Our canal boats are like floating holiday cottages so you’ll find many of the home comforts already on board, including a galley kitchen equipped with cutlery, crockery, cooking utensils, saucepans, a four burner gas cooker with an oven and grill, a microwave and a fridge with a small freezer compartment. Bed linen is supplied and you’ll also find hand towels in the bathrooms.
There’s a surprising amount of storage space on board for everything you need to bring with you. To help you prepare for your canal boat holiday, we’ve put together a list of useful items to pack:
Extra Towels – We provide both bath towels and hand towels but bringing some extra will be a good idea, especially in the wetter months!
Shopping bags – remember to pack your re-useable shopping bags as well as re-useable plastic bottles and coffee cups to help limit the amount of plastic you acquire on your holiday afloat.
DVD’s & games – for cosy nights in, bring along some cards and board games, as well some DVD’s as a good TV reception isn’t always available on the canals.
A torch – if you do venture out to the pub for the evening, it’s best to take a torch as country moorings can be incredibly dark at night #greatforstargazing.
Toilet rolls – we supply toilet roll in our loos but do bring along extra
Washing up liquid – pack an eco/aquatic-friendly washing up liquid and hand soap like Ecover or Poddy (which we sell in our boat yard shops), and make sure your shampoos and face washes are microbead free as the water you use to wash up and shower with will empty straight into the canal.
Be prepared for all weather – if it’s wet you’ll need a good waterproof jacket and a large golfing umbrella for the skipper. If it’s sunny, you’ll need a sun hat, sun glasses and sun cream. Gloves are also useful for working the locks and steering when it’s cold.
Footwear – trainers or rubber soled shoes are best for boating and lock working. And it’s a good idea to bring slippers or warm socks to wear on board.
Binoculars – one of the best things about a narrowboat holiday is the wildlife you’ll see along the way, so do pack some binoculars if you own them to enhance your wildlife spotting experience.
A canal map – there are some great canal maps available to buy in advance or in our boat yard shops, for example Nicholson’s guides are available on Amazon. You can also plan your trip online using the mapping tools on the Canal & River Trust’s website, but mobile phone signals can be patchy on the canal network.
Drinks – the water on board is drinkable but it’s worth bringing a large bottle of drinking water to top up with. And wine boxes are great space savers and safer to transport than bottles.
Condiments – if you are planning to cook on board, remember to pack some extra flavourings as well as the main ingredients, including salt & pepper, tomato sauce, herbs and spices.
Phone chargers – our boats have 240 volt 3-pin sockets powered by the on board batteries so you can charge your phones and tablets on board. But we advise you to only do this when the engine is running as there’s a limit to power available and you want to avoid draining the batteries. Blenders, cool boxes and hair straighteners can also be plugged in, but nothing above 1000 watts is permitted – so no kettles, irons, hairdryers or heaters.
Your dog’s bed – pets are welcome on board our boats, but do let us know at the time of booking and remember to bring your pet’s blanket or basket with you as they aren’t allowed on the beds or chairs. Remember to bring poo bags too!
First aid kit – we recommend you pack a basic first aid kit, including antiseptic, plasters & bandages, in case of any cuts, scrapes or sprains.
Top 8 February Half Term canal boat holiday destinations
WINTER HALF TERM CANAL BOAT HOLIDAY DESTINATIONS
Give boredom the push-off and take to the water this winter.
Emma Lovell, Anglo Welsh’s Reservations Manager, believes a narrowboat holiday is the perfect solution for winter break for all the family.
Whether you’re planning a half-term holiday or a winter mini break, this time of year can be tricky. The weather is unpredictable and if it’s cold or raining you can end up spending a fortune on indoor activities to keep everyone amused.
That’s why a narrowboat holiday is a great choice. First off, you can pick a boat which suits your group – from a cosy boat for two to a larger boat for 12 and many size options between – so no problem if you want to invite grandma, your aunties, cousins or friends.
Secondly, everyone can have a role, so there’s no need to be bored. You’ll need a skipper to steer the boat, while the crew can plan the route, open and close the locks, look out for other boats, mooring spaces and wildlife, as well as places to eat and visit.
Thirdly we can guarantee no airport delays, no cancelled trains and no motorway closures. Some parts of the canal network might be closed for winter maintenance in advance – but we can advise you about these when we are planning your route.
Travelling at a pleasing, and environmentally-friendly, four-miles-an-hour, your scenery will change continuously and, depending on where you travel to and from, you can moor in the heart of vibrant cities like Birmingham and Bath, pretty market towns like Whitchurch and Stratford upon Avon, or hundreds of picture perfect villages up and down the country.
Personally I think cosying up on one of our boats (all of which have central heating and some multi-fuel stoves too) is particularly wonderful when the weather is challenging. And as you travel leisurely from place to place, it’s a great opportunity to bond together as a family and reconnect with your kids. The boats do have WiFi – but you don’t need to tell anyone!
For a bit of inspiration, I’ve listed my top five activities and indoor destinations you can reach from our bases;
Travel into Birmingham for culture and the Sea Life Centre – from our canal boat holiday hire base at Tardebigge it takes five hours to cruise into the centre of Birmingham. With no locks to pass through along the way, it’s a great route for narrowboat holiday novices. You can moor up in Gas Street Basin to enjoy the City’s many shops, galleries, museums and attractions such as Sea Life Centre in Brindleyplace.
