First pets are free on our holidays so you don’t have to leave your furry friend behind!
Narrowboats provide a floating holiday home so it’s possible to take all sorts of pets on the canals.
Canal boat holidays are especially great for dogs, with plenty of towpath walks and dog-friendly canalside pubs to visit, but over the years, we’ve accommodated many other kinds of pets, including rabbits, cats, hamsters, caged birds and goldfish.
First pets go for free on all our holidays, and we charge a £25 supplement for a second pet on a short break, £35 for a week.
Guide dogs go free of charge. We allow a maximum of two pets, plus a guide dog, but all bedding and pet facilities must be provided by the owner(s).
We recommend our cruiser stern boats for holidays with a dog, as there’s more room ‘on deck’ for the dog and the rest of the family to enjoy watching the world go by.
Now for some do’s and don’ts:
Do bring your dog’s bed to help them feel at home and don’t leave your dog unattended on board. Don’t let your dog swim in the canals, especially when there are ducklings, signets, goslings and other water bird chicks about and don’t forget to pack your poo bags!
To celebrate the fact our holidays are pet-friendly, we’ve put together our Top 10 destinations for animal lovers:
Cruise to Cannock Chase for acres of dog walking trails – on a short break from our barge hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, you can easily reach Cannock Chase Forest where there are miles of walking trails enjoy, as well as a dog activity trail. Once a Royal Forest, Cannock Chase is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with over 6,800 hectares of landscapes to explore. There are mixed deciduous woodlands, coniferous plantations and healthlands, which are home to a wide variety of animals and insects, including a herd of fallow deer, a number of rare and endangered birds, including migrant nightjars, as well as butterflies, bats and reptiles. The Wolseley Centre and Nature Reserve is next to the Trent & Mersey Canal at Wolseley Bridge, just two miles and two locks from Great Haywood, and offers a great gateway to Cannock Chase.
Cruise to the foot of the Caen Hill Flight – from our canal boat rental base at Brassknocker Basin on the Kennet & Avon Canal just outside Bath, on a short break (three or four nights) you can travel to Fox Hanger Wharf, at the foot of the mighty Caen Hill flight of locks in Devizes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. Along the way, you’ll pass through miles of peaceful Wiltshire countryside, with a series of villages and dog-friendly country pubs to visit along the way, including The Cross Guns at Avoncliff, the Barge Inn at Bradford on Avon and the Barge Inn at Seend. Once at Caen Hill, you can moor up and explore the flight and its large side ponds, which provide a fantastic haven for wildlife. Full of fish, the side ponds provide an ideal habitat for dragonflies, butterflies and many types of water fowl – from swans, ducks and geese, to coots, moorhens, herons and cormorants. The journey to Fox Hanger Wharf and back takes around 19 hours, passing through 16 locks (eight each way).
Cruise to Ellesmere for some heron spotting – 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 Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Moscow Island on The Mere in Ellesmere is home to the Heron Watch Scheme, where cameras allow visitors to watch the birds build nests and raise chicks. If you are on a four-night break, you will also have time to cruise to the pretty town of Llangollen, passing The Sun at Trevor, a traditional Welsh country pub and winner of the Rover Dog Friendly Awards in 2019.
Explore the gardens and the ancient topiary at Packwood House – from our canal boat rental base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it’s a seven-mile, 31-lock and 10-hour journey to Lapworth Lock No 6, a half-mile walk from the National Trust’s beautiful Packwood House. Packwood’s magnificent gardens boast stunning herbaceous borders (including the unusual North African Cabbage Trees), a bountiful Kitchen Garden, Memorial Orchard, wildflower meadows and the iconic Yew Garden, where according to legend, the 350-year old trees represent the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. Dogs are welcome at Packwood on leads in the car park, on public footpaths across the estate, on the café terrace and in the barnyard. The house and formal gardens are only for humans.
Travel round the Stourport Ring and the up the longest lock flight in the country – 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 56 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. Rural 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, Tardebigge is the longest lock flight in the country.
Boat to the historic village of Wrenbury and back -from our canal boat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire it takes around six hours, passing through 11 locks, to reach Wrenbury Mill on the Llangollen Canal. The journey takes you along 10 miles of waterway through quintessential Cheshire farmland and countryside. The historic village of Wrenbury, which is on the South Cheshire Way offers lots of countryside walks. It’s also a registered conservation area with plenty of wildlife to watch out for, particularly in the gardens of the Grade II listed St Margaret’s Church, and there’s a choice of pubs to visit: the canalside Dusty Miller, and the Cotton Arms in the village of Wrenbury.
Cruise along the River Thames into the Cotswolds – from our narrowboat hire base on the River Thames at Oxford, on a four-night mid-week break, you can take a tranquil nine-hour, seven-lock Thames boating holiday travelling west to the pretty market town of Lechlade on the edge of the Cotswolds. Along the way, boaters travel through miles of peaceful Oxfordshire countryside, with plenty of dog walking opportunities. Places to visit include the village of Radcot with its 800-year old bridge across the Thames, dog-friendly bar in the Ye Olde Swan Hotel and Civil War Garrison Earthworks, and Kelmscott with its Grade I listed Kelmscott Manor, once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris, and popular Plough Inn.
Watch out for wildlife on the Montgomery Canal – from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around six hours to reach Frankton Junction, where the Llangollen Canal meets the Montgomery Canal. This beautiful canal, which runs for 38 miles between England and Wales, is recognised as a Special Area of Conservation, making it one of the most important sites for wildlife in Europe. Currently only around half the Montgomery Canal is navigable, including a seven-mile section from Frankton Junction to Gronwyn Wharf. The restoration of a further section from Gronwyn Wharf to Crickheath is expected to be completed later this year. From Whixall, the journey to Gronwyn Wharf and back takes around 20 hours, travelling through 34 miles of beautiful countryside and passing through 16 locks (eight each way). Along the way, you can look out for many types of waterway birds, animals and insects, including dragonflies, damselflies, the shy nocturnal otter, Daubenton’s bats skimming over the water at dusk, and the critically endangered water vole.
