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!
Enjoy a family adventure afloat this summer, closer to home
By Emma Lovell, Anglo Welsh’s Reservations Manager
England and Wales are criss-crossed by hundreds of miles of beautiful inland waterways to explore afloat. They take narrowboat holiday-makers through some of our best loved countryside, and into the heart of some our most famous waterside towns and cities.
Narrowboat holidays are great for families, bringing everyone together for an adventure afloat. From steering the boat, and working the locks, to planning the route and the stops, everyone can get involved.
Pets are welcome aboard all our boats and the first pet travels free, so your dog, hamster or budgie can enjoy the floating holiday home break too!
Anglo Welsh offers narrowboat holidays from 11 starting points across England and Wales. So, whether you want to stay close to home and explore your local waterway, or travel further afield to see another part of the country, we have hundreds of routes and destinations to choose from.
From views of the dramatic Welsh mountains on the Llangollen Canal, to meadows full of birdsong alongside the majestic of the River Thames, we’ve put together a list of our Top 10 narrowboat holidays for families this summer:
1. Cruise to the Shropshire Lake District – from our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, on a short break you can cruise to Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. The journey takes around seven hours, passing through two locks, two tunnels and over two magnificent aqueducts, including the famous UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This Wonder of the Waterways, carries the Llangollen Canal 38 metres high above the Dee valley, with magnificent views of the valley below, and Welsh Mountains beyond.
2. Navigate through Shakespeare country to Stratford upon Avon – from our narrowboat hire base at Wootton Wawen, on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it takes around six hours to cruise through the Warwickshire countryside, which includes passing through 17 locks, to reach overnight moorings in Bancroft Basin in the heart of Stratford upon Avon. Once there, you can walk to all the top attractions in Stratford, from theatres and museums, to pubs and restaurants. This destination is perfect for a weekend away.
3. Travel round the Black Country Ring – on a week’s break from our barge hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, you can travel round the Black Country Ring. The journey, which travels 75 miles and passes through 79 locks, takes around 43 hours. Highlights along the way include: Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham City Centre; the 21 locks at Wolverhampton; and the tranquil waters at Tixall Wide.
4. Take a Thames boating holiday to Wallingford – from our narrowboat rental base on the River Thames at Oxford, it’s a nine-hour, 11-lock cruise to the historic market town of Wallingford. Along the way, you’ll travel through miles of peaceful Oxfordshire meadows and pastureland. Places to stop off along the way, include the City of Oxford with its world famous museums, and the market town of Abingdon, with its popular waterside pub, The Nag’s Head. This journey is perfect for a four night mid-week break.
5. Potter through the Worcestershire countryside via the Stourport Ring – on a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can travel round the Stourport Ring. This popular circuit will take you on an 84-mile, 114-lock journey, cruising for around 56 hours. Highlights include: Gas Street Basin in the centre of Birmingham; Kinver Edge with its extensive woodlands and National Trust Holy Austin Rock Houses; the magnificent Cathedral City of Worcester; idyllic stretches of Worcestershire countryside along the River Severn; and the dramatic flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge.
6. Cruise across the Pennines to Foulridge Tunnel – from our canal boat hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just around 13 hours, passing through 15 locks, to reach Foulridge Tunnel. The journey will take you through a series of historic towns and villages, including Skipton, with its medieval fortress and acres of woodland trails to explore, and East Marton with a choice of pubs and access to the Pennine Way. This route is perfect for a week’s holiday.
7. Travel through the Avon Valley and up the Caen Hill Flight – on a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Monkton Combe on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Bath, it takes around 19 hours to reach Pewsey Wharf. The route will take you through 37 locks each way, including the 29 locks of the Caen Hill Flight at Devizes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. This journey will also take you over two dramatic Bath stone aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff, 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. Journey to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen & back – on a week’s holiday from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around 12 hours, passing through two locks, to reach the historic town of Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains. Along the way, you’ll travel through the Shropshire Lake District and then across the magnificent World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts, with incredible views of the Welsh Mountains.