Look up Shakespeare in Stratford upon Avon – 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 and visit all five connected sites which tell the full story on the Bard.
Swap the water forthe Steam Railway at Llangollen – from our canal boat rental base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes just two hours to cruise to the beautiful town of Llangollen, on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains. Once there, you can moor up and take time to explore this pretty town which offers plenty of places to eat and the Llangollen Steam Railway.
Discover Britain’s Secret Nuclear Bunker – from our canal boat rental base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, it takes around three-and-a-half hours, travelling nine miles and passing through just two locks, to reach moorings close to the Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker Museum. This fascinating blast-proof underground bunker was once one of the nation’s most secret defence sites.
Cruise to Waterworld for Tropical Aqua Park – heading north from our narrowboat rental base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, you can reach the Festival Park in Stoke on Trent in around 13 hours. From there it’s a 10-minute walk to Waterworld, where you can enjoy a range of thrill seeking rides, including white knuckle flumes, raft rides, and the legendary Thunderbolt.
By Kevin Yarwood, Manager at our Great Haywood canal boat hire base
Spring is a glorious time to celebrate the rich and diverse wildlife living in Britain. Global warming and climate change campaigners are raising awareness of the World’s fragile eco-systems and the importance of preserving what we have by reducing waste and lowering our carbon emissions. As a company we encourage our staff and customers to support British wildlife by removing litter and plastic from the waterways wherever they see it.
The UK’s inland waterways weave through urban, suburban and rural environments taking in cityscapes, stunning scenery, historic landmarks, industrial heritage, World Heritage, museums, galleries, pubs and shops. Travelling along as just four miles per hour, from the perspective of a narrowboat, Britain is a destination with something for everyone. And in Spring, when the countryside is teeming with new life, there is no better way to witness waterside trees and hedges bursting into blossom, nest-building birds, ducklings bobbing on the water, spring lambs playing in the fields, and carpets of bluebells in waterside woodlands. The Canal and River Trust as produced a wonderful Spotters Guide to Waterway Wildlife which is well worth a read.
Equipped with a bespoke travel plan, with our help you can design your own perfect UK Spring break – choosing to take in your favourite destinations on a cruise for a few days, a week or longer. And, as narrowboats travel at low speeds burning less fuel, this is a holiday with a reduced carbon footprint.
To celebrate Britain’s natural environment, we’ve put together our Top 10 Spring canal boat holiday destinations for 2020:
Navigate through Shakespeare country and Warwickshire farmland – from Anglo Welsh’s narrowboat hire base at WoottonWawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it takes around six hours, travelling through 17 locks to reach Stratford upon Avon. Travelling over the Edstone Aqueduct and on through the pretty Warwickshire countryside, with spring lambs playing in the fields alongside the canal, boaters can stop off to visit Mary Arden’s Tudor Farm in the canalside village of Wilmcote, where Shakespeare’s mother grew up. Once in Stratford, there are overnight moorings in Bancroft Basin, perfect for enjoying all that Shakespeare’s birthplace has to offer, including riverside parks, theatres, shops, restaurants and museums.
Cruise into the Peak District spotting kingfishers along the way – on a week’s break from Anglo Welsh’s barge hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, canal boat holiday-makers can easily reach the beautiful Caldon Canal and travel into the Peak District. The journey takes boaters up to Stoke on Trent, passing Wedgewood World along the way, and, once on the Caldon, through gently rolling hills and wooded areas alongside the beautiful River Churnet. Here there’s the chance to spot kingfishers, herons, jays and woodpeckers, as well as otters which have recently returned to the area. The return journey along the Caldon to Froghall takes around 43 hours, travelling a total of 72 miles and passing through 70 locks.
Travel round the Stourport Ring through idyllic stretches of Worcestershire countryside – on a week’s break from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat rental base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, boaters can travel round the Stourport Ring. This popular circuit takes boaters on an 84-mile, 114-lock journey, in around 56 cruising hours. Much of the route is rural, cruising sections of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, River Severn, Birmingham Canal Main Line and Stourbridge canals. Rural highlights include: Kinver Edge with its extensive woodlands and National Trust Holy Austin Rock Houses; idyllic stretches of Worcestershire countryside along the River Severn; and the dramatic flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge, climbing two-and-a-quarter miles with spectacular views of the open countryside all around. This circuit also takes boaters through central Birmingham, Kidderminster and the ancient City of Worcester with its magnificent cathedral.
Cruise to the gateway of the Yorkshire Dales and explore the ancient woods at Skipton Castle – from our barge holiday hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just over three hours to reach Skipton, the ‘Gateway to the Dales’, with its medieval fortress and acres of woodland trails to explore. For nearly a thousand years Skipton Castle Woods provided fuel, food and building materials for castle inhabitants. Today there are at least 18 species of trees flourishing there, and hundreds of flowering plants, including wild orchids and bluebells in the Spring. The journey along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Silsden passes through the typical Yorkshire stone built villages of Kildwick and Farnhill and on into a dense wooded area famous for its bluebells and deer.
Drift through the beautiful prehistoric Vale of Pewsey – from our canal boat rental base at Brassknocker Basin on the Kennet & Avon Canal just outside Bath, it takes around 19 hours to reach Pewsey Wharf, perfect for a week afloat. Along the way, boaters pass through miles of peaceful Wiltshire countryside, with a series of waterside villages and country pubs to visit along the way. Highlights on this route include: the mighty Caen Hill Flight of 29 locks at Devizes; cruising along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest; and the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and home to prehistoric Avebury. The journey to Pewsey and back takes around 38 hours, passing through 74 locks (37 each way).
