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Easy recipes to cook on a canal boat holiday

Easy recipes to cook on a canal boat holiday

Our modern narrowboats are like floating holiday cottages with well equipped kitchens so you can prepare tasty meals on board

In our galley kitchens, you’ll find a sink with hot and cold running water, a cooker with four gas hobs, and an oven/grill beneath.  There’s a fridge with a small freezer compartment, a larder, work tops, pots, pans, kettle, cutlery and crockery.  Many of our canal boats also have a microwave. So, while the space is relatively small, it’s easy to cook simple and healthy meals on board.

You can find out more about our floating kitchens, by watching our short video guide ‘What is a kitchen is like on board an Anglo Welsh narrowboat’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=669cd3r1GOQ

To provide inspiration for your next holiday afloat, we asked some of our experienced narrowboat holiday-makers and colleagues who live on board their own boats, for their favourite recipes afloat.

Stan Cullimore’s Venison Ragu with Tagliatelle

Stan Cullimore was a member of the 80’s band The Housemartins. Now a journalist and children’s author, Stan has been enjoying regular narrow boat holidays for years.

Serves 2-3

Cooking time: around 1 hr

Ingredients

  • 500g venison mince*
  • 400g chopped tomatoes (tinned)
  • 2 x medium carrots
  • 1 x large onion
  • 1 x bulb of fennel
  • handful of fresh tarragon (or a large pinch if dried)
  • 200ml beef stock
  • 200 ml red wine
  • dollop of tomato puree
  • garlic
  • chilli
  • 75g of Tagliatelle per person

*If you prefer, you can replace the venison with pork, beef or Quorn mince.  And use vegetable stock instead of beef stock.

Preparation

  1. Put the venison mince into a frying pan with some olive oil and brown for a few minutes. Whilst it is sizzling away, chop the carrots, onion and fennel.
  2. Remove the mince from the pan, leaving the juices behind. Place the meat to one side in a bowl. Place the chopped vegetables in the pan with the meat juices. Heat and allow to soften for a few minutes.
  3. Return the meat to the pan, with the vegetables, and allow this marvellous mixture to bubble away gently. Add the chopped tomatoes. Stir in the stock, red wine and tomato puree. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  4. Finely chop the tarragon (if fresh), the chilli and the garlic. Add to the pan. Place a lid on the pan, turn down the heat and leave to simmer for at least 40 minutes. By now, you should have an open bottle of red wine to hand which is still quite full. Pour yourself a glass, sit back and relax. The hard work is over, it’s time to kick back, chill out and enjoy the smells wafting from the cooker. Mmm. Should be good.
  5. Twelve minutes before the ragu is due to be ready, fill the kettle, boil it, then put the pasta on to cook. Should take around ten minutes, but read the pasta packet for details.
  6. Finally, plate up the pasta, spoon a large portion of ragu on top and munch away. With that and another glass of red in hand, you are definitely living your best boat life.

Buon appetito!

Kevin Yarwood’s Cauliflower, Broccoli & Tomato Gratin

Kevin is our base manager at Great Haywood.  He lives aboard his own narrowboat with his wife and two children.

Serves 4

Cooking time: around 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 head each of broccoli and cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 4 large tomatoes sliced
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Toppings

  • 180g of cream cheese
  • 150ml tub of sour cream
  • 200ml tub crème fraiche
  • 2 teaspoons of English mustard
  • 2 handfuls of grated cheese
  • bunch of finely chopped spring onions
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preparation

  1. Pre heat oven at gas mark 6
  2. Put florets into a pan of boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes
  3. Drain and put into a roasting tin
  4. Mix all topping ingredients together season with salt and black pepper
  5. Spread the mix over the florets
  6. Top with sliced tomatoes and sprinkle over the Parmesan
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbling and browned on top
  8. Serve with a crisp mixed salad and garlic bread

*This recipe is vegetarian but can be made vegan by exchanging the cheese and dairy products to vegan alternatives.

Matt Lucas Stern’s Scotch Egg Recipe

Matt is our operations manager, and he lives on board his own narrowboat at Wootton Wawen.

“Scotch eggs are great for a cruise on the boat, as you can have them hot in the evening with a salad, and any left-over eggs can be eaten cold the next day, when you are on the move. These home-made scotch eggs are soft boiled, making them far better than the dry ones you buy.”

Serves 4

Cooking time: around 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 5 eggs
  • 70g pack of Panko breadcrumbs
  • 720g sausage meat
  • salt & pepper
  • thyme
  • fresh parsley
  • dijon mustard

To soft boil the eggs

  1. Boil a pan of water with a small amount of vinegar.
  2. When on a rolling boil, lower your free range eggs in to the water making sure they are covered by the water.
  3. Time for 6 minutes for soft boiled, longer for harder centres. When time is up, cool immediately in a bowl of cold water and peel and set aside.

To make the outer casing

  1. Mix 180g of sausage meat per egg with pinch of salt, a generous amount of cracked pepper, a pinch of thyme, a tablespoon roughly chopped parsley and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
  2. Flatten out the mix and wrap each egg in the sausage meat mixture.

To finish the egg

  1. Preheat oven at gas mark 6.
  2. Make an egg wash dip by whisking an egg and preparing a Panko breadcrumb bath.
  3. Dip the egg and sausage meat ball in the egg first, then the breadcrumbs. Do this twice for an extra crispy outer crust.
  4. Put eggs on a non-stick baking sheet and spray with a small mist of light oil. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown.

Bridget Harrison’s Mars Bar Crunch

Bridget writes for The Times and has been going on regular family holidays on board boats for over 30 years.

“This is an easy recipe that kids can do alone, and makes delicious snacks that you can hand out at tea time, or as rewards to any crew driving or doing locks. But be warned, they are very moreish!”

