Cruising rings are great because they take in a wide variety of landscapes, and bring you back to your narrowboat hire base without having to travel the same way twice.
Some are seriously challenging, with steep flights of locks and long dark tunnels to negotiate. Others are easier and more suitable for boating beginners.
All offer a wonderful summer holiday adventure and the chance to explore some of Britain’s best loved countryside, as well as vibrant city centres, from your very own floating holiday home.
Here’s a guide to our top eight narrowboat holiday summer circuits to explore:
1. The Black Country Ring
Setting off from our canal boat rental base at Great Haywood or Tardebigge, the Black Country Ring can be done in a week. You’ll cruise sections of the Birmingham & Fazeley, Birmingham Main Line, Coventry, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Trent & Mersey canals. Highlights include: Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin; the 21 locks at Wolverhampton; and the peaceful waters at Tixall Wide. To complete the Black Country Ring from Tardebigge, you will travel 104 miles, passing through 79 locks, which will take around 53 hours. From Great Haywood it’s 75 miles, 79 locks and takes 43 hours.
2. The Four Counties Ring
Departing from our bases at Great Haywood, Bunbury or Whixall, this popular circuit can be completed on a 10-day or two-week break. It takes you through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire. Highlights include: the 2670-metre long Harecastle Tunnel; the flight of 15 locks at Audlem; views of the rolling Cheshire Plains; and the Roman town of Middlewich. To complete the Four Counties Ring from Great Haywood, you will travel 110 miles, pass through 94 locks, which will take around 55 hours. From Bunbury, it will be 115 miles, 96 locks and 58 hours. From Whixall, it’s 137 miles, 132 locks and 86 hours.
3. The Cheshire Ring
From our Bunbury base, you can complete the Cheshire Ring on a 10-day or two-week break. The journey will take you right through the heart of Manchester and into the Peak District via the Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals. Highlights along the way include: the incredible Anderton Boat Lift; stunning views of the Peak District; and Manchester’s China Town. To complete the Cheshire Ring from Bunbury, you will travel 122 miles and pass through 102 locks, which takes around 86 hours.
4. The Stourport Ring
Navigating from Tardebigge, the Stourport Ring can be completed in a week. The route takes in sections of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire, Worcester & Birmingham, Birmingham Main Line and Stourbridge canals. It also travels a short section of the beautiful River Severn, Britain’s longest river. Highlights include: cruising through central Birmingham; Kinver with its National Trust rock houses; the City of Worcester with its magnificent cathedral; and the dramatic flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge, the longest in the country. To complete the Stourport Ring from Tardebigge, you will travel 84 miles and pass through 118 locks in around 52 hours.
5. The Warwickshire Ring
Setting off from Stockton, you can complete the Warwickshire Ring in a week. You’ll travel along sections of the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals. Highlights include: the flight of 11 locks into Atherstone; the pretty canal village of Braunston; the awesome flight of 21 locks at Hatton; and Warwick Castle. To complete the Warwickshire Ring from Stockton, you will travel 104 miles and pass through 94 locks in around 53 hours.
6. The Birmingham Mini-Ring
With more canals than Venice, exploring the Birmingham area by boat is one of the best ways to experience Britain’s vibrant second city. You can complete the Birmingham Mini-Ring on a four-night short break from Tardebigge. The route takes in sections of the Worcester & Birmingham, Birmingham Main Line and Grand Union canals. Highlights include: the historic village of Bournville, home of Cadbury’s chocolate; Gas Street Basin in central Birmingham; and the flight of 13 locks at Farmers Bridge. To complete the Birmingham Mini-Ring from Tardebigge, you will travel 45 miles and pass through 49 locks, which takes around 27 hours.
7. The Avon Ring
You can complete this epic circuit on a two week break from Tardebigge or Wootton Wawen. The journey navigates sections of the Stratford Canal, River Avon, River Severn and Worcester & Birmingham Canal. Highlights include: Shakespeare’s Stratford; the River Avon with its panoramic views; the charming historic town of Evesham; the Cotswold medieval town of Tewskesbury; the City of Worcester with its magnificent cathedral; and the flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge. To complete the Avon Ring from either Tardebigge or Wootton Wawen, you will travel 109 miles and pass through 131 locks, which will take around 58 hours.
8. The East Midlands Ring
On a two week break from Stockton you can complete the East Midlands Ring, also known as the Leicester Ring. You’ll travel sections of the Birmingham & Fazeley, Coventry, Oxford, Trent & Mersey and Grand Union canals, as well as the rivers Soar and Trent. Highlights include: Saddlington Tunnel; the Foxton Staircase; the pretty canal village of Stoke Bruerne with its Canal Museum; Blisworth Tunnel; the 11 locks at Atherstone; the City of Coventry; and the historic village of Shardlow. To complete the East Midlands Ring from Stockton, you will travel 170 miles and pass through 107 locks in around 84 hours.
