What better way to explore London on a lazy Sunday than at the helm of a narrowboat, gliding through London’s richly historical waterways. No longer a pastime reserved solely for sock and sandal wearing septuagenarians, a sojourn on a narrow boat has risen hugely in popularity in recent years and life along the waterways of London is flourishing.
Built the early nineteenth century, the Regent’s Canal in London links the Paddington branch of the Grand Junction Canal with the River Thames at Limehouse, meandering through Little Venice and Camden on its route. Before being usurped by road and rail, the canals were the veins of the city, connecting the heart of the capital with the rest of the country. The sight of laden barges being pulled along by horses is a distant memory, now replaced with colourful boats seeking out a slower pace of life on the water, and a new, hip crowd crewing them. From bars to bookshops, boats come in all shapes and sizes, and what better way to explore than from the water.
The view from the “fore-end” of a narrowboat (or even the roof if you are careful of low bridges!) offers a unique perspective on the city. Starting in the wilds of suburbia, the landscape soon changes as the canal begins to wend its way through the urban sprawl. Part of the journey requires you to don the rose tinted spectacles in an attempt to see past the industrial estates on the edge of the city, but once you have made it to Little Venice you are richly rewarded with rows of brightly painted house boats and narrow boats flanking the canal, overlooked by the bars and cafes that line the bank.
The popularity of these watering holes means that the prime mooring spots are snapped up sharpish. Exploring a bit further reaps its rewards though as pubs like The Grand Union in Maida Vale allow you to moor up right outside and hop off the boat straight into the beer garden. With amazing soft shell crab baguettes, and a pretty extensive list of beers and ciders, this is the ideal way to rest your sea legs and watch the other boats float on by before carrying on your journey.
At a top speed of 6mph you won’t be going anywhere fast, but with so much to see, you won’t want to. For those more adventurous, steering 70 feet of boat through the narrow canals and bridges is a fun challenge, but if it’s the quiet life you are looking for, then just sit back, relax and enjoy the view.Google+