Ingredients

  • 6 Mars bars
  • 200g butter
  • 200g Rice Crispies

Preparation

  1. Cut the butter and Mars bars into chunks and melt in a saucepan over a low heat until liquid.
  2. Put the Rice Crispies in a bowl and add the Mars bar /butter mixture.
  3. Stir well until they are combined. Tip into a baking dish and press down until firm.
  4. Pop in the fridge if you have room, but you may not on the boat, so it’s fine to leave on top also.
  5. When the mixture is set, turn out and cut into squares and store in a Tupperware box.

Howard Fisher’s Bread & Butter Pudding

Howard Fisher has been on a canal boat holiday almost every year for the last 50 years, including around 15 with Anglo Welsh.

“This is for a pudding I’ve made for years. It has been modified over the years, but it always disappears, no matter how much I make!”

Ingredients

  • 600ml milk
  • 30g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 30g currants
  • 6 small slices bread and butter
  • nutmeg
  • and optionally 2 tablespoons marmalade

Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 175°C (Gas mark 6)
  2. Grease dish and line with 3 slices of bread and butter.
  3. Sprinkle with currants, sugar and grated nutmeg. Spoon over marmalade if using.
  4. Cover with remaining bread and butter.
  5. Beat eggs and milk. Pour over the pudding.
  6. Sprinkle pudding with grated nutmeg.
  7. Leave to stand 30 minutes before cooking.
  8. Bake for 1 hour.

Enjoy!

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Best narrowboat holiday getaways for couples

Canal boat holiday getaways for couples

A boating break on Britain’s beautiful inland waterways can be a perfect minibreak for couples wanting to experience life in the slow lane

Slow life down to a tranquil three miles per hour and drift along the historic waterways of England and Wales to admire beautiful countryside and fascinating historic towns and cities by narrowboat.

Bath to Bradford-on-Avon

Soak up all the history and culture of the stunning Georgian city of Bath at your own pace. With its famous Roman Baths, its close links with Jane Austen and museum honouring the author, its wonderful range of iconic Regency buildings and much more, Bath is a history lover’s dream. But it is also a lovely modern city to simply meander around, with great shops, restaurants and cafes at every turn, all surrounded by the lush green Somerset hills. It is an easy day cruise through a scenic Cotswold valley boasting some wonderful canalside pubs, to the equally picturesque medieval market town of Bradford-on-Avon with its tithe barn, 13th century bridge and impressive riverside former cloth mills.

Oxford to Lechlade

The ancient university city of Oxford is bursting with history, culture and stunning colleges to be explored. You can wander around the imposing and fascinating Ashmolean, the University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology, founded in 1683. Or the smaller Pitts Rivers Museum crammed with artefacts and oddities from all over the world. Take a walk around some of the 38 Oxford University colleges each with their own distinct character and beauty before escaping to the lush greenery of the Oxford botanic garden. It is a tranquil two day cruise along a stunning rural stretch of the River Thames to the glorious Gloucestershire village of Lechlade, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the edge of the Cotswolds.

Wootton Wawen to Stratford-upon-Avon

Absorb yourself in Shakespeare’s historic hometown, which is a day’s cruise from our base at Wootton Wawen. Once in Stratford-upon-Avon, treat yourselves to a delicious dinner at one of the town’s many welcoming restaurants.  Followed by a production at one of the world renowned Royal Shakespeare Company theatres overlooking the canal basin. Spend a day exploring the medieval town with its Tudor timber-framed houses including Shakespeare’s birthplace and the 500-year-old thatched Anne Hathaway’s cottage.  As well as its many independent shops, pubs and cafes before enjoying a relaxed amble along the River Avon.

Trevor to the Montgomery Canal

If you are wildlife enthusiasts, this is the canal boat holiday route for you. Set out from our Trevor base and immediately cross the jewel of the canal network, the soaring Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, carryings the Llangollen canal 38 metres above the River Dee valley. Just a couple of kilometres later, you’ll pass through the Chirk Tunnel then over the Chirk Aqueduct and into England. Continue heading south among the dramatic Shropshire hills until you reach Frankton Locks where you can turn onto the Montgomery Canal. Affectionately known as the ‘Monty’, this canal snakes through wonderful unspoilt border country where you can truly escape the pressures of modern life. Much of the Monty has been designated a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ due to its abundance of rare wildlife such as the floating water plantain, otters and water voles, so don’t forget to bring your binoculars.

Bunbury to Chester

Head north from Bunbury along the Shropshire Union Canal, crossing the open country of the Cheshire Plain and patchwork quilt fields. You’ll pass the looming ruins of Beeston Castle sitting atop its rocky crag and the delightful village of Christleton before reaching the medieval city walls of Chester. The canal takes you right into the heart of this historic jewel of a city, with its impressive collection of 700-year-old buildings the Rows, great shops, restaurants and cafes, and stunning sandstone cathedral all encircled by the imposing walls. The city is also host to the largest stone-built Roman Amphitheatre in Britain, scene of Britain’s largest archaeological excavation in 2005, the results of which can be seen at the Grosvenor Museum. During the summer months, you may be able to enjoy an outdoor theatre production in the atmospheric surroundings of the amphitheatre.

Silsden to Saltaire

Sitting on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, our narrowboat base at Silsden is a perfect starting point for a breathtakingly beautiful trip along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Heading east, you’ll follow the River Aire valley through dramatic countryside with villages that still carry the hallmarks of their rich industrial past.  There are plenty of good pubs to enjoy along the way. Just outside Keighley, you’ll reach the magnificent Bingley Five-Rise Locks, the steepest flight of locks in the UK and one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. This takes you into the perfectly preserved model village of Saltaire, built in 1853 by Sir Titus Salt for local mill workers and now a World Heritage Site. Admire the giant textile mill, the Salts Mill, which now houses an impressive collection of David Hockney paintings, wonder at this early example of town planning and perhaps even take a trip on the the Shipley Glen Tramway built in 1895 before heading for some refreshment at one of the many cafes and restaurants.

