Top 8 places to celebrate Halloween on a canal boat holiday
Canal boat holidays offer the chance to enjoy a family staycation afloat this October Half Term, spending time together and visiting waterside destinations hosting spooky Halloween events.
Your floating holiday cottage will be equipped with the key comforts of home, including central heating and hot water, so it’s always nice and cosy on board.
All our boats also have fully equipped kitchens, so you can enjoy a self-catering holiday afloat.
To celebrate the October Half Term holiday, we’ve put together a guide to our top 8 narrowboat holiday destinations hosting Halloween events*:
1. Take The Sinister Side of Shakespeare Walking Tour’ in Stratford-upon-Avon
From our basw on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen, it takes around six hours to reach moorings in the centre of Shakespeare’s Stratford. You can book online to experience ‘The Sinister Side of Shakespeare’s Stratford Walking Tour’ where you’ll learn about the town’s infamous witches, and discover the real-life tragedies that inspired Shakespeare. The journey to Stratford and back takes around 12 hours and passes through 24 locks (12 each way).
2. Explore the ‘Half Term Halloween Trail’ at Chirk Castle
From Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, you can reach Chirk Bank in around one-and-a-half hours. From there it takes around 30 minutes to walk up to the National Trust’s Chirk Castle, where you can take part in a ‘Half Term Halloween Trail’, 21-31 October 2023. The event sends you on a quest to protect the castle from the evil spirits, elves and goblins that lurk around. The journey from Trevor to Chirk and back takes around three hours, and passes over the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way.
3. Get spooked at a ‘Halloween Night’ at the Black Country Living Museum
On a short break from Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal you can reach the Black Country Living Museum. On Saturday 23, Friday 29 and Saturday 30 October, the Museum will host special ‘Halloween Nights’, giving you the chance to trick-or-treat your way round spooky streets, spot fantastical characters and dress-up to go to the monster’s ball. The journey from Tardebigge to the Black Country Living Museum and back takes 16 hours and passes through six locks (three each way).
4. Follow the Halloween Trail at Chester Zoo
On a short break from Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can reach Chester, home of the award-winning Chester Zoo. This October, Chester Zoo which is home to over 27,000 animals, will be hosting an interactive Halloween Trail across its 128 acres of zoological gardens. The journey from Bunbury to Chester and back takes around 14 hours and passes through 18 locks (nine each way).
5. See ‘The Lost Boys’ at the Shugborough Estate outdoor cinema event
Our base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood is less than an hour’s cruise away from the National Trust’s Shugborough Estate. At 7.30pm on Tuesday 31 October, the Estate is hosting an outdoor screening of the vampire classic ‘The Lost Boys’, starring Kiefer Sutherland.
On a short break from Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can reach moorings close to Warwick Castle. From 21 October to 5 November, the Castle’s ‘Haunted Castle’ event features a series of spooky experiences, including the Castle Dungeon and the Horrible Histories Maze. The journey from Stockton takes seven hours and passes through 20 locks.
7. Go on a Spooky Tour at Oxford Castle
On a short break from our Oxford base on the River Thames at Eynsham you can reach overnight moorings in Oxford City Centre. From there, it’s a short walk to Oxford Castle where from 16-31 October 2023 you can experience an evening Spooky guided tour of the 1,000 year-old haunted castle. From our Oxford base, it takes three-and a-half-hours, passing through three locks to reach moorings in Oxford city centre.
8. Visit Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein in Bath ‘After Dark’
On a short break from Monkton Combe, you can reach moorings in Bath City Centre. There you can visit Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein to experience its ‘After Dark – nights to die for’ Halloween event, on from 20-31 October 2023. The experience offers the chance to venture through rooms cloaked in darkness and features live actors, games and special effects. From our Monkton Combe base it takes four hours, passing through six locks, to reach moorings in Bath City Centre.
*NB Most of the events listed need to be booked in advance via the venue’s website
Top 7 week-long canal boat cruises through the countryside this Autumn
This Autumn adventure afloat on a canal cruise through the countryside, enjoying the beautiful colours in the trees and hedgerows that line our canals and rivers.
Canal boat holidays are a great way to connect with nature. You can watch-out for plant, animal and bird life along the way, including the hedgerow fruits and berries enjoyed by birds and small mammals.
