Cruising rings are great because they offer journeys along different waterways, take in a wide variety of landscapes and bring you back to your narrowboat hire base without having to travel the same way twice.
Some are seriously challenging, with steep flights of locks and long dark tunnels to negotiate, while others are easier and more suitable for canal boat holiday beginners. All offer a wonderful summer holiday adventure and the chance to explore some of Britain’s best loved countryside from your very own floating holiday home.
Here’s a list of our Top eight Summer Circuits to explore:
1. The Black Country Ring – setting off from our canal boat rental base at Great Haywood in Staffordshire or Tardebigge in Worcestershire, this circuit can be done on a week’s holiday. Cruising sections of the Birmingham & Fazeley, Birmingham Main Line, Coventry, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Trent & Mersey canals, highlights along the way include: Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin; the 21 locks at Wolverhampton; and the waters at Tixall Wide. To complete the Black Country Ring from Tardebigge, you will travel 104 miles, passing through 79 locks, which will take around 53 hours. From Great Haywood it’s 75 miles, 79 locks and takes 43 hours.
2. The Four Counties Ring – departing from our bases at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, Bunbury in Cheshire or Whixall in Shropshire, this popular circuit can be completed in a week. It takes canal boat holiday-makers through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire and highlights along the way include: the 2670-metre long Harecastle Tunnel; flight of 15 locks at Audlem; views of the rolling Cheshire Plains; and the Roman town of Middlewich. To complete the Four Counties Ring from Great Haywood, you will travel 110 miles, pass through 94 locks, which will take around 55 hours. From Bunbury, it will be 115 miles, 96 locks and 58 hours. From Whixall, it’s 137 miles, 132 locks and 86 hours.
3. The Cheshire Ring – cruising out from our narrowboat hire base at Bunbury in Cheshire, this route, which runs through the heart of Manchester and the Peak District via the Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals, can be completed in a week. Highlights along the way include: the incredible Anderton Boat Lift, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways; stunning views of the Peak District from the Top Lock at Marple on the Peak Forest Canal; and Manchester’s China Town. To complete the Cheshire Ring from Bunbury, you will travel 122 miles and pass through 102 locks, which will take about 86 cruising hours.
4. The Stourport Ring – navigating from our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge in Worcestershire, this ring, which can be completed in a week, takes in sections of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, the River Severn, Birmingham Canal Main Line and Stourbridge canals. Highlights include: cruising through central Birmingham; Kinver with its National Trust rock houses; the City of Worcester with its magnificent cathedral; countryside views along the River Severn; and the dramatic flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge, the longest in the country. To complete the Stourport Ring from Tardebigge, you will travel 84 miles and pass through 118 locks in around 52 hours.
5. The Warwickshire Ring – setting off from our canal boat hire base at Stockton in Warwickshire, this circuit which can be done in a week, cruises sections of the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals. Highlights include: the flight of 11 locks into Atherstone; the pretty canal village of Braunston; the awesome flight of 21 locks at Hatton; and Warwick Castle. To complete the Warwickshire Ring from Stockton, you will travel 104 miles and pass through 121 locks in around 56 hours.
6. The Birmingham Mini-Ring – this popular ring can be completed on a four night short break from our base at Tardebigge in Worcestershire. It takes in sections of the Worcester & Birmingham, Birmingham Main Line and Grand Union canals, and highlights include: the historic village of Bournville, home of Cadbury’s chocolate; Gas Street Basin in central Birmingham; and the flight of 13 locks at Farmers Bridge. To complete the Birmingham Mini-Ring from Tardebigge, you will travel 45 miles and pass through 49 locks, which takes around 27 hours.
7. The Avon Ring – canal boat holiday-makers can complete this epic circuit on a two week break from our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge or Wootton Wawen. Navigating sections of the Stratford Canal, River Avon, River Severn and Worcester & Birmingham Canal, highlights include: Shakespeare’s Stratford; the River Avon with its panoramic views; the charming historic town of Evesham; the Cotswold medieval town of Tewskesbury; the City of Worcester with its magnificent cathedral; and the flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge. To complete the Avon Ring from either Tardebigge or Wootton Wawen, you will travel 109 miles and pass through 131 locks, which will take around 58 hours.
8. The East Midlands Ring – on a two week break from our narrowboat rental base at Stockton boaters can journey round the East Midlands Ring, also known as the Leicester Ring. Travelling sections of the Birmingham & Fazeley, Coventry, Oxford, Trent & Mersey and Grand Union canals, as well as the rivers Soar and Trent, highlights include: Saddlington Tunnel; the Foxton Staircase; the pretty canal village of Stoke Bruerne with its Canal Museum; Blisworth Tunnel; the 11 locks at Atherstone; the City of Coventry; and the historic village of Shardlow. To complete the East Midlands Ring from Stockton, you will travel 170 miles and pass through 107 locks in around 84 hours.
On Sunday 7 April 2019 we’re offering free canal boat holiday taster sessions at five of our canal boat hire bases, giving visitors the chance to find out more about what it’s like to enjoy a narrowboat holiday on Britain’s wonderful inland waterway network.
Our events are being held as part of Drifters’ National Open Day, which is supported by the Canal & River Trust.
The taster sessions will include free trips on skippered narrowboats, as well as narrowboat tours, holiday discounts and the chance to find out more about our luxury canal boat hire opportunities.
No advance booking is required. The events will open at 11am and close at 4pm.
Here’s a list of our narrowboat hire bases hosting events:
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
This Mother’s Day (11 March 2018), why not spoil your Mum with a relaxing day on the water, enjoying a picnic afloat or pub lunch along the way.