Whixall Marina to Chirk

Whixall marina is surrounded by miles of open countryside, making it a great starting point for a truly peaceful, rural canal boat holiday. Head west along the Llangollen Canal to admire several miles of uninterrupted pastoral beauty before you reach the market town of Ellesmere. This historic town in he heart of the Shropshire Lake District is surrounded by lakese formed by glacial compressions at the end of the last Ice Age. Beyond that, the canal meanders west through the increasingly dramatic hills of the border country that straddles England and Wales.  The 710-ft long and 70-ft high Chirk Aqueduct takes you across the River Ceiriog into North Wales. Admire Thomas Telford’s masterly construction before heading to one of the nearby pubs.

Click here to check availability and book, or call us on 0117 463 3419.

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Top 8 quirky canal boat holiday destinations

Most impressive canal aqueducts

With a 250-year old history, Britain’s canals and rivers have some fascinating destinations and stories to tell

To celebrate the new cruising season ahead, we’ve listed some of the most interesting, quirky and unusual stories on our waterways:

  1. Enjoy the most heart-stopping boat trip in Britain  

    The World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is a stone’s throw away from our canal boat hire base at Trevor in North Wales. This magnificent feat of engineering was built over 200 years by canal engineers Thomas Telford and William Jessop.  Incredibly, ox blood was added to the lime mortar which binds the structure’s masonry together (forming 18 titanic brick pillars), following an ancient superstition that the blood of a strong animal would strengthen a structure.  And sugar was boiled with Welsh flannel then mixed with tar to seal the cast joints of the structure’s cast iron trough, which carries the Llangollen Canal 38 metres above the Dee Valley.  With not even a handrail on the north side, when travelling across by canal boat, it’s probably the most heart-stopping and exhilarating experience on the canal network!  On a short break from Trevor, you can glide across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and travel on to Ellesmere and back.  On a week’s break, you can continue on to the historic market town of Whitchurch, cruising for a total of 24 hours and passing through two locks each way.

  2. Spot the mysterious barrel roofed lock cottages on the Stratford Canal  

    The southern section of the pretty Stratford Canal, running from Bancroft Basin in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon up to the village of Lapworth, is characterised by split bridges with gaps for the tow ropes of boat horses and a series of curious barrel roofed lock cottages. The reason for these quirky structures is actually purely practical.  Engineers building the canal knew more about building bridges than houses so when they turned their hand to building dwellings for the lock keepers, they adapted their skills, producing barrel-shaped roofs. On a short break from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, you can travel to Stratford and back, cruising for a total of 12 hours and passing through 17 locks each way.  On a week’s break you can travel the Birmingham Mini-Ring, cruising for 35 hours and negotiating 83 locks.

  3. Look out for World War II pill boxes on the K&A 

    Following the British Expeditionary Forces’ evacuation from Dunkirk, and the prospect of imminent German invasion, General Sir Edmund Ironside, Commander-in-chief of the Home Forces created a series of static defence lines. One was the Kennet & Avon Canal from Reading to Bristol, named GHQ Stop Line Blue. Pill boxes and tank traps designed by the War Office were built along the canal and manned by the home guard.  Today there are still a large number of pillboxes lining the canal, including one at next to Avoncliff Aqueduct, one at Rotherstone in Devizes, one at Freewarren Bridge at Crofton and two between the canal and the railway line at Hungerford Common.  From our base in Bath, it takes just over three hours to reach Avoncliff Aqueduct, great for a short break.  From Bath, it takes around 29 hours to reach Hungerford, passing through 61 locks along the way – perfect for a 10-day or two-week break.

  4. Visit the birthplace of the canal restoration movement 

    At the top of the mighty 30-lock Tardebigge Flight on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, a plaque commemorates the famous meeting between Tom Rolt and Robert Aickman, which took place aboard Rolt’s Narrowboat ‘Cressy’, moored just above Tardebigge Top Lock. Rolt and Aickman were the passion and brains behind the formation of the Inland Waterways (IWA) in 1946. Their aim was to keep Britain’s canal network navigable and it is thanks to this incredible movement that the canals are in the fantastic shape that they are today, with over 3,000 miles of navigable waterways available to explore.  You can reach the top of the Tardebigge flight on a week’s break from Wootton Wawen.

  5. Navigate the Harecastle Tunnel 

    The Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire links Kidsgrove and Tunstall. But there are actually two tunnels here built 40 years apart by two famous canal engineers – James Brindley and Thomas Telford.  The earlier Brindley tunnel fell into disrepair is long closed, but the Telford tunnel is still used to this day.  At 1.5 miles long, it is one of the longest canal tunnels in Britain and takes around 40 minutes to navigate.  There is only space for one boat to pass through at one time, so you may have to wait to enter.  The tunnel keeper instructs boaters when to go through and what to do.  Back when the tunnel was first built it didn’t have a towpath and so boats had to be ‘legged’ through.  This involves laying a plank of wood across the bows and having people lying across it to literally walk the walls.  From Great Haywood it takes around 12 hours, travelling 22 miles and passing through 18 locks to reach the south end of the Harecastle Tunnel.  From there, on a week or more away, you can continue on to complete the Four Counties Ring, travelling a total of 110 miles and travelling through 94 locks.

  6. Have a pint at the Shroppie Fly 

    Originally a canalside cheese warehouse, the popular Shroppie Fly pub on the Shropshire Union Canal in the picturesque village of Audlem, has a narrowboat as a bar. The name of the pub pays tribute to a type of narrowboat designed for speed in the early days of the canal – particularly important when transporting cheese and fresh farm produce to town and city markets.  Fly-boats were the Amazon Prime of their day, with fine lines to help them to glide easily through water and specially selected elite boatmen and horses to maximise speed, they ran non-stop, day and night.  From Bunbury it takes around five hours to reach Audlem, passing through seven locks to the wharf and passing Nantwich along the way – perfect for a short break.  On a week’s holiday from Bunbury, you can continue on to the Caldon Canal, cruising a total of 48 hours and travelling through 104 locks.

