Anglo Welsh’s reservations manager Emma Lovell offers a guide to the best winter cruising destinations this Christmas.
This winter, we are offering winter cruising* from eight of our narrowboat hire bases, giving you the chance to spend Christmas or New Year on the canals.
The canals are quieter during the winter months and people tend to make shorter journeys. Winter canal boat hire is about enjoying being close to the water and visiting canalside pubs and attractions, rather than travelling lots of miles each day.
From a cosy narrowboat for two to a family canal boat for 12, all our boats have central heating, hot water, WiFi, TV and DVD players, so it’s always nice and warm on board. Some of our boats also come with multi-fuel stoves for some extra special winter warmth, and there’s plenty of storage room on board, so you can bring lots of warm and wet weather clothing.
Some routes will be affected at times by the Canal & River Trust’s annual winter maintenance work, but we can provide information on any planned route closures at the time of booking.
Here’s our guide to our Top 8 narrowboat holidays for Christmas 2021:
1. Float to through the Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon – from our narrowboat rental base on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen in Warwickshire, it’s a six-hour cruise to Stratford upon Avon. The journey takes you through the Warwickshire countryside, passing through 17 locks along the way. Once in Stratford, you can moor up in Bancroft Basin, just a short walk from this popular tourist town’s excellent choice of theatres, restaurants, markets and museums.
2. Experience Christmas in the World Heritage City of Bath – on a short break from our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Monkton Combe, you can reach moorings in Bath City Centre in around four cruising hours. The route takes you along a section of the Avon Valley and up the Bath flight of six locks. From moorings close to Pulteney Bridge, you can enjoy exploring this beautiful City, including the Roman Baths and medieval Bath Abbey.
3. Cruise through the Staffordshire countryside to Fradley – heading south from our base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal, you can reach Fradley Junction in around five hours. The journey passes through five locks and 12 peaceful miles of Staffordshire countryside, including the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Places to enjoy along the way include The Wolseley Centre run by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the Wolseley Arms pub and the village of Handsacre with its ‘The Old Peculiar’ pub. Once at Fradley, refreshments are available at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn, and there are walking trails at the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
4. Travel through the Shropshire Lake District to Ellesmere – from our base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around four hours to reach the historic town of Ellesmere. Along the way, the route passes Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park. Once at Ellesmere, there’s a choice of independent shops and restaurants, as well as formal gardens, woods and castle grounds to explore.
5. Navigate into the centre of Birmingham – from our base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes around five hours to boat into the heart of Birmingham. Boasting more canals than Venice and with preparations underway to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, it’s a great time to visit Britain’s vibrant second city. And there are no locks to pass through along the way, so this is also a good route for canal boat holiday beginners.
6. Visit the ancient city of Chester afloat – from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, it’s a seven-hour cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Chester. Once there, you can visit the City’s famous 700-year old two-tired shopping galleries – the Rows. And you can also take time to explore Chester’s Roman City Walls, Amphitheatre, riverside gardens and sparkling city centre Christmas lights.
7. Cruise to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen – from our base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes around two hours to cruise to Llangollen. There you can moor up in Llangollen Basin and enjoy visiting this beautiful town nestled in the Berwyn Mountains. Things to visit include the Llangollen Steam Railway, Plas Newydd house and gardens and the Horseshoe Falls. There’s a great choice of independent shops and places to eat, including the popular Corn Mill with stunning river and mountain views.
8. Enjoy Christmas in historic Bradford on Avon – on a short break from our narrow boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Sydney Wharf, you can cruise to the historic market town of Bradford on Avon. The journey takes around four hours and passes through just one lock. Bradford on Avon, situated on the southern edge of the Cotswolds, has beautiful limestone buildings echoing those of nearby Bath. It is packed with historic buildings, including the 14th century Tithe Barn and 15th century chapel of St Mary Tory, with amazing views across the town. There’s a great choice of independent shops and places to eat to choose from.
*NB Winter maintenance work can affect some routes at certain times. Customers are advised to check at the time of booking.
Enjoy a family adventure afloat this summer, closer to home
By Emma Lovell, Anglo Welsh’s Reservations Manager
England and Wales are criss-crossed by hundreds of miles of beautiful inland waterways to explore afloat. They take narrowboat holiday-makers through some of our best loved countryside, and into the heart of some our most famous waterside towns and cities.
Narrowboat holidays are great for families, bringing everyone together for an adventure afloat. From steering the boat, and working the locks, to planning the route and the stops, everyone can get involved.
