Enjoy a family adventure afloat this summer, closer to home
By Emma Lovell, Anglo Welsh’s Reservations Manager
England and Wales are criss-crossed by hundreds of miles of beautiful inland waterways to explore afloat. They take narrowboat holiday-makers through some of our best loved countryside, and into the heart of some our most famous waterside towns and cities.
Narrowboat holidays are great for families, bringing everyone together for an adventure afloat. From steering the boat, and working the locks, to planning the route and the stops, everyone can get involved.
Pets are welcome aboard all our boats and the first pet travels free, so your dog, hamster or budgie can enjoy the floating holiday home break too!
Anglo Welsh offers narrowboat holidays from 11 starting points across England and Wales. So, whether you want to stay close to home and explore your local waterway, or travel further afield to see another part of the country, we have hundreds of routes and destinations to choose from.
From views of the dramatic Welsh mountains on the Llangollen Canal, to meadows full of birdsong alongside the majestic of the River Thames, we’ve put together a list of our Top 10 narrowboat holidays for families this summer:
1. Cruise to the Shropshire Lake District – from our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, on a short break you can cruise to Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. The journey takes around seven hours, passing through two locks, two tunnels and over two magnificent aqueducts, including the famous UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This Wonder of the Waterways, carries the Llangollen Canal 38 metres high above the Dee valley, with magnificent views of the valley below, and Welsh Mountains beyond.
2. Navigate through Shakespeare country to Stratford upon Avon – from our narrowboat hire base at Wootton Wawen, on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it takes around six hours to cruise through the Warwickshire countryside, which includes passing through 17 locks, to reach overnight moorings in Bancroft Basin in the heart of Stratford upon Avon. Once there, you can walk to all the top attractions in Stratford, from theatres and museums, to pubs and restaurants. This destination is perfect for a weekend away.
3. Travel round the Black Country Ring – on a week’s break from our barge hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, you can travel round the Black Country Ring. The journey, which travels 75 miles and passes through 79 locks, takes around 43 hours. Highlights along the way include: Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham City Centre; the 21 locks at Wolverhampton; and the tranquil waters at Tixall Wide.
4. Take a Thames boating holiday to Wallingford – from our narrowboat rental base on the River Thames at Oxford, it’s a nine-hour, 11-lock cruise to the historic market town of Wallingford. Along the way, you’ll travel through miles of peaceful Oxfordshire meadows and pastureland. Places to stop off along the way, include the City of Oxford with its world famous museums, and the market town of Abingdon, with its popular waterside pub, The Nag’s Head. This journey is perfect for a four night mid-week break.
5. Potter through the Worcestershire countryside via the Stourport Ring – on a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can travel round the Stourport Ring. This popular circuit will take you on an 84-mile, 114-lock journey, cruising for around 56 hours. Highlights include: Gas Street Basin in the centre of Birmingham; Kinver Edge with its extensive woodlands and National Trust Holy Austin Rock Houses; the magnificent Cathedral City of Worcester; idyllic stretches of Worcestershire countryside along the River Severn; and the dramatic flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge.
6. Cruise across the Pennines to Foulridge Tunnel – from our canal boat hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just around 13 hours, passing through 15 locks, to reach Foulridge Tunnel. The journey will take you through a series of historic towns and villages, including Skipton, with its medieval fortress and acres of woodland trails to explore, and East Marton with a choice of pubs and access to the Pennine Way. This route is perfect for a week’s holiday.
7. Travel through the Avon Valley and up the Caen Hill Flight – on a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Monkton Combe on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Bath, it takes around 19 hours to reach Pewsey Wharf. The route will take you through 37 locks each way, including the 29 locks of the Caen Hill Flight at Devizes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. This journey will also take you over two dramatic Bath stone aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff, through the historic market town of Bradford on Avon and the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the West Berkshire Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
8. Journey to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen & back – on a week’s holiday from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around 12 hours, passing through two locks, to reach the historic town of Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains. Along the way, you’ll travel through the Shropshire Lake District and then across the magnificent World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts, with incredible views of the Welsh Mountains.
