Top 5 Valentine’s Day Romantic Narrowboat Holiday Destinations Afloat on the UK Canals

Anglo Welsh The Narrowboat Company offer winter cruising from a number of bases, so why not treat your loved one to a love boat this Valentine’s Day?! Cuddle up together on a cosy boat for two, stop off at country pubs along the way, take romantic strolls along frosty towpaths and visit exciting waterside destinations for candlelit dinners for two. All our boats have central heating and some also have their own multi-fuel stoves, so it’s always warm and toasty on board.

Here are our top five romantic destinations for this Valentine’s Day:

  1. Pop the question 40 metres up! Our Trevor base is close to the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which carries canal boats 40 metres high above the River Dee to enjoy spectacular views. From Trevor, on a short romantic break canal boat holiday-makers can reach the pretty town of Llangollen, dining at the popular Corn Mill or travel to Ellesmere to explore the beautiful Vale of Llangollen and Shropshire Lake District. On a week’s break out of Trevor, boaters can travel on to Wrenbury or Barbridge.
  2. Wine & dine in Birmingham. Our Tardebigge base is a five-hour lock-free journey from the centre of Birmingham, where lovers can moor up at Gas Street Basin and saunter into town for theatre, museums and fine dining.
  3. Read Shakespeare’s Sonnets in Stratford. From our base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, Stratford upon Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare, is a six-hour cruise away. Once there, boaters can moor up in Bancroft Basin and visit the Swan Theatre and the town’s many eateries. On a week’s break, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel the Birmingham Mini Ring.
  4. Find rural retreats in Staffordshire. On a short break from our base at Great Haywood on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, boaters can enjoy mile-upon-mile of rural seclusion and head to the pretty canalside village of Fradley, with quiet country pubs and Fradley Pool Nature Reserve, a site of special importance for its biodiversity.
  5. Enjoy a history trail in Chester. Our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal is just seven hours by boat from the medieval City of Chester. Once there, boaters can moor up and walk the two-mile circular Eastgate Clock Treasure Trail, visiting ‘The Cross’ in the centre of Chester, quaint streets, the Roman walls, the River Dee, the iconic Eastgate Clock, Cathedral and The Rows. On a week’s break from Bunbury, boaters can cruise to Llangollen and back.

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

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Top 5 Castles to Visit Afloat

From Royal weddings, state apartments and banqueting halls to siege towers, murder holes and dungeons, Britain’s beautiful castles bring history to life and make fantastic narrowboat holiday destinations.

Here are our top five castles to visit afloat in 2018:

  1. Explore the magnificent State Apartments at Windsor Castle  from our canal boat hire base on the River Thames near Oxford, it takes three days (travelling 74 miles through 27 locks), to reach Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world and home to The Queen. With over 900 years of Royal history to discover, including Charles II’s magnificent State Apartments with painted ceilings by Antonio Verrio and paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens and Canaletto, Windsor Castle is packed with treasures from the Royal Collection. On 20 November 1992 a fire destroyed or damaged more than 100 rooms at the Castle. Its restoration, particularly the Grand Reception Room and St George’s Hall, is a testament to the incredible skills of some of the finest crafts people in Europe. Today Windsor’s State Apartments are frequently used by members of the Royal Family for events in support of their charities, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are set to marry in St George’s Chapel in May.
  2. Wonder at Warwick Castle with over 1,000 years of history to explore – from our Stockton boat yard on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, it’s a seven-hour journey, passing through 20 locks, to reach the beautiful historic town of Warwick with its jaw-dropping medieval castle on the banks of the River Avon. Dating back to William the Conqueror, Warwick Castle offers a fantastic day out with ramparts to climb, the Castle Dungeon, Great Hall and Staterooms to explore, the sights, sounds and smells of the medieval period to experience in the Kingmaker exhibition, soaring birds of prey and trebuchet firing displays to watch, the Horrible Histories Maze to navigate and landscaped gardens to tour.
  3. Find out about the siege at Skipton Castle – from our canal boat hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just over three hours to reach Skipton with its 900-year old fortress, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England. The journey takes canal boat holiday-makers through the typical Yorkshire stone built villages of Kildwick and Farnhill and a dense wooded area famous for its bluebells and deer. Once at Skipton, visitors to the castle can explore every corner of this impressive fortress which withstood a three-year siege during the Civil War. Climbing from the depths of the Dungeon to the top of the Watch Tower, with the magnificent Banqueting Hall, Kitchen, Bedchamber and Privy in between, Skipton Castle is certainly a national treasure.
  4. Discover the impenetrable medieval fortress at Chirk – from our narrowboat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes just over an hour to reach Chirk, passing over the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way. Once safely moored, it’s a half-hour walk up to the National Trust’s Chirk Castle, one of several medieval marcher fortresses built on the Welsh-English border to keep the Welsh under English rule. Started in 1295, Chirk Castle had the most up-to-date defences of the time, with round ‘drum’ towers that allowed archers a wide firing field and created a ‘killing zone’ where the fields of fire overlapped. The towers are wider at ground level and with their five-metre thick walls, were designed to splay outwards – making it difficult for siege towers and battering rams to get close. Today it’s the only one of Edward I’s marcher fortresses still inhabited, with lavishly furnished rooms to explore, as well as the Adam Tower, complete with its two-level dungeons, medieval toilets and murder holes.
  5. Take a guided tour of Oxford Castle – from our Oxford base at Eynsham near Witney, it’s a tranquil three-hour cruise along the River Thames to City Centre moorings at Hythe Bridge, perfect for exploring Oxford and the City’s 11th century earthwork motte-and-bailey castle. Founded by the Norman baron Robert D’Oilly the elder in 1071, most of the fortress was destroyed in the English Civil War and by the 18th century, the remaining buildings had become Oxford’s local prison. Today, tours of the Castle are led by costumed character guides who lead guests up the Saxon St George’s Tower for panoramic views of the city of Oxford, deep underground to the 900-year old crypt, through the austere confines of the 18th century Debtor’s Tower and Prison D-Wing and up the Mound of the castle.

