It is well documented that stress is bad for the health – both mental and physical. Stress has been linked to high blood pressure, raised cholesterol levels, heart disease, depression and much more. Yet many aspects of our busy modern lives contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety. This makes it all the more important to take time out to relax and decompress away from your usual responsibilities and pressures.
A canal boat holiday offers the perfect antidote to the rush and bustle of the day to day. Few things can be as soothing as slowing your pace of life down to a steady three miles an hour and travelling back in time on waterways built in an age before the train or motorcar. Our historic canals will take you through stunning countryside, past welcoming waterside pubs and majestic stately homes into the heart of some of Britain’s most fascinating and beautiful cities.
So if you are feeling in need of some tranquility and calm, book yourself a narrowboat holiday from any one of our 11 canal boat hire bases dotted across England and Wales.
All Anglo Welsh’s holiday canal barges are designed with your comfort and enjoyment in mind. We have a wide range of rental narrowboats of differing styles and sizes so you can choose the barge best suited to your canal holiday wishes.
But it is not just boating on the waterways that is good for your health, there are many other canal based activities that promote mental and physical wellbeing. These activities link to the five key steps to enhancing wellbeing according to research by the New Economic Foundation:
A mounting body of evidence shows that human connection is a vital component of wellbeing. Canals are wonderfully sociable places with everyone, whether on the water or the towpath, giving one another a wave and a smile as they pass. So, whether you go out walking, cycling or boating along the canals, you will quickly be welcomed into a friendly community of people who share a love of these beautiful inland waterways.
You can also get involved with the Canal and River Trust volunteers who give up their time to help care for and maintain the canals from painting and planting to litter picking and wildlife surveying. Alternatively, head along to one of the many wonderful events that take place along the canals with everything from group walks to photo exhibitions, special cruises and behind the scenes heritage days.
If you are on a canal boat holiday you are likely to find yourself mooring up alongside or in close proximity to other narrowboats and sharing locks. One of the joys of a narrowboat trip is making friends with fellow boaters. There is a great camaraderie on the canals so enjoy being part of it.
Most of us are far too sedentary in our daily lives due to office based jobs, cars and of course, the lure of television. While it may seem more relaxing to lounge on a sofa than get outside for a walk, the opposite is true. There is lots of research to show that exercise is one of the best ways to tackle stress, promote good sleep and boost mental wellbeing in addition to the countless physical benefits it brings.
The canals offer ideal routes for walking, running or cycling away from the noise and fumes of the roads, with more than 2000 miles of well laid towpaths snaking through green and luscious countryside.
During your canal boat holiday, step ashore and walk alongside the narrowboat for a while to stretch your legs. Since the boats cruise at walking pace, you can easily keep pace. Alternatively moor up and head off exploring on foot as there are many lovely circular walking routes to be enjoyed all the way along the waterways. With so many great pubs, historic sights, villages and towns dotted along the canals you can almost always incorporate a drink or lunch stop into your walk, run or cycle.
Exercise in virtually any circumstances will always promote good health but exercise in gorgeous tranquil surroundings is even more rejuvenating to mind, body and soul.
The new trend for mindfulness is all about being present in the moment and aware of your surroundings rather than being constantly distracted by your mobile or anything else. Mobile technology has meant we spend a worrying proportion of our lives with our minds fixed on a small screen rather than taking in our surroundings while the pressures of work mean we are often running through future or past to do lists rather than simply living in the moment.
A canal boat holiday is a chance to put on your out of office, switch off that phone, ignore those emails, sit back and admire the wonders of the British countryside and some of our finest towns and cities from Oxford and Bath to Chester and Birmingham.
One of the joys of a canal holiday is that you are constantly on the move so there is always something new to look at, rare wildlife to spot, another lock to navigate, a swing bridge that needs working, a night-time mooring to locate, a pub with local ale to sample and more. With changing surroundings and a narrowboat to navigate, you will find yourself completely absorbed in the moment.
The same applies to any other canal based activities from walking to kayaking – they all offer an opportunity to disconnect from your inbox and absorb what is before you giving your mind a much needed refresh.
Continued learning keeps the mind sharp and boosts self-esteem, according to wellbeing studies.