9. Navigate through the Cheshire countryside to The Cathedral of the Canals – on a short break from our canal boat rental base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can cruise to the Anderton Boat Lift. The journey takes around nine hours and passes through 20 locks. Looking like a giant spider crouched on the hillside, this incredible feat of Victorian engineering moves boats 15 metres up or down between the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal.
10. Boat to Warwick Castle and back – on a short break from our canal boat hire base at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can cruise to moorings close to the magnificent Warwick Castle, said to be Britain’s greatest medieval experience. The journey there and back takes around 14 hours and passes through 40 locks (20 each way).
We offer winter cruising from six of our narrowboat hire bases*, giving you the chance to cruise gently through the countryside, stopping off to explore canalside villages along the way, and to celebrate Christmas and New Year afloat.
The canals are quieter during the winter months and people tend to make shorter journeys. Winter cruising is about enjoying being close to the water and visiting canalside pubs with traditional log fires and other local attractions, rather than travelling lots of miles each day.
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 on board. Some of our boats also come with multi-fuel stoves for some extra special winter warmth, and there’s plenty of storage room on board, so you can bring lots of warm and wet weather clothing.
Some of our routes will be affected at times by the Canal & River Trust’s annual winter maintenance work, but here are our Top 6 winter narrowboat holidays for 2020:
1. 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 around five hours. The journey passes through five locks and 12 peaceful miles of Staffordshire countryside, including the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Places to enjoy along the way include The Wolseley Centre run by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the Wolseley Arms pub and the village of Handsacre with its pub ‘The Old Peculiar’. Once at Fradley, you’ll find refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn, and walking trails at the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
2. Travel gently through the Shropshire countryside to historic Whitchurch – from our barge holiday 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. Once at Whitchurch, enjoy way-marked walks, Brown Moss nature reserve and a choice of eateries, including the award-winning Black Bear pub.
3. 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 exploring this historic town, and visiting some of its many pubs, restaurants and cafes.
4. Navigate to the canalside village of Lapworth – from our canal barge holiday hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes around seven hours to cruise the historic canal village of Lapworth. 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 for countryside walks along the Heart of England Way, and visit the National Trust’s Packwood House, with beautiful gardens to explore.
5. Visit historic Chester afloat – from our narrowboat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley in Cheshire, it’s a seven-hour cruise through the Cheshire countryside, passing through nine locks, to reach the historic city of Chester. Once moored up at Northgate visitor moorings, you can take time to explore this ancient Cathedral City with Roman City Walls, Amphitheatre, riverside gardens and fabulous City Centre Christmas lights.
6. Cross ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to the Shropshire Lake District – our canal boat rental base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, is a ten minute cruise away from the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This magnificent feat of Victorian engineering carries the canal 30 metres high above the Dee Valley, with amazing views to enjoy. On a short break, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to Ellesmere, in the centre of the Shropshire Lake District, to visit the famous Mere, a haven for wildlife.
*Subject to government guidance and the lifting of relevant restrictions to control the spread of coronavirus, our boat yards are due to reopen on Monday 7 December. If you make a booking, but are legally unable to take your holiday as planned due to a Government coronavirus lockdown, you can transfer your booking with no admin fee or request a refund.
From the doldrums of lockdown to the busiest summer on record, Matt Lucas-Stern looks back on the 2020 narrowboat holiday season at Wootton Wawen.
“The coronavirus pandemic has bought dramatic changes to our lives, particularly for those of us involved in the world of travel and hospitality.
When the main 2020 boating season got underway at the beginning of March, even though we knew that Covid-19 was devastating communities elsewhere in China and parts of Europe, we still didn’t have any idea how much it was going to affect our lives.
Here at Wootton Wawen, we were focussing on getting all our boats in tip top shape ready for the main boating season, and making plans to hold an open day to show off our newly painted day boats. When Boris announced a national lockdown on that unforgettable evening on 23 March, everything changed and our boats were suddenly grounded until further notice.
At first we focused on enjoying watching the waterway burst into life as a particularly sunny and warm Spring progressed. As for many people, the peace and quiet of lockdown gave us the chance for reflection, family time and to connect to nature.
But as the weeks went by, we worried more and more about what the future would hold for our industry and when our holidays would be able to resume.