To book a holiday or break on any of Anglo Welsh’s fleet, call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122.


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Spotlight on the Canals – The Caldon Canal

Explore the Potteries, remote moorlands, tranquil water meadows, dense woodlands, fascinating industrial archaeology, cosy historic pubs and a restored steam railway.

Often described as ‘one of the finest canals in Britain’, the peaceful 17-mile long Caldon Canal runs from the Trent & Mersey Canal at Etruria in Stoke-on-Trent, to Froghall Wharf in the Staffordshire Moorlands.

With 17 locks along its length, the canal passes through moorlands close to Denford, water meadows at Cheddleton and the beautiful wooded Churnet Valley with a restored steam railway running alongside.

In the middle of the Caldon Canal, there’s a 2¼-mile arm towards the historic market town of Leek, and the now derelict 13-mile Uttoxeter extension connects at Froghall.

Opened in 1779, the Caldon Canal was built to carry Peak District limestone for the iron industry and flints for the pottery industry. Freight traffic ceased on the Caldon soon after the railway was constructed alongside, and by the 1960s the canal was virtually unnavigable. But enthusiasts bought the canal back into use by 1974 and the Caldon and Uttoxeter Canals Trust is now working to restore the Uttoxeter branch of the waterway.

On a week’s break

On a week’s break from our narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal, it’s a 43-hour return journey to Froghall Basin and back, travelling a total of 72 miles through 72 locks.

From Great Haywood, boaters should first head north along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Stoke-on-Trent, to connect onto the Caldon Canal at Etruria.

Along the way, the route passes the village of Weston, with its beautiful village pub on the green, The Woolpack run by Marston’s.

Next, canal boat holiday-makers can enjoy views of the imposing Sandon Hall, its 400 acres of rolling parkland, and Grade II* listed Pitt’s Column.

The canal then passes along the outskirts of Burston, where the family-run micro-brewery Greyhound pub is well worth the short walk to, before reaching the old market town of Stone, said to be the food and drink capital of Staffordshire. Here, there are visitor moorings at Westbridge Park, opposite the Swan pub, and a little further along past the Star pub on the left.

Next it’s Meaford Locks, and then the canalside ‘Plume of Feathers’ pub at Barlaston, now run by the actor Neil Morrissey.

At Trentham Lock, boaters can stop-off to explore the World of Wedgwood, with a factory tour, afternoon tea in the Wedgewood tea room, woodland walks and award winning museum housing a UNESCO protected collection of huge historic and cultural significance.

Just under five miles later, after travelling through the Stoke flights of five locks, the canal reaches its junction with the Caldon Canal at Etruria. Here boaters can stop to visit the Etruria Industrial Museum, the last steam-powered potters’ mill in Britain, or the Spode Visitor Centre, the birthplace of bone china.

The Caldon Canal heads away from Stoke, through the two Bedford Street staircase locks, Planet Lock, Hanley Park and then the Ivy House Lift Bridge at Northwood, raised using a Canal & River Trust key.

By now, the canal is beginning to leave the city behind and at the suburban village of Milton there are two canalside pubs to enjoy, the Foxley and the Miners Arms.

Soon after, boaters encounter Engine Lock, one of the deepest on the canal at 12ft and then the Stockton Brook Flight of five locks, taking the canal up another 45ft to its summit level of 486ft. The Sportsman pub and views of delightful woodlands can be enjoyed along the way, as well as the sight of the disused Stoke-to-Leek railway which crosses the canal above the second lock.