9. Navigate through the Cheshire countryside to The Cathedral of the Canals – on a short break from our canal boat rental base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can cruise to the Anderton Boat Lift. The journey takes around nine hours and passes through 20 locks. Looking like a giant spider crouched on the hillside, this incredible feat of Victorian engineering moves boats 15 metres up or down between the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal.
10. Boat to Warwick Castle and back – on a short break from our canal boat hire base at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can cruise to moorings close to the magnificent Warwick Castle, said to be Britain’s greatest medieval experience. The journey there and back takes around 14 hours and passes through 40 locks (20 each way).
Celebrate a special occasion with a day afloat on your local waterway
Bookings manager, Emma Lovell, highlights Anglo Welsh’s Top 6 day boat destinations for 2021.
Whether you are celebrating a special occasion, like Mother’s Day or a birthday, or just looking for a different day out in your local area, our day boats offer the chance to enjoy a relaxing day afloat on your local waterway.
You can cruise gently along, watching out for waterway wildlife, and enjoying a picnic afloat or lunch at a canalside pub along the way.
We offer day boat hire from six of our bases, from just £99 per day for up to 10 people*. Full tuition is included, so you can get the hang of steering, working the locks and mooring up. Cruising hours during the season are from 9am to 4pm.
All our day boats are equipped with the facilities you need for a day afloat – cutlery, crockery, a kettle, cooker, fridge and toilet. There’s indoor and outdoor seating on all our day boats, so whatever the weather, you can enjoy the ever changing view.
And if you’ve ever fancied taking a canal boat holiday, but want to experience what it’s like before committing to a short break or week away, our day boats offer a great way to dip your toe in the water.
To help you plan your day out of the ordinary on one of our beautiful canals, we’ve put together a list of our Top 6 day boat destinations for 2021:
1. Wend your way through the Shropshire countryside to Whitchurch – from our canal boat hire base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, you can head to the historic market town of Whitchurch on a day afloat. The lock-free journey, which takes just over two hours, travels through six peaceful miles of countryside, passing the medieval Pan Castle. Once at Whitchurch, you can moor up to explore the town with its half-timbered buildings, independent shops and restaurants, way-marked circular walks and Brown Moss nature reserve. Prices aboard our Whixall day boat ‘Julia’ are £99 for up to 10 people on a weekday, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.
2. Potter along the Stratford Canal to Wilmcote – from our narrowboat rental base at Wootton Wawen near Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire, day boaters can head south along the Stratford Canal. The route takes you across the impressive Edstone Aqueduct and passes through one lock before reaching the historic village of Wilmcote in around two hours. You can moor up above Wilmcote Top Lock and take a short walk into the village, where you’ll find a choice of pubs, and The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Mary Arden Farm. Prices aboard our Wootton Wawen day boats ‘Dolly’ and ‘Charlie’ are £99 for up to 10 people on a weekday, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.
3. Cruise the Trent & Mersey to Rugeley for some Outstanding Beauty – from our narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, on a day out, you can reach the historic market town of Rugeley. The journey travels four miles, passes through two locks and takes around two hours. Along the way, you’ll pass the National Trust’s Shugborough Estate and Cannock Chase Forest, a designated Area of Outstanding Beauty. Once at Rugeley, you can moor up to explore the town or turn at bridge 68 and head back to Wolseley to visit the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wolseley Centre or lunch at the canalside Wolseley Arms pub. Prices aboard our Great Haywood day boats ‘Daphne’ and ‘Abi’ are £99 on a weekday, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.
4. Travel through the Forest of Arden in Worcestershire – from our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge near Bromsgrove, on a day out you can cruise north along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Kings Norton Junction in around two and a half hours. The eight-mile, zero-lock journey passes through the remains of the Forest of Arden, with two canal tunnels along the way, including Wast Hills, which at 2,493 metres long is one of the longest in the country. There’s a choice of pubs along the way, including The Crown or The Weighbridge at Alvechurch, and the Hopwood House at Hopwood. Prices aboard our Tardebigge day boat ‘Emma’ are £99 on a weekday, £150 on weekends and bank holidays. ‘Emma’ can also be hired for a night for two people for £198, plus fuel.
5. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ for some incredible views – from our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it’s less than 10 minutes by water to the incredible World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Standing at over 38 metres high and stretching for 305 metres across the Dee Valley, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, is truly one of the wonders of the waterways. After travelling across the Aqueduct, enjoying incredible views of the valley below, you can continue on to Glendrid to enjoy lunch at the Poacher’s Inn. This gentle five-mile journey with no locks, also takes you across Chirk Aqueduct and through Whitehouse and Chirk tunnels. Prices aboard our Trevor day boats ‘Jacob’, ‘Daniel’ and ‘Lotty’ are £120 on a weekday, £180 on weekends and bank holidays.
6. Cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Nantwich – from our canal boat rental base at Bunbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, on a day afloat you can cruise to Nantwich and back. The journey takes you through six peaceful miles of countryside, past the canalside Barbridge Inn and across the impressive Grade II* listed Nantwich Aqueduct with panoramic views across the town. With no locks along the way, the journey to Nantwich takes around two hours. Prices aboard our Bunbury day boat ‘Bella’ are £99 on a weekday, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.
Britain’s 3,000 mile network of navigable inland waterways provides the perfect destination for a Staycation afloat in 2021.
Pottering slowly through the countryside at just four miles per hour, watching out for wildlife, is a great way to relax.
Canal boat holidays offer a self-contained floating holiday home experience, and the chance to curate your very own adventure afloat. It’s free to moor up almost anywhere, so you can stop off at canalside pubs, villages and waterside destinations along the way.
To help plan your next waterway-getaway, here are our Top 10 narrowboat holidays for 2021:
1. Cruise across the Pennines – from our canal barge rental base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, on a week’s break you can cruise across the Pennines to Foulridge Tunnel and back. The journey to Foulridge takes around 13 hours and passes through 15 locks. Along the way you’ll pass through Skipton (known as ‘The Gateway to the Yorkshire Dales’), with its medieval stone castle. And you’ll pass through a series of villages with traditional pubs, including The Slaters Arms at Bradley, The Anchor Inn at Gargrave and The Cross Keys at East Marton.
2. Navigate the Stourport Ring – on a week’s break departing from our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge near Bromsgrove, you can cruise the popular Stourport Ring. With 79 miles of waterway to cruise and 118 locks to pass through, it takes around 52 hours. The scenery ranges from peaceful open country on the River Severn, to vibrant cityscapes on the Birmingham Main Line. Destinations to visit include: Worcester Cathedral; Cadbury’s World; and the Sea Life Centre at Brindleyplace.
3. Take a Thames cruise to Wallingford – on a short break from our canal boat hire base close to Oxford, you can take a Thames boating holiday to the historic town of Wallingford. The journey passes through 11 locks each way and takes around 18 hours, there and back. You can stop off at Oxford, packed with architectural treasures, including the magnificent Bodleian Library. And Abingdon with its popular riverside pub, the Nag’s Head. At Wallingford, you can take time to explore the Castle Gardens dating back to Saxon times, and follow the Agatha Christie Trail.
4. Spot an otter on the Montgomery Canal – on a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, you can cruise a section of the Montgomery Canal. This beautiful canal, which runs for 38 miles between England and Wales, is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on both sides of the border. You can cruise a seven-mile section to Gronwyn Wharf and back, looking out for otters and water voles. From Whixall, the journey to Gronwyn Wharf and back takes around 20 hours, travelling through 34 miles of beautiful countryside and passing through 16 locks (eight each way).
5. Cruise to Caen Hill – on a short break from our base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath, it takes around 9 hours to reach the Caen Hill Flight of Locks. One of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways, this dramatic flight of locks at Devizes is one of the most iconic sights on the waterways. You’ll pass through eight locks each way. You can enjoy stops at Bradford on Avon, with its magnificent medieval Tithe Barn, and Avoncliff Aqueduct with its popular Cross Guns pub.
6. Head to ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’ – from our canal boat hire base at Bunbury in Cheshire, it takes around nine hours to reach the iconic Anderton Boat Lift. This Wonder of the Waterways is also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’. It lifts boats 15 metres between two waterways in two giant tanks of water. On the way to Anderton, you’ll navigate through beautiful Cheshire countryside along the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. And you’ll pass through the historic Roman town of Middlewich
7. 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 Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. One of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’, this World Heritage structure transports canal boats 38 metres high across the Dee Valley. On a short break from Trevor, you can travel cross the 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.
