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AHOY THERE! Best boats to hire

With pretty much all restrictions now lifted (can I get an AMEN!) we’re dying to make the most of this summer. Swap a boring, long road trip for a cool boat trip instead.

You can’t beat a canal boat for total freedom; gently cruising along a canal smoothly navigating the water, relaxing amongst the greenery, wind in your hair – okay well perhaps that’s a little ambitious as the speed limit is only 4mph but you catch my drift. 

Once a holiday choice for your grandparents and retirees, hiring a boat has quickly become the thing to do. It happened with camping and caravanning and now it’s time for canal boats too. Here’s our guide to the best boats to hire to enjoy our hood from a totally new perspective. Just try not to fall in!

Boutique Narrow Boats, Market Harborough

Enjoy the peaceful and picturesque countryside canal routes in a brand-new and seriously stylish boutique electric day boat. All of the boats here are modern with boutique twists (the clue’s in the company’s name), but the new Water Vole (pic above) seats up to six people and runs entirely on electricity (a big high five for the eco creds). The boat charges overnight at the hire base so not only is it better for the environment, there’s no smelly fumes or noisy diesel engines to contend with. Bliss! And she’s not bad to look at either; transformed with Farrow and Ball paint, inside there’s superb decor details including antique dining chairs, vinyl parquet floor plus a luxury little kitchenette. If you really want to push the boat out (sorry, I couldn’t resist) hire a luxury self-cruise canal boat – think magnificent beds and rainfall showers – for a short mini break or special occasion.

Sileby Mill Boatyard , Loughborough

The names Rumble, Fumble and Jumble may not instil the most confidence, but trust us, you’ll be safe on these decks. The family-run business has been going for almost 40 years now, so they definitely know a thing or two about boating. Hire one of their narrowboats and explore the River Soar as it winds through rural scenery, quiet river meadows and pretty villages including Birstall, Barrow and Mountsorrel and stop off for a riverside pub lunch at The Waterside Inn or use the kitchen facilities on board to cook up a feast for you and your crew. If you prefer, you can hire a fully qualified skipper to do the hard work while you and your crew relax on a deck chair, sipping a G&T, offering a friendly nod to other passing boats and watching the world drift by.

Ashby Boats, Stoke Golding

For first time boaters wanting a gentle jaunt down the river, head to the lock free Ashby Canal and hire either Badger or Mole for the day (for short breaks you can choose from five other boats). Each boat comes with a kitchen fully equipped with cooking appliances as well as cutlery and crockery for up to 12 people. Even though you don’t need any experience, novice boaters can get some tuition and tips before taking the plunge! The canal passes through rural landscapes and runs mainly through a designated conservation area so there’s plenty of flora and fauna to admire while you slowly chug along.  

FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT…

Rutland Water Cruises

Pic Credit: Rutland Water Cruises

Swap the busy roads for a slow, meandering journey around one of Europe’s largest artificial lakes. If you prefer to just admire the scenery, then hop on board the Rutland Belle. Owned by Rutland Water Cruises, the family-run business operates boat trips around the lake from April – Oct each year. The boat plies from Whitwell on the North Shore and calls in at Normanton on the South Shore. Don’t leave without taking a pic of the iconic Normanton Church (pic above) that appears to drift in the middle of the lake. If this doesn’t float your boat (gedd it!) try their gin cruise or the popular cheese and wine cruise. The boat is also available to hire for private cruises, parties and celebrations until sunset. Sounds like the ultimate way to celebrate the end of lockdown. Who’s in? 

Barrow Boats, Barrow Upon Soar

Who doesn’t love a pedalo? Almost toy-like, these pedal-operated pleasure boats are fun for the entire family. Hire a family one from these guys and you can enjoy a jolly jaunt down the River Soar exploring and enjoying the beautiful scenery along the way. Not convinced? They’ve got traditional rowing boats, kayaks, canadian canoes, hydrobikes, water trikes but our favourite has to be their brand-new car-shaped pedal boats (£30 an hour). How fun do they look? No need to book, just turn up after 10am.

(Main featured image from Boutique Narrowboats)

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