To celebrate the Autumn colours along the canals, we’ve put together a guide to our top seven week-long cruises through the countryside:
1. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Whitchurch
On a week’s break from our canal boat hire centre at Trevor in North Wales, you can travel along the Llangollen Canal to Whitchurch and back. Along the way, you’ll cross the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, with amazing views of the Dee Valley. Then it’s on through the Shropshire countryside, passing through Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. Once at Whitchurch, you can moor up to explore the Shropshire Wildlife Trust’s Greenfields Nature Reserve, with woodland walks and the chance to spot water voles. The journey from Trevor to Whitchurch and back takes 24 hours and passes through four locks (two each way).
2. Navigate through the Yorkshire countryside to Foulridge Tunnel
On a week’s break from Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, you can cruise through the Yorkshire countryside to Foulridge Tunnel. The journey takes you through a series of historic towns and villages, including Skipton, with its medieval castle and acres of woodland trails to explore. And East Marton with access to the Pennine Way National Trail. The journey from Silsden to Foulridge and back takes 26 hours and passes through 30 locks (15 each way).
3. Boat through the Cheshire countryside to Red Bull Wharf
On a week’s break from Bunbury, you can cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Red Bull Wharf and back. The route will take you along the rural Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal, which runs from Barbridge Junction to Middlewich. This peaceful 10-mile long waterways passing through the pretty village of Church Minshull, with its popular Badger Inn gastro pub. The journey from Bunbury to Red Bull Wharf and back travels 53 miles and passes through 70 locks (35 each way).
4. Meander through the Oxfordshire countryside to Wallingford
On a week’s break from our Oxford canal boat hire base, you can cruise along the River Thames to the historic market town of Wallingford. The journey passes through miles of peaceful Oxfordshire countryside, waterside meadows and woodlands. As well as the City of Oxford, there’s a series of riverside towns and villages to visit along the way, including the historic market town of Abingdon. It takes around 18 hours to cruise from our Oxford base at Eynsham to Wallingford and back, passing through 22 locks (11 each way).
5. Wend your way through the Wiltshire countryside to the Vale of Pewsey
On a week’s break from Monkton Combe on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Bath you can reach Pewsey Wharf. The journey takes you up the 29 locks of the Caen Hill Flight, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. And through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Places to visit along the way include the historic market towns of Bradford on Avon and Devizes. It takes around 38 hours to cruise from Monkton Combe to Pewsey and back, passing through 74 locks (37 each way).
6. Journey to Llangollen North Wales and visit the Horsehoe Falls
On a week’s break from Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, you can reach the historic town of Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains. Along the way, you’ll travel through the Shropshire countryside to Ellesmere, with its beautiful Mere and woodland walks. You’ll cruise across the magnificent Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts, enjoying incredible views of the Welsh Mountains. At Llangollen, nestled in the Berwyn Mountains, you can visit the famous Horseshoe Falls. The journey from Whixall to Llangollen and back takes around 24 hours and passes through four locks (two each way).
7. Meander along the Ashby Canal SSSI
From our Stockton base on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can travel up the North Oxford Canal and transfer onto the tranquil Ashby Canal. This 22-mile long lock-free waterway meanders through the Leicestershire countryside from Marston Junction to Snarestone. The six miles from Carlton Bridge 44 to Snarestone are designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for their aquatic plans. The journey from Stockton to Snarestone and back takes 44 hours and passes through 14 locks (seven each way).
Canals and rivers take narrowboat holiday-makers through some of Britain’s best-loved countryside, and into the heart of some our most famous waterside towns and cities.
Canal boat 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 watching out for wildlife, there’s plenty to get involved in.
Pets are welcome aboard all our boats, so all the family can enjoy a relaxing staycation together. And there’s everything you need on board for a self-catering holiday afloat if you want to keep your costs down.
There are hundreds of waterside destinations in England and Wales to choose from. To celebrate the upcoming August bank holiday, we’ve put together a guide to our top 10 weekend boating breaks.
1. Travel along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Birmingham
With more canals than Venice, exploring Birmingham by boat is one of the best ways to experience Britain’s exciting second city. From our canal boat rental base at Tardebigge, you can cruise into the centre of Birmingham in just five hours. Your journey will begin in the Worcestershire countryside, passing through the remains of the Forest of Arden and a series of tunnels. The route becomes increasingly urban and once in the centre of the city, you can moor up in Gas Street Basin. From there you can walk to visit some of the city’s top attractions, including Birmingham’s Science Museum Thinktank and the Sea Life Centre.
