A canal boat holiday is not only huge fun – it is also great for your health.
With so many of us now working desk based jobs in which we are often sedentary for several hours a day in an air conditioned office, a canal holiday is a chance to get outside and get active.
Rather than lying immobile, sweating on a sun lounger all day while knocking back cocktails, a narrowboat cruise offers a health enhancing, rejuvenating way to take a break. As part of a narrowboat crew during your holiday, you will need to help work the locks and bridges, steer and moor up.
The canals provide thousands of miles of beautiful walking, running, cycling, canoeing, kayaking and cruising routes. They essentially offer an amazing, free outdoor gym that stretches the length and breadth of the country.
A canal boat holiday takes you away from the rush of your everyday existence and encourages a steadier, more mindful way of living as you drift past mile upon mile of beautiful countryside – in this way it is as nourishing for your mind as your body.
Here are just some of the health benefits of a canal boat holiday:
There are countless activities to enjoy during a canal boat holiday which will get your pulse rate up. Whether you enjoy running, cycling or perhaps a pleasant walk, all these forms of aerobic exercise will boost your fitness bringing huge benefits to your heart and lungs, which in turn improve your overall health.
The fitter you are, the more efficient your body becomes at absorbing and transporting oxygen to all your cells. Aerobic exercise helps increase the number of blood vessels in your lungs, assisting your ability to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide, increases the strength of your heart, increases the number of blood vessels supplying your muscles and increases the number of mitochondria, the energy factories in your cells.
This reduces blood pressure, lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and heart attacks, lowers your heart rate, burns body fat, increases bone mass and boosts your immune system.
So forget the gym – come and enjoy some exercise on the canals.
A canal boat holiday can offer just as good a strength work out as lifting irons in the gym – certainly when it comes to opening and closing the locks and bridges. These big heavy lever systems will test your muscles, particularly if you are climbing or descending a lock ladder requiring repeated opening and closing of the thick wooden lock gates.
Don’t let this put you off as with two people pushing the lock gates, you can make lighter work of it! But it offers great strength training which helps build lean muscle mass – something that often diminishes with age. By building the muscles, strength training also strengthens your bones, improves your balance, coordination and posture, helps burn fat, reduce blood pressure and boost heart health.
Stress has become an epidemic in the UK today and is very damaging to our mental and physical health. A canal boat holiday is a chance to disconnect from your many day to day pressures and live in the moment.
The leisurely nature of canal boat holidays – narrowboats’ maximum speed is 3mph, a healthy walking pace – is very effective in forcing people to mentally slow down. The changing nature of the scenery and need to focus on steering the boat and working the canals means it is a mindful activity which focuses attention on the present, giving people a break from thinking about work or other responsibilities.
Studies have shown that being among nature reduces levels of cortisol, the key stress hormone. It makes sense, we have evolved to be among nature so escaping the frantic urban environment and returning to our more natural habitat is good for us. The canals of England and Wales will take you on a tranquil journey through miles of unspoilt countryside teeming with wildlife, enabling your mind to quietly take in the green surroundings and let any stress slowly ebb away. Since stress has many knock on effects on other aspects of health, this can lead to further benefits such as lowering bad cholesterol, reducing blood pressure and regulating blood sugar.
Holidays tend to put us in a good mood initially but if they have involved too much lying around, eating and drinking, they can leave us feeling low and drained by the time we return to work.
A canal boat holiday however, can leave you feeling energised and positive in a longer term, more sustainable way that should see you return to work with a smile. This is because it is a naturally healthy holiday that boosts wellbeing and thus mood.
Exercise in all forms triggers the release of endorphins – your body’s natural feel good chemicals – while being among nature has also been shown to lift our mood. Then there is the natural release of stress and tension that a canal boat holiday encourages.
Lastly, a canal boat holiday involves an element of learning as our team teaches you the rudiments of how to control, steer and moor a narrowboat as well as the rules and etiquette of the canals – the ‘Waterway Code’. Research has shown that learning new skills improves mental wellbeing by boosting confidence and self-esteem, offering a sense of purpose and helping connect you with others. Continual learning throughout life also helps keep the brain sharp as like a muscle, it needs to be worked to stay fit.
All this combined means that canal boat holidays are a wonderfully enjoyable way to do something good for yourself. As many lifestyle related chronic health problems are on the rise, there has never been a better time to take a healthy holiday. So, if you haven’t already tried it, make 2020 the year you experience the joy of a canal boat holiday and come back glowing with health and happiness.
The New Year is a great time to take up new hobbies and activities, to learn a new skill. It is an opportunity for a fresh start.
New Year’s resolutions should not be about self-denial and restrictions but about positive fulfilment, expansion, self-discovery and learning. A new hobby is a wonderful way to boost your wellbeing and re-energise life when things are feeling a little stale.
After the overindulgence of Christmas and New Year’s Eve most of us are seeking some more wholesome interests and activities to nourish our mind, body and soul.
So why not take up narrowboating as your new hobby for 2020!
Any narrowboat holiday veteran will admit to being a little nervous the first time they found themselves in control of their own canal barge but our expert instructors will ensure you have all the knowledge you need to quickly become an adept skipper.
Before you set off from our narrowboat hire base, you will be taught how to start the engine, fill up with water, steer, moor up and work the canal locks. They will also talk you through canal etiquette and rules such as where and when to drive, speeds, how to leave locks behind you, best places to moor up and more.
All our narrowboats have manuals on board for guests to check anything or you can even give our engineering team a ring 24 hours a day for further advice. Since most canal boats cannot move at more than three miles per hour, being at the helm is a relaxing rather than stressful experience.
