Anglo Welsh’s Top 7 canal boat holidays for beginners

Every year more and more people are discovering the delights of holidaying on Britain’s beautiful inland waterways network.

You don’t have to be an expert and you don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat. It’s easy for first-timers to learn to operate our boats and as part of our holiday package, we provide hirers with expert boat steering tuition.

With our nationally accredited handover, we’ll make sure you’re comfortable and in control before you set off. There is a manual on board every boat if you need to check on anything and our engineering teams are always on hand – 24 hours a day- to help over the phone or come out to you if you need them.

So if you’ve thought about taking a canal boat holiday, but you’re not sure where to begin, here’s our top seven short break narrowboat holidays for newcomers to get you started:

  1. Head to Birmingham lock-free – with no locks between our base at Tardebigge and Birmingham City Centre, this five-hour cruise is perfect for first-time canal boat holiday-makers. The first half of the journey passes through fields, woodlands and sleepy villages before the route becomes more urbanised. Once in the centre of Birmingham, narrowboat holiday-makers can find over-night moorings at Gas Street Basin, with easy access to Brindley Place, the Mailbox and Bullring shopping centres, theatres, museums and restaurants.
  2. Learn the ropes on the Llangollen – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular on the network. With just two locks along the way, the seven-hour journey from our base at Trevor to Ellesmere and back offers a fantastic short break holiday for beginners. And the route includes the experience of travelling across the incredible World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, with jaw-dropping panoramic views of the Dee Valley below.
  3. Dip your toe in the water at Bath – from our base at Bradford on Avon on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire, Bath Top Lock is a lovely six-hour, one-lock cruise away. Skirting the southern foothills of the Cotswolds, the route passes over two stunning Bath stone aqueducts and past a series of popular canalside pubs, including the George at Bathampton. From Bath Top Lock, canal boat holiday makers can walk into the centre of Bath in just 15 minutes to enjoy all that the World Heritage Status City of Bath has to offer, such as the Roman Baths, Royal Crescent, Bath Abbey and an excellent range of independent shops and restaurants.
  4. Take to the tiller along the Thames – from our base on the River Thames at Eynsham near Witney, it takes just 3½ hours, passing through four locks to reach City centre moorings in Oxford. All the locks are manned along the Thames so there’s help on hand for newcomers. Once in Oxford, boaters can use their vessel as a base to explore all that this fascinating city has to offer, including the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, the Carfax Tower and pubs like the Lamb & Flag, steeped in literary and film history.
  5. Steer gently along to Stone – from our base at Great Haywood it takes just five hours of gentle cruising along the Trent & Mersey Canal to reach the historic Shropshire market town of Stone. There are just four locks to pass through and plenty of pubs to take refreshment at along the way, including the ‘Woolpack’ and ‘Saracen’s Head’ at Weston, the ‘Holly Bush Inn’ at Salt, the ‘Dog & Doublet’ at Sandon and the ‘Greyhound’ at Burston.
  6. Chug up the Shroppie to historic Chester – it’s a seven-hour, nine-lock journey to Chester from our Bunbury base on the Shropshire Union Canal. The route passes through glorious English countryside and villages with historic local pubs, including the ‘Ring O’Bells’ at Christleton and the ‘Shady Oak’ at Bates Mill Bridge. Once in Chester, canal boat holiday-makers can explore this wonderfully cosmopolitan ancient City, including its Roman Amphitheatre, city walls, Chester’s Rows shops, 1,000-year old cathedral, racecourse and zoo.
  7. Test the waters on the Leeds & Liverpool – from our Silsden base on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it’s a great short break route for beginners to travel west to Gargrave and back. Travelling 12 miles through just three locks, the journey takes around 6½ hours and passes through the historic town of Skipton, with its fascinating medieval castle, one of the most complete and best preserved in England.


To make a booking or to get friendly advice on canal holidays, please call our Booking Office on 0117 304 1122.

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Anglo Welsh’s Top 10 Canal Boat Holidays For 2017

1. Explore the labyrinth of limestone caverns at Dudley … from our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s an eight-hour (three-lock) journey to moorings outside the fascinating 26-acre open-air Black Country Living Museum, often used as a backdrop for the BBC’s award-winning ‘Peaky Blinders’ series.  From there, walk across to Dudley Canal Tunnel and board a trip boat to explore the spectacular limestone tunnels under Castle Hill, including the ‘Singing Cavern’ where seven enormous limestone pillars support its roof.

2. Pitt Stop at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford 
… from our Oxford base, it’s a tranquil three-hour cruise along the River Thames to moorings at Hythe Bridge, perfect for exploring Oxford’s city centre, including the fascinating Pitt Rivers Museum.  Here display cabinets are crammed with objects that make people different, including shrunken heads from the Amazon, Hawaiian feather cloaks and the curious ‘Witch in a Bottle’.  Lieutenant-General Pitt Rivers made an original gift of 18,000 objects in 1884, some collected on Captain Cook’s voyage in the 1770s.  Later travellers have added a further 300,000 objects.

