Back to school: Canal getaways for parents to enjoy
The kids are going back at school meaning parents can finally get some rest after the fun but frantic six weeks that are the summer holidays.
We think that, come September, most parents deserve – and probably need – a well-earned minibreak away from their darling children.
So if you are a parent whose children are busy at school again, why not book a quick canal getaway by way of reward for your gallant efforts to juggle work and many other commitments with keeping the little ones entertained day in day out since mid-July.
A canal boat holiday can be a perfect minibreak for a couple wanting a bit of rest and relaxation. 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.
Here are some of the best canal boat holiday journeys for a child-free break for parents:
The World Heritage City of Bath is a treat for visitors of all ages but going along without the kids will enable you to really soak up all the history and culture of this stunning Georgian city 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-upon-Avon with its tithe barn, 13th century bridge and impressive riverside former cloth mills.
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, which sits in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the edge of the Cotswolds.
Absorb yourself in Shakespeare’s historic hometown which is just a day-long cruise from our canal boat 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 which overlook 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.
Opt for a scenic rural cruise through rolling green countryside at the heart of England, from Stockton in Warwickshire to Royal Leamington Spa. On leaving our narrowboat base, descend through Stockton Locks to the village of Long Itchington with its two canalside pubs, ideal for a lunch or supper stop. Cruise through more idyllic countryside, negotiating only the Bascote Staircase locks until you reach elegant Royal Leamington Spa, with its fine examples of Regency and Victorian architecture such as Lansdown Crescent and the Parade. Browse the town’s many boutiques and shops, stop for a bite to eat in one of its 60 pubs, restaurants and bars, meander through the ornate Jephson Gardens and admire an exhibition at the Royal Pump Rooms Art Gallery and Museum.
If you are wildlife enthusiasts, this is the canal boat holiday route for you. Set out from our narrowboat base at Trevor and immediately cross the jewel of the canal network, the soaring Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which carries the Llangollen canal 126ft above the River Dee valley. Just a couple of kilometres later you pass through the 459-yard Chirk Tunnel followed by the Chirk Aqueduct which takes you across the border 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’ which 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.
Set off north from our narrowboat base at Bunbury along the Shropshire Union Canal, crossing the open country of the Cheshire Plain and patchwork quilt fields. You will pass the looming ruins of Beeston Castle sitting atop its rocky crag and the delightful village of Christleton – winner of ‘best kept village in Cheshire’ – clustered around its green 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 well be able to enjoy an outdoor theatre production in the atmospheric surroundings of the amphitheatre.
Sitting on the edge of the wilderness that is 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 follow the River Aire valley through dramatic hilly countryside with villages that still carry the hallmarks of their rich industrial past with good pub stop-offs. Just outside Keighley, you’ll reach the magnificent Bingley Five-Rise Locks, the steepest flight of locks in the UK honoured as 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.
Set out north east from our narrowboat base in Tardebigge in rural Worcestershire, which sits at the top of the longest lock flight in Britain, consisting of 30 locks carrying narrowboats 220 feet up and downhill over 3.5 miles. Admire this feat of historic engineering on foot before indulging in a leisurely lock-free cruise in the other direction. You’ll float through stunning Shakespeare Country, with its blend of wild countryside and cultivated landscaped until you reach the outer reaches of Birmingham where you turn onto the picturesque North Stratford canal. This takes you back into rolling farmland and wooded valleys towards pretty village of Lapworth. Step back in time and enjoy a well earned pint at the traditional canalside Blue Bell Cider House enroute. Once you’ve reached your destination, you are just a stone’s throw from two amazing National Trust owned Tudor manor houses, Packwood House with its incredible tapestries and famous yew gardens and Baddesley Clinton with its moat and walled gardens. You can easily spend a happy day exploring these properties and their gardens and parkland.
Our new narrowboat base for 2019, 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, named after the collection of unusual lakes which surround it, which were 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, to reach the 710-ft long and 70-ft high Chirk Aqueduct which takes you across the River Ceiriog into north Wales. Admire Thomas Telford’s masterly construction before heading to one of the nearby pubs.
So, don’t be saddened by the prospect of summer coming to an end but celebrate everything that autumn has to offer and start planning your September canal holiday – our expert team are always on hand to help so get in touch!
Our beautiful network of inland waterways were once the transport arteries of the Industrial Revolution, but today they have become green corridors and provide homes for hundreds of species of animals.