Once you have experienced the joy of a canal boat holiday for the first time, we’re willing to wager a decent sum, you will be back for more. Here are just some of the reasons why:
Sociable and family friendly
Narrowboat holidays are perfect for families or groups of friends of all ages and tastes since the canal barges to hire range from sleeping just two up to 12 people. There is a huge range of things to see and do on canal boat holidays setting off from any of our 11 narrowboat hire bases. They all offer very different styles of narrowboat cruise, meaning there really is something for everyone. You can enjoy walking, cycling, kayaking, visit stately homes, castles, historic towns and villages, explore parks and gardens or simply relax on board and admire stunning countryside rolling past. If you choose a canal boat holiday with us, you are also welcome to bring along your beloved pets to live aboard so even they do not have to miss out on the fun.
A canal boat holiday is a perfect way to explore some of the most beautiful areas of Britain, with more than 2000 miles of navigable waterways snaking their way through unspoilt countryside and historic cities, towns and villages. How far you explore largely dependent on how long you have for your canal boat holiday as narrowboats move at a stately pace, but even a couple of days is enough to cover some ground. As you are always on the move, mooring in a different spot each day with new places and things to admire and explore, there’s no excuse for getting bored.
It is a very calming and mindful experience being on the water, focused on the present moment, whether steering the narrowboat or taking in the gorgeous surroundings. With so many people now suffering from stress, a canal boat holiday is the perfect way to unwind away from the rush and bustle of your day to day existence. The canals crisscross miles of idyllic countryside and are teeming with wildlife so a narrowboat holiday allows you to get outside, be one with nature and breathe the clean air while listening to birdsong. Choose one of the more rural canal routes for a truly tranquil narrowboat holiday experience. Persistent stress is very bad for our health so a canal break in 2020 may be just the thing you need to boost your mental and physical wellbeing.
History geeks dream
The canals are a key part of our nation’s industrial heritage, with the vast majority built more than 200 years ago. They were originally constructed as the most efficient method of transporting large bulky goods prior to the advent of the railways. That is why there is such a high concentration of canals in the old industrial heartlands around the West Midlands and North West. This makes a canal boat holiday a history lover’s dream come true as you are quite literally floating through history. You can admire many historic feats of engineering, from the soaring grandeur of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, completed in 1805 and the Anderton Boat Lift, completed 1875 to the Dudley Tunnel, completed 1791. Beyond the canals themselves, are the historic villages, towns and cities through which they pass as well as stately homes, castles and museums all of which are easily accessible from the waterways. If you have an interest in the UK’s heritage then a narrowboat holiday is the one for you.
So, don’t bother with self-denial, instead embrace this fantastic new hobby for 2020 and discover the magical world of narrowboating.
This winter we offering winter cruising* from six of our narrowboat hire bases, giving you the chance to celebrate Christmas or New Year on the canals.
Whether you want to head to a festive waterfront destination or escape from it all in a quiet rural backwater, Christmas on the canals offers a very special experience. All our winter canal boat hire bases offer a choice of routes, and plenty of historic rural pubs with roaring log fires to stop off at along the way.
From a cosy narrowboat for two to a family canal boat for 12, all our boats have central heating, hot water, WiFi, TV and DVD players, so it’s always nice and warm and cosy on board. Some of our boats also come with multi-fuel stoves for some extra special winter warmth.
Our prices over Christmas and New Year start at start at £495 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, weekly hire from £705.
Here are our Top 6 Christmas and New Year breaks afloat for 2019:
Cross ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to the Shropshire Lake District – from our canal boat rental base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, you can travel through the Welsh Mountains by canal boat to Ellesmere and back, passing over the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way. This magnificent feat of Victorian engineering carries the canal 30 metres high above the Dee Valley, with amazing views to enjoy. Historic pubs to enjoy along the way include The Poacher’s Pocket pub at Gledrid and the Aqueduct Inn at Froncysyllte. Once at Ellesmere, at the centre of the Shropshire Lake District, you can moor up to visit the Mere created 10,000 years ago by the retreating ice age, now home to an abundance of wildlife.
Cruise through the Staffordshire countryside to Fradley – heading south from our narrowboat holiday hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, you’ll reach Fradley Junction in five hours. Here the Trent & Mersey Canal meets the Coventry Canal. The journey to Fradley passes through 12 peaceful miles of Staffordshire countryside, and just five locks. Places to enjoy along the way include The Wolseley Centre run by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the Wolseley Arms, Cannock Chase Forest and the village of Rugeley with its canalside Mossley Tavern. Once at Fradley, you’ll find refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn and walking trails at the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
Float to through the Warwickshire countryside to Shakespeare’s Stratford – from our narrowboat rental base at on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen, near Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire, it’s a picturesque six-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Shakespeare’s Stratford. Once there, you can moor up in Bancroft Basin in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon to enjoy festive fun in the home of Bard, including twinkling Christmas lights, regular markets, carol singers, Christmas menus at a wide range of restaurants and performances of Shakespeare’s ‘King John’ at the Swan Theatre.
Travel into Birmingham for festive fun afloat – from our canal barge holiday hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes just five hours to cruise into the centre of Birmingham. With no locks to pass through along the way, it’s a great route for canal boat holiday beginners. Once there, you can moor up in Gas Street Basin, close to Brindleyplace to enjoy Christmas in Britain’s Second City, including ‘Snow White’ at the Hippodrome, ‘Grandpa’s Great Escape Live’ at the Birmingham Arena (23, 24 & 26 Dec), The Big Wheel and Ice Rink at Centenary Square and the Frankfurt Christmas Market at Victoria Square (until 23 Dec).
