Best books about canals

6th April 2022

Canal season is upon us and soon the waterways will be filled with narrowboats cruising up and down the UK. In the meantime, why not prepare for your next canal boat holiday? Now is the time to start reading up on the waterways. In this guide, we will be discussing both informational and non-fiction books about British canals. Who knows? You may even want to take one of these reads on your next canal trip!

Informational books on canals

Before your journey begins, you may want to read up on the canals you are exploring. Here are a few of the best canal guides we recommend:

Water Ways: A thousand miles along Britain’s canals – Jasper Winn

Author, Jasper Winn, spends a whole year exploring Britain’s canals via bike, foot, kayak and on narrowboats. On his expedition, he discovered a whole new world of wildlife corridors, underground adventures, boating communities as well as a plethora of heritage and history. This book sheds an entirely new light on canals in all lights, both past and present.

Water Gypsies: A History of Life on Britain's Rivers and Canals – Julian Dutton

This book uncovers the history of the people on the waterways – from fisherfolk to the bohemian houseboat lodgers of the 1950s. Dutton transports us back in time to the communities of this alternative lifestyle in Britain. Growing up on a canalboat himself, Dutton provides some interesting insight on canal boat life.

Learn more about the history of canal boats from our dedicated guide.

The Canals of Britain: The Comprehensive Guide – Stuart Fisher

This all-inclusive guide is essential to someone who wants to know anything and everything about canals. Fisher never misses a beat; this guide looks at every aspect of the canals from the picturesque countryside to the costal harbours. He details historic buildings, wild moorland, isolated cuts, and quiet waters. All this knowledge is paired with some excellent photographs so you can really see the beauty of the British canals come to life.

The Canal Builders: The Men Who Constructed Britain's Canals – Anthony Burton

This book is excellent for those who are interested in the formation of the British waterways - from the great engineers such as Thomas Telford and James Brindley, to the men who did the work and made industrial revolution possible, this book is all encompassing. Find out the history of the people behind the canals in this insightful book.

Fictional books about canals

Escape on your canal retreat with any of these fantastic novels, whether you love romance books or prefer a deep dark drama. Here are our recommendations:

The Canal Boat Cafe: A Perfect Feel-Good Romance – Cressida McLaughlin

This feel-good romance details the story of Summer Freeman and her life in the waterside village. Find out whether she will be able to save her canal boat café in this wonderful and warm novel bursting with characters.

Narrow Dog to Carcassonne – Terry Darlington

Follow the retired Terry and Monica Darlington in their journey to set sail on their canal narrowboat across the channel and down to the Mediterranean. On this journey, they meet plenty of colourful characters and journey through the France that ‘no one knows about’.

By the Grand Canal – William Riviere  

This historical drama details the life of diplomat who falls in love with a young grand canal girl – providing a gripping tale about war, death, betrayal, time and innocence. Will the characters overcome such a crisis?

Narrow Boat – L.T.C Rolt

Narrow Boat is one of the most well-known novels about canal life. This is thought to contribute to revival of English canals and leading to the creation of the Inland Waterways Association. This novel details a 400 mile journey describing the canal life in Britain in the early 20th century and the communities who lived on the canals during this time.

Here at ABC Boat Hire, we also sell canal books and informational guides - browse online today.

Looking to turn your canal fantasies into reality? Take a look at our routes today. We have something for everyone and with many towns, cities, and villages to explore. Contact our helpful team for more information.

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