Choosing the ideal route for your canal boat holiday.
All canal holidays have things in common; the fresh air, seeing the countryside from a new angle, enjoying friendships old and new and the relaxing sense of freedom. Most have fine scenery and interesting things to see and do, and historic and engineering features.
So much choice! We make a few suggestions to help you choose your canal holiday route!
So how do you choose which canals to cruise on your canal holiday?
- Choose a route with maybe just a few locks and bridges to work and have a relaxing holiday.
- Pick a more challenging route to give your crew lots of exercise and fresh air.
- Enjoy beautiful rural scenery or go for lots of things for the family to do and see.
- Explore peaceful villages or lively cities, shop in local markets or city stores.
- Visit historic attractions, country houses, museums, market towns and villages.
- Cruise a circular route or go for a ‘out and back route’ to return to your starting point.
Relaxing canal breaks
First canal holiday
If this is your first time on the canals we suggest you avoid canals with a lot of locks and choose an ‘out and back route’ rather than a ‘ring’ route. We’ve more advice in our Canal Holiday FAQs section about choosing a route and planning your cruise.
The Lancaster Canal
(42 miles without locks), the
Ashby Canal (no locks), the Mon and Brec Canal (you don’t need to do the locks) and the Bridgewater and Northern Trent & Mersey (almost none!).
Peace and quiet
The Mon & Brec Canal and
Lancaster Canal are both isolated from the rest of the system and can be very peaceful. In fact even the most popular canals can be quiet outside peak holidays.
Places to see
The Llangollen Canal, Caldon Canal, Shropshire Union Canal,
Oxford Canal, Kennet & Avon Canal, Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Mon & Brec Canal, Staffs & Worcs Canal and lots more. It really does depend how you like your scenery!
The Oxford Canal, especially the South Oxford, Shropshire Union Canal, Stratford on Avon Canal, Kennet & Avon, River Avon.
Historic towns & cities
Chester on the Shropshire Union Canal, Warwick on the Grand Union Canal, Worcester on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, Bath on the Kennet and Avon Canal, Gloucester on the River Severn.
Staffs & Worcs Canal (Stourport canal town), Worcester & Birmingham Canal (lots of locks and tunnels), Coventry Canal (Hawkesbury Junction), Trent & Mersey Canal (Anderton Lift, tunnels, Shardlow), Grand Union Canal (Braunston, Stoke Bruerne), Birmingham Canal Navigations (junctions, loops, tunnels and locks).
Birmingham Canal Navigations (Black Country Living Museum),
Trent & Mersey Canal , Mon & Brec Canal (tramways and wharfs),
Shropshire Union Canal
(National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port), River Severn (Gloucester Waterways Museum at Gloucester), Grand Union Canal (Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum).
Circular canal routes
‘Ring Routes’ are recommended for more experienced hirers! Timings can vary considerably. We have a full section of Canal Ring Guides.
Shorter canal rings
Four Counties Ring – 1 week.
Warwickshire Ring – 1 week for enthusiasts.
Black Country Ring – 1 week for enthusiasts.
Stourport Ring – 1 week, lots of locks!
Cheshire Ring – 1 week with care.
Longer canal rings
South Pennine Ring – 2 weeks.
Leicester Ring – 2 weeks.
Avon Ring – 2 weeks.
Thames (or Grand) Ring – 3 weeks.
Pennine Ring – 3 weeks.
All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. No unauthorised reproduction. Page last updated: 10/06/2023.
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