Our Week Living On A Narrowboat

Last month, my husband, David, his dad Alan, and myself went on our very own narrowboat adventure. I should first point out that this was my first time on a narrowboat, and doing all the things that being on a narrowboat entails! But, as you can also imagine, I was very excited. David and Alan are already narrowboat experts, having spent a lot of time when David was younger on the water. Alan is also a volunteer lock keeper for the Canal & River Trust. So I knew I would be in very good hands for being shown how to go along whilst travelling and being on a narrowboat.  

So I thought I would share a little of our adventure and what our week looked like. It was honestly amazing, and we had the most fantastic time. I really can’t wait to be back on a narrowboat again. 

Day 1

We made our way to Gayton Marina, in Northamptonshire to collect our narrowboat that we hired for a week; an ABC Boats narrowboat. We actually explored Gayton Marina a while back on a day out, to have a look around and to explore the area more. When we got to the marina to collect our boat, we were very kindly shown where everything on our boat was, along with all the mechanical and electrical parts and all the bits in between, which was definitely very helpful. If you’re looking at hiring a boat, I highly recommend checking out ABC Boats. 

The narrowboat we hired was 58ft long, which is about the average size for a narrowboat. For us it was the perfect size, had everything we needed for our week aboard and more. We also had a little welcome back with a few basic items that came in handy. If you head on over to my TikTok page, you’ll find a couple of videos of me sharing what the inside of our boat looked like.

Afterwards we began our journey and made our way along the canal through Northamptonshire. This was also during a week where we had some very hot weather, and the boat was very warm as soon as we got on to it. You can imagine how lovely it was to sit at the front of the boat whilst travelling along. It was about 4pm when we left the marina, so we ended up cruising for about 1½ hours until we found a lovely spot near Bugbrooke to moor up for the rest of the day and night. David and I went for a walk along the towpath to explore, then when we came back we had pizza and garlic bread for tea, and sat in the bow of the boat to eat it, which was lovely and so beautiful. It was a very peaceful spot and we had a great view of the stars above.

Day 2

We woke up to another bright and sunny day, and again, it was very warm. Day 2 was another day of cruising towards our destination of Braunston. What a beautiful journey it was going along the water, meeting lots more narrowboats and just soaking it all in. We also spotted our first kingfisher of the week! As we travelled along, David and I sat at the front of the boat which I found to be very relaxing. Just before arriving at Weedon, we came across a water point, so we made a short stop and filled up the tank.

I think I discovered a new hobby on our holiday, looking out for all of the boat names that we passed! We decided that we would stop just after Weedon and hopefully find a cool shady place to moor the boat. Thankfully, we found just the right spot, and also had some company with some other boats moored nearby. We were actually quite close to the motorway, and the main train line to London on the other side of us, but it was a lovely spot and we didn’t get too much noise coming from either direction. I think we soon got used to it anyway!

David and I went for a walk along the towpath. We actually walked quite a long way and only met a few other people on the path. It was lovely exploring more of the towpath by foot. When we arrived back at our narrowboat, we had tea and sat outside in the bow of the boat until dark. It was lovely looking at the stars and watching the bats fly around us. 

Day 3 

After a refreshing and invigorating shower, we had breakfast and were ready to start the day! As we travelled towards Whilton, we started to get a lot closer to the motorway and train line either side. The view was spectacular though. This was also our first day of doing locks, and my first time altogether! David helped me and showed me what to do, and along with some help from other people, I soon got the hang of how to do them, and I actually really enjoyed it. It was definitely a new experience and I used strength and muscles that I never knew I had! We also had some help from a lovely Canal & River Trust worker. 

After seven locks, we stopped at Buckby for some lunch and eventually made our way through Braunston tunnel, which is quite long. I think it took us about 20 minutes to get through. I did venture out to the bow of the boat to experience my first time fully through this tunnel! A tip to remember, you may get a little wet from the drips!

After six more locks, we arrived in Braunston and found a space to moor up. We had a walk to the shop along the towpath to get some bread and milk. After a day of doing the locks, we decided to have a rest in the evening and skipped our evening walk. I went and took my Fitbit off during the day, so I’m not too sure how many steps we ended up doing, but I’m sure it was a lot! We spent the evening having our tea and relaxing, and had lots of company from the ducks and swans! We also had a boat light up the canal as it made its way through at about 10:15pm.

Day 4 

On the fourth day we decided that we would have a more restful day before making our way back again, through the tunnel and 13 locks. David did eggs, bacon and toast for breakfast which was a lovely start to the morning. As Brauston is quite busy, with lots of narrowboats moored and boats passing through, we were never short of company. We did however decide to go a little further up to find a water point, fill up and then moor the boat so we were facing the right way ready for our journey back. 