One of the joys of the canals is that aside from their beauty, they are part of our national heritage and thus offer a wealth of learning opportunities for those who are interested. The canals provide insight into the transformation of Britain into the world’s first industrialised nation, they are integral to the history of many of the towns and villages they pass through and they showcase historic feats of engineering which represented the cutting edge of innovation in their time.
Nowadays the canals also offer wildlife enthusiasts ample opportunity to learn about the many rare plants and animals which grace their waters and banks.
The Canal and River Trust host dozens of events throughout the year such as talks, guided tours and exhibitions where you can learn all sorts of amazing facts about the inland waterways, their history and their present upkeep. If this is not enough, get yourself along to one of the National Waterways Museums in Ellesmere Port and Gloucester Docks, the Canal Museum or the visitor centres at the Anderton Boat Lift, the Standedge Tunnel or the soaring Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Away from the waterways themselves, there are also endless fascinating places to visit all along their routes so you’ll never be bored, there’s always something to learn along the canals.
The canals are actually busier today than at any other time in their history with around 34,000 boats gracing their waters, providing homes, workplaces or simply holiday escapes like our own narrowboats. If you are able to give any time towards helping look after these much used and loved resources, you will be helping enhance the lives of millions of people who enjoy them every year. Most of the volunteering is also great fun, involving getting outdoors and active with likeminded people doing their bit to keep the canals in good working order.
At Anglo Welsh we are hugely grateful to all the people who contribute to these waterways which enable all our guests to enjoy magical canal boat holidays year after year.
Saints days and national holidays are a great excuse to get together with friends and family to enjoy some quality time out.
What better way to celebrate than to take a holiday on Britain’s beautiful canal network, enjoying a peaceful rural escape or visiting an exciting waterside town or city.
Here at Anglo Welsh we love to celebrate feast days and national holidays, so we’ve put together some ideas for the best celebratory destinations afloat.
St David’s Day(1 March) – the feast day of St David, the patron saint of Wales falls on 1 March, the date of St David’s death in 589 AD, and it’s a public holiday in Wales. Saint David was a Celtic monk and the Archbishop of Wales. He spread the word of Christianity across Wales. The feast has been celebrated since the canonisation of David in the 12th century, by the wearing of leeks (Saint David’s symbol) and daffodils (the symbol of Wales). Traditional Welsh food is eaten, including cawl (a traditional Welsh soup made with lamb or beef and potatoes, swedes, carrots – and of course leeks) and Welsh rarebit (cheese sauce on toast).
To celebrate afloat, take a trip from our canal boat holiday base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, and glide across the towering Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which this year celebrates 10 years of World Heritage Status.
Or you could travel along the Leek Branch of the Caldon Canal to Leek in Staffordshire. Departing from our canal boat hire base at Great Heywood, you’d reach Leek in around 18 hours, travelling just over 30 miles and passing through 27 locks.
St Patrick’s Day (17 March) – Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was actually born in Roman Britain, sometime in the late 300s AD. Saint Patrick’s Day started as a religious celebration in the 17th century to commemorate the life of Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. This ‘Feast Day’ always took place on the anniversary of Patrick’s death, which was believed to be March 17, 461 AD. In 1903, the Feast Day became a national holiday in Ireland. These days, Saint Patrick’s Day is so popular it’s thought to be celebrated in more countries than any other national festival. Festivities include boisterous parades, Gaelic marching bands, Irish jigs, dressing up as leprechauns in shamrock hats and drinking lots of Guinness.
As we can’t ship you out to the Emerald Isle on board one of our boats, instead we are celebrating St Patrick’s Day by offering savings of £100 on all new bookings made and paid for by 17 March, regardless of the actual dates you choose for your holiday. And for extra touch of Irish-themed hospitality, we’ll welcome you on board with eight complimentary cans of Guinness.
St George’s Day (23 April 2019) – St George, the patron Saint of England, has captivated the imaginations of the British since the Crusades and the Hundred Years’ War. He was born sometime around the year 280 in what is now Turkey and became a Roman soldier famous for slaying a dragon. According to legend, the only well in the town of Silene (in modern day Libya) was guarded by a dragon, who demanded a human to be sacrificed in exchange for water. On the day St George visited, a princess had been chosen for the sacrifice, so to save her he slayed the dragon and gave the people access to water. St George’s Day falls on the anniversary of his death on 23 April 303, when he was executed for being a Christian. The flag of England with a red cross over a white background represents the St George’s Cross. Although it’s no longer a national holiday, people still like to celebrate the day with parades, Morris Dancers, flag flying, Punch and Judy shows and by eating fish and chips!