When enjoying your canal boat holiday, whether you are cruising through the countryside or waterside towns and cities, you can spot anything from ducks, moorhens and dragonflies, to kingfishers, otters and water voles.
Many areas of our canals and rivers have been designated as important nature sites, recognising the valuable habitats they provide. To celebrate the wildlife of the waterways, we’ve put together a list of our Top 10 waterside wildlife hotspots:
Chimney Meadows, Oxfordshire – the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust’s largest nature reserve in Oxfordshire runs alongside the River Thames, close to Shifford Lock. This vital refuge for wading birds has walking trails, bird hides and a picnic area. Part of an ancient landscape created by the River Thames and shaped by centuries of farming, these remote and tranquil wildflower meadows have a remarkable diversity of plant-life and are home to nationally declining wading birds such as curlew. When visiting, you can also look and listen out for cuckoos, barn owls, lapwing, fieldfare, redwing, snipe, brown hares, water voles and otters. Travelling from our Oxford canal boat rental base on the River Thames at Eynsham, you can take a Thames boating holiday and reach Chimney Meadows in just under four hours, cruising for 10 miles and passing through two locks.
Hatton Locks, Warwickshire – this stunning flight of 21 locks in the Warwickshire countryside offers a great place to watch out for wildlife. As well as ducks, moorhens and swans, you might see house sparrows and grey wagtails at the water’s edge, and on a warm day, grass snakes and slow worms. Setting off from our canal boat rental base on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen, you can reach the bottom of the Hatton Flight in around eight hours, passing through 17 locks along the way.
Fradley Pool Nature Reserve, Staffordshire – at Fradley Junction, where the Coventry Canal meets the Trent & Mersey Canal, the picturesque Fradley Pool Nature Reserve is a great place for a family day out. There are walking trails, sculpture trails, places to picnic, as well as a choice places to eat and drink. Look out for ducks and swans, as well as terrapins basking in the sunshine and bats if you are there at dusk. Heading south from our canal boat hire base at Great Haywood, you can reach Fradley Junction in around five hours, cruising along 12 peaceful miles of the Trent & Mersey Canal and passing through just five locks.
Ellesmere, Shropshire – the pretty market town of Ellesmere on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire is located right next to The Mere, a large lake packed with wildlife. There are woodland walks, places to eat, drink and picnic, a sculpture trail and adventure playground. Keep an eye out for many of types of birds, including kingfishers, yellow hammers, tree sparrows, lapwing, sand martins and ringed plovers. Watch out for wading birds like curlew, greenshank, godwit and whimbrel, as well as herons using the heronry on Moscow Island. Setting off from our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, you can reach Ellesmere in around seven hours, passing through just two locks along the way. And from our new canal boat rental base at Whixall, Ellesmere is just three-and-a-half hours away by boat.
Caen Hill Locks, Wiltshire – the flight of 29 locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes in Wiltshire, includes the spectacular run of 16 locks falling in a straight line up Caen Hill. Travelling from our canal boat hire base at Brassknocker Basin near Bath, it takes around 10 hours, passing through eight locks to reach the bottom of the Caen Hill flight. Along the way, look out for kingfishers, mute swans, coots, moorhens and herons. Once at Caen Hill, the newly planted Jubilee Woodland is already providing excellent habitat for birds, water voles have been spotted in the Caen Hill side pounds, along with otters and the rare chaser dragonfly.
Marple Locks, Derbyshire – the flight of 16 locks on the Peak Forest Canal at Marple are surrounded by beautiful countryside and stretches of ancient woodland – home to many types of woodland bird. You can also enjoy fantastic views across the Peak District from here. From our narrowboat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury, boaters can reach the bottom of the Marple Flight in around four days, travelling 68 miles and passing through 36 locks. The Marple Flight is on the spectacular Four Counties Ring, which takes around 58 hours cruise if you set off from Bunbury, or 55 hours from Great Haywood.
Prees Branch Canal, Shropshire – This tranquil arm of the Llangollen Canal provides a haven for waterway wildlife, including water plants, dragonflies, damselflies, birds and water voles. Our new canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina is on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal and next to the Whixall Moss Nature Reserve, a large wetland site which is home to a range of wading birds, rare plants, butterflies and dragonflies. From Whixall, you can travel to Ellesmere on a short break (three or four nights) or Llangollen on a week’s narrowboat holiday, passing over the magnificent World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way.
