A lone narrowboat moored on the banks of the Kennet & Avon canal under a blue sky

Canal Boating, the perfect post lockdown UK holiday

In Counties, Kennet & Avon Canal, Mini Breaks, Other, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, UK Travel, Wiltshire by Janis2 Comments

The reasons why you should be barging on the British waterways

So, with lockdown slowly easing and the longing to be on an idyllic holiday away from it all. We have the picture-perfect remedy for social distancing. A break that is a breath of fresh air to your well-being and an opportunity to be at one with nature.

A lone narrowboat moored on the banks of the Kennet & Avon canal under a blue sky

The beautiful Wiltshire countryside from the Kennet & Avon Canal

Yes, a narrowboat holiday the ultimate quintessential British getaway. Meandering along the winding canals at a few miles an hour, passing through the lush English countryside.
Surely a barging holiday ticks all the Covid-19 deterrent boxes.

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Here’s why a canal boat trip is for you.

Social Distancing

This is so easy to do on a barging holiday, as you have your own boat and your own space. You will also just be with your own family.
When you jump off the boat to open the locks, there is plenty of room to social distance. These locks are huge and allow ample of space for you to manoeuvre.

Three generations of the Tubbs family preparing a lock on the Kennet and Avon Canal in Wiltshire

Preparing a lock on the Kennet & Avon Canal

If someone is on the towpath ahead just wait for them to amble by and then jump off the barge.
Majority of the time you are in the open-air, and if another narrowboat passes, you’ll undoubtedly be 2 metres away.

Ideal for your well-being

This is an essential reason why you should be embarking on a narrowboat holiday. I’ve never known a break to force you to slow down and relax so much.
There are just two paces of life really, one is slow, and the other is stop. It does wonders for your mental health. You are at one with nature, and you’ll be hard pushed to keep up with the ducks wading by your porthole.


The fast and slow pace of life

The DIY chores are a distant memory, and it’s the cows, otters and kingfishers that you’ll be dreaming about, once you’ve savoured your gin and tonic sundowner.

A lone Kingfisher on the banks of the Kennet & Avon Canal

Kingfisher on the banks of the Kennet & Avon Canal

Boaters are a friendly bunch too, giving you a little nod or a wave as they drift by.

Tempted to?

Discover the British canals and waterways for yourself. Our adventures were with luxury Moonraker Canalboats. During our first trip with them, we ventured to the UNESCO City of Bath.

Your pooch can come too

Check with you chosen barging operator prior to arriving, but more often than not your pet can hop along for the cruise too.
There may be a charge; however, that’s a small price to pay for your creature comforts.

A narrowboat moored in the canalside, in a lush green scene under a blue sky, on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

Enjoying the countryside

When moored up for the evening, you and your four-legged friend can go and discover the surrounding footpaths and parks.

Map out your route

Whether you’re planning a road trip, plotting a hiking route or cycling one of UK’s scenic trails, there’s nothing quite like using a tactile paper map.

The Ordnance Survey folk are here to help, with maps, guides, gadgets and more. Take a browse through their vast array of maps and grab your ideal companion for your adventure.

Family and friends

One of the things that pleased me when we headed off on our family trip was that everyone, young and old wanted help out. It was all hands-on deck when it came to the steering of the barge and the cooking.
Then when it was time to jump off and open the locks, we were fighting over whose turn it was. All shipmates wanted to get involved, it was just great fun for everyone.

Three generations involved in taking a wide beam narrowboat through a lock on the Kennet & Avon canal

All hands!

Canal boating is such a fantastic option for a family holiday, particularly when you are trying to keep social distancing down to a minimum.


Father & Son managing a lock

Be safe and be aware

Don’t worry if this is your first time on a canal boat, you’re given all the training you need before you head off along the waterways.

A shot along the length of the narrowboat to the skipper guiding the boat along the canal

The Skipper (Dad) guiding the boat

You’ll receive a demonstration on how to operate the locks. However, by the end of the trip, you’ll be a professional at this.
How to manoeuvre your trusty steed and all the ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ to make this a memorable trip for everyone to enjoy.

A narrowboat positioned deep in the lock on the Kennet and Avon Canal.  The skipper is at the tiller as water seeps in through the closed lock gates behind him.

Deep in the lock

Just be aware of your surroundings and others, don’t be complacent at the strength of the barge and watch your speed.

It’s good to talk!

Share with us your exciting canal boat experiences and drop us a comment below.