To celebrate St George’s Day afloat, take to the water with St George’s Cross flags flying and head to Oxford Castle to climb the Saxon St George’s Tower and enjoy amazing panoramic views over the historic City of Oxford. From our canal boat holiday rental base on the River Thames at Oxford, it takes just three-and-a-half hours, passing through four locks to reach moorings in Oxford City Centre, just a ten-minute walk from Oxford Castle & Prison.
Or book a break from our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove and head to the Black Country Museum to enjoy some traditional 1930s cooked fish and chips. The journey to the Black Country Museum takes around eight hours and passes through three locks.
Easter (Good Friday 19 April 2019, Easter Monday 22 April 2019) – On Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead after his crucifixion and burial, usually by going to Church. Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the Paschal Full Moon, which can fall anywhere between 22 March and 25 April. Easter eggs symbolise new life and the resurrection of Christ.
Easter is a great time to get afloat and explore the countryside as it bursts into life with new leaves, daffodils, bluebells, spring lambs and nesting birds and waterside attractions host special Easter holiday activities. For example, the canalside Cadbury World, home to the World’s biggest chocolate shop, will host an ‘Easter Eggstavaganza’ with a stage show starring Mr Cadbury’s Parrot, as well as an Easter Egg Trail. Cadbury World is just two hours away from our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge.
Or visit Bath Theatre Royal’s famous Egg Theatre. Setting off from our canal boat hire base at Brassknocker Basin just outside Bath, you can reach Bath City Centre in just four hours, passing through six locks.
May Day (6 May 2019) – the roots of May Day (1 May) can be traced back to the Dark Ages when the ancient Celts divided their year by four major festivals, including ‘Beltane’ or ‘the fire of Bel’, representing the first day of summer. May Day is associated with fun, revelry and fertility. The day would be marked with maypole dancing, the selection of the May Queen and the dancing figure of the Jack-in-the-Green at the head of a procession, a relic from when our ancestors worshipped trees. In the 16th century, the pagan May Day celebrations were banned by Church and State and Oliver Cromwell later passed legislation which saw the end of village maypoles. Dancing did not return to village greens until the restoration of Charles II. Today, some of the old customs have survived, including Morris dancing, maypole dancing and the crowning of a May queen.
The first May Bank Holiday is a great time to take to the water and enjoy Spring sunshine and verdant green trees, fields and hedgerows. May Day celebrations take place each year at Bancroft Basin in Stratford upon Avon, which can be reached in six hours from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen. And the St Richard’s Canal Festival takes place the first May bank holiday each year at Vines Park, alongside the Droitwich Barge Canal. Droitwich can be reached from our canal boat holiday base at Tardebigge in 11 hours.
Whitsun Late May Bank Holiday (27 May 2019) – in the past Whit Monday was a day off after Whit Sunday (which falls seven Sundays after Easter), commemorating the gift of the Holy Spirit to the followers of Jesus on the Day of Pentecost. After the disciples received the Holy Spirit in the form of flames, they began to out and preach about Jesus. In 1971 the Banking and Financial Dealings Act changed the date of the holiday to make it fall on the last Monday of May, rather than on the day after Whit Sunday.
Christians have traditionally taken part in Whit walks at Whitsun. Hundreds of footpaths and walking routes intersect with the canals, for example in Cheshire, the 16.5 mile long Eddisbury Way meets the Shropshire Union Canal close to Williamsons Bridge, four-and-a-half miles from our canal boat rental base at Bunbury. And the Shropshire Way meets the Llangollen Canal at Spark’s Bridge, close to the historic town of Whitchurch, six miles from our canal boat hire base at Whixall.
August Bank Holiday (26 August 2019) – also known as the Summer Bank Holiday, this falls on the last Monday of August, except in Scotland when it falls on the first Monday in August. In 1871, Sir John Lubbock introduced the Bank Holidays Act, starting the concept of holidays with pay. He designated four in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and five in Scotland, including a Summer Bank Holiday.
