One of my happiest places is when I’m standing on the back of a narrowboat, chugging along, drinking in the scenery, smiling as the world slides on by. All done at walking speed. Sometimes on a canal, sometimes on a river and always, just loving the thrill of it all.
The joy of booking a weeks holiday starting from Anglo Welsh’s Oxford base, is that you get to choose which ever watery adventure you want. You can either head up the Oxford canal, which is a thing of beauty in of itself, or you can drift on down The Thames. Which is rather sublime.
We arrived at the boatyard one early October afternoon, to find it bathed in beautiful autumnal sunshine. According to the forecast, there was a full weeks worth of sun ahead of us. Deciding we wanted to take advantage of the glorious weather to pootle through the wide open spaces of a river, we headed downstream, following The Thames. Wanting to see how far we could get before turning round in time to return the boat early the next Saturday morning.
The first afternoon we only managed a couple of hours gentle travel before tying up for the night next to the picturesque ruins of Godstow Priory, opposite The Trout Inn. Which meant we got to walk the dogs through pretty meadows before heading out for a welcome pint or two at the pub. After that we headed back onboard to enjoy a celebratory supper of carbonara and cava.
Next day started early as we let the dogs out and got chatting to a happy crowd of college friends who had moored nearby. We had all set off from the Oxford base at the same time and compared notes on just how fab the whole experience was. To make things even sweeter, they gave us a cup of sugar, because we mentioned in passing that we had forgotten to bring any along for the tea. Was a reminder of just how friendly and welcoming most people are when you enter the world of waterways. Smiling, waving and chatting is par for the course when you’re on a boat.
After a pretty perfect days cruising we reached Abingdon. A really nice market town nestled on the bank of the river, with a glorious golden stone bridge arching over our heads. Since the sun had been beaming down on us all day, I decided to have a nice cooling swim in the river, with one of the dogs to keep me company. Turned out to be a bit cooler than either of us expected. Definitely made me grateful for the hot showers, central heating and wood burning stove onboard our boat, the good ship, Trossachs. Bond Class. That evening, as the sun set, the moon came up and the bridge lights twinkled, it felt for all the world as if we had drifted into a Parisian scene.
By now we were all well into our stride when it came to cruising along, mooring up and working the locks. Actually, since nearly all the locks are operated by lock keepers, it didn’t take that much team work to make our way through them. We just turned up, smiled and held on to the rope whilst the lock was worked for us. Most marvellous.
Next day was another beauty, just right for being out and about on the water. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before setting off, slowly passing through miles of magnificent scenery. When the sun shines and the birds sing, it is easy to believe you are travelling through the prettier parts of France or Holland on this stretch of the river. Though some of the fabulous houses and gardens you drift past are very much English country living at it’s most luxurious.
Being keen on birdlife, the week was turning out to be bumper one. Every day brought plenty of sightings; Kingfishers by the dozen, Red Kites at almost every turn, an assortment of songbirds along with plenty of geese which ever way you looked.
Next day we moored up for the night at Wallingford. Another pretty market town with a square, a High Street full of fine shops and yet another glorious stone bridge soaring over the river. Since we were moored near the Boathouse Inn, we went for a stroll round town, then treated ourselves to a pub dinner of Beef and Ale pies with chips. Mmm. Delicious. Just what the doctor ordered. Next morning we woke to the sound of a gentle knock on the window as a friendly council lady came to collect our £11 mooring fee.
By now, it was Tuesday, so we set off downriver, heading for Goring. Arriving in time for lunch, tying up just a stones throw away from the cottage where George Michael used to live. After a delightful couple of hours pottering round yet another pretty waterside town, we got back onboard, turned the boat round and began the gentle trek back to base. Didn’t get very far, as we saw a couple of mooring pins stuck in the bank, in the middle of open greenery, so decided to “wild camp,” for the night.
Over the next couple of days we retraced our journey, revisiting Wallingford and Abingdon to pick up fresh food supplies. Another perk of a holiday afloat, is that you can eat out, on shore, or you can stay at home on the boat and treat yourself to whatever you want to cook. In our case, thanks to the sunshine, we enjoyed plenty of home made salads along with shop bought sausage rolls, scotch eggs and pork pies. Mmm. Just right for the life aquatic.
When we got back to the boatyard on Saturday morning, we were all sorry to say goodbye to our floating home from home. The good news is, I’m sure we won’t have to wait too long for our next trip with Anglo Welsh. Only question is, where to go next?