Visit historic Chester for some Christmas sparkle – from our narrowboat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley in Cheshire, it takes around seven hours, passing through nine locks, to reach the historic city of Chester. Along the way, the route passes through 12 miles of beautiful Cheshire countryside and the popular Ring O’Bells canalside pub at Christleton. Once moored up at Northgate visitor moorings next to the Roman City Walls, special festive events to enjoy in Chester include performances of Peter Pan at the Storyhouse Theatre, the Christmas Tree Festival at Chester Cathedral, the Lantern Parade at Chester Zoo (until 23 Dec), the Chester Christmas Market (until 22 Dec) as well as fabulous City Centre Christmas lights and sparkling shops at the Grosvenor Shopping Centre.
Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to historic Whitchurch – from our barge holiay rental base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around four hours to reach the pretty historic town of Whitchurch. Along the way, the route passes Whixall Moss, a Mecca for wildlife, and Pan Castle just outside Whitchurch. Special Christmas events in Whitchurch include performances of Aladdin in the Civic Centre (26-30 Dec), the Crib Festival at St Alkmund’s Church, sparkling Christmas lights and festive menus at many of the town’s eateries, including the Wheatsheaf Hotel and Black Bear pub.
*NB some of our routes will be affected by winter maintenance work on the canal network.
Best Autumn canal events to enjoy on a canal boat holiday
What to look forward to along the canals this autumn
As the leaves turn rust red and the sinking sun casts long shadows across golden fields, the steady slide towards winter is arguably the most beautiful time of year.
Autumn is also the season of Halloween and Bonfire Night before the festive march towards Christmas begins.
There are dozens of fun events to look forward to between now and Christmas along the inland waterways of England and Wales so with half term approaching, this is an ideal time of year to embark on a canal boat holiday
Dig out your scarf and gloves, wrap up warm and head off on a magical narrowboat cruise before winter fully closes in.
Here are some of the fun events to consider if you are planning an autumn canal boat holiday:
Birmingham canal 250th anniversary, Old Turn Junction in Birmingham
Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Tardebigge
Accessible during a longer canal boat holiday from Great Haywood and Wootton Wawen.
It is 250 years since the first canal reached Birmingham, a city now celebrated as boasting more waterways than Venice. Commemorate this landmark birthday by joining in a cruise, organised by the Bimingham Canal Navigation (BCN) Society, from Windmill End into central Birmingham. After a midday celebration at Old Turn Junction, boats can parade around to Cambrian Wharf or through Gas St Basin. This will be a must see for any canal and boating enthusiasts.
The Roving Canal Traders Association (RCTA) will be hosting its floating market in the pretty village of Stoke Bruerne, also home to the Canal Museum, making it an ideal stop off on a narrowboat holiday. The RCTA brings together an eclectic group of craftsmen and traders who travel the inland waterways selling their wares. It is the perfect place pick up some quirky holiday souvenirs and unusual gifts.
Early December will see the return of this wonderful festival floating market during which the RCTA boats will line both sides of the canal at Brindley Place, offering unique Christmas shopping opportunities not to be found on any high street. This is an ideal way to rouse those festive feelings as the Christmas season gets into full swing.
Santa Cruises at the Anderton boat lift in Northwich, Cheshire
Join Father Christmas and his helpers aboard the Edwin Clark trip boat this December and enjoy a festive cruise on the River Weaver. The trip will include storytelling, festive songs and, of course, each child will be presented with their very own present from Santa.
Meet Father Christmas at the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire
The ultimate festive canal holiday stop off, young visitors can drop in on Father Christmas’s grotto, to meet the man himself and watch his elves in action. Santa will share some stories and present each young visitor with an early Christmas gift. There will be another chance to meet Santa while enjoying a bite to eat in his special Christmas café. The ticket will also give you access to the rest of the museum’s fascinating collection.
It is worth noting that the Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire bases at Oxford, Bath, Monkton Combe, Silsden and Stockton all close down for winter from the 1st November. This is so that our team can carry out vital maintenance on the boats to ensure they are in tip top condition for the next season.
If you want more information or advice on great canal boat holiday routes or how best to reach any of these events and locations on an Anglo Welsh narrowboat, please don’t hesitate to contact our team by phone or email – they will be happy to help.
British summertime has a special kind of magic. When the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, everything is luscious and green and happy punters sit smiling outside cafés and pubs watching the world drift past, there is quite literally nowhere we would rather be.
With Anglo Welsh’s canal boat holidays, you can make the most of this happy season by exploring scenic destinations by narrowboat. From famous historic cities to idyllic rural getaways, our narrowboat holidays have it all, inspiring you with awe and wonder.
Travelling at a steady two to three miles an hour along our historic inland waterways, enables you to forget your worries and enjoy a more relaxed pace of life.
But choosing a staycation as your summer holiday also offers numerous other advantages. Here, we explore why holidaying on home ground can be such a great choice:
Green and pleasant land
Let’s face it, nowhere is more beautiful than the British countryside in summer. This is of course largely down to the large amount of rainfall we experience for most of the year which creates fertile verdant landscapes. The rolling green hills, patchwork quilt fields, oak woodland, river valleys and babbling streams offer a picturesque backdrop that is hard to beat. Of course, you can find grander and wilder scenery overseas, higher mountains, bigger rivers, enormous forests, but bigger does not always mean better. In fact, when travelling by narrowboat on a canal with limited time, shorter distances between destinations can be something of a relief. The small scale of England and Wales mean you enjoy incredible variety of landscapes in a very small area, travelling between mountains and sweeping flood plains in a couple of hours. The abundance of wild flowers, shrubs and trees which burst into life from spring onwards adorns our canal routes, adding to the picture postcard effect. Many of Anglo Welsh’s most popular canal boat holiday routes actually take you through areas of National Parks – such as the Leeds & Liverpool Canal between Silsden and Burnley – or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – the Kennet & Avon Canal between Bath and Bradford on Avon, for instance.