8. Navigate the beautiful Oxford Canal – on a short break from our canal boat hire base at Stockton, you can reach the pretty canalside village of Fenny Compton. You’ll begin your journey on the Grand Union Canal in the Warwickshire countryside. You can transfer onto the Oxford Canal at Napton-on-the-Hill, with a choice of pubs. From there, the route winds gently 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 narrowboat hire 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 will take you along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Stoke on Trent. Here you can transfer onto the Caldon Canal. You’ll then travel through beautiful stretches of unspoilt countryside, with moorlands, woodlands and an abundance of wildlife.
10. Visit Shakespeare’s Stratford – from our base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, it takes around six hours to reach Bancroft Basin in the centre of Shakespeare’s Stratford. Along the way, you’ll pass through 17 locks and miles of peaceful Warwickshire countryside. You can moor up in the basin and use it as a base to explore Stratford-upon-Avon. This lively market town has a great choice of shops, restaurants, museums and theatres.
We offer winter cruising from six of our narrowboat hire bases*, giving you the chance to cruise gently through the countryside, stopping off to explore canalside villages along the way, and to celebrate Christmas and New Year afloat.
The canals are quieter during the winter months and people tend to make shorter journeys. Winter cruising is about enjoying being close to the water and visiting canalside pubs with traditional log fires and other local 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 of our routes will be affected at times by the Canal & River Trust’s annual winter maintenance work, but here are our Top 6 winter narrowboat holidays for 2020:
1. Cruise through the Staffordshire countryside to Fradley – heading south from our narrowboat holiday hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, you’ll 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 pub ‘The Old Peculiar’. Once at Fradley, you’ll find refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn, and walking trails at the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
2. Travel gently through the Shropshire countryside to historic Whitchurch – from our barge holiday rental base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around four hours to reach the pretty historic town of Whitchurch. Along the way, the route passes Whixall Moss, a Mecca for wildlife. Once at Whitchurch, enjoy way-marked walks, Brown Moss nature reserve and a choice of eateries, including the award-winning Black Bear pub.
3. Float to through the Warwickshire countryside to Shakespeare’s Stratford – from our narrowboat rental base at on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen, near Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire, it’s a picturesque six-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Shakespeare’s Stratford. Once there, you can moor up in Bancroft Basin in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon to enjoy exploring this historic town, and visiting some of its many pubs, restaurants and cafes.
4. Navigate to the canalside village of Lapworth – from our canal barge holiday hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes around seven hours to cruise the historic canal village of Lapworth. With no locks to pass through along the way, it’s a great route for canal boat holiday beginners. Once there, you can moor up for countryside walks along the Heart of England Way, and visit the National Trust’s Packwood House, with beautiful gardens to explore.
5. Visit historic Chester afloat – from our narrowboat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley in Cheshire, it’s a seven-hour cruise through the Cheshire countryside, passing through nine locks, to reach the historic city of Chester. Once moored up at Northgate visitor moorings, you can take time to explore this ancient Cathedral City with Roman City Walls, Amphitheatre, riverside gardens and fabulous City Centre Christmas lights.
6. Cross ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to the Shropshire Lake District – our canal boat rental base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, is a ten minute cruise away from the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This magnificent feat of Victorian engineering carries the canal 30 metres high above the Dee Valley, with amazing views to enjoy. On a short break, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to Ellesmere, in the centre of the Shropshire Lake District, to visit the famous Mere, a haven for wildlife.
*Subject to government guidance and the lifting of relevant restrictions to control the spread of coronavirus, our boat yards are due to reopen on Monday 7 December. If you make a booking, but are legally unable to take your holiday as planned due to a Government coronavirus lockdown, you can transfer your booking with no admin fee or request a refund.
From the doldrums of lockdown to the busiest summer on record, Matt Lucas-Stern looks back on the 2020 narrowboat holiday season at Wootton Wawen.
