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Best Canal Routes For Kids

Plan your Easter canal boat holiday: The best waterway routes for kids

It’s finally getting a little bit lighter and there is hope that winter may not last forever.

In fact, it is the perfect time to cheer yourself out of any winter blues by planning your next narrowboat trip. With the school Easter break now just a few weeks away, why not treat the whole family to a canal boat holiday this year. Kids love the novelty of being on the water just as much as adults and all our narrowboats are designed to be family friendly. You could even bring your pets!

To help, we’ve had a think about the best canal boat holiday routes to do with children.

We’ve chosen varied waterway journeys that combine rural beauty and tranquility with more urban settings that are packed with family friendly activities to keep the kids entertained throughout. No more of those, ‘Mum/Dad, I’m boooored,’ comments.

 

Tardebigge to Birmingham

Set in the heart of rural Worcestershire, Tardebigge offers an idyllic starting point for any canal boat cruise. The base sits at the top of an impressive lock ladder climbing 220 feet, offering wonderful views over the surrounding countryside.

If you are heading towards Birmingham you have a relaxing lock free five-hour cruise north along the Worcester and Birmingham Canal through rolling fields, woodland and quiet villages with welcoming pubs.

On the outskirts of the ‘City of canals’ as Birmingham is romantically labelled, you’ll pass through Bourneville where the canal takes you within touching distance of the old Cadbury chocolate factory. Now Cadbury World, this celebration of all things chocolate is a guaranteed hit with the kids.

Continue to the historic Gas Street Basin right in the city centre, from where you can access all Birmingham’s most famous attractions including the National Sea Life Centre, which is a great day out for the whole family.

 

Great Haywood to Froghall

Jump aboard a narrowboat at Great Haywood and head north west on the Trent and Mersey canal, following the River Trent valley.

To ease you into boating life gently there is a long stretch with no locks, passing through tranquil meadows and the pretty villages of Weston, Salt and Sandon which boast good pubs for a pit stop. After a few more miles, you reach your first lock at Aston, then proceed through more luscious countryside to the historic market town of Stone, which has some great canalside pubs, restaurants and a monthly farmers market.

It is then just seven miles until you reach the towns that make up Stoke on Trent and The Potteries. At Barlaston, you pass the Wedgewood factory with its World of Wedgewood visitor centre offering factory tours, a museum and craft and decorating studios where visitors can test out their talent on the pottery wheel.

The last few miles before you branch off east on the Caldon Canal in Stoke on Trent are dominated by old factories and warehouses, brick furnaces alongside more modern buildings. The Caldon Canal will take you into the picturesque Churnet Valley to Froghall. Here the kids are in for a real treat for it is just a short bus ride to Alton Towers, the UK’s biggest theme park, just make sure you book your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment!

 

Bunbury to Chester

The Shropshire Union Canal is renowned to be one of the most unspoilt scenic of canals, making it a favourite with narrowboaters from all over the UK.

From Bunbury, cruise north across the expansive open country of the Cheshire Plain past the medieval ruins of Beeston Castle looking down from its rocky crag which offers views all the way to the Pennines. Run by English Heritage and surrounded by a 40-acre woodland park, this is a great place to take the kids. Stop off for refreshment at the canal side Shady Oak Pub, next to Bate’s Mill Bridge, before heading north again.

The canal snakes its way through more green and pleasant farmland until reaching Christleton, a charming village on the edge of Chester with a traditional green surrounded by historic houses.

But most people will be impatient to get to Chester itself, one of the most beautiful cities in the UK, steeped in history. The canal takes you right into the centre of the city, with its cluster of 700-year-old buildings, great shops, restaurants and cafes, and stunning sandstone cathedral all encircled by the imposing medieval city walls.

Take the children to Chester Zoo where you can admire more than 21,000 endangered and exotic animals in the 125 acres of beautiful gardens. This is said to be the most visited tourist attraction in the UK outside of London.