Travel to Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains – from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat 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. Along the way, boaters travel through the beautiful Shropshire Lake District and across the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Once in Llangollen, boaters can moor up to enjoy exploring this pretty town nestled on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains, including its regular markets packed with local produce, choice of independent shops and restaurants, steam railway and famous Horseshoe Falls. The journey to Llangollen and back passes through just four locks (two each way).
Navigate the Four Counties Ring for stunning views of the Cheshire Plains – on a week’s break from our narrowboat rental base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, boaters can travel round the popular Four Counties Ring, one of the most rural canal cruising circuits. Travelling for around 58 hours and passing through 96 locks, this route takes canal boat holiday-makers through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire and travels sections of the Trent & Mersey, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Shropshire Union canals. Rural highlights include: panoramic views from the flight of 31 locks (also known as ‘Heartbreak Hill’) between Middlewich and Kidsgrove on the Trent & Mersey Canal; stunning views of the rolling Cheshire Plains on the Shropshire Union Canal; acres of farmland on the Middlewich Branch; wildlife spotting at Tixall Wide on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal; and the National Trust’s Shugborough Hall with its extensive waterside gardens.
Cruise to the Shropshire Lake District and catch a glimpse heron chick – from our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, on a short break (three or four nights) boaters can cruise to the Shropshire Lake District, teeming with water birds and other wildlife. The journey to the medieval market town of Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District, takes around seven hours, passing through just two locks and over two magnificent aqueducts, including the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This Wonder of the Waterways, carries the Llangollen Canal 38 metres high above the Dee valley, with magnificent views of the valley and Welsh Mountains beyond. Formed thousands of years ago by the melting of the glaciers during the retreating ice age, the meres of the Shropshire Lake District, including The Mere at Ellesmere are particularly beautiful in Spring. And every Spring, Moscow Island on The Mere is home to the Heron Watch Scheme, with cameras allow visitors to watch the birds build nests and raise chicks.
Take a Thames boating holiday to Abingdon and listen out for cuckoos calling – from our barge hire base on the River Thames near Oxford, it takes around five hours, passing through six locks and travelling 15 miles to reach the historic riverside market town of Abingdon – perfect for a short break Thames boating holiday. Along the way, as well as cruising through the outskirts of the ancient City of Oxford, boaters pass through beautiful stretches of Oxfordshire countryside, with lush meadows, stretches of woodlands alive with bluebells alongside the river and the chance to hear cuckoos calling. Once moored up at Abingdon, boaters can enjoy exploring riverside walks, parks and eateries, including the popular waterside Nag’s Head
Travel through the Northamptonshire countryside to Stoke Bruerne – on a mid-week (four night) break from our canal boat rental base at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can cruise to the pretty Northamptonshire village of Stoke Bruerne and back. The journey takes around 12 hours, travelling 28 mostly rural miles and passes through 16 locks, as well as the 2813-metre long Blisworth Tunnel. Once in Stoke Bruerne, visitors can enjoy a choice of canalside pubs, browsing the intriguing waterway history collections at the Canal Museum and following the village’s charming woodland walk and sculpture trail.
Narrowboating through the years: canal boats of the past, present and future
All our holiday canal boats here at Anglo Welsh are narrowboats – based on the traditional barges designed specifically to navigate the narrow canals of England and Wales. Of course, our rental narrowboats have been built with the comfort and convenience of our guests as the primary focus so while the exteriors are that of a traditional narrowboat, all our barges are fitted out with contemporary luxuries and appliances.
Narrowboats are an evocative sight, harking back to Britain’s industrial past. Just as most of the canals have changed little since their construction in the 18th century, the basic design of narrowboats has also remained largely the same for more than 200 years.
Here we thought we would offer a brief history of the narrowboat as well as looking at what the future may hold for canal boats.
But first, to clarify, purists tend to refer to the old working boats as ‘narrow boats’ and the leisure craft that are now such a common sight on the canals as ‘narrowboats’. For simplification, we will refer to narrowboats throughout.
It now also describes more modern narrowboats which are more often used as pleasure boats or homes but whose structure follows the same design.
The narrowboats were designed to ensure they could fit through the locks and under bridges with a minimum width of seven feet (2.1 metres).
Until the second half of the 18th century inland waterway craft design and size varied widely according to where in the country they were travelling. The concept of a standardised boat about 7-ft wide and 70-ft long is attributed to famous canal engineer James Brindley.
He agreed a deal with the Trent and Mersey Canal Company to build the locks on their canal to take boats of those dimensions. This was much too narrow to allow most boats then using the rivers the canal linked to. It set a precedent becoming the standard lock size for the rest of the Midlands canals meaning all boats wishing to use the canal network then had to meet these criteria.
The evolution of the narrowboat
During the canals’ heydays from the late 18th to early 20th centuries, hundreds of companies were operating narrowboats to transport goods all over England and Wales. All the original wooden narrowboats were horse drawn, hence all canals having a towpath running their entire length.
Originally boatmen would leave their families at home onshore while they went and worked the waterways for several weeks at a time. As the 19th century progressed and canal companies were squeezed by competition from the railways, real wages fell and that became financially impossible. This meant boatmen’s families often travelled with them on the boats working as unpaid crew living in very cramped conditions.