Next along the route, the canal passes through the village of Endon, with a couple of shops on the main road, with beautiful stretches of moorland scenery opening up.

At Hazelhurst Junction, where the Leek Branch connects, amid gently rolling hills, the mainline starts its descent via the three Hazelhurst Locks, before being crossed by the Leek Arm on a brick aqueduct overhead.

Soon after, the popular Hollybush Inn at Denford, housed in an old flour mill, offers visitors award winning ales, homemade food, log fires in the winter and a large canalside beer garden for warmer days.

The canal takes boaters past Deep Hayes Country Park, where three large scenic pools are surrounded by way-marked woodland walks. Moorings are provided for boaters who want to stop and explore this beautiful park.

Travelling alongside the River Churnet through beautiful countryside, boaters should look out for kingfishers, herons, jays and woodpeckers, as well as otters which have recently returned to the area.

At Cheddleton, there’s the little Flint Mill Museum to visit on selected weekends, a fish and chip shop, post office, supermarkets, Black Lion pub and Old School Tearooms and Craft Centre, as well as the headquarters of the Churnet Valley Railway. Services operate to Consall Forge and Frogall, on both steam and diesel trains.

After Cheddleton, the canal enters ever more remote countryside and merges with the River Churnet at Oakmeadow Ford Lock, where the valley becomes too narrow for both.

At Consall Forge, once home to forges, furnaces and slitting mills, today boaters will find a peaceful village with its secluded Black Lion pub serving good food and real ales, said to be one of the waterway network’s most iconic pubs.

Here the canal leaves the River Churnet, soon reaching Flint Mill Lock, the canal’s last. After, the channel narrows, woodlands close in and the canal’s sense of isolation grows.

Boaters pass beneath the distinctive Cherry Eye Bridge and soon after reach the 69-metre long Froghall Tunnel, which is unusually narrow and low so many craft are unable to pass through. A winding hole beforehand will accommodate 64ft boats and a loading gauge indicates whether or not you can get through.

If you can squeeze through, the picturesque Froghall Basin is beyond, where tramways once converged, bringing limestone from quarries high in the surrounding hills. Today there’s a café (Hetty’s Tearoom), picnic area, waymarked trails and services for boaters, as well as the restored top lock of the Uttoxeter Canal, with a mooring basin.

NB the Caldon Canal can also be reached from our Bunbury canal boat hire base, with the total journey to Froghall and back taking 48 hours, passing through 104 locks.

On a longer holiday

On a 10-day or two-week break from Great Haywood, boaters can travel the Caldon Canal to Froghall and back, and then continue on round the Four Counties Ring, travelling through Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands, in around 73 hours and passing through 128 locks.

To travel the ring in an anti-clockwise direction, after returning along the Caldon Canal to Stoke-on-Trent, boaters should continue north along the Trent & Mersey Canal, passing through the mighty one-and-three-quarter-mile long Harecastle Tunnel, before emerging at Kidsgrove, and Harding’s Wood Junction, where the Macclesfield Canal meets the Trent & Mersey.

Here boaters encounter the summit of ‘Heartbreak Hill’ – the series of 31 locks which between Middlewich and Kidsgrove, raise the canal 280ft up from the Cheshire Plains.

Setting off down the hill, the Red Bull flight of six locks are the first to be dealt with, followed by the two Church Locks, one Halls Lock and then three Lawton Locks at Lawton Gate.

The next village is Rode Heath with its Royal Oak pub and Rode Hall, one of Cheshire’s most exquisite country houses, which is open to the public on Wednesdays and bank holidays in the summer months.

The South Cheshire Way crosses the canal at Lower Thurlwood Lock, one of a flight of three, then it’s the two Pierpoint Locks, and then there are two more at Hassall Green, just before the canal passes beneath the M6 motorway.

At Wheelock, where there’s a choice of pubs, including the recently refurbished canalside Cheshire Cheese, there are eight locks to negotiate. It’s worth taking a break here, as from Wheelock, it’s a mile-long walk into the historic town of Sandbach, with regular markets, a Waitrose supermarket and plenty of places to eat and drink, including the Saxon Grill Restaurant at the Crown, next to the Saxon Crosses on the cobbled square in the town centre.

There’s a three-mile break from locks as the canal winds round Ettiley Heath and the Sandbach Flashes, a group of 14 wetlands designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Four miles and another four locks on, the canal reaches the historic market town Middlewich, famous for its salt industry which dates back to medieval times. Here the Four Counties Ring route leaves the Trent & Mersey Canal, heading to Barbridge along the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal.

