With royal celebrations front of mind courtesy of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, we’ve rounded up some of the best ‘royal tours’ on the UK waterways.
Windsor Castle & Hampton Court Palace
Starting base: Lower Heyford, Oxfordshire
2 week return cruise, 5 hours per day, 204 miles, 84 locks.
From our narrowboat hire base in Oxfordshire, you can enjoy a relaxing two-week cruise across scenic countryside, through the heart of historic cities to the former home of Henry VIII at Hampton Court. A real royal treat!
You’ll pick up your floating holiday home at Lower Heyford and after a thorough coaching session you’ll be on your way. After cruising along the South Oxford Canal through farmland and the little hamplet of Thrupp (which dates back to the Doomsday Book of 1086) you’ll arrive at the city of Oxford, famous for its ‘dreaming spires’ and the various colleges which make up the university.
Leaving Oxford, you’ll switch from the South Oxford Canal to the River Thames. This stretch of river is a much quieter route that the Thames that runs through the heart of London! You’ll cruise through the historic market towns of Abingdon and Wallingford, where there are plenty of opportunities to stop at riverside pubs.
The first royal stop is the town of Windsor where you can the famous castle, most recently seen on TV in the wedding of Harry and Meghan.
You’ll then cruise on past the towns of Chertsey and Weybridge to reach Hampton Court. This spectacular baroque palace was built for William III in the sixteenth century and went on to be the home of Henry VIII, his wives and children. You can visit the grand gardens and famous maze plus head indoors to admire Henry’s Great Hall and Tudor kitchens.
You’ll then return the way you came back to Lower Heyford.
Discover Scotland’s kings and queens
Starting base: Falkirk, Scotland
1 week return cruise, 3 hours per day, 66 miles, 6 locks (manned locks)
This cruise, starting from the incredible our canal boat base in Scotland at the Falkirk Wheel, takes you east along the Union Canal directly to Edinburgh.
You’ll pass through Linlithgow which is an ancient royal burgh and location of Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and arguably Scotland’s finest surviving late medieval building.
Edinburgh lies at the end of the route and this beautiful city has a multitude of royal connections. The stunning Edinburgh Castle was the residence of numerous Scottish kings and queens; the Palace of Holyroodhouse on the Royal Mile is Queen Elizabeth’s official residence in Scotland, and the Royal Yacht Britannia – a floating palace – is retired in the historic port of Leith.
Leave yourself a good day or two days to visit this fascinating city before enjoying the cruise back to Falkirk.
Royal Leamington Spa and Warwick Castle
Short break or longer holiday on the Warwickshire Ring
3 or 4 night break or 1 week cruise for the Ring
Heading west from the narrowboat hire base you’ll cruise for fourteen miles past Napton Reservoir, through a couple of flights of locks before arriving at Royal Leamington Spa.
This town was visited by Queen Victoria in the 1830s and in 1838 Queen Victoria granted the town a ‘Royal’ prefix, and ‘Leamington Priors’ was renamed ‘Royal Leamington Spa’.
This beautiful Victorian town has visitor moorings within easy walk of the town centre. Cure your gout and rheumatism at the Royal Pump Rooms, stroll around the Jephson Gardens and marvel at the Georgian and Edwardian architecture of the central shopping area.
Just west of Leamington, Warwick is another historic town worth a visit and if you are travelling with children then you must make time for Warwick Castle, a fun attraction that brings history to life in a very dynamic way.
If you go on to complete the Warwickshire Ring, you’ll head north via Birmingham up to Tamsworth before heading south east back to Rugby and finally back to our base at Napton.