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.
As part of our 55 year anniversary celebrations, we’ve been speaking to long term narrowboat holiday-maker Howard Fisher.
How many canal boat holidays have you been on?
At least one almost every year since 1971, including around 15 with Anglo Welsh.
Where did you go on your first narrowboat holiday?
My first inland waterways holiday was in 1971 with three school friends. We hired a small river cruiser from Barbridge, and we travelled to Llangollen and back. We quickly realised a narrowboat would be a much better way of travelling the canals. So, in March 1973 we hired a 56ft narrowboat ‘Stirling’ from Anglo Welsh’s Great Haywood base. That time I was with seven friends and we travelled anti-clockwise round the Four Counties Ring.
What do you like most about narrowboat holidays?
It’s a great way to see the bits of towns and cities that you’d otherwise miss. I much prefer the urban stretches to countryside – though on a fine evening, a quiet and secluded country mooring is hard to beat. I also find the structures you encounter fascinating, and marvel at the ingenuity of the original builders. In 2004 we travelled through the incredible 5km long Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, which takes you deep beneath the Pennines.
What was your most memorable journey?
Back in the summer of 1975, when I was involved with the canal club at university, we hired two 50ft eight berth boats from Middlewich. The crew changed each week, with a core of us staying all three weeks. We travelled a large circle, including the tidal section of the River Trent, then right across the North Eastern canals to Leeds. Then we went along the Leeds & Liverpool and Bridgewater Canal to Anderton. We went down the Anderton Lift (where the lift operator was surprised we only wanted single tickets), along the River Weaver and out onto the Manchester Ship Canal to Ellesmere Port. Then back to Middlewich via Chester.
That trip took a fair bit of organising. For example, we had to arrange for a British Waterways crew to rendezvous with us to reconstruct the lock gear at Ellesmere Port, as it was semi-derelict back then. Also, things didn’t go according to plan when we misunderstood the lock keeper’s instructions regarding the channel out to the deeper water of the Manchester Ship Canal. On exiting the lock in the wake of a passing ship, we managed to get marooned on a mud bank. A tug had to pull us off.
The trip up the Trent required a ludicrously early start, motoring solidly for eight hours to get to Keadby at the right point of the tide. One of the boat’s engines overheated, and we spent some time travelling tied together with just a single engine.
What was your favourite narrowboat holiday?
In 1978 we completed the London Ring, cruising through central London on the Regent’s Canal, going around the East End canals, and returning along the tidal Thames. They didn’t need to raise Tower Bridge for us, but it’s fantastic to drive a narrowboat along the Thames past all the landmarks. This was before the London docks were redeveloped, so the east End was nothing like the posh area it is now.
How have canal boat holidays changed over the years?
The thing that hits you is just how many boats there are these days, including so many houseboats. Back in the 70’s you could cruise for most of a day only meeting a handful of other boats. The canals are kept better maintained than they used to be, but water levels can still be a problem. For example, it took us several attempts over a few years before we finally succeeded in navigating the Cheshire Ring.
What were the reasons for moving from being a hirer to an owner?
As retirement beckoned, the freedom of going as and when, and knowing that once the fixed costs were paid, staying longer didn’t cost extra, pushed four of us (two couples) to jointly buy a boat. The boat is fitted out exactly as we want it, including an expresso machine, bread-maker, food mixer and washing machine!
Any tips for newcomers to canal boat holidays ahead of their first trip?
Listen to the instructions on how to operate the boat, and ask the hire company to take you through a lock and show how it works. After packing, throw out half what you packed as you won’t need it. Enjoy yourselves!
We are launching a photography competition to celebrate 55 Years of Anglo Welsh holidays
This year Anglo Welsh celebrates 55 years of providing canal boat holidays. During this time, we’ve welcomed hundreds of thousands of narrowboat holidaymakers to the waterways.
From humble beginnings, with just one narrowboat hire base and Market Harborough in 1966, we’ve become one of the largest narrowboat holiday operators in the UK, with 160 boats for hire from 11 bases in England and Wales.
Things have changed quite a bit in that time, with over £1.5billion invested in the upkeep of the waterways by Canal & River Trust, and we have invested significantly to transformation in the standard of accommodation on board our boats.
Please help us to celebrate our anniversary
To celebrate our anniversary, we would love to share memories of your holidays through an online gallery of Anglo Welsh waterway holiday photos.
We welcome images from your past holidays, as well as those you take when you holiday with us this year.
