18th Century England; Travel Via Canal Boat Vs Coach: Which Was Faster?

I recall reading one of the “Horatio Hornblower” novels, where Hornblower travels across England (London-Bristol) via canal boat. England did have an extensive canal network at the time, and along with cargo, paying passengers were carried.
My question, if you undertook a long journey, wold canal boats be cheaper and faster than horse-drawn coaches? I assume canal boats would be more comforatble as well-did any serve meals?

I don’t know for sure but in general water travel is faster than horse travel. Even prior to the industrial revolution and dramatic advances in watercraft moving over the water has always been faster than covering an equivalent distance over land through animal power (human or draft animal / mounted animal.)

In the Netherlands, a series of canals with rapid boat service was actually one of the first transit systems that moved so fast it required clocks and regular schedule keeping. Coaches and other forms of transportation prior to that were so slow and irregular that no real scheduling system was kept or needed.

There was an old TV show that showed the practice of going through tunnels with English canal boats. The tow rope that a horse was pulling the boat with would be thrown off just before the tunnel, and the passenger would lay on their side and propel the boat through by walking their feet along the sides of the tunnel. That type of very small boat could get you to a lot of places quickly, but probably didn’t offer luxury service.

The liner type of mail coaches would be much faster, they ran regular routes right into the age of railways, but for the most part, once a railway was in direct competitions it was the end.

You could get from Edinburgh in around 3 days - whereas there was never been a direct internal water route for the same journey, although it was possible to go by sea.

Coaches could only carry five or six passengers, and a small amount of cargo, usually restricted to personal belongings and mail.

Canals were always intended for the movement of bulk cargo, and except in a very few instances there were no canal passenger routes, although there were a few river passenger routes, and of course boats were often used as ferries, but that’s hardly the same thing.Canals were used extensively for bulk material movement right through to the 1950’s, and it was the roads that finally killed them off as an industrial activity, not the railways.

Traditionally English canal boats were dragged along by horses walking along the side of the canal, on the tow-path. So definitely much slower than a horse-drawn carriage, being much larger and moved by, normally one horses bred for strength not several bred for speed.