Travel round the Warwickshire Ring – from our canal boat hire base at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can travel round the Warwickshire Ring, one of the most popular canal cruising circuits in Britain. Cruising sections of the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals, the Warwickshire Ring covers 104 miles, passes through 120 locks and takes around 60 hours to navigate. It can be done in a week, but a 10-day or two-week break gives more time for sight-seeing. Passing through many miles of countryside, with fields and ancient meadows and the occasional sleepy village for much of its length, the route also takes you through the vibrant city centre waterfronts of Birmingham. Destination highlights along the way include: the pretty canal village of Braunston; the awesome flight of 21 locks at Hatton; the splendid medieval Warwick Castle; and Birmingham’s Brindleyplace with its impressive National Sealife Centre.
See David Hockney’s Dachshunds at Saltaire – on a short break from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool in West Yorkshire, you can reach the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saltaire. Founded on the banks of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Bradford in 1851 by Sir Titus Salt, as a place for his woollen mill to operate and works to live, today Salts Mill has a number of galleries, including the stunning David Hockney Gallery. This beautiful exhibition space shows both permanent and temporary collections of the Bradford-born artist’s work, including prints of some of the portraits he has made of his beloved Dachshunds, Stanley and Boogie. Unfortunately dogs aren’t allowed in Salts Mill so if you bring your dog, you’ll have to take it in turns to visit.
A canal boat holiday is not only huge fun – it is also great for your health.
With so many of us now working desk based jobs in which we are often sedentary for several hours a day in an air conditioned office, a canal holiday is a chance to get outside and get active.
Rather than lying immobile, sweating on a sun lounger all day while knocking back cocktails, a narrowboat cruise offers a health enhancing, rejuvenating way to take a break. As part of a narrowboat crew during your holiday, you will need to help work the locks and bridges, steer and moor up.
The canals provide thousands of miles of beautiful walking, running, cycling, canoeing, kayaking and cruising routes. They essentially offer an amazing, free outdoor gym that stretches the length and breadth of the country.
A canal boat holiday takes you away from the rush of your everyday existence and encourages a steadier, more mindful way of living as you drift past mile upon mile of beautiful countryside – in this way it is as nourishing for your mind as your body.
Here are just some of the health benefits of a canal boat holiday:
There are countless activities to enjoy during a canal boat holiday which will get your pulse rate up. Whether you enjoy running, cycling or perhaps a pleasant walk, all these forms of aerobic exercise will boost your fitness bringing huge benefits to your heart and lungs, which in turn improve your overall health.
The fitter you are, the more efficient your body becomes at absorbing and transporting oxygen to all your cells. Aerobic exercise helps increase the number of blood vessels in your lungs, assisting your ability to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide, increases the strength of your heart, increases the number of blood vessels supplying your muscles and increases the number of mitochondria, the energy factories in your cells.
This reduces blood pressure, lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and heart attacks, lowers your heart rate, burns body fat, increases bone mass and boosts your immune system.
So forget the gym – come and enjoy some exercise on the canals.
A canal boat holiday can offer just as good a strength work out as lifting irons in the gym – certainly when it comes to opening and closing the locks and bridges. These big heavy lever systems will test your muscles, particularly if you are climbing or descending a lock ladder requiring repeated opening and closing of the thick wooden lock gates.
Don’t let this put you off as with two people pushing the lock gates, you can make lighter work of it! But it offers great strength training which helps build lean muscle mass – something that often diminishes with age. By building the muscles, strength training also strengthens your bones, improves your balance, coordination and posture, helps burn fat, reduce blood pressure and boost heart health.
Stress has become an epidemic in the UK today and is very damaging to our mental and physical health. A canal boat holiday is a chance to disconnect from your many day to day pressures and live in the moment.
The leisurely nature of canal boat holidays – narrowboats’ maximum speed is 3mph, a healthy walking pace – is very effective in forcing people to mentally slow down. The changing nature of the scenery and need to focus on steering the boat and working the canals means it is a mindful activity which focuses attention on the present, giving people a break from thinking about work or other responsibilities.
Studies have shown that being among nature reduces levels of cortisol, the key stress hormone. It makes sense, we have evolved to be among nature so escaping the frantic urban environment and returning to our more natural habitat is good for us. The canals of England and Wales will take you on a tranquil journey through miles of unspoilt countryside teeming with wildlife, enabling your mind to quietly take in the green surroundings and let any stress slowly ebb away. Since stress has many knock on effects on other aspects of health, this can lead to further benefits such as lowering bad cholesterol, reducing blood pressure and regulating blood sugar.
Holidays tend to put us in a good mood initially but if they have involved too much lying around, eating and drinking, they can leave us feeling low and drained by the time we return to work.
A canal boat holiday however, can leave you feeling energised and positive in a longer term, more sustainable way that should see you return to work with a smile. This is because it is a naturally healthy holiday that boosts wellbeing and thus mood.
Exercise in all forms triggers the release of endorphins – your body’s natural feel good chemicals – while being among nature has also been shown to lift our mood. Then there is the natural release of stress and tension that a canal boat holiday encourages.
Lastly, a canal boat holiday involves an element of learning as our team teaches you the rudiments of how to control, steer and moor a narrowboat as well as the rules and etiquette of the canals – the ‘Waterway Code’. Research has shown that learning new skills improves mental wellbeing by boosting confidence and self-esteem, offering a sense of purpose and helping connect you with others. Continual learning throughout life also helps keep the brain sharp as like a muscle, it needs to be worked to stay fit.
