Anglo Welsh’s reservations manager Emma Lovell offers a guide to the best winter cruising destinations this Christmas.
This winter, we are offering winter cruising* from eight of our narrowboat hire bases, giving you the chance to spend Christmas or New Year on the canals.
The canals are quieter during the winter months and people tend to make shorter journeys. Winter canal boat hire is about enjoying being close to the water and visiting canalside pubs and attractions, rather than travelling lots of miles each day.
From a cosy narrowboat for two to a family canal boat for 12, all our boats have central heating, hot water, WiFi, TV and DVD players, so it’s always nice and warm on board. Some of our boats also come with multi-fuel stoves for some extra special winter warmth, and there’s plenty of storage room on board, so you can bring lots of warm and wet weather clothing.
Some routes will be affected at times by the Canal & River Trust’s annual winter maintenance work, but we can provide information on any planned route closures at the time of booking.
Here’s our guide to our Top 8 narrowboat holidays for Christmas 2021:
1. Float to through the Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon – from our narrowboat rental base on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen in Warwickshire, it’s a six-hour cruise to Stratford upon Avon. The journey takes you through the Warwickshire countryside, passing through 17 locks along the way. Once in Stratford, you can moor up in Bancroft Basin, just a short walk from this popular tourist town’s excellent choice of theatres, restaurants, markets and museums.
2. Experience Christmas in the World Heritage City of Bath – on a short break from our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Monkton Combe, you can reach moorings in Bath City Centre in around four cruising hours. The route takes you along a section of the Avon Valley and up the Bath flight of six locks. From moorings close to Pulteney Bridge, you can enjoy exploring this beautiful City, including the Roman Baths and medieval Bath Abbey.
3. Cruise through the Staffordshire countryside to Fradley – heading south from our base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal, you can reach Fradley Junction in around five hours. The journey passes through five locks and 12 peaceful miles of Staffordshire countryside, including the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Places to enjoy along the way include The Wolseley Centre run by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the Wolseley Arms pub and the village of Handsacre with its ‘The Old Peculiar’ pub. Once at Fradley, refreshments are available at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn, and there are walking trails at the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
4. Travel through the Shropshire Lake District to Ellesmere – from our base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around four hours to reach the historic town of Ellesmere. Along the way, the route passes Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park. Once at Ellesmere, there’s a choice of independent shops and restaurants, as well as formal gardens, woods and castle grounds to explore.
5. Navigate into the centre of Birmingham – from our base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes around five hours to boat into the heart of Birmingham. Boasting more canals than Venice and with preparations underway to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, it’s a great time to visit Britain’s vibrant second city. And there are no locks to pass through along the way, so this is also a good route for canal boat holiday beginners.
6. Visit the ancient city of Chester afloat – from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, it’s a seven-hour cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Chester. Once there, you can visit the City’s famous 700-year old two-tired shopping galleries – the Rows. And you can also take time to explore Chester’s Roman City Walls, Amphitheatre, riverside gardens and sparkling city centre Christmas lights.
7. Cruise to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen – from our base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes around two hours to cruise to Llangollen. There you can moor up in Llangollen Basin and enjoy visiting this beautiful town nestled in the Berwyn Mountains. Things to visit include the Llangollen Steam Railway, Plas Newydd house and gardens and the Horseshoe Falls. There’s a great choice of independent shops and places to eat, including the popular Corn Mill with stunning river and mountain views.
8. Enjoy Christmas in historic Bradford on Avon – on a short break from our narrow boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Sydney Wharf, you can cruise to the historic market town of Bradford on Avon. The journey takes around four hours and passes through just one lock. Bradford on Avon, situated on the southern edge of the Cotswolds, has beautiful limestone buildings echoing those of nearby Bath. It is packed with historic buildings, including the 14th century Tithe Barn and 15th century chapel of St Mary Tory, with amazing views across the town. There’s a great choice of independent shops and places to eat to choose from.