Wealth of history and culture
There is a reason that Britain has a booming tourism industry with around 40 million people from all over the world flocking here every year – it is because the UK has an incredible array of historical and cultural wonders to visit and admire. Few nations can boast the rich concentration of castles, stately homes, heritage buildings, ancient monuments, museums, galleries, theatres – even the canals themselves are historic with some sections such as the majestic Pontcysyllte Aqueduct named as a World Heritage Site. You can hire our canal boats from cities such as Oxford and Bath, renowned for their breath-taking historic architecture, motor your way into the heart of medieval Chester and Stratford-upon-Avon or float up to the walls of Warwick or Skipton Castles. There is so much to see and do along the canal routes, we could spend a year listing the attractions and still have more to mention.
Staying in the UK means you cut out the most tiresome part of any holiday – the flights. No 3am alarm call, no hastily devoured overpriced coffee and croissant, no check-in queues, no airport security and lastly, no cramped airplane in which the seats appear to have been designed to fit a six-year-old. Instead, you can indulge in a relaxed start to your holidays. After a leisurely breakfast, jump in the car – or bus or train depending upon which canal boat base you are starting from – and make your way with no stress to your intended destination ready to collect the keys to your narrowboat at 3pm and run through your training and briefing, before you float away. You start your holiday feeling fresh and cheerful not sleep deprived, crabby and possibly even jet lagged.
Less travel time
Running on from the point above, by staying in the UK, it is likely you will significantly reduce your travel time. This is particularly helpful if you have limited holiday days and do not wish to devote at least two of them to simply getting to your destination and back. A staycation will at most require a car, bus or train journey of a few hours. With 11 Anglo Welsh canal boat bases to choose from as your starting point, all in wonderful locations scattered across England and Wales, you will always be able to select a route that minimises your travel time to no more than a couple of hours.
Easier with the kids
For all the reasons above and more, a staycation is a great option if you are bringing children along. Young kids do not respond well to long journeys cooped up in a car or airplane – especially if they have been woken up at 3am for it. It is often when you most need the little ones to behave themselves that they start acting up, creating a stressful and tiring journey for all involved. If you choose a narrowboat holiday for your staycation, the kids will love the novelty of life afloat and because you are constantly on the move, they’ll have far less chance to get bored and start misbehaving.
Take your pets along for the ride
If you are not crossing any international borders, there is no reason why your four legged friends shouldn’t join you on holiday. Dogs, cats and other animals are often much loved members of the family so it is unsurprising people do not like leaving them behind. As well as the guilt, made worse by their sad faces as the luggage is packed, there is also often a significant cost to having them well looked after in your absence. At Anglo Welsh we welcome pets on our narrowboats with the first pet travelling for free. Dogs in particular hate being separated from their owners – or pack – for even a short time so why not include them in the fun. With its focus on the great outdoors, a narrowboat holiday is perfect for dogs, with plenty of space and wonderful walks all along the canals. For more on why a canal boat makes a perfect pet friendly holiday and our top tips on bringing along your furry friend, read on here.
No language barrier
By staying in the UK you remove any potential for awkward misunderstandings or stress due to language barriers. While some people welcome the challenge of taking on a new language, most of us are left babbling incoherently while steadily reddening with embarrassment as we try and order a coffee in broken French or Spanish. The British are notoriously bad at foreign languages, let’s not deny it. So, holiday in the UK and unwind in your mother tongue. You’ll no longer have to worry about being served a completely different dish to the one you wanted or nodding at a series of instructions and hand gestures only to set off in completely the wrong direction. There’s no doubt, it is more relaxing when you actually understand what everyone is talking about.
Last but not least, by cutting out lengthy travel arrangements, currency exchange and possibly child or pet care, you could save yourself a lot of money by opting for a staycation in the UK. This will leave you with more funds to channel towards the important things such as sightseeing, fun activities, food and drink – all of which will really add to the overall holiday experience. If you choose an Anglo Welsh canal boat holiday, you will essentially be provided with a floating home and fully equipped kitchen so you can also save hard earned cash by preparing and enjoying meals onboard rather than relying on restaurant food. With so many wonderful things to see and do along the waterways you should be able to reach virtually everything you want on foot.
If all this hasn’t persuaded you that a holiday in the UK is the best option, then have a peruse of our website to look at the different canal boat bases and routes available which will take you through some of the most stunning countryside Britain has to offer.
If you want to discuss your preferences and requirements with one of our team to get some expert advice on which locations and boats would best suit you, please don’t hesitate to give us a ring.
Summer holiday season is almost upon us and what better way to spend it then hiring a narrowboat and floating gently along a beautiful historic canal.
If you are planning a canal boat holiday this summer, it is worth doing some research into the many fun events and attractions you could reach by narrowboat.
Our historic waterways come alive during the summer holiday season so wherever you want your canal boat hire to start from, we can guarantee there will be something fun or interesting within easy cruising distance.
With so much to see and do along the canals, there is something for every generation to enjoy. So, if you are planning a canal barge holiday for the whole family, don’t worry, there will be plenty to keep the kids entertained.
Here are a few of our top choices for summer holiday fun along the canals this year:
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire bases: Bath and Monkton Combe
A little earlier than most school summer holidays but worth including just the same as each year Bath Carnival bring the streets of this historic city to life in a colourful celebration of diverse world cultures. Flamboyant floats, costumes, music and dancing thrill the crowds and leave the whole city wanting to party.