All this combined means that canal boat holidays are a wonderfully enjoyable way to do something good for yourself. As many lifestyle related chronic health problems are on the rise, there has never been a better time to take a healthy holiday. So, if you haven’t already tried it, make 2020 the year you experience the joy of a canal boat holiday and come back glowing with health and happiness.
Stately Homes and other historic places to visit whilst on your canal holiday
Stately homes and other historic properties to visit on your canal boat holiday
One of the joys of a canal boat holiday is the feeling that you have escaped the rush of modern life and stepped back in time to a calmer age. The canals themselves and landscapes and cities they pass are all steeped in history and heritage so offer ample opportunity to immerse yourself in the past.
If you enjoy exploring historic properties and gardens, your narrowboat holiday will not disappoint.
There is such a varied range of stunning manor houses, stately homes and other famous sights lining our inland waterways, you will be spoilt for choice.
Here are just a few of our favourite historic properties and stately homes, most of them located within walking distance of the canals, making them an idea day out during your narrowboat holiday.
Arguably the most famous stately home in the UK after the royal residences, Blenheim Palace is worth a small detour from your canal boat holiday. The World Heritage property displays a level of grandeur that wows all 900,000 visitors that pass through its ornate rooms each year. Built between 1705 and 1722 in ‘English Baroque’ style, Blenheim remains the principle residence of the Dukes of Marlborough and was the birthplace and ancestral home of Winston Churchill. As well as housing incredible artworks, antiques and interiors, the palace sits at the centre of stunning Capability Brown gardens and 2000 acres of beautiful parkland crisscrossed by idyllic walks.
While the stunning Grade I Palladian style property has now been converted into a school, its exterior and landscaped grounds can be still be admired by visitors. Built for Bath entrepreneur and philanthropist Ralph Allen in the 1730s and 40s, Prior Park sits at the top of a hill with sweeping views down over Bath’s beautiful city centre. Its Capability Brown gardens, bordered by woodland, feature one of only four Palladian bridges in the world. Now owned and run by the National Trust, take a short break from canal life to catch a bus up the hill to the entrance then enjoy a walk back down through the grounds to the city centre.
This beautiful manor house was built over 300 years with the original property constructed in the 15th century then added to in the 16th and 17th centuries meaning it offers a unique combination of architectural and interior styles. There are late Gothic and Jacobean windows alongside decorative plasterwork, tapestries and antique furnishing. The former home of Edgar Lister, a diplomat at the Ottoman court in the early years of the 20th century, also boasts an impressive topiary garden. Walking distance from the canal, Westwood is worth a quick stop off during your canal boat holiday.
One of the most beautiful country houses in England, Adlington Hall has been home to the Legh family since 1315. The current property, built on the site of a Saxon hunting lodge, dates from 1480 when the Great Hall was erected using two great oak trees which still stand at one end of the room today. The building was expanded in the 1740s into a grander Georgian house. It still houses a 17th century organ which was played by Handel alongside rich collection of antiques and artwork. The 60 acre gardens feature a yew maze, rose garden, Regency rockery and a Rococo styled landscape garden containing the T’Ing House, a Pagoda bridge and the Temple to Diana.
This iconic Tudor manor house looks like it has jumped straight out of a children’s fairy story. The higgledy piggledy timber framed building has been perched, defying gravity, next to its moat for more than 500 years. Now run by the National Trust, the earliest parts of the house were built for the prosperous Cheshire landowner William Moreton in about 1504 to 08, and the remainder was constructed in stages by successive generations of the family until about 1610. Nestled at the back of the building is a beautifully maintained knot garden and herbs and vegetables that would have been used in Tudor cooking. Visitors to the hall can learn about Tudor cuisine and other aspects of their everyday life and culture.
Home to the Anson family since 1610, this beautiful colonnaded Georgian mansion, is surrounded by miles of undulating parkland and ancient woodland adorned with monuments. Visitors can admire the rich interiors and furnishings of the state rooms and living quarters of former owner of Patrick Anson, 5th Earl of Lichfield, then head ‘below stairs’ for a peek into the servants’ rooms. Explore the formal gardens and rambling parkland before popping along to Park Farm to meet the Tamworth pigs and other creatures great and small. You can cruise right past Shugborough’s grounds depending on your canal boat holiday route.
This Victorian timber framed manor is home to an impressive Pre-Raphaelite art collection with works by Bryne-Jones, Rossetti and Everett Millais. Its former owner Theodore Mander decorated its interiors with the designs of William Morris and his Arts and Crafts contemporaries so the house now stands as a perfectly preserved relic of this era of design and one family’s passion for art. Now run by the National Trust, visitors can also enjoy a ramble around the 17 acres of gardens and woodland that surrounds the house before heading to the tearoom or second hand bookshop.
This stunning Georgian stately home, built from local honey coloured Hornton stone, is a delight for the eyes inside and out. Home to the Holbech family since 1684 but now run by the National Trust, Farnborough Hall is decorated with intricate 18th century plasterwork depicting landscapes and wildlife and antiques from all over the world alongside family photos and other personal treasures. The house is surrounded by formal and terraced gardens and parkland intersected by lakes, offering lovely tranquil walks.
This 17th century manor house once sat at the heart of a thriving farming estate and today tells the tale of the rise and fall of those who lived and worked there. Built in 1642 by James Murgatroyd, who made his fortune in the Halifax cloth industry, the impressive property sits on a plateau overlooking the River Aire and the canal, surrounded by stunning grounds including a walled garden and medieval tithe barn. East Riddlesden Hall is a popular filming location having been used in Wuthering Heights and Sharpe. A perfect place to moor up during a narrowboat holiday from Silsden.