Pets are welcome aboard all our boats and the first pet travels free, so your dog, hamster or budgie can enjoy the floating holiday home break too!
Anglo Welsh offers narrowboat holidays from 11 starting points across England and Wales. So, whether you want to stay close to home and explore your local waterway, or travel further afield to see another part of the country, we have hundreds of routes and destinations to choose from.
From views of the dramatic Welsh mountains on the Llangollen Canal, to meadows full of birdsong alongside the majestic of the River Thames, we’ve put together a list of our Top 10 narrowboat holidays for families this summer:
1. Cruise to the Shropshire Lake District – from our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, on a short break you can cruise to Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. The journey takes around seven hours, passing through two locks, two tunnels and over two magnificent aqueducts, including the famous UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This Wonder of the Waterways, carries the Llangollen Canal 38 metres high above the Dee valley, with magnificent views of the valley below, and Welsh Mountains beyond.
2. Navigate through Shakespeare country to Stratford upon Avon – from our narrowboat hire base at Wootton Wawen, on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it takes around six hours to cruise through the Warwickshire countryside, which includes passing through 17 locks, to reach overnight moorings in Bancroft Basin in the heart of Stratford upon Avon. Once there, you can walk to all the top attractions in Stratford, from theatres and museums, to pubs and restaurants. This destination is perfect for a weekend away.
3. Travel round the Black Country Ring – on a week’s break from our barge hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, you can travel round the Black Country Ring. The journey, which travels 75 miles and passes through 79 locks, takes around 43 hours. Highlights along the way include: Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham City Centre; the 21 locks at Wolverhampton; and the tranquil waters at Tixall Wide.
4. Take a Thames boating holiday to Wallingford – from our narrowboat rental base on the River Thames at Oxford, it’s a nine-hour, 11-lock cruise to the historic market town of Wallingford. Along the way, you’ll travel through miles of peaceful Oxfordshire meadows and pastureland. Places to stop off along the way, include the City of Oxford with its world famous museums, and the market town of Abingdon, with its popular waterside pub, The Nag’s Head. This journey is perfect for a four night mid-week break.
5. Potter through the Worcestershire countryside via the Stourport Ring – on a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can travel round the Stourport Ring. This popular circuit will take you on an 84-mile, 114-lock journey, cruising for around 56 hours. Highlights include: Gas Street Basin in the centre of Birmingham; Kinver Edge with its extensive woodlands and National Trust Holy Austin Rock Houses; the magnificent Cathedral City of Worcester; idyllic stretches of Worcestershire countryside along the River Severn; and the dramatic flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge.
6. Cruise across the Pennines to Foulridge Tunnel – from our canal boat hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just around 13 hours, passing through 15 locks, to reach Foulridge Tunnel. The journey will take you through a series of historic towns and villages, including Skipton, with its medieval fortress and acres of woodland trails to explore, and East Marton with a choice of pubs and access to the Pennine Way. This route is perfect for a week’s holiday.
7. Travel through the Avon Valley and up the Caen Hill Flight – on a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Monkton Combe on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Bath, it takes around 19 hours to reach Pewsey Wharf. The route will take you through 37 locks each way, including the 29 locks of the Caen Hill Flight at Devizes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. This journey will also take you over two dramatic Bath stone aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff, through the historic market town of Bradford on Avon and the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the West Berkshire Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
8. Journey to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen & back – on a week’s holiday from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around 12 hours, passing through two locks, to reach the historic town of Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains. Along the way, you’ll travel through the Shropshire Lake District and then across the magnificent World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts, with incredible views of the Welsh Mountains.
9. Navigate through the Cheshire countryside to The Cathedral of the Canals – on a short break from our canal boat rental base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can cruise to the Anderton Boat Lift. The journey takes around nine hours and passes through 20 locks. Looking like a giant spider crouched on the hillside, this incredible feat of Victorian engineering moves boats 15 metres up or down between the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal.
10. Boat to Warwick Castle and back – on a short break from our canal boat hire base at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can cruise to moorings close to the magnificent Warwick Castle, said to be Britain’s greatest medieval experience. The journey there and back takes around 14 hours and passes through 40 locks (20 each way).
Plan your 2021 canal boat holiday adventure with our bucket list guide
Canal boat holidays are a wonderful way to explore the countryside and some of Britain’s most exciting historic attractions. With the narrowboat as your mobile floating holiday home, you can moor up in a new spot every night, and discover fascinating things to see and do along the way.
