Anglo Welsh’s Top 10 Canal Boat Holidays for 2018
1. Step back in time at the Black Country Museum. From our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s an eight-hour, three-lock journey to moorings outside the 26-acre open-air Black Country Living Museum, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2018. Here visitors can meet costumed characters explaining what it was like to live and work in one of the world’s most heavily industrialised landscapes, explore period shops and homes, have a drink in the ‘Bottle & Glass Inn’, test their times tables in a 1912 school lesson, sample the Museum’s famous traditionally cooked 1930’s-style fish and chips, take a ride on a vintage tram or bus or take a trip ‘into the thick’ to experience life in an 1850’s coal mine.
2. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Ellesmere. Just five minutes by boat from our canal boat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct carries canal boat holiday-makers 38 metres high in the air above the River Dee. The aqueduct’s cast iron trough is supported on vast iron arched ribs and 19 hollow pillars. As well as in being one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’, in 2009 it was granted World Heritage status, putting it on an equal footing with the Great Barrier Reef and Taj Mahal. On a short break from Trevor, boaters can cross the aqueduct and then continue east to explore the Mere at Ellesmere, formed by the remains of glaciers during the Ice Age, now full of wildlife to watch and walking trails to follow.
3. Cruise to the Cotswolds. From our Oxford base, it’s a tranquil nine-hour, seven-lock cruise west along the River Thames to the pretty market town of Lechlade on the edge of the Cotswolds, perfect for a midweek break. Along the way, boaters can enjoy views of mile upon mile of peaceful Oxfordshire countryside, passing through small villages and hamlets along the way, including Radcot with its Swan Hotel and Civil War Garrison Earthworks, and Kelmscott with its picturesque Plough Inn and beautiful Grade I listed riverside Kelmscott Manor, once the inspirational Cotswold retreat of William Morris.
4. See the spectacular flight of locks at Devizes. From our base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at in Bath, it’s a 10-hour, eight-lock cruise to Fox Hanger Wharf at the base of the mighty Caen Hill flight of 29 locks at Devizes. With 16 of the locks stacked in a row, the Caen Hill flight is an impressive sight and rightly considered to be one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. Once here, the historic market town of Devizes is a short walk away, with its Wadworth Brewery Visitor Centre and famous shire horses making daily deliveries, and a range of independent shops and restaurants, including the ‘Peppermill Restaurant’ and ‘Dolcipani Bakery’.
5. Travel round the Avon Ring. From our base at Wootton Wawen on the narrow Stratford Canal in Henley in Arden, on a 10-day or two-week break, narrowboat holiday-makers can tackle the epic Avon Ring, cruising for 58 hours and passing through 131 locks. From Wootton Wawen, boaters first head to Stratford upon Avon, a delightful six-hour, 17-lock cruise journey through the Warwickshire countryside, to connect to the River Avon. From here, the Ring follows the downstream course of the River Avon through Evesham and then Tewkesbury, where it joins the River Severn for 16 miles to Worcester. The route then travels up the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to its junction with the Stratford Canal at Kings Norton, with the mighty Tardebigge flight of 30 locks to negotiate along the way. Boaters then head south along the Stratford Canal back to return to Wootton Wawen, passing through the village of Lapworth and the edge of the Forest of Arden.
6. Get close to nature at Fradley. From our base at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, on a short break canal boat holiday, boaters can cruise along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Fradley Junction and back, a journey which takes six hours and passes through five locks. Picturesque Fradley offers visitors guided walks, a café and country pub, as well as the award-winning Fradley Pool Nature Reserve, which is home to an abundance of creatures and offers visitors a bird-hide and pond-dipping platforms. Along the way, boaters pass the Shugborough Estate with its stunning Georgian Mansion House and walled garden, the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wolseley Centre with 26 acres of beautiful grounds to explore, and Rugeley with its choice of pubs, including the canalside Mossley Tavern.
7. Find a ‘Window on the World’ at Ellesmere Port. From our base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury, the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port is a 21-mile, 16-lock cruise away, travelling through the rolling Cheshire landscape and the vibrant City of Chester along the way. The Museum’s historic boat collection, docks, warehouses, forge, stables and workers cottages, bring the past vividly to life with costumed characters and guided tours, and its new ‘Window on the World’ augmented reality exhibition lets visitors see and hear the real stories of what the port was like in its heyday.
8. Amble along the Ashby Canal. From our Stockton base on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel up the North Oxford Canal to the tranquil Ashby Canal, which meanders lock-free through quiet countryside. The journey there and back takes 44 hours and passes through 14 locks, so it’s perfect for a gentle week afloat. The Ashby Canal stretches 22 miles from Marston Junction on the Coventry Canal near Nuneaton to Snarestone. Along the way, the canal line touches the western edge of Bosworth Field, where Richard III lost his crown to Henry Tudor in 1485. The hawthorn bushes at Stoke Golding are said to be where Richard’s crown was discovered following the battle.
9. Visit the World Heritage village at Saltaire. From our base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, on a short break boaters can travel to Sir Titus Salt’s model town at Saltaire, a journey which takes seven hours and passes through 11 locks. Now a World Heritage Site, Sir Titus Salt built the textile Mill and entire village for his mill workers, with the new mill opening in 1853. Today, Salt’s Mill is home to examples of the work of Bradford born artist David Hockney, Victoria Hall hosts a range of special events and the Shipley Glen Cable Tramway takes visitors on a pleasant woodland ride up to Shipley Glen, a stunning local beauty spot.
10. Moor up on Bristol’s Floating Harbour for a culture fix. From our base at Monkton Combe on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Somerset, Bristol’s Floating Harbour is a 10-hour, 13-lock cruise away, passing through the gorgeous World Heritage City of Bath, along the way*. Once in Bristol, narrowboat holiday-makers can moor up and explore the Harbour’s many cutting-edge museums and art centres, including the Arnolfini centre for contemporary arts, which hosts an exciting programme of visual arts, performances, dance, film and music events, and the Watershed arts cinema and cultural centre. *route suggested for experienced narrowboaters