2. Cruise along the Llangollen Canal to Ellesmere
On a weekend away from Trevor in North Wales, you can cruise to Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. The journey takes you across the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, 39 metres high above the Dee valley. At Ellesmere, you can moor up to explore this historic market town and its ancient mere, with woodland walks and places to eat. The journey to Ellesmere takes around seven hours, crosses two aqueducts, and passes through two locks and two tunnels.
3. Navigate the Stratford Canal to Stratford-upon-Avon
From Wootton Wawen it takes around six hours to cruise along the Stratford Canal to Shakespeare’s Stratford. The route takes you through the Warwickshire countryside to reach overnight moorings in Bancroft Basin in the heart of Stratford upon Avon. Once there, you can walk to top attractions, including the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Shakespeare’s Birthplace. There are 17 locks to pass through along the way, and you’ll cross the impressive Edstone Aqueduct, the longest aqueduct in England.
4. Take a Thames boating holiday to Oxford
From our Oxford base on the River Thames at Eynsham, it takes just over three hours to reach Oxford City centre. There are just four locks to pass through along the way and some are manned, offering help to newcomers. Along the way, you’ll pass through Wolvercote, home of the popular riverside Trout Inn. Once in Oxford, you take time to explore the city, including the Bodleian Library, Carfax Tower and Oxford Castle.
5. Travel along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Fradley
From Great Haywood, you can head south along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Fradley Junction. The journey takes around five hours, travelling 12 miles through the Staffordshire countryside. There are just five locks to pass through, and you’ll pass canalside pubs at Wolseley and Rugeley. At Fradley, you can enjoy refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn. And you can take a wildlife-spotting walk along the woodland trail and boardwalk at Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
6. Cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Chester
On a weekend away, from Bunbury you can navigate to the ancient city of Chester. Cruising along the Shropshire Union Canal, the route passes through beautiful Cheshire countryside and a series of canalside villages. There are historic local pubs along the way, including The Ring O’Bells at Christleton and The Shady Oak at Bates Mill Bridge. Once in Chester, you can to explore some of the City’s attractions, including the Roman Amphitheatre, city walls and Chester Rows shops. The journey to Chester takes around seven hours and passes through nine locks.
7. Float along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Bradford on Avon
From our base at Sydney Wharf near Bath, it takes just four hours to reach the lovely market town of Bradford on Avon. There’s just one lock to pass through and stunning Bath stone aqueducts to glide across at Dundas and Avoncliff. You’ll pass a series of canalside pubs along the way, including The George at Bathampton and Cross Guns at Avoncliff. Once in Bradford on Avon, you can moor up to visit Historic England’s medieval Tithe Barn. And there’s a great choice of places to eat, including the riverside Timbrell’s Yard.
8. Boat along the Grand Union Canal to Warwick Castle
From Stockton, you can cruise to Warwick and visit its magnificent castle, said to be Britain’s greatest medieval experience. The route takes you along the Grand Union Canal via Long Itchington and Royal Leamington Spa. There are visitor moorings along the Saltisford Arm, close to the Castle, where this summer War of the Roses Live jousting displays are taking place. The journey to Warwick takes eight hours and passes through 22 locks.
9. Cruise along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Gargrave
From Silsden, you can cruise through the Yorkshire countryside to Gargrave on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The route travels 12 miles and passes through Skipton, home to the medieval Skipton Castle and Woods. At Gargrave, there are plenty of pubs to enjoy, including The Mason’s Arms and Cross Keys Inn. The route to Gargrave passes through three locks, and takes around 6½ hours.
10. Glide along the Llangollen Canal to Chirk
On a weekend break from Whixall Marina in Shropshire, you can cruise through the countryside to Chirk, on the border between England and Wales. The journey takes around eight hours and passes through just two locks. Along the way, you’ll pass Whixall Moss nature reserve and the historic market town of Ellesmere. At Chirk, there’s a choice of canalside pubs and the National Trust’s medieval Chirk Castle to visit.
Every year more people take the plunge and set sail on an adventure afloat on Britain’s beautiful inland waterways network.
You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat and it’s easy for first-timers to learn to operate our boats.
As part of our narrowboat hire, we provide you with expert boat steering tuition. And our series of ‘How to’ videos give step by step instruction on everything from switching the boat engine on to the best way to tie your ropes when mooring up.
