A few weeks ago marked an important milestone in our London boating journey. After six months and nearly 30 miles, we turned around. Until that point, we had been tracking entirely eastward, from our original mooring in Iver—northwest of Heathrow Aiport—all the way to Victoria Park in East London. Now it’s time to reverse course; Viccy Park and the areas beyond (Mile End, the River Lea, etc.) are beautiful, but they are dodgier than most other parts of the canal system and there has been a particular problem with crime targeting boats recently. Plus, we have some serious travel coming up in April, May, and June, which would be an ideal time to do some of the bigger maintenance items at one of the marinas out west. While we’re sad to leave East London behind (for now), we are excited for the next few months!
Since we have started backtracking to the west, we’ll be mooring in most of the same places that we’ve already visited—at least those in central London. So, we think it’s a good time to do a recap of these places and share some of our highlights from each spot, organized with our favorites at the bottom.
- Haggerston. Being first on the list means Haggerston is our least favorite London mooring so far. That’s not to say it was bad, it just wasn’t as good as the rest. Being the furthest east that we spent a significant amount of time, the area wasn’t the greatest. There were a few shady incidents that took place while we were in the area; nothing bad, just not overly welcoming. The local amenities weren’t great either; it was a long trek to school, didn’t have a real grocery store nearby, and wasn’t close to any boater facility points. But there were some positives too; we met some nice people there and our mooring was close to the Columbia Road Flower Market, trendy Shoreditch, and Broadway Market. Overall rating: Meh.
- Northolt. Northolt is an outlier on this list for a few reasons. Mostly its location; as the crow flies, it is the furthest from central London. And similar to Haggerston, that meant the commute into school was long for Kiley. The grocery options were a little better than Haggerston, but not by much. There also wasn’t much to the area; it was mostly commercial properties which meant no local hotspots to check out, it was mostly just quiet. On the flip side, there was a lot of green space—three parks within a ten-minute walk. Our mooring was also located directly across the canal from a marina, which meant that we were a short walk for any questions, etc. that we had. This brought significant peace of mind, considering that it was our first stop after leaving the marina in Iver. Overall rating: Meh.
- Angel/Islington. How can you not love a mooring directly out the front door of a pub? Hell, they even let Kiley bring me a beer while working on our engine. It’s true, The Narrowboat Pub will always hold a special place in our hearts, but it’s just one of many reasons why we liked mooring in this area so much. We’ve always liked this neighborhood; for us, Islington has the perfect mix of local amenities and quiet neighborhood feel. Stretching between the Angel and Highbury & Islington tube stations, Upper Street has a huge selection of restaurants, grocery stores, shops, etc. Transportation into school is okay too; not great, but not the hike of the previous two spots on this list. The only real thing working against Angel/Islington as a mooring spot is its distance from facility points. Oh, that and it’s cursed. Specifically, the stretch of towpath directly outside The Narrowboat Pub. As much as we love that spot, something bad happens every time we visit, from Schaefer getting bit by another dog last summer to our numerous recent boat issues—it’s always something… Overall rating: Good.
- King’s Cross. Now we’re getting to the good part! Mooring in King’s Cross is great for several reasons. First and foremost: giant Waitrose. This one is a true American-style grocery store with almost anything you could need. Next is transportation; the King’s Cross St. Pancras tube station is a major hub and a straight shot into school (plus Schaefer loves to run through the station’s technicolor tunnel). Then there’s St. Pancras lock, a 5-10 minute walk from any of the area moorings, which has a boater facility point that is super convenient—it’s actually the one that we used all the way from Angel/Islington. Lastly, the security is great. The entire area is going through a revitalization and the development hires 24-hour security patrols. They don’t look after boats, but they definitely act as a deterrent and give us extra peace of mind. Heck, if you’re lucky enough to snag a mooring directly across from Granary Square, towpath access is even controlled by gates. The surrounding area is great too. With three major train stations—King’s Cross, St. Pancras International, and Euston—there are plenty of pubs and restaurants. The stations themselves are pretty cool as well; lots of shops and attractions (any Harry Potter fans?). The outdoor space is nice as well; not much green space, but they have fountains, outdoor restaurants, and pop-up markets. Overall rating: Great.
- Paddington. Similar to King’s Cross, the area around Paddington Basin is in the midst of redevelopment. The tall new buildings that surround the canal are quite the spectacle as you cruise around; you really feel like you’re in the city. The moorings themselves are clean and new—they even have private pontoon docks if you can get a spot. Also like King’s Cross, there is 24-hour security here too. The Little Venice facility point is right around the corner and there are several water points scattered around the immediate area. The food selection is decent; there’s a giant Waitrose closer to the Little Venice moorings, but it’s a bit of a walk. Otherwise, there are plenty of medium-sized groceries nearby, along with plenty of pubs—ones that are close to our friends! However, the best part about mooring in Paddington is the proximity to school; for class and events in the new building, it’s fastest just to walk. For anywhere else, Paddington station has an entrance right on the canal towpath for tube and over-ground rail services. For Schaefer, there’s decent outdoor space (again, similar to King’s Cross) and it’s close to Hyde Park and Regent’s Park. Overall rating: Excellent.
- Honorable Mentions. There are a few moorings that we’ve visited that didn’t make the official list for one reason or another. First is the marina in Iver; we didn’t include that because it’s so far out, it doesn’t really count as London. That being said, Iver is a “grass is always greener” type of place. When we were there, we loathed the long (and pricey) commute and wished we were closer to friends; however, now that we’ve been in the city for several months, we long for the quiet, clean, and green stretches of Iver. Second we have Yiewsley/West Drayton; we moored there for only one night en route from Iver to Northolt—not long enough the make the list. Overall, the area isn’t great; it’s got the biggest Tesco I’ve ever seen, but that’s about it. Next is Kensal Green, which is a long stretch of canal sandwiched between train tracks and a cemetery about two miles northwest of Little Venice. We planned to moor there for a full two weeks, but happened to get moving early on a very nice day, so only stayed for a few hours. I’m sure we’ll be back in the coming weeks. Lastly, we have Victoria Park. We would’ve liked to stay much longer than the single afternoon we did—the park is beautiful, there are pop-up markets, and complete boater facilities—but we were unfortunately in the area at the same time as a spat of crime targeting boats at the park, so we elected to turn back.
- Little Venice. Our favorite area to moor so far is Little Venice. If you’ve ever visited the area or talked to a cruiser in London, this will be wholly unsurprising. Everyone likes Little Venice. The beautiful tree-lined stretches of canal, the big triangular basin with an island reserved for birds, the beautiful Maida Vale surroundings, it’s all… just… yea. In addition, it ticks all the standard boater boxes: full facility point, close to public transportation, and within easy walking distance of solid grocery options, including a giant Waitrose. There’s also plenty of quaint pubs and cafes in the area to do some work or hang out. And, of course, it’s super close to school and friends—not as close as Paddington, but still walking distance (sometimes). Little Venice is where we first entertained the possibility of living on a boat in London while touring neighborhoods on our whirlwind 2016 visit, and it’s where we’ll try to be whenever we have out-of-town visitors (it has one of the few pre-bookable moorings in London—right on the basin). We can’t wait to get back there! Overall rating: Perfect.