This large stately home, dating from the early 18th century and built in red brick Queen Anne style, offers a unique insight into the life of this period. Built as a country retreat for wealthy chancery lawyer Thomas Vernon, the house houses impressive interiors including original wall paintings by Sir James Thornhill. Its formal gardens, designed by George London, have been lovingly restored alongside the orangery, orchards and walled gardens all of which sit surrounded by many acres of parkland with wonderful walks.
The ancestral estate of the Trevor family since 942, the Brynkinalt estate sits amid the beautiful green hills on the Wales-Shropshire border. At the heart of the estate sites the Grade II* hall built in 1612 using red brick cut onsite then extensively revamped with Gothic elements in the early 19th century but still featuring the original Jacobean oak panelled Hall. The property is surrounded by stunning formal gardens including a walled garden, park and woodland with a number of gate lodges and follies. The family welcome visitors but this must be arranged by booking in advance. Tours are conducted by members of the family.
This grand 16th century stately home sits surrounded by a stunning deer park on the banks of the River Avon. The estate has been home to the Lucy family for 900 years with the current property, which played host to Queen Elizabeth I, built in 1558 by Sir Thomas Lucy. The house has been slowly filled with treasures from all over the world by each generation of the family, whose varied lifestyles and tastes have all left their mark. The stables even boast an impressive carriage collection. The house looks out upon Capability Brown landscaped gardens and hundreds of acres of parkland offering scenic walks and great picnic spots.
Home to the Earls of Powis, this medieval castle which dates back to around 1200 overlooks extensive formal gardens and terraces laid out under the influence of Italian and French styles. Originally built as a fortress, the castle was revamped and embellished by successive generations of the Herbert family over the course of more than 400 years meaning it now houses an impressive collection of paintings, sculpture, tapestries and period furniture. It is renowned for housing the valuables that Robert Clive and his son Edward brought home from India. Now run by the National Trust, the house and garden is surrounded by rolling green acres that make up a stunning deer park.
The magic of cruising aboard a narrowboat is just one small part of what makes a canal boat holiday so special as there are dozens of other healthy and fun ways to enjoy our inland waterways. If standing at the helm of your canal boat starts to get a little monotonous or you simply want to stretch your legs, you can moor up and indulge in one of the many other family friendly activities on offer both on land and water along the canals. Or simply hand over responsibility for steering to one of your crew and have a walk alongside the narrowboat – you’ll easily be able to keep up.
Here’s our round up of just some of the popular canalside pursuits you could try out if you want to add some variety to your canal boat holiday:
The canal towpaths provide thousands of miles of beautiful walking routes crisscrossing wide expanses of stunning countryside to reach some of our most fascinating historic towns and cities. Towpaths offer easy traffic-free and largely hill free walks with plenty to admire along the way from the comings and goings of the narrowboats to wonderful varied wildlife, rambling rural vistas and charming canalside pubs. Being relatively flat and well laid with stone, the towpaths, which are lovingly maintained by the Canal and River Trust, are also very accessible to those with limited mobility, wheelchairs and scooters, which means no-one has to miss out.
Canal walks can combine stunning scenery with culture and history. Aside from its obvious physical health benefits, walking is a perfect way to unwind and take in your wonderful surroundings – and will help you work up an appetite ahead of dinner. So whether you fancy a day long trudge or a half hour amble to the pub, the canalside towpaths will not disappoint.
Due to their gentle gradients and absence of cars, the canal towpaths offer safe and scenic cycle routes for all ages and cycling abilities. The towpath network is an ideal place to get young children into cycling without the worry of busy roads.
The canals provide green corridors through some of our biggest busiest cities and the waterside cycling paths are among the most beautiful cycling routes in the UK, connecting historic towns and villages via miles of unspoilt open countryside and farmland.
If you want to head off exploring covering many more miles than your narrowboat, with its maximum speed of three to four miles an hour, will allow then why not moor up and take your bikes out for the day.
Our guests are welcome to bring up to two bikes on their canal boat holiday as they can be strapped to the roof of the narrowboat – we just remind them to be extra careful when going through tunnels or under low bridges. If you require more bikes there are many bike hire shops along the canals so just have a look and plan your route accordingly.
Fishing is one of the best ways to get outside, relax and concentrate your mind in the present, getting you away from your day to day worries. The rivers and canals of England and Wales are abundant in fish of many kinds which the Canal and River Trust and partners work hard to maintain and protect so enthusiasts can enjoy fishing in a sustainable way at key authorised spots. To find out which stretches of canal allow fishing, have a look at the ‘places to fish’ on the Canal and River Trust website. You will then need to buy your rod licence from the Environment Agency and apply for a permit to fish from one of the many angling clubs that help manage the fisheries or from the Canal and River Trust’s Waterways Wanderers scheme.
If you want to try out fishing for the first time, come along to one of our free ‘Let’s Fish’ events where licensed coaches teach the basics of fishing at canal and riverside locations all over the country throughout the year. Have a look at the Let’s Fish webpage to see which events might be happening on your route when you plan your canal boat holiday.
If you plan to bring your rod and enjoy a spot of fishing on your next canal boat holiday with us, just be aware that we do not allow live bait to be on board our narrowboats at any time.
The inland waterways are home to a rich variety of wildlife both in the water, on land and in the air so a canal boat holiday is ideal for nature spotting or bird watching enthusiasts. Even in the heart of cities, canals provide pockets of nature which allow flora and fauna to flourish. In spring and summer the canal banks burst into life with wildflowers of every colour, shape and size while in the water itself, amphibians such as frogs, toads and newts thrive.
Do not forget to bring your binoculars and store them close at hand so you keep an eye out for creatures great and small from common canalside inhabitants such as ducks, swans and squirrels to those that are harder to spot such as kingfishers, badgers and otters.
