Cambridgeshire Canal Boat Hire

Why Cambridgeshire?

Narrowboat holidays in Cambridgeshire offers you a different type of holiday, as the waterways here are all rivers. You’ll have the same Black Prince canal boats to rent, but you’ll be cruising along wider channels, some with currents (although these currents are not strong!). Located in southeast England, Cambridge holidays from our hire base at Ely are famous for trips to the historic city, plus the nearby Fens wetland reserves – perfect for birdwatching – and quaint English villages that date back to medieval times.

The River Cam, immortalised in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, meanders its way to the historic city of Cambridge. The Cam offers lovely scenic views and being a popular route for narrowboat hire, you’ll be sharing the waterways with anglers, rowers and canoeists, as Cambridge boat hire is popular here.

Top Attractions in Cambridgeshire

  1. The Fens – a stunning wetland nature reserve that attracts scores of wildlife and has a long history dating back beyond medieval times.  A beautiful place to explore on canal boat weekend breaks, don’t forget your camera.
  2. Ely Cathedral – originally founded as an abbey in the year 673, it began its reconstruction as a cathedral in 1083.  The architect George Gilbert Scott famously restored it and you should visit the famous pavement labyrinth.
  3. The medieval chapel bridge in St Ives – dating back to the 15th century, it’s a stunning sight spanning over the River Ouse and you can cruise under this bridge on your boat trip to Cambridge.
  4. St Ives – home of some of the biggest markets in the country, with its Monday market a feature that takes over the town centre.
  5. Cambridge holidays – a historic city with a host of sights that are all within easy walking distance of the River Ouse.  Various types of Cambridge boat hire are on offer here, if you fancy leaving the comfort of your own narrowboat, from punts to canoes and rowing boats. 

Nearby Attractions

  1. The Kiln, Bedford.  If you fancy something different with the children then spending an afternoon at The Kiln in Bedford is a lot of fun.  Create your own special pottery masterpieces here – no need for pre-booking. 
  2. Anglesey Abbey is an attraction that’s slightly out of the way – perhaps a pleasant bike ride from Cambridge, but it’s worth adding to your to do list.  They have beautiful gardens, the house is open to visitors, there is an adventure playground for children plus there’s a working mill to have a tour round.   And perhaps most importantly, a nice restaurant!
  3. Cambridgeshire is often referred to as ‘The Holy Land of the English’ with its multitude of churches and cathedrals.  As well as Ely Cathedral, it’s worth checking out the beautiful buildings in Ramsey, Crowland, Thorney and Peterborough on your canal boat holiday to Cambridge.
  4. Huntingdon is known as the birthplace of Oliver Cromwell. Discover what life was life during the Civil Wars at the Cromwell Museum.
  5. Ferrymeadows Country Park is perfect for anglers & walkers. Less than 3 miles from Peterborough it runs alongside the River Nene.

Rivers to cruise from Ely, Cambridgeshire

  • River Ouse
  • River Cam
  • Old West River
  • Lark River
Easter on the River Cam
St Ives mooring

Cambridgeshire Canal boat hire base

The Black Prince Cambridgeshire canal boat hire base is located in the heart of the Fenland waterways at Ely. From Ely, you take a narrowboat to rent and cruise the unspoilt waters of the fourth largest river in the UK, the Ouse, to Wicken on a canal boat holiday, plus the River Cam and the Old West River on our boating holidays.

Frequently Asked Questions

No, you do not need a special license to operate a canal boat in Cambridgeshire. As part of our British Marine accreditation, our Black Prince team will provide a training session upon arrival, during which you will learn the basics of boat handling and safety procedures.

Absolutely! Canal boating can be enjoyed by people of all skill levels. Before setting out, you will receive full instruction on how to operate the boat safely.

There are a variety of routes you can cruise from our canal boat hire base in Cambridgeshire. The River Cam is a popular choice, offering scenic routes through Cambridge and beyond, you can also choose cruises along the River Ouse to St Ives, St Neots and Bedford.

You can hire a canal boat from Black Prince for a 3, 4, 4, 10 or 14 night duration. Longer hire periods are possible depending on availability, please call our team for details. Our route pages highlight how long each of the routes will take to cruise, however you can vary your daily itinerary as you wish, as long as you leave enough time to get back to your canal boat hire base in time.

Yes, we have a selection of pet-friendly narrowboats for hire in Cambridgeshire, please ensure that you choose a pet-friendly boat during your booking process. The first pet goes free, there will be an additional charge for your second pet. We do allow a variety of type of pet on board, please call our team for any special requests.

Black Prince offer canal boat holidays in Cambridgeshire between March and October each year. July and August are popular times, when you can get the best of the UK weather. Outside of these times tend to be quieter on the rivers.

Yes, there are locks on rivers and navigating locks is a key part of the canal boating experience. Most locks are manually operated, requiring you to open and close gates and adjust water levels. You will receive a briefing on how to operate the locks safely from our Black Prince team during your induction process.

Unlike canals, river levels can affect navigation safety. Our Black Prince team at our narrowboat hire base in Ely monitor water levels closely and will advise you if conditions are unsafe. If you encounter unexpected high or low levels during your cruise, it’s best to moor your boat and contact us for guidance.

While there are many designated mooring spots along UK rivers, you cannot moor just anywhere. Look for signposted public moorings or check with the hire company about permissible mooring areas. Avoid mooring on private property without permission or in restricted areas.

All the equipment you need for cruising on the rivers in Cambridgeshire is provided, including life jackets, an anchor and a full instruction manual. You will be given a full coaching session on your arrival at base will take approximately one and a half hours.

Black Prince offer a 24 hour emergency phone line in case you experience any difficulties on your trip. This will be detailed in the boating handbook that will be provided on board before you leave.

No specific qualifications are required for most river navigations in the UK. It is beneficial to have some prior boating experience but we do provide a full British Marine accredited coaching session before you depart.


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

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