Then on the 20th of June, we received the fantastic news that domestic holidays could resume on the 4th of July. We needed to get our team back from furlough and put in all the necessary measures to ensure our holidays were safe.
We put in new social distancing measures at our boat yards, introduced extra cleaning regimes and we made a video showing people all the facilities on board our boats and how to operate them, to give holiday-makers extra information in advance of their boat handover.
It was a busy and exciting time, both for everyone working at the boat yards, and for our bookings team who were inundated with calls and emails from people wanting to book their canal boat holiday. Many of them were newcomers who had often thought about taking a canal boat holiday, but never quite got around to it before. They realised how perfect our staycation holidays are – offering the chance to escape into the countryside aboard a self-contained, self-catering floating holiday home!
The next two months were full on. For the first time ever, literally all our boats were booked out for the six week summer holiday peak. The first few weeks of July were a bit strange as everyone got used to the news ways of working and just being around people again. But we soon got everything working like clockwork and before long, it became the new normal.
With canal boat holidays, people usually turn up to the boat yard a bit stressed and anxious to get their holiday underway. But by the time they return, the slow time of the canals makes people much calmer and more relaxed.
It was great to see the smiling faces of families returning from their holidays, with kids telling us about some of their experiences. We had a 13-year-old lad who was really keen on narrowboating and ended up working all 113 locks by himself on his family holiday to Stratford on Avon and Warwick. He proudly told the staff about his achievements when they got back at Wootton, and has decided he is definitely coming again next year! He’s even bought his own windlass.
Another really enthusiastic group of newcomers to the world of narrowboating made friends with our boat yard team, and even took a hand painted dipper from my boatman’s cabin to hang over their fireplace to remind them of their boating adventures!
Going into the autumn, particularly in September and over the October Half Term, we were still extremely busy with most of our boats booked out by people taking advantage of the mild weather, and the chance to see the changing colours of the autumn leaves on the trees that line our waterways.
Now it’s November, and sadly another lockdown has just been announced. Here at Wootton Wawen we stay open all year round for winter cruising, so we hope our boats can get back out again in December.
In the meantime, here at Anglo Welsh we are all extremely grateful to the vast majority of our customers who have been prepared to postpone their holidays with us, rather than cancel. We are glad that our holidays were able to resume and have been more popular than ever, helping to support other businesses like canalside pubs and village shops.
As we continue to live with the coronavirus and the changes it has made to our lives, the future remains uncertain. But spending time by the water always somehow makes things feel better, watching nature peacefully continue to change with the seasons.”
Plan your 2021 canal boat holiday adventure with our bucket list guide
Canal boat holidays are a wonderful way to explore the countryside and some of Britain’s most exciting historic attractions. With the narrowboat as your mobile floating holiday home, you can moor up in a new spot every night, and discover fascinating things to see and do along the way.
To help you plan the perfect narrowboat holiday adventure in 2021, here’s a guide to some of our canal boat holiday musts:
1. Be wowed by the wildlife
Canals and rivers are home to an incredible array of wildlife, from rare mammals, birds and amphibians to many species of plants. Even in cities, canals provide green corridors, enabling animals and plants to flourish. If you are vigilant and have a pair of binoculars at the ready, you may be able to spot some of the rarer and shier waterway inhabitants such as water voles, otters and kingfishers, as well as the more common water birds, like ducks, swans, coots, moorhens and geese. You can also take a look down at the water to spy fish, frogs, toads, newts, or up at the sky to see bats, owls, woodpeckers, hedgerow birds and birds of prey.
2. Visit a historic town or city
The waterways were once the primary means of transport and communication between centres of industry and commerce, so they pass through many exciting historic towns and cities. You can choose a route which takes you to some of Britain’s best preserved ancient cities, including Bath, Oxford and Chester, all with an impressive array of beautiful historic buildings to admire. The canals can also take you into the heart of bustling cities, like Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham and to historic market towns, such as Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick, Devizes, Llangollen, Whitchurch, Bradford on Avon and Abingdon.