When you arrive at one of our boat yards, we’ll take you through our nationally accredited handover. And we’ll make sure you’re comfortable and in control before you set off. As well as our Youtube videos, there is a manual on board every boat if you need to check on anything. And our engineering teams are 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 a guide to our top 9 summer short breaks for beginners:
1. Head to Birmingham lock-free
With no locks between our canal boat rental base at Tardebigge and Birmingham City Centre, this five-hour cruise is perfect for novice canal boaters. The first half of the journey passes through fields, woods and villages, before gradually becoming more urbanised. Once you reach the centre of Birmingham, there are over-night moorings at Gas Street Basin, with easy access to Brindleyplace waterside restaurants, Sea Life Centre, glitzy Mailbox shopping and other leading attractions.
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 boat yard at Trevor to Ellesmere offers a fantastic short break holiday for beginners. The route includes the experience of travelling across the incredible UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, with jaw-dropping panoramic views of the Dee Valley 38 metres below.
3. Dip your toe in the water at Bath
From our base at Sydney Wharf on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Bath, it takes just four hours to cruise 10 miles to the lovely market town of Bradford on Avon. There’s just one lock to pass through and two stunning Bath stone aqueducts to glide across. And there are popular canalside pubs to, including The George at Bathampton, Cross Guns at Avoncliff and Barge Inn at Bradford on Avon.
4. Float gently along to Fradley
From Great Haywood, you can head south along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Fradley Junction, where the Coventry Canal meets the Trent & Mersey. The journey takes around five hours, travelling 12 peaceful miles through the Staffordshire countryside. There are just five locks to pass through, and you’ll pass canalside pubs at Wolseley and Rugeley. At Fradley, you can enjoy refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn. And you can enjoy spotting wildlife along the woodland trail and boardwalk at Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
5. Take to the tiller along the Thames
From our Oxford base at Eynsham, you can enjoy a Thames boating holiday. It takes just over three hours, passing through four locks to reach City centre moorings in Oxford. Many of the locks along the Thames are manned, so there’s often help on hand for newcomers. Once in Oxford, you take time to explore the city, including the famous Bodleian Library, Carfax Tower and Ashmolean Museum.
6. Navigate the Shroppie to historic Chester
It’s a seven-hour, nine-lock journey to the ancient city of Chester from our Bunbury base on the Shropshire Union Canal. The route passes through the beautiful Cheshire countryside and villages. There are historic local pubs to enjoy along the way, including The Ring O’Bells at Christleton and The Shady Oak at Bates Mill Bridge. Once in Chester, you can take time to explore this cosmopolitan ancient city. Attractions include: a Roman Amphitheatre and city walls, Chester Rows shops, 1,000-year old cathedral, racecourse and award-winning Zoo.
7. Cruise along two canals to Hillmorton
From our Stockton base, it takes around seven hours to cruise to the pretty canal village of Hillmorton. Starting on the Grand Union Canal, you’ll transfer onto the North Oxford Canal at Braunston. Along the way, you’ll pass Napton on the Hill, with its popular Kings Head pub. And the canal village of Braunston, home to a choice of places to eat, including the historic Admiral Nelson. The journey to Hillmorton passes through just six locks, including the three locks at Hillmorton, where lock keepers are on hand to help. And there’s a choice of pubs at Hillmorton, including the Stag & Pheasant.
8. Test the waters on the Leeds & Liverpool
Setting off from Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, the journey to Gargrave and back is nice and easy for beginners. The route travels 12 miles through the Yorkshire countryside. It passes through just three locks, and takes around 6½ hours. Along the way, you’ll pass through Skipton, home to one of the best preserved medieval castles in England. At Gargrave, there are plenty of pubs, including The Mason’s Arms and Cross Keys Inn. Gargrave is on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, with over 680 square miles of some of England’s finest walking country to explore.
9. Cross the border into Wales surrounded by breath-taking scenery
From Whixall Marina on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, on a short break you can cruise to Chirk and back. The journey to Chirk takes around eight hours and passes through just two locks. The route passes Whixall Moss nature reserve and historic Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. At Chirk, where the Llangollen Canal crosses the Welsh border, there’s a choice of canalside pubs and the National Trust’s medieval Chirk Castle to visit.
Cruising rings are great because they 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. Others are easier and more suitable for boating beginners.
All offer a wonderful summer holiday adventure and the chance to explore some of Britain’s best loved countryside, as well as vibrant city centres, from your very own floating holiday home.