Bristol Harbour Festival, Friday 19th to Sunday 21st July, River Avon
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Bath
Bristol’s harbourside plays host to the city’s biggest free festival which combines art, music and performance while showcasing the city’s maritime heritage. The floating harbour is lined by stages and stalls selling fantastic local food and drink with live music, shows, workshops, boat trips and more fun for all the family.
Manchester MCM Comic Con, Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th July, Bridgewater Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Bunbury
Dig out your favourite superhero costume and geek out at the UK’s biggest pop-culture event. Comic Con returns to Manchester with a blockbuster weekend of special guests including Guardians of the Galaxy’s Michael Rooker as well as TV, movies, comic books and cosplay that can be enjoyed by parents and children alike.
Afternoon tea at Anderton Boat Lift, Sunday 28th July, the Trent & Mersey Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Bunbury and Great Haywood
Admire this historic feat of engineering while sipping on afternoon tea and wolfing down delicious dainty sandwiches and cakes in a perfect afternoon out. The special ‘afternoon tea experiences’ include a look around the magnificent 144-year-old boat lift followed by a boat trip on the River Weaver and a delicious afternoon tea in the lift view marquee.
Gifford Circus at Stonor Park, Thursday 25th July to Monday 29th July, River Thames
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Oxford
The famous Gifford Circus will be bringing its new show Xanadu to Stonor Park in Henley. Inspired by the 70s flower power movement, the new show promises to be a spectacular evening of incredible acrobatics, jaw-dropping aerial tricks alongside clowns, musicians and even horses. Enter the magic wonderland that is Gifford’s Big Top and wait to fall under their spell.
The Oxford Shakespeare Festival, running until Saturday 10th August, River Thames
Nearest AngloWelsh canal boat hire base: Oxford
Enjoy one of the Bard’s masterpieces in the dramatic open air surroundings of Oxford Castle and Prison’s courtyard. There is tragedy and comedy on offer depending on your preference. Tomahawk Theatre presents Macbeth from 1st to 27th July while Siege Theatre performs Twelfth Night from 29th July to 10th August.
Summer festival at World of Wedgwood, Saturday, 10th and Sunday 11th August, Trent & Mersey Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Great Haywood
After the popularity of the monthly market, World of Wedgewood is extending it into a two-day celebration of mouth-watering food and drink and artisan crafts. More than 50 stalls will be showcasing the best edible delights from local suppliers alongside hand-crafted products to a backdrop of great live music throughout the weekend.
National Waterways Museum, Horses at work day, Sunday, 11 August, Llangollen Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire bases: Whixall and Trevor
The museum at Ellesmere Port is hosting a special day to pay homage to the special role of horses in the history of the waterways. Go along to see boats being towed along the canal by horses in the traditional style as well as lots of other horse related activities.
The Oxford Proms, Saturday, 10th August and Thursday, 15th August, River Thames
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Oxford
Treat yourself to some of the best live classical music you’ll ever hear with one of these two amazing Oxford Prom concerts, both featuring virtuoso pianist Maki Sekiya. The first, the Hall of Fame Classic concert at University Church of St Mary the Virgin will showcase Beethoven and Shostakovich. The second, The Magic of Mozart, held at the same venue, will, as the name suggests celebrate the work of the Austrian musical genius.
Chester Zoo Little Explorers Outdoor Adventure Club, various dates from 20th July to 17th August, Shropshire Union Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Bunbury
Chester Zoo is doing its bit to foster the next generation of David Attenboroughs with weekly clubs throughout the holidays for children aged 5 to 8, exploring different types of wildlife: 20 July, Feathery Friends; 27 July, Brilliant Bugs; 3 August, Pond Creatures; 17th August, Mammal Detectives. It is also a great chance for mum and dad to do a bit of sightseeing in peace and quiet.
On the Beach’s Great Northern Summer, running until Saturday, 31st August, Bridgewater Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Bunbury
Great Northern Square has been transformed by a giant sandpit containing 50 tonnes of sand and wood rounds which will keep children happy for hours. The sandpit provides the focal point for a whole summer of family friendly activities such as markets, play sessions, yogathons and more.
Drayton Manor Theme Park Summer of Fun, Saturday 20th July to Sunday 1st September, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Great Haywood
With over 100 rides and a 15 acre zoo, Drayton Manor is a theme park the whole family can enjoy and it is hosting a ‘summer of fun’ throughout the holidays. It even boasts Thomas Land where younger children can spend a day meeting Thomas and his friends and testing out rides like Bertie Bus and Toby’s Tram Express. With special events and family activities to be announced throughout the summer, Drayton really does have every age group covered.
Cadbury World, Freddo’s Treasure Trove Stage Show, Saturday, 20th July to Sunday 1st September, Worcester & Birmingham Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Tardebigge
This temple to chocolate making is presenting a special show throughout the summer starring a living, breathing version of Freddo, which is a guaranteed hit with the little ones. The show, included in the normal ticket price, invites you to set sail with Captain Freddo and learn what it takes to become a pirate on the Seven Seas. Lean how to walk and talk like a pirate, or risk walking the plank!
National Sealife Centre, daily until Sunday, 8th September, Birmingham Canal Navigations Mainline or Gas Street Canal Basin
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Tardebigge and Great Haywood
This awe-inspiring Norman Foster-designed aquarium where you can see more than 60 strange, beautiful and fascinating creatures of the deep, is hosting a special ‘Pirates and Mermaids’ underwater treasure hunt adventure to keep the kids entertained this summer.