At this point, boaters on a 10-day or two-week holiday, could take a 20-mile, eight-lock round-trip detour continuing north along the Trent & Mersey Canal, past the Lion Salt Work’s Museum at Marston, to visit the Anderton Boat Lift.This incredible feat of Victorian engineering designed by Edwin Clark, perches on the banks of the River Weaver Navigation like a giant three-story-high spider. Using two huge water tanks with watertight sealable doors, it raises boats 50ft between the Weaver Navigation and the Trent & Mersey Canal.

To book a holiday or break on any of Anglo Welsh’s fleet, call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122.

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Festive frolics on the Canals – Christmas jumpers are optional, having fun is a must!

If like everybody here at Anglo Welsh you can never get enough of the UK’s fantastic waterways, why not take a break from the Christmas shopping to attend one of the many festive events on the canals this December?

The Trent and Mersey Canal Open Weekend (December 2nd and 3rd) at Derwent Mouth Lock is a great place to start. There will be a heritage trail for adults and children alike, old photographs of the lock that show how it has changed over the years, plus Christmas carols and the chance to enjoy a tipple from the local micro pub. You also get to see the historic boats, ‘Trout’ and ‘Dove’, and watch Shrek the workhorse demonstrating how to pull a narrowboat.

Also on the Trent and Mersey Canal, Santa swaps his sleigh for a trip boat as the iconic Anderton Boat Lift plays host to a series of seasonal cruises along the River Weaver (every weekend in December, plus Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd). There will be festive stories and songs and a place to play in the new boat lift inspired play area. You will also get a chance to take ‘elfies’ with Father Christmas and best of all, Santa will make sure every child gets a seasonal gift.

Returning for a second year, the Bradford on Avon Market is getting festive (December 2nd and 3rd) on the Kennet and Avon Canal. Come along to the Christmas themed Floating Market for mulled wine and carols, with many of your favourite traders and some exciting new faces.

Further east in Wiltshire, the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is organising Christmas Boat trips on the Swindon-based narrowboat ‘Dragonfly’ throughout December. Come and meet Santa every weekend from December 2nd and 3rd to December 16th and 17th, and then daily up to and including Saturday 23rd December – and yes, there will be Christmas presents for all the children!

This year the Roving Canal Traders Association are holding their first Christmas Floating Market in Berkhamsted on the Grand Union Canal near Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. Pop along and find your favourite traders to buy some ‘not on the High Street’ unique Christmas gifts for friends & family. The market will run from 10am to 5pm on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th December, and weather permitting there will be illuminated boats trading in the early evening on Friday 8th.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a concert from the Wirral Singers and Ringers at the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port. This year’s annual celebration takes place on December 9th. Enjoy the singers who sing because they love it and have fun, and the ringers who also call themselves the humdingers – because most of their members are taken from the choir and therefore both hum and ding! Boom Boom! Performance starts at 7.30 pm and the £7 ticket includes tea/coffee and a mince pie.

The iconic Foxton Locks in Leicestershire once again plays host to a very special Christmas event – the Foxton Illuminated Festival (December 16th and 17th). This year a huge water fountain forms the centre piece of activities including bars, food stalls, music, theatre performances, fair ground and of course stunning illuminated canal boats. The best dressed boat will win the prestigious Foxton Illuminated Cup! Due to the overwhelming success of last year, this year’s event is being held over two days and entry is by ticket only.

For more information on festive events on and around the canals, plus confirmation of dates and times, visit All together now, “Ding dong merrily on high…”

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Booking now! Anglo Welsh’s brand-new ‘Heritage’ class narrowboats

With a four-decade track record laying on memorable canal holidays, Anglo Welsh’s expert team definitely know a thing or two about narrowboats. And when it came to commissioning the latest bespoke addition to our 160-strong fleet, we put all that experience to very practical use.

Our top-of-the-range ‘Constellation’ Class was launched in 2016 to rave reviews and positive feedback from narrowboat experts and holidaymakers alike. Now 2017 brings the launch of the stunning ‘Heritage’ class, and as the name suggests, this latest chapter in the Anglo Welsh story takes inspiration from a bygone era.

The ‘Heritage’ design marries a vintage feel to outstanding modern facilities. Traditional livery; portholes; side doors; warm wooden interior with lots of brass fittings and a solid fuel fire. Modern engineering; central heating; two full size shower rooms; spacious beds with sprung mattresses; fully fitted galley; TV, DVD and wi-fi – the ‘Heritage’ class really does provide the best of both worlds.

In partnership with our sponsor ‘Panda Sanctuaries’ we will be developing the fleet across all eleven Anglo Welsh bases. The first ‘Heritage’ offering is a spacious 4-berth named ‘Lily’ and she will be cruising from our famous base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal.