*NB Winter maintenance work can affect some routes at certain times. Customers are advised to check at the time of booking.
Britain’s peaceful 3,000 mile network of inland waterways provides the perfect staycation destination for 2022.
Emma Lovell, reservations manager for Anglo Welsh, says:
“Pottering slowly through the countryside at just four miles per hour, watching out for wildlife, is a great way to relax.
“Narrow boat holidays offer a self-contained floating holiday home experience, and the chance for hirers to navigate their very own adventure afloat. It’s free to moor up almost anywhere, so boaters can stop off at canalside pubs, villages and waterside destinations along the way.”
Here’s a guide to our Top 10 narrow boat holidays for 2022:
1. Cruise to the World Heritage Site at Saltaire – from our narrowboat holiday base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, you can reach Saltaire on a short break. The journey to Sir Titus Salt’s famous Victorian industrial model town takes seven hours and passing through 11 locks. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Salt built the textile Mill and entire village for his mill workers, all in a beautiful Italianate style. Places to visit at Saltaire include the magnificent Salt’s Mill, displaying many examples of the work of Bradford born artist David Hockney.
2. Complete the Four Counties Ring – on a week’s break from our canal boat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, you can access the fabulous Four Counties Ring. The journey takes you on a 58-hour waterway odyssey, passing through 96 locks. The four counties travelled through are Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire. Highlights include: the 2670-metre long Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal and views of the rolling Cheshire Plains on the Shropshire Union Canal.
3. Step back in time at the Black Country Museum – on a short break from our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal you can reach the Black Country Museum. It’s an eight-hour, three-lock journey to moorings outside the 26-acre open-air site. Here you can meet costumed characters explaining what it was like to live and work in one of the world’s most heavily industrialised landscapes. There are period shops and homes to explore, the ‘Bottle & Glass Inn’, a 1912 school lesson and traditionally cooked 1930’s-style fish and chips. There are also vintage tram and bus rides and the chance to take a trip ‘into the thick’ to experience life in an 1850’s coal mine.
4. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from our boat yard on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, you’ll soon encounter the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. One of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’, this incredible structure transports canal boats 38 metres high across the Dee Valley. On a short break from Trevor, you can travel cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Chirk Aqueduct, and on to Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. The journey to Ellesmere and back takes around 14 hours, passing through two locks each way.
5. Take a Thames cruise to Henley – on a week’s break from our canal boat hire base close to Oxford, you can enjoy a Thames boating holiday to the historic town of Henley and back. The journey to Henley passes through 19 locks and takes around 16 cruising hours. Places to stop off at along the way include: the City of Oxford, packed with architectural treasures, including the magnificent Bodleian Library. You can also visit Abingdon with its popular riverside pub, the Nag’s Head. And Wallingford with its Castle Gardens dating back to Saxon times, and Agatha Christie Trail. Henley is home to the River & Rowing Museum and a choice of riverside pubs.
6. Navigate to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen – on a week’s break from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, you can cruise through the Shropshire Lake District and the Welsh mountains to Llangollen and back. The journey to Llangollen takes around 12 hours and passes through just two locks. It includes an 11-mile section of the Llangollen Canal, running from Gledrid Bridge to the Horseshoe Falls in Llangollen. Here stand the incredible Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts and the section was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2009. Once in Llangollen, you can moor up to enjoy exploring this beautiful Eisteddfod town, nestled in the Berwyn Mountains.
