Lock Free & Easy Narrowboat Holidays


Never been on a canal boat before or just fancy an easy cruise? Welcome to Black Prince, our expert teams are the right people to help you get you on your way with UK canal boat hire!

Many of our new guests start with a short-break holiday of three or four nights to get the feel of life on the waterways, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t jump in to a longer canal boat holiday if you want to.

And if you are looking for some great canal boat routes for families then we have some top recommendations for you.

Lock Free Routes

The routes highlighted below can be adapted to include or not to include locks. A ‘Stop lock’ is a set of locks where the water may only need to move a matter of inches, if at all. They were created at a time when different sections of canal were managed by different companies.

All locks and bridges in Scotland are managed by Scottish Canals staff, so any breaks from our base at Falkirk means that you will not need to have to open and close locks.

Easy Routes

186 Miles
40 Locks
2 Week Cruise
4.5 hours per day
42 Miles
34 Locks
1 Week Cruise
4 hours per day
60 Miles
4 Locks
1 Week Cruise
4 hours per day

What to expect on arrival

Our teams will give you a full induction when you arrive at the base, talking your through how to operate the boat and a lock.  They can even stay with you on the boat as you set off to help you on your way.

You can also buy detailed waterways maps at each of the bases, or order them from our reservations team when you book your holiday.  The teams at the base can go through the map with you, pointing out handy places to moor up, good pubs to stop at and where you can refill with water etc. If you choose to do a ring, they will also advise on where you need to be each day to return to the base in time.

It’s natural to be nervous about handling a lock for the first time, but remember the simple rules and you can’t go wrong.   Plus there are either lock-keepers to provide professional help or fellow narrow-boaters who are generally more than willing to lend a hand if you need one.  The waterways are a sociable place to holiday!

More route ideas

Cheshire: Acton Bridge to Lymm, 1 ‘Stop Lock’

A fantastic place to start your narrowboat hire on perhaps the famous canal; the Bridgewater Canal in Cheshire. This short break from our countryside base at Acton Bridge to the pretty village of Lymm offers a relaxing cruise with just one ‘stop lock’ to navigate. We call this a good ‘practice lock’ and you can find out more about this route here.

Cheshire: Acton Bridge to Manchester, 1 ‘Stop Lock’

This week long cruise is also fantastic for novice boaters. It’s a relaxing 33 miles of waterway along the Bridgewater Canal to the thriving hub of Manchester. There’s just the one ‘stop lock’ (a great practice lock to build confidence!), and this trip is perfect for couples or families with children. Find out more about our route to Manchester here. 

If you have a good head for heights…

Wales: Chirk to Llangollen, 0 locks

For a relaxing short canal holiday, head to the Llangollen Canal in Wales.  Starting from our Chirk Base you can enjoy a two-day trip to the head of this canal, then return with no locks to travel through.  This is an easy canal route that suits beginners or those looking for a relaxing canal boat holiday.

Escape from the city…

Warwickshire: Napton to Snarestone, 4 locks

This rural route suits first timers that are looking for an easy cruise that does involve some lock work.   If you’re looking for a short break you can travel lock-free to Braunston, or enjoy a week’s holiday with just 4 locks each way.

Wiltshire: Bradford Upon Avon to Bath, 1 lock

This beautifully scenic route through the heart of Wiltshire along the Kennet & Avon Canal has just one lock near the base at Bradford Upons Avon, which the base team can operate for you. This route makes for an ideal short break.

Cambridgeshire: Ely to Cambridge, 3 locks

Narrowboating on a river offers a slightly different experience to a canal, but you can break yourself in gently on the River Cam between Ely and Cambridge where there are just three locks, which are electronically operated, and it’s an easy short narrowboat break.

A Scottish adventure…

Scotland: Falkirk to Glasgow, 4 locks & 3 swing bridges

The joy of the canal boat holidays on the Forth & Clyde or Union canals is that this waterway is wider than your typical UK canals.  This makes navigating a little easier and all the locks and swing bridges are manned by Scottish Canals staff.


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

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