“We are all privileged and excited to be welcoming this new class of boat here,” says Oliver from Anglo Welsh’s Trevor team. “Having the Heritage boat ‘Lily’ at our World Heritage sight couldn’t be a more perfect fit! Customers have already spoken to us about it, and she is proving to be very popular already, so we know she’s going to be a big hit!”

As another nod to the narrowboats of old, the ‘Cratch Cover’ sits above the deck on the bow and offers added protection when the weather takes an inclement turn. When the weather allows, the canopy sides can be taken back, opening up the bow to make the most of the fresh air!

Below deck, the Belfast sink was originally known as a ‘Butler Belfast’ as butlers used them in their pantries for preparing food and washing up after their aristocratic masters had wined and dined. Its neat and robust design is ideal for a narrowboat galley.

Side opening doors and traditional livery are the strongest element of the ‘Heritage’s’ retro feel. Brass portholes and air vents sit cleanly within the traditional colour scheme of black and grey, brightened by the red and ivory coach lines and the delightfully ornate nameplate.

Tempted? What could be better than soaking up the history and tradition of the UK’s canals with your own little slice of ‘Heritage’?

Anglo Welsh’s ‘Heritage’ class will be very popular! To book one of these handsome narrowboats, contact our friendly Booking Team on 0117 304 1122.

For more information on the ‘Heritage’ Class, check out our full colour 2018 Brochure.



We are spreading Christmas cheer early with our Instagram card competition!

Anglo Welsh spread Christmas cheer with Instagram card competition … and Santa’s pitching in with £300 worth of gift vouchers.

Winter on the UK’s waterways can be one of the most magical and picturesque times to capture the beauty of the canals. In fact, it’s one big festive postcard in the making … and we’d like you to supply the images.

As Christmas approaches, our canal-side landscapes are transformed into a winter wonderland: frost clinging to the edges of red leaves; trees coated with glistening frost; snow-covered towpaths; spectacular winter sunsets. Not to mention narrowboats decked out in their Christmas finest, robins foraging for berries and children throwing snowballs!

Anglo Welsh’s 2017 Christmas greeting will be delivered to our friends and customers in December and we would like to offer all festive enthusiasts the chance to have their waterway-inspired photo featured on our #anglowelshxmas Christmas card 2017.

And it’s not just about the feel-good factor of having your festive image dispatched around the country – Santa will be giving the winning contestant £300 worth of vouchers of their choice!

To take part in the #anglowelshxmas competition all you have to do are the following:

  1. Like the #anglowelshxmas post
  2. Follow/ like us on Instagram and Facebook
  3. Upload up to 3 of your festive waterway inspired photos to your chosen platform, using the hashtag #anglowelshxmas, with a caption telling us why you love the festive season!
  4. Be sure to tag us in your photos

Anglo Welsh’s Christmas competition will run until 30th November 2017 at 12pm and the winner will be announced on 1st December 2017 (terms and conditions apply). That means the lucky Instagram snapper will have plenty of time to spend their £300 vouchers before Christmas.

So fill up your flasks, wrap up warm, and head for your nearest canal to capture the magic of the UK’s Winter Wonderland.

Terms and conditions
– Competition begins 3rd November 2017 and closes on 30th November 2017 at 12pm midday.
– To enter the competition, you must be following Anglo Welsh on Instagram and Facebook and must upload photos to these platforms using the hashtag #anglowelshxmas.
– Entrants can be all ages. Under 16s must seek permission from a parent or guardian.
– Entrants can submit up to 3 photos per person during the competition period.
– Photographs must show typical scenery of UK canals e.g. waterways, canals, narrowboats, landscapes, wildlife, canal-side countryside, etc.
– The winner will be selected by the judging panel. The judges’ decision is final.
– Prize winners will be announced via Instagram and Facebook on 1st December, 2017.
– One prize winner will be selected and awarded with £300 worth of vouchers from a UK retailer of their choice; the winning photograph will also be featured as the Anglo Welsh Christmas Card 2017. The prize cannot be exchanged or returned. There is no cash equivalent.
– Entrant(s) may be contacted by Anglo Welsh if they want to use the images for any advertisement or publication.
– The organiser reserves the right to change or cancel the competition at any time.
– By entering you agree by the rules and are happy for your imagery to be used for marketing purposes by Anglo Welsh Waterway Holidays and their associated companies.
– Members of Anglo Welsh staff plus staff of associated companies are not permitted to enter this competition.


Spotlight on the Canals – Leeds & Liverpool Canal

Enjoy stunning upland scenery, the Yorkshire Dales, Pennine Way, industrial history, remote beauty, rugged hills, wooded valleys, mills and moors.

