Behind the scenes at Anglo Welsh. The family that plays together stays together.

Listening carefully to our loyal customers tells us that people keep coming back to Anglo Welsh because of our fantastic range of narrowboats located at convenient bases on the most picturesque waterways in England and Wales. It also tells us that people value our customer service very highly. In particular, they appreciate the unwavering passion of our canal-loving team.

“People really appreciate being greeted by a familiar smiling face when they hire a boat,” says Carl Cowlishaw, Anglo Welsh’s Operations Manager, “and we do have an uncommonly large number of long-serving staff at our bases. There must be something in the water at Anglo Welsh – excuse the pun – but once people join us, they never want to leave!”

Carl himself soon qualifies for a gold watch, despite still being a youthful 42. “I am now in my 28th year on the canals,” he says, almost wistfully. “I first started working at Anglo Welsh in Great Haywood as a Saturday lad when I was 14. The plan was to earn enough money to catch the bus to Woolworths in Stafford and buy the latest chart singles. If memory serves me right, one of them was ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ by Kylie Minogue!”

“My musical taste has changed a bit since then,” he continues, “but my love of narrowboats and the sheer pleasure of being around canals hasn’t, and I think that applies to many Anglo Welsh stalwarts. Yes, we take our work seriously, but being around boats and on the canals also gives us enormous pleasure. They say ‘the family that plays together stays together’ and that definitely applies to the enjoyment you get as part of the Anglo Welsh family.”

Carl has been Operations Manager at Anglo Welsh since 2005, but before that he’d occupied just about every role going: apprentice, engineer, boat painter, hire fleet manager, base manager. Much to his chagrin, he now spends as much time on the road as on the water. “I visit all ten Anglo Welsh bases at least once a month and also spend time at our Bristol head office where bookings and customer enquiries are handled. But it’s not all admin, I get to monitor the winter maintenance and our boatbuilding programme, and I still try to get out on one of our boats at least once a week.”

So how has the narrowboat sector changed in Carl’s three decades at Anglo Welsh? “People definitely expect a lot more these days,” he says. “To give you one example, we’ve installed wi-fi on the entire Anglo Welsh fleet for 2016. But in 40 years as a leading hire boat operator some things have hardly changed at all. People still come to us because they value the UK’s waterway heritage and enjoy the gentle pace of canal holidays. And they appreciate Anglo Welsh because we offer a large choice of boats and locations but still maintain the personal touch people expect from a great holiday. Early bookings are at a record-breaking high this year, so we’re busy preparing the fleet for an exciting summer season. And hopefully, our customers are looking forward to renewing acquaintances with some familiar faces!”

Our team of experienced and friendly canal holiday experts are available to take your booking.

Please call us 0117 304 1122

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No Experience? No Problem! Narrowboat holidays for novices.

They say you never forget how to ride a bicycle, and the same applies to canal boats. Once you’ve learned how to manoeuvre a narrowboat – and with help from Anglo Welsh’s experienced instructors, learning is a surprisingly straightforward procedure – you’ll never forget how. But be warned, once you’ve experienced a magical journey at the helm of a canal boat you’ll be hooked for life!

Over the last 40 years Anglo Welsh has taught more people to handle a narrowboat than you can shake a canal rope at, and we still love welcoming excited first-timers to Britain’s growing family of canal enthusiasts. In fact, one of the attractions of waterway holidays is that anyone can hire a canal boat with no licence or prior training**.

“If you’re 18 or over and willing to learn, we’d love to teach you,” says seasoned Anglo Welsh instructor Rod Bright, a popular figure on the canal boat scene who has been showing narrowboat novices the tricks of the trade for three decades. “We get people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities coming to us as beginners, but believe me, they all get the same thrill when they first take control of the tiller.”

So how does ‘day one’ on an Anglo Welsh narrowboat work? “First of all, we sit down over a cuppa and talk about which routes are most suitable for beginners,” says Rod. “Then we board the hire boat and show people where everything is: from the tiller, controls and engine to the heating and fuse boxes. Next we focus on safety procedures and canal etiquette. No Anglo Welsh instructor ever leaves a customer alone on a narrowboat without being 100% sure they’re capable of handling things on the canal without any risks.”

Next comes the practical instruction. “We set off along the canal and demonstrate how to steer the narrowboat, how to line up for bridges and navigate locks, and how to tie ropes for mooring,” explains Rod. “You move the tiller left to go right and right to go left which can throw people! When that’s all sunk in, we’ll set the boat up in a nice straight line and hand over the tiller. Once we can see the hirer feels confident and is in control we’ll wave them off on their first solo adventure.”

