Explore the UK the Narrowboat Way
Visiting a country like the UK, with its crowded roads and cities, not to mention the thousands of popular tourist destinations, can be both hectic and expensive. However, there is a way to see the 'real England' from a different perspective and at a leisurely pace: hire a narrow boat and take a cruise on the extensive canal system.
Whether you try it just for a day, a week, or longer a canal cruise will give you a glimpse into Britain's industrial past like no other, as well as allowing you to enjoy beautiful peaceful countryside. Depending on your schedule you can travel on a relatively short stretch, such as the Oxford canal which runs through countryside reminiscent of a bygone era. Or you can explore a varied and fascinating canal system such as the Cheshire Ring, which runs through the center of Manchester as well as countryside, and takes about a week to complete.
Because the canal system was once the lifeblood of Victorian England, carrying goods throughout the country, wherever else you plan to visit you will never be far from a canal. Although they fell into disuse when railways were developed, they were opened up again in the 1960s for recreational use, and now there are 2,200 miles of navigable canals throughout the land.
Nothing can quite compare to the pleasure of moving at little more than walking pace through idyllic countryside, accompanied by water birds, fish, riverside creatures and - occasionally - a fellow boater, who will salute you as they pass. It is not all 'plain sailing,' though. There are usually locks to be opened and closed, providing the fit and healthy with good exercise and often some jolly company. There is a happy community of narrow boaters wherever you go, willing to lend a hand, impart information or share stories. At the end of the day, you can moor up your comfortable floating home and either cook your own food or find a canal side inn.
There are plenty of websites offering narrow boats for hire, and advice is always given on how to manage your boat, which will not be too difficult for most drivers. Once this leisurely lifestyle is sampled, many people 'get the bug' and want to explore new territory in this unique way. Many countries in Europe offer canal boat holidays, and if you are not confident enough to handle a boat yourself someone else will drive it for you. Either way, you can be sure of a unique holiday trip that you will never forget.