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City breaks by narrowboat

The British canals aren’t just about gentile cruising amid rural and quiet countryside. Who would have thought, that the best city breaks are those that are spent on your holiday boat in one of the many exciting places in the U.K.? Sample food from great restaurants, shop to your heart’s content and enjoy the culture only a big city can offer. At the end of the day, you simply return to your floating holiday home and spend a relaxing night before you head out again into the hustle and bustle of the city.

A few of the best cities for a narrowboat holiday include:

Chester

Chester is a great place to visit with your holiday boat. The pedestrianised streets and world famous city walls make Chester the perfect place to explore when you arrive by canal boat.

It is just the right size to offer everything you would expect from a bustling city - restaurants, cafes, shops and sights - but all within walking distance from your holiday boat. The canal cuts straight through the heart of the city. Telford Basin is the perfect place to moor up and access the ancient city walls within a couple of minutes. From here, you can take a walk around the whole of the city centre - without any traffic interruptions but great views all around.

Read more about visiting chester by canal boat here.
Checker clock in silhouette

Leeds

Leeds is another great option if you are looking for a great city getaway in the North. You can combine a stay in this exciting place with an interesting cruise from Skipton, where the boat hire bases are, through the Aire Valley and experience the Bingley Five Rise. There is plenty of interest on the way, including a good number of locks and swing bridges.

The best place to moor up is right at the end of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in Granary Wharf. This is hands down the best place to moor up as it is right in Leeds city centre.

Birmingham

Further down the canal network is a really exciting option for a narrowboat city break. Birmingham is often overlooked even though it has so much to offer. It is often considered as the canal capital of the U.K. as there are 35 miles of canal network within the city boundaries. There are several good options for an overnight stop:

  • Gas street basin
    Probably the most famous street in Birmingham., this is the place to moor if you want to be in the middle of city life. Restaurants, bars and cafes are right on your doorstep and you will love that you can get back to your holiday boat in the evening and don’t have to take a taxi.
  • Sheepcote Street Moorings
    A much quieter option and only around the corner from Gas street basin. It is adjacent to the exhibition centre and right opposite Legoland. The restaurants and bars are a bit further away which means less noise and foot traffic on the towpath. Even though it is a quieter mooring, the exciting city life of Birmingham is only a few minutes’ walk away.
Regency Wharf Birmingham

Photo by Rebecca Reece

Liverpool

Another Northern city which is absolutely perfect for a city break on a canal boat is Liverpool. The approach to your mooring for the night is absolutely stunning, as it takes you through the old docks, past the museum and the Liver building right into Salthouse docks, next to the famous Albert Docks. Moorings in Salthouse Docks need to be booked in advance, the visitor pontoons are free for 7 days, including free water and electricity. Liverpool's major sights are only a short walk away, such as the Beatles Museum, Liverpool One and Tate Liverpool. The moorings are gated, so very private and secure and surprisingly quiet.

Albert docks in Liverpool City Center

Photo by Bob Coyne

Oxford

No list of great canal city breaks can be without the iconic city of Oxford. This place is surrounded by gorgeous countryside, but the exciting city life is what makes Oxford really special. The best moorings for your city trip to Oxford is at the very Southern end of the Oxford Canal. There are 48h moorings and you can access Oxford via the footbridge to Jericho. From here it’s a pleasant walk right into the city centre of Oxford. There is also a range of Marinas you can choose from. Most of them are 1 or 2 miles walk away from the city centre.

Bath

Located on the Kennet and Avon canal, Bath is an absolute must if you are looking for a city trip in the South. The canal is absolutely stunning and the towpath is in great condition if you moor up just outside Bath. Most places are absolutely safe and surprisingly quiet at night. One of the favourite places to moor up for the night is on the Widcombe Lock flight. Note that you can only moor up between locks 10 and 11. From here, it is a nice walk right into the city centre of Bath.

Canal in the city of Bath

Photo by Toby Osborn