Today I want to venture into the world of magazines and more specifically those that are on the subject of canal and narrowboats. Actually, most popular magazines do seem to mainly focus on the narrowboat side of the canal boat world. Apart from the odd article here or there talking about those ‘plastic fantastic’ ‘yoghurt pots’ (GRP cruisers). Either they aren’t popular enough to warrant much magazine space or the editors of these magazines hate them 🙂
To be honest, there aren’t that many canal and narrowboat magazines, so it is pretty easy to try them out for yourself and see which you like the best. You can either go down to your local WHSmith’s or I like to use an app such as Readly to give me full access to all of these magazines for one monthly fee. Of course, I will be giving my opinions on these magazines in this article but I always recommend you try out and form your own opinions 🙂 Our tastes may be different, after all!
My Favourite Canal & Narrowboat Magazines
Waterways World Magazine
Waterways World like to keep telling people that they are the UK’s best-selling canal and river magazine and that they have been going since 1972! So this magazine is older than me, but do they still hold value as a source of information on the narrowboat and canal boat front?
They have definitely honed their craft over the years (no pun intended), as they have some really well-written sections in their magazine. The route guides are clear and cover a lot of key information on a route. This is followed up with some more ambling articles talking about ‘exploring’ different waterways and giving more of a travel log rather than just factual information. Whichever style you like, you will find plenty of information on offer here. The only problem here is that because they have been going since 1972, they have to repeat these route guides over time and they don’t really change much. So if you have been subscribed for a long time, this may be something to consider.
As stated above, these magazines don’t seem to give much value to GRP cruisers. Waterways World had this pretty good buyer’s guide to GRP cruisers back in February 2019, but if your only interest is GRP cruisers, you probably won’t find enough value to stay subscribed.
One of the things I like about Waterways World is the fact that they do have a lot of great articles that talk about specific people and their narrowboat life. This gives you a real insight into people’s joys and struggles when cruising the cut. I personally love reading these stories and Waterways world seems to do this content well.
The other two things that I like about this magazine are the expert advice section and the history based articles. The expert advice is always interesting to read and has helped me solve a problem or two in my time. They truly use experts to answer the questions in this section, and it is great to get an insight into their expertise. A lot of narrowboaters like to remember the past and some of the history based articles are excellent in Waterways World. For example, the latest issue at the time of writing had an excellent piece on a Victorian serial killer, Amelia Dyer.
The problems I have with Waterways World are pretty much the same problems I have for all the main canal boat magazines. Yes, they have some pretty nice in-depth reviews of narrowboats and canal boats, but they seem to think we all have a budget of £70k plus for these boats. It is rare that they have reviews of cheaper boats or in-depth reviews of second hand boats. Yes, they have buying guides from time to time that talk about how to find a good used boat, but I would like to see more information aimed at people with smaller budgets. There are a lot of people buying boats for under £40k but these magazines seem to almost ignore this massive group of people, in my opinion!
Canal Boat Magazine
Canal Boat Magazine can’t say they are the best-selling canal boat magazine, but they simply tell us they are the ‘best’ inland waterways magazine. Is this true? Let’s take a look!
For me personally, this magazine is very close to Waterways World mentioned above. These are the two big players in the canal boat magazine world and they pretty much trade blow for blows when it comes to content. Yes, they both have excellent detailed reviews, a good amount of news and a little history and canal life thrown in for good measure.
Canal Boat Magazine just does a couple of things slightly better in my opinion, that means I often pick this up first when both magazines are available to me. Firstly, I just find that Canal Boat Magazine has a better and more modern design and is therefore slightly easier on the eyes when reading it. This is very important for me when it comes to magazines.
You know how I talked about Waterways World not doing much for the lower budget canal boater, well Canal Boat Magazine is able to do some things slightly better in this regard. They usually have more information about DIY projects, for starters. In the latest issue at the time of writing, they had a piece on ‘doing up’ a narrowboat bathroom DIY style 🙂
They also have a small section each month on used boats where they go over a couple and give their advice. I really like this, but think the section should be bigger than a single page. They also don’t just do new boat reviews, they also do refit reviews where people have paid to have their old narrowboat refitted. This gives a bit more read time for someone not on a massive narrowboat budget!
Canal Boat magazine also has a section I like called ‘Galley Grub’ which comes up with some useful recipes you could cook on your boat. Coupled with this, they often have a small section all on rooftop gardening. This is the type of content I don’t often see from Waterways World and is an example of why I prefer it more often than not. Although, don’t get me wrong, both magazines are good.
It’s funny really, because Waterways World is often around 105 pages with Canal Boat Magazine often being around 90-100 pages, but I never feel that the latter has less information and I usually find myself reading it for longer!
Any Other Canal Boat Magazines to Note?
Although the main race here is a two horse race as described above, there are a couple of other notable mentions.
This is a seasonal magazine that has a Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter edition each year. It focuses on the history of the UK canal network (of which there is a lot). So if you are a history buff or simply love hearing about the ‘olden days’ on the canals, this could be a good choice for you. This magazine is made by the same people that make Waterways World, so like that magazine the page design is not the best, but it does have a lot of historical information and rare black and white pictures packed in.
More of a canal newspaper than a magazine, Towpath Talk is worth a mention. They have a lot of news on the happenings on and around the UK canals, and provide an interesting and informative read. The standout section for me is the Trader’s section, which has some good news and business listings relating to companies and services in our narrowboat community. To be fair, other than product and boat reviews, it has a lot of the other things the magazines have. Just printed on more delicate paper! And best of all, it is free or you can pay a nominal fee to get it delivered to your door.
What I Use To Read My Canal Magazines
I discovered the Readly App around a year or so ago and have been using it ever since. For a monthly fee, I get digital access to a massive library of magazines. It means I can read all of the magazines and newspapers above as well as many others that cover my other interests (yes I do have interests outside of narrowboats!!). They even have the daily newspapers from the UK (and other countries).
You can either read using a desktop or laptop computer from the Readly website or use their smartphone app to read on the go. I use the Android app on a daily basis and find it great. You can easily access your favourite content and even download them to view offline.
For me it’s a steal, as I have always been a big magazine reader. If you want to try it out for yourself, you can click HERE to get a month free trial.
AllDoCube iPlay 40
As I am reading all my newspapers and magazines digitally I need a good tablet to read them on. That way I can read them pretty much anywhere. As I am a bit of a geek I like to search out obscure tablet brands that can offer excellent specifications at a lower cost. I have had my AllDoCube iPlay 40 for around a month now and love it.
Put simply, it has excellent technical specifications married to a top-notch screen and a pretty stock version of Android (some cheap tablets come with a lot of bloatware apps) for a very good price! I also like the size of this tablet, big enough to read magazines with ease but not too big to make it hard to take on the go. The only downside of this tablet is that it can only play Netflix in standard definition due to software limitations. This doesn’t bother me as I use mine for mostly magazine reading and some light gaming, but you should be aware of this if you plan to watch a lot of Netflix on it.
Click the image below to view this over at Amazon for yourself.