  7. Cruise through a lake on the Staffs & Worcs Canal

    Tixall Wide is a beautiful wide stretch of waterway close to the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal’s junction with the Trent & Mersey.  Permission to build the canal was granted by the local landowner Thomas Clifford, on condition that the canal was made wide enough to look like a lake so that it didn’t spoil the view from his house.  Today, over 250 years later, Tixall Wide is home to an abundance of wildlife and is a great place to moor up for the night.  It’s just over a mile away from our base at Great Haywood.  On a short break, you can cruise on from Tixall Wide to the village of Gailey and back, travelling a total of 26 miles and passing through 12 locks each way.  On a week’s break, you can travel on to Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man or complete the Black Country Ring. This circuit takes narrowboat holiday-makers on a 45-hour waterway odyssey, cruising a total of 75 miles and passing through 79 locks.

  8. Look out for the dazzling canalside murals at Oxford 

    In north Oxford, the Oxford Canal is crossed by two bridges with large canalside walls. Spurred on by the horrified comments of Timothy West and Prunella Scales when seeing the graffiti here on one of their ‘Great Canal Journeys’ for Channel 4, the local community set about creating four striking murals to improve the environment, reflecting the area’s history and wildlife of the canal.  From our base on the Thames at Oxford, it takes just over an hour to reach Duke’s Cut Lock, the gateway to the Oxford Canal right next to the two bridges.  On a midweek break, you can continue north along the Oxford Canal to Lower Heyford, cruising a total of 18 hours and passing through 14 locks each way.  On a week’s break, you can travel on to Banbury, cruising for a total of 30 hours and passing through 21 locks each way.

Click here to check availability and book, or call us on 0117 463 3419.

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Canal boat holidays on the Stratford Canal

Canal boat holidays on the Stratford Canal

Shakespeare, barrel roof lock cottages, iron aqueducts and gourmet pubs

The 25-mile long narrow and mostly rural Stratford-upon-Avon Canal links Shakespeare’s Stratford and the River Avon in the south, with the Worcester & Birmingham Canal close to Birmingham in the north, passing through the Forest of Arden along the way.

The southern section of the canal, running from Bancroft Basin in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon up to Lapworth, is characterised by barrel roofed lock cottages and a series of split bridges with gaps for the tow ropes of boat horses.

The northern section has 19 locks running up from Lapworth, and then a 10-mile lock-free level stretch to the canal’s guillotine-gated stop-lock at Kings Norton Junction.

Completed in 1816 at a cost of £297,000, the canal has 54 locks, a 322-metre long tunnel, three high embankments, a reservoir, a large single span brick aqueduct and three cast iron trough aqueducts, all unusually with towpaths at the level of the bottom of the canal.

On a short break canal boat holiday from Wootton Wawen

From our base at Wootton Wawen, a pretty hamlet set within a conservation area, it’s a six-hour, 16-lock journey through the beautiful Warwickshire countryside to Shakespeare’s Stratford – perfect for a short break.

Canal boat holiday-makers head south, first crossing the Grade II* listed Wootton Wawen aqueduct over the A3400 and a few miles later the longer 105-metre long Edstone Aqueduct – which crosses a minor road, the Birmingham and North Warwickshire railway and the track bed of the former Alcester Railway and provides boaters with excellent views of the surrounding countryside.

Next the canal passes the picturesque village of Wilmcote. Canal boat holiday-makers can moor-up above Wilmcote Top Lock and walk into the village to explore Mary Arden’s Farm, the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother to experience the sights, smells and sounds of a working Tudor farm. Wilmcote is also home to the Mary Arden Inn which dates back to the 1700s.

Continuing south, boaters next negotiate the Wilmcote Flight of 11 locks, taking the canal down the hill into Stratford. Expect “gongoozlers” as you pass through the last two locks and arrive at Bancroft Basin, the perfect place to moor up and enjoy the delights of Stratford-upon-Avon.

Just some of the highlights of this world-famous home of the Bard include the Royal Shakespeare Company’s magnificent Royal Shakespeare Theatre with over 1,000 seats.

There are regular markets, plenty of eateries including Carluccio’s and the Giggling Squid, and a number of museums, including the bizarre MAD Museum of Mechanical Art & Design (described as a mixture of Wallis & Gromit, Heath Robinson and Scrapheap Challenge) and Shakespeare’s Birthplace.

Complete the Warwickshire Ring on a 10-day or two-week break from Wootton Wawen

The mighty Warwickshire Ring is perfect for more experienced boaters on a 10-day or two-week break. From Wootton Wawen, the journey time is 59 hours, travelling through 128 locks.

First head north up the Stratford Canal, passing through two locks at Preston Bagot, with a barrel roof cottage at lock number 37.

Next the canal passes close to the tiny hamlet of Yarningdale Common, with another barrel roof cottage at lock 34 and the Grade II* listed Yarningdale Aqueduct.

At the village of Lowsonford, the canalside Fleur de Lys pub is well worth a visit, renowned for its home-made pies.

Several locks, barrel roofed cottages and miles later, the canal passes beneath the noisy M40 motorway. After another five locks, and boaters reach Lapworth junction where they can take the Lapworth link to connect onto the broad Grand Union Canal at Kingswood Junction.

To travel clockwise around the ring, boaters turn left and head north. The Heart of England Way meets the canal here at Kingswood Bridge, and it’s just over a miles walk to the National Trust’s Baddesley Clinton stunning moated manor house in the heart of the Forest of Arden from here.

Soon after, the canal passes the Black Boy and King’s Arms pubs at Heronfield, and then reaches the Knowle flight of five wide locks, which raise the canal by 12.5 metres. The town of Knowle is a short walk away, with a supermarket and choice of pubs.

Soon after, the canal passes beneath the M42 motorway, and continues north past the Boat Inn at Catherine de Barnes, before entering the urban outskirts of Birmingham at Solihull.