We are offering a £100 voucher off your 2022 holiday* to each of the winners we select under the following four categories:
1. Historic – anything from the previous millennium but the older the better!
2. Pets afloat – dogs, cats, budgies, bunnies – whichever furry or feathered friend enjoyed your narrowboat holiday with you, we’d love to see a photo of them afloat
3. Family Adventures – holiday snaps which include images of your family enjoying an Anglo Welsh holiday
4. Iconic sites – images of your holiday where you experienced one of the Wonders of the Waterways, or another major aqueduct, tunnel or flight of locks (e.g. Caen Hill, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Chirk Aqueduct, Edstone Aqueduct, Blisworth Tunnel, Tardebigge Flight, Hatton Flight, Bingley Five Rise Locks, Anderton Boat Lift, etc)
How to enter the competition
Please send your photo(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org with a caption for each, giving us as much information as you can, including your name and other information if you can remember, such as where the photo was taken, which year, which base you set out from and the name of the boat. Please put ‘Photo gallery’ in the subject heading. You can also enter the competition by posting on our social media channels @AngloWelsh on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Links to our social media channels can be found on our homepage www.anglowelsh.co.uk
Up to three images per entrant are permitted. The competition is open to entries from 26 May 2021. Entries must be submitted by 31 August 2021.
*Winners will be announced and vouchers issued on 30 September 2021
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).
We offer winter cruising from six of our narrowboat hire bases*, giving you the chance to cruise gently through the countryside, stopping off to explore canalside villages along the way, and to celebrate Christmas and New Year afloat.
The canals are quieter during the winter months and people tend to make shorter journeys. Winter cruising is about enjoying being close to the water and visiting canalside pubs with traditional log fires and other local 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 of our routes will be affected at times by the Canal & River Trust’s annual winter maintenance work, but here are our Top 6 winter narrowboat holidays for 2020:
1. Cruise through the Staffordshire countryside to Fradley – heading south from our narrowboat holiday hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, you’ll 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 pub ‘The Old Peculiar’. Once at Fradley, you’ll find refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn, and walking trails at the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
2. Travel gently through the Shropshire countryside to historic Whitchurch – from our barge holiday rental base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around four hours to reach the pretty historic town of Whitchurch. Along the way, the route passes Whixall Moss, a Mecca for wildlife. Once at Whitchurch, enjoy way-marked walks, Brown Moss nature reserve and a choice of eateries, including the award-winning Black Bear pub.
3. Float to through the Warwickshire countryside to Shakespeare’s Stratford – from our narrowboat rental base at on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen, near Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire, it’s a picturesque six-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Shakespeare’s Stratford. Once there, you can moor up in Bancroft Basin in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon to enjoy exploring this historic town, and visiting some of its many pubs, restaurants and cafes.
4. Navigate to the canalside village of Lapworth – from our canal barge holiday hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes around seven hours to cruise the historic canal village of Lapworth. With no locks to pass through along the way, it’s a great route for canal boat holiday beginners. Once there, you can moor up for countryside walks along the Heart of England Way, and visit the National Trust’s Packwood House, with beautiful gardens to explore.
5. Visit historic Chester afloat – from our narrowboat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley in Cheshire, it’s a seven-hour cruise through the Cheshire countryside, passing through nine locks, to reach the historic city of Chester. Once moored up at Northgate visitor moorings, you can take time to explore this ancient Cathedral City with Roman City Walls, Amphitheatre, riverside gardens and fabulous City Centre Christmas lights.
6. Cross ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to the Shropshire Lake District – our canal boat rental base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, is a ten minute cruise away from the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This magnificent feat of Victorian engineering carries the canal 30 metres high above the Dee Valley, with amazing views to enjoy. On a short break, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to Ellesmere, in the centre of the Shropshire Lake District, to visit the famous Mere, a haven for wildlife.
*Subject to government guidance and the lifting of relevant restrictions to control the spread of coronavirus, our boat yards are due to reopen on Monday 7 December. If you make a booking, but are legally unable to take your holiday as planned due to a Government coronavirus lockdown, you can transfer your booking with no admin fee or request a refund.
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.
Autumn is a great time to take a narrowboat holiday and enjoy the beautiful colours in the trees and hedgerows along Britain’s beautiful inland waterways network.
All our boats are equipped with the key comforts of home – hot water, TV, Wi-Fi*, well-stocked kitchens, showers, flushing toilets and central heating, so it’s always nice and cosy on board.