Warwick Castle Falconer’s Quest, daily until Sunday, 3rd November, Grand Union Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Stockton and Wootton Wawen
Experience the UK’s biggest birds of prey show at one of the best preserved medieval castles in Britain. Kids and adults alike will be wowed as up to 70 birds of prey take to the skies in an action packed dynamic display of aerial avian acrobatics. The shows will take place daily throughout the summer and into Autumn.
Skipton Castle re-enactment events, weekends throughout summer, Leeds & Liverpool Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Silsden
This magnificent medieval castle hosts a series of re-enactment events throughout summer which will transport you back centuries to witness dramatic episodes from British history. On the 20th to 21st July you can experience life as it would have been in Skipton during the Wars of the Roses, on the 3rd to 4th of August you can watch the Civil War Regiment prepare for battle against the Parliamentarian army and on the 17th to 18th August watch 12 century knights display their fighting prowess.
What’s on in May: Canalside events to look forward to
Who doesn’t love May? It’s the month when summer finally starts to show its fair face, when blossom coats the hedgerows, when the sun shines late into the evening, when wearing shorts and flipflops becomes a reality, rather than a distant dream.
It is the month when the British countryside blooms, literally, bathing passersby in the sweet honeyed scents.
It is also the month when villages, towns and cities burst into life with the first of the summer’s fetes, festivals, carnivals and other colourful events all making May a busy few weeks.
In short, it is the perfect month to plan a canal boat holiday and explore some of the beautiful historic waterways which crisscross much of the UK.
To help you in planning your narrowboat break, here is a selection of just some of wonderful things taking place along the canals of England and Wales this May:
3rd to 5th May
Bristol Folk Festival, Bristol: River Avon
The best talent from the UK’s folk music scene serenade audiences across Bristol over the May bank holiday weekend. This year’s line up includes Cara Dillon, Sam Kelly & the Lost Boys and Lady Maisery with gigs held at St Stephen’s Church, Bristol Folk House and the beautiful St George’s. There will also be workshops and after hours sessions at other venues across the city.
The newly revamped Royal Pump Rooms offer a spectacular setting for this festival of chamber music which attracts fans from all over the UK and beyond. Violinist Tamsin Little and Russian pianist Andrey Gugnin will launch a stellar festival line up which will see exquisite music provided by organist Jonathan Cunliffe, the Aronowitz Ensemble, Roderick Williams and many more.
Taking place in Little Venice since 1983, the Inland Waterway Association’s Canalway Calvacade is one of the biggest and best canal festivals in the UK. Hundreds of narrowboats and other canal craft decorated with bunting line up along the Grand Union and Regents Canal providing the backdrop to a weekend of live music, dancing and fabulous food and drink. A highlight is the boat ‘pageant’ which sees boats competing for the best décor with a different theme each year.
Thousands of visitors descend upon Skipton over the May Bank Holiday to see dozens of decorated narrowboats line the canal basin and surrounding towpaths. There will be a full programme of entertainment over three days with children’s activites and rides, as well as craft stalls and delicious food and drink.
Launched in 2007, this family festival which takes place across Vines Park in Droitwich and the historic town centre, has grown to include street markets and exhibitions, live entertainment and a vintage car rally alongside the canal boat gathering. The festival culminates with ‘The Great Droitwich Duck Race’ at 4.30pm on the Monday afternoon.
The 2019 Chester racing season starts with the prestigious Boodles May Festival which takes place over three days and kick-starts the racing calendar in style. It starts with City Day on the Wednesday followed by the hats, frocks and thrills of Ladies Day and finishing with Chester Cup Day on the friday.
40s Weekend at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens, Castle Bromwich: Birmingham & Fazeley Canal
Step back in time to a wartime era of with a weekend of stories, music and vintage fun. This is a great excuse to dig out that retro or fancy dress, get dancing to some swing music and admire some classic cars and more. Entertainment will be provided by Kevin Mack, George Formby Experience and the Bluebird Belles while re-enactors from the Home Front include Peggy Skivvy, Victory Belles WI and the Bevan Boys and reminders of the fighting forces will be provided by Pathfinders, Red Caps and more. Tickets are £5 and can be bought on the door.
Running over 11 days in May, this annual celebration of music, literature and spoken word brings Bath to life with a rich array of concerns and performances. Traditionally the festival opens with the ‘Party in the City’ when dozens of parks and venues across the city host live bands and solo artists throughout the evening for everyone to enjoy. The programme then showcases an amazingly rich array of world famous musicians, writers and cultural figures. This year will see stars including Sir Michael Parkinson, Dame Darcey Bussell and Jo Brand entertaining audiences across Bath.
This celebration of canals, community and the environment brings together hundreds of traditional narrowboats and other craft from different eras together from across the country. At least 20,000 visitors come to Rickmansworth to enjoy the boats, music, performances, displays and colourful range of traders.
The Independent Birmingham Festival at the Bond, Birmingham: Grand Union Canal
Birmingham’s best independent local food traders gather to tickle the tastebudes of all visitors to this two day culinary celebration, organised by Independent Birmingham and Birmingham Seasonal Markets. Visitors can enjoy a spectacular line up of pop up restaurants, cocktail bars, street food, craft beer, fine wine all to a backdrop of great music. For those arriving via narrowboat the Bond sits conveniently right on the canalside.
Britain’s biggest inland waterways festival with more than 27,000 visitors last year, the Crick Boat Show bring together over 280 exhibitors, dozens of boats of all ages, dimensions and styles, talks by boating experts, boat trips and boat handling taster sessions all topped off with great live music and food and drink to get everyone in a celebratory mood. Now in its 20th year, this boat show is a great day out for all the family.