Six miles later, boaters reach the six locks at Camp Hill and then Bordesley Junction. From here it’s just half a mile to moorings at Typhoo Basin, close to Warwick Bar in the centre of Birmingham.

There’s so much to do in Birmingham – theatres, art galleries, museums, concert halls, restaurants and shops, but the City’s award-winning Thinktank Science Museum, with its exciting Spitfire and Marine Worlds galleries, is close by.

Next turn back to Bordesley Junction and head up the Birmingham & Warwick Junction Canal, which connects with the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal at Salford Junction. From there begin heading east, still in a very urban environment for another four miles until the Hare & Hounds pub at the bottom of the Minworth flight of three locks.

Now back in the countryside, the route passes the White Horse at Cudworth, where the Cudworth flight of 11 locks starts. The Dog & Doublet pub is next to Lock 9 of the flight and there are moorings soon after, with access to Kingsbury Water Park, offering 600 acres of country park to explore.

The Heart of England Way follows the line of the canal here for several miles and passes the RSPB’s Middleton Lakes Nature Reserve, great for a spot of birdwatching.

Fazeley is next with its choice of pubs – the Plough and Three Tuns, plus a short bus or taxi ride to Drayton Manor Theme Park if you fancy a change of pace!

The Coventry Canal meets the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal here, taking boaters travelling the Warwickshire Ring east through Tamworth to Alvecote with its Samuel Barlow pub, the ruins of Alvecote Benedictine Priory and the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Alvecote Pools nature reserve.

Now heading south, the canal passes beneath the M42 and past the Pooley Visitor & Heritage Centre, displaying mining memorabilia and offering waymarked paths around woodland and spoil heaps.

Then it’s on through the village of Polesworth, a good place to stop and re-stock with shops, and Bulls Head, Red Lion and Royal Oak pubs.

The canal becomes very rural for a while, passing Hoo Hill obelisk which marks the site of the Chapel of Leonard at Hoo, demolished in 1538 by Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries.

Atherstone is the next town, with a flight of six locks, choice of shops and pubs, including the Kings Head.

The canal continues south, lock-free for the next 11 miles. The Anchor at Hartsmill is the next canalside pub on route and soon after the canal becomes more urban again as it winds its way through Nuneaton, before meeting its junction with the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal at Bedworth.

Two miles later, the Coventry Canal meets the North Oxford Canal at Hawkesbury Junction, where Warwickshire Ring travellers being heading south down the Oxford Canal. The route soon passes under the M69 motorway and through the pretty village of Ansty, with its Rose & Castle pub.

Three miles later, it’s worth stopping at Brinklow to visit the remains of Brinklow Castle, a Norman earthwork motte and bailey fortress, and Brinklow Arches to the south of the village, a canal aqueduct built during the Imperial Period. There are also a number of pubs in the village, including The Raven and White Lion.

The canal then passes through the 186-metre long Newbold Tunnel, past the Barley Mow and Boat pubs, becoming more urban again as it travels through the town of Rugby. Boaters soon reach the Bell & Barge pub and Tesco store at Brownsover, and then the village of Hillmorton, with its flight of three locks, plus Old Royal Oak and Stag & Pheasant pubs.

After Hillmorton, the canal cuts through open countryside again, and is lock-free to the Braunston Turn, where the Oxford Canal merges with the Grand Union Canal. The historic village of Braunston, in the heart of the canal network, is a great place to stop with a marina, boatyard, fish and chip shop, and plenty of pubs including the Wheatsheaf and Old Plough

Eleven miles and nine locks later, the canal reaches Napton Junction where the Oxford Canal splits off and heads south.

The Warwick Ring continues along the Grand Union Canal towards Birmingham, soon reaching the three locks at Calcutt. The next two miles are on one level until the route reaches Stockton Top Lock, the peak of a flight of 13 locks taking the canal to the village of Long Itchington, who’s six pubs host a popular annual beer festival.

The next four miles remain rural and just before Leamington Spa is reached, the canal passes by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Lea Valley Nature Reserve, with family-friendly activity trails.

There are plenty of visitor moorings in Royal Leamington Spa, giving boaters the chance to enjoy some of this historic spa town’s attractions, including its impressive Georgian and Edwardian architecture, Royal Pump Rooms Museum, Loft Theatre, Welches Meadow Nature Reserve, and excellent choice of shops and restaurants.

Next it’s the beautiful country town of Warwick, with its jaw-dropping medieval castle on the banks of the River Avon, dating back to William the Conqueror. Warwick Castle offers a fantastic day out with ramparts to climb, birds of prey and trebuchet firing displays, Horrible Histories Maze, landscaped gardens, Castle Dungeon and daily history team tours.

Warwick itself has a vibrant market place hosting a variety of shops, pubs and cafes and a thriving Saturday market, as well as a popular racecourse, Yeomanry Museum, Lord Leycester Hospital Museum, Queen’s Own Hussars Museum & Master’s Garden, St John’s House Museum and Warwickshire Museum.

Heading out of Warwick, boaters soon encounter Hatton Bottom Lock and the start of the epic Hatton Flight of 21 locks, traditionally known as the ‘Stairway to Heaven’, which raises boats up by nearly 45 metres along a two mile stretch of the canal. Just below the Top lock, boaters will find the Hatton Locks Café for welcome refreshment!

It’s another four miles back to Lapworth from Hatton, passing through the Shrewley and Rowington tunnels, before heading back down the Stratford Canal to Wootton Wawen.

Click here to book a holiday or call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122.

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New canal boats for hire in 2023

Best canal boat holiday circuits and rings

Every year, we commission new boats to add to our fleet, and we like to take into account customer feedback when designing our boats.  This winter we are building three new 60ft Gem Class narrowboats ready for hire this spring, featuring reverse layouts and cruiser sterns.

Our three new boats with cruiser sterns – ‘Onyx’, ‘Garnet’ and ‘Citrine’ – will offer accommodation for up to six people. This style of narrowboat has more of an open feel, ideal for entertaining and summer evenings on the canal.  Semi traditional boats have a more enclosed space at the back.