If you are really lucky you might even catch a glimpse of the canal’s shyest residents which include stoats, hedgehogs and water voles, although this is more likely when exploring on foot as they are likely to be scared off by the sound of the boat’s engine.
You can download a free nature spotting guide from the Canal and River Trust in order to find out what animals and birds you may see during your narrowboat trip and tick them off as you spot them.
Kayaking, canoeing or paddle boarding
Want to try out a different form of waterborne vessel during your narrowboat holiday? Taking off in a canoe, kayak or on a paddleboard can be a great way to spend a morning or afternoon, viewing the canal from a very different perspective while having fun and getting some exercise. These are hobbies enjoyed by millions across the UK each year and the canals offer a wonderful safe environment in which to learn the ropes.
Exploring by canoe, kayak or paddleboard, with no engine to disturb the peace, you get closer to nature and stand a much better chance of spotting some the rare wildlife that lives in, on and around the canals. While we do not allow kayaks, canoes or paddle boards on board our holiday narrowboats, there are plenty of boat clubs and companies along the canals where you can rent them and book lessons if you are beginner in need of some tuition.
If you do go on to buy your own canoe, kayak or paddleboard that you wish to use in your own time, then you will need to ensure it is licensed to use the canals and rivers – you can apply for a license with the Canal and River Trust here. This money goes towards the ongoing maintenance of the 2000-mile canal and river network across the UK, keeping them in great condition to be enjoyed by everyone for many generations to come. It also pays for the construction and upkeep of access points, ramps and slipways that enable boaters to enjoy the inland waterways.
This is just a taster as there are not only many more wonderful canalside activities but also events, famous sights and tourist attractions dotted all the way along our waterways so you will never get bored.
Once you have an idea of your desired narrowboat holiday route, get online and have a look at the vast range of treats on offer along those stretches of canal or river. If you ever want advice on what can be found along the canals get in touch with Anglo Welsh’s expert team who have an in-depth knowledge of the inland waterway network and will always be happy to help.
British summertime has a special kind of magic. When the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, everything is luscious and green and happy punters sit smiling outside cafés and pubs watching the world drift past, there is quite literally nowhere we would rather be.
Travelling at a steady two to three miles an hour along our historic inland waterways, enables you to forget your worries and enjoy a more relaxed pace of life.
But choosing a staycation as your summer holiday also offers numerous other advantages. Here, we explore why holidaying on home ground can be such a great choice:
Green and pleasant land
Let’s face it, nowhere is more beautiful than the British countryside in summer. This is of course largely down to the large amount of rainfall we experience for most of the year which creates fertile verdant landscapes. The rolling green hills, patchwork quilt fields, oak woodland, river valleys and babbling streams offer a picturesque backdrop that is hard to beat. Of course, you can find grander and wilder scenery overseas, higher mountains, bigger rivers, enormous forests, but bigger does not always mean better. In fact, when travelling by narrowboat on a canal with limited time, shorter distances between destinations can be something of a relief. The small scale of England and Wales mean you enjoy incredible variety of landscapes in a very small area, travelling between mountains and sweeping flood plains in a couple of hours. The abundance of wild flowers, shrubs and trees which burst into life from spring onwards adorns our canal routes, adding to the picture postcard effect. Many of Anglo Welsh’s most popular canal boat holiday routes actually take you through areas of National Parks – such as the Leeds and Liverpool canal between Silsden and Burnley – or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – the Kennet and Avon canal between Bath and Bradford on Avon, for instance.
Wealth of history and culture
There is a reason that Britain has a booming tourism industry with around 40 million people from all over the world flocking here every year – it is because the UK has an incredible array of historical and cultural wonders to visit and admire. Few nations can boast the rich concentration of castles, stately homes, heritage buildings, ancient monuments, museums, galleries, theatres – even the canals themselves are historic with some sections such as the majestic Pontcysyllte Aqueduct named as a World Heritage Site. You can hire our canal boats from cities such as Oxford and Bath, renowned for their breath-taking historic architecture, motor your way into the heart of medieval Chester and Stratford-upon-Avon or float up to the walls of Warwick or Skipton Castles. There is so much to see and do along the canal routes, we could spend a year listing the attractions and still have more to mention.
Staying in the UK means you cut out the most tiresome part of any holiday – the flights. No 3am alarm call, no hastily devoured overpriced coffee and croissant, no check-in queues, no airport security and lastly, no cramped airplane in which the seats appear to have been designed to fit a six-year-old. Instead, you can indulge in a relaxed start to your holidays. After a leisurely breakfast, jump in the car – or bus or train depending upon which canal boat base you are starting from – and make your way with no stress to your intended destination ready to collect the keys to your narrowboat at 3pm and run through your training and briefing, before you float away. You start your holiday feeling fresh and cheerful not sleep deprived, crabby and possibly even jet lagged.
Less travel time
Running on from the point above, by staying in the UK, it is likely you will significantly reduce your travel time. This is particularly helpful if you have limited holiday days and do not wish to devote at least two of them to simply getting to your destination and back. A staycation will at most require a car, bus or train journey of a few hours. With 11 Anglo Welsh canal boat bases to choose from as your starting point, all in wonderful locations scattered across England and Wales, you will always be able to select a route that minimises your travel time to no more than a couple of hours.
Easier with the kids
For all the reasons above and more, a staycation is a great option if you are bringing children along. Young kids do not respond well to long journeys cooped up in a car or airplane – especially if they have been woken up at 3am for it. It is often when you most need the little ones to behave themselves that they start acting up, creating a stressful and tiring journey for all involved. If you choose a narrowboat holiday for your staycation, the kids will love the novelty of life afloat and because you are constantly on the move, they’ll have far less chance to get bored and start misbehaving.