Here’s a guide to our top eight narrowboat holiday summer circuits to explore:
1. The Black Country Ring
Setting off from our canal boat rental base at Great Haywood or Tardebigge, the Black Country Ring can be done in a week. You’ll cruise sections of the Birmingham & Fazeley, Birmingham Main Line, Coventry, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Trent & Mersey canals. Highlights include: Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin; the 21 locks at Wolverhampton; and the peaceful 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, Bunbury or Whixall, this popular circuit can be completed on a 10-day or two-week break. It takes you through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire. Highlights include: the 2670-metre long Harecastle Tunnel; the 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
From our Bunbury base, you can complete the Cheshire Ring on a 10-day or two-week break. The journey will take you right through the heart of Manchester and into the Peak District via the Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals. Highlights along the way include: the incredible Anderton Boat Lift; stunning views of the Peak District; and Manchester’s China Town. To complete the Cheshire Ring from Bunbury, you will travel 122 miles and pass through 102 locks, which takes around 86 hours.
4. The Stourport Ring
Navigating from Tardebigge, the Stourport Ring can be completed in a week. The route takes in sections of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire, Worcester & Birmingham, Birmingham Main Line and Stourbridge canals. It also travels a short section of the beautiful River Severn, Britain’s longest river. Highlights include: cruising through central Birmingham; Kinver with its National Trust rock houses; the City of Worcester with its magnificent cathedral; 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 Stockton, you can complete the Warwickshire Ring in a week. You’ll travel along 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 94 locks in around 53 hours.
6. The Birmingham Mini-Ring
With more canals than Venice, exploring the Birmingham area by boat is one of the best ways to experience Britain’s vibrant second city. You can complete the Birmingham Mini-Ring on a four-night short break from Tardebigge. The route takes in sections of the Worcester & Birmingham, Birmingham Main Line and Grand Union canals. 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
You can complete this epic circuit on a two week break from Tardebigge or Wootton Wawen. The journey navigates 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 Stockton you can complete the East Midlands Ring, also known as the Leicester Ring. You’ll travel 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.
Best boating holidays for beginners in the West Midlands
Birmingham famously has more canals than Venice, so a canal boat holiday is a great way to explore the West Midlands area.
Our canal boat hire bases at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, and Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, offer a great choice of routes for beginners.
Whether you want to experience a rural retreat afloat, or cruise into the heart of Birmingham, there are dozens of destinations to choose from.
You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat and tuition is included in our holiday hire.
To celebrate the hundreds of miles of waterways and exciting waterside destinations available in the Birmingham area, we’ve published a guide to our top five short breaks for beginners:
1. Navigate to the Black Country Living Museum, home of the Peaky Blinders
From our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge, it’s an eight-and-a-half hour, three-lock journey to the Black Country Living Museum. Scenes for all six series of the BBC’s epic gangster drama Peaky Blinders were filmed at the 26-acre Museum. As well as walking in the footsteps of the Shelbys, you can explore period shops and homes and have a drink in the ‘Bottle & Glass Inn’. You can also sample the Museum’s famous traditionally cooked 1930’s-style fish and chips and take a trip ‘into the thick’ to experience life in an 1850’s coal mine.
2. Moor up to see a play in Shakespeare’s Stratford
From our canal boat rental base at Wootton Wawen, you can reach Stratford upon Avon on a weekend or mid-week break. There are moorings in the centre of town in Bancroft Basin, next to Bancroft Gardens and the Royal Shakespeare Company. This year’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre productions include As You Like It and Macbeth. Bancroft Basin is just a short walk from Stratford’s excellent choice of shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants, including Carluccios. From Wootton Wawen, it takes around six hours, to reach Shakespeare’s Stratford, passing through 17 locks.
3. Cruise through the countryside to Packwood House
On a short break from Tardebigge, you can cruise to the village of Lapworth, home of the National Trust’s Tudor Manor house, Packwood House. The journey takes you along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, through the Worcestershire countryside and the remains of the Forest of Arden, to Kings Norton Junction. Next, the route transfers onto the Stratford Canal to reach moorings in Lapworth. From there, it’s a short walk to the 16th century Packwood House, with 150 acres of parkland to explore and stunning gardens, including the famous Yew Garden. The journey to Lapworth takes around seven hours and passes through two tunnels. There are no locks on this route.