The boats will have a reverse layout – meaning the galley is at the rear and the main sleeping areas are at the front and middle of the boat. Reverse layouts are handy for the skipper to be passed drinks and snacks from the crew!

The modern galley will include extra features such as a microwave, LED lighting and toasters – perfect for that quick breakfast. The flexible sleeping accommodation will be in two cabins, ranging from two doubles to four singles, with the dinette area which can be converted into a double bed.

Gem Class boats will each have two shower/toilet rooms, full central heating and a larger TV in the lounge area.

‘Onyx’ will be based at Whixall

From 3 April 2023, ‘Onyx’ will be available to hire from our narrowboat hire base at Whixall, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire.  On a short break from Whixall, you can travel to the historic town of Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  On a week’s holiday, you can continue on to Llangollen, crossing the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way.  Or head in the other direction, transferring onto the Shropshire Union Canal to visit Nantwich, Market Drayton or Chester.

‘Garnet’ will be available from Monkton Combe

From 3 April 2023, ‘Garnet’ will be available to hire from our canal boat hire base at Monkton Combe, on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Bath.  On a short break from Monkton Combe, you can travel west to Bath City Centre or east to Devizes, via Bradford on Avon.  On a week’s holiday, you can continue east, travelling up the Caen Hill Flight, then on to Pewsey or Great Bedwyn.

‘Citrine’ will navigate from Oxford

From 27 June 2023, ‘Citrine’ will be available to hire from our base on the River Thames at Oxford.  On a short break from Oxford, you can travel west to Lechlade or east to Wallingford, via Oxford and Abingdon.  On a week’s holiday, you can continue travelling east along the Thames to Henley, or transfer onto the Oxford Canal to travel up to Banbury.

 

2023 Gem Class prices will start at £865 for a short break, and from £1,200 for a week.

To see the Gem Class boat layout, scroll to boat 20 here https://www.anglowelsh.co.uk/our-boats/5-8-berth/

 To check availability, go to https://www.anglowelsh.co.uk/

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Best canal boat holiday routes for Winter 2022

Best winter canal boat holiday routes

We have a range of narrowboats to choose from this winter, including cosy two-berths and twelve-berths fit for a party on the canal. Whilst all of our canal boats have central heating and hot water, some have the added advantage of a multi-fuel stove, perfect for keeping warm and toasty during the colder months. With WiFi, a TV and a DVD player on every boat, you can spend your evening relaxing onboard, if you’re not too busy enjoying a canal side pub or three!

Ice Skating in Bath

Mooring close to Pulteney Bridge, you can enjoy everything the beautiful city of Bath has to offer including ice skating in Royal Victoria Park! You can reach the World Heritage city within just a few hours from our Bath base on the Kennet & Avon canal. First you cruise along a section of the Avon Valley and then onwards through a flight of six locks. If you’re not feeling festive, there’s much more to explore, including the Roman Baths and Medieval Bath Abbey.

Skiing in Etruria

On a seven-night holiday from our Great Haywood base, you can make it to Etruria where you can spend a day on the slopes at Stoke Ski Centre. Travelling north up the Trent & Mersey canal, stopping off at the canal town of Stone and the village of Barlaston, you’ll pass through eighteen locks before mooring up to enjoy a family day out. If you’re not up for testing out your skiing skills, there’s much more to do in the area, including Waterworld Aqua Park.

Shakespeare Country

If you fancy a tour of cosy country pubs, this is doable on a short break from our base in Wootton Wawen. On a picturesque six-hour cruise through the picturesque Warwickshire countryside, you can reach Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon Avon. Mooring up at Bancroft Basin, you can enjoy the historic town and its many pubs, restaurants and cafes.

The Stream in the Sky

Our base at Trevor sits on the doorstep of the world famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, so this is easily doable on a short break or even a day hire! 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.

If you don’t have time for a boating break, but want to get into the Christmas spirit, our trip boat “Little Star” is offering festive trips across the aqueduct from 10th-24th December. All children aboard will receive a small gift, from our special guest Mary Christmas! With the chance to win a free dayboat, you won’t want to miss out.

Ice Skating in Birmingham

City Centre moorings are just a five-hour, lock-free cruise away from our base at Tardebigge, so why not enjoy some ice skating and a ride on the big wheel in Birmingham? With a German Christmas Market, this is the perfect short break to get you in the Christmas mood!

Our dayboat Emma is also available to book overnight, so provides the perfect excuse for a last-minute winter getaway.

Visit Beeston Castle in Chester

Starting your journey at our base in Bunbury, head north-west through beautiful, peaceful countryside all the way to the village of Beeston. Here you can find the English Heritage site of Beeson Castle which is situated on top of a steep hill (make sure to bring your walking boots with you!). The impressive ruin dates back to the fourteenth century and can be visited by mooring up at bridge 107. Continuing along you’ll eventually spot the spires in Chester; there’s time for a visit if you moor up at bridge 123D and take a short walk into the city centre. Here you can enjoy Chester Cathedral before starting your return journey to Bunbury.

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We’ve launched a new trip boat at Trevor!

Carl Cowlishaw, Anglo Welsh’s operations manager, announces the arrival of Anglo Welsh’s new trip boat service on the Llangollen Canal from Trevor Basin, in North Wales, offering visitors the chance to cruise across The Stream in the Sky.

We are thrilled to announce the latest addition to our narrowboat fleet at Trevor – our newly refurbished trip boat ‘Seren Fach’, or ‘Little Star’ in English.

We’ve been operating self-drive holiday narrowboats and day boats from Trevor for many years, and now we can also offer visitors to Trevor the chance to enjoy a skippered boat trip on the Llangollen Canal.

The 45-minute return trips take people across the incredible World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, towering 126 feet high with amazing views across the Dee Valley, making it an exciting and unforgettable experience.

