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A guide to holidaying on a narrowboat in winter

Winter canal boat hire

A winter canal boat holiday can be one of the cosiest and most romantic getaways - imagine being cuddled up with a wooly blanket, reading a mystery thriller while the ducks quack their way to some food and simply be in the moment. While a big chunk of hire bases close for the winter, there are quite a few who do offer canal boat holidays for everyone who want to either get away from it all or fancy a city break during the Christmas season.

The best bits about a canal boat holiday in wintertime

  • Quiet canals: If you are after a quiet few days away from the hustle and bustle, the canals are the perfect time to explore in winter. Due to many hire companies being closed for the season and fewer boats in general, winter is the perfect time to experience the British canals at their best.
  • Waterside pubs: A roaring fire, scrumptious pub grub and a good drink - what else could be better than mooring up the boat and have a short walk through the crisp air and spend a few hours at a good pub before returning home to a warm boat.
  • Speaking of a warm boat: All boats that are available to hire in winter are equipped with central heating, some even with a multi-fuel stove. This keeps the boat nice and warm while the world outside is falling asleep in the frosty air. If you've not used a Solid Fuel Stove before do checkout our blog post on using a Solid Fuel Stove on your Canal Boat Holiday.
  • Potentially lower hire prices: Lots of hire bases offer lower hire prices during the winter season which is a great way to spend an affordable winter holiday on the picturesque canals.
  • Perfect for city breaks in the Christmas season: We all know that the prices for city accommodation during the Christmas season can go through the roof. But with a canal boat holiday, you can actually safe yourself the money and moor up close to the most popular Christmas markets and simply enjoy the atmosphere that comes with it.

Things to bear in mind

A winter canal boat holiday can be one of the cosiest and most romantic getaways - imagine being cuddled up with a wooly blanket, reading a mystery thriller while the ducks quack their way to some food and simply be in the moment. While a big chunk of hire bases close for the winter, there are quite a few who do offer canal boat holidays for everyone who want to either get away from it all or fancy a city break during the Christmas season.

  • Fewer daytime hours: Obviously, the sun sets early here in winter on our British Isles. On a hire boat you can only move the boat during the daylight hours, so this means less cruising hours. Just bear this in mind while planning your route.
  • Wet weather: Our weather is a bit of a hit and miss at the best of times, even more so in winter. There is nothing more magical than cruising along the canal while the snow is gently falling all around you. But sometimes it's just blatant rain and wind. Pack some thick waterproofs, including warm wellies and gloves and your experience will be a great one nonetheless. Sometimes it's also a good idea to stay put for a few hours or even a day and embrace a cozy day at home instead of battling the elements. Plan ahead and perhaps moor up close to a pub and the day is sorted.
  • Winter stoppages: Because there are less boats on the canals, a big chunk of maintenance work is carried out in the winter months. This means that locks, bridges or whole sections of canals can be closed for navigation, which means in turn that some routes are simply not available for cruising. You can check planned winter stoppages here. If your heart is set on one particular route, speak with us and we can tell you more about the planned stoppages and if they could impact your canal boat holiday.
hire boats at base during the winter Photo of a canal, narrowboat and canal bridge during the winter Solid fuel stove on boat to keep warm during the winter

Our top winter holiday hire options

A few of our hire partners offer winter breaks on their canal boats. These are located in Bradford on Avon, Beeston (near Chester) and Leeds. All of the boats are equipped with central heating, some of them also have multi-fuel stoves on board. If you'd like to know more about the available options in the winter months, then please do read on.

Bradford on Avon

This is a great option to have a relaxed canal boat holiday, with the option to have a short break and visit the city of Bath. There is only one lock each way, so very low in terms of physical work. It's a great option to visit the Christmas Market in Bath and enjoy a cosy getaway in the Wiltshire countryside. Or head the other way and see the famous Caen Hill Locks.

Find winter hire boats from this hire bases

Beeston/Chester

Cruise through the gentle Cheshire countryside, visit Beeston Castle and the Ancient Roman City of Chester. Or head the other way and explore the famous Llangollen Canal and Pontcysyllte in the quiet winter months.

Find winter hire boats from this hire bases

Leeds

Explore West Yorkshire in winter aboard a cosy and warm canalboat. Visit the World Heritage Site of Saltaire, go on a walk in the crisp, cold winter air and go birdwatching at St. Aidans or Fairburn Ings Nature Reserve. You can either head North and explore the Leeds & Liverpool Canal or go South and discover the River Aire.

Find winter hire boats from this hire bases