To help you plan the perfect narrowboat holiday adventure in 2021, here’s a guide to some of our canal boat holiday musts:
1. Be wowed by the wildlife
Canals and rivers are home to an incredible array of wildlife, from rare mammals, birds and amphibians to many species of plants. Even in cities, canals provide green corridors, enabling animals and plants to flourish. If you are vigilant and have a pair of binoculars at the ready, you may be able to spot some of the rarer and shier waterway inhabitants such as water voles, otters and kingfishers, as well as the more common water birds, like ducks, swans, coots, moorhens and geese. You can also take a look down at the water to spy fish, frogs, toads, newts, or up at the sky to see bats, owls, woodpeckers, hedgerow birds and birds of prey.
2. Visit a historic town or city
The waterways were once the primary means of transport and communication between centres of industry and commerce, so they pass through many exciting historic towns and cities. You can choose a route which takes you to some of Britain’s best preserved ancient cities, including Bath, Oxford and Chester, all with an impressive array of beautiful historic buildings to admire. The canals can also take you into the heart of bustling cities, like Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham and to historic market towns, such as Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick, Devizes, Llangollen, Whitchurch, Bradford on Avon and Abingdon.
3. Marvel at the historic engineering of the canals
Most of our canals were built over 200 years ago during the Industrial Revolution, starting with the opening of the Bridgewater Canal in 1761. Despite their age, the canals still use, for the most part, the same engineering structures – lock gates, swing bridges, tunnels and aqueducts. There are some particularly impressive feats of historic engineering which are worth trying to incorporate into your canal boat holiday route, such as the incredible lock flights at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, the Kennet & Avon Canal at Caen Hill or the Grand Union Canal at Hatton. There are many famous tunnels, such as the Chirk Tunnel on the Llangollen Canal, the Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal and the Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Canal. And there are soaring aqueducts to glide across, including the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal and the Edstone Aqueduct on the Stratford Canal.
4. Enjoy a pint at a canalside pub
From busy city boozers to rustic country inns, the canals are lined with wonderful pubs where you can enjoy a pint, shoot the breeze and watch the world float by. During the years when canals provided key transport thoroughfares, many pubs sprung up along their routes to cater for the canal workers who would travelling up and down the country delivering their cargo. To this day, some of the country’s oldest and most characterful taverns are found along our canals, so enjoy taking some time out from boating to enjoy a warm canalside pub welcome.
5. Explore on foot
Canal towpaths offer thousands of miles of wonderful walking and cycling routes and hundreds of footpaths connect into waterway paths. These include some of Britain’s most famous walking routes, such as the Pennine Way, the Offa’s Dyke Path, the Heart of England Way and the Shropshire Way. Plan some lovely circular walks to explore more of the gorgeous unspoilt countryside through which you are passing, or the historic towns and villages you moor up in.
6. Stop off at a castle or stately home
Britain has a wealth of historic properties to visit, from castle ruins to perfectly preserved stately homes. People travel from all over the world to see these treasures and a canal boat holiday is the perfect way to reach some of our nation’s most amazing sights. Many stately homes house incredible art collections and antique furnishing, as well as landscaped formal gardens and parkland. National Trust properties close to the canals include: Packworth House close to the Stratford Canal at Lapworth in Warwickshire; Shrugborough Hall next to the Trent & Mersey Canal near Great Haywood; and Chirk Castle close to the Llangollen Canal. There are also fascinating castles at Oxford, Skipton and Warwick to explore, as well as historic sites like Avebury close to the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire and the Battle of Bosworth Field next to the Ashby Canal in Leicestershire.
By Emma Lovell, Anglo Welsh’s Reservations Manager
Britain’s 3,000-mile network of inland waterways, which winds its way through thousands of miles of beautiful countryside, offers a great way to relax and connect with nature.
Research shows people feel happier by water and towpaths provide great places to exercise, so a canal boat holiday can help boost your physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Whether it’s the rolling Cheshire Plains of the Shropshire Union, the dramatic Welsh mountains on the Llangollen or the prehistoric chalk landscapes of the Kennet & Avon Canal, from your floating holiday home you can enjoy cruising through a wide variety of landscapes.
Here are our top 10 Cruises through the countryside for 2020:
1. Navigate through the Forest of Arden to Hatton & back – from our narrowboat hire base at Wootton Wawen, on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it takes around eight hours, travelling through 17 locks to reach the base of the Hatton Flight of Locks. The journey takes you along the Stratford Canal through farmland and the remains of the Forest of Arden to Kingswood Junction. Once there, the route transfers onto the Grand Union Canal and passes through Shrewley Tunnel before reaching the base of the Flight of 21 locks at Hatton.