More fortunate were the independent self-employed boatmen who owned their own vessel and were known as ‘Number Ones’.
Steam engine powered narrowboats began to appear in the latter part of the 19th century, mostly used for the longer distance journeys between London and the east and west Midlands. Steamers often worked non-stop day and night to meet their strict schedules.
The problem with steam power was the engine and coal took up a lot of space reducing the cargo capacity and they required a much bigger crew – seven men for a steam and tow barge.
One of the leading narrowboat companies Fellows Morton & Clayton Ltd (FMC) began experimenting with gas engines in the early 1900s and in 1912 fitted a Bolinder engine onto a narrowboat called ‘Linda’.
When this proved a success all future narrowboats were fitted with Bolinder engines, some of which are still used today.
The inland waterways were nationalised in 1948 and carrying companies including FMC and the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company Ltd transferred their fleets over to the newly formed British Transport Commission which later became the British Waterways Board and is now the Canal and River Trust.
During World War Two and the years that followed it, the canals were allowed to fall into disrepair with many becoming impassable. In the 1960s the British Waterways Board ceased most of its narrowboat carrying work and many vessels were left abandoned.
But it was around this time that work to restore the canals began to gain momentum. Since the 1960s hundreds of miles of canals as well as many historic engineering features have been repaired and are now enjoyed by people up and down the country as a wonderful recreational resource. The inland waterways are now used by more boats than at any other time in their history with most used as leisure vessels for canal boat holidays and day trips. But there are also many boats that provide floating homes, offices and there are still working boats carrying goods from place to place.
Many of the earliest pleasure boats were converted former working narrowboats but over time most boat building yards diversified into purpose building pleasure craft with sturdy steel hulls. This is the model of our wonderful fleet of narrowboat hire boats at Anglo Welsh.
The popularity of narrowboats and other canal vessels as floating homes has soared in the last decade as rising rents have encouraged people to look for more creative living options. This shows no signs of abating – nor does the popularity of narrowboat holidays. Our holiday narrowboats vary greatly in size to suit different groups with some sleeping just two people while others have berths for up to 12 as well as different levels of luxury and style according to guests needs.
The key change we are likely to see in coming years is the move towards much more environmentally viable narrowboats, in terms of the materials used to build and maintain them, the appliances used onboard and the fuel used to power them. We are likely to see the diesel engines that currently dominate replaced by more green powered forms of propulsion. Electric engines, solar panels and wind turbines will become the norm. That way we can all continue to enjoy the canals for many more years to come while at the same time, protecting the environment.
It is well documented that stress is bad for the health – both mental and physical. Stress has been linked to high blood pressure, raised cholesterol levels, heart disease, depression and much more. Yet many aspects of our busy modern lives contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety. This makes it all the more important to take time out to relax and decompress away from your usual responsibilities and pressures.
A mounting body of evidence shows that human connection is a vital component of wellbeing. Canals are wonderfully sociable places with everyone, whether on the water or the towpath, giving one another a wave and a smile as they pass. So, whether you go out walking, cycling or boating along the canals, you will quickly be welcomed into a friendly community of people who share a love of these beautiful inland waterways.
You can also get involved with the Canal and River Trust volunteers who give up their time to help care for and maintain the canals from painting and planting to litter picking and wildlife surveying. Alternatively, head along to one of the many wonderful events that take place along the canals with everything from group walks to photo exhibitions, special cruises and behind the scenes heritage days.
If you are on a canal boat holiday you are likely to find yourself mooring up alongside or in close proximity to other narrowboats and sharing locks. One of the joys of a narrowboat trip is making friends with fellow boaters. There is a great camaraderie on the canals so enjoy being part of it.
Most of us are far too sedentary in our daily lives due to office based jobs, cars and of course, the lure of television. While it may seem more relaxing to lounge on a sofa than get outside for a walk, the opposite is true. There is lots of research to show that exercise is one of the best ways to tackle stress, promote good sleep and boost mental wellbeing in addition to the countless physical benefits it brings.
The canals offer ideal routes for walking, running or cycling away from the noise and fumes of the roads, with more than 2000 miles of well laid towpaths snaking through green and luscious countryside.
During your canal boat holiday, step ashore and walk alongside the narrowboat for a while to stretch your legs. Since the boats cruise at walking pace, you can easily keep pace. Alternatively moor up and head off exploring on foot as there are many lovely circular walking routes to be enjoyed all the way along the waterways. With so many great pubs, historic sights, villages and towns dotted along the canals you can almost always incorporate a drink or lunch stop into your walk, run or cycle.
Exercise in virtually any circumstances will always promote good health but exercise in gorgeous tranquil surroundings is even more rejuvenating to mind, body and soul.
The new trend for mindfulness is all about being present in the moment and aware of your surroundings rather than being constantly distracted by your mobile or anything else. Mobile technology has meant we spend a worrying proportion of our lives with our minds fixed on a small screen rather than taking in our surroundings while the pressures of work mean we are often running through future or past to do lists rather than simply living in the moment.
A canal boat holiday is a chance to put on your out of office, switch off that phone, ignore those emails, sit back and admire the wonders of the British countryside and some of our finest towns and cities from Oxford and Bath to Chester and Birmingham.