3. Marvel at the historic engineering of the canals
Most of our canals were built over 200 years ago during the Industrial Revolution, starting with the opening of the Bridgewater Canal in 1761. Despite their age, the canals still use, for the most part, the same engineering structures – lock gates, swing bridges, tunnels and aqueducts. There are some particularly impressive feats of historic engineering which are worth trying to incorporate into your canal boat holiday route, such as the incredible lock flights at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, the Kennet & Avon Canal at Caen Hill or the Grand Union Canal at Hatton. There are many famous tunnels, such as the Chirk Tunnel on the Llangollen Canal, the Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal and the Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Canal. And there are soaring aqueducts to glide across, including the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal and the Edstone Aqueduct on the Stratford Canal.
4. Enjoy a pint at a canalside pub
From busy city boozers to rustic country inns, the canals are lined with wonderful pubs where you can enjoy a pint, shoot the breeze and watch the world float by. During the years when canals provided key transport thoroughfares, many pubs sprung up along their routes to cater for the canal workers who would travelling up and down the country delivering their cargo. To this day, some of the country’s oldest and most characterful taverns are found along our canals, so enjoy taking some time out from boating to enjoy a warm canalside pub welcome.
5. Explore on foot
Canal towpaths offer thousands of miles of wonderful walking and cycling routes and hundreds of footpaths connect into waterway paths. These include some of Britain’s most famous walking routes, such as the Pennine Way, the Offa’s Dyke Path, the Heart of England Way and the Shropshire Way. Plan some lovely circular walks to explore more of the gorgeous unspoilt countryside through which you are passing, or the historic towns and villages you moor up in.
6. Stop off at a castle or stately home
Britain has a wealth of historic properties to visit, from castle ruins to perfectly preserved stately homes. People travel from all over the world to see these treasures and a canal boat holiday is the perfect way to reach some of our nation’s most amazing sights. Many stately homes house incredible art collections and antique furnishing, as well as landscaped formal gardens and parkland. National Trust properties close to the canals include: Packworth House close to the Stratford Canal at Lapworth in Warwickshire; Shrugborough Hall next to the Trent & Mersey Canal near Great Haywood; and Chirk Castle close to the Llangollen Canal. There are also fascinating castles at Oxford, Skipton and Warwick to explore, as well as historic sites like Avebury close to the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire and the Battle of Bosworth Field next to the Ashby Canal in Leicestershire.
By Emma Lovell, Anglo Welsh’s Reservations Manager
Britain’s 3,000-mile network of inland waterways, which winds its way through thousands of miles of beautiful countryside, offers a great way to relax and connect with nature.
Research shows people feel happier by water and towpaths provide great places to exercise, so a canal boat holiday can help boost your physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Whether it’s the rolling Cheshire Plains of the Shropshire Union, the dramatic Welsh mountains on the Llangollen or the prehistoric chalk landscapes of the Kennet & Avon Canal, from your floating holiday home you can enjoy cruising through a wide variety of landscapes.
Here are our top 10 Cruises through the countryside for 2020:
1. Navigate through the Forest of Arden to Hatton & back – from our narrowboat hire base at Wootton Wawen, on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it takes around eight hours, travelling through 17 locks to reach the base of the Hatton Flight of Locks. The journey takes you along the Stratford Canal through farmland and the remains of the Forest of Arden to Kingswood Junction. Once there, the route transfers onto the Grand Union Canal and passes through Shrewley Tunnel before reaching the base of the Flight of 21 locks at Hatton.
2. Cruise into the Peak District spotting kingfishers along the way – on a week’s break from our barge hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, you can reach the beautiful Caldon Canal and travel into the Peak District. The journey first takes you up to Stoke on Trent and, once on the Caldon, through gently rolling hills and wooded valley of the beautiful River Churnet, with the chance to spot kingfishers, herons, woodpeckers and otters. The journey from Great Haywood to Froghall and back takes around 43 hours, travelling a total of 72 miles and passing through 70 locks.
3. Take a Thames boating holiday to Lechlade, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – from our narrowboat rental base on the River Thames at Oxford, it’s a tranquil nine-hour, seven-lock cruise west to the pretty market town of Lechlade, situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the edge of the Cotswolds. Along the way, you’ll travel through miles of peaceful Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire countryside, passing the village of Radcot with its 800-year old bridge across the Thames, and Kelmscott Manor, once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris. This journey is perfect for a four night mid-week or seven day holiday.