“Some people are off and running after 45 minutes’ instruction, others take longer; the key thing is we never rush people. And one advantage nowadays is that people often do advance research online which helps them to grasps things more quickly. Common sense and care is the main thing we impress on our customers; narrowboats may trundle along the canal at 4mph, but we’re talking 18-ton vessels, so some caution is required. Things happen more slowly on the water, but unlike driving a car you need to think ahead. Luckily, most canal boats are steered using a tiller at the rear of the boat. That may sound strange but it means that you can see ahead and also see what your boat is doing!”

“It is 30 years since I first steered a friend’s narrowboat and I’ve been hooked on the canal life ever since,” concludes Rod, who is now based at Anglo Welsh’s Wootton Wawen base near Stratford-upon-Avon. “It’s such an exhilarating way of spending your free time it gives me real pleasure helping people discover how easy it is to get started.”


Our team of helpful canal holiday experts are available to take your booking – whether it’s your hundredth time on a narrowboat or your very first go!
Please call us 0117 304 1122

**The Hirer must be aged 18 years or older. There must be two able-bodied people aged 18 years or over to take responsibility of the boat and crew at all times. Whenever the boat is driven by a person aged under 18, they must be under close supervision of a competent person aged 18 years or older.

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Great Canal Journeys: a Narrowboat Love Affair

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, if you love canals – and the Anglo Welsh team is guilty as charged – you have to love Channel 4’s ‘Great Canal Journeys’, now back on our screens for a third series.

Husband and wife team Timothy West and Prunella Scales are self-confessed ‘canal nuts’, and despite their advancing years (he’s 81, she’s 83) and Prunella’s fragile health, they have no intention of hanging up their canal ropes. Married for 53 years, the thespian couple have created a lifetime of memories on stage and screen (who can forget Scales’ arch portrayal of Sybil in ‘Fawlty Towers’?), but away from acting they have lived a very different life exploring the stunning waterways of Britain by canal boat.

Each episode of ‘Great Canal Journeys’ reveals the rich and diverse history and culture of canal life, explores the beautiful scenery of Britain’s landscapes and wildlife, while giving Timothy and Prunella the chance to recreate some of their most treasured family moments. It proves to be a charming insight, not just into their lifelong passion for narrowboats, but also their half-century love affair, a relationship laced with poignancy now that Prunella suffers from Alzheimer’s.

One of the first ever journeys featured on ‘Great Canal Journeys’ was a trip on an Anglo Welsh narrowboat along the Oxford canal where the couple took their first boating holiday as a family with sons Sam (actor Samuel West) and Joseph more than 40 years ago. Another memorable canal trip took Prunella and Timothy back to their honeymoon destination, Llangollen in North Wales, now Anglo Welsh’s largest base.

Cruising along by narrowboat, the couple have also revisited the picturesque Kennet and Avon canal in the West Country, which they helped saved from closure a quarter of a century ago. In the current series, they travel from Birmingham to Braunston, Northamptonshire for a festival of canal boats and to unveil a plaque to a late friend and canal campaigner.

Last year it was revealed that Scales’ Alzheimer’s means she can barely remember any of her 53-year marriage to West, but as her still doting husband explains, “Pru doesn’t remember things very well, but you don’t need to remember things on the canal because you can enjoy things as you see them, so it’s perfect for her really.”

“Do I know where we’re going or why we’re going there?” asks Prunella at one stage. “Well, sometimes I do, but sometimes I just want to watch the countryside float by.” Relaxing on a narrowboat, cruising along a canal, watching the world go by … ‘Great Canal Journeys’ shows that canal holidays are a heartwarming way to spend time with your nearest and dearest, whether you’re young newlyweds or lovebirds in your dotage.

Our team of helpful and friendly canal holiday experts are available to take your booking.
Please call us 0117 304 1122

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Mother’s Day Canal Boat Cruise

Spoil your Mum with a relaxing day afloat this Mother’s Day (Sunday 6 March 2016).

A day spent cruising along a peaceful canal, stopping off for a pub lunch along the way, is a great way to make your Mum feel special on Mother’s Day. We offer day boat hire from five our bases, with prices starting at £10 per person on weekdays, £14 on weekends and bank holidays. Full tuition is included so we can help you get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks. Our boats are equipped with a toilet, hob, fridge, kettle, cutlery and crockery – perfect for a picnic afloat.

