Is the Canal Cruise in England a good idea for a honeymoon?
September 10, 2004 6:59 AM   Subscribe

So the finace and I are starting to ponder our honeymoon. A coworker suggested a Canal Cruise across the pond in England as a possibility. Does anyone have any opinions or tips regarding putting down the canals at three miles per hour on a narrowboat built for two? Things that a pair of young Americans should watch out for? Thanks!

The vague plan at the moment is to fly from Boston to London, stay overnight in the city for a day or two, then hire a narrowboat for a week and cruise the locks.

In my mind's eye, I picture me puffing away on a pipe as we pass fields and towns, working with the wife to conquer locks, and hanging out in pubs. Is this far off from a harsh reality of plague and madness that haunts the canals of England?
posted by robocop is bleeding to Travel & Transportation around Manchester, England (8 answers total)
Canal boats aren't really that private. If you happen to be moored somewhere at night and "relaxing" as honeymooners do, you might find that anyone walking past on the towpath would become rather more intimately acquainted with the two of you than you might like.
posted by humuhumu at 7:27 AM on September 10, 2004

i've done this several times as a kid - it was quite fun, and pretty much like you imagine. humuhumu does have a point though - a canal is a bit like a floating motorhome (although perhaps not as luxurious) that you park at the side of the canal. canals, by definition, have a path along the edge (where the horse used to walk to tow the barge), and the english like to pootle around the countryside in ugly clothes and big boots, so there are often (not always, by any means) people on the path.

i doubt anyone's going to care very much except you, but if that bothers you you might want to reconsider. it's no worse than being in a tent on a campsite and if you go off-season then most places will be pretty deserted anyway.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:10 AM on September 10, 2004

I used to go on holiday on the canals regularly. One year we met an American couple who'd hired a large narrowboat for several months and were having friends fly out for a week or two at a time, and paying for the time they were there. It meant they got a cheap holiday and their friends had a good time too. Not, perhaps, the ideal situation for a honeymoon but if you decide you want to come back and do it again it might be worth bearing in mind.

As for hints and tips, I'd say hire a boat that's a little larger than you think you'll need and bring clothing for all weathers, regardless of the time of year.

I can recommend the Staffs. and Worcs. canal as being very nice and the Caldon Canal is particularly beautiful.
posted by Nick Jordan at 8:44 AM on September 10, 2004

To handle a canal boat on your own, you need to be a very practical person, not afraid to get your hands dirty, and able to keep your head if things go wrong (e.g. if the engine stalls, miles from anywhere, and won't restart). OK if you like that sort of thing, but not very restful or romantic; perhaps not ideal for a honeymoon?

If you want something quieter, you might consider doing what we did for our honeymoon, and hiring a Landmark Trust house for a week. Beautiful scenery; total privacy. Worth thinking about if you want the remoteness of a canal holiday without the fatigue or discomfort.
posted by verstegan at 10:25 AM on September 10, 2004

My parents did this a few years ago with another couple. They had a great time, but there were four of uninformed hunch is that it would be a bit more difficult with only 2, but as verstean said some people can probably handle that with no problems. I know my mom would have been nervous if it had only been 2 of them...
posted by jacobsee at 11:16 AM on September 10, 2004

Was that a deliberate Freudian slip? Finance --> Fiance?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:35 PM on September 10, 2004

The kind of boats that the major hire companies in England offer are usually very well maintained and use simple and very reliable diesel engines. If you're thinking about a 1-2 week trip, you might not even have to refuel. If you use the on-board chemical loo enough, you might need a pump-out part-way through your trip (it's not a messy process). If you like to do your own elaborate cooking, a hired narrowboat might not be your idea of fun. For privacy, the doors close and there are curtains on the windows.

There's no need to worry about locks if you're inexperienced. They're really simple mechanisms. Think in terms of filling a bath at one end and emptying at the other. There are really only four rules: Don't fill and empty at the same time! Don't tie up your boat when you're emptying! Don't go alone when you can share. Never empty a lock unnecessarily (wait for a boat coming downstream if you're going upstream - saves water). The better hire companies won't let you take their boat away without first giving you a tutorial and making sure you understand it all, anyhow.

It's a lovely way to see the country and you'll see parts that you never would from a car. Just don't be very ambitious about how much you want to see or how far you'll get. It's all about a change of pace. A slow pace. And you're never far from a pub with good beer and (often) good food. Try to avoid late July to early September. Schools are out and this is a popular way for families to vacation in the UK.

For what it's worth, my favorite is the Llangollen Canal.
posted by normy at 4:11 PM on September 10, 2004

Oh, yeah, two people - not a problem if you don't rush. Handling a lock as one person on your own, however, is challenging.
posted by normy at 4:16 PM on September 10, 2004

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