Consall Forge, Staffordshire – on the beautiful Caldon Canal in the Churnet Valley, next to Consall Nature Park, Consall Forge is a great place to spot wildlife, including water birds, woodland birds and birds of prey. You can moor up to explore the nature trails here and choose from a variety of places to eat, drink, including the popular canalside Black Lion Inn. From our canal boat rental base at Great Haywood, you can reach Consall Forge in around 20 hours, travelling 33 miles through beautiful countryside, and passing through 34 locks – perfect for a week’s holiday afloat.
Bittell Reservoir, Worcestershire – Built to supply water for the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, today Bittell Reservoir is a SSSI and is home to an abundance of wildlife. Over 200 species of water bird have been recorded here, including wintering wading birds and waterfowl, breeding birds such as the great crested grebe, little ringed-plover and grasshopper warbler. Rare silt shoreline plants such as slender spike rush and mudwort can be found here, along with the rare mud snail and five different species of dragonfly. The Bittell Arm and Lower Reservoir can be reached in just under two hours from our canal boat hire base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Tardebigge.
Bingley, West Yorkshire – the fields either side of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Bingley are full of wildflowers, including Arum Lily, Yellow Flag Iris and Cuckooflower, and the canal itself is home to dragonflies, damselflies, and many water birds. Setting off from our narrowboat hire base on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Silsden, you can reach the Bingley Five Rise Lock Staircase, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways, in just over three hours.
All aboard! New narrowboats being introduced for 2019 canal holidays
Winter is behind us and that means the new canal boat holiday season is finally here! We’ve been hard at work over winter to ensure the best possible choice of narrowboats for your 2019 canal adventures. So, we are excited to announce the launch of a series of new canal barges this season which will ensure we continue to offer an unbeatable range of narrowboat holidays for all our guests.
Here’s an introduction to the beautiful new narrowboats that will be gracing our historic waterways in coming months:
Heritage Class expands with Poppy at Wootton Wawen
After the huge success of our first ‘Heritage Class’ canal barge Lily which was launched last year, we are thrilled to be expanding the fleet with Poppy. The Heritage Class boats are designed and built in the style of the narrowboats of the past, with traditional livery, round portholes, wooden interiors with brass fittings and a fuel fire. However, don’t be fooled by the boats’ old-fashioned appearance, they are still fitted out with all the modern features needed to ensure your comfort and convenience from central heating to full size shower rooms, TV, DVD and WiFi. The Heritage Class boats offer the best of both worlds.
With two bedrooms offering four berths, a fully equipped galley – or kitchen in landlubber speak – dining area and lounge, Poppy is perfect for families and groups of friends wanting to drift back in time to a bygone era along the canals of England and Wales.
Constellation Class welcomes three news boats, Gemini, Scorpius and Sagittarius
This Constellation class has proven so popular since its creation in 2016, it has expanded very year and 2019 is now exception. This year will see the introduction of three new canal barges that each sleep up to 10 guests across four bedrooms so are idea for larger group holidays.
The Constellation Class narrowboats boast light modern interiors, comfy leather seats in the lounge and fully equipped galley kitchens with a cooker and hobs, fridge-freezer and microwave. With so much space for sleeping and storage, the large Constellation Class boats are popular for longer canal boat trips of a week or more.
Weir Class grows with Grafton at Whixall Marina
The smaller Weir Class boats which sleep just two to four people have been a big hit with couples wanting a relaxing, romantic break. Grafton will be launched at Whixall Marina on the lovely Shropshire Union Canal on Friday, 5th April. With its one double bedroom, bathroom and kitchen-living space, measuring just 48-ft in length, Grafton, like the other Weir class narrowboats are much easier to handle and maneouvre than some of their larger counterparts making them great starter boats. They are also a good choice in peak season when the canals get very busy and space is at a premium.
All the Anglo Welsh narrowboats are designed to provide a perfect floating holiday home for families, couples and friends who want to explore the canals of England and Wales without compromising on comfort and convenience. The holiday hire narrowboats have gas ovens, bridges, TV, DVD players, central heating and kitchens equipped with everything needed to cook and enjoy a meal for everyone onboard. Bedding, towels, tea towels and bottled gas is provided. Some boats have additional features such as microwaves, sofas, dressing tables so always check the layout and specifications of the vessel before booking to ensure it has everything you need.
