Top 7 week-long canal boat cruises through the countryside this Autumn

Best Autumn canal boat holidays

This Autumn adventure afloat on a canal cruise through the countryside, enjoying the beautiful colours in the trees and hedgerows that line our canals and rivers.

Canal boat holidays are a great way to connect with nature.  You can watch-out for plant, animal and bird life along the way, including the hedgerow fruits and berries enjoyed by birds and small mammals.

To celebrate the Autumn colours along the canals, we’ve put together a guide to our top seven week-long cruises through the countryside:

1. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Whitchurch

On a week’s break from our canal boat hire centre at Trevor in North Wales, you can travel along the Llangollen Canal to Whitchurch and back.  Along the way, you’ll cross the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, with amazing views of the Dee Valley.  Then it’s on through the Shropshire countryside, passing through Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  Once at Whitchurch, you can moor up to explore the Shropshire Wildlife Trust’s Greenfields Nature Reserve, with woodland walks and the chance to spot water voles. The journey from Trevor to Whitchurch and back takes 24 hours and passes through four locks (two each way).

2. Navigate through the Yorkshire countryside to Foulridge Tunnel

On a week’s break from Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, you can cruise through the Yorkshire countryside to Foulridge Tunnel.  The journey takes you through a series of historic towns and villages, including Skipton, with its medieval castle and acres of woodland trails to explore. And East Marton with access to the Pennine Way National Trail. The journey from Silsden to Foulridge and back takes 26 hours and passes through 30 locks (15 each way).

3. Boat through the Cheshire countryside to Red Bull Wharf

On a week’s break from Bunbury, you can cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Red Bull Wharf and back.  The route will take you along the rural Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal, which runs from Barbridge Junction to Middlewich.  This peaceful 10-mile long waterways passing through the pretty village of Church Minshull, with its popular Badger Inn gastro pub. The journey from Bunbury to Red Bull Wharf and back travels 53 miles and passes through 70 locks (35 each way).

4. Meander through the Oxfordshire countryside to Wallingford

On a week’s break from our Oxford canal boat hire base, you can cruise along the River Thames to the historic market town of Wallingford. The journey passes through miles of peaceful Oxfordshire countryside, waterside meadows and woodlands.  As well as the City of Oxford, there’s a series of riverside towns and villages to visit along the way, including the historic market town of Abingdon. It takes around 18 hours to cruise from our Oxford base at Eynsham to Wallingford and back, passing through 22 locks (11 each way).

5. Wend your way through the Wiltshire countryside to the Vale of Pewsey

On a week’s break from Monkton Combe on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Bath you can reach Pewsey Wharf.  The journey takes you up the 29 locks of the Caen Hill Flight, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. And through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Places to visit along the way include the historic market towns of Bradford on Avon and Devizes. It takes around 38 hours to cruise from Monkton Combe to Pewsey and back, passing through 74 locks (37 each way).

6. Journey to Llangollen North Wales and visit the Horsehoe Falls

On a week’s break from Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, you can reach the historic town of Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains.  Along the way, you’ll travel through the Shropshire countryside to Ellesmere, with its beautiful Mere and woodland walks. You’ll cruise across the magnificent Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts, enjoying incredible views of the Welsh Mountains. At Llangollen, nestled in the Berwyn Mountains, you can visit the famous Horseshoe Falls. The journey from Whixall to Llangollen and back takes around 24 hours and passes through four locks (two each way).

7. Meander along the Ashby Canal SSSI

From our Stockton base on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can travel up the North Oxford Canal and transfer onto the tranquil Ashby Canal.  This 22-mile long lock-free waterway meanders through the Leicestershire countryside from Marston Junction to Snarestone.  The six miles from Carlton Bridge 44 to Snarestone are designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for their aquatic plans. The journey from Stockton to Snarestone and back takes 44 hours and passes through 14 locks (seven each way).

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Top 10 Waterway Wildlife Hotspots

The nation’s network of inland waterways have become an important place for biodiversity.

Canal boat holidays are like floating safaris, giving you the chance to spot a wide range of wildlife, including ducks, swans, herons, moorhens, coots, dragonflies, damselflies, bats, kingfishers, otters, water voles and many types of woodland birds.

To celebrate the biodiversity of the waterways, we’ve put together a list of our Top 10 places to spot wildlife on a canal boat holiday:

1. Look out for kingfishers on the Ashby Canal

On a week’s break from our narrowboat hire base at Stockton, you can cruise along the wildlife-rich Ashby Canal.  Winding peacefully through the countryside for almost the whole of its 22-mile length, the Ashby Canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) from Snarestone to Carlton Bridge.  Wildlife to look out for includes: freshwater mussels, rare native white-clawed crayfish, water shrew, herons and kingfishers.  It takes around 22 cruising hours to reach Ashby from Stockton, passing through seven locks along the way.