4. Travel round the Stourport Ring through idyllic stretches of Worcestershire countryside – on a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can travel round the Stourport Ring. This popular circuit takes boaters on an 84-mile, 114-lock journey, in around 44 cruising hours. Much of the route is rural, cruising sections of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, River Severn, Birmingham Canal Main Line and Stourbridge canals. Highlights include: Kinver Edge with its extensive woodlands and National Trust Holy Austin Rock Houses; idyllic stretches of Worcestershire countryside along the River Severn; and the dramatic flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge, climbing two-and-a-quarter miles with spectacular views of the open countryside all around.
5. Cruise to the gateway of the Yorkshire Dales and explore the ancient woods at Skipton Castle – from our canal boat hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just over three hours to reach Skipton, the ‘Gateway to the Dales’, with its medieval fortress and acres of woodland trails to explore. The journey along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Silsden passes through the typical Yorkshire stone built villages of Kildwick and Farnhill and on into a dense wooded area famous for its bluebells and deer.
6. Float through the Avon Valley to Caen Hill and back – on a short break from our canal boat rental base at Bath on the Kennet & Avon Canal, it takes around 10½ hours to reach Foxhangers Wharf, at the bottom of the Caen Hill Flight of Locks at Devizes, perfect for a three or four night short break. Along the way, you’ll pass through 16 locks (eight each way), over two dramatic Bath stone aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff, through Bradford on Avon with a good choice of shops, and miles of peaceful countryside.
7. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Nantwich and back – from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around 13 hours, passing through 19 locks, to reach the historic town of Nantwich. Along the way, the route will transfer onto the Shropshire Union Canal at Barbridge, travelling through the Shropshire and Cheshire countryside. At Nantwich, you’ll travel across the impressive Grade II* listed Nantwich Aqueduct, designed by the famous canal engineer Thomas Telford, to enjoy panoramic views across the town.
8. Navigate the Four Counties Ring for stunning views of the Cheshire Plains – on a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, you can travel round the popular Four Counties Ring, one of the most rural canal cruising circuits. Travelling for around 58 hours and passing through 96 locks, this route takes canal boat holiday-makers through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire and travels sections of the Trent & Mersey, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Shropshire Union canals. Highlights include: panoramic views from the flight of 31 locks between Middlewich and Kidsgrove on the Trent & Mersey Canal; stunning views of the rolling Cheshire Plains on the Shropshire Union Canal; acres of farmland on the Middlewich Branch; and wildlife spotting at Tixall Wide on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.
9. Cruise to the Shropshire Lake District – from our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, on a short break (three or four nights) you can cruise to the Shropshire Lake District, teeming with water birds and other wildlife. The journey to the medieval market town of Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District, takes around seven hours, passing through just two locks and over two magnificent aqueducts, including the famous UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This Wonder of the Waterways, carries the Llangollen Canal 38 metres high above the Dee valley, with magnificent views of the valley and Welsh Mountains beyond.
10. Travel through the Northamptonshire countryside to Stoke Bruerne – on a mid-week (four night) break from our canal boat hire base at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can cruise to the pretty Northamptonshire village of Stoke Bruerne and back. The journey takes around 12 hours, travelling 28 mostly rural miles and passes through 16 locks, as well as through the 2,813-metre long Blisworth Tunnel.
Hire a canal boat for the day and explore the countryside afloat
This summer, great days out are going to be more important than ever after months of lockdown restrictions.
If you are looking for ways to entertain your family locally this summer, how about hiring a canal boat for the day? It’s easy to learn how to steer a narrowboat and full tuition is included in our day boat hire packages.
All the family will enjoy cruising gently through the countryside, watching out for wildlife along the way, learning how to steer the boat and navigate the canals, as well as stopping off for towpath walks and waterside picnics along the way.
Here at Anglo Welsh, we offer day boat hire at six of our canal boat hire bases, including Trevor on the Llangollen Canal, which, subject to guidance from the Welsh government, will reopen on 13 July*.
