Canal Boat Holiday
Reviewed by Lucy Knight
We were recently asked to review a canal boat trip. The boat we had for the weekend was a 6 berth gull class narrow boat. It was a truly spectacular boat. We were offered 4 different layout by the boat company, consisting of single and double bed arrangements.
This design of boat has the living area at the back of the boat as you enter; the living room contains a TV/DVD combi and a seating area with a dining table. The kitchen is next as you move up the boat, which has everything you need including a gas cooker and a microwave. The boat company have thought of every last detail even providing you with a pack containing bin bags, washing up equipment and even a sewing kit.
The layout we had had two double bedrooms and two bathrooms. There were only two of us so we did not need the second bedroom. I thought this boat was beautiful and many passers-by complimented us on what a stunning boat it was.
We arrived at the Wrenbury boathouse at around 4pm on the Friday. We had been advised to get there at approx. 3pm. However, there was more traffic than I had anticipated.
On arrival we were greeted by a warm, friendly receptionist who took our details and set up the instructional DVD for us to watch, as we had never been on a narrow boat before.
When the DVD had finished she offered us a map of the canal at a cost of £2.95, which I purchased and found very helpful. She then led us to our boat to get settled.
Once we had boarded and unpacked, an engineer, Alistair, came on board to show us how to steer and power the boat. He was very patient and proficient. He spent time explaining where we could go and where to eat in the time we had the boat for. I was very impressed with his professionalism. He came with us down the canal for the first 30 minutes, in order to train us and check we had an understanding of how to handle the boat. I noticed that he actually finished his shift at 5pm, but still stayed with us until 5.40 to make sure we were confident enough to go on our own.
Once Alistair had left us to go on our way, we headed down the Llangollen canal towards Whitchurch. We had not eaten all day so were hoping to make it to a pub for tea. However it got dark quite quickly and we found ourselves unable to see, thus having to find somewhere to moor for the night. We had managed to get stuck in weeds at the side of the canal, which caused us to panic quite a bit. Luckily, we used the techniques Alistair had shown us and managed to free the boat and moor alongside a field. Fortunately, I had brought basic provisions, which allowed us to have spaghetti on toast for our tea.
We woke at around 8am and as it was light I could check on our map where we were. I had noticed that there was a bridge up ahead. All of the bridges on the canal are numbered. This allowed me to use the map to calculate where we were. We set off and headed for Whitchurch again. Cruising down the canal was so peaceful and relaxing. The scenery was spectacular and the weather was cold but pleasant.
At the first lock we met a couple who showed us exactly what to do, as we were a little unsure. They said if we kept behind them, then they would help us out if we got stuck.
At around 1pm we noticed a sign for a pub so we moored along the canal at Grindley lock. We walked through the village, which was stunning, and followed the signs to The Horse and Jockey. Once we arrived at the pretty pub, we took our seats and ordered our dinner. The staff were very attentive and we did not have to wait long for our food. I had a BBQ chicken bacon burger and chips and my partner had a honey mustard chicken with roast potatoes. The food was delicious, in fact it was probably the best pub food I have ever had.
After finishing our dinner, we stopped at the garage opposite to stock up on milk and bread and then headed back to the boat.
My partner brought the boat up to the first of the three bridges in Grindley, while I opened the locks. Once through we arrived at the staircase lock which is 3 locks in one. There was lock keeper on hand to help, who was very friendly and helpful. Once we were at the top we decided to turn around so that we could head back, as we needed to head home the next morning.
My partner was having difficulty turning the boat as there were other boats parked up in the turning point, as well as a constant flow of boats using the staircase lock. He was stuck in a corner, when we noticed another boat coming towards us to turn their boat. They had one person with a rope on the canal side whilst the driver steered the way. Their way of turning seemed effortless and so much easier than how my partner had tried to turn. The men noticed that we were stuck and offered to help. One jumped on board to aid my partner to steer the boat correctly, while two more helped me with the rope. After a few attempts we had the boat in the right directly ready to head down the staircase lift.
I have never met so many friendly people, as I have in the past few days on this holiday. It is like being in a different world. Each and every single person, whom I have come across, has been chatty and happy to help you at the drop of a hat.
When we got to the bottom of the stair lock we headed back towards the Wrenbury boathouse, hoping to get close enough by sunset to have a short journey in the morning.
By nightfall, we arrived at the Willy Moor lock, which housed The Willy Moor pub. We decided to moor here for the night and get some tea from the pub.
The Willy Moor was a lovely cozy pub, which seemed to be filled with regular customers.
I wasn’t that hungry so just had a couple of side orders from the menu; my partner had half roast chicken and chips. The food was very nice and the atmosphere was very welcoming.
We didn’t stay late at the pub as we were very tired from all the physical work throughout the day.
Luckily, we took a torch out with us so that we could see our way back to the boat.
When we got back to the boat we put on the central heating and played cards, (which were provided on the boat).
We had planned to watch the x factor on the TV but were too tired so we went to bed.
We woke up this morning to a wet boat. It had rained throughout the night and we felt that it was best if we set off early, to ensure we arrive back before the rain returned. The journey back to the boathouse was as tranquil as the journey towards Whitchurch. We arrived back at the boathouse a couple of hours later. The staff were very welcoming on our return, and told us they had been concerned about whether had managed to find somewhere to eat on our first night. We paid for our fuel and headed home.
Overall, this was a fantastic, relaxing holiday. It has opened my eyes up to a new way of vacationing. I am usually a sun worshipper, who goes away up to 4 times a year, lies in the sun and reads a book for 2 weeks. However, having now experienced something so different I have realized what I have been missing. I am definitely going to book a narrow boat holiday for next year, but I will ensure it is for at least a week, so I can truly benefit from the experience. I would certainly recommend this holiday and the boat hire company as they made it a holiday to remember.
Drifters Waterway Holidays offers over 500 canal boats for hire from 35 bases.There are over 2,000 miles of waterways for you to discover, all at your own pace and you don't need to be an expert.
2013 prices start at £355 for a short break and £545 for a week.
For more information visit www.drifters.co.uk or call 0844 984 0322.