The waterways across England, Scotland and Wales burst into life during the summer months, the sunny weather encouraging a warm camaraderie amongst all narrow boaters, both new and experienced.
July and August have traditionally been a time for the family to get together and take time off from the ordinary routines of school and working life.
Holidays, of course, play an important part for a family to bond and what better way to get away from it all than with a tour of the UK waterways on a canal boat holiday.
Black Prince offer a choice of nine bases across beautiful locations in England, Scotland and Wales and these bases provide the perfect starting point for your holiday. Many families use the opportunity of the longer summer holiday to travel more extensively and cover areas such as the Rings. You can access some of the most well-know Rings from our bases in central England, such as Stoke Prior in Warwickshire, the Peak District in Staffordshire and Acton Bridge in Cheshire. Rings from these areas include the Four Counties Ring, the Warwickshire Ring, the Cheshire Ring and the Avon Ring.
All these Rings travel through both countryside and town destinations, meaning that there is a lot to see and do, with a wide variety of scenery places to explore. This certainly suits parties travelling with older children that would like to mix boating with perhaps some more exciting activities!
One reason many families choose narrowboating as their holiday of choice in the summer is the opportunity it allows you to relax, have fun and get back to nature. Put away the gadgets: the phones, the tablets, the games consoles and take in the world around you. If you’re a keen photographer – and who isn’t with all our new smartphones on which to take fantastic shots – then the array of wildlife to spot makes for a fascinating trip.
Summer nature spotting
Spring and summer brings out the vast array of wildflowers such as Feverfew, Meadowsweet through the wonderful sunny yellows of the Buttercup and Coltsfoot. You’ll spot various types of along the canal sides that provide wonderful homes for the Reed and Sedge Warblers, not forgetting the dragonflies and damselflies that buzz charmingly around the boats, leading the way along your journey.
Plus of course all the signets and ducklings have grown into fully-fledged birds that take to the skies with confidence.
With the huge array of routes available with Black Prince, you can enjoy a different panoramic view each day. Every morning will bring something different; a new vista, a fascinating discovery, a different lock! And it’s not just about watching the scenery. You can interact with your surroundings in a way that all the family will enjoy – walking, cycling, running with the family pet, even canoeing.
The long summer days also provide the perfect opportunity to get out and explore the local area. Especially on a longer summer holiday, there’s time to be more relaxed about your cruise. Moor up and spend a day visiting attractions near the waterways or explore nearby towns and cities of historical interest. Check out all our route pages for good tips on places to visit.
Summer holidays with your pet
Black Prince welcomes the family pet on your summer holiday. So say goodbye to expensive dog kennels and hello to a summer family holiday where everyone is included. As long as they keep their paws of the furniture and they don’t tend to jump off the boat too often, then it’s a holiday that both they and you will love!
You can read more about our dog-friendly boating holidays here, but in the main it’s sensible to bring everything you normally have for your dog, including dog-bed, normal food, poop bags plus a spare lead (just in case one ends up in the water) and you may also want to think about a special dog life-jacket which has a handle, especially for the smaller dogs. This makes it easier to haul your dog back on to dry land if the bank is steep.
Summer holidays for couples and friends
Of course July and August breaks are not reserved exclusively for families with children, they make ideal times for people wanting to travel as a couple or with groups of friends.
It’s a perfect time for a social holiday. There’s a great fellowship on the waterways and during the summer months it’s not uncommon for popular pubs along the canals to be filled with canal boaters with many stories to tell. Enjoy your glass of beer along with a hearty meal, relax in the open-air surroundings – many being dog friendly – and revel in the companionship that comes with being with a group of like-minded people.
If you prefer to avoid the peak times on the waterways and you are not bound to exact school holidays then you may want to consider holidaying in early July or early September, when the waterways are not so busy. UK school holidays tend to start mid-July until the end of August each summer.
Does July and August get very busy?
‘Busy’ in waterway terms means that some locks on popular canals may have queues of boats to get into the locks and popular mooring spaces outside pubs etc. may fill up mid afternoon. You can choose quieter canals or just relax and enjoy the surroundings and conversations. There are much worse places to be stuck in a traffic jam than outside a pub on a sunny day! It just means that routes need to be planned a little more carefully to allow yourself plenty of time to travel through busy areas.
There are always quieter sections of canal that you can choose to explore, as oppose to the very popular routes. Sections of the Caldon Canal in Staffordshire for example tend to be very quiet, as oppose to somewhere like the Llangollen Canal which is busy and popular across most of the season.
How far can we travel?
During the summer months when it stays lighter until early evening you can expect to cruise on your canal boat for up to seven hours a day. You are not permitted to cruise at night, so we recommend that you be safely moored up by 8pm at the latest.
Travelling at around 3-4mph for just four hours a day will mean you cover a considerable distance (in barge terms!) to around 80 to 100 miles in a week. This type of cruising will still provide plenty of time for lazy lunches or going out and about exploring the local area.
As mentioned previously you should also make sure you allow extra time in your schedule to go through locks, as sometimes there can be queues. When you have your handover at the start of your holiday from the Black Prince team, they will advise you on length of journey, and where sticking points may occur with the build up of narrowboat traffic.
What to take on your summer canal holiday?
Keep it simple – pack a good book, sun cream and your captain’s hat and you’re good to go!
Well almost. Bearing in mind the ‘Great British Weather’ it may be sensible to take a rain mac just in case. Black Prince is pleased to say that we provide an umbrella as part of the boat’s inventory!
If you enjoy walking along the towpaths then a good pair of training shoes would be sensible, but with the warm summer climate your normal summer clothing such as shorts and t-shirt will be perfect on board the boat.
To full enjoy the relaxing evenings in the canal side pubs, then longer trousers and a jumper will probably be useful, so you can sit out and enjoy your pint as you watch the sun go down.
Everything else of the boat is provided, such as kitchen equipment, bed linen, towels etc. You can find a full inventory list here.
Summer breaks for overseas visitors
July and August is a lovely time to holiday in the UK and here at Black Prince we welcome many guests from all different parts of the world. Overseas guests tend to either enjoy a long summer break with us, or perhaps they add a short break or a week on to an pre-arranged visit here in this country.
If you are travelling to the UK from overseas you can find out more about holidays with Black Prince in our Overseas Guest section.
Of course what you need to bear in mind about a summer holiday here in the UK is that the weather can be a little changeable. However the great plus point about a boating holiday is that it’s not weather dependent. There is plenty to do and plenty to see even when the sun is not fully co-operating with our holiday plans.
There’s a cosy interior with kitchen and dining area, together with a lounge, comfy seating and a TV and DVD player for wet days and snug nights in. If the rain persists then you can moor up anywhere on the canal side and wait for it to pass – a great time to plan in a meal or snack, either on board or at the nearest pub.
A memorable break
So all in in all a summer boating holiday makes for a very memorable break away. It’s a holiday that suits a family, with plenty to do to keep everyone active and to develop a real sense of togetherness, plus providing much needed time for just ‘getting away from it all’.
It’s fair to say that this sort of holiday doesn’t suit everyone – it’s very far from a sleepy beach holiday – but it very much suits those with an active and adventurous spirit.