We moored up quite close to the marina, and also to the pub which we had booked into for tea in the evening. After lunch we made our way along the towpath to the shop to get some souvenirs. It also appeared that there were many boats queuing to use the locks (21 boats we later found out, all due to a leaking lock – they had to wait until it had been fixed), so as it happened, it was probably a good job that we did decide not to travel back that day. David and I also had a walk into the village to have a look round, pop to the shop and the butchers, and had a look inside the local church.

In the evening, we made our way up to the Boathouse Pub where we had a delicious meal. I decided to go for the bacon and cheese grilled chicken breast burger which was so good: highly recommended! As it was raining, when we got back to the boat, we decided to have a cosy rest of our evening and David showed me how to play some card games. In our welcome pack we were kindly given some playing cards. This resulted in many laughs and a good end to our night!

Day 5 

Day five, and we were up early and ready to start our journey back through the locks at Braunston and at Buckby. As the locks are all close together, it’s a journey that can be done all in one go. It wasn’t very busy so it didn’t really take us too long to get through all the locks. It also gave me some more experience and another good workout! We ended up going through some of the locks on our own (they were all double locks) as there wasn’t anyone in front or behind us. Some of them we managed to share with other boats. On our last lock, I popped to the shop to get us all a well-earned ice cream! Thankfully I came out just in time and was able to hop back on the boat just as Alan was bringing it out of the lock.

We did stop to fill our tank up with water along the way through the locks and for some lunch. I also had a go at driving the narrowboat! I absolutely enjoyed it, and throughout our journey back to Gayton Marina, I actually ended up doing a few hours of driving, which was a wonderful experience and I loved it! 

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We decided to moor up where we had on Sunday evening. Apart from a couple of empty boats, it was just us, and then we had some company later on as another boat stopped to rest and moor up for the night. We still had some energy left to go for a walk. We ended up walking quite a bit further than we had planned and ended up in Weedon! So we went to the local Tesco to get a little bit of shopping. 

When we got back, we had some delicious stilton and steak pie and mash for tea. The pie we picked up from the butchers in the village of Braunston. 

Day 6 

David made us an egg and bacon sandwich for breakfast, which was delicious and got us ready for the day ahead. I did some more driving for about an hour and a half. We wanted to stop to fill the tank up with water, but it seemed that everyone had the same idea, so we carried on on our journey.

We made our way to Bugbrooke, where we moored on Saturday evening. A narrowboat that was moored up was just leaving, so we were able to moor up where they were and it was right opposite the pub where we were going to have tea that evening, which was very handy. We were also right next to the candy boat, so we got ourselves some fudge! David and I had a walk to the village to find the shop, which we ended up not being able to find. But we still had a lovely walk round and got to see more of the village.

In the evening we went over the bridge and to The Wharf where we had another delicious meal. They serve a very generous amounts of food on the plate! I went for the burger again with fries, coleslaw and we had some giant onion rings to share. The food was amazing. When we got back over the bridge, David and I went for a short walk up along the towpath. We went to the big bridge over the railway and climbed up the steps to do some trainspotting, only to then realise when we didn’t see any, that they were on strike! We then made our way back to the boat and settled down for the night.

Day 7 

This was our last full day on the narrowboat. We decided that we would travel the rest of the journey back to Gayton Marina, as we had to hand the boat back over at 9:30am the following morning. We thought it was best to get back there in good time to avoid rushing the next morning. I did some more driving and it was a lovely way to spend some of our last day travelling back. It was a beautiful journey back.

When we arrived at the Marina, the people who work there very kindly filled the tank up with water for us. We then went a little way up the Northampton Arm of the canal, turned round and then moored up on the opposite side of the marina along the towpath. David and I went for a long walk along the canal towards Northampton and past the flight of single locks (I think we walked all the way to lock 13!) It seems that this section is very rarely used, but it was a beautiful and peaceful walk, apart from the busy road above us when we got to a bridge. But we did discover some lovely paintings under the bridge. 

We then spent the evening soaking in the remainder of our holiday, and reflecting on an amazing week.

Day 8

We handed the boat back over in the morning. We were so sad to leave. There were a few tears that morning. We finished packing and gathered all of our stuff up, Alan brought the car over and lifted all our stuff up and out the hatch windows ready to put in the car. As we were already at the marina, we had a bit of extra time to enjoy the few hours left on the boat, along with plenty of time for photos and videos. 

As we made our way back in the car, we stopped at some motorway services, and it just felt so strange and we felt so out of place. After a week on a narrowboat in the countryside, cruising along on the water, beautiful views all around us, and a very friendly community, we were definitely craving more of the narrowboat life.

It really truly was a wonderful and amazing holiday, filled with new, special and happy memories, many firsts, and new experiences.

I really hope you’ve enjoyed this little snippet of our week of living on a narrowboat. If you have any questions or would like to know more about anything mentioned in this blog post, please feel free to get in touch.

Have you been on a narrowboat before? 

Click here to read all about what living on a narrowboat for a week has taught me.


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