Anglo Welsh offers day boat hire from five of its bases, from just under £10 per person. Full tuition is included, so if you’re new to canal boating, you can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.
All our day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle and most also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.
Here are our Top 5 day boat destinations to visit afloat for 2018:
Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – From our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it’s less than 10 minutes by water to the incredible World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, also known as “The Stream in the Sky”. At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the wonders of the waterways, offering stunning views of the Dee Valley below. After travelling across the Aqueduct, boaters can continue on to Glendrid to enjoy lunch at the canalside Poacher’s Inn. This gentle five-mile journey with no locks, also takes canal boat hirers across Chirk Aqueduct and through Whitehouses and Chirk tunnels. Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £120 for up to 10 people, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.
Potter along the Stratford Canal to Wilmcote – From our boat yard at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, boaters can head south, crossing the impressive Edstone Aqueduct and passing through one lock, to reach the historic village of Wilmcote – a journey which takes around two hours. Here, day-boaters can moor up above Wilmcote Top Lock and take a short walk into the village to enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn or the Masons Arms, or visit the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden’s Farm. Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
Travel the Trent & Mersey to Rugeley – From our narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, day boaters can cruise four miles, passing through two locks to reach the historic market town of Rugeley. Along the way, day boat hirers pass the National Trust’s stunning Shugborough Estate, and the popular Wolseley Arms pub at Wolseley Bridge. The journey to Rugeley takes around two hours and once there, boaters can moor up to explore the town or turn at bridge 68 and head back to Wolseley to visit the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wolseley Centre and have lunch at the pub. Day boat hire from Great Haywood starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
Cruise ‘The Shroppie’ to Nantwich Aqueduct – From our base at Bunbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, canal boat hirers can cruise south for six sedate miles, and travel across the impressive Grade II* listed Nantwich Aqueduct with panoramic views across the town. Dating back to 1826, Nantwich Aqueduct, which carries the canal over the A534 Chester Road, was designed by the famous canal engineer Thomas Telford. With no locks along the way, the journey to Nantwich takes around two hours. There are moorings next to the aqueduct and choice of places to eat close to the canal, including Street Nantwich and Firenze Bar & Restaurant on Welsh Row. Day boat hire from Bunbury starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
Travel through rural Worcestershire – From our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge near Bromsgrove, day boaters can cruise north along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Kings Norton Junction, passing through fields, woods and two tunnels, including one of the longest canal tunnels in the country – Wast Hills. The route, which covers a total of 16 miles there and back, takes boaters past a choice of waterside pubs, including the Weighbridge at Alvechurch and the Hopwood House at Hopwood. There are no locks on this journey and it takes around three hours each way. Day boat hire from Tardebigge starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
To book a holiday or break on any of Anglo Welsh’s fleet, call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122.
Sailing on a cloud with Matthew Gravelle and Family
Broadchurch star Matthew Gravelle was at the centre of the biggest TV whodunnit since ‘who shot JR?’ Last summer, the Welsh actor took his wife, Hinterland star Mali Harries, and kids on an Anglo Welsh canal boat holiday, setting off from our Trevor base in North Wales on a true-life family adventure. Here’s his narrowboat holiday review, published in Wales View 2015:
We’re heading for the Llangollen Canal, built as part of a network of waterways to connect the coalfields and limestone quarries of Denbighshire to the Midlands.
Its most notable feature is Thomas Telford’s Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the highest and longest in Britain, 984 feet (300m) in length and soaring 98 feet (40 m) above the River Dee.
We arrive at Trevor Basin to collect our boat, a traditional barge called Brenig, which appears to be painted in British Racing Green (odd, since the speed limit is 4 mph (6.4kph).
The children scramble on and explore, while I get an hour of instruction from the nice man from Anglo Welsh on how to skipper the thing. By the time we push off from our mooring, I know the theory, but actually steering this immense beast – it’s got an old-fashioned tiller, rather than a wheel – takes some getting used to.
Crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the easy bit. Telford thoughtfully built it in an arrow-straight line, and the cast iron walls are only just wide enough to pass through, so steering isn’t an issue. Instead I can take in the exhilarating views as we float serenely in mid-air.
I was enjoying the ride so much I didn’t really think about how it was coming to an end. There are two barges coming in the opposite direction and I seem to have forgotten everything I learnt about steering. I bump into a poor unsuspecting barge owner, causing him to throw his supper into his lap. Oops. Sorry.
Back at our mooring, we feast on Llandegla smoked trout, with broad beans and new potatoes from my dad’s garden. After supper we do old-fashioned family stuff – play cards, draw pictures.
As night falls, the children settle into their cabin and enjoy the best night’s sleep of the trip. It’s a really cosy and comfortable place to sleep, like a stretched caravan, except better insulated, with its own wood-burner.
A new day dawns and this driving lark seems much easier today. It gives us the opportunity to relax and spot nooks and corners that you don’t see from any road.
“It’s like sailing on a cloud,” observes Ela.
To book a canal holiday or break aboard any of Anglo Welsh’s narrowboat fleet, call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122.
We offer a range of different types of holidays such as City Breaks, Relaxation Cruises and Popular Destinations
So why choose Anglo Welsh?
More than 55 years providing unique canal boat holidays.
Modern & spacious narrowboat holiday fleet – from 2 to 12 berths.
Wide choice of narrowboat hire locations and canal.
Canal boat holiday routes for novices & experienced boaters.
Flexible holiday booking, no hidden costs.
Family friendly holidays, pets also welcome.