“The coronavirus pandemic has bought dramatic changes to our lives, particularly for those of us involved in the world of travel and hospitality.
When the main 2020 boating season got underway at the beginning of March, even though we knew that Covid-19 was devastating communities elsewhere in China and parts of Europe, we still didn’t have any idea how much it was going to affect our lives.
Here at Wootton Wawen, we were focussing on getting all our boats in tip top shape ready for the main boating season, and making plans to hold an open day to show off our newly painted day boats. When Boris announced a national lockdown on that unforgettable evening on 23 March, everything changed and our boats were suddenly grounded until further notice.
At first we focused on enjoying watching the waterway burst into life as a particularly sunny and warm Spring progressed. As for many people, the peace and quiet of lockdown gave us the chance for reflection, family time and to connect to nature.
But as the weeks went by, we worried more and more about what the future would hold for our industry and when our holidays would be able to resume.
Then on the 20th of June, we received the fantastic news that domestic holidays could resume on the 4th of July. We needed to get our team back from furlough and put in all the necessary measures to ensure our holidays were safe.
We put in new social distancing measures at our boat yards, introduced extra cleaning regimes and we made a video showing people all the facilities on board our boats and how to operate them, to give holiday-makers extra information in advance of their boat handover.
It was a busy and exciting time, both for everyone working at the boat yards, and for our bookings team who were inundated with calls and emails from people wanting to book their canal boat holiday. Many of them were newcomers who had often thought about taking a canal boat holiday, but never quite got around to it before. They realised how perfect our staycation holidays are – offering the chance to escape into the countryside aboard a self-contained, self-catering floating holiday home!
The next two months were full on. For the first time ever, literally all our boats were booked out for the six week summer holiday peak. The first few weeks of July were a bit strange as everyone got used to the news ways of working and just being around people again. But we soon got everything working like clockwork and before long, it became the new normal.
With canal boat holidays, people usually turn up to the boat yard a bit stressed and anxious to get their holiday underway. But by the time they return, the slow time of the canals makes people much calmer and more relaxed.
It was great to see the smiling faces of families returning from their holidays, with kids telling us about some of their experiences. We had a 13-year-old lad who was really keen on narrowboating and ended up working all 113 locks by himself on his family holiday to Stratford on Avon and Warwick. He proudly told the staff about his achievements when they got back at Wootton, and has decided he is definitely coming again next year! He’s even bought his own windlass.
Another really enthusiastic group of newcomers to the world of narrowboating made friends with our boat yard team, and even took a hand painted dipper from my boatman’s cabin to hang over their fireplace to remind them of their boating adventures!
Going into the autumn, particularly in September and over the October Half Term, we were still extremely busy with most of our boats booked out by people taking advantage of the mild weather, and the chance to see the changing colours of the autumn leaves on the trees that line our waterways.
Now it’s November, and sadly another lockdown has just been announced. Here at Wootton Wawen we stay open all year round for winter cruising, so we hope our boats can get back out again in December.
In the meantime, here at Anglo Welsh we are all extremely grateful to the vast majority of our customers who have been prepared to postpone their holidays with us, rather than cancel. We are glad that our holidays were able to resume and have been more popular than ever, helping to support other businesses like canalside pubs and village shops.
As we continue to live with the coronavirus and the changes it has made to our lives, the future remains uncertain. But spending time by the water always somehow makes things feel better, watching nature peacefully continue to change with the seasons.”
Plan your 2021 canal boat holiday adventure with our bucket list guide
Canal boat holidays are a wonderful way to explore the countryside and some of Britain’s most exciting historic attractions. With the narrowboat as your mobile floating holiday home, you can moor up in a new spot every night, and discover fascinating things to see and do along the way.
To help you plan the perfect narrowboat holiday adventure in 2021, here’s a guide to some of our canal boat holiday musts:
1. Be wowed by the wildlife
Canals and rivers are home to an incredible array of wildlife, from rare mammals, birds and amphibians to many species of plants. Even in cities, canals provide green corridors, enabling animals and plants to flourish. If you are vigilant and have a pair of binoculars at the ready, you may be able to spot some of the rarer and shier waterway inhabitants such as water voles, otters and kingfishers, as well as the more common water birds, like ducks, swans, coots, moorhens and geese. You can also take a look down at the water to spy fish, frogs, toads, newts, or up at the sky to see bats, owls, woodpeckers, hedgerow birds and birds of prey.
