Barge trips in England

Top 4 Barge Canal Trips and Cruises in England

Top 4 Barge Canal Trips and Cruises in England

Picturesque landscape of a narrow boat moored on the Avon river awaiting tourists to cruise down the river through Stratford upon Avon, England

Are you looking for a unique and wonderful way to explore England? Why not take one of the many barge trips available throughout the country for a different perspective to the usual sightseeing methods?

From gentle hotel barge cruises along tranquil waterways to grand river journeys that meander past charming villages, there’s something on offer for everyone. So why not embark on an adventure of your own and make some wonderful memories with family or friends?

Discover cosy pubs, and hidden gems that tell stories about their history and get off the beaten track with a relaxing break from everyday life; there is no better way to immerse yourself in the beauty of England than going on a memorable barge cruise!

Experience England's Rich History and Natural Beauty on a Barge Holiday

Embark on an extraordinary journey through England's stunning landscapes and waterways by barge, an experience you'll never forget. Discover the country's captivating history and culture while witnessing its natural beauty firsthand.

Step back in time as you drift through the canals of the British Isles, where once bustling barges were the foundation of the nation's industrial and agricultural past.

From ancient mills to towering bridges, witness the remnants of a bygone era and uncover the stories of the people and events that shaped England's history. Visit areas where stories by famous authors like Lewis Carroll have been created, with excursions organised as part of your tour. With something for everyone, a barge trip is the best place to explore the treasures of England's countryside and embrace its vast cultural heritage.

I’ve done a deep dive into barge trips in England. Below is some information and links to pages to organise your next trip.

Places for Barge Trips in England
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    • Best Barge Trip

    river thames

    The River Thames - Pixabay

    The River Thames

    Discover the majesty of the River Thames, an iconic and historic river that has shaped England's history for over two millennia.

    From being a major trade route to being the lifeblood of London, the Thames has witnessed countless historical events, inspiring legendary poets, painters, and writers along the way.

    It has become a symbol of British culture and identity, a vital part of central London's landscape providing transportation, recreation, and a reminder of the city's rich history and heritage.

    Explore the longest river in England and uncover the secrets that make it a true gem of the world.

    Hop on a barge cruise and take in the iconic landmarks of London from a truly unique perspective.

    You'll have the opportunity to see the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye from aboard.

    From charming villages like Henley-on-Thames and Marlow to breathtaking countryside in the Thames Valley, immerse yourself in the river's rich history and significance.

    Relax and indulge in the calm and peacefulness of the water by sailing along the river the best way on a scenic cruise.

    Numerous barge tour operators and routes are available, making it an ideal opportunity to explore England's cultural and historical heritage while taking in the stunning beauty of the Thames River.

    Best Barge Trip on the River Thames

    The Magna Carta Barge Cruise

    • Six-night cruises

    • Four luxurious cabins

    • Twin deck design

    • Up to 8 passengers

    • Jacuzzi

    • Fine dining with paired wines

    • Bicycles available

    • Guided excursions

    The 8-passenger Magna Carta barge cruise along the River Thames is a unique and fascinating way to explore the sights along the riverside with frequent stops along the way.

    The Magna Carta was signed by King John in 1215, and it laid the foundations for modern democracy by limiting the power of the monarchy and establishing the rule of law. On this barge cruise, passengers can visit many of the places that played a role in the creation and signing of the Magna Carta, including Runnymede Meadow where the document was sealed and the magna carta memorial stands.

    The cruise also takes passengers to other historic sites along the Thames, such as Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace already mentioned. The Magna Carta barge cruise offers an opportunity to explore English history on one of the best luxury hotel barges in the country, in a unique and immersive way while enjoying the comforts and amenities of a modern narrowboat. A trip to the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham brings some added culture and fits the itinerary nicely.

    Whether you are a history buff or simply looking for a fascinating and educational vacation experience, the Magna Carta barge cruise will surely delight and inspire.

    Stops at Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace


    Windsor Castle - Pixabay

    You can sample a taste of England's royal history by embarking on a River Thames barge trip. Most trips include must-see visits to two of the country's most famous and historic residences that have housed the Royal family: the grand Windsor Castle and the stunning Hampton Court Palace.

    Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world, has been home to British monarchs for over 900 years. Admire the magnificent State Apartments, the majestic Grand Reception Room, and the charming Queen Mary's Dolls' House.

    Don't miss the chance to marvel at the exquisite St George's Chapel, which serves as the final resting place of many British monarchs.

    Discover the timeless beauty of Hampton Court Palace, situated in the picturesque London borough of Richmond upon Thames.

    Originally built by Cardinal Wolsey in the early 16th century, this architectural masterpiece was later acquired by King Henry VIII. You'll love the palace's exquisite Tudor design (that has provided many a film location) and renowned gardens, which include a world-famous maze.

    Immerse yourself in history as you explore the State Rooms, Tudor Kitchens, and Great Hall, and learn about the palace's rich connection to England's most iconic historical figures. Experience an unforgettable journey through the past at Hampton Court Palace.

    With a knowledgeable guide and the chance to relax in peaceful surroundings in one of England’s royal palaces, excursions offer an excellent opportunity to explore the country's rich cultural and historical heritage. Don't miss out on this one-of-a-kind adventure!

    The English Countryside around the Thames

    Experience the picturesque beauty of the English countryside on the cruise. Marvel at the breathtaking views of rolling hills, meadows, and fields with wildflowers. Spot graceful wildlife along the riverbank like swans, ducks, and herons.

    Explore charming towns and historic buildings that have stood the test of time for centuries. Take your time to appreciate the sights, sounds, and smells around you as you glide through the peaceful waters.

    Whether you're seeking a peaceful escape or a chance to explore the natural beauty of England, a Thames barge trip is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the country's best offerings.

    How do you Book the Magna Carta Hotel Boat?

    The Magna Carta offers cruises throughout the year. Check out their website for further information.

    • Other Great Barge Trips

    Grand Union Canal

    The Grand Union Canal, one of the United Kingdom's longest waterways, is not to be missed.  Spanning over 137 miles from Birmingham to London, it was formed in 1929, combining several existing canals.

    During the industrial revolution, it played a vital role in transporting goods and people. Today, it's a top recreational waterway, perfect for boating, fishing, and cycling.

    The historic locks, aqueducts, and tunnels offer a glimpse into the country’s industrial heritage, making it a popular destination for tourists and locals.

    Barge trips on the Grand Union Canal

    The Grand Union Canal is a popular destination for barge trips, offering a unique way to explore England’s industrial heritage and natural beauty.

    The canal passes through picturesque countryside, charming towns, and historic industrial sites, providing an ever-changing backdrop for passengers. Barge trips on the Grand Union Canal typically range from several days to a week or more, depending on the itinerary.

    Along the way, passengers can enjoy comfortable accommodations, delicious food and drink, and a range of amenities, including bicycles for onshore exploration. Some of the highlights of a Grand Union Canal barge trip may include passing through the famous Blisworth Tunnel, visiting the historic town of Warwick, and exploring the vibrant city of Birmingham.

    With its rich history, stunning scenery, and comfortable accommodations, a barge trip on the Grand Union Canal is an unforgettable way to experience the UK's unique charm and character.

    What Grand Union Canal cruises are there?

    Bywater Holidays offer a number of cruises throughout the year along the Grand Union Canal. Check out their website for further information.

    The Kennet and Avon Canal

    Discover the historic waterway of southern England that revolutionised transportation during the Industrial Revolution.

    Originally constructed in the late 18th century to connect the cities of Bristol and London, the Kennet and Avon Canal offers visitors a glimpse into England's industrial past. 

    Although the canal fell into disrepair in the 20th century, it was restored in the 1990s and is now a popular destination for boating, fishing, and cycling enthusiasts.

    The 87-mile route runs from the River Thames at Reading to the Bristol Channel, offering stunning views of the countryside along the way.

    Barge trips on the Kennet and Avon Canal

    Experience a vacation like no other with a leisurely barge trip along the picturesque Kennet and Avon Canal. Boasting stunning views of rolling hills, verdant farmland, and charming villages, this tranquil destination is perfect for nature lovers and history buffs alike. 