Here’s a run-down of our day boat bases and routes for Mother’s Day 2016:

    1. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’…from our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is just a 20-minute cruise away. Standing at over 38 metres high, supported by 19 pillars stretching 305 metres across, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is often referred to as ‘The Stream in the Sky’. Day boaters can reach the pretty mountain-side town of Llangollen in two hours, with a range of pubs, cafés and restaurants to choose from.
    2. Travel along the Stratford Canal…from Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford upon Avon, boaters can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote and back (2.5 hours each way).  Once there, enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn or a visit to Mary Arden’s Farm, the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother.
    3. Cruise the Staffs & Worcs Canal…from Great Haywood on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal near Stafford, day boaters can cruise to the historic market town of Rugeley and back, through several locks, past the National Trust’s beautiful Shugborough Hall and the Wolseley Arms in Wolseley Bridge. The return journey takes six hours.
    4. Enjoy lock-free boating on ‘The Shroppie’…from Bunbury on the Shropshire Union near Crewe, day boaters can cruise south past Barbridge and Nantwich to Baddington Bridge. With no locks to negotiate and pubs including The Badger and The Galley at Nantwich, it makes for a very relaxing day afloat.
    5. Potter through rural Worcestershire…from our base at Tardebigge on the Worcs & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, day boaters can cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, a pretty rural route with historic pubs along the way, including the family-friendly Hopwood House at Alvechurch. The route is lock-free but there are two tunnels to pass through.

Our team of helpful and friendly canal holiday experts are available to take your booking.
Please call us 0117 304 1122

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Our Canal Boat Base at Trevor – It’s in the blood

Becca Strong, Admin Manager at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal, tells us why the canal life is in her blood…

Alongside picturesque routes and stylish narrowboats, Anglo Welsh is also renowned for the calibre and commitment of its dedicated staff. ‘Vocation’ is the watchword for a professional team who not only live and breathe canals but are rooted in their local communities. The dynamic duo at the helm at Trevor in Llangollen, North Wales are no exception. Base Manager Matt Anderson first joined Anglo Welsh as a 13 year-old Saturday boy in the mid ‘90s, but he is a narrowboat novice compared to his partner and Trevor’s Admin Manager Becca Strong!

“I grew up in a canal side house alongside the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a stone’s throw from Trevor’s wharf, so you could say that canals and narrowboats are in my blood,” says Becca. “My grandad, dad and brother all worked for British Waterways (now The Canal & River Trust) and I first set foot on a narrowboat when I was just 3 years-old. The local waterways have been a big part of my life ever since, so joining Anglo Welsh in 1994 was a real thrill and a proud day for my family.”

Becca and Matt moved back to Trevor in July 2015 after 1o years managing Anglo Welsh’s Tardebigge base in Worcestershire. “It’s great to be back home where we both started,” says Becca, “and we’re relishing the challenge. Trevor is now Anglo Welsh’s largest base with a fleet of 19 holiday boats, including our new Constellation class ‘Aquarius’, 4 day boats, and 10 full-time staff, all of them genuine canal boat enthusiasts.”

“Everybody at Trevor is looking forward to a busy year and we’re already taking bookings for Valentine’s Day, the February half-term and Mother’s Day. As for the peak summer season, it will be all hands on deck and all boats in the water, so I recommend booking early! The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct’s World Heritage status means we are an international destination these days, so as well as locals we get visitors from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia and even from Holland, where they know a thing or two about canal boats!”

So having being born and raised in the shadow of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, does Becca have any personal recommendations? “The stretch of canal from Trevor to Llangollen is really stunning with breathtaking views over the valley, beautiful churches, lush countryside and lovely, winding waterways. A crew from ‘Visit Wales’ were here recently filming the aqueduct for ‘The Year of Adventure’ campaign and I can tell you, even seasoned professionals are knocked out by the natural beauty here.

Sailing on a cloud. Broadchurch actor Matthew Gravelle and family on the canals of North East Wales.


The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, nicknamed the ‘Stream in the Sky’, carries the Llangollen Canal 38 metres (126 ft) above the River Dee. Cruising on a narrowboat without even a handrail on the aqueduct’s south side to obstruct your view of the valley below, you will feel like you are suspended in mid-air! Click here for more information on the Trevor base, routes and waterways.