To celebrate the New Year, and a new cruising season just around the corner, we’ve picked the brains of our boat yard managers across the country, to find some of the most interesting, quirky and unusual stories on our waterways. We hope you find them fun and inspiring for when you plan your new holiday afloat!
Keep an eye out for the Water Buffalo at Napton – From our canal boat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, it takes just over two hours to cruise to the village of Napton, where alongside the Oxford Canal, a herd of Water Buffalo can often be seen grazing. In 1999, the Buffalo Farm at Chapel Green started milking 20 ‘Bubalus Bubalis’, a species native across Asia, and it’s now home to 140 cows and 100 young buffalo. If you fancy sampling some of their produce, Napton Village Stores sells the farm’s Buffalo burgers, sausages, meatballs, steaks and ice cream. On a midweek break, from Napton you can continue on to Fenny Compton, travelling a total of 20 hours there and back from Stockton and passing through 12 locks each way. On a week’s break you can travel on to Cropredy.
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 127 feet 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.
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.
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 of which 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 canal boat rental base at Sydney Wharf 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.
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. Our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge is next to the Top Lock. On a short break from here, it’s best to head north to Lapworth or Birmingham. On a week’s break, you could travel the Droitwich or Stourport Ring, which includes the Tardebigge Flight.
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 our canal boat hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at 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.
Watch out for the dazzling canalside murals at Oxford – in north Oxford, the Oxford Canal is crossed by two bridges with large canalside walls. Three years ago, 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 canal boat hire 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.
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 our canal boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at 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.
Read the lock wall poem in Bath – a poem created by Jessica Kashdan-Brown has been stencilled into the wall of Lock 13 near Pulteney Road in Bath. The equivalent of 820 full bath tubs of water drains from the lock on each descent, gradually revealing the poem to boaters and gongoozlers. Lock 13 (also known as Bath Top Lock) is just five minutes by boat from our canal boat hire base at Sydney Wharf. From there, you can travel through the six locks that make up the Bath flight and reach moorings in Bath City Centre in just two hours. Experienced boaters can travel on along the Bristol Avon to Bristol’s Floating Harbour, travelling through another seven locks and cruising for a further six hours.
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 narrowboat rental base at Great Haywood, on the junction of the Staffs & Worcs and Trent & Mersey Canal. 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, which takes narrowboat holiday-makers on a 45-hour waterway odyssey, cruising a total of 75 miles and passing through 79.
Aim high: The most impressive aqueducts on the canals of England and Wales
There are few things as magical as drifting on a canal boat high above another waterway or even a road or railway, waving to the world below. Aqueducts offer some of the most incredible moments of any canal boat holiday, from enjoying sweeping views across verdant countryside to admiring the incredible feats of historic engineering many of them represent. As your narrowboat crosses an aqueduct and you calmly watch the world passing below, you will feel transported in body and mind.
Here, to help you plan your next narrowboat holiday route with Anglo Welsh, we list the most impressive canal aqueducts to look out for in England and Wales:
Arguably the most awe-inspiring of any aqueduct in England and Wales, the Pontcysyllte carries the Llangollen canal a jaw-dropping 126-ft above the River Dee. It offers traversing canal boats and towpath walkers sweeping views along the stunning river valley in each direction. Located at Trevor in North Wales, the Grade I* listed aqueduct achieved World Heritage status in 2009.
Nearest Anglo Welsh base: Trevor
Situated on a stunning stretch of the Kennet and Avon Canal between Bath and Bradford-upon-Avon, this beautiful stone structure was completed in 1810 by John Rennie. It carries narrowboats across the River Avon as well as Brunel’s Great Western Railway and is now designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Nearest Anglo Welsh base: Monkton Combe
Barton Swing Aqueduct
The first and only swing aqueduct in the world carries the Bridgewater Canal across the much larger Manchester Ship Canal. Now a Grade II* listed building, this feat of Victorian civil engineering opened in 1893 consisting of a channel that can be sealed off at each end to form a 235-feet long and 18 feet wide tank. Holding 800 tons of water, it swings on a pivot on an island in the middle of the Ship Canal.