 

Stockton to Warwick

Leaving our Stockton base, the Grand Union Canal descends through the Stockton Locks to reach the village of Long Itchington where you can reward your hard work at one of the two canalside pub, the Two Boats Inn and The Cuttle Inn.

The canal proceeds through gentle Warwickshire countryside until reaching elegant Royal Leamington Spa with its fine examples of Regency and Victorian architecture and ornate parks like Jephson Gardens. The Leamington Spa Spy Mission Trail is a great way to keep the kids entertained while you explore the town.

From here it is a stone’s throw to Warwick itself, with its unique combination of medieval, Queen Anne and Victorian buildings, all overlooked by the enormity of Warwick Castle. Taking you back in time more than 1000 years with its castle ruins, gruesome dungeons, live bird of prey displays and Horrible Histories maze, you could easily spend the whole day at the castle. But make sure you leave time to explore the historic delights of the town itself including the 14th century Lord Leicester Hospital, St Mary’s Church and The Mill Garden on the banks of the River Avon.

 

*Monkton Combe to Bristol

From Monkton Combe on the Kennet and Avon Canal you skirt the tail end of the Cotswold Hills to reach the famously beautiful city of Bath which, as a tourist honeypot, has plenty of family friendly activities from mini golf to glass making.

In Bath, you leave the canal to join the wider flowing waters of the River Avon which winds its way through gorgeous countryside first to Saltford, where the riverside Jolly Sailor Pub makes a good stop off, then on towards Bristol.

On the outskirts of the city you will pass Beese’s Riverside Bar and Tea Gardens with its idyllic secretive setting on the riverbank hemmed in by woodland. Try and ensure you’re hungry – or thirsty – so you have an excuse to stop.

After this the city begins to close in upon the river as you enter the old industrial area before turning off at Feeder Road to lock into the historic floating harbor. You can then cruise right into Bristol’s vibrant centre where you are within easy walking distance of the hugely popular We The Curious (formerly At-Bristol) science centre, the incredible SS Great Britain or M Shed with its varied exhibits, all designed to appeal to the little ones. If that’s not enough, catch a bus or taxi to Clifton where you can take the children to Bristol Zoo, with its 400 species of rare animals, 12 acres of gardens, water play area and aerial ropes course ending in an exciting zip wire.

*This route is only recommended for experienced boaters due to the tidal River.

 

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Anglo Welsh’s Top 8 October Half Term Breaks