Take your pets along for the ride
If you are not crossing any international borders, there is no reason why your four legged friends shouldn’t join you on holiday. Dogs, cats and other animals are often much loved members of the family so it is unsurprising people do not like leaving them behind. As well as the guilt, made worse by their sad faces as the luggage is packed, there is also often a significant cost to having them well looked after in your absence. At Anglo Welsh we welcome pets on our narrowboats with the first pet travelling for free. Dogs in particular hate being separated from their owners – or pack – for even a short time so why not include them in the fun. With its focus on the great outdoors, a narrowboat holiday is perfect for dogs, with plenty of space and wonderful walks all along the canals. For more on why a canal boat makes a perfect pet friendly holiday and our top tips on bringing along your furry friend, read on here.
No language barrier
By staying in the UK you remove any potential for awkward misunderstandings or stress due to language barriers. While some people welcome the challenge of taking on a new language, most of us are left babbling incoherently while steadily reddening with embarrassment as we try and order a coffee in broken French or Spanish. The British are notoriously bad at foreign languages, let’s not deny it. So, holiday in the UK and unwind in your mother tongue. You’ll no longer have to worry about being served a completely different dish to the one you wanted or nodding at a series of instructions and hand gestures only to set off in completely the wrong direction. There’s no doubt, it is more relaxing when you actually understand what everyone is talking about.
Last but not least, by cutting out lengthy travel arrangements, currency exchange and possibly child or pet care, you could save yourself a lot of money by opting for a staycation in the UK. This will leave you with more funds to channel towards the important things such as sightseeing, fun activities, food and drink – all of which will really add to the overall holiday experience. If you choose an Anglo Welsh canal boat holiday, you will essentially be provided with a floating home and fully equipped kitchen so you can also save hard earned cash by preparing and enjoying meals onboard rather than relying on restaurant food. With so many wonderful things to see and do along the waterways you should be able to reach virtually everything you want on foot.
If all this hasn’t persuaded you that a holiday in the UK is the best option, then have a peruse of our website to look at the different canal boat bases and routes available which will take you through some of the most stunning countryside Britain has to offer.
If you want to discuss your preferences and requirements with one of our team to get some expert advice on which locations and boats would best suit you, please don’t hesitate to give us a ring.
Summer holiday season is almost upon us and what better way to spend it then hiring a narrowboat and floating gently along a beautiful historic canal.
If you are planning a canal boat holiday this summer, it is worth doing some research into the many fun events and attractions you could reach by narrowboat.
Our historic waterways come alive during the summer holiday season so wherever you want your canal boat hire to start from, we can guarantee there will be something fun or interesting within easy cruising distance.
With so much to see and do along the canals, there is something for every generation to enjoy. So, if you are planning a canal barge holiday for the whole family, don’t worry, there will be plenty to keep the kids entertained.
Here are a few of our top choices for summer holiday fun along the canals this year:
A little earlier than most school summer holidays but worth including just the same as each year Bath Carnival bring the streets of this historic city to life in a colourful celebration of diverse world cultures. Flamboyant floats, costumes, music and dancing thrill the crowds and leave the whole city wanting to party.
Bristol’s harbourside plays host to the city’s biggest free festival which combines art, music and performance while showcasing the city’s maritime heritage. The floating harbour is lined by stages and stalls selling fantastic local food and drink with live music, shows, workshops, boat trips and more fun for all the family.
Dig out your favourite superhero costume and geek out at the UK’s biggest pop-culture event. Comic Con returns to Manchester with a blockbuster weekend of special guests including Guardians of the Galaxy’s Michael Rooker as well as TV, movies, comic books and cosplay that can be enjoyed by parents and children alike.
Admire this historic feat of engineering while sipping on afternoon tea and wolfing down delicious dainty sandwiches and cakes in a perfect afternoon out. The special ‘afternoon tea experiences’ include a look around the magnificent 144-year-old boat lift followed by a boat trip on the River Weaver and a delicious afternoon tea in the lift view marquee.
The famous Gifford Circus will be bringing its new show Xanadu to Stonor Park in Henley. Inspired by the 70s flower power movement, the new show promises to be a spectacular evening of incredible acrobatics, jaw-dropping aerial tricks alongside clowns, musicians and even horses. Enter the magic wonderland that is Gifford’s Big Top and wait to fall under their spell.
Enjoy one of the Bard’s masterpieces in the dramatic open air surroundings of Oxford Castle and Prison’s courtyard. There is tragedy and comedy on offer depending on your preference. Tomahawk Theatre presents Macbeth from 1st to 27th July while Siege Theatre performs Twelfth Night from 29th July to 10th August.
After the popularity of the monthly market, World of Wedgewood is extending it into a two-day celebration of mouth-watering food and drink and artisan crafts. More than 50 stalls will be showcasing the best edible delights from local suppliers alongside hand-crafted products to a backdrop of great live music throughout the weekend.
The museum at Ellesmere Port is hosting a special day to pay homage to the special role of horses in the history of the waterways. Go along to see boats being towed along the canal by horses in the traditional style as well as lots of other horse related activities.
Treat yourself to some of the best live classical music you’ll ever hear with one of these two amazing Oxford Prom concerts, both featuring virtuoso pianist Maki Sekiya. The first, the Hall of Fame Classic concert at University Church of St Mary the Virgin will showcase Beethoven and Shostakovich. The second, The Magic of Mozart, held at the same venue, will, as the name suggests celebrate the work of the Austrian musical genius.
Chester Zoo is doing its bit to foster the next generation of David Attenboroughs with weekly clubs throughout the holidays for children aged 5 to 8, exploring different types of wildlife: 20 July, Feathery Friends; 27 July, Brilliant Bugs; 3 August, Pond Creatures; 17th August, Mammal Detectives. It is also a great chance for mum and dad to do a bit of sightseeing in peace and quiet.
