Britain has thousands of miles of inland waterways and hundreds of islands scattered along its beautiful coastline. Cruising along a canal in the Midlands countryside or travelling on one of the small local ferries to a remote Scottish island are both wonderful experiences. Canal boats can be hired, and scores of ferries run between Britain’s offshore islands. For information on Britain’s canals, rivers and lakes and to book accommodation, a boat or a hotel boat, visit the Canal River Trust website.
As industrial production grew in the 18th century, it became vital to find a cheap and effective way of transporting heavy loads. Canals fulfilled this need, and a huge network was built, linking most industrial areas with the country’s sea ports.
The arrival of the railways and their influence on freight movement made most canals redundant, but there are still some 2,000 miles (3,200 km) left, most in the old industrial heartland of the Midlands.
Today these canals lure travellers who are content to cruise on old-fashioned, slow narrowboats, taking their time to enjoy the views and the canalside inns, originally built to satisfy the bargees’ thirsts and to supply stabling for the barge horses. These canal holidays can be very relaxing if you have the time.
If you wish to hire a narrowboat, you can book with a specialist travel firm or contact Canal & River Trust.
Britain’s local ferries can offer anything from a 10-minute river journey to a 7-hour sea cruise.
Many of Scotland’s ferries are operated by Caledonian MacBrayne. They sail to lots of different destinations, such as the Isle of Skye to the Kyle of Lochalsh, or the 5-hour journey from Oban to Lochboisdale in the Western Isles. They offer a variety of different ticket types, from unlimited rover tickets for a specific period of time, to island-hop passes or all-inclusive coach tour and ferry tickets. Not all the island ferries take cars.
River ferries make an interesting alternative to the more usual forms of transport. The ferry across the Mersey, between Liverpool and Birkenhead, is still used by many commuters. London’s river trips, such as the one that runs from Westminster to Tower Bridge, offer a different perspective on the city and make a change from tubes, buses and cars. Local tourist centres can give you information about ferry routes and timetables in their area.
Content provided by DK Eyewitness Travel Guides (www.traveldk.com)