2. Visit a historic town or city
The waterways were once the primary means of transport and communication between centres of industry and commerce, so they pass through many exciting historic towns and cities. You can choose a route which takes you to some of Britain’s best preserved ancient cities, including Bath, Oxford and Chester, all with an impressive array of beautiful historic buildings to admire. The canals can also take you into the heart of bustling cities, like Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham and to historic market towns, such as Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick, Devizes, Llangollen, Whitchurch, Bradford on Avon and Abingdon.
3. Marvel at the historic engineering of the canals
Most of our canals were built over 200 years ago during the Industrial Revolution, starting with the opening of the Bridgewater Canal in 1761. Despite their age, the canals still use, for the most part, the same engineering structures – lock gates, swing bridges, tunnels and aqueducts. There are some particularly impressive feats of historic engineering which are worth trying to incorporate into your canal boat holiday route, such as the incredible lock flights at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, the Kennet & Avon Canal at Caen Hill or the Grand Union Canal at Hatton. There are many famous tunnels, such as the Chirk Tunnel on the Llangollen Canal, the Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal and the Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Canal. And there are soaring aqueducts to glide across, including the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal and the Edstone Aqueduct on the Stratford Canal.
4. Enjoy a pint at a canalside pub
From busy city boozers to rustic country inns, the canals are lined with wonderful pubs where you can enjoy a pint, shoot the breeze and watch the world float by. During the years when canals provided key transport thoroughfares, many pubs sprung up along their routes to cater for the canal workers who would travelling up and down the country delivering their cargo. To this day, some of the country’s oldest and most characterful taverns are found along our canals, so enjoy taking some time out from boating to enjoy a warm canalside pub welcome.
5. Explore on foot
Canal towpaths offer thousands of miles of wonderful walking and cycling routes and hundreds of footpaths connect into waterway paths. These include some of Britain’s most famous walking routes, such as the Pennine Way, the Offa’s Dyke Path, the Heart of England Way and the Shropshire Way. Plan some lovely circular walks to explore more of the gorgeous unspoilt countryside through which you are passing, or the historic towns and villages you moor up in.
6. Stop off at a castle or stately home
Britain has a wealth of historic properties to visit, from castle ruins to perfectly preserved stately homes. People travel from all over the world to see these treasures and a canal boat holiday is the perfect way to reach some of our nation’s most amazing sights. Many stately homes house incredible art collections and antique furnishing, as well as landscaped formal gardens and parkland. National Trust properties close to the canals include: Packworth House close to the Stratford Canal at Lapworth in Warwickshire; Shrugborough Hall next to the Trent & Mersey Canal near Great Haywood; and Chirk Castle close to the Llangollen Canal. There are also fascinating castles at Oxford, Skipton and Warwick to explore, as well as historic sites like Avebury close to the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire and the Battle of Bosworth Field next to the Ashby Canal in Leicestershire.
Autumn is a great time to take a narrowboat holiday and enjoy the beautiful colours in the trees and hedgerows along Britain’s beautiful inland waterways network.
All our boats are equipped with the key comforts of home – hot water, TV, Wi-Fi*, well-stocked kitchens, showers, flushing toilets and central heating, so it’s always nice and cosy on board.
Whether you are newcomer to narrowboat holidays looking for an easy route to test the waters, or a seasoned boater looking for a longer more challenging route, here’s a guide to our Top 10 destinations for autumn 2020:
1. Travel through the Shropshire Lake District to Llangollen and back – from our narrowboat rental base at Whixall Marina on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around 12 hours to reach the pretty town of Llangollen, on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains. Along the way, you’ll pass through the Shropshire Lake District, across the border into Wales, and over the magnificent Chirk and Pontcysyllte Aqueducts, also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’. With just two locks to pass through each way, this journey is perfect for beginners on a week away.