4. Moor up in the heart of Birmingham and visit the National SEA LIFE Centre
Departing from Tardebigge, it’s a five-hour, lock-free journey to moorings at Gas Street Basin in Birmingham City Centre. Here you are close to Brindleyplace and its National SEA LIFE Centre. The Centre is home to the UK’s only 360o Ocean Tunnel where you can marvel at sharks, a giant turtle, rays and hundreds of tropical fish. You can also see a group of Gentoo penguins, a pair of sea otters and a fascinating variety of jellyfish.
5. Cruise to the base of the magnificent Hatton Locks
On a short break from Wootton Wawen, you can cruise north along the Stratford Canal, transferring onto the Grand Union Canal to reach the bottom of the flight of 21 locks at Hatton. This lock impressive lock flight is nick-named the ‘Stairway to Heaven’. This is because of the hard work involved in the ascent, followed by an easy run to Camp Hill where the working boat men and women were once paid. Today the journey to Hatton takes you through the Warwickshire countryside and past a series of villages with country pubs. These include: the canalside Fleur de Lys at Lowsonford; and the Navigation Inn at Rowington. From Wootton Wawen, it takes around eight hours to reach the base of the Hatton flight, passing through 17 locks along the way.
The nation’s network of inland waterways have become an important place for biodiversity.
Canal boat holidays are like floating safaris, giving you the chance to spot a wide range of wildlife, including ducks, swans, herons, moorhens, coots, dragonflies, damselflies, bats, kingfishers, otters, water voles and many types of woodland birds.
To celebrate the biodiversity of the waterways, we’ve put together a list of our Top 10 places to spot wildlife on a canal boat holiday:
1. Look out for kingfishers on the Ashby Canal
On a week’s break from our narrowboat hire base at Stockton, you can cruise along the wildlife-rich Ashby Canal. Winding peacefully through the countryside for almost the whole of its 22-mile length, the Ashby Canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) from Snarestone to Carlton Bridge. Wildlife to look out for includes: freshwater mussels, rare native white-clawed crayfish, water shrew, herons and kingfishers. It takes around 22 cruising hours to reach Ashby from Stockton, passing through seven locks along the way.
2. Cruise along the Llangollen Canal to see herons at the Mere
On a short break from Trevor, you can cruise to the medieval market town of Ellesmere, home to the Mere. Formed thousands of years ago by the melting of the glaciers during the retreating ice age, the Mere is home to the Heron Watch Scheme, with cameras allowing visitors to watch the birds build nests and raise chicks. The journey to Ellesmere takes around seven hours, passes through two locks and crosses the UNESCO World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
3. Go otter spotting on the Montgomery Canal
On a week’s break from Whixall Marina, you can cruise a seven-mile section of the Montgomery Canal to Gronwyn Wharf. Stretching 38 miles between England and Wales, the Montgomery Canal is designated a SSSI on both sides of the border. Look out for water birds, dragon flies, damselflies, green woodpeckers, peregrines, and if you are lucky you may spot an otter too. Over recent years, thanks to dedicated conservation efforts, otter populations are showing healthy signs of growth. They are timid and not often seen by humans, but they can be spotted hunting prey in quiet stretches of canal. From Whixall, the journey to Gronwyn Wharf takes around 10 hours, passing through eight locks along the way.
4. Listen out for the sound of song thrushes on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Crofton
On a week’s holiday from Monkton Combe, you can cruise along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Crofton. This beautiful stretch of waterway in Wiltshire, offers the chance to spot swans, ducks and moorhens on the water and to listen out for the sound of song thrushes. Living up to its common name, the song thrush has a loud song with repeating phrases. Crofton is also a place of history, as the Crofton Pumping Station there houses the world’s oldest working beam engines. It takes around 20 hours to cruise to Crofton, passing through 41 locks along the way, including the Caen Hill flight of 29 locks at Devizes.
5. Hear cuckoos calling on the River Thames at Abingdon
On a short break from our Oxford base, you can take a Thames boating holiday to Abingdon and listen for cuckoos calling from riverside meadows and woods at Abingdon. Considered to be an early sign of spring, cuckoos arrive from Africa in late March and April to spend the summer here. The song of the cuckoo sounds the same as its name: ‘cuck-oo’. The journey to Abingdon takes around five hours, passing through six locks.
