Choose your barge holiday

Barge and narrowboat holidays are becoming one of the most popular staycations in Britain and with good reason – they provide a romantic, relaxing break in nature. UK barging holidays offer a unique blend of adventure and comfort as you travel along winding canals and past picturesque countryside views. Meandering at a leisurely pace, visitors can soak up amazing scenery while never having to worry about finding a place to stay each night – the barge is essentially a ‘floating hotel’ under the stars. Featuring comfortable double beds and self-catering kitchens, barge holidays make for an idyllic weekend break away from it all. Often people use the word ‘barge’ when they actually mean narrowboat, and to a narrowboat novice, it can be an easy misconception.

What is the difference between a narrowboat and a barge holiday?

Marbled White narrowboat for hire

Narrowboat holidays

Narrowboats are uniquely British. They were designed to navigate the canal networks of England, Wales and Scotland during the 18th and 19th centuries, to help transport goods during the Industrial Revolution. And in real terms they haven’t changed very much because neither have the canals. Narrowboats are long, slender vessels that are designed specifically for use in canals and rivers. A narrowboat needs to be under 6’10” wide in order to enter the narrowest locks here. Most measure 45 – 72 feet in length, giving them their slender, distinctive shape. 

The beauty of our boutique narrowboats is that they are easily driven by inexperienced boaters. Their long shape needs some concentration and skill to manoeuvre, but these are fairly easily learned during a handover. This gives rookie captains the freedom to navigate their own vessel while taking in all of their stunning natural surroundings.

Barge holidays

In contrast, you will find barges. This is a term used to define larger, flat-bottomed boats which typically might still be used to transport cargo. “Barge” is a broad definition which includes sea-going vessels, along with those of the inland waterways. The designs and dimensions are varied, but due to the width of the canals outside Britain, they are almost always wider than our home-grown narrowboats.  

With holiday barges, you will have a wider boat, which usually means you have slightly more space than on a narrowboat holiday. However our carefully designed Boutique Narrowboats, ensure you have plenty of room to enjoy your holiday.

A barging holiday will also allow you to travel further afield as they can go into the ocean, but it will also restrict where you can travel inland – most of the canals simply aren’t wide enough to accommodate for barge holidays in the UK.

Widebeam canal boat holidays

Widebeam canal boats are also available in the UK to hire – for a static holiday or hotel boat, for instance. But if you’d like to explore the heart of England during your break, you will need to opt for a narrowboat.

Why choose a Narrowboat?

Taking a boating holiday in Britain offers all sorts of unique opportunities not available when travelling abroad due to its rich culture and history coupled with the beautiful scenery found alongside its numerous canal networks! And whilst barge holidays are great, they don’t allow you to explore inland UK to the same level – nothing beats a British Narrowboat holiday.

Whether you’re looking for an adventure or a relaxing break, a narrowboat holiday is the perfect way to explore Britain and discover its hidden gems.

Book online

A Brief History of Narrowboats

Narrowboats are an iconic representation of British history and culture. The origins of narrowboats go back to the 18th century when they were first built by skilled craftsmen out of wood and iron. They were originally used as cargo ships that could transport goods such as coal or grain around the country’s newly built canal networks. Over time, advances in technology allowed for design improvements, making them faster, more reliable, and easier to manoeuvre along tight turns in the canals. By the 19th century, they had become widely popular means of transport across Britain’s waterways.

Even today, narrowboats can be found cruising along Britain’s rivers, providing passengers unparalleled access to remote towns and villages across the country. These crafts serve as a reminder of Britain’s fascinating past and its remarkable idea-driven inventions that are still relevant today.