Plan your canal boat holiday for 2019: Beautiful spring cruising routes
There is no prettier time of year in Britain than the spring. As the crocuses, primroses and daffodils start to flower and lambs gambol through green fields, this is the perfect time to hop aboard a narrowboat for a relaxing canal holiday.
The best spring canal routes are the ones which showcase the loveliness of the British countryside.
The canals of England and Wales are at their most scenic and serene at this magical time of year when there is far less traffic on our historic waterways than in the peak summer holiday season. Those who opt for a spring narrowboat holiday will face far less queuing at locks or waiting patiently at one-way stretches and enjoy the ultimate escape.
So, take advantage of the lengthening days and warmer weather during this tranquil season to plan your perfect narrowboat holiday.
To help, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most beautiful spring cruising routes on the canals of England and Wales:
The canal continues towards Devizes on the edge of the rolling Wiltshire Downs where you must ascend the dramatic Caen Hill Locks, a flight of 16 locks offering great views from the top. The market town of Devizes boasts more than 500 listed buildings as well as some independent shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs.
From the newly revamped marina, you can travel easily onto the Llangollen Canal which snakes through the gorgeous border country that straddles England and Wales.
You first pass through the market town of Ellesmere, aptly named for the series of lakes which surround it which were formed by glacial compression at the end of the last Ice Age.
Beyond that, the canal meanders west through luscious surroundings, to reach the Chirk Aqueduct which takes you across the border into north Wales and is quickly followed by the atmospheric 459-yard single width Chirk Tunnel.
Next is arguably the most spectacular sight of all the canals of England and Wales, Thomas Telford’s masterpiece, the soaring Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This crowning jewel of historic waterway engineering completed in 1805, spans more than 1000 feet at a tremulous height of 126-ft above the River Dee, offering passing boats sweeping views of the river valley in each direction. It is the highest canal aqueduct in the world.
After this the canal twists and turns clinging to the edge of the dramatic Welsh hills, with far reaching views across the valley, until it reaches the pretty town of Llangollen, steeped in myth and legend overlooked by hilltop ruins of Dinas Bran Castle.
Stratford-on-Avon to Warwick
Step back in time and cruise through Shakespeare’s England, taking in the unspoilt Warwickshire countryside and its array of wonderful waterside pubs. From our base at Wootton Wawen you can reach the birthplace of the famed playwright in just a day or two, wander its cobbled streets and admire the cluster of Tudor buildings.
Travel back past the canal base through bucolic farmland, copses of oak and sycamore, quaint villages and past idyllic country pubs. Heading north the Stratford Canal takes boats over the longest aqueduct in England, the Edstone Aqueduct.
You can moor up at the rustic Fleur-de-Lys at Lowsonford which offers passersby a great selection of real ales and pub grub to be enjoyed in its large canalside garden.
Continue through open countryside to join the Grand Union Canal which leads past more idyllic villages and pubs with a ye olde world charm including the Tom O’ The Wood in Rowington. It is then just five miles through the famous ‘Hatton Flight’ of 21 locks on to the centre of Warwick itself, built around its formidable medieval castle.
Bunbury to Market Drayton and beyond
The Shropshire Union canal takes narrowboats across miles of quintessentially English countryside, dotted with dozens of isolated canalside pubs which once served the commercial traffic that used this main route between the midlands and north west.
This makes it a particularly scenic and tranquil route to cruise, starting at the Anglo Welsh base in Bunbury and heading south towards Market Drayton.
Due to its rural loveliness ‘the Shroppie’, as it is affectionately known, is a favourite with narrowboaters up and down the country so can get very crowded in the summer making spring the perfect time to explore it.
From Bunbury, you cross the Cheshire Plain, thronging with dairy cattle and sheep enjoying its rich pastures, past historic Nantwich, before ascending the Audlem Flight of locks towards pretty Market Drayton.
Shortly after leaving the town and passing through the deep cutting at Woodseaves, you’ll be treated to a great view of The Wrekin, a huge hill more than 15 miles away.
The canal then proceeds south east through the unspoilt undulating Shropshire countryside of fields, hills and wooded valleys with stretches where there are no towns for miles, towards Wolverhampton.
Silsden to Skipton and beyond
One of England’s last surviving wildernesses, the Yorkshire Dales are a treat at any time of year but in the spring their looming hills and river valleys are at their most beautiful.
Heading west out of Silsden, a town dating back to Saxon times, the canal passes through enchanting Yorkshire stone-built villages of Kildwick and Farnhill into a densely wooded area famous for its bluebells which carpet the area in late April. If you’re lucky you may even spot a deer.