At 127 miles, the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, which celebrated its Bicentenary in 2016, is the longest single canal in the country. This mighty waterway crosses the Pennines and links the wide waterways of Yorkshire with those of Lancashire and the River Mersey.

From the vibrant centres of Leeds, Liverpool, Wigan and Burnley, to the awe-inspiring vast areas of open space of the moorlands at the canal’s summit and the peace of the wooded Aire Valley, the scenery of this canal varies dramatically.

The Leeds & Liverpool main line has 93 locks and two tunnels, there are two more locks on the seven-mile long Leigh Branch and eight on the seven-mile Rufford Branch. The waterway was recently extended by the construction of the Liverpool Link, taking boaters right into the heart of the city, passing in front of the Three Graces to moor in Salthouse Dock.

And it boasts two of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ – the famous Bingley Five Rise Locks near Bradford and the awesome Burnley Embankment, carrying the canal high above the town.

Best for beginners

On a short break (three or four nights) from our canal boat hire base at Silsden, near Keighley, narrowboat holiday-makers can head west towards Liverpool to the attractive village of Gargrave in North Yorkshire – a journey which takes seven hours, passing through just three locks.

Heading away from Silsden with its attractive canalside warehouses, the route overlooks Airedale’s steep green hills, wooded in places. A series of swing bridges characterise this section of the canal, each needing to be unlocked and lifted.

Within two miles, the canal passes through the village of Kildwick, with its 17th century coaching inn close to the canal, The White Lion.

Continuing on along the valley of the River Aire, with stunning views of the surrounding countryside, two miles later the village of Bradley has an excellent pub a quarter-of-a-mile from the canal – The Slaters Arms, serving homemade food and real ale.

A mile later, the route passes the Bay Horse pub at Snaygill before reaching the outskirts of Skipton. Here a little arm (the Springs Branch) branches off the canal to moorings outside Skipton Castle. Built in 1090 by the Norman Baron Robert de Romaille, today this motte and bailey castle is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England, which together with its woods is well worth a visit.

Skipton also offers visitors a range of places to eat, including The Yorkshire Rose pub, Royal Shepherd, French Bistro des Amis, Bean Loved coffee bar and Cock & Bottle pub.

Heading west out of Skipton, it’s a further three miles to Gargrave, travelling through the hills. There are three locks to pass through before reaching moorings and a winding hole in the centre of the village.

Gargrave is on the River Aire on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, where visitors can access 680 square miles of some of England’s finest walking country, exploring deep valleys, open moorland and rugged hills with very little habitation.

And in Gargrave itself, there are plenty of pubs, including The Mason’s Arms and canalside Cross Keys Inn, as well as shops and a post office.

Best for experienced boaters

On a two-week break, canal boat holiday-makers can continue on to Wigan and back, cruising for a total of 60 hours (there and back) and passing through 112 locks.

After Gargrave, it’s four miles and eight locks to East Marton, where the Abbot’s Harbour Restaurant, set in a 12th century building constructed by Cistercian monks, offers traditional home-cooked food.

Nicholson’s describes the ‘beautiful upland scenery’ along this stretch as ‘composed of countless individual hillocks, some topped by clumps of trees’, with distant mountains beyond. The Pennine Way shares the canal towpath for a short distance, and after just over a mile, the canal reaches the three locks at Greenberfield, on the outskirts of Barnoldswick.

As well as take-away options, fish & chips, various shops, and The Fountain Inn, there’s a marina at Barnoldswick, where the Pendle Way connects to the canal, and the remains of the Rain Hall Rock Branch, where limestone was once loaded directly from the rock face onto boats.

Next the canal continues reaches Salterforth, where the historic canalside Anchor Inn offers visitors the chance to see stalactites in the cellar as well as enjoy beer and pub food.

After Salterforth, the next stretch is particularly remote and beautiful running up to the 1,640 yard-long Foulridge Tunnel, the longest on the Leeds & Liverpool. To visit the attractive village of Foulridge with its New Inn pub, narrowboat holiday-makers should moor up before entering the Tunnel.

A mile after the Foulridge Tunnel, boaters encounter Barrowford Top Lock – a flight of seven – and begin their descent from the summit level, with views of old stone farms and distant mountains to enjoy.

Soon after, Barrowford offers shops, take-aways, fish & chips, restaurants and pubs, including The White Bear Inn, as well as the Pendle Heritage Centre. Here visitors will find an exhibition on the famous Pendle Witches, a tea room overlooking the beautifully restored 18th century walled garden, the Pendle Art Gallery, and access to the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Pendle Hill.

Now entering the outskirts of the large industrial town of Burnley, the canal remains largely urban for the next ten miles or so. The waterway was once the main artery for Burnley and its industries and the area around Bridge 130, known as the Weaver’s Triangle, is one of the best preserved 19th century industrial districts in the country.