Great Northern Square has been transformed by a giant sandpit containing 50 tonnes of sand and wood rounds which will keep children happy for hours. The sandpit provides the focal point for a whole summer of family friendly activities such as markets, play sessions, yogathons and more.
With over 100 rides and a 15 acre zoo, Drayton Manor is a theme park the whole family can enjoy and it is hosting a ‘summer of fun’ throughout the holidays. It even boasts Thomas Land where younger children can spend a day meeting Thomas and his friends and testing out rides like Bertie Bus and Toby’s Tram Express. With special events and family activities to be announced throughout the summer, Drayton really does have every age group covered.
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Tardebigge
This temple to chocolate making is presenting a special show throughout the summer starring a living, breathing version of Freddo, which is a guaranteed hit with the little ones. The show, included in the normal ticket price, invites you to set sail with Captain Freddo and learn what it takes to become a pirate on the Seven Seas. Lean how to walk and talk like a pirate, or risk walking the plank!
National Sealife Centre, daily until Sunday, 8th September, Birmingham Canal Navigations Mainline or Gas Street Canal Basin
This awe-inspiring Norman Foster-designed aquarium where you can see more than 60 strange, beautiful and fascinating creatures of the deep, is hosting a special ‘Pirates and Mermaids’ underwater treasure hunt adventure to keep the kids entertained this summer.
Experience the UK’s biggest birds of prey show at one of the best preserved medieval castles in Britain. Kids and adults alike will be wowed as up to 70 birds of prey take to the skies in an action packed dynamic display of aerial avian acrobatics. The shows will take place daily throughout the summer and into Autumn.
This magnificent medieval castle hosts a series of re-enactment events throughout summer which will transport you back centuries to witness dramatic episodes from British history. On the 20th to 21st July you can experience life as it would have been in Skipton during the Wars of the Roses, on the 3rd to 4th of August you can watch the Civil War Regiment prepare for battle against the Parliamentarian army and on the 17th to 18th August watch 12 century knights display their fighting prowess.
Britain’s 3,000-mile network of canals and navigable rivers provide canal boat holiday-makers fantastic waterway adventures, with access to hundreds of exciting destinations in waterside villages, towns and cities along the way.
To celebrate Armed Forces Day on Saturday 29 June, and the 15% discount we give to members of the Armed Forces, we’ve put together a list of our Top 6 canal boat holiday destinations with military links:
Discover the Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker – from our canal boat rental base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, it takes around three-and-a-half hours, travelling nine miles and passing through just two locks, to reach moorings close to the Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker Museum. This fascinating blast-proof underground bunker was once of the nation’s most secret defence sites, and would have been the centre of Regional Government had nuclear war broken out. It was decommissioned in 1993, and today it offers visitors the chance to see the government’s preparations for nuclear war as well as the largest public display of nuclear weapons in Europe.
Browse the nine galleries of the Royal Armouries Museum – from our narrowboat hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, it takes around 17 hours to cruise to Leeds City Centre, home of the Royal Armouries Museum, passing through 28 locks along the way. Home to the national collection of arms and armour, there are thousands of objects from across the world to admire displayed in nine galleries, including the ‘War Gallery’ which houses a longbow from the wreck of the Mary Rose, a Maxim Machine Gun, a model of the Battle of Agincourt and the oldest surviving European horse armour.
Explore over 900 years of history at Oxford Castle – from our canal boat hire base at Eynsham on the River Thames near Witney, it takes around three-and-a-half hours, passing through three locks, to reach moorings in the centre of Oxford, just a ten-minute walk from Oxford Castle. This imposing 11th century earthwork motte-and-bailey castle was founded by the Norman baron Robert D’Oilly the elder in 1071. Most of the fortress was destroyed in the English Civil War and by the 18th century, the remaining buildings had become Oxford’s local prison. Tours of the Castle are led by costumed character guides who lead guests up the Saxon St George’s Tower for panoramic views of the city, as well as deep underground to the 900-year old crypt, through the austere confines of the 18th century Debtor’s Tower and Prison D-Wing, and up the Mound of the castle.
Find out about the last cavalry charge at the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum – from our narrowboat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, it takes seven hours, passing through 20 locks to reach the county town of Warwick, home of the Yeomanry Museum. This small museum, based in The Court House, on Jury Street in Warwick, celebrates the history of the Warwickshire Yeomanry from 1794 to 1956, including the last classic unsupported Cavalry Charge of the Great War, with a collection of uniforms, weapons, medals and memorabilia.
Get close to medieval warfare at Chirk Castle – from our narrowboat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes just over an hour to reach Chirk, passing over the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way, which this year celebrates 10 years of World Heritage Status. The National Trust’s Chirk Castle, one of a chain of fortresses built on the Welsh-English border by Edward I, is a 30-minute walk up from the canal. Started in 1295, Chirk Castle features round ‘drum’ towers that allowed archers a wide firing field and created a ‘killing zone’ where the fields of fire overlapped. The towers are wider at ground level making it difficult for siege towers and battering rams to get close. Visitors today can explore lavishly furnished rooms, the Adam Tower – complete with its two-level dungeons, medieval toilets and murder holes – and enjoy walking through the Castle’s lovely gardens and parkland full of ancient trees, wildflowers and birds. Chirk can also be reached on a week’s holiday from our new canal boat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Whixall.
Learn about the siege of Skipton Castle – from our canal boat rental base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just over three hours (travelling six miles with no locks) to reach Skipton with its 900-year old fortress, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England. Visitors to this impressive stone castle, which withstood a three-year siege during the Civil War, can climb from the depths of the Dungeon to the top of the Watch Tower, exploring the magnificent Banqueting Hall, Kitchen, Bedchamber and Privy in between. Skipton Castle also has some fabulous woodland walking trails to explore. For nearly a thousand years these woods provided fuel, food and building materials for the castle’s inhabitants. Today, there are at least 18 species of trees to admire there, as well as hundreds of flowering plants, including wild orchids and bluebells.