7. Float through the Avon Valley and up the Caen Hill Flight – from our base at Monkton Combe on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Bath, it takes around 19 hours to reach Pewsey Wharf. The route, which is perfect for a week away, takes you through 37 locks each way, including the 29 locks of the Caen Hill Flight at Devizes. This journey also takes you across two dramatic Bath stone aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff. And through the historic market town of Bradford on Avon and the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the West Berkshire Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
8. Travel through the Warwickshire countryside to Fenny Compton – on a short break from our base at Stockton, boaters can cruise through the countryside to the pretty canalside village of Fenny Compton. The journey begins on the Grand Union Canal, soon transferring onto the Oxford Canal at Napton-on-the-Hill. Here, there’s a good choice of pubs, including the Kings Head and Napton Village Stores selling produce from the nearby buffalo farm, including Buffalo burgers, sausages, meatballs, steaks and ice cream. From there, the route winds gently on through the countryside, with a series of locks to negotiate along the way. The journey to Fenny Compton and back takes around 20 hours, passing through 24 locks (12 each way).
9. Cruise into the Peak District – on a week’s break from our base at Great Haywood near Stafford, you can travel into the Peak District. It takes around 20 hours to reach Froghall Basin, passing through 35 locks. The route takes you along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Stoke on Trent, where it transfers onto the Caldon Canal. Beautiful stretches of unspoilt countryside soon open up as you chug gently out of Stoke, with moorlands, woodlands and an abundance of wildlife to enjoy.
10. Navigate the Avon Ring – on a two-week break from our base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, you can navigate the Avon Ring. This epic journey covers 108 miles and passes through 130 locks. You will navigate sections of the River Avon, River Severn, Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal and the Stratford Canal. Highlights along the way include: Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare; Tewkesbury and its 12th-century abbey; and the 30 locks at Tardebigge.
As part of our 55 year anniversary celebrations, we’ve been speaking to long term narrowboat holiday-maker Howard Fisher.
How many canal boat holidays have you been on?
At least one almost every year since 1971, including around 15 with Anglo Welsh.
Where did you go on your first narrowboat holiday?
My first inland waterways holiday was in 1971 with three school friends. We hired a small river cruiser from Barbridge, and we travelled to Llangollen and back. We quickly realised a narrowboat would be a much better way of travelling the canals. So, in March 1973 we hired a 56ft narrowboat ‘Stirling’ from Anglo Welsh’s Great Haywood base. That time I was with seven friends and we travelled anti-clockwise round the Four Counties Ring.
What do you like most about narrowboat holidays?
It’s a great way to see the bits of towns and cities that you’d otherwise miss. I much prefer the urban stretches to countryside – though on a fine evening, a quiet and secluded country mooring is hard to beat. I also find the structures you encounter fascinating, and marvel at the ingenuity of the original builders. In 2004 we travelled through the incredible 5km long Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, which takes you deep beneath the Pennines.
What was your most memorable journey?
Back in the summer of 1975, when I was involved with the canal club at university, we hired two 50ft eight berth boats from Middlewich. The crew changed each week, with a core of us staying all three weeks. We travelled a large circle, including the tidal section of the River Trent, then right across the North Eastern canals to Leeds. Then we went along the Leeds & Liverpool and Bridgewater Canal to Anderton. We went down the Anderton Lift (where the lift operator was surprised we only wanted single tickets), along the River Weaver and out onto the Manchester Ship Canal to Ellesmere Port. Then back to Middlewich via Chester.
That trip took a fair bit of organising. For example, we had to arrange for a British Waterways crew to rendezvous with us to reconstruct the lock gear at Ellesmere Port, as it was semi-derelict back then. Also, things didn’t go according to plan when we misunderstood the lock keeper’s instructions regarding the channel out to the deeper water of the Manchester Ship Canal. On exiting the lock in the wake of a passing ship, we managed to get marooned on a mud bank. A tug had to pull us off.
The trip up the Trent required a ludicrously early start, motoring solidly for eight hours to get to Keadby at the right point of the tide. One of the boat’s engines overheated, and we spent some time travelling tied together with just a single engine.
What was your favourite narrowboat holiday?
In 1978 we completed the London Ring, cruising through central London on the Regent’s Canal, going around the East End canals, and returning along the tidal Thames. They didn’t need to raise Tower Bridge for us, but it’s fantastic to drive a narrowboat along the Thames past all the landmarks. This was before the London docks were redeveloped, so the east End was nothing like the posh area it is now.