Day boat hire is now open at all our English bases and all our day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery, a kettle, fridge, cooker and a toilet so you can pack a picnic and head out for the day with everything you need. Prices start at £99 per day for up to 10 people.
Here’s a guide to our day boat hire option available this summer:
Cheshire: our day boat ‘Bella’ operates from our boat hire base at Bunbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley. From there, you 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. Prices for up to ten people are £99 on a weekday, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
Shropshire: our day boat ‘Julia’ is available to hire from our canal boat hire base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire. From Whixall, you can either head east to Whitchurch, or west to Ellesmere. The lock-free journey to the historic market town of Whitchurch takes just over two hours, and travels through six peaceful miles of countryside, passing the remains of the medieval motte and bailey Pan Castle. Alternatively, the journey to Ellesmere takes around three hours, cruising through eight miles of stunning countryside, passing Bettisfield Windmill, Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park along the way. Day boat hire prices are £99 for up to 10 people on a weekday, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
Staffordshire: our day boats ‘Daphne’ and ‘Abi’ are available to hire from our narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford. From there, you can either travel south to the historic market town of Rugeley, or north to the village of Sandon. The journey to Rugeley travels four miles, passes through two locks and takes around two hours. Along the way, you’ll pass the National Trust’s impressive Shugborough Estate, the Cannock Chase Forest Area of Outstanding Beauty the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wolseley Centre. Alternatively, the journey north to Sandon takes you through five miles of peaceful Staffordshire countryside, passing through just three locks along the way. Prices are £99 for up to 10 people on a weekday, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
Warwickshire: our day boats ‘Dolly’ and ‘Charlie’ operate out of our narrowboat rental base at Wootton Wawen near Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire. From there, you can either head south along the Stratford Canal to the historic village of Wilmcote, or north to Lowsonford. The two-hour journey to Wilmcote crosses the impressive Edstone Aqueduct and passes through just one lock. Alternatively, the journey to the village of Lowsonford takes three hours, travelling eight miles and passing through eight locks along the way. The route passes through fields and wooded sections, the remains of the Forest of Arden. Prices are £99 for up to 10 people on a weekday, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
Wrexham (from 13 July): our day boats ‘Jacob’, ‘Daniel’ and ‘Lotty’ operate out of our canal boat hire centre at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales. On a day afloat, we recommend you cruise across the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which stands at over 38 metres high and offers boaters incredible views across the Dee Valley below. After travelling across the Aqueduct, you can continue on to Gledrid. This gentle five-mile journey with no locks, also takes canal boaters across Chirk Aqueduct and through Whitehouse and Chirk tunnels. Alternatively, you can head to Llangollen, reaching the town in around two hours. Prices are £120 on a weekday, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.
Worcestershire: our day boat ‘Emma’ is available to hire from our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove. On a day out, you can cruise north along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Kings Norton Junction in around two-and-a-half hours. The eight-mile, zero-lock journey passes through fields, wooded sections and two canal tunnels, including Wast Hills, which at 2,493 metres long is one of the longest in the country. Day boat hire from Tardebigge costs £99 on a weekday and £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
*At the time of publication, government guidance to control the spread of the coronavirus in England allows two households to cruise together, plus their ‘support bubble’. And in Wales two households will be able to join together to form an “extended household” and would be able to cruise together. For more information about visiting the canals safely at this time, go to https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/safety-on-our-waterways/coronavirus
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.
Plan your canal boat holiday for 2019: Beautiful spring cruising routes
There is no prettier time of year in Britain than the spring. As the crocuses, primroses and daffodils start to flower and lambs gambol through green fields, this is the perfect time to hop aboard a narrowboat for a relaxing canal holiday.
The best spring canal routes are the ones which showcase the loveliness of the British countryside.
The canals of England and Wales are at their most scenic and serene at this magical time of year when there is far less traffic on our historic waterways than in the peak summer holiday season. Those who opt for a spring narrowboat holiday will face far less queuing at locks or waiting patiently at one-way stretches and enjoy the ultimate escape.
So, take advantage of the lengthening days and warmer weather during this tranquil season to plan your perfect narrowboat holiday.