Nearest Anglo Welsh base: Bunbury
The highest canal aqueduct in England, this incredible triple arched structure carries the Peak Forest Canal 90-feet above the River Goyt near Marple. Designed by Benjamin Outram and opened in 1800, the Grade I listed construction and ancient monument which sits at the bottom of one of the steepest lock flights in Britain, comprising 16 locks.
Nearest Anglo Welsh base: Bunbury
Dowley Gap Aqueduct
Also known as the Seven Arches Aqueduct, this beautiful Grade II edifice takes the Leeds and Liverpool Canal across the River Aire, between Saltaire and Bingley. Designed by the famous engineer James Brindley, the 245-year-old aqueduct runs for 131 yards over seven stone arches, as its second name suggests.
Built in 1825 by engineer Thomas Telford, this 52-ft long elegant cast-iron structure carries the Engine Arm Canal across the Birmingham Canal Navigation (BCN) New Main Line near Smethwick. The aqueduct was designed to transfer water from Edgbaston Reservoir to ensure the West Midland canal network was topped up.
Nearest Anglo Welsh base: Tardebigge
This 70-ft high aqueduct, built between 1796 and 1801 by Thomas Telford and William Jessop carries the Llangollen Canal across the luscious Ceiriog Valley straddling England and Wales. Despite its scale and beauty with 10 masonry arches, the Chirk Aqueduct is often overshadowed by its near neighbor the Pontcysyllte but is included within the World Heritage Site which stretches from Chirk to the Horseshoe Falls in Llangollen itself.
Nearest Anglo Welsh base: Trevor
This cast iron aqueduct built in 1811 carries the Grand Union Canal 40-ft above the idyllic River Great Ouse at Cosgrove. Originally known as the Iron Trunk, the aqueduct was built in iron to replace a previous stone aqueduct that had failed.
The longest cast iron aqueduct in England, the Edstone is one of three aqueducts on a four mile stretch of the Stratford-upon-Avon canal in Warwickshire. Stretching for 475-ft, the Edstone crosses a road, a busy railway line and the track of another former railway near Bearley. Opened in 1816, the aqueduct is notable for the fact its towpath is at the level of the canal bottom so walkers crossing it can watch the narrowboats motor past at waist height.
Nearest Anglo Welsh base: Wootton Wawen
If you would like further advice on the best routes for a canal boat holiday to take in some of these aqueducts and other marvels of our canal network, please don’t hesitate to contact our team on 0117 304 1122 or via our website: www.anglowelsh.co.uk/Contact-Us.
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.
Best for beginners
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 also has two pubs – the gourmet Mary Arden Inn which dates back to the 1700s, and The Masons Arms, a traditional pub with flagstone floors and real fires.
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. In 2017 performances of Anthony & Cleopatra, Julius Caesar and Titus Andronicus are scheduled.
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.
Best for experienced boaters
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.
To book a holiday or break on any of Anglo Welsh’s fleet, call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122.
Narrowboat holidays offer the chance to enjoy a fantastic family adventure holiday afloat. So why not ship out this Easter to explore the Great British countryside as it bursts into life with spring lambs, busy birds, blossom and new leaves.
And stop-off along the way to visit exciting waterside visitor attractions hosting special Easter activities.
Here are our Top 10 family destinations this Easter to help you plan ahead:
Check out the new arrivals at Chester Zoo. 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, canal boat holiday-makers can visit Chester Zoo, home to over 15,000 animals, living in 125 acres of award-winning zoological gardens. New arrivals include a rare baby Sulawesi crested macaque monkey, ‘Diego Junior’ an endangered giant otter, ‘Murchison’ the baby giraffe and two baby elephants.
Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’. Just five minutes by boat from our base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, boaters encounter the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, truly one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. Its cast iron trough, along which boats travel, is supported on iron arched ribs and carried 38 metres high above the Dee Valley on 19 hollow pillars. On a short break from Trevor, boaters can cross the aqueduct and then continue east to reach the Ellesmere Lakes, teaming with wildlife. On a week’s break, boaters can cruise on to the historic market town of Whitchurch, with its striking half-timbered buildings, independent shops and restaurants, way-marked circular walks, and numerous pubs, including the award-winning Black Bear.