How have canal boat holidays changed over the years?
The thing that hits you is just how many boats there are these days, including so many houseboats. Back in the 70’s you could cruise for most of a day only meeting a handful of other boats. The canals are kept better maintained than they used to be, but water levels can still be a problem. For example, it took us several attempts over a few years before we finally succeeded in navigating the Cheshire Ring.
What were the reasons for moving from being a hirer to an owner?
As retirement beckoned, the freedom of going as and when, and knowing that once the fixed costs were paid, staying longer didn’t cost extra, pushed four of us (two couples) to jointly buy a boat. The boat is fitted out exactly as we want it, including an expresso machine, bread-maker, food mixer and washing machine!
Any tips for newcomers to canal boat holidays ahead of their first trip?
Listen to the instructions on how to operate the boat, and ask the hire company to take you through a lock and show how it works. After packing, throw out half what you packed as you won’t need it. Enjoy yourselves!
Cream teas, bluebells, bats and swallows on the Shropshire Union Canal
We spoke to Stan Cullimore about his latest Anglo Welsh narrowboat holiday
Where did you go this time Stan?
We set off from Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire. We travelled south to Nantwich, and then we went up the Middlewich Arm. We were really lucky with the weather. It was great to enjoy the sunshine in pub gardens, as well as on deck and at the tiller.
What appeals to you most about canal boat holidays?
I love being on the water, and I think it’s the perfect antidote to the stress we’ve all experienced over the last year. Canals are green corridors and when you are on a boat, you are right there at water level with the wildlife. We sat out on deck each evening enjoying a sundowner and watched bats swooping around us. We also saw the first swallows of the spring dipping to drink from the canal and lots of baby ducklings. The sound of birdsong all around you is really lovely.
Where did you stop along the way?
On our first night, we moored up just south of Nantwich Aqueduct and walked to the town square. There’s a good choice of cafes and restaurants there, and it’s a great place to watch the world go by. Nantwich is a lovely old town, with lots of historic buildings, including a really pretty row of alms houses.
We also moored between bridges 12 and 13 on the Middlewich Arm, close to Church Minshull. On the recommendation of a local boater, we took a stroll through a wood full of bluebells and walked on up to a hill beyond with some fantastic views. And we stopped for a drink in the garden of the Badger Inn at Church Minshull.
What were the highlights of this holiday?
One of things I love about canal boat holidays are the unexpected things you find, and people you meet along the way. On the Middlewich Arm, we spotted a small shelter next to the canal with homemade cakes and cream teas for sale with an honesty box. And close to Nantwich Aqueduct, we met The Doggie Boat selling all sorts of doggie treats, toys, collars and leads.
Any tips for first narrowboat hirers?
Pack a disposable BBQ – we found a picnic bench and BBQ stand close to one of the locks on the Middlewich Arm. And make sure you’ve got some cash for any canalside ‘honesty box’ purchase opportunities. As well as cream teas, we’ve found eggs, vegetables and honey for sale in the past. Frozen sweetcorn and peas are good for feeding ducks and swans along the way. Defrosted first! Also, I’m thinking about investing in a bat detector for next time. It would be great to hear the bat echolocation sound waves, and find out which type of bats they are.
Carl Cowlishaw, Anglo Welsh’s operations manager, announces the arrival of Anglo Welsh’s new trip boat service on the Llangollen Canal from Trevor Basin, in North Wales, offering visitors the chance to cruise across The Stream in the Sky.
We are thrilled to announce the latest addition to our narrowboat fleet at Trevor – our newly refurbished trip boat ‘Seren Fach’, or ‘Little Star’ in English.
We’ve been operating self-drive holiday narrowboats and day boats from Trevor for many years, and now we can also offer visitors to Trevor the chance to enjoy a skippered boat trip on the Llangollen Canal.
The 45-minute return trips take people across the incredible World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, towering 126 feet high with amazing views across the Dee Valley, making it an exciting and unforgettable experience.