The three-quarters of a mile long Burnley Embankment, considered to be one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’, carries the navigation 60 feet high across part of the town, offering boaters panoramic views.

There are plenty of pubs in Burnley, including The Inn on the Wharf in a weaver’s warehouse, several art centres and the Queen Street Mill Textile Museum, now Britain’s only working 19th century weaving mill.

After passing through Gannow Tunnel (559 yards long), the canal travels on through the Calder Valley and alongside the M65 motorway for a time. Hapton is the next village after Burnley, with its popular Hapton Inn serving real ale and food, then three swing bridges need to be moved as the canal travels through neat green fields bordered by drystone walls, before reaching Clayton-le-Moors (a suburb of Accrington) three miles later.

The canal now twists and turns on through Church, with the parish church of St James right on the banks of the canal, marking the central point of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

Just over a mile later, after more dramatic bends, the canal passes over the M65 using a concrete aqueduct, before arriving at Rishton, a small town that grew up around the cotton mills in the 19th century. There’s a choice of eateries in Rishton, including Indian restaurants, fish & chips, take-aways, the Rishton Arms beside the railway station and the Walmsley Arms offering regular live entertainment.

Two miles on and the canal enters the outskirts of Blackburn, passing canopied wharves at Eanam, now converted for businesses and a pub.

There’s plenty to do in Blackburn, including a visit to the cathedral with its striking 13ft sculpture of ‘Christ the Worker’ by John Hayward. The Museum & Art Gallery has a series of period rooms demonstrating the development of the textile industry using full size working models. And there are some superb curry houses, including Thira Restaurant, reputedly the best in town.

It takes several hours to pass through Blackburn, but there are distant views of Darwen Hill and Witton Country Park to enjoy along the way. And everywhere there are mills, mainly redundant but a reminder of the town’s cotton history.

A flight of six locks (the Blackburn locks) carry the canal nearly 55ft up on the western edge of town to 400ft above sea level with excellent views. The suburb of Cherry Tree is next, with a good range of shops and take-aways.

As the canal leaves Blackburn, it crosses a high embankment and then curls round a steep and thickly wooded valley. A mile later, the canal passes through the village of Riley Green with its excellent Royal Oak pub providing award-winning cask ales and a large menu of British pub food.

Hoghton Tower is close by, a 16th century fortified hilltop mansion, noted for its dungeons, doll’s houses, picturesque gardens and magnificent banqueting hall.

Just over a mile and a half later, now in a secluded wooded valley, the canal passes through Withnell Fold, a small estate village built to house workers at the canalside paper mills which once functioned there. On the opposite side of the canal is a nature reserve which has developed in the old filter beds and now provides habitats for waterlilies, dragonflies, newts and frogs.

Just over a mile of beautiful scenery later, and boaters encounter the top of the Johnson’s Hill flight of seven locks, set amid undulating pastureland, with a down-to-earth pub, The Top Lock, offering great food and cask ales, and a boatyard with boaters’ facilities.

Soon after the canal travels under the M61 motorway and along the edge of Chorley, passing some large textile mills. The Prince of Wales pub is a short walk from Bridge 75A, the Lock & Quay offers hearty pub food and at the Top Lock there’s great food and cask ales. It’s also well worth visiting a bakery to try a Chorley cake, similar to the Eccles cake but sweeter and fruitier.

Close to three wooded miles further, the canal reaches Adlington with a good range of shops, pubs, including The (Bottom) Spinners Arms, and a popular café at the White Bear Marina. Rivington.

To book a holiday or break on any of Anglo Welsh’s fleet, call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122.


Narrowboating in style – John Craven holidays on the Llangollen Canal

Earlier this year, we were delighted to welcome Countryfile presenter John Craven, and his two eldest grandsons for a short break narrowboat holiday, setting off from our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales.

Although John has been fascinated by canals all his life and been a vice-president of a canals trust, he’d never before taken a canal boat holiday.

This summer he set off with Charlie, aged 18, who apparently proved to be a “natural-born skipper” and 15-year-old Will – “the ideal lookout and rope handler”.

John’s article about his journey is published by Countryfile Magazine, 15 October 2017

Choosing their holiday

John explains: “From the 2,000-mile network of navigable canals in England and Wales, we chose a 20-mile stretch of the Llangollen and it turned out to be a perfect microcosm of Britain’s waterways heritage. It encompassed both countries and put us to the test with two aqueducts, 57 bridges, two locks and three tunnels – quite an initiation for first-time narrowboaters piloting a 67ft craft.”