  1. Step back in time at the Black Country Living Museum at Dudley… from our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s an eight-hour, three-lock journey to moorings outside the 26-acre open-air Black Country Living Museum. Here visitors can step back in time and meet costumed characters explaining what it was like to live and work in one of the world’s most heavily industrialised landscapes, explore period shops and homes, have a drink in the ‘Bottle & Glass Inn’ and take a ride on a vintage tram or bus. ***For the Kids – enjoy a trip ‘into the thick’ experiencing life in an 1850s coal mine, have a ride on the fun fair, attend a Victorian school lesson and sample the Museum’s famous traditionally cooked Fish & Chips. Special Halloween-themed Half Term activities include critter-themed trails, tales, street games, crafts and a visit to the Quack Doctor who will be cashing in on the dirt and disease of the 19th century!
  2. See the dinosaurs at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History… from our Oxford base, it’s a tranquil three-hour cruise along the River Thames to moorings at Hythe Bridge, perfect for a short break exploring Oxford, including the University’s Museum of Natural History. Housed in a stunning example of neo-Gothic architecture, this fascinating museum holds the University’s internationally significant collections of geological and zoological specimens, including the Oxfordshire dinosaurs, the Dodo and ‘swifts in the tower’. ***For the Kids – the Museum’s October half term activities ‘Through the Lens’ offers the chance to explore the Museum through the eyes of people and animals with exciting activities all about vision and photography. Drop-in sessions run from Mon 24 October to Weds 26 October, 1-4pm.
  3. Drink the magic waters at Bath’s Roman Baths… from our base on the Kennet & Avon Canal in the historic town of Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, boaters can reach Bath Top Lock in just six hours. From there, it’s a 15-minute walk to Bath City Centre and the fascinating Romans Baths. Constructed around 70 AD to take advantage of the site’s natural hot springs, this magnificent Roman bathing complex and temple built in honour of the goddess of Sulis Minerva, is now one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world. ***For the Kids – meet Roman costumed characters and listen to their ancient stories, see the fearsome Temple Gorgon’s head animation, take a sip of spa water in the Pump Room believed to have healing powers and play the interactive ‘Roman Rush’ tax collecting game. ‘The Big Draw: Ex Libris’ is the Museum’s special half term activity, offering families the chance to learn a bit of Latin and make a Roman bookmark, 24-28 October, 10am-1pm & 2pm-4pm.
  4. Mess with mechanical art in Stratford upon Avon… from our base at Wootton Wawen on the narrow Stratford Canal in Henley in Arden, it’s a delightful six-hour, 17-lock cruise journey through the Warwickshire countryside to Bancroft Basin, in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. From here, the machine-infested MAD (Mechanical Art & Design) Museum, with over 100 pieces of Kinetic Art and Automata from artists around the World, is within easy reach. ***For the Kids – mechanical art is loud, fun and interactive and kids are encouraged to press buttons and be hands-on with the machines on display, subtly teaching them about design, physics and maths.
  5. Visit rare British livestock breeds at the Shugborough Estate… just a few miles along the Trent & Mersey Canal from our base at Great Haywood, near Stafford, canal boat holiday-makers can stop-off at the stunning Shugborough Historic Estate. Once the home of Lord Patrick Lichfield, this Georgian Manor house with magnificent riverside grounds, is now the UK’s only Complete Working Historic Estate, with working kitchens, dairy, water mill, Brewhouse and Farm, all manned by historic costumed guides. Shugborough is also one of just 20 Rare Breeds Survival Trust Farms in the UK, home to breeds rarer than the Giant Panda, including Boreray sheep and Middle White Pigs. ***For the Kids – ride on the Land Train, visit the Play Park and interactive learning gallery at the Georgian Park Farm, take a woodland walk, watch costumed characters cheese-making, milling, brewing and baking, and see the reconstructed Victorian schoolroom and puppet collection.
  6. Take a trip up ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’ from our base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury, the incredible Anderton Boat Lift is a nine-hour, 10-lock cruise away. Perched on the banks of the River Weaver Navigation like a giant three-storey high iron spider, the Anderton Boat Lift lifts boats 50ft from the River Weaver Navigation up to the Trent & Mersey Canal in two giant water tanks. No description can adequately convey the sheer scale of this masterpiece of Victorian engineering! ***For the Kids – interactive and cinematic visitor centre, watch the workings of the lift control centre and Edwin Clark boat trips.
  7. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’… just five minutes by boat from our canal boat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. Its cast iron trough is supported on iron arched ribs and carried 38 metres high above the Dee Valley on 19 hollow pillars. In 2009 it was granted World Heritage status, putting it on an equal footing with the Great Barrier Reef and Taj Mahal. On a short break from Trevor, boaters can cross the aqueduct and continue east to reach the Ellesmere Lakes, teaming with wildlife and return back across the aqueduct to Llangollen to visit the town’s historic Steam Railway. ***For the Kids – Take the Halloween Train on 30 October at 6.30pm spooky story telling through the dark and creepy Dee Valley. Book in advance, adult tickets £16, children £10.
  8. Cruise to the Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne… from our Stockton base on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, the pretty canalside village of Stoke Bruerne with its intriguing Canal Museum, is 13 hours and 17 locks away. Housed in an historic corn mill, the Canal Museum offers a treasure trove of canal curiosities, including fascinating films, canal craft collections, models of working boats and displays all about the history of our waterways, from the great engineers and the navvies who created them to the boat families, leggers and lock keepers who lived and worked on them. While in Stoke Bruerne, visitors can also enjoy waterside pubs, woodland walks, towpath history trails and a wildlife reserve in the former brickworks. ***For the Kids – dress in traditional canal costume, visit the re-creation of a boat builder’s workshop, explore historic working boat ‘Sculptor’, watch early footage of working boats and visit the waterside café.