One of the joys of a canal holiday is that you are constantly on the move so there is always something new to look at, rare wildlife to spot, another lock to navigate, a swing bridge that needs working, a night-time mooring to locate, a pub with local ale to sample and more. With changing surroundings and a narrowboat to navigate, you will find yourself completely absorbed in the moment.
The canals are actually busier today than at any other time in their history with around 34,000 boats gracing their waters, providing homes, workplaces or simply holiday escapes like our own narrowboats. If you are able to give any time towards helping look after these much used and loved resources, you will be helping enhance the lives of millions of people who enjoy them every year. Most of the volunteering is also great fun, involving getting outdoors and active with likeminded people doing their bit to keep the canals in good working order.
At Anglo Welsh we are hugely grateful to all the people who contribute to these waterways which enable all our guests to enjoy magical canal boat holidays year after year.
Romantic canal destinations to visit this Valentine’s Day
Roxy, who works in the Anglo Welsh Head Office, has been tailor-making canal boat holidays for Anglo Welsh clients for over four years, and she loves to match people with the perfect holiday. Who better then to advise old-school romantics on how to woo their Valentine with a perfect date on the waterways.
Travelling by narrowboat is romantic. That’s a fact. The views, the traditions and the pace of life are perfect for couples wanting to spend some quality time together, so why not treat your partner to a romantic mini-break on a ‘love boat’ this Valentine’s Day?
Anglo Welsh Holidays offers winter cruising from six narrowboat hire bases in England and Wales, and all our boats are beautifully equipped with comfy beds, contemporary kitchens, modern bathrooms and central heating, so you’ll both be snuggly and warm on board.
With the freedom to roam the waterways from your cruising love-nest you can access some of Britain’s most-loved towns and villages, without having encounter a single traffic jam. Take romantic strolls along frosty towpaths, indulge in candlelit dinners for two in waterside dining destinations and cosy up by roaring log fires in traditional country pubs.
We also offer day hire from six of our canal boat hire bases, giving the option of just taking a day out on the waterways. Full tuition is included, so you can get the hang of steering the boat, working the locks and mooring up. All our day boats are equipped with the facilities you need for a day afloat – cutlery, crockery, a kettle, cooker, fridge and toilet.
To help you decide where to go, with a mix of day and mini-break hire, I’ve chosen my top six romantic destinations, for Valentine’s Day. Whether you’re looking to propose, shop for a ring or simply enjoy being together in some of the most beautiful places in the UK, read on to discover how you can wow your Valentine on their very own love boat.
Propose by a waterfall in the Welsh Mountains– from our canal barge hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes just two hours to reach the pretty Eistedfordd town of Llangollen, nestled in the Berwyn Mountains. As well as providing a choice of romantic settings to propose, including the famous Horseshoe Falls, Llangollen offers lovers regular markets packed with local produce to saunter through hand-in-hand and a number of romantic waterside dining venues, including the popular Corn Mill.
Choose a ring in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter – from our canal boat rental base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes five hours to reach over-night moorings in the centre of Birmingham, where lovers can moor up and head to the famous Jewellery Quarter to find the perfect engagement or eternity ring. There are plenty of places to wine and dine in Brindleyplace, including Marco Pierre White’s restaurant at the top of The Cube, serving ‘spectacular steaks and signature cocktails’ with stunning views across Birmingham.
Experience panoramic views from Nantwich Aqueduct – from our canal boat hire base at Bunbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, you can hire a boat for the day and cruise south for six sedate miles to the historic town of Nantwich. Here boaters can glide across the town’s impressive Grade II* listed aqueduct to enjoy panoramic views across the town. With no locks along the way, the journey to Nantwich takes around two hours. There are moorings next to the aqueduct and choice of places to eat, including The Waterside Café.
Read Shakespeare’s Sonnets in Stratford – on a short break from our narrowboat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal in Warwickshire, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare. Once there, you can moor up in Bancroft Basin to a great choice of dining venues, including the waterside Carluccio’s, book a Tower Tour at the Swan Theatre to enjoy panoramic views of Stratford and visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace to find out more about the Bard, his romantic plays and his love poems.
Enjoy a rural retreat in Staffordshire – from our narrowboat rental base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, you can hire a day boat and cruise quietly through the Staffordshire countryside to the historic market town of Rugeley. The journey travels four miles, passes through two locks and takes around two hours. Along the way, the route passes the National Trust’s impressive Shugborough Estate, the beautiful Cannock Chase Forest, the Wolseley Arms canalside pub and the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wolseley Centre.
Cruise through the Shropshire Lake District – from our narrowboat rental base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, on a short break you can head west along the Llangollen Canal to Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. The journey to Ellesmere takes around two-and-a-half hours, cruising through eight miles of stunning countryside, and passing Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park along the way. Once at Ellesmere, you can moor up and explore the famous Mere with its romantic historic castle, woodland paths and fascinating wildlife.
Our 2020 winter short breaks (three or four nights) start at £535*, and £740* for a week. Or you could choose to just hire a boat for the day from one of our six boat yards offering day hire, with prices from just £99.
Plus, from our Tardebigge narrowboat hire base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromgsrove, our day boat ‘Emma’ has a cosy cabin for two and can be hired for just one or two nights. Overnight boat rental prices aboard ‘Emma’ start at £198*.
*Fuel is charged based on use, circa £10-15 per day. A £50 fuel deposit for short breaks is taken at the time of booking. £90 for a week.