Escape crowded airports, congested roads and engineering works on the railways with a holiday afloat on the canals. Pottering along at just four miles an hour, soaking up the last of the summer sun, a holiday on Britain’s beautiful waterways is a great way to relax and see the countryside, as well as visit waterside attractions hosting special bank holiday events. For example, setting off from our canal boat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can reach moorings close to Warwick Castle in around seven hours, travelling through 20 locks. Over the August bank holiday weekend, Warwick Castle will be hosting its spectacular Dragon Slayer event, with fearless fire jousting, perilous stunt riding and epic battles with live actors, pyrotechnics and fireworks.
St. Andrews Day (30 November) – St Andrew’s Day is a public holiday in Scotland. St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, is considered to be Jesus’ first disciple. He was crucified on 30 November 60AD by order of the Roman governor Aegeas. He was tied to an X-shaped cross, represented by the white cross on the Scottish flag, the Saltire. St Andrews Day celebrations have been taking place in Scotland for over a thousand years. Today people celebrate by attending a ceilidh, by eating Cullen skink or lamb and by displaying the flag of St Andrew.
Christmas & New Year – Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. Christians celebrate 25 December as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, but celebrating the middle of winter has long been a celebration around the world. For example, in Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from 21 December, the winter solstice, through January.
Festivals and celebrations marking the beginning of the calendar have been around for thousands of years. Some are linked to agricultural or astronomical events. In Egypt for example, the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius.
Britain’s canals can offer a great antidote to the hustle and bustle of Christmas. We offer winter cruising* from four of our bases, giving you the chance to enjoy cosy evenings afloat, visit waterside pubs with roaring log fires, and wake-up to frosty towpaths and crisp clean air.
Whether it’s a snug boat for two or a family break for ten, celebrating Christmas or New Year afloat offers a great getaway. It’s free to moor almost anywhere on the network, so a narrowboat could provide the perfect base to enjoy new year celebrations in waterside towns and cities like Birmingham or Stratford upon Avon.
All our boats have central heating, hot water, televisions and DVD players. Some also have multi-fuel stoves. So, whatever the weather, it’s always nice and cosy on board.
*Winter cruising routes can be affected by stoppages and closures as a result of winter maintenance work
Sailing on a cloud with Matthew Gravelle and Family
Broadchurch star Matthew Gravelle was at the centre of the biggest TV whodunnit since ‘who shot JR?’ Last summer, the Welsh actor took his wife, Hinterland star Mali Harries, and kids on an Anglo Welsh canal boat holiday, setting off from our Trevor base in North Wales on a true-life family adventure. Here’s his narrowboat holiday review, published in Wales View 2015:
We’re heading for the Llangollen Canal, built as part of a network of waterways to connect the coalfields and limestone quarries of Denbighshire to the Midlands.
Its most notable feature is Thomas Telford’s Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the highest and longest in Britain, 984 feet (300m) in length and soaring 98 feet (40 m) above the River Dee.
We arrive at Trevor Basin to collect our boat, a traditional barge called Brenig, which appears to be painted in British Racing Green (odd, since the speed limit is 4 mph (6.4kph).
The children scramble on and explore, while I get an hour of instruction from the nice man from Anglo Welsh on how to skipper the thing. By the time we push off from our mooring, I know the theory, but actually steering this immense beast – it’s got an old-fashioned tiller, rather than a wheel – takes some getting used to.
Crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the easy bit. Telford thoughtfully built it in an arrow-straight line, and the cast iron walls are only just wide enough to pass through, so steering isn’t an issue. Instead I can take in the exhilarating views as we float serenely in mid-air.
I was enjoying the ride so much I didn’t really think about how it was coming to an end. There are two barges coming in the opposite direction and I seem to have forgotten everything I learnt about steering. I bump into a poor unsuspecting barge owner, causing him to throw his supper into his lap. Oops. Sorry.
Back at our mooring, we feast on Llandegla smoked trout, with broad beans and new potatoes from my dad’s garden. After supper we do old-fashioned family stuff – play cards, draw pictures.
As night falls, the children settle into their cabin and enjoy the best night’s sleep of the trip. It’s a really cosy and comfortable place to sleep, like a stretched caravan, except better insulated, with its own wood-burner.
A new day dawns and this driving lark seems much easier today. It gives us the opportunity to relax and spot nooks and corners that you don’t see from any road.
“It’s like sailing on a cloud,” observes Ela.
To book a canal holiday or break aboard any of Anglo Welsh’s narrowboat fleet, call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122.
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.
Anglo Welsh. So much more than narrowboats
...but don't just take our word for it
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