The biggest two-day LGBT party in the UK, Birmingham Pride is a weekend of flamboyant fun with colourful Carnival Parade through the city centre and live music from a fantastic line up including Years & Years, Lady Leshurr and Mabel. Alongside the main stage, the ‘Gay Village’ also features a dance arena, cabaret marquee, funfair, community village green, central market street, and the friendliest street party for all.
A fantastic boutique, family friendly music festival with more than 33 bands over three days showcasing the best in new talent and established acts. Last year saw around 5000 people soak up the sun and music and this year promises to get even bigger. The line up so far includes top tribute acts from The Stones, Re-Take That and Queen tribute, Mercury.
A celebration of all things delicious, independent food producers and street food traders will ply their wares at the World of Wedgewood over two days. Foodies can combine tasting wonderful local food and enjoying live music with exploring the historic pottery centre which provides a fascinating insight into what was once the region’s key industry and remains a famous English brand to this day.
Travel back to 1455 when the House of Lancaster’s hold on the English throne under King Henry VI is challenged by the House of York. The rival houses clash in battle leading to a war that lasted more than 30 years. The legendary Wars of the Roses is played out before audiences during an epic live action show at Warwick Castle. Experience a spectacle never seen before in the UK, complete with perilous stunt riders, fearless jousting and state of the art special effects. The show takes place every day throughout half term.
This is a must visit for anyone who loves boats in all their forms, with three days of ‘simply messing about in boats’ in this beautiful lake next to the River Thames. Visitors can admire classic boats, wooden boats, fibre glass boats, motor boats, sailing boats and much more with boat trips and rides. For any members of the family less keen on boats, there is also a vintage vehicle rally and many more land-based activities to enjoy.
Saints days and national holidays are a great excuse to get together with friends and family to enjoy some quality time out.
What better way to celebrate than to take a holiday on Britain’s beautiful canal network, enjoying a peaceful rural escape or visiting an exciting waterside town or city.
Here at Anglo Welsh we love to celebrate feast days and national holidays, so we’ve put together some ideas for the best celebratory destinations afloat.
St David’s Day(1 March) – the feast day of St David, the patron saint of Wales falls on 1 March, the date of St David’s death in 589 AD, and it’s a public holiday in Wales. Saint David was a Celtic monk and the Archbishop of Wales. He spread the word of Christianity across Wales. The feast has been celebrated since the canonisation of David in the 12th century, by the wearing of leeks (Saint David’s symbol) and daffodils (the symbol of Wales). Traditional Welsh food is eaten, including cawl (a traditional Welsh soup made with lamb or beef and potatoes, swedes, carrots – and of course leeks) and Welsh rarebit (cheese sauce on toast).
To celebrate afloat, take a trip from our canal boat holiday base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, and glide across the towering Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which this year celebrates 10 years of World Heritage Status.
Or you could travel along the Leek Branch of the Caldon Canal to Leek in Staffordshire. Departing from our canal boat hire base at Great Heywood, you’d reach Leek in around 18 hours, travelling just over 30 miles and passing through 27 locks.
St Patrick’s Day (17 March) – Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was actually born in Roman Britain, sometime in the late 300s AD. Saint Patrick’s Day started as a religious celebration in the 17th century to commemorate the life of Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. This ‘Feast Day’ always took place on the anniversary of Patrick’s death, which was believed to be March 17, 461 AD. In 1903, the Feast Day became a national holiday in Ireland. These days, Saint Patrick’s Day is so popular it’s thought to be celebrated in more countries than any other national festival. Festivities include boisterous parades, Gaelic marching bands, Irish jigs, dressing up as leprechauns in shamrock hats and drinking lots of Guinness.
As we can’t ship you out to the Emerald Isle on board one of our boats, instead we are celebrating St Patrick’s Day by offering savings of £100 on all new bookings made and paid for by 17 March, regardless of the actual dates you choose for your holiday. And for extra touch of Irish-themed hospitality, we’ll welcome you on board with eight complimentary cans of Guinness.
St George’s Day (23 April 2019) – St George, the patron Saint of England, has captivated the imaginations of the British since the Crusades and the Hundred Years’ War. He was born sometime around the year 280 in what is now Turkey and became a Roman soldier famous for slaying a dragon. According to legend, the only well in the town of Silene (in modern day Libya) was guarded by a dragon, who demanded a human to be sacrificed in exchange for water. On the day St George visited, a princess had been chosen for the sacrifice, so to save her he slayed the dragon and gave the people access to water. St George’s Day falls on the anniversary of his death on 23 April 303, when he was executed for being a Christian. The flag of England with a red cross over a white background represents the St George’s Cross. Although it’s no longer a national holiday, people still like to celebrate the day with parades, Morris Dancers, flag flying, Punch and Judy shows and by eating fish and chips!
To celebrate St George’s Day afloat, take to the water with St George’s Cross flags flying and head to Oxford Castle to climb the Saxon St George’s Tower and enjoy amazing panoramic views over the historic City of Oxford. From our canal boat holiday rental base on the River Thames at Oxford, it takes just three-and-a-half hours, passing through four locks to reach moorings in Oxford City Centre, just a ten-minute walk from Oxford Castle & Prison.
Or book a break from our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove and head to the Black Country Museum to enjoy some traditional 1930s cooked fish and chips. The journey to the Black Country Museum takes around eight hours and passes through three locks.
Easter (Good Friday 19 April 2019, Easter Monday 22 April 2019) – On Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead after his crucifixion and burial, usually by going to Church. Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the Paschal Full Moon, which can fall anywhere between 22 March and 25 April. Easter eggs symbolise new life and the resurrection of Christ.
