turn your canal boat around there are turning places every few miles, known as ‘winding holes’. If you’re taking a short break or doing a return journey on one canal then you’ll want to plan where the best place to turn your boat will be. All the winding holes will be marked on the maps you’ll have on your boat. You’ll essentially carry out a 3-point turn using these winding holes, putting the bow (the front of the boat) in first. Turning a boat can be tricky until you’ve had a bit of practice; you’ll need to understand and use all the functions of the engine, gears and rudder, but take it slowly and you will be fine.

No. We have paid the boat licence fees and towpath mooring is free.

You will have our helpline number. We will give you advice, or come quickly to sort out your problem.

CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines and other medical apparatus regarding a 240V electrical feed can be used on our narrowboats. However, please note that Black Prince does not guarantee the functionality or suitability of 240V appliances. Please ensure that the owner of any appliance takes responsibility for ensuring that 240V equipment is compatible with the electoral system on our narrowboats and please note that the performance, safety, and reliability of these appliances may vary depending on factors such as the boat’s power supply, voltage fluctuations, and inverter capacities. If you are uncertain about the compatibility or safety of using your 240V appliance on a narrowboat, we recommend consulting a qualified electrician or the appliance manufacturer before your holiday. By choosing to use such appliances on a narrowboat, you acknowledge and accept that this is done solely at your own risk. Our company cannot be held responsible for any damages, injuries, or losses resulting from the use of these appliances on narrowboats.

What do I need to know about the waterways?

No. You’ll be a danger to other craft on the water and run the risk of catching diseases common in urban canals, such as Weils disease.

Fishing is allowed on rivers and canals provided you have an Environment Agency rod licence, which is available on-line or from any post office (except when fishing is prohibited on rivers between 15th March and 15th June). Many clubs will not object to fishing from boats but some may require you to buy a day ticket. Live bait must not be taken onboard the boat.

What do I need to know on arrival?

Directions and information on public transport to the bases are included in our base information sheets, which are sent out with your booking confirmation. They are also available on our website by clicking in the ‘bases’ section.

All of our bases have free car parking, but we are unable to accept responsibility for loss or damage to customer’s vehicles.

The canal boat bases are generally located in rural areas. There will be train stations nearby but you would generally need to take a taxi from the station to get to the base. Check out the base web pages to see which is the nearest town for the base.

Boats are available between 2.30pm and 3.30pm Saturdays, Mondays and Fridays or from 9.30am on Wednesday departures.

Boats should be returned and vacated by 9.30am (or 2.30pm on Tuesday returns at Chirk and Falkirk only). If a boat is returned late or unclean, it will cause a delay for the next hirer. In this event, we reserve the right to charge additional costs.

There are a range of maps which are available to order on the booking form prior to departure. Additional guides and maps including Lockmaster series are available at our bases along with souvenirs.

How do I book a holiday with Black Prince?

You can book safely or securely online at Your accommodation will be reserved and payments can be made. Booking confirmation will be made by email, together will more information about your holiday.

You can call us on 0044 (0) 1 527 575115 to book over the phone. Our experienced team can answer any questions you may have or recommend boats and routes suitable to your party.

We require a 25% deposit to confirm the booking, with the balance due 8 weeks before your departure date. Once you submit the booking form on-line or sign the booking form in the brochure, you are then entering a legal contract and will be liable for the full cost of the holiday (unless you have taken Cancellation Protection). Please click here for details of our booking terms and conditions

A full inventory list is available here and the hire charge also includes gas and VAT but excludes diesel. The boat will be sent out with a full tank of diesel which will be refuelled and charged for on your return.

The Damage Waiver Scheme covers you in the event of damage, loss or accident to your boat or its inventory during your holiday. The scheme is included in the price of your holiday. Please ensure all passenger names are on your completed booking form.


  • Speeding (reported or witnessed. The limit is 4mph).
  • Malicious, negligent or intentional damage to the boat, its inventory, third party property, the canal and its structures.
  • Damage to the rudder, skeg or transmission due to cill damage in a lock.
  • Return of the boat late or in an unclean condition. In the event of any of the above being reported, we shall claim the full cost of repairs, replacement or compensation.

Canal boat hire with Black Prince is for a minimum of 3 days, with no maximum limit. If you wish for a long term hire (over three weeks) please contact one of our team members on 0044 (0) 1527 575115.

Please click here to see the Full Terms of our Cancellation protection Scheme

Please click here to see our full terms and conditions of hire

Do you sell your boats?

As we regularly renew our fleet, a selection of good quality second hand boats are available to purchase throughout the year. Alternatively you can purchase a brand new boat from us. For more information please click here.


There are no restrictions in the UK regarding Covid. You will find the latest Government guidance on COVID-19 here: With international travel guidance changing regularly we highly recommend that international guests check the travel rules both in your own country and in the UK before your departure.