Our knowledgeable team provide commentary on board, so passengers can learn more about the historical significance of the Llangollen Canal as they cruise gently along.

Departure times

Seren Fach’ is now operating at weekends and on selected weekdays in the season, with the first trip departing at 11am, and the last at 3.30pm, seating up to 48 passengers.

Tickets prices

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.  Cash or card payments are accepted.

Refreshments are available to purchase on board, so visitors can relax with a hot or cold drink, or an ice-cream while enjoying stunning views across the Dee Valley.

No booking is required and the trips are subject to availability.  ‘Seren Fach’ is operating from Canal Wharf, Trevor, Llangollen LL20 7TT. Tel. 01978 821749.

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Amazing Canal Facts

Canal boat holidays in England and Wales

Amazing canal facts worth reading ahead of your narrowboat holiday

There are more than 2000 miles of navigable canals and rivers throughout England and Wales, making up an intricate network which enables boats to travel the length and breadth of the country. Between them, these inland waterways boast 1,569 locks, 53 tunnels, 3112 bridges, 370 aqueducts and 74 reservoirs. Most were built more than 200 years ago and have fascinating stories to tell as well as featuring many historic feats of engineering which still wow visitors today. This is a large part of what makes a canal boat holiday so magical – a narrowboat takes you on a journey through history and human endeavor.

If you are considering a canal boat holiday, why not first have a read of these amazing canal facts which will only add to the wonder of your cruise along these historic waterways.

1) The oldest working canal in the UK is about 1,900 years old

The Fossdyke Navigation which runs between Lincoln and the River Trent at Torksey was built by the Romans in around AD 120 and is still in use today. Extending 11.3 miles, with one lock, the Fossdyke formed part of a key transport route from Peterborough to York.

It is said to have been used by the invading Danes and the Normans to carry stone to build Lincoln Cathedral in the 11th century. The canal was revamped under King Henry I in 1121 but then fell into disrepair and silted up until, by the 17th century, it was virtually impassable. In 1744 a proper channel was restored and maintained and the canal has remained navigable ever since.

2) The longest canal tunnel in the UK runs for more than 5000 metres – or 3.5 miles

The Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal is the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in Britain. Built over 16 years from 1794 to 1811, it stands at 196 metres above sea level, at a depth of 194 metres underneath the Pennines. The canal was closed to traffic in 1943 and re-opened in May 2001. Moor up during your canal boat holiday and learn more about this 19th century wonder of engineering at the Standedge Tunnel and Visitor Centre.

3) Britain’s longest aqueduct extends more than 300 metres – or 1000 ft

Deservedly described as the jewel in the crown of Britain’s canals, the awe-inspiring Pontcysyllte Aqueduct carries narrowboats on the Llangollen Canal at a soaring 38 metres – 126 ft – above the River Dee, offering stunning views of the valley and surrounding hills. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, the 18-arch aqueduct was designed by legendary civil engineer Thomas Telford and built between 1795 and 1805.

Located right next to the Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base at Trevor, this is a spectacular way to start or finish a canal boat holiday from this idyllic location.

4) The longest lock flight in the UK is 30 locks long

The Tardebigge lock flight enables Worcester & Birmingham Canal to ascend 67 metres (220 feet) over a 2.25 mile stretch. Built between 1808 and 1815, the lock flight enabled an extension of the canal from Birmingham to the River Severn at Worcester to be completed. Until the lock ladder was constructed, originally with a boat lift in place of the 3.4-metre (11 feet) top lock, the canal only travelled as far the Old Wharf next to Tardebigge Tunnel.

The Canal & River Trust offers a certificate of achievement to any boaters that complete the journey through the 30 locks so why not make it your challenge for your next canal boat holiday. Find out how you can claim yours here.

5) The longest UK canal runs for 137 miles

The Grand Union Canal links London with Birmingham via Milton Keynes, Northampton and Leamington Spa and would take about 74 hours to cruise the whole length non-stop. It winds its way through rolling countryside, idyllic towns and villages with 158 locks and striking historic features including the Iron Trunk Aqueduct, the steep Hatton Lock Flight and The Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne.

The name of the canal offers a clue as to its origins, for it was not built as one waterway but was the result of connecting existing waterways to create an uninterrupted link between the industrial heartlands of Birmingham and the west midlands with the capital.

The longest canal in Britain built as a single waterway is the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at 127 miles long.

6) The newest canal in the UK was completed in 2002

The Ribble Link canal was opened just 17 years ago to connect the previously isolated Lancaster Canal with the rest of the national inland waterways network. It runs for just four miles from Preston to the River Ribble which then connects to the Leeds and Liverpool canal.

With nine locks, the Ribble Link is tidal so only navigable at certain times with advance booking needed as all boats must be helped through. A link between the Lancaster Canal and the wider canal network was first discussed 200 years ago but due to costs and engineering challenges did not come to fruition until 2000 with the help of a grant from the Millennium Commission.

7) Britain’s shortest canal is just 22 metres – or 72 feet – long

The Wardle Lock Branch of the Trent & Mersey Canal consists of just one 72ft-long lock and a few yards of canal on either side. It was built in 1829 to link the Trent & Mersey Canal with the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal.

8) A cow once swan the whole length of the Foulridge Tunnel

In 1912 a cow named Buttercup fell into the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near the southern end of the tunnel which carries the waterway for a mile under the Lancashire countryside. Rather than climb out of the canal as normal, Buttercup swam all 1500 metres to Foulridge at the northern end. On arrival, Buttercup was revived with brandy by locals drinking at the nearby Hole in the Wall pub.

9) Canals have plugs, literally

In 1978, a group of British Waterways workers who were dredging the Chesterfield Canal pulled up a chain which had a heavy lump of wood attached to the end. As the entire canal between Whitsunday Pie Lock and Retford Town Lock began to empty away into the River Idle, they realised they had pulled out a long forgotten canal plug.

