I had a birthday recently and my wonderful husband took to on a two night trip to Abingdon in Oxfordshire. We had two night on a narrowboat in the marina. We had been thinking about maybe living on a boat one day in the future. Neither of us had been on a narrowboat before so it was an adventure for the both of us. Our days consisted of walking along the Thames and exploring the lovely town and the evenings were for experiencing a narrowboat and seeing if it might be something we could do long term.
As we arrived early and couldn’t check in we found somewhere to park and set out for lunch and our first walk. It was a very warm day and we really had no plan or any idea what Abingdon had for us. Our first stop was lunch at the Palo Lounge (think that was the name) just next to the market square. They had a whole vegan menu which made it easy to find options to try. I had tapas which were meh to be honest. The potato braves were just dry baked potato drizzled with a garlic sauce and with a side of tomato sauce (not ketchup…not that much flavour). The vegan taco was nice though and my sweet potato chips were spot on. Alan had a burger and was perfectly happy with it. I think that was. Beyond burger which I had tried and disliked before but this time found it acceptable. I guess tastes change.
After lunch we went on a walk across the bridge and down along the Thames on our right. We walked down a good ways watching the boats and the people. Chatting away about everything and nothing. We came across another bridge and a gate and went through. By this time it was starting to get a bit closer to check in time and we were thirsty so we turned back and visited the Nag’s Head for a drink before going to check in to the boat. The Nag’s Head also had a few vegan options and I saved the menu to visit the next day.
That evening we went to the house of the boat owners and checked in. We had to walk through the garage to get to the private mooring at the bottom of their garden. The first thing I noticed n the boat other than how awkward it was to get through the narrow doors was how VERY warm it was in the boat. Not a surprise at all since it is a narrow tube of metal sitting out in the hot sun but still so very apparent.
Though the living space is narrow it is not claustrophobic at all. I had feared I might feel that way in person. The living/ dining area was perfect sufficient for two people to be comfortable. The angle of the tv to the sofa was not great but I suspect we could work that problem out if we had our own. The kitchen area was very good. More space then I have had in many UK houses over the years. Weird needing to turn on a water pump and hot water before doing dishes but not truly inconvenient either. Alan didnt realise there was separate filtered water to drink until after having some from the tap but all was ok.
After that we had the bedroom area. The wardrobe and drawer space was perfect. I saw no shortage for clothing space. The bed was a 4 ft bed. That is smaller than a double but wider than a twin. It is a perfect size bed for ONE person. We struggled here. I know many people do extensions to make it a 5 ft bed or whatever but this boat did not have this. This was by far the biggest problem for me. I was crammed up against a wall and ended up with a terrible crick in my neck that left me headachey for several days. A wider bed would have to be an unshakeable requirement for a boat to be an option. I can not give in on that. I would also like the bed to be facing the opposite way or span the width of the back of the boat as I really don’t like crawling over Alan to go to the toilet.
That brings me to the bathroom in the boat. The shower was not big and the pressure was mild but it washed my hair well so I give it the thumbs up. The vanity sink unit was fine. Seeing s a vanity unit in the bathroom is unusual in UK homes I find it funny that they seem to be normal in boats. The toilet was a chemical portapotty. That would not be my first choice but it probably was a good starter toilet for us. I didn’t like having to open the hole in it nor convince the contents down when they were unwilling but I lived through it and can talk about it so not too traumatised.
This boat was quite long so there was a back cabin as well with a single bed/ seating area which would make a nice home office. Yes, we really talked about how we would use the space and what we would need in the space. The reality is that we have another 20+ years of Alan needing to either go into an office daily or work from home. That would mean a full time mooring or a home office. A home office would pretty much mean a 70 ft boat if we want dining space and a good size kitchen (I need the kitchen).
On the second day we lallygagged in the morning just having our breakfast and reading a bit. I had no mobile signal being in a metal tube and my phone / iPad refused to connect to the wifi coming from the house. Luckily there was reading material on board. We then went into town and visited the museum at market square. The museum has artefacts from pre-history to the 20th century. Sadly, they walked us from the modern to the ancient in a thirty minute slot which meant by the time we got to the more ancients times of interest to me we were starting to feel a hurry and I couldn’t focus on what I was seeing. Maybe one day when all is less crazy I can try again.
After the museum was lunch. I had intended to have lunch at the Nag’s Head but Alan wanted the King’s Head and something behind the museum. In the end we went with Alan’s choice. I wanted a burger but all they had was a veggie patty. The were out of plant cheeze so not only none on my burger but that nixed the nachos as well. We had the vegan scampi (just severely oily batter) for our starter. I had the veggie burger and Alan had the Viish and chips. That was “fish” made out of banana flowers and battered. Also very oily but it did at least have something inside the batter that time. one thing w learned is that we are so unused to greasy food that a one off here and there is much less enjoyable. There were no vegan dessert option. Overall the lunch was disappointing but at least the music playing was good.
We then headed out to walk down through the gardens and toward the next lock. We didnt get past the gardens though as there was construction happening that detoured things. We explored the gardens a bit and then decided to walk to Tesco on the opposite end of town (outside town really) to get food for dinner to see about cooking on a boat. We found a nice little path allow Ock Valley Park. I am writing this more than a week after so my memory isn’t great but I think that was the name. Crossed one main road and then was into another park and again walking along another wild area until we popped out by the Tesco.
For our walk back to the boat we had our vegan magnums (ice creams) and headed back mostly through estates. We had our dinner of Plant Chef hunter’s seitan and sweet potato wedges in our bag and headed back. I the end we walked about 6 miles or so that day. It is a nice town to walk around though so overall the walking was good.
Since the cooking was just the heating of two foil packs and it was my birthday, Alan did the cooking after we together worked out the lighting of the over. Please note that I have always had electric overs since we were married and when I did cook with a gas oven as a teen it was in the US and there was a pilot light that did things for me. We got it lit. Figured out the gas mark situation and how long we guessed for each since the packs were for different gas marks. I have never cooked with gas marks before and can not explain that at all. Alan was in charge of getting it in and out (I was only a couple feet away). The food was nice and we settled in for a couple of movies and a quiet night.
The last night went the same as the first with the narrow bed. That narrowed is a deal breaker for me. The lack of signal was annoying but I know from various YouTubers that this can be overcome enough that some can even stream movies so not a big worry. The toilet was a learning experience but as a person not freaked out by an outhouse the potty was not an issue. The shower I was pleasantly surprised by and happy. So my verdict is that a narrowboat is a viable option with certain modifications on the bed and proper internet. I had no issue with the boat movement this time or previously on moving boats so not worried about that.
My birthday went well enough. Our trip was enjoyable. I learned a bit more about a town and narrowboats and had a couple really nice walks. Productive. I hope you have enjoyed the pictures and consider visiting Abingdon yourself either on a narrowboat or in more typical accommodation. That said, I really enjoyed the boat and the owners were wonderful people and perfect Airbnb hosts so do consider them for your nice break.