If you’ve been browsing the internet reading about narrowboats you probably think you have a good idea of what a narrowboat hire holiday is like. It’s just slowly drifting through narrow canals and English countryside with occasional stops at country pubs right?
Or is it? I thought I’d feature one of our more unusual cruises which offers four things that you don’t normally see on the English canals!
The March to Cambridge holiday presents a seventeenth century sluice, the home of Oliver Cromwell, a thousand year old cathedral, and a world famous university city.
1) Denver Sluice
Denver sluice was first built in 1651 and has suffered many mishaps, collapses, closures and repairs since. It famously held back the sea from drowning most of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk; and Dorothy L. Sayers based some dramatic events around it in her renowned 1930s novel, The Nine Tailors.
The sluice plays a vital role in the drainage of the fens. It is here you would leave the Middle Level Navigations to cross the tidal river Great Ouse. Read more in our article: Our Top Safety Tips for the Salters and Denver Tidal Crossing.
2) Oliver Cromwell’s birthplace
As you travel up the Great Ouse, you’ll discover St Ives, famous in medieval times for its international fairs, and now famous as the birthplace of Oliver Cromwell. Today it is a quiet market town with a variety of restaurants of different cultural origins from Italian, Chinese, Indian and a Greek Taverna. The town also has a number of pubs, hotels, tea rooms and cafes where you can eat. Lovely little shops can be found in Tudor style buildings and alleyways.
There are moorings at St Ives Quay (with a water point) and The Waites. Moorings are also available for customers at The Dolphin Hotel. Carry on cruising to Ely to visit Oliver Cromwell’s house.
3) Ely Cathedral
The famous lantern tower of this cathedral can be seen for miles around, but Ely is also known for its antique centres, ancient narrow streets, timbered houses and medieval gateways. The waterfront is popular among walkers, cyclists and boaters. When you visit the cathedral you’ll see the delicate carved stonework of the Lady Chapel, and the Stained Glass Window Museum is a hidden treasure within the cathedral, with a display of over 100 original stained glass panels.
Cambridge is a beautiful city bustling with students and bicycles. The architecture of the ancient colleges is truly stunning, and if you want to enjoy an alternative kind of boating you must try punting. A good way to take in the city is an open top bus tour. Shopping offers an intriguing mix of craft workshops, antique centres, jewellers, art galleries and familiar high street stores.
If you’d like a canal holiday with a difference this journey offers a variety of “one off” experiences. Have a look at our full itinerary of cruises for more ideas on which places to visit.