To help, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most beautiful spring cruising routes on the canals of England and Wales:
The canal continues towards Devizes on the edge of the rolling Wiltshire Downs where you must ascend the dramatic Caen Hill Locks, a flight of 16 locks offering great views from the top. The market town of Devizes boasts more than 500 listed buildings as well as some independent shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs.
From the newly revamped marina, you can travel easily onto the Llangollen Canal which snakes through the gorgeous border country that straddles England and Wales.
You first pass through the market town of Ellesmere, aptly named for the series of lakes which surround it which were formed by glacial compression at the end of the last Ice Age.
Beyond that, the canal meanders west through luscious surroundings, to reach the Chirk Aqueduct which takes you across the border into north Wales and is quickly followed by the atmospheric 459-yard single width Chirk Tunnel.
Next is arguably the most spectacular sight of all the canals of England and Wales, Thomas Telford’s masterpiece, the soaring Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This crowning jewel of historic waterway engineering completed in 1805, spans more than 1000 feet at a tremulous height of 126-ft above the River Dee, offering passing boats sweeping views of the river valley in each direction. It is the highest canal aqueduct in the world.
After this the canal twists and turns clinging to the edge of the dramatic Welsh hills, with far reaching views across the valley, until it reaches the pretty town of Llangollen, steeped in myth and legend overlooked by hilltop ruins of Dinas Bran Castle.
Stratford-on-Avon to Warwick
Step back in time and cruise through Shakespeare’s England, taking in the unspoilt Warwickshire countryside and its array of wonderful waterside pubs. From our base at Wootton Wawen you can reach the birthplace of the famed playwright in just a day or two, wander its cobbled streets and admire the cluster of Tudor buildings.
Travel back past the canal base through bucolic farmland, copses of oak and sycamore, quaint villages and past idyllic country pubs. Heading north the Stratford Canal takes boats over the longest aqueduct in England, the Edstone Aqueduct.
You can moor up at the rustic Fleur-de-Lys at Lowsonford which offers passersby a great selection of real ales and pub grub to be enjoyed in its large canalside garden.
Continue through open countryside to join the Grand Union Canal which leads past more idyllic villages and pubs with a ye olde world charm including the Tom O’ The Wood in Rowington. It is then just five miles through the famous ‘Hatton Flight’ of 21 locks on to the centre of Warwick itself, built around its formidable medieval castle.
Bunbury to Market Drayton and beyond
The Shropshire Union canal takes narrowboats across miles of quintessentially English countryside, dotted with dozens of isolated canalside pubs which once served the commercial traffic that used this main route between the midlands and north west.
This makes it a particularly scenic and tranquil route to cruise, starting at the Anglo Welsh base in Bunbury and heading south towards Market Drayton.
Due to its rural loveliness ‘the Shroppie’, as it is affectionately known, is a favourite with narrowboaters up and down the country so can get very crowded in the summer making spring the perfect time to explore it.
From Bunbury, you cross the Cheshire Plain, thronging with dairy cattle and sheep enjoying its rich pastures, past historic Nantwich, before ascending the Audlem Flight of locks towards pretty Market Drayton.
Shortly after leaving the town and passing through the deep cutting at Woodseaves, you’ll be treated to a great view of The Wrekin, a huge hill more than 15 miles away.
The canal then proceeds south east through the unspoilt undulating Shropshire countryside of fields, hills and wooded valleys with stretches where there are no towns for miles, towards Wolverhampton.
Silsden to Skipton and beyond
One of England’s last surviving wildernesses, the Yorkshire Dales are a treat at any time of year but in the spring their looming hills and river valleys are at their most beautiful.
Heading west out of Silsden, a town dating back to Saxon times, the canal passes through enchanting Yorkshire stone-built villages of Kildwick and Farnhill into a densely wooded area famous for its bluebells which carpet the area in late April. If you’re lucky you may even spot a deer.
Motor on through Bradley, a typical ‘mill village’ with a cricket field and a country pub then to Skipton, known as the ‘Gateway to the Dales’ which boasts a market four days a week. You could then choose to continue through classic Dales countryside, above the River Aire, to reach more delightful villages such as Gargrave and the flight of locks at Bank Newton which are lauded as the most beautiful locks on the whole canal system.
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.
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