2. Cruise into the Peak District spotting kingfishers along the way – on a week’s break from our barge hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, you can reach the beautiful Caldon Canal and travel into the Peak District. The journey first takes you up to Stoke on Trent and, once on the Caldon, through gently rolling hills and wooded valley of the beautiful River Churnet, with the chance to spot kingfishers, herons, woodpeckers and otters. The journey from Great Haywood to Froghall and back takes around 43 hours, travelling a total of 72 miles and passing through 70 locks.
3. Take a Thames boating holiday to Lechlade, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – from our narrowboat rental base on the River Thames at Oxford, it’s a tranquil nine-hour, seven-lock cruise west to the pretty market town of Lechlade, situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the edge of the Cotswolds. Along the way, you’ll travel through miles of peaceful Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire countryside, passing the village of Radcot with its 800-year old bridge across the Thames, and Kelmscott Manor, once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris. This journey is perfect for a four night mid-week or seven day holiday.
4. Travel round the Stourport Ring through idyllic stretches of Worcestershire countryside – on a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can travel round the Stourport Ring. This popular circuit takes boaters on an 84-mile, 114-lock journey, in around 44 cruising hours. Much of the route is rural, cruising sections of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, River Severn, Birmingham Canal Main Line and Stourbridge canals. Highlights include: Kinver Edge with its extensive woodlands and National Trust Holy Austin Rock Houses; idyllic stretches of Worcestershire countryside along the River Severn; and the dramatic flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge, climbing two-and-a-quarter miles with spectacular views of the open countryside all around.
5. Cruise to the gateway of the Yorkshire Dales and explore the ancient woods at Skipton Castle – from our canal boat hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just over three hours to reach Skipton, the ‘Gateway to the Dales’, with its medieval fortress and acres of woodland trails to explore. The journey along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Silsden passes through the typical Yorkshire stone built villages of Kildwick and Farnhill and on into a dense wooded area famous for its bluebells and deer.
6. Float through the Avon Valley to Caen Hill and back – on a short break from our canal boat rental base at Bath on the Kennet & Avon Canal, it takes around 10½ hours to reach Foxhangers Wharf, at the bottom of the Caen Hill Flight of Locks at Devizes, perfect for a three or four night short break. Along the way, you’ll pass through 16 locks (eight each way), over two dramatic Bath stone aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff, through Bradford on Avon with a good choice of shops, and miles of peaceful countryside.
7. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Nantwich and back – from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around 13 hours, passing through 19 locks, to reach the historic town of Nantwich. Along the way, the route will transfer onto the Shropshire Union Canal at Barbridge, travelling through the Shropshire and Cheshire countryside. At Nantwich, you’ll travel across the impressive Grade II* listed Nantwich Aqueduct, designed by the famous canal engineer Thomas Telford, to enjoy panoramic views across the town.
8. Navigate the Four Counties Ring for stunning views of the Cheshire Plains – on a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, you can travel round the popular Four Counties Ring, one of the most rural canal cruising circuits. Travelling for around 58 hours and passing through 96 locks, this route takes canal boat holiday-makers through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire and travels sections of the Trent & Mersey, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Shropshire Union canals. Highlights include: panoramic views from the flight of 31 locks between Middlewich and Kidsgrove on the Trent & Mersey Canal; stunning views of the rolling Cheshire Plains on the Shropshire Union Canal; acres of farmland on the Middlewich Branch; and wildlife spotting at Tixall Wide on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.
9. Cruise to the Shropshire Lake District – from our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, on a short break (three or four nights) you can cruise to the Shropshire Lake District, teeming with water birds and other wildlife. The journey to the medieval market town of Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District, takes around seven hours, passing through just two locks and over two magnificent aqueducts, including the famous UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This Wonder of the Waterways, carries the Llangollen Canal 38 metres high above the Dee valley, with magnificent views of the valley and Welsh Mountains beyond.
10. Travel through the Northamptonshire countryside to Stoke Bruerne – on a mid-week (four night) break from our canal boat hire base at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can cruise to the pretty Northamptonshire village of Stoke Bruerne and back. The journey takes around 12 hours, travelling 28 mostly rural miles and passes through 16 locks, as well as through the 2,813-metre long Blisworth Tunnel.
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.