Best boating holidays for beginners in the West Midlands
Birmingham famously has more canals than Venice, so a canal boat holiday is a great way to explore the West Midlands area.
Our canal boat hire bases at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, and Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, offer a great choice of routes for beginners.
Whether you want to experience a rural retreat afloat, or cruise into the heart of Birmingham, there are dozens of destinations to choose from.
You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat and tuition is included in our holiday hire.
To celebrate the hundreds of miles of waterways and exciting waterside destinations available in the Birmingham area, we’ve published a guide to our top five short breaks for beginners:
1. Navigate to the Black Country Living Museum, home of the Peaky Blinders
From our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge, it’s an eight-and-a-half hour, three-lock journey to the Black Country Living Museum. Scenes for all six series of the BBC’s epic gangster drama Peaky Blinders were filmed at the 26-acre Museum. As well as walking in the footsteps of the Shelbys, you can explore period shops and homes and have a drink in the ‘Bottle & Glass Inn’. You can also sample the Museum’s famous traditionally cooked 1930’s-style fish and chips and take a trip ‘into the thick’ to experience life in an 1850’s coal mine.
2. Moor up to see a play in Shakespeare’s Stratford
From our canal boat rental base at Wootton Wawen, you can reach Stratford upon Avon on a weekend or mid-week break. There are moorings in the centre of town in Bancroft Basin, next to Bancroft Gardens and the Royal Shakespeare Company. This year’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre productions include As You Like It and Macbeth. Bancroft Basin is just a short walk from Stratford’s excellent choice of shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants, including Carluccios. From Wootton Wawen, it takes around six hours, to reach Shakespeare’s Stratford, passing through 17 locks.
3. Cruise through the countryside to Packwood House
On a short break from Tardebigge, you can cruise to the village of Lapworth, home of the National Trust’s Tudor Manor house, Packwood House. The journey takes you along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, through the Worcestershire countryside and the remains of the Forest of Arden, to Kings Norton Junction. Next, the route transfers onto the Stratford Canal to reach moorings in Lapworth. From there, it’s a short walk to the 16th century Packwood House, with 150 acres of parkland to explore and stunning gardens, including the famous Yew Garden. The journey to Lapworth takes around seven hours and passes through two tunnels. There are no locks on this route.
4. Moor up in the heart of Birmingham and visit the National SEA LIFE Centre
Departing from Tardebigge, it’s a five-hour, lock-free journey to moorings at Gas Street Basin in Birmingham City Centre. Here you are close to Brindleyplace and its National SEA LIFE Centre. The Centre is home to the UK’s only 360o Ocean Tunnel where you can marvel at sharks, a giant turtle, rays and hundreds of tropical fish. You can also see a group of Gentoo penguins, a pair of sea otters and a fascinating variety of jellyfish.
5. Cruise to the base of the magnificent Hatton Locks
On a short break from Wootton Wawen, you can cruise north along the Stratford Canal, transferring onto the Grand Union Canal to reach the bottom of the flight of 21 locks at Hatton. This lock impressive lock flight is nick-named the ‘Stairway to Heaven’. This is because of the hard work involved in the ascent, followed by an easy run to Camp Hill where the working boat men and women were once paid. Today the journey to Hatton takes you through the Warwickshire countryside and past a series of villages with country pubs. These include: the canalside Fleur de Lys at Lowsonford; and the Navigation Inn at Rowington. From Wootton Wawen, it takes around eight hours to reach the base of the Hatton flight, passing through 17 locks along the way.
Celebrate the King’s Coronation with a boat trip across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
Across all three May bank holiday weekends, including the King’s Coronation weekend (6-8 May), our ‘Little Star’ trip boat will be operating five trips a day, offering the chance to enjoy skippered cruises across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
Also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’, at 300 metres long and 39 metres high, the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain.
Opening in 1805, it took over 500 men and 10 years to build, using wooden scaffolding and simple cranes.
In 2009 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, putting it on a par with the pyramids in Egypt and the Taj Mahal in India.
Our ‘Little Star’ daily boat trips across the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct offer the chance to cruise across this incredible structure and to experience amazing views across the Dee Valley, and make some fantastic family memories celebrating the King’s Coronation weekend.
Our knowledgeable team provides commentary on board about the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the Llangollen Canal, which is a great way to learn more about the fascinating history of the site as you cruise gently along.