Take to the water this Easter, and cruise through the beautiful Spring countryside, adorned with new leaves, fragrant blossom, delightful daffodils, playful spring lambs and chirping birds.
You can cruise gently along aboard your own floating holiday home to enjoy an outdoor family adventure, stopping-off along the way to visit waterside destinations hosting special Easter holiday activities.
From medieval fortresses, battles and jousting, to Easter egg decorating, hunting and (of course) eating, here are our Top 10 Easter canal boat holiday family destinations:
Visit the World’s biggest Cadbury shop at Cadbury World – apparently, if you placed all the Cadbury Creme Eggs made in a year from end to end, they would stretch from Bournville to Sydney, Australia! This Easter, you can discover more amazing chocolate facts, and buy some Creme Eggs at the World’s biggest Cadbury shop, at Cadbury World at Bournville, right next to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. From our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge, near Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, it takes just two hours to reach moorings outside Cadbury World, and three more lock-free hours to reach Birmingham City Centre.
Have an ‘Eggstraordinary Easter Eggventure’ at the University of Oxford’s Natural History Museum – from our Oxford base, it’s a tranquil three-hour cruise along the River Thames to moorings at Hythe Bridge, perfect for exploring Oxford’s city centre, including the University of Oxford Natural History Museum, which is hosting an Easter egg hunting trail, 6-22 April. Housed in a stunning Victorian neo-Gothic building, Oxford’s Natural History Museum is home to an internationally significant collection of natural history specimens, including T-rex skeletons, the Oxford Dodo, whale skeletons, British bird displays, dinosaur fossils and the 4.5 billion-year-old Nantan meteorite.
Enjoy a Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt at Chirk Castle – from our narrowboat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes just over an hour to reach Chirk, passing over the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which this year celebrates 10 years of World Heritage Status. Once moored-up, it’s a half-hour walk up to the National Trust’s stunning medieval fortress, Chirk Castle, where over the Easter Weekend (19-22 April), children can follow the Easter Trail, solve the clues and win a Cadbury chocolate prize.
Watch medieval jousting at the Royal Armouries Museum – from our base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, on a week’s holiday, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Leeds and back, cruising for a total of 34 hours and passing through 56 locks. Over the Easter weekend (19-22 April) the waterside Royal Armouries Museum will be hosting its spectacular International Jousting event, where four teams of knights from the UK, Poland, the USA and Canada will battle for honour and trophies.
Tour the Roman Baths by Torchlight – from our canal boat rental base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Brassknocker Basin just outside Bath it takes around four hours, passing through six locks to reach Bath City Centre, just a short walk away from the Roman Baths Museum. Over the Easter Weekend (19-22 April), the Museum will be hosting torchlit evening openings (6pm-8pm), giving visitors the chance to see the remarkably preserved remains of one of the greatest religious spas of the ancient world in a different light. Easter evening visitors can also enjoy live music, impromptu performances from the Natural Theatre Company and a drink in a pop-up Prosecco Bar.
See the World’s oldest working steam engines – on a week’s holiday from our narrowboat hire base at Sydney Wharf, you can travel along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal to Crofton, near Marlborough, to visit the Crofton Pumping Station. Over the Easter Weekend (20-22 April), the Easter Steam Event allows visitors to witness the work of the oldest working steam engines in the world, still performing the job they were built to do. The two beam engines, one of which is an original 200-year old Boulton & Watt, are both fed by a hand-stoked, coal fired Lancashire boiler. The journey to Crofton takes around 23 hours, cruising 40 miles and passing through 47 locks.
Join the annual Easter Boat Gathering at Ellesmere Port – over the Easter Weekend (19-22 April), the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire celebrates the start of the Summer boating season with a large boat gathering, live music and the Shropshire Boatmen telling waterway stories in song. From our canal boat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, it takes 10 hours to reach Ellesmere Port, travelling 21 miles through 12 locks, and passing through the ancient City of Chester along the way.
Do some Easter egg decorating at Mary Arden’s Farm – from our base at Wootton Wawen on the pretty Stratford Canal, it takes around an hour-and-a-half to reach the village of Wilmcote, home to Mary Arden’s Farm, where Shakespeare’s mother grew up. Over the Easter holidays, as well as experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of a Tudor farm, visitors can enjoy decorating eggs with traditional Tudor designs at Mary Arden’s Farm. On a short break, you can continue on to Bancroft Basin in the Centre of Stratford to visit waterside eateries, Shakespeare’s Birthplace and the famous Swan Theatre.
Explore the Eggcellent Easter Trail at Trentham Monkey Forest – during the Easter holidays (15-26 April), visitors to Trentham Monkey Forest, where monkeys live in total freedom, can walk amongst the monkeys and follow the Easter Woodland Trail to find a hidden word to gain entry to a prize draw. From our boatyard at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, it takes approximately 10 hours to reach Stoke bottom lock No. 36, a short walk away from Trentham Monkey Forest. The journey cruises 13 miles and passes through 13 locks.
Take a Guided Walk at the Battle of Bosworth Museum – from our canal boat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, it takes around 18 hours, travelling 44 miles and passing through seven locks, to reach Sutton Cheney, close to the Bosworth Heritage Centre & Country Park. Here, where King Richard III famously lost his crown to Henry Tudor in 1485, visitors to the multi-award-winning Bosworth Battlefield Experience can enjoy hands-on displays and guided walks to find out more about medieval warfare, how the battle unfolded and the impact of the powerful Tudor dynasty.
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.