Our team of helpful and friendly canal holiday experts are available to take your booking.
Please call us 0117 304 1122

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Top 6 Christmas Destinations

Anglo Welsh offers winter cruising from five bases, giving narrowboat holiday-makers the chance to celebrate Christmas or New Year afloat on Britain’s peaceful canal network.

From a cosy boat for two to a party boat for 12, we’ve got a range of boats to choose from.  Christmas prices start at £490 for a short break and weekly hire is available from £695. All our boats have central heating, hot water, TV and DVD players – some also have multi-fuel stoves – so it’s always warm and toasty on board.  Many of our boats have wifi too. Enjoy a canal boat holiday this Christmas and join in the festive celebrations at exciting waterside towns and cities, stopping off at rural retreats with traditional pubs and roaring log fires along the way.

Here are our Top 6 destinations this Christmas:

  1. Cruise to Georgian Bath…from our base in the historic town of Bradford on Avon on the edge of the Cotswolds, it’s a delightful seven hour cruise along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal to the centre of the World Heritage Status City of Bath.  With an award-winning Christmas market, carol services at Bath Abbey, stunning architecture, world class museums and top restaurants, Bath is fantastic place to celebrate Christmas.
  2. Enjoy the Christmas spirit in Birmingham…With its famous German Christmas Market, ice rink and big wheel, fantastic shopping, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, National Sea Life Centre, incredible new library and Christmas shows, including The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at the Birmingham Rep, Birmingham is a great place to visit at Christmas-time.  City centre moorings are a five-hour, lock-free cruise away from our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, which celebrates its 200th birthday this December.
  3. Celebrate in Stratford upon Avon…from our base at Wootton Wawen near Warwick, it’s a picturesque six-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Shakespeare’s Stratford.  Once there, boaters can moor up in the town’s canal basin to enjoy the Swan Theatre, marvellous Christmas lights, Christmas markets, carol singers, traditional pubs, museums, shops and the intriguing Ebenezer Scrooge Grotto on 26 December.
  4. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’…our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales is just minutes away from the incredible 40m high and 30m long Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’.  With a World Heritage designation, this incredible feat of Industrial Revolution engineering has been put on a par with the Taj Mahal, Great Wall of China and the Pyramids.  On a short break from Trevor, boaters can cruise west to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen an enjoy Christmas celebrations at the Llangollen Railway, waterside pubs and restaurants and a walk along the Llangollen History Trail.
  5. Head to Market Drayton, home of the Gingerbread man…from our Great Haywood base at the junction of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Trent & Mersey canals in Staffordshire, on a week’s cruise, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the Staffs & Worcs and Shropshire Union canals to the historic town of Market Drayton, with its lively street markets, beautiful architecture and Christingle Carol service at St Mary’s Church.
  6. Travel to Chester…from our Bunbury base on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, it’s a seven-hour, nine-lock journey to the historic walled City of Chester.  With 3D Christmas Lights, annual Christmas Market with 70 chalets filled with gifts and festive fare, carol concerts at Chester Cathedral and the popular Lantern Magic Christmas event at Chester Zoo, 4-23 December, Chester is a great place to get Christmassy.
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Go “Interstellar” with our new ‘Constellation’ fleet

Hot on the bow waves of our popular Bond Class boats, we’ve continued listening to what’s most important to our customers and in 2016 we are reaching for the stars with the first six narrowboats from our exciting new ‘Constellation’ class.

Currently being constructed in Yorkshire by Silsden boats, these awesome new stars of our fleet will feature the same exacting standards of craftsmanship, comfort and finish as our Bond Class fleet.

Constellation boats will include: full-size showers; a range of flexible and private berths; solid fuel stoves on the four and six berth boats; a large TV and Wifi; spacious kitchens with modern fittings and lighting; and a smart new livery.

Available from our Bradford on Avon base on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire from Easter 2016, the 12-berth ‘Andromeda’. For short break holiday destinations, choose from the World Heritage Status City of Bath or the base of the Caen Hill Flight. Pewsey, Great Bedwyn or Hungerford can be reached on a week’s holiday.

The new four-berth ‘Aquarius’ will to be based at Trevor base on the Llangollen Canal in Wrexham from 11 March. Short break destinations from this popular location, just two minutes from the World Heritage Status Poncysyllte Aqueduct, include Ellesmere, Llangollen and Whitchurch. On a week’s holiday, boaters can cruise on to Wrenbury or Barbridge.