 

To make a booking or to get friendly advice on canal holidays, please call our Booking Office on 0117 304 1122.

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‘Messing about in boats’ – there’s really nothing better!

“Believe me my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” So says Ratty to Mole in Kenneth Grahame’s classic novel ‘The Wind in the Willows’. To which the 150,000 people who take a canal holiday in the UK every year can only respond: “And so say all of us!”

Everyone who hires a narrowboat will have their own passions when it comes to messing about on the water, but with Ratty otherwise engaged, here are a few reasons why the Anglo Welsh team believe waterway holidays are an incomparable experience.

Relaxation. No traffic jams, no customs, no connecting flights, no noisy neighbours. Above all, no stress. Is there any better way to unwind on holiday than to meander along a canal surrounded by England’s green and pleasant land (not forgetting some wonderful Welsh landscapes)?

All the mod cons. The days when canal jaunts meant sleepless nights in uncomfortable cabins are long gone. Anglo Welsh’s fleet of 160 modern narrowboats offer all the creature comforts: fully-equipped kitchens, gas central heating, high spec showers, TVs, bedding, towels, even free wi-fi*.

Kids love canals. A family adventure on a narrowboat is an experience your children, or grandchildren, will cherish for the rest of their lives. Younger kids love pottering about on boats; even teenagers have been known to surrender their mobiles and muck in at the locks. And eating together as a family means leisurely meals on board, not fast food at McDonald’s (though ‘big kids’ often prefer traditional pub lunches in canal-side pubs!).

Doggy heaven. Dogs like canal holidays even more than us humans. Fresh air, new smells, plenty of countryside stops for bracing walks, maybe even the odd swim. Up to two well-behaved dogs are welcome on all of Anglo Welsh boats. Just keep Fido away from the swans!

It’s better than the zoo. Britain’s canals boast a staggering range of habitats and wildlife. Swans, mallard ducks, moorhens, coots, herons, kingfishers; water voles (like the slightly confused ‘Ratty’), otters, frogs; dragonflies, butterflies. No tigers, but no cages either.

No experience, no problem. One of Anglo Welsh’s experienced instructors will show you how to start the engine, fill up with water, steer, slow down, moor up and navigate locks. You’ll be amazed how straightforward it all is.

Location, Location, Location. Anglo Welsh has 11 bases in prime locations across the inland waterways of England and Wales. Our routes pass through rural idylls galore and historical towns and cities like Bath, Oxford, Birmingham and Stratford-upon-Avon.

Something for every budget. Long holidays, 3-day weekends, midweek getaways; 2-4-berths, 5-8 berths, 9-12 berths; there is a narrowboat experience for every type of holidaymaker and for every budget, including money-saving offers for under 12s and over 60s bookings for next season (until the end of Jan 2017), and flotilla discounts, loyalty discounts and armed forces discounts all year round.

And finally, to pinch another quote from ‘The Wind in the Willows’: “Here today, up and off to somewhere else tomorrow! Travel, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that’s always changing!”

*Wi-fi is free up to 1GB per week and subject to the signal.

To make a booking or to get friendly advice on canal holidays, please call our Booking Office on 0117 304 1122.

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Be Inspired

We offer a range of different types of holidays such as City Breaks, Relaxation Cruises and Popular Destinations

City Breaks
Rural retreats
Popular places

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.

Anglo Welsh. So much more than narrowboats

...but don't just take our word for it

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