2. Cruise along the Llangollen Canal to see herons at the Mere

On a short break from Trevor, you can cruise to the medieval market town of Ellesmere, home to the Mere.  Formed thousands of years ago by the melting of the glaciers during the retreating ice age, the Mere is home to the Heron Watch Scheme, with cameras allowing visitors to watch the birds build nests and raise chicks.  The journey to Ellesmere takes around seven hours, passes through two locks and crosses the UNESCO World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

3. Go otter spotting on the Montgomery Canal

On a week’s break from Whixall Marina, you can cruise a seven-mile section of the Montgomery Canal to Gronwyn Wharf.  Stretching 38 miles between England and Wales, the Montgomery Canal is designated a SSSI on both sides of the border.  Look out for water birds, dragon flies, damselflies, green woodpeckers, peregrines, and if you are lucky you may spot an otter too.  Over recent years, thanks to dedicated conservation efforts, otter populations are showing healthy signs of growth.  They are timid and not often seen by humans, but they can be spotted hunting prey in quiet stretches of canal.  From Whixall, the journey to Gronwyn Wharf takes around 10 hours, passing through eight locks along the way.

4. Listen out for the sound of song thrushes on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Crofton

On a week’s holiday from Monkton Combe, you can cruise along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Crofton.  This beautiful stretch of waterway in Wiltshire, offers the chance to spot swans, ducks and moorhens on the water and to listen out for the sound of song thrushes.  Living up to its common name, the song thrush has a loud song with repeating phrases.  Crofton is also a place of history, as the Crofton Pumping Station there houses the world’s oldest working beam engines.  It takes around 20 hours to cruise to Crofton, passing through 41 locks along the way, including the Caen Hill flight of 29 locks at Devizes.

5. Hear cuckoos calling on the River Thames at Abingdon

On a short break from our Oxford base, you can take a Thames boating holiday to Abingdon and listen for cuckoos calling from riverside meadows and woods at Abingdon. Considered to be an early sign of spring, cuckoos arrive from Africa in late March and April to spend the summer here.  The song of the cuckoo sounds the same as its name: ‘cuck-oo’. The journey to Abingdon takes around five hours, passing through six locks.

6. See bats flying across the water at Fradley Pool Nature Reserve

On a short break from Great Haywood, you can cruise to Fradley Junction, home of the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.  There are walking trails and sculpture trails at Fradley.  Look out for water birds, terrapins basking in the sunshine and bats flying across the water if you are there at dusk in the spring and summer time.  From Great Haywood, it takes around five hours to reach Fradley on the Trent & Mersey Canal, passing through five locks along the way.

7. See grey wagtails on the Grand Union Canal at Hatton

On a short break from Wootton Wawen, you can reach the bottom of flight of the 21 lock Hatton flight in the Warwickshire countryside.  As well as ducks, moorhens and swans, you might see house sparrows and grey wagtails at the water’s edge.  Grey wagtails have a long, black-and-white tail, a yellow rump and a yellow belly.  They eat ants and midges that they find beside rivers and canals, and snails and tadpoles they find in shallow water.  From Wootton Wawen, it takes around eight hours to reach the Hatton flight on the Grand Union Canal, passing through 17 locks along the way.

8. See and hear woodland birds on the Peak Forest Canal at Marple

On a 10-day or two-week break from Bunbury, you can complete the Cheshire Ring, which includes the flight of 16 locks on the Peak Forest Canal at Marple.  Here you’ll be surrounded by beautiful countryside and stretches of ancient woodland – home to many types of woodland bird, including robins, jays and great tits.  You can also enjoy fantastic views across the Peak District from here.  From Bunbury, the Cheshire Ring takes around 60 hours, passing through 102 locks.

9. Watch out for water voles on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Caen Hill

On a short break from Bath, you can reach the base of the Caen Hill flight, where water voles have been spotted in the side pounds.  Best known as ‘Ratty’ from ‘Wind in the Willows’, sadly the water vole is now one of our most endangered speciesThey burrow into steep waterside banks to form a complicated system of tunnels.  Look out for closely grazed ‘lawn’ areas with neat piles of chopped grass, which are often seen around burrow entrances.  From Bath, it takes around 10-and-a-half hours to reach Caen Hill, passing through eight locks along the way.