Our knowledgeable team provide commentary on board, so passengers can learn more about the historical significance of the Llangollen Canal as they cruise gently along.
‘Seren Fach’ is now operating at weekends and on selected weekdays in the season, with the first trip departing at 11am, and the last at 3.30pm, seating up to 48 passengers.
Adult tickets are priced at £10 each, children (aged under 16) are priced at £6. Family tickets for two adults and two children are priced at £25 each. Cash or card payments are accepted.
Refreshments are available to purchase on board, so visitors can relax with a hot or cold drink, or an ice-cream while enjoying stunning views across the Dee Valley.
No booking is required and the trips are subject to availability. ‘Seren Fach’ is operating from Canal Wharf, Trevor, Llangollen LL20 7TT. Tel. 01978 821749.
Last November, Youtube celebrated its 15th birthday, and it’s now the ‘go to’ for practical advice videos for millions of people every day.
We’ve been working with Robin Media to build up a collection of narrowboat holiday video guides. And we’ve published a series of inspirational films on our new Youtube channel, giving a flavour of what it’s like to take a holiday afloat.
Advice for narrowboat holiday novices
From daily checks, to general advice, our snappy ‘how to’ video guides aim to make it easier for narrowboat holiday newcomers.
Daily check guides include checking the engine coolant, priming the stern greaser and checking the engine oil level. We also show you how to flush a toilet on a narrowboat, top up the water, check the weed hatch and operate the bilge pump. And there’s advice on operating the control lever, steering the boat and changing a gas canister.
Our Boat Handover video gives a longer tutorial
As well as short ‘how to’ video guides, we’ve published our Boat Handover video, giving a longer tutorial. We recommend watching this, as well as the Canal & River Trust’s Boater’s Handbook video ahead of your narrowboat holiday.
Enjoy a family canal boat holiday
Our new family canal boat holiday films were made at our Tardebigge base. These six films give a flavour of the things to see and do on a narrowboat holiday. There are scenes of life on board our boats, going through a lock and a tunnel, mooring up and more.
Follow the link from our homepage, or click here to visit our Youtube channel, and please do let us know what you think in the comments section.
We are launching a photography competition to celebrate 55 Years of Anglo Welsh holidays
This year Anglo Welsh celebrates 55 years of providing canal boat holidays. During this time, we’ve welcomed hundreds of thousands of narrowboat holidaymakers to the waterways.
From humble beginnings, with just one narrowboat hire base and Market Harborough in 1966, we’ve become one of the largest narrowboat holiday operators in the UK, with 160 boats for hire from 11 bases in England and Wales.
Things have changed quite a bit in that time, with over £1.5billion invested in the upkeep of the waterways by Canal & River Trust, and we have invested significantly to transformation in the standard of accommodation on board our boats.
Please help us to celebrate our anniversary
To celebrate our anniversary, we would love to share memories of your holidays through an online gallery of Anglo Welsh waterway holiday photos.
We welcome images from your past holidays, as well as those you take when you holiday with us this year.
We are offering a £100 voucher off your 2022 holiday* to each of the winners we select under the following four categories:
1. Historic – anything from the previous millennium but the older the better!
2. Pets afloat – dogs, cats, budgies, bunnies – whichever furry or feathered friend enjoyed your narrowboat holiday with you, we’d love to see a photo of them afloat
3. Family Adventures – holiday snaps which include images of your family enjoying an Anglo Welsh holiday
4. Iconic sites – images of your holiday where you experienced one of the Wonders of the Waterways, or another major aqueduct, tunnel or flight of locks (e.g. Caen Hill, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Chirk Aqueduct, Edstone Aqueduct, Blisworth Tunnel, Tardebigge Flight, Hatton Flight, Bingley Five Rise Locks, Anderton Boat Lift, etc)
How to enter the competition
Please send your photo(s) to email@example.com with a caption for each, giving us as much information as you can, including your name and other information if you can remember, such as where the photo was taken, which year, which base you set out from and the name of the boat. Please put ‘Photo gallery’ in the subject heading. You can also enter the competition by posting on our social media channels @AngloWelsh on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Links to our social media channels can be found on our homepage www.anglowelsh.co.uk
Up to three images per entrant are permitted. The competition is open to entries from 26 May 2021. Entries must be submitted by 31 August 2021.
