Waterways, Canals and Boating Holidays

in Hebden Bridge in Sheffield

Yorkshire has more than 100 miles of coastline, dozens of rivers and reservoirs and an ancient canal network.  Once at the heart of our textile industry, they’re great places to explore and enjoy.  Gently stroll along miles of tranquil towpaths, stopping off in towns and villages along the way, or cruise along at the helm of your very own narrowboat.

Yorkshire’s Canal Network

For those wanting to stay a bit drier, there’s the canal network to explore.  

Canal & River Trust looks after around 270 miles of inland waterways, covering an area which stretches from South Yorkshire to the River Tees in the North East. Yorkshire’s waterways, including the 127 mile long Leeds & Liverpool Canal and large freight ways of the River Aire, combine rural appeal with historic purpose.

Get out and enjoy our wonderful canals and rivers, try one of these fantastic FREE guides from the Canal & River Trust.

The canals and rivers provide countless opportunities for walking, cycling, wildlife spotting, picnicking, angling canoeing or canal boat holidays. They weave through famous attractions such as Clarence Dock in Leeds, with bars, shops, restaurants and a casino, through to the highest, longest and deepest canal tunnel in Britain at Standedge Tunnel, near Huddersfield, built by navvies with enormous difficulty.  Huddersfield Narrow Canal runs for 20 miles and near Lock 23E in Slaithwaite, you’ll find the country’s only working Guillotine Gate on a narrow canal.

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal is one of the most spectacular in the country. Unlike many other canals, boats sit above the canal bank so you really can watch the world go by.  It meanders through some of the most picturesque countryside in England, taking in some of Yorkshire’s most famous historic towns and villages along the way.  The canal weaves its way through the Yorkshire Dales, into Skipton and onto Bingley, home to the Five and Three Rise Locks, which are often described as wonders of the waterways, before reaching the World Heritage Site of Saltaire village.

Visit Sowerby Bridge Basin, home to Tuel Lane Lock, the deepest lock in England, and the joining point of Calder & Hebble Navigation and Rochdale Canal.  The Rochdale Canal climbs up the Calder Valley through the towns of Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge and Todmorden to its summit at Walsden. A gentle walk with plenty of stopping places.

This assortment offers a unique blend of bustling city centre lifestyle and dramatic countryside landscapes – an ideal contrast for a short break.

Yorkshire’s waterways play host to a whole range of events throughout the year – from small, charity walks and Towpath Tidy days, to annual festivals such as the Waterways Festival in the pretty market town of Skipton in May and the Rushbearing Festival in Sowerby Bridge, near Halifax. Why don’t you explore Yorkshire’s canals and unleash the possibilities just waiting to be discovered.

Take to the Water

Passenger trips

Take a trip with A&G Passenger Boats along the Sheffield and Tinsley canal – they offer festive and Santa cruises throughout December too.

British Waterways runs regular cruises into the darkness of Standedge Tunnel, the deepest canal tunnel in Britain, from their Visitor Centre at Marsden. Take the half-hour tunnel cruise into the heart of the Pennines, in the glass-roofed narrow boat (watch out for those drips!).

YorkBoat: Make the most of your time in York and take to the river! Sit back and enjoy the sights of York City and country by day or by night, whatever the weather.

Skipton Boat Trips offer public and private canal cruises on the Leeds & Liverpool canal for families and groups. Cruises on offer range from Afternoon Teas to Fish & Chip Cruises, to one-hour public cruises running from March to December.

Self-drive day boats

If you prefer to be at the helm, you can hire a boat for the day from these operators:

Pennine Cruisers in Skipton provides everything needed for an absolute beginner or an experienced boater. Full lockside instruction are given to ensure hirers are confident in the operation of locks and know how to operate them safely. 

York Marine Services, Bishopthorpe, York, offers self drive motorboat hire on the River Ouse.  Navigate the River all the way to the Linton Locks or Naburn (over 30 miles) or just cruise up to the historic city of York and take in the sites.

Boating Holidays – Narrow Boats and Hotel Boats

Don’t forget too that you can change the view from your self-catering accommodation minute by minute, by choosing a canal cruiser. 

Lady Teal, the only five star hotel boat in England, is purpose built, providing a boutique hotel experience cruising Yorkshire’s waterways. Complete with ensuite facilities and flushing toilets, there’s no need to compromise aboard this boat.

Shire Cruisers, Sowerby Bridge: Discover a different Yorkshire – afloat! Cruise the canals and rivers on your own well-appointed narrow boat.  Shire Cruisers give friendly, helpful, individual service, with exceptionally thorough training, so you can relax and enjoy your holiday. Their boats are all Quality Assured to make sure they are as good as you expect. Whether you have three days or three weeks, they’ll give you an amazing break.

Blue Otter Boats have a newly built boat on the Skipton canal  to hire for short breaks of three or four nights, as well as canal routes requiring anywhere from one to four weeks. If you have been canal boating before and want a stylish narrowboat design, if you are thinking of getting your own boat, or if you used to have a boat and still want to cruise for a week or more, Blue Otter Boats offer all the comforts of home. 

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