At Wootton Wawen, the new four-berth ‘Aquila’ will be available for hire from 18 March. Our Wootton Wawen canal boat hire base is on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire, offering short breaks to Stratford or Hatton, and weekly cruises to Warwick or Birmingham.

Bunbury will offer the four-berth ‘Carina’ 6 May and six-berth ‘Cassiopeia’ from 25 June. This base on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire provides short breaks to Chester, Whitchurch or Anderton Boat Lift and weekly cruises to Llangollen, the Four Counties Ring, Caldon Canal or Macclesfield.

Finally, the 12-berth ‘Delphinus’ will be at our Oxford base from 13 August offering canal boat holiday-makers the chance to travel along the River Thames in luxury, heading to Lechlade, Oxford or Wallingford on a short break. On a week’s holiday, Henley is in reach on the River Thames or Banbury on the Oxford Canal.

Constellation narrowboat hire prices start at £695* for short break on a boat for four and £995* for a week. Call us on 0117 304 1122 to find out more.

*Price includes damage waiver but not fuel. Fuel deposits are £50 for short breaks and £90 for week long holidays.

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Top 7 Halloween destinations afloat

With spooky tunnels, dark cuttings, creepy locks, misty towpaths, plenty of bats, frogs and toads, and many a ghostly tale, Britain’s 200-year old canal network provides the perfect backdrop for a haunting Halloween.

From Roman centurions and drowned boatmen to eerie figures and shrieking boggarts, there are plenty of haunted destinations afloat to get your spine tingling. Here are our top seven:

  1. There’s something in the dark at Betton Cutting…Betton Cutting on the Shropshire Union Canal near Market Drayton has always had a dark reputation among boating people, with a shrieking spectre seen and heard there. And Tyrley middle lock, just beyond Market Drayton, is reported to have its own helpful resident ghost that at night will push the lock gates shut behind passing boats. ***Market Drayton is 19 hours and 19 locks away from our Great Haywood base on the Trent & Mersey canal in Staffordshire.
  2. Mind out for the Monkey Man at Norbury…look out for the hideous black, shagged coated being known as ‘The Monkey Man’ on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bridge 39 near Norbury. This fearful figure is believed to be the ghost of a boatman drowned there in the 19th century. ***Travel down the Staffs & Worcester Canal then north on the Shropshire Union Canal from our base at Great Haywood, a journey of 36 miles and 14 locks, which takes around 13 hours.
  3. Get the chills in Chester…at the City’s old Northgate, where the canal was dug into part of the town’s moat, the ghost of a Roman centurion has been sighted guarding the entrance to the City. ***Hire a canal boat from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, reaching Chester in seven hours, passing through nine locks.
  4. Prepare to be spooked at Blisworth Tunnel…the 2.81km-long Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire has spooked a number of boaters over the years. The tunnel’s construction began in 1793, with teams of navvies working with picks and shovels. After three years of toil they hit quicksand and the tunnel collapsed, killing 14 men. A new route was found and it eventually opened in 1805. But chillingly, over the years some boaters travelling through the tunnel have reported seeing eerie lights and a second route opening up. ***The Blisworth Tunnel is 26 miles and 16 locks from our Stockton base on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, a journey which takes around 10 hours.
  5. Look out for the ghost of Kit at Kidsgrove…a shrieking boggart, the ghost of Kit Crewbucket murdered there, is said to haunt Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Kidsgrove. ***Harecastle Tunnel is 22 miles and 18 locks from our Great Haywood base, a journey of around 10 hours.
  6. Watch out for an Aqueduct Apparition…the World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal in Wrexham is said to be haunted by an eerie figure sometimes seen gliding along the towpath on moonlit nights. ***Boaters can reach the Aqueduct in 20 minutes from our Trevor base on the Llangollen Canal.
  7. Beware the ‘bloody steps’ at Brindley Bank…another eerie place on the Shropshire Union canal in Staffordshire is Brindley Bank. The site is said to be haunted by a woman – Christina Collins – murdered there in 1839 whose blood ran into the canal. The stain still reappears to this day. ***Brindley Bank is just three miles and two locks from our base at Great Haywood.
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Be Inspired

We offer a range of different types of holidays such as City Breaks, Relaxation Cruises and Popular Destinations

City Breaks
Rural retreats
Popular places

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.

Anglo Welsh. So much more than narrowboats

...but don't just take our word for it





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