Trips depart daily at 11am, 12 noon, 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm from Canal Wharf, Trevor, Llangollen LL20 7TT.
‘Little Star’ (‘Seren Fach’ in Welsh) offers space for up to 48 passengers. Adult tickets are priced at £10 each, children (aged under 16) are priced at £6. Family tickets for two adults and two children are priced at £25 each. Refreshments are available to purchase on board, including hot and cold drinks.
Try canal boating at one of our free open day events
On Sunday 23 April 2023, we are offering people the chance to try canal boating for free at six of our canal boat hire bases across England and Wales.
The taster sessions, which are part of the Drifters national open day event, will include free short trips on skippered narrowboats, and the opportunity to look round holiday-hire boats at some locations.
Our open day events will be on from 11am to 4pm at the following locations:
Spring is a fantastic time to take a narrowboat holiday on Britain’s beautiful inland waterways, when the countryside is bursting with new life.
With blossoming waterside trees and hedges, busy nest-building birds, ducklings bobbing on the water, spring lambs playing in the fields, and carpets of bluebells in waterside woodlands, there’s so much to look out for on a Spring adventure afloat.
To celebrate Spring and the wildlife that makes its home on our canals and rivers, we’ve put together our Top 10 Spring canal boat holiday destinations for 2023:
1. Drift through the beautiful prehistoric Vale of Pewsey
On a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Monkton Coombe you can cruise through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You’ll travel along the Kennet & Avon Canal passing through miles of peaceful Wiltshire countryside, and a series of villages and country pubs along the way. You’ll travel up the mighty Caen Hill Flight of 29 locks at Devizes and along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest and then on through the Vale of Pewsey. The journey to Pewsey and back takes around 38 hours, passing through 74 locks (37 each way).
2. Cruise to the gateway of the Yorkshire Dales to explore Skipton Castle Woods
From our barge holiday hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal it takes just over three hours to reach Skipton, the ‘Gateway to the Dales’. Here, Skipton Castle Woods with acres of woodlands trails, is a great place to explore in the Spring. For nearly a thousand years the woods provided fuel, food and building materials for castle inhabitants. Today there are at least 18 species of trees flourishing there, and hundreds of flowering plants, including wild orchids and bluebells in the Spring. The journey along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Silsden passes through the typical Yorkshire stone built villages of Kildwick and Farnhill. And on into a dense wooded area famous for its bluebells and deer. The journey to Silsden and back travels 13 miles and takes around seven cruising hours.
3. Travel to Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains
On a week-long holiday from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire you can reach the pretty town of Llangollen. Along the way, you’ll travel through the beautiful Shropshire Lake District and across the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Once in Llangollen, you can moor up to enjoy exploring this pretty town nestled on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains. There are regular markets packed with local produce, a choice of independent shops and restaurants, and the famous Horseshoe Falls. The journey to Llangollen and back takes around 24 cruising hours, and passes through just four locks (two each way).
4. Wend your way to Fradley Pool Nature Reserve
On a short break from our base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood near Stafford, you can reach Fradley Pool Nature Reserve. Fradley Pool is home to a variety of water birds and it’s a great place to spot bats swooping across the water at dusk. There are walking trails, sculpture trails, places to picnic and a choice of places to eat and drink, including the historic Swan Inn. The journey to Fradley and back travels 24 miles, passes through 10 locks (five each way) and takes around 12 hours.
5. Navigate the Four Counties Ring for stunning views of the Cheshire Plains
On a week or 10-day break from our narrowboat rental base at Bunbury you can cruise the popular Four Counties Ring through some of England’s best loved countryside. The route takes you through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire. It cruises sections of the Trent & Mersey, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Shropshire Union canals. There panoramic views to enjoy from the flight of 31 locks between Middlewich and Kidsgrove on the Trent & Mersey Canal. And stunning views of the rolling Cheshire Plains on the Shropshire Union Canal. From Bunbury, completing the Four Counties Ring takes around 58 cruising hours and passes through 96 locks.
6. Take part in #BlossomWatch at Packwood House
On a short break from our Tardebigge base near Bromsgrove, you can cruise to the village of Lapworth, home of the National Trust’s Packwood House. The route takes you through the Worcestershire countryside along the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal to Kings Norton Junction. There you can transfer onto the Stratford Canal to reach the village of Lapworth. At Packwood House every Spring blossom spreads across the garden and parkland, including on the cherry and apple trees in the orchard. The National Trust’s #BlossomWatch invites visitors to share pictures of spring blossom on social media. The journey to Lapworth and back takes around 14 hours.