Amazing canal facts worth reading ahead of your narrowboat holiday
There are more than 2000 miles of navigable canals and rivers throughout England and Wales, making up an intricate network which enables boats to travel the length and breadth of the country. Between them, these inland waterways boast 1,569 locks, 53 tunnels, 3112 bridges, 370 aqueducts and 74 reservoirs. Most were built more than 200 years ago and have fascinating stories to tell as well as featuring many historic feats of engineering which still wow visitors today. This is a large part of what makes a canal boat holiday so magical – a narrowboat takes you on a journey through history and human endeavor.
If you are considering a canal boat holiday, why not first have a read of these amazing canal facts which will only add to the wonder of your cruise along these historic waterways.
1) The oldest working canal in the UK is about 1,900 years old
The Fossdyke Navigation which runs between Lincoln and the River Trent at Torksey was built by the Romans in around AD 120 and is still in use today. Extending 11.3 miles, with one lock, the Fossdyke formed part of a key transport route from Peterborough to York.
It is said to have been used by the invading Danes and the Normans to carry stone to build Lincoln Cathedral in the 11th century. The canal was revamped under King Henry I in 1121 but then fell into disrepair and silted up until, by the 17th century, it was virtually impassable. In 1744 a proper channel was restored and maintained and the canal has remained navigable ever since.
2) The longest canal tunnel in the UK runs for more than 5000 metres – or 3.5 miles
The Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal is the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in Britain. Built over 16 years from 1794 to 1811, it stands at 196 metres above sea level, at a depth of 194 metres underneath the Pennines. The canal was closed to traffic in 1943 and re-opened in May 2001. Moor up during your canal boat holiday and learn more about this 19th century wonder of engineering at the Standedge Tunnel and Visitor Centre.
3) Britain’s longest aqueduct extends more than 300 metres – or 1000 ft
Deservedly described as the jewel in the crown of Britain’s canals, the awe-inspiring Pontcysyllte Aqueduct carries narrowboats on the Llangollen Canal at a soaring 38 metres – 126 ft – above the River Dee, offering stunning views of the valley and surrounding hills. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, the 18-arch aqueduct was designed by legendary civil engineer Thomas Telford and built between 1795 and 1805.
4) The longest lock flight in the UK is 30 locks long
The Tardebigge lock flight enables Worcester and Birmingham Canal to ascend 67 metres (220 feet) over a 2.25 mile stretch. Built between 1808 and 1815, the lock flight enabled an extension of the canal from Birmingham to the River Severn at Worcester to be completed. Until the lock ladder was constructed, originally with a boat lift in place of the 3.4-metre (11 feet) top lock, the canal only travelled as far the Old Wharf next to Tardebigge Tunnel.
The Canal and River Trust offers a certificate of achievement to any boaters that complete the journey through the 30 locks so why not make it your challenge for your next canal boat holiday. Find out how you can claim yours here.
The name of the canal offers a clue as to its origins, for it was not built as one waterway but was the result of connecting existing waterways to create an uninterrupted link between the industrial heartlands of Birmingham and the west midlands with the capital.
With nine locks, the Ribble Link is tidal so only navigable at certain times with advance booking needed as all boats must be helped through. A link between the Lancaster Canal and the wider canal network was first discussed 200 years ago but due to costs and engineering challenges did not come to fruition until 2000 with the help of a grant from the Millennium Commission.
7) Britain’s shortest canal is just 22 metres – or 72 feet – long
8) A cow once swan the whole length of the Foulridge Tunnel
In 1912 a cow named Buttercup fell into the Leeds and Liverpool Canal near the southern end of the tunnel which carries the waterway for a mile under the Lancashire countryside. Rather than climb out of the canal as normal, Buttercup swam all 1500 metres to Foulridge at the northern end. On arrival, Buttercup was revived with brandy by locals drinking at the nearby Hole in the Wall pub.
9) Canals have plugs, literally
In 1978, a group of British Waterways workers who were dredging the Chesterfield Canal pulled up a chain which had a heavy lump of wood attached to the end. As the entire canal between Whitsunday Pie Lock and Retford Town Lock began to empty away into the River Idle, they realised they had pulled out a long forgotten canal plug.
10) There are more boats now on the UK canals than at any other time in history
While Britain’s industrial heydays of 18th and 19th century are generally viewed as the golden age of canals, there are actually more craft on our waterways today. Despite the canals being used by far less commercial traffic, they have become a mecca for pleasure craft and a growing number of people opting for floating homes. There are now around 34,000 boats on Britain’s canals and rivers, which provide homes, workplaces and holidays for millions of people. We are proud that Anglo Welsh can claim to be the proud owners of 160 of these vessels providing wonderful narrowboat holidays for people up and down the country.
A canal boat holiday takes you back in time. It is a journey through history as you float along waterways constructed in a bygone era of horse-drawn transport.
The vast majority of the canals in England and Wales were built at the dawn of industrialisation as the most efficient way of transporting the raw materials and goods going in and out the new factories.
This makes a narrowboat holiday a history lover’s dream come true as they can admire the antique engineering and the many sights, towns and cities along the routes which have all played notable roles in creating the modern Britain we know today.
To get you started, here we take you on a brief history of the canals of England and Wales.
While the UK was the first country to develop a nationwide canal network, the Chinese claim the title of being the earlier pioneers of inland waterways, constructing the Grand Canal of China in the 10th century. Most early canals were extensions of natural rivers.