Motor on through Bradley, a typical ‘mill village’ with a cricket field and a country pub then to Skipton, known as the ‘Gateway to the Dales’ which boasts a market four days a week. You could then choose to continue through classic Dales countryside, above the River Aire, to reach more delightful villages such as Gargrave and the flight of locks at Bank Newton which are lauded as the most beautiful locks on the whole canal system.
Get a first-hand insight into why canal boat holidays are such an enjoyable way to slow down and unwind when 20 canal bases across England and Wales offer visitors the chance to jump aboard for free. Narrowboat hire companies including Anglo Welsh will be hosting short boat trips from 11am to 4pm. We will be running boat rides from our bases in Trevor, Bunbury, Great Haywood, Wootton Wawen and Tardebigge. No booking is required.
Taking place in Little Venice since 1983, the Inland Waterway Association’s Canalway Calvacade is one of the biggest and best canal festivals in the UK. Hundreds of narrowboats and other canal craft decorated with bunting line up along the Grand Union and Regents Canal providing the backdrop to a weekend of live music, dancing and fabulous food and drink. A highlight is the boat ‘pageant’ which sees boats competing for the best décor with a different theme each year.
Thousands of visitors descend upon Skipton over the May Bank Holiday to see dozens of decorated narrowboats line the canal basin and surrounding towpaths. There will be a full programme of entertainment over three days with children’s activites and rides, as well as craft stalls and delicious food and drink.
Launched in 2007, this family festival which takes place across Vines Park in Droitwich and the historic town centre, has grown to include street markets and exhibitions, live entertainment and a vintage car rally alongside the canal boat gathering. The festival culminates with ‘The Great Droitwich Duck Race’ at 4.30pm on the Monday afternoon.
This celebration of canals, community and the environment brings hundreds of traditional narrowboats and other craft from different eras together from across the country. At least 20,000 visitors come to Rickmansworth to enjoy the boats, music, performances, displays and colourful range of traders.
Britain’s biggest inland waterways festival with more than 27,000 visitors last year, the Crick Boat Show bring together over 280 exhibitors, dozens of boats of all ages, dimensions and styles, talks by boating experts, boat trips and boat handling taster sessions all topped off with great live music and food and drink to get everyone in a celebratory mood. Now in its 20th year, this boat show is a great day out for all the family.
This is a must visit for anyone who loves boats in all their forms, with three days of ‘simply messing about in boats’ in this beautiful lake next to the River Thames. Visitors can admire classic boats, wooden boats, fibre glass boats, motor boats, sailing boats and much more with boat trips and rides. For any members of the family less keen on boats, there is also a vintage vehicle rally and many more land-based activities to enjoy.
Enjoy live music on the canalside main stage to the backdrop of hundreds of narrowboats. Fringe music events can also be enjoyed in up to 15 venues dotted across the town over three days as well as Morris dancing performances, a Celidh night, craft workshops and a rich variety of stalls celebrating Middlewich’s heritage.
Narrow boats, including one of our own from Anglo Welsh, congregate from far and wide to enjoy the live music, craft stalls, market traders and food and drink sellers which bring the banks of the River Avon to life over two fun-filled days. The live music and street performances are topped off by a spectacular illuminated boat parade and firework display on the Saturday night.
Live music, arts and crafts, fairground rides and of course boat trips are just some of the reasons to visit the Burnley Canal Festival. The town’s historic waterside blossoms with a busy programme of performances and workshops for all ages from puppet making to circus skills, alongside a tempting array of food and drink stalls.
This festival sees a whole host of family friendly activities line the banks of the River Soar. A narrowboat rally provides a colourful backdrop to the event where visitors can enjoy boat trips, live music and attractions such as a petting zoo, as well as a bustling street food market.
Usually at the end of July, this one-day festival celebrates canal life, conservation, the countryside and the traditional rural crafts. Along the canal an eclectic mix of working, historical and trade boats display their wares alongside the colourful pleasure boats which visit to soak up the festival atmosphere. Old English crafts can be admired alongside food and drink stalls all to a backdrop of live folk and country music and performance.
This canalside festival brings together live music, art and crafts, a dog show, boat rides, walks, talks, films, fairground rides and some healthy competition in the form of the ‘canal Olympics’. Canal boats line up to sell their wares or simply look decorative. All the money raised at the event will towards a community narrowboat restoration project.
Nearest Anglo Welsh base: Oxford
If you would like further advice on getting to any of these, or other, events, please don’t hesitate to contact our team on 0117 304 1122 or via our website: www.anglowelsh.co.uk/Contact-Us.
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.