2. Journey round the Four Counties Ring – from our canal boat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, in the autumn when the days are shorter, you can complete the popular Four Counties Ring on a 10 day or two week holiday. The route, which takes around 55 cruising hours to complete, passes through 94 locks and takes you through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire. Highlights include: the waters at Tixall Wide; the 2670-metre long Harecastle Tunnel; the flight of 15 locks at Audlem; views of the rolling Cheshire Plains; and the Roman town of Middlewich.
3. Cruise through the Worcestershire countryside to Lapworth – from our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s a gentle seven-hour cruise through the countryside to the village of Lapworth. With two tunnels but no locks along the way, it’s a great short break for beginners. Once moored up in Lapworth, you can explore the village and visit the National Trust’s Packwood House, with magnificent gardens, including the iconic Yew Garden, where according to legend, the 350-year old trees represent the ‘Sermon on the Mount’.
4. Cruise along the Pennine summit – from our canal boat rental base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, it takes 13 hours, travelling 22 miles and passing through 15 locks to reach Foulridge Wharf, perfect for a week afloat. The route takes boaters across the top of the Pennines, passing through remote and beautiful countryside, as well as the villages of Bank Newton, East Marton, Greenberfield and Salterforth along the way.
5. Float through the Avon Valley to Caen Hill Locks and back – on a short break from our canal boat rental base at Bath on the Kennet & Avon Canal, it takes around 10½ hours to reach Foxhangers Wharf, at the bottom of the Caen Hill Flight of Locks at Devizes, perfect for a three or four night active short break. Along the way, you’ll pass through 16 locks (eight each way), over two dramatic Bath stone aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff, the pretty town of Bradford on Avon with its magnificent 14th century Tithe Barn, and miles of peaceful countryside.
6. Enjoy a floating tour of the West Midlands – on 10 day or two week holiday from our Stockton canal boat rental base on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can tackle the 101-mile, 94-lock Warwickshire Ring, which takes around 53 hours to complete. The route takes boaters along sections of the Coventry, Oxford, Grand Union, Stratford and Birmingham & Fazeley canals. Highlights include historic Warwick with its jaw-dropping medieval castle on the banks of the River Avon, the magnificent Hatton Flight of 21 locks, the pretty canal village of Braunston and Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham.
7. Take a Thames boating holiday to Lechlade – from our narrowboat hire base on the River Thames at Oxford, it’s a tranquil nine-hour, seven-lock cruise west to the pretty market town of Lechlade on the edge of the Cotswolds, perfect for a four-night break. Along the way, boaters travel through miles of peaceful Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire countryside, the village of Radcot with its 800-year old bridge across the Thames and Kelmscott Manor, once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris.
8. Navigate through the Cheshire plains to Chester – from our canal boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury, the Roman City of Chester is a delightful seven-hour, nine-lock cruise away, travelling through the rolling Cheshire landscape. Once there, you can moor up to explore this ancient city, home to the most complete City Walls in Britain which date back 2,000 years to the Roman occupation. There’s a two-mile wall walking trail, giving visitors the chance to follow in the footsteps of the Roman soldiers and enjoy panoramic views on both sides.
9. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Whitchurch – on a week’s holiday from our canal barge holiday hire centre at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, boaters can travel to Whitchurch and back, which takes a total of 24 hours, passing through just four locks (two each way). Along the way, you will travel across the incredible UNESCO World Heritage designated Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which carries the canal in a cast iron trough 38 metres high above the Dee Valley. And you’ll glide gently through the Shropshire Lake District, watching out for wildlife along the way. Once at Whitchurch, you can moor up to explore this pretty historic town with half-timbered buildings, independent shops and restaurants, and way-marked circular walks.
10. Visit Shakespeare’s Stratford – from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it’s a delightful six-hour, 17-lock cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to reach moorings at Bancroft Basin in Stratford-upon-Avon. Along the way, the route takes you across the Edstone Aqueduct and past the village of Wilmcote, with a choice of pubs. Once in Stratford, you can enjoy exploring the home of the Bard, with its many pubs, restaurants, museums, shops and regular markets.
On a week’s *NB Our Silsden boats don’t have Wi-Fi
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.