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Narrow-Boating Through England's Heartland

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Narrow-Boating Through England's Heartland

story by: House of Travel

There's more to Britain than the hustle and bustle of big city life - in fact, there's a whole other movement that is encouraging travellers to stop, slow down, and enjoy the more scenic features of England's heartland. Don't worry - there will still be opportunities to hop off and visit the pub!

History of narrow-boating
Narrow-boating emerged during the Industrial Revolution, when the canal network and prominence of specially designed narrow boats became a viable means of transportation for many across Britain. Not only were these watery pathways used to get people from A to B, but they also assisted in the transportation of goods. As demand increased, more canals were built to accommodate, however there were no set standards or restrictions, so the canals were not all consistent in terms of depth and width. To help navigate this, specially designed narrow boats were designed to fit comfortably within most canals - even the tiniest ones. This saw the advent of the boats less than seven feet wide that are still seen throughout Britain's canals today.

Your narrow-boating experience
There are around 3,000 miles of waterways to explore in a narrow boat, but be warned that these aren't thrill seeker's vessels - they reach top speeds of 4 mph, which practically forces you to sit back, relax and enjoy the moment. Float past historic towns, waterside cities and rural retreats. 

Day boat hire is a great option for those new to narrow-boating, and can accommodate groups of up to a dozen for a day on the canal. This option is inexpensive if you pack the boat out with your friends, though you often need to provide your own skipper. One ideal destination for your narrow-boat cruise is Birmingham, which boasts more canals than Venice. Moor your craft at Gas Street Basin to explore theatres, museums and restaurants.

If you're based in London you don't need to travel far to cruise along canals to your heart's content. The Grand Union and Regent's canals can take you through to the Docklands and Limehouse Basin. Keep your eyes peeled for glimpses of London Zoo, Little Venice, Kings Cross and Victoria Park along the way, and moor your boat as you please to step back onto dry land and explore the city by foot. It's just like being in Venice, except everyone sounds like they're on Coronation Street.

The main path of the Grand Union line has several difference branches that can lead you toward all new adventures. Take the Paddington Arm to journey through a particularly lively part of West London, where you'll find Middle Eastern cafes, bars, restaurants and plenty of other appealing destinations. This vibrant part of the canal is in stark contrast to the Slough Arm, which takes you through a rural, green part of the country in the picturesque town of Iver.

The Cheshire Ring Canal presents another outstanding narrow-boating experience, particularly for those with a week or more up their sleeve to explore all that this serene area has to offer. Start at Swanley and cruise towards Manchester, taking in the flora and fauna that line the banks of the six canals you float through. Take care when navigating the many tunnels along this trip, and make the most of the opportunities to moor up and explore the cultural and historical attractions in towns and cities. Stop at Manchester's Castlefield Basin and venture in to the Museum of Science and Industry for a touch of history and education on your travels.

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