Reach the Royal Crescent at Georgian Bath … from our base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at the historic town of Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, boaters can reach Bath Top Lock in just six hours, travelling through one lock and over two beautiful Bath stone aqueducts.  From there, it’s a 25-minute walk through Bath city centre to the stunning Royal Crescent, one of the greatest examples of Georgian architecture in the UK and one of Bath’s most iconic landmarks.  Built between 1767 and 1775 and designed by John Wood the Younger, this impressive landmark forms a sweeping crescent of 30 Grade I Listed terrace houses, with a Museum of Georgian Life at No. 1.

See fantastic machines in Shakespeare’s Stratford … from our base at Wootton Wawen on the narrow Stratford Canal in Henley in Arden, it’s a delightful six-hour, 17-lock cruise journey through the Warwickshire countryside to Bancroft Basin in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare.  Here, a choice of waterside eateries, the Swan Theatre, shops and the machine-infested MAD (Mechanical Art & Design) Museum, with over 100 pieces of Kinetic Art and Automata from artists around the World, are all within easy reach.

Travel the scenic Four Counties Ring … From our base at Great Haywood, at the junction of the Trent & Mersey and Staffs & Worcs canals, on a week’s break narrowboat holiday-makers can cruise the popular Four Counties Ring.  Travelling 109 miles and tackling 94 locks, this scenic journey through the counties of Cheshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire and the West Midlands takes around 55 hours.  Highlights include: Lord Lichfield’s Shugborough Hall; the Wedgewood Museum at Etruria; the 6,675-metre long Harecastle Tunnel at Kidsgrove; historic Market Drayton home of the Gingerbread Man; and the beautiful ‘Tixall Wide’ lake, bursting with wildlife.

Remember what the Romans did for us in Chester … From our base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury, the Roman City of Chester is a delightful seven-hour, nine-lock cruise away, travelling through the rolling Cheshire landscape.  Once there, canal boat holidaymakers can explore the city’s Roman heritage, including its Roman roads ‘Via Praetoria’ and ‘Via Principalis’ (now Bridge Street and Eastgate), the Roman Museum, Roman Solider Tours, Roman Gardens and Amphitheatre.

Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ … just five minutes by boat from our canal boat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’.  Its cast iron trough is supported on iron arched ribs and carried 38 metres high above the Dee Valley on 19 hollow pillars.  In 2009 it was granted World Heritage status, putting it on an equal footing with the Great Barrier Reef and Taj Mahal.  On a short break from Trevor, boaters can cross the aqueduct and then continue east to reach the Ellesmere Lakes, also known as the Shropshire Lake District.

Potter along to Stoke Bruerne canal village … from our Stockton base on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, the “chocolate box” pretty canalside village of Stoke Bruerne is 13 hours and 17 locks away.  Home to a Wildlife Trust nature reserve, a variety of historic pubs and eateries (including the canalside Navigation and Boat Inn), an intriguing Canal Museum housing a treasure trove of canal curiosities, the southern end of the spooky 2,813-metre long Blisworth Tunnel, and a fascinating walking trail, this idyllic village is a really lovely place to visit.

Saunter to Saltaire & The Bingley Five Rise … from our base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, on a short break boaters can travel to Saltaire near Bradford, said to offer the finest example of Italianate architecture in England and now a World Heritage Site.  Sir Titus Salt built the textile Mill and entire village for the mill workers on the River Aire, with the new mill opening in 1853.  Today, Salt’s Mill is home to examples of the work of Bradford born artist David Hockney, as well as an eclectic collection of books, furniture, jewellery, clothing and food for sale.  From Saltaire, it’s a short walk or cruise on to the magnificent Bingley Five Rise lock staircase, the steepest flight of locks in the UK raising the canal up (or down) 60ft.

10. Cruise the epic Stourport Ring … from our base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, the 74-mile, 118-lock Stourport Ring can be undertaken in a busy week, or a more leisurely 10-day or two-week holiday.  Visiting three cities (Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Worcester) and travelling sections of six different waterways (Staffs & Worcs Canal, Worcs & Birmingham Canal, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, Birmingham Canal Main Line, Birmingham Canal Old Main Line and the River Severn), it offers a huge variety of both urban and rural scenes to enjoy along the way.


To make a booking or to get friendly advice on canal holidays, please call our Booking Office on 0117 304 1122.

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Be Inspired

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

City Breaks
Rural retreats
Popular places

So why choose Anglo Welsh?

More than 55 years providing unique canal boat holidays.
Modern & spacious narrowboat holiday fleet – from 2 to 12 berths.
Wide choice of narrowboat hire locations and canal.
Canal boat holiday routes for novices & experienced boaters.
Flexible holiday booking, no hidden costs.
Family friendly holidays, pets also welcome.

Anglo Welsh. So much more than narrowboats

...but don't just take our word for it





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