    Witness a wide variety of wildlife, from graceful herons to playful otters, as you unwind in comfortable accommodations and indulge in delicious food and drink. Take in a range of sights, from the awe-inspiring Caen Hill Locks to the historic city of Bath. 

    With trips ranging from several days to a week or more, there's no better way to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life than with a barge cruise along the Kennet and Avon canal.

    What Kennet and Avon Canal cruises are there?

    The Wessex Rose is a 5 star luxury hotel boat and offers canal boat trips throughout the year. Check their website for further details.

    The Shropshire Union Canal

    Explore the quaint riverside towns and rolling countryside of the west of England on the historic Shropshire Union Canal.

    Originally built as a transportation route for goods and raw materials between industrial centres, the canal now offers visitors a unique recreational experience.

    Marvel at the impressive engineering feats, including the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct as you sail slowly across the River Dee.

    Barge trips on the Shropshire Union Canal

    The Shropshire Union Canal offers a delightful and tranquil barge trip experience through some of the most beautiful and unspoiled scenery in the West of England.

    Stretching for over 66 miles, the canal takes visitors through the rolling hills and fields of Cheshire and Shropshire, as well as past charming towns and villages. The journey includes several notable features, such as the impressive 19th-century engineering marvels of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the Chirk Aqueduct, as well as the pretty market town of Ellesmere and the stunning Llangollen Canal.

    Passengers on a barge trip along the Shropshire Union Canal can enjoy comfortable accommodations, delicious food and drink, and a range of onshore activities, such as walking, cycling, and visiting historic sites.

    With its peaceful surroundings, rich history, and stunning scenery, the Shropshire Union Canal is a true gem of the British canal system.

    What Shropshire Union Canal cruises are there?

    For a canal boat holiday along the Shropshire Union Canal, The Takara Hotel Boat offers a number of cruises throughout the year. Check out their website for further information.

    What Food and Drink can I expect on a barge cruise?

    The food and drink served on a barge cruise is often a highlight of the trip. Most barge tours include all meals in a beautiful dining area, which are typically freshly prepared onboard using locally sourced ingredients.

    Breakfasts might include continental options such as pastries, cold meats, and cheeses, as well as hot options like a full English breakfast. Lunches and dinners can feature traditional British fare such as roast beef, fish and chips, and shepherd's pie, as well as international dishes and vegetarian options.

    In addition to meals, most barge tours offer a selection of drinks, including tea, coffee, and soft drinks. Alcoholic beverages such as beer, fine wines, and spirits are often available for purchase or as part of the package. Some tours also include wine tastings or visits to local pubs and breweries.

    Overall, the food and drink served on a barge cruise are designed to showcase the best of British cuisine and provide a memorable culinary experience for passengers.

    Special dietary requirements can be accommodated with advance notice, and with a master chef on board serving gourmet meals, you can rest assured that everyone can enjoy the delicious meals and drinks on offer.

    magna carta cabin

    The Accommodations and Amenities on a Barge Trip

    Accommodations on board are typically cosy and comfortable, with each cabin featuring a private en-suite bathroom, air conditioning, and central heating. Cabins often have large windows, providing stunning views of the passing scenery.

    In addition to comfortable accommodations, most barge tours offer a range of amenities to ensure passengers have an enjoyable experience.

    Some amenities that may be available on board include a lounge area, a sun deck, bicycles for onshore exploration, and Wi-Fi access.

    Many cruises also include guided tours of historical and cultural sites along the river, as well as live entertainment such as music or storytelling.


    Discover England's charm in a relaxing and enjoyable way with a barge trip along the River Thames and many canals through the countryside.

    Explore the country's rich history, marvel at historic palaces, and bask in the tranquillity of its natural beauty. The barge journeys mentioned offer tasty culinary delights, comfortable accommodations, and an array of amenities.

    Although a barge trip is expensive, you'll embark on an unforgettable experience, immersing yourself in the beauty and history of England in a refreshing and unique way.

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