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United Kingdom Tourist Guide

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has a huge network of canals - a legacy of Victorian times when barges were the main mode of transportation for freight before the railroad came into being. Investment by British Waterways in recent years has reinvigorated the canal network for recreational use and canal barges have been given a new lease of life as live-aboard houseboats. A vacation afloat is a relaxing and eco-friendly way of exploring the countryside of Great Britain and visiting some important towns and cities. In most cases canal cruising is by self-catering, self-drive narrow boats and the basic skills of canal navigation are easily acquired.

The Grand Union Canal is the trunk route of England's canal system starting from Little Venice near Paddington in central London and cutting through the rural landscape of Northamptonshire and Warwickshire - Shakespeare's County - to Birmingham.  London's great river, the Thames, is navigable for 135 miles from Cricklade in the Cotswolds to London. The Norfolk Broads is a network of canals and rivers through some of the most scenic areas of eastern England including the coastal towns of Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.

In Scotland, the Caledonian Canal is one of the great waterways of the world, running through the Great Glen between Fort William and Inverness - including the famous Loch Ness. The Forth and Clyde Canal was restored and reopened triumphantly in 2001 and links Glasgow and Grangemouth across the Scottish Lowlands. There are also opportunities to explore the islands of the Hebrides and Orkney and Shetland by ship.

In Wales, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular waterways in Britain and is a triumph of 19th Century engineering with two magnificent viaducts along its course through scenic countryside. Some of the most scenic parts of Northern Ireland can be explored by boat along the Lough Erne waterway that passes through Enniskillen and the rural countryside of County Fermanagh. Boat charter with a qualified skipper is available for exploring Belfast Lough, Strangford and Carlingford and Lough Foyle.

A particular curiosity for boating aficionados is the Anderton Boat Lift near Northwich in Cheshire - an iron structure built in 1875 that transports barges between the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal - a height difference of about 60 feet.

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