6. See bats flying across the water atFradley Pool Nature Reserve
On a short break from Great Haywood, you can cruise to Fradley Junction, home of the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve. There are walking trails and sculpture trails at Fradley. Look out for water birds, terrapins basking in the sunshine and bats flying across the water if you are there at dusk in the spring and summer time. From Great Haywood, it takes around five hours to reach Fradley on the Trent & Mersey Canal, passing through five locks along the way.
7. See grey wagtails on the Grand Union Canal at Hatton
On a short break from Wootton Wawen, you can reach the bottom of flight of the 21 lock Hatton flight in the Warwickshire countryside. As well as ducks, moorhens and swans, you might see house sparrows and grey wagtails at the water’s edge. Grey wagtails have a long, black-and-white tail, a yellow rump and a yellow belly. They eat ants and midges that they find beside rivers and canals, and snails and tadpoles they find in shallow water. From Wootton Wawen, it takes around eight hours to reach the Hatton flight on the Grand Union Canal, passing through 17 locks along the way.
8. See and hear woodland birds on the Peak Forest Canal at Marple
On a 10-day or two-week break from Bunbury, you can complete the Cheshire Ring, which includes the flight of 16 locks on the Peak Forest Canal at Marple. Here you’ll be surrounded by beautiful countryside and stretches of ancient woodland – home to many types of woodland bird, including robins, jays and great tits. You can also enjoy fantastic views across the Peak District from here. From Bunbury, the Cheshire Ring takes around 60 hours, passing through 102 locks.
9. Watch out for water voles on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Caen Hill
On a short break from Bath, you can reach the base of the Caen Hill flight, where water voles have been spotted in the side pounds. Best known as ‘Ratty’ from ‘Wind in the Willows’, sadly the water vole is now one of our most endangered species. They burrow into steep waterside banks to form a complicated system of tunnels. Look out for closely grazed ‘lawn’ areas with neat piles of chopped grass, which are often seen around burrow entrances. From Bath, it takes around 10-and-a-half hours to reach Caen Hill, passing through eight locks along the way.
10. See hundreds of water birds at Bittell Reservoirs on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal
On a short break from Tardebigge you can reach the reservoirs at Bittell, built to supply water for the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. Today the area is a SSSI and home to over 200 species of water bird. These include: wintering wading birds and waterfowl; breeding birds such as the great crested grebe; little ringed-plover; and grasshopper warbler. Rare silt shoreline plants such as slender spike rush and mudwort can be found here, along with the rare mud snail and five different species of dragonfly. It takes just two hours to reach the Bittell Arm from Tardebigge.
Spring is a fantastic time to take a narrowboat holiday on Britain’s beautiful inland waterways, when the countryside is bursting with new life.
With blossoming waterside trees and hedges, busy nest-building birds, ducklings bobbing on the water, spring lambs playing in the fields, and carpets of bluebells in waterside woodlands, there’s so much to look out for on a Spring adventure afloat.
To celebrate Spring and the wildlife that makes its home on our canals and rivers, we’ve put together our Top 10 Spring canal boat holiday destinations for 2023:
1. Drift through the beautiful prehistoric Vale of Pewsey
On a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Monkton Coombe you can cruise through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You’ll travel along the Kennet & Avon Canal passing through miles of peaceful Wiltshire countryside, and a series of villages and country pubs along the way. You’ll travel up the mighty Caen Hill Flight of 29 locks at Devizes and along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest and then on through the Vale of Pewsey. The journey to Pewsey and back takes around 38 hours, passing through 74 locks (37 each way).
2. Cruise to the gateway of the Yorkshire Dales to explore Skipton Castle Woods
From our barge holiday hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal it takes just over three hours to reach Skipton, the ‘Gateway to the Dales’. Here, Skipton Castle Woods with acres of woodlands trails, is a great place to explore in the Spring. For nearly a thousand years the woods provided fuel, food and building materials for castle inhabitants. Today there are at least 18 species of trees flourishing there, and hundreds of flowering plants, including wild orchids and bluebells in the Spring. 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. The journey to Silsden and back travels 13 miles and takes around seven cruising hours.
3. Travel to Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains
On a week-long holiday from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire you can reach the pretty town of Llangollen. Along the way, you’ll travel through the beautiful Shropshire Lake District and across the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Once in Llangollen, you can moor up to enjoy exploring this pretty town nestled on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains. There are regular markets packed with local produce, a choice of independent shops and restaurants, and the famous Horseshoe Falls. The journey to Llangollen and back takes around 24 cruising hours, and passes through just four locks (two each way).