The first canals of England and Wales were built by the Romans who dug the Fossdyke connecting Lincoln to the River Trent around AD50 and the nearby Car Dyke which ran southwards towards Cambridge.
Other early waterways of the medieval and post medieval period were constructed during to shorten, extend or link river routes such as the Exeter Canal, built in 1566 which featured the first pond locks in Britain.
But the golden age of canal building began as the Industrial Revolution took hold during the second half of the 18th century, with the construction of the Bridgewater Canal.
Golden age of canal building
Completed in 1776 under the watchful eye of engineer James Brindley, the Bridgewater Canal connects Runcorn, Manchester and Leigh. It was created in order to carry coal from the Duke of Bridgewater’s mines at Worsley into the industrial heart of Manchester where demand for coal to power the mills was soaring.
The Bridgewater Canal sparked a flurry of canal building during the half century that followed its construction. During an age of horse drawn transport and antiquated mud tracks for roads, the canals provided a highly efficient way to transport large quantities of goods. One horse could pull a canal boat carrying around 30 tonnes of cargo – more than ten times the amount that could be transport via a one horse cart.
The efficiency of the Bridgewater Canal meant the price of coal in Manchester dropped by nearly two thirds within a year of its opening. The waterway repaid the cost of its construction within a few years, proving the viability of canals.
Other industrialists began to follow suit and James Brindley suddenly found himself constantly in demand. He is largely responsible for the ‘Grand Cross’, the two thousand miles of canals linking the four great rivers of England – the Severn, Mersey, Humber and Thames.
There were two key canal building periods, from 1759 to the early 1770s and from 1789 to around 1800 when trains began to dominate.
The Oxford Canal was completed in 1790, linking the coal mines and factories of the Midlands with London via the Thames while the Ellesmere Canal completed in 1805 and later incorporated into the Chester, Montgomery, Shropshire Union and Llangollen canals, helped link the Mersey and the Severn.
Thomas Telford took over from Brindley as the leading canal engineer of the late 18th century designing incredible landmarks including the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which soars over the River Dee.
The epicenter of canal building was in the industrial West Midlands and North West. Birmingham and the Black Country boasted an intricate network of 160 miles of canals, known as the Birmingham Canal Navigations, most of which survive today.
Funding for the canals was raised largely through private investors keen to reap the promised high returns. But by the end of the 18th century the flurry of canal building was over. Virtually all Britain’s canals were completed by 1815 when attention began to turn to the development of steam powered railway locomotives.
In the early 19th century the canals continued to be the preferred method for transporting bulky heavy goods while the new railway lines focused on passengers and lighter cargo. But as the century progressed the railways were developed into a national network, out competing the canals in both cargo volumes and speed, forcing tolls down so that the canal companies went into terminal decline.
The emergence of the motorcar in the early 20th century and development of an improved reliable road system was another blow to the commercial appeal of the canals.
As most of the canals fell out of commercial use and the companies that had maintained them shut down or were bought out, the waterways themselves were left to wreck and ruin.
In 1947 under the post-World War II Labour government, Britain’s canal and railway systems were nationalised. In the decades that followed, the canals were gradually restored and reopened, primarily for leisure purposes. Restoration projects have been largely undertaken by enthusiastic volunteer groups and local canal societies and trusts.
The canals are now managed by the Canal and River Trust, the successor to British Waterways, which actively supports many of the ongoing restoration projects. The Inland Waterways Association is a charity which also promotes the ongoing protection and conservation of the canals.
Commercial traffic is still permitted on a few key canal routes but the vast majority of waterways are now enjoyed by pleasure craft such as our own Anglo Welsh narrowboats.
There are said to be more boats using the British canals today than at any other point in their history.
Key sights of historic interest and engineering on the canals
Here are a few of the key sights which represented historic feats of engineering during the golden age of canal building and are still well worth a visit during a canal boat holiday today:
It looks like more and more people are planning to give airport madness a miss and stay in the UK for their holidays next year – and Britain’s beautiful canal network provides the perfect destination for a Staycation afloat in 2020.
Whether it’s the appeal of pottering slowly through the countryside, watching out for wildlife and stopping off at canalside pubs and villages along the way, or the lure of an exciting waterside attraction in a vibrant waterfront city destination, our canal boat holidays provide a floating holiday home experience and the chance to curate your own unique adventure afloat.
To help plan your next UK waterway-getaway, here are our Top 10 narrowboat holidays for the year ahead:
Take an Oxford ‘His Dark Materials’ mini-break – from our narrowboat hire base at Eynsham on the River Thames near Oxford, canal boat holiday-makers can take to the water like a gyptian, and enjoy a Thames boating holiday, reaching overnight moorings at Hythe Bridge in just three hours. From there, it’s just a short walk into Oxford’s city centre for the chance to explore dozens of historic sites, including the fascinating Bodleian Library, Lyra’s home in the BBC’s drama series ‘His Dark Materials’, based on Philip Pullman’s book ‘Northern Lights’. Just seeing this incredible building from the outside is a bucket list experience, but adults and children aged 11 and over can also explore the museum, home to nine million books across over 100 miles of shelves. The Museum also houses a number of fascinating maps, including the 14th century ‘The Bodleian Map’, the oldest surviving map of Great Britain.