They collected their narrowboat, Askrigg, from Trevor Wharf close to the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which John explains has: “18 stone pillars and 19 cast-iron arches” that “carry the canal at a height of 38m (126ft) over the River Dee.”

Taking a quick course

Oliver from Anglo Welsh gave John and the boys their tuition, showing them how to handle the Askrigg, pushing the tiller right to go left and vice versa, putting the engine in reverse to stop as there are no brakes, driving on the right and pointing out “the horn (essential for warning boats coming towards us round sharp bends), the headlights (which must be switched on before entering tunnels)”.

John explains, “no licence is needed to pilot a narrowboat and after Oliver had travelled with us for a short distance to make sure we had understood his instructions, he left us to continue along on our own.”

Navigating through the Vale of Llangollen

John and his crew began their journey by heading four miles west to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen, explaining that here the canal “runs along the steep slopes of the Vale of Llangollen and becomes so narrow in places that only one-way traffic is possible. Just to be on the safe side, Will had to run a few hundred yards ahead to make sure nothing was heading towards us and then phone me with an all-clear.”

Checking out the boat’s interior

After mooring in the marina at Llangollen, John describes the interior of their boat as “narrowboating in style” with “everything we could possibly need – two showers, a double bed and two singles, a smart kitchen with a fridge and freezer, small gas cooker, a dining table with bench seats that could convert into an extra bed, two easy chairs and a TV.”

Travelling over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

John then describes their journey the next day across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct: “Entering the aqueduct is one of those never-to-be-forgotten moments. It is, essentially, a 307metre-long metal trough that is just about wide enough for one boat. On one side is the towpath and on the other a sheer drop down to the valley floor – not a view for anyone with vertigo.”

John then talks about the history of the aqueduct, explaining: “It took 10 years to build and was completed in 1805, at the cost of £38m in today’s money and one navvy’s life. One of the geniuses behind it is one of my heroes: the great road and canal builder Thomas Telford and I felt honoured to be crossing a structure that he had helped to build.”

Tunnel rules

John and his crew then navigated two tunnels and he explains: “there’s a very simple, sensible rule for tunnels: if you see headlights in the dark, don’t enter.”

After the second tunnel at Chirk, they crossed the Chirk Aqueduct and soon after moored up for the night at the Poacher’s Pocket pub at Gledrid. At the pub that night they reflected that all of the 11 miles they’d covered from Llangollen “are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and rightly so. We had pottered down tree-lined watery avenues, past wide-open countryside and across spectacular constructions.”

Operating the twin locks at New Marton

On describing day three of their journey, John says that “patience is a necessary ingredient of canal travel” said they filled their water tank from the water point whilst waiting to negotiate the twin locks at New Marton, “Charlie then guided Askrigg confidently into the locks” while John and Will operated the gates and paddles.”

To Ellesmere and back

John says: “The canal was busy in both directions all the way to Ellesmere, which kept us on our toes. But on the way back, after a night tied up next to the beautiful Blake Mere on the far side of Ellesmere tunnel, there was very little traffic and we had the waterway almost to ourselves. Apparently canals can be like that: unpredictable.”

Songs at the Aqueduct Inn

On their fourth and final night, John and his crew moored a few hundred yards from their journey’s end at the Aqueduct Inn as they had to return their boat by 9am the following morning.

He says the Aqueduct Inn is “an old pub with great food and fine views from its wooden balcony. It also provided a wonderful and unexpected finale to our adventure.

“The staff were clearing our plates away when into the bar came a large group of men in ties and blazers. Not long after entering they started to sing. It wasn’t the usual pub singalong stuff but beautiful songs with glorious harmonies and, after a short while, I began to recognise some of their faces from a Countryfile programme I had made with them years ago.

“They were members of the internationally renowned Fron Male Voice Choir and they were wetting their whistles after their regular Thursday-night practice and had decided to perform an impromptu encore in their local for a few of the regulars and Charlie, Will and me.”

Back across the Aqueduct

The next morning they took Askrigg back across the aqueduct to our narrowboat hire base at Trevor and John reflects: “It had been an exhilarating, slow-motion few days. We had glided though breath-taking countryside while being overtaken by walkers and their dogs, joggers, cyclists and kayakers canals aren’t just for narrowboats.

“Many peaceful hours of travelling had been dotted with moments of tension, certainly on my part, as I tried to master the skills needed for a method of transportation that hasn’t changed in centuries.

“We agreed it had been far more than just a short holiday. The Llangollen Canal had given us an experience we’d never forget. Why on earth had I waited so long?”

To book a holiday or break on any of Anglo Welsh’s fleet, call our friendly Booking Team on 0117 304 1122.

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

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So why choose Anglo Welsh?

More than 55 years providing unique canal boat holidays.
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