Whether you are newcomer to narrowboat holidays looking for an easy route to test the waters, or a seasoned boater looking for a longer more challenging route, here’s a guide to our Top 10 destinations for autumn 2020:
1. Travel through the Shropshire Lake District to Llangollen and back – from our narrowboat rental base at Whixall Marina on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around 12 hours to reach the pretty town of Llangollen, on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains. Along the way, you’ll pass through the Shropshire Lake District, across the border into Wales, and over the magnificent Chirk and Pontcysyllte Aqueducts, also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’. With just two locks to pass through each way, this journey is perfect for beginners on a week away.
2. Journey round the Four Counties Ring – from our canal boat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, in the autumn when the days are shorter, you can complete the popular Four Counties Ring on a 10 day or two week holiday. The route, which takes around 55 cruising hours to complete, passes through 94 locks and takes you through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire. Highlights include: the waters at Tixall Wide; 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.
3. Cruise through the Worcestershire countryside to Lapworth – from our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s a gentle seven-hour cruise through the countryside to the village of Lapworth. With two tunnels but no locks along the way, it’s a great short break for beginners. Once moored up in Lapworth, you can explore the village and visit the National Trust’s Packwood House, with magnificent gardens, including the iconic Yew Garden, where according to legend, the 350-year old trees represent the ‘Sermon on the Mount’.
4. Cruise along the Pennine summit – from our canal boat rental base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, it takes 13 hours, travelling 22 miles and passing through 15 locks to reach Foulridge Wharf, perfect for a week afloat. The route takes boaters across the top of the Pennines, passing through remote and beautiful countryside, as well as the villages of Bank Newton, East Marton, Greenberfield and Salterforth along the way.
5. Float through the Avon Valley to Caen Hill Locks 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 active short break. Along the way, you’ll pass through 16 locks (eight each way), over two dramatic Bath stone aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff, the pretty town of Bradford on Avon with its magnificent 14th century Tithe Barn, and miles of peaceful countryside.
6. Enjoy a floating tour of the West Midlands – on 10 day or two week holiday from our Stockton canal boat rental base on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can tackle the 101-mile, 94-lock Warwickshire Ring, which takes around 53 hours to complete. The route takes boaters along sections of the Coventry, Oxford, Grand Union, Stratford and Birmingham & Fazeley canals. Highlights include historic Warwick with its jaw-dropping medieval castle on the banks of the River Avon, the magnificent Hatton Flight of 21 locks, the pretty canal village of Braunston and Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham.
7. Take a Thames boating holiday to Lechlade – from our narrowboat hire base on the River Thames at Oxford, it’s a tranquil nine-hour, seven-lock cruise west to the pretty market town of Lechlade on the edge of the Cotswolds, perfect for a four-night break. Along the way, boaters travel through miles of peaceful Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire countryside, the village of Radcot with its 800-year old bridge across the Thames and Kelmscott Manor, once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris.
8. Navigate through the Cheshire plains to Chester – from our canal boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury, the Roman City of Chester is a delightful seven-hour, nine-lock cruise away, travelling through the rolling Cheshire landscape. Once there, you can moor up to explore this ancient city, home to the most complete City Walls in Britain which date back 2,000 years to the Roman occupation. There’s a two-mile wall walking trail, giving visitors the chance to follow in the footsteps of the Roman soldiers and enjoy panoramic views on both sides.
9. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Whitchurch – on a week’s holiday from our canal barge holiday hire centre at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, boaters can travel to Whitchurch and back, which takes a total of 24 hours, passing through just four locks (two each way). Along the way, you will travel across the incredible UNESCO World Heritage designated Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which carries the canal in a cast iron trough 38 metres high above the Dee Valley. And you’ll glide gently through the Shropshire Lake District, watching out for wildlife along the way. Once at Whitchurch, you can moor up to explore this pretty historic town with half-timbered buildings, independent shops and restaurants, and way-marked circular walks.
10. Visit Shakespeare’s Stratford – from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it’s a delightful six-hour, 17-lock cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to reach moorings at Bancroft Basin in Stratford-upon-Avon. Along the way, the route takes you across the Edstone Aqueduct and past the village of Wilmcote, with a choice of pubs. Once in Stratford, you can enjoy exploring the home of the Bard, with its many pubs, restaurants, museums, shops and regular markets.
On a week’s *NB Our Silsden boats don’t have Wi-Fi
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.