We take a look at how your group can enjoy a day out exploring England’s waterways and give you some of the best ideas out there. 

The UK boasts a network of over 2,000 miles of canals and rivers with rich history and plenty to offer for those eager to explore them. Whether it is admiring natural landscapes, visiting new places near the canals or museums, a boat trip down the UK’s waterways can satisfy even the most demanding sailors.

Exploring the Thames

With the river Thames being England’s longest river and second longest in the United Kingdom, groups wishing to organise a boat trip on its waters are spoiled for choice.

The Thames does not necessarily mean just London either, and boat trips operator French Brothers is just one example. The company has been popular with groups for years and provides a fleet of 17 boats, with capacities of up to 150 passengers that roam waters from Marlow to Hampton Court, calling in at towns such as Cookham, Maidenhead, Staines and Chertsey. Trips are usually between one-and-a-half and four hours, with cruisers having the opportunity to combine the river trip with other local attractions, such as Windsor Castle, Eton College or the River and Rowing Museum in Henley. A 10% discount is also available for groups, while combined tickets can be purchased for those wishing to visit Savill Garden, Bekonscot Model Village and Windsor and Eton Brewery during the trip.

Groups interested in visiting the ‘Big Smoke’ on a boat can do so while dining on the Thames. Restaurant cruising company Bateaux London, which began operating on the river in 1992, will deploy its two vessels, Harmony and Symphony, daily throughout the summertime from Embankment Pier and Victoria Embankment, London. The cruises allow groups to dine on freshly prepared food, while enjoying the views of some of the capital’s most iconic landmarks, such as Tower Bridge, the Palace of Westminster and St Paul’s Cathedral. Parties of 21 or more will also have the opportunity to enjoy reduced prices for lunch, afternoon tea, Sunday lunch and dinner cruises, while a dedicated reception area and the option to hire exclusive dining rooms at no extra cost is also available, subject to availability.

Looking north

The UK boasts an impressive network of rivers and canals, so group organisers can look beyond the capital for an enjoyable day out.

Booking a trip with Mersey Ferries will offer views of the UNESCO world heritage Liverpool waterfront, as well as the opportunity to travel on the Manchester Ship Canal, truly one of Britain’s greatest. Its River Cruise Explorer runs all year-round, allowing visitors to discover the musical and maritime history of Liverpool and the river Mersey, including the Three Graces, Albert Dock and the two cathedrals. Cruisers also have the opportunity to hop on and off the ferry to visit the U-Boat story at Woodside or Spaceport at Seacombe.

Staying in the north west, City Centre Cruises has a range of cruise attractions along Greater Manchester’s waterfront destination, The Quays, which is home to some of the UK’s most iconic attractions. Visitors can book a range of trips, including a Sunday Lunch Cruise, which they can combine with exploring the IWM North, part of Imperial War Museums, waterside venue The Lowry, or even discover Orsdall Hall, the Tudor manor house located ten minutes from Manchester city centre. Mersey Ferries also offers a six-hour Manchester Ship Canal Cruise, which allows passengers to travel 35 miles of the canal with commentary along the way.

Looking at North Yorkshire, Skipton-based Skipton Boat Trips provides a variety of choice, from one-hour cruises to three-hour lunches. The operator’s Cobbydale 56-seater wide beam canal boat welcomes group bookings and is used for one-hour cruises with commentary. In addition, the company’s flag ship wide beam boat, Dalesman, can seat up to 48 people, depending on food options, and is solely used for private charters, meaning travel organisers are guaranteed to reserve the boat just for their group. Dalesman can be hired from two hours up to a full day cruise.

But for those who might wish to experience something different, how about organising a visit to the Anderton Boat Lift, known as the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’? Built in 1875 to transport boats 50 feet from the Trent and Mersey Canal to the river Weaver, it is still in operation today and visitors can enjoy either an aerial boat trip or a river trip along the river Weaver to learn more about the history and wildlife of the area. Anderton Boat Lift offers reduced price tickets for parties of over 12 or more, free driver vouchers, tailor-made itineraries, as well as additional trip times to suit the tour, and discounts on catering.

Roaming the east coast

Looking at the east coast for fun days out and maritime activities, Topsail Charters has a fleet of three Victorian vessels built between 1895 and 1906 that roam the rivers of Essex and Suffolk. Converted to take up to 50 guests for a lunch or afternoon tea cruise, or even a day sail, the vessels offer large saloons with extra seating and a licensed bar selling locally produced beer and wine. Groups that choose a ‘Two Island’ sail will experience a boat trip that starts from Maldon’s waterfront, heads down past Northey Island, where there is a bird reserve owned by the National Trust, to the privately owned Osea Island before returning. For mid-week cruises and a minimum of 40 guests, Topsail Charters offers three package prices.

For nature lovers, Broads Tours, located in Wroxham, runs regular double decker boat trips, allowing visitors to view the Broads National Park, riverside gardens, including the former holiday home of 1930s star George Formby, wooded rivers and beautiful Broads. The operator offers an expert skipper that will teach visitors about the Broads environment, history and heritage- a place that is home to 25% of all Britain’s rarest wildlife. Broads Tours offers special group rates for coach parties and trips can be arranged for one-and-a-half or two hours.