10) There are more boats now on the UK canals than at any other time in history

While Britain’s industrial heydays of 18th and 19th century are generally viewed as the golden age of canals, there are actually more craft on our waterways today. Despite the canals being used by far less commercial traffic, they have become a mecca for pleasure craft and a growing number of people opting for floating homes. There are now around 34,000 boats on Britain’s canals and rivers, which provide homes, workplaces and holidays for millions of people. We are proud that Anglo Welsh can claim to be the proud owners of 160 of these vessels providing wonderful narrowboat holidays for people up and down the country.

A canal boat holiday takes you back in time. It is a journey through history as you float along waterways constructed in a bygone era of horse-drawn transport.

The vast majority of the canals in England and Wales were built at the dawn of industrialisation as the most efficient way of transporting the raw materials and goods going in and out the new factories.

This makes a narrowboat holiday a history lover’s dream come true as they can admire the antique engineering and the many sights, towns and cities along the routes which have all played notable roles in creating the modern Britain we know today.

To get you started, here we take you on a brief history of the canals of England and Wales.

Early history

While the UK was the first country to develop a nationwide canal network, the Chinese claim the title of being the earlier pioneers of inland waterways, constructing the Grand Canal of China in the 10th century. Most early canals were extensions of natural rivers.

The first canals of England and Wales were built by the Romans who dug the Fossdyke connecting Lincoln to the River Trent around AD50 and the nearby Car Dyke which ran southwards towards Cambridge.

Other early waterways of the medieval and post medieval period were constructed during to shorten, extend or link river routes such as the Exeter Canal, built in 1566 which featured the first pond locks in Britain.

But the golden age of canal building began as the Industrial Revolution took hold during the second half of the 18th century, with the construction of the Bridgewater Canal.

Golden age of canal building

Completed in 1776 under the watchful eye of engineer James Brindley, the Bridgewater Canal connects Runcorn, Manchester and Leigh. It was created in order to carry coal from the Duke of Bridgewater’s mines at Worsley into the industrial heart of Manchester where demand for coal to power the mills was soaring.

The Bridgewater Canal sparked a flurry of canal building during the half century that followed its construction. During an age of horse drawn transport and antiquated mud tracks for roads, the canals provided a highly efficient way to transport large quantities of goods. One horse could pull a canal boat carrying around 30 tonnes of cargo – more than ten times the amount that could be transport via a one horse cart.

The efficiency of the Bridgewater Canal meant the price of coal in Manchester dropped by nearly two thirds within a year of its opening. The waterway repaid the cost of its construction within a few years, proving the viability of canals.

Other industrialists began to follow suit and James Brindley suddenly found himself constantly in demand. He is largely responsible for the ‘Grand Cross’, the two thousand miles of canals linking the four great rivers of England – the Severn, Mersey, Humber and Thames.

There were two key canal building periods, from 1759 to the early 1770s and from 1789 to around 1800 when trains began to dominate.

The famous potter Josiah Wedgewood commissioned the construction of canals to transport his goods from the Staffordshire factories to Manchester and Birmingham. He was instrumental in the building of the Trent and Mersey Canal which was completed in 1777.

The Oxford Canal was completed in 1790, linking the coal mines and factories of the Midlands with London via the Thames while the Ellesmere Canal completed in 1805 and later incorporated into the Chester, Montgomery, Shropshire Union and Llangollen canals, helped link the Mersey and the Severn.

Thomas Telford took over from Brindley as the leading canal engineer of the late 18th century designing incredible landmarks including the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which soars over the River Dee.

The epicenter of canal building was in the industrial West Midlands and North West. Birmingham and the Black Country boasted an intricate network of 160 miles of canals, known as the Birmingham Canal Navigations, most of which survive today.

Funding for the canals was raised largely through private investors keen to reap the promised high returns. But by the end of the 18th century the flurry of canal building was over. Virtually all Britain’s canals were completed by 1815 when attention began to turn to the development of steam powered railway locomotives.

Decline

In the early 19th century the canals continued to be the preferred method for transporting bulky heavy goods while the new railway lines focused on passengers and lighter cargo. But as the century progressed the railways were developed into a national network, out competing the canals in both cargo volumes and speed, forcing tolls down so that the canal companies went into terminal decline.

The emergence of the motorcar in the early 20th century and development of an improved reliable road system was another blow to the commercial appeal of the canals.

As most of the canals fell out of commercial use and the companies that had maintained them shut down or were bought out, the waterways themselves were left to wreck and ruin.

Reinvention

In 1947 under the post-World War II Labour government, Britain’s canal and railway systems were nationalised. In the decades that followed, the canals were gradually restored and reopened, primarily for leisure purposes. Restoration projects have been largely undertaken by enthusiastic volunteer groups and local canal societies and trusts.

The canals are now managed by the Canal & River Trust, the successor to British Waterways, which actively supports many of the ongoing restoration projects. The Inland Waterways Association is a charity which also promotes the ongoing protection and conservation of the canals.

Commercial traffic is still permitted on a few key canal routes but the vast majority of waterways are now enjoyed by pleasure craft such as our own Anglo Welsh narrowboats.

There are said to be more boats using the British canals today than at any other point in their history.

Key sights of historic interest and engineering on the canals

Here are a few of the key sights which represented historic feats of engineering during the golden age of canal building and are still well worth a visit during a canal boat holiday today:

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, completed in 1805, the Llangollen Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Trevor

The Anderton Boat Lift, completed 1875, the Trent and Mersey Canal and River Weaver

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Bunbury

The Barton Swing Aqueduct, built 1893, Bridgewater Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Bunbury or Silsden

Chirk Aqueduct, completed 1801, Llangollen Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Trevor

Foxton Inclined Plane, opened 1900 and dismantled 1928, Grand Union Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Stockton

Dudley Tunnel, completed 1791, Dudley Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Great Haywood and Tardebigge

Blisworth Tunnel, completed 1805, Grand Union Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Stockton

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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?

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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