Easter is a great time to get afloat and explore the countryside as it bursts into life with new leaves, daffodils, bluebells, spring lambs and nesting birds and waterside attractions host special Easter holiday activities. For example, the canalside Cadbury World, home to the World’s biggest chocolate shop, will host an ‘Easter Eggstavaganza’ with a stage show starring Mr Cadbury’s Parrot, as well as an Easter Egg Trail. Cadbury World is just two hours away from our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge.
Or visit Bath Theatre Royal’s famous Egg Theatre. Setting off from our canal boat hire base at Brassknocker Basin just outside Bath, you can reach Bath City Centre in just four hours, passing through six locks.
May Day (6 May 2019) – the roots of May Day (1 May) can be traced back to the Dark Ages when the ancient Celts divided their year by four major festivals, including ‘Beltane’ or ‘the fire of Bel’, representing the first day of summer. May Day is associated with fun, revelry and fertility. The day would be marked with maypole dancing, the selection of the May Queen and the dancing figure of the Jack-in-the-Green at the head of a procession, a relic from when our ancestors worshipped trees. In the 16th century, the pagan May Day celebrations were banned by Church and State and Oliver Cromwell later passed legislation which saw the end of village maypoles. Dancing did not return to village greens until the restoration of Charles II. Today, some of the old customs have survived, including Morris dancing, maypole dancing and the crowning of a May queen.
The first May Bank Holiday is a great time to take to the water and enjoy Spring sunshine and verdant green trees, fields and hedgerows. May Day celebrations take place each year at Bancroft Basin in Stratford upon Avon, which can be reached in six hours from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen. And the St Richard’s Canal Festival takes place the first May bank holiday each year at Vines Park, alongside the Droitwich Barge Canal. Droitwich can be reached from our canal boat holiday base at Tardebigge in 11 hours.
Whitsun Late May Bank Holiday (27 May 2019) – in the past Whit Monday was a day off after Whit Sunday (which falls seven Sundays after Easter), commemorating the gift of the Holy Spirit to the followers of Jesus on the Day of Pentecost. After the disciples received the Holy Spirit in the form of flames, they began to out and preach about Jesus. In 1971 the Banking and Financial Dealings Act changed the date of the holiday to make it fall on the last Monday of May, rather than on the day after Whit Sunday.
Christians have traditionally taken part in Whit walks at Whitsun. Hundreds of footpaths and walking routes intersect with the canals, for example in Cheshire, the 16.5 mile long Eddisbury Way meets the Shropshire Union Canal close to Williamsons Bridge, four-and-a-half miles from our canal boat rental base at Bunbury. And the Shropshire Way meets the Llangollen Canal at Spark’s Bridge, close to the historic town of Whitchurch, six miles from our canal boat hire base at Whixall.
August Bank Holiday (26 August 2019) – also known as the Summer Bank Holiday, this falls on the last Monday of August, except in Scotland when it falls on the first Monday in August. In 1871, Sir John Lubbock introduced the Bank Holidays Act, starting the concept of holidays with pay. He designated four in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and five in Scotland, including a Summer Bank Holiday.
Escape crowded airports, congested roads and engineering works on the railways with a holiday afloat on the canals. Pottering along at just four miles an hour, soaking up the last of the summer sun, a holiday on Britain’s beautiful waterways is a great way to relax and see the countryside, as well as visit waterside attractions hosting special bank holiday events. For example, setting off from our canal boat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can reach moorings close to Warwick Castle in around seven hours, travelling through 20 locks. Over the August bank holiday weekend, Warwick Castle will be hosting its spectacular Dragon Slayer event, with fearless fire jousting, perilous stunt riding and epic battles with live actors, pyrotechnics and fireworks.
St. Andrews Day (30 November) – St Andrew’s Day is a public holiday in Scotland. St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, is considered to be Jesus’ first disciple. He was crucified on 30 November 60AD by order of the Roman governor Aegeas. He was tied to an X-shaped cross, represented by the white cross on the Scottish flag, the Saltire. St Andrews Day celebrations have been taking place in Scotland for over a thousand years. Today people celebrate by attending a ceilidh, by eating Cullen skink or lamb and by displaying the flag of St Andrew.
Christmas & New Year – Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. Christians celebrate 25 December as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, but celebrating the middle of winter has long been a celebration around the world. For example, in Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from 21 December, the winter solstice, through January.
Festivals and celebrations marking the beginning of the calendar have been around for thousands of years. Some are linked to agricultural or astronomical events. In Egypt for example, the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius.
Britain’s canals can offer a great antidote to the hustle and bustle of Christmas. We offer winter cruising* from four of our bases, giving you the chance to enjoy cosy evenings afloat, visit waterside pubs with roaring log fires, and wake-up to frosty towpaths and crisp clean air.
Whether it’s a snug boat for two or a family break for ten, celebrating Christmas or New Year afloat offers a great getaway. It’s free to moor almost anywhere on the network, so a narrowboat could provide the perfect base to enjoy new year celebrations in waterside towns and cities like Birmingham or Stratford upon Avon.
All our boats have central heating, hot water, televisions and DVD players. Some also have multi-fuel stoves. So, whatever the weather, it’s always nice and cosy on board.
*Winter cruising routes can be affected by stoppages and closures as a result of winter maintenance work
We offer a range of different types of holidays such as City Breaks, Relaxation Cruises and Popular Destinations
So why choose Anglo Welsh?
Over 55 years providing unique canal boat holidays in England and Wales.
Modern and spacious narrowboat and wide beam barge hire – from 2 to 12 berths.
Wide choice of narrowboat hire locations and canal boat holiday destinations.
Canal boat holiday routes for novices & experienced boaters.
Flexible holiday booking, no hidden costs.
Family friendly and pet friendly holidays.
Great days out on the water.
Luxury canal boat hire and Thames boating holidays.
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