Enjoy Egg-citing Easter activities at the Black Country Living Museum. From our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s an eight-hour, three-lock journey to moorings outside the Black Country Living Museum. From 8-23 April the Museum will be hosting an array of family activities, including a ‘m-egg-a hunt across the 26-acre site, exploring shops and houses to solve clues, egg rolling competitions, eggy craft activities, traditional street games, Victorian school lessons, a trip into an 1850s coal mine and the chance to enjoy freshly baked hot cross buns from their bakery and traditionally cooked fish & chips.
Get brainy at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. From our Oxford base, it’s a tranquil three-hour cruise along the River Thames to moorings at Hythe Bridge, perfect for exploring Oxford’s city centre, including the awesome Oxford University Museum of Natural History, home to the University’s internationally significant collections of geological and zoological specimens, including the Oxfordshire dinosaurs, the Dodo and the swifts in the Tower. This Easter, visitors can enjoy their special ‘Brain Diaries’ exhibition (10 March 2017 to 1 January 2018), which chronicles the fascinating physical developments our brains undergo as we grow from babies to children, teenagers and then adults.
Join the Medieval Easter activities at the Royal Armouries Museum. From our base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, on a week’s holiday, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Leeds and back, cruising for a total of 34 hours and passing through 56 locks. Here, boaters can moor up and explore the Royal Armouries Museum at Leeds Dock, home of the national collection of arms and armour. From Saturday 8 to Sunday 23 April, the Museum will be hosting a range of medieval-themed events and activities, with an exciting gallery programme of live interpretations, dramatic performances, and combat demonstrations, plus the Knight’s Apprentice Horse Show, Knight School, Falconry Flying Displays and medieval dance workshops.
Meet a Roman soldier at the Roman Baths. From our base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at the historic town of Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, boaters can reach Bath Top Lock, in just six hours, travelling through one lock and over two beautiful Bath stone aqueducts. From there, it’s a 15-minute walk into Bath City Centre and the Roman Baths, where visitors can see the remarkably preserved remains of one of the greatest religious spas of the ancient world and meet costumed characters, including a Roman soldier, stonemason, slave girl and priest, bringing to life the people who lived and worked at Aquae Sulis 2,000 years ago.
Find a tropical butterfly paradise at the Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm. From our base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, it’s a delightful six-hour, 17-lock cruise journey through the Warwickshire countryside to moorings in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon. From here, it’s a short walk to the town’s theatres, shops, restaurants and museums, as well as the Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm, where visitors can see some of the world’s largest and most camouflaged caterpillars on show, find out about the amazing lifecycle of a butterfly within the Farm’s Emerging Cage and observe the fascinating Mini-Beast Metropolis, inhabited by stick insects, beetles, leafcutter ants and some of the world’s largest tarantula spiders.
Step back in time at Fradley Junction. From our base at Great Haywood, near Stafford, it’s a peaceful six-hour journey along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Fradley Junction, near Burton-on-Trent, where the Trent & Mersey Canal meets the Coventry Canal. Here visitors can find out about the people who once lived at Fradley Junction, repairing boats and locks, the cottages they lived in, the maintenance yard where they worked and the pub where they swapped gossip after a hard day’s work. There’s an audio trail to follow and wildlife to spot at the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve, with a bird hide and pond dipping platform.
Wonder at Warwick Castle. From our Stockton base on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, it’s a seven-hour journey, passing through 20 locks, to reach 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, the Castle Dungeon, Great Hall and Staterooms to explore, the sights, sounds and smells of the medieval period to experience in the Kingmaker exhibition, soaring birds of prey and trebuchet firing displays to watch, the Horrible Histories Maze to navigate and landscaped gardens to tour.
Explore Brunel’s SS Great Britain in Bristol’s Floating Harbour*. From our base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Sydney Wharf in Bath, Bristol’s Floating Harbour is an eight-hour cruise away, travelling through 13 locks. Once there, narrowboat holiday-makers can moor-up and take time to explore Brunel’s awesome SS Great Britain, one of the most important historic ships in the world. Special activities planned this Easter include an Easter Animal Trail for families to follow clues in search of creatures that traditionally travelled on board the ship, and volunteer-led talks about the ship’s first voyage to Australia, with tales of murder, mystery, life changing success and spectacular failure. *NB this route is recommended route for experienced boaters.
To book a holiday or break on any of Anglo Welsh’s fleet, call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122.
We offer a range of different types of holidays such as City Breaks, Relaxation Cruises and Popular Destinations
So why choose Anglo Welsh?
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.
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