4. Wend your way to Fradley Pool Nature Reserve
On a short break from our base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood near Stafford, you can reach Fradley Pool Nature Reserve. Fradley Pool is home to a variety of water birds and it’s a great place to spot bats swooping across the water at dusk. There are walking trails, sculpture trails, places to picnic and a choice of places to eat and drink, including the historic Swan Inn. The journey to Fradley and back travels 24 miles, passes through 10 locks (five each way) and takes around 12 hours.
5. Navigate the Four Counties Ring for stunning views of the Cheshire Plains
On a week or 10-day break from our narrowboat rental base at Bunbury you can cruise the popular Four Counties Ring through some of England’s best loved countryside. The route takes you through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire. It cruises sections of the Trent & Mersey, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Shropshire Union canals. There panoramic views to enjoy from the flight of 31 locks between Middlewich and Kidsgrove on the Trent & Mersey Canal. And stunning views of the rolling Cheshire Plains on the Shropshire Union Canal. From Bunbury, completing the Four Counties Ring takes around 58 cruising hours and passes through 96 locks.
6. Take part in #BlossomWatch at Packwood House
On a short break from our Tardebigge base near Bromsgrove, you can cruise to the village of Lapworth, home of the National Trust’s Packwood House. The route takes you through the Worcestershire countryside along the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal to Kings Norton Junction. There you can transfer onto the Stratford Canal to reach the village of Lapworth. At Packwood House every Spring blossom spreads across the garden and parkland, including on the cherry and apple trees in the orchard. The National Trust’s #BlossomWatch invites visitors to share pictures of spring blossom on social media. The journey to Lapworth and back takes around 14 hours.
7. Enjoy bird spotting at Ellesmere in the heart of Shropshire Lake District
From our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, on a short break you can reach the medieval market town of Ellesmere. Along the way, you’ll cross over the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, 38 metres high above the Dee Valley. The Mere at Ellesmere is a large lake packed with wildlife. There are woodland walks, places to eat, drink and picnic, a sculpture trail and adventure playground. You can spot many of types of birds, including kingfishers, yellow hammers, tree sparrows, lapwing, sand martins and ringed plovers. There are also wading birds such as curlew, greenshank, godwit and whimbrel, as well as herons using the heronry on Moscow Island. The journey to Ellesmere and back takes around 14 hours and passes through four locks (two each way).
8. Cruise along the River Thames past riverside woodlands and meadows
On a short break from our Oxford base, you can enjoy a Thames boating holiday to the historic market town of Abingdon. Along the way, you’ll cruise through the outskirts of the ancient City of Oxford. Then on through beautiful stretches of Oxfordshire countryside, with lush riverside meadows and the chance to hear cuckoos calling. There are also riverside woodlands with carpets of bluebells to look out for. Once moored up at Abingdon, you can enjoy exploring riverside walks, parks and eateries, including the popular waterside Nag’s Head. The journey to Abingdon and back takes around 10 hours, passing through 12 locks (six each way).
9. Travel through the Northamptonshire countryside to Stoke Bruerne
On a mid-week or week-long break from our base at Stockton, you can cruise to the pretty Northamptonshire village of Stoke Bruerne. The journey along the Grand Union Canal takes you gently through the countryside and the 2,813-metre long Blisworth Tunnel. You can moor up in Stoke Bruerne to enjoy a choice of canalside pubs and browsing the intriguing waterway history collections at the Canal Museum. And there’s a wonderful woodland walk and sculpture trail alongside the canal to explore, with the chance to spot a wide variety of woodland birds. The journey to Stoke Bruerne and back takes around 25 hours and passes through 34 locks (17 each way).
10. Navigate the Avon Ring through some of England’s best loved countryside
On a 10-day break from Wootton Wawen, you can complete the Avon Ring. This 109-mile circuit travels through some of the most beautiful countryside in England. You’ll first travel along the pretty Stratford Canal to Shakespeare’s Stratford. Here you can transfer onto the River Avon to begin cruising through idyllic countryside, to Evesham and Tewkesbury, with panoramic views of Warwickshire and the Cotswolds beyond. At Tewkesbury you’ll lock onto the River Severn, and later transfer onto the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal at Diglis. Completing the Avon Ring from Wootton Wawen takes around 58 hours and passes through 131 locks.
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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