*Winners will be announced and vouchers issued on 30 September 2021
Carl Cowlishaw, Operations Director for Anglo Welsh, reflects on 55 years of providing great value narrowboat holidays
This year we are delighted to be celebrating our 55th birthday. In that time, we’ve grown from a fledgling canal boat hire company, operating just two boats from Market Harborough, to one of the largest operators on the network. We now offer over 160 narrowboats for hire from 11 bases across England and Wales.
Since we began operating, Britain’s canals have undergone an incredible renaissance, with hundreds of miles of canals restored to navigation and over £1billion invested in the network.
Tom Rolt inspired a generation to fight to save the waterways
In the 1960’s, freight carrying on our waterways had been in major decline for decades. It was Tom Rolt’s pioneering journey on narrowboat ‘Cressy’ in 1939 and his book ‘Narrow Boat’, that inspired a generation to fight to save Britain’s ailing inland waterways network, and sparked the beginning of the canal boat holiday era.
Canal boat holidays in the 1940’s and 50’s were usually on ex freight-carrying boats, altered to provide very basic accommodation with no shower, freshwater storage, heating or insulation. Instead, it was just camp beds, pump toilets, camping stoves and blankets.
In 1968, Barbara Castle’s Transport Act officially recognised the nation’s canals as a leisure resource, paving the way for new life to be breathed into the network. And by the 1970’s Anglo Welsh had established itself as a fully operating hire boat company. Back then we were running a fleet of 48 narrowboats out of four locations – Market Harborough, Trevor, Wootton Wawen and Great Haywood.
Today, after decades of investment by successive governments, and the tireless efforts of thousands of canal restoration volunteers across the country, the canal network is in great shape. There are now over 35,000 canal boats on the network, and around 350,000 people holiday on the canals each year.
All mod cons are provided on today’s holiday hire boats
As well as a thriving network to cruise along, the standard of accommodation on board today’s purpose-built holiday narrowboats has changed dramatically. All the essential mod cons are provided on board our purpose-built holiday narrowboats.
From central heating and hot water to TV’s, WiFi, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets. Here at Anglo Welsh, we offer a range of boats – from traditional value for money narrowboats, to the very best in luxury and space afloat, with extra shower rooms and toilets, more space per person and multi-fuel stoves.
Our holidays are more popular than ever
The coronavirus pandemic has led many people to explore their local area for the first time, and discover the beauty of their local waterway. And with staycations increasing in popularity, our holidays have never been more popular.
We look forward to welcoming you on board
We are very much looking forward to welcoming canal boat holiday-makers back to our boats and the canals. Customer service continues to be of paramount importance to us, so whether you’re a complete novice or an experienced canal boater, our knowledgeable staff are on hand to provide all the advice you need. We can help you to choose the best boat, departure point and route for you, and your family or friends.
On behalf of the Anglo Welsh team, we’d like to thank all our customers for coming to us for their canal boat holiday experience over the last 55 years. We look forward to continuing to provide great value canal boat holidays, and hopefully welcoming you on board again soon!
We offer a range of different types of holidays such as City Breaks, Relaxation Cruises and Popular Destinations
So why choose Anglo Welsh?
More than 55 years providing unique canal boat holidays.
Modern & spacious narrowboat holiday fleet – from 2 to 12 berths.
Wide choice of narrowboat hire locations and canal.
Canal boat holiday routes for novices & experienced boaters.
Flexible holiday booking, no hidden costs.
Family friendly holidays, pets also welcome.