7. Enjoy bird spotting at Ellesmere in the heart of Shropshire Lake District
From our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, on a short break you can reach the medieval market town of Ellesmere. Along the way, you’ll cross over the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, 38 metres high above the Dee Valley. The Mere at Ellesmere is a large lake packed with wildlife. There are woodland walks, places to eat, drink and picnic, a sculpture trail and adventure playground. You can spot many of types of birds, including kingfishers, yellow hammers, tree sparrows, lapwing, sand martins and ringed plovers. There are also wading birds such as curlew, greenshank, godwit and whimbrel, as well as herons using the heronry on Moscow Island. The journey to Ellesmere and back takes around 14 hours and passes through four locks (two each way).
8. Cruise along the River Thames past riverside woodlands and meadows
On a short break from our Oxford base, you can enjoy a Thames boating holiday to the historic market town of Abingdon. Along the way, you’ll cruise through the outskirts of the ancient City of Oxford. Then on through beautiful stretches of Oxfordshire countryside, with lush riverside meadows and the chance to hear cuckoos calling. There are also riverside woodlands with carpets of bluebells to look out for. Once moored up at Abingdon, you can enjoy exploring riverside walks, parks and eateries, including the popular waterside Nag’s Head. The journey to Abingdon and back takes around 10 hours, passing through 12 locks (six each way).
9. Travel through the Northamptonshire countryside to Stoke Bruerne
On a mid-week or week-long break from our base at Stockton, you can cruise to the pretty Northamptonshire village of Stoke Bruerne. The journey along the Grand Union Canal takes you gently through the countryside and the 2,813-metre long Blisworth Tunnel. You can moor up in Stoke Bruerne to enjoy a choice of canalside pubs and browsing the intriguing waterway history collections at the Canal Museum. And there’s a wonderful woodland walk and sculpture trail alongside the canal to explore, with the chance to spot a wide variety of woodland birds. The journey to Stoke Bruerne and back takes around 25 hours and passes through 34 locks (17 each way).
10. Navigate the Avon Ring through some of England’s best loved countryside
On a 10-day break from Wootton Wawen, you can complete the Avon Ring. This 109-mile circuit travels through some of the most beautiful countryside in England. You’ll first travel along the pretty Stratford Canal to Shakespeare’s Stratford. Here you can transfer onto the River Avon to begin cruising through idyllic countryside, to Evesham and Tewkesbury, with panoramic views of Warwickshire and the Cotswolds beyond. At Tewkesbury you’ll lock onto the River Severn, and later transfer onto the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal at Diglis. Completing the Avon Ring from Wootton Wawen takes around 58 hours and passes through 131 locks.
Enjoy a Mother’s Day boat trip across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
Emma Lovell, Reservations Manager for Anglo Welsh, explains why a boat trip across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is a great way to treat Mums this Mother’s Day.
Across the Mother’s Day Weekend (18-19 March 2023) our ‘Little Star’ trip boat will be operating skippered cruises across the UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
The 45-minute return trips will take passengers along the Llangollen Canal and across the incredible 38-metre-high Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to enjoy amazing views across the Dee Valley.
‘Little Star’ trips will depart at 11am, 12 noon, 1.30pm and 2.30pm on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 March.
Treat your Mum to an unforgettable experience
Spending time with the family doing something special is one of the loveliest ways to treat your Mum on Mother’s Day. And a trip across the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is an unforgettable experience to enjoy together.
As you cruise gently along, our knowledgeable team provides commentary on board about the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the history of the Llangollen Canal. Refreshments are available to purchase on board, including hot and cold drinks.
Daily trips commence from 1 April 2023
From 1 April to 30 September 2023, ‘Little Star’ (‘Seren Fach’ in Welsh) will be operating five trips every day, firmly establishing the trip boat as a ‘must do’ experience at this incredible World Heritage site.
Trips will depart at 11am, 12 noon, 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm
‘Little Star’ offers space for up to 48 passengers. Adult tickets are priced at £10 each, children (aged under 16) are priced at £6. Family tickets for two adults and two children are priced at £25 each.
Trips depart from Canal Wharf, Trevor, Llangollen LL20 7TT. Booking in advance is advised.
We offer a range of different types of holidays such as City Breaks, Relaxation Cruises and Popular Destinations
So why choose Anglo Welsh?
Over 55 years providing unique canal boat holidays in England and Wales.
Modern and spacious narrowboat and wide beam barge hire – from 2 to 12 berths.
Wide choice of narrowboat hire locations and canal boat holiday destinations.
Canal boat holiday routes for novices & experienced boaters.
Flexible holiday booking, no hidden costs.
Family friendly and pet friendly holidays.
Great days out on the water.
Luxury canal boat hire and Thames boating holidays.
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