Cooking and supplies

As mentioned, this is an ideal holiday for keeping your distance from others, as you can bring all your own food, drink and other provisions if you wish. Then conjure up your favourite dishes together.
When we embarked on our canal boat holidays, the riverside pubs were open and thriving. However, with the way that businesses are now having to adapt to the ‘new normal’, they may now be offering take-outs. So, keep an eye out.


On the outskirts of Hungerford

Having said that this is also an excellent opportunity to support the local farm shops and independent stores that maybe dotted along the canal side. Moor up and have a stroll into the local town or village, you never know what ingenious ideas folk are coming up with now.

Tables and chairs outside of a tea room next to a lock on the Kennet and Avon Canal with a Narrow boat moored up alongside.

A canalside rest stop - pre Covid-19

Health and Hygiene

I would suggest you check with your canal boat operator the measures being taken around handovers and barge hygiene.
Yes, you should continue to wash your hands and use a sanitiser. However, as you are living as one household in your own space, it is a lot easier to manage.

The view from the lounge of the narrowboat, over the bow with its mooring rope neatly placed, along the Kennet & Avon canal

Looking out from your narrowboat

Also, remember each narrowboat is given their own ‘lock key’ you may even be given two. So, there is no need to use a lock key from another barge. Once you have jumped back on the boat wash and sanitise your hands and you are good to go.

Several boats moored up on the banks of the Kennet & Avon canal, each with there own space.

Moored at Hungerford on the Kennet & Avon Canal

Keeping up with the exercising

Another reason canal boating is an ideal lockdown-easing break is that you can keep up with your new exercise regime. As not only are there miles of footpaths that you can stroll along once your boat is moored up. But you can also bring along your push bikes and take to the bridleways.


Negotiating a swing bridge on the Kennet and Avon canal - it's all exercise!

Or if yoga is your go-to workout, ensure you remember your mat.

A bit more info?

The Canal River Trust website is particularly useful for planning your trip. It gives detailed information on the canals and the surrounding facilities.

A few tips on planning

If you are new to boating holidays or even if you are an ‘old hand’, ensure you check out the route you wish to take.
Have a plan of where you would like to stop along the way or moor up overnight. As you don’t want to be manoeuvring your barge in the dark.

The view down the length of the narrowboat as we exit  Bruce Tunnel

Exiting the Bruce Tunnel - all part of the plan

Allow plenty of time for your route as you are only travelling at a few miles an hour, and you want to make the most of this slower pace of life. You may find that if the waterways are busy, that it will take longer to negotiate the locks than you expected.
My brother had created a spreadsheet of where we would be at given times. This plan was immediately scuppered when we had to travel a couple of miles in the wrong direction to turn the barge around.

Travelling behind another wide beam canal boat on the Kennet and Avon Canal as it enters a lock.

It can be slow going at times

This leads me on to other key factors. Firstly, you will probably not be on a circular route, so you will need to bear in mind that you will have to turn the narrowboat around. Some of the canal boats are long, so ensure the turning point is large enough.
Secondly, if there are a few of you on board, you may need to top up your water levels or dispose of your rubbish. Therefore, make a note of the stopping points and boating facilities en-route.

Handy to know

Take a peek at our post ’12 useful tips for your canal boat adventure’, it’s often the little details that make a holiday perfect.

A few tips on canal boating etiquette

First and foremost, respect your fellow bargers, some folk live on narrowboats 365 days a year.
Personal barges on the British Waterways are home to many.

Home to many - the British Waterways

One of the most important issues is your speed, on British canals the speed limit is 4mph. When passing moored boats, you must slow down further as you do not want to create a swell when you cruise by. As this may rock the moored barge and dislodged the mooring pegs/stakes.
A grey heron wading in the Kennet and Avon Canal

Enjoy the wildlife

Ensure you dispose of your own rubbish sensibly, as I mentioned there are facilities along the canal for you to utilise. You should not be leaving your waste for the wildlife to discover.
A personal narrowboat moored up in an idyllic spot on the Kennet and Avon canal.

A personal narrowboat moored up

Always read the signs on the locks as some operate differently to others. You may be required to leave a lock open.

Lastly and by no means least, help your fellow bargers. If there are only two people on a boat, it will help them if you were to assist in opening one of the locks.

* This post may contain links to affiliated sites where we earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.

Inspired to take to the British waterways?

A shot of Janis, who is enjoying the life of the waterways

Enjoying life on the waterways

It’s a really great way to unwind, relax and slow life down a little.

If you’re interested in reading our adventures from our Kennet and Avon Canal trip, then why not check out our post ‘I would do it all again.’

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