Watch out for wildlife on the Montgomery Canal – from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around six hours to reach Frankton Junction, where the Llangollen Canal meets 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, and the entire length in Wales is also recognised as a Special Area of Conservation, making it one of the most important sites for wildlife in Europe. Currently only around half the Montgomery Canal is navigable, including a seven-mile section from Frankton Junction to Gronwyn Wharf. 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). Along the way, boaters can enjoy looking out for many types of waterway birds, animals and insects, including the shy nocturnal otter and critically endangered water vole.
Visit the home of the Peaky Blinders – from our canal barge hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s an eight and a half hour, three-lock journey to moorings outside the Black Country Living Museum, the official home of the Peaky Blinders. Scenes were filmed at the 26-acre Museum for all five series of this BBC epic gangster drama, centred round a famous Birmingham gang. As well as walking in the footsteps of the Shelbys, visitors can meet costumed characters explaining what it was like to live and work in one of the world’s most heavily industrialised landscapes, explore period shops and homes, have a drink in the ‘Bottle & Glass Inn’, test their times tables in a 1912 school lesson, sample the Museum’s famous traditionally cooked 1930’s-style fish and chips and take a trip ‘into the thick’ to experience life in an 1850’s coal mine.
Navigate the Four Counties Ring – on a week’s break from our narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel round the ‘Four Counties Ring’. Cruising sections of the Trent & Mersey, Shropshire Union and Staffordshire & Worcestershire canals, this popular circuit takes boaters on a 110-mile, 60-hour, 94-lock canal boat holiday odyssey, passing through some of the most beautiful landscapes in England, including the Peak District, the rolling Cheshire Plains and the Potteries. Highlights along the way include: Wedgewood Pottery in Stoke on Trent; the 1.5 mile long Harecastle Tunnel; the flight of 31 locks between Middlewich and Kidsgrove known as ‘Heartbreak Hill’; the Roman town of Middlewich; the Elizabethan Churche’s Mansion house at Nantwich; and the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man.
Celebrate Bristol’s vibrant Street Art scene – from our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath, it takes around eight hours, passing through 12 locks, to reach moorings in Bristol’s Floating Harbour. Once there you can moor up to explore the harbour and Bristol’s vibrant street art scene, which goes mainstream in 2020 with official exhibitions planned at The Royal West of England Academy and the M Shed. These exhibitions, which will begin in June, celebrate Bristol as the birthplace of modern British street art. Visitors to Bristol’s Floating Harbour can also enjoy Brunel’s incredible SS Great Britain ship museum and We The Curious, Bristol’s exciting Harbourside science museum. *NB this route is recommended route for experienced boaters and overnight mooring fees will apply
Visit the Orangutans at Chester Zoo -from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire it takes around seven hours, passing through nine locks to reach the ancient City of Chester, home to the award-winning Chester Zoo. Visitors to Chester Zoo will find over 20,000 animals from 500 species, including a family of Sumatran orangutans who welcomed the birth of a male baby in November 2019. Sumatran orangutans are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature with fewer than 14,000 surviving in the wild. At Chester Zoo, you can find out more about these fascinating animals and how to help to prevent their extinction.
Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to the Shropshire Lake District – just 10 minutes from Anglo Welsh’s narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, boaters encounter the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. Its cast iron trough filled with water, is carried 38 metres high above the Dee Valley on 19 hollow pillars. In 2009 the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was added to the UNESCO World Heritage site list, putting it on a par with the Pyramids and Taj Mahal. On a short break from Trevor, you can cross the aqueduct and then continue east to reach the Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District – a journey that takes around six hours and passes through just two locks.
Travel round the Warwickshire Ring – our canal boat hire base at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, provides perfect access to one of the most popular canal cruising circuits in Britain. Travelling sections of the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals, the Warwickshire Ring covers 104 miles, passes through 120 locks and takes around 60 hours to navigate. It can be done in a week, but a 10-day or two-week break gives more time for sight-seeing. Passing through many miles of countryside, with fields and ancient meadows and the occasional sleepy village for much of its length, the route also takes boaters through the vibrant city centre waterfronts of Birmingham. Destination highlights along the way include: the pretty canal village of Braunston; the awesome flight of 21 locks at Hatton; the splendid medieval Warwick Castle; and Birmingham’s Brindleyplace.
Cruise to the Yorkshire Dales National Park – from our canal boarge rental base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, on a short break, you can travel to the pretty village of Gargrave and back, cruising for a total of 13 hours and passing through six locks. This scenic route, which is perfect for beginners, takes boaters through the historic town of Skipton, with its striking medieval stone castle and extensive woodlands managed by the Woodland Trust. Once at Gargrave, there are pubs to enjoy, including the popular Mason’s Arms, as well as easy access to the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Pennine Way walking trail.
See a play in Shakespeare’s Stratford – from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, it’s a delightful six-hour, 17-lock cruise journey through the Warwickshire countryside to reach moorings at Bancroft Basin in Stratford-upon-Avon, just a stone’s throw from the Royal Shakespeare and Swan theatres. As well as enjoying the town’s lively markets, shops, restaurants and museums, visitors to the home of the Bard in 2020 can choose from an exciting theatrical programme, including productions of ‘The Comedy of Errors’ and ‘The Winters Tale’ at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
*NB Depending on rainfall levels, it is possible there will be some navigation opening hour restrictions on some canals on the network. We can provide information to help you plan your holiday around any lock opening hours that may be in place.
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.