10. See hundreds of water birds at Bittell Reservoirs on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal

On a short break from Tardebigge you can reach the reservoirs at Bittell, built to supply water for the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.  Today the area is a SSSI and home to over 200 species of water bird.  These include: wintering wading birds and waterfowl; breeding birds such as the great crested grebe; little ringed-plover; and grasshopper warbler.  Rare silt shoreline plants such as slender spike rush and mudwort can be found here, along with the rare mud snail and five different species of dragonfly. It takes just two hours to reach the Bittell Arm from Tardebigge.

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Plan your 2021 canal boat holiday adventure with our bucket list guide

Canal boat holidays are a wonderful way to explore the countryside and some of Britain’s most exciting historic attractions. With the narrowboat as your mobile floating holiday home, you can moor up in a new spot every night, and discover fascinating things to see and do along the way.

To help you plan the perfect narrowboat holiday adventure in 2021, here’s a guide to some of our canal boat holiday musts:

1. Be wowed by the wildlife
Canals and rivers are home to an incredible array of wildlife, from rare mammals, birds and amphibians to many species of plants. Even in cities, canals provide green corridors, enabling animals and plants to flourish. If you are vigilant and have a pair of binoculars at the ready, you may be able to spot some of the rarer and shier waterway inhabitants such as water voles, otters and kingfishers, as well as the more common water birds, like ducks, swans, coots, moorhens and geese. You can also take a look down at the water to spy fish, frogs, toads, newts, or up at the sky to see bats, owls, woodpeckers, hedgerow birds and birds of prey.

2. Visit a historic town or city
The waterways were once the primary means of transport and communication between centres of industry and commerce, so they pass through many exciting historic towns and cities. You can choose a route which takes you to some of Britain’s best preserved ancient cities, including Bath, Oxford and Chester, all with an impressive array of beautiful historic buildings to admire. The canals can also take you into the heart of bustling cities, like Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham and to historic market towns, such as Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick, Devizes, Llangollen, Whitchurch, Bradford on Avon and Abingdon.

3. Marvel at the historic engineering of the canals
Most of our canals were built over 200 years ago during the Industrial Revolution, starting with the opening of the Bridgewater Canal in 1761. Despite their age, the canals still use, for the most part, the same engineering structures – lock gates, swing bridges, tunnels and aqueducts. There are some particularly impressive feats of historic engineering which are worth trying to incorporate into your canal boat holiday route, such as the incredible lock flights at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, the Kennet & Avon Canal at Caen Hill or the Grand Union Canal at Hatton. There are many famous tunnels, such as the Chirk Tunnel on the Llangollen Canal, the Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal and the Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Canal. And there are soaring aqueducts to glide across, including the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal and the Edstone Aqueduct on the Stratford Canal.

4. Enjoy a pint at a canalside pub
From busy city boozers to rustic country inns, the canals are lined with wonderful pubs where you can enjoy a pint, shoot the breeze and watch the world float by. During the years when canals provided key transport thoroughfares, many pubs sprung up along their routes to cater for the canal workers who would travelling up and down the country delivering their cargo. To this day, some of the country’s oldest and most characterful taverns are found along our canals, so enjoy taking some time out from boating to enjoy a warm canalside pub welcome.

5. Explore on foot
Canal towpaths offer thousands of miles of wonderful walking and cycling routes and hundreds of footpaths connect into waterway paths. These include some of Britain’s most famous walking routes, such as the Pennine Way, the Offa’s Dyke Path, the Heart of England Way and the Shropshire Way. Plan some lovely circular walks to explore more of the gorgeous unspoilt countryside through which you are passing, or the historic towns and villages you moor up in.

6. Stop off at a castle or stately home
Britain has a wealth of historic properties to visit, from castle ruins to perfectly preserved stately homes. People travel from all over the world to see these treasures and a canal boat holiday is the perfect way to reach some of our nation’s most amazing sights. Many stately homes house incredible art collections and antique furnishing, as well as landscaped formal gardens and parkland. National Trust properties close to the canals include: Packworth House close to the Stratford Canal at Lapworth in Warwickshire; Shrugborough Hall next to the Trent & Mersey Canal near Great Haywood; and Chirk Castle close to the Llangollen Canal. There are also fascinating castles at Oxford, Skipton and Warwick to explore, as well as historic sites like Avebury close to the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire and the Battle of Bosworth Field next to the Ashby Canal in Leicestershire.

For more information on our routes and exciting waterside destinations, take a look at our 2021 brochure:

Canal maps are available to buy from our booking office or from our canal boat holiday hire bases.

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Be Inspired

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?

Over 55 years providing unique canal boat holidays in England and Wales.
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Canal boat holiday routes for novices & experienced boaters.
Flexible holiday booking, no hidden costs.
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Great days out on the water.
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