Spring is a fantastic time to take a narrowboat holiday on Britain’s beautiful inland waterways, when the countryside is bursting with new life.
With blossoming waterside trees and hedges, busy nest-building birds, ducklings bobbing on the water, spring lambs playing in the fields, and carpets of bluebells in waterside woodlands, there’s so much to look out for on a Spring adventure afloat.
To celebrate Spring and the wildlife that makes its home on our canals and rivers, we’ve put together our Top 10 Spring canal boat holiday destinations for 2023:
1. Drift through the beautiful prehistoric Vale of Pewsey
On a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Monkton Coombe you can cruise through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You’ll travel along the Kennet & Avon Canal passing through miles of peaceful Wiltshire countryside, and a series of villages and country pubs along the way. You’ll travel up the mighty Caen Hill Flight of 29 locks at Devizes and along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest and then on through the Vale of Pewsey. The journey to Pewsey and back takes around 38 hours, passing through 74 locks (37 each way).
2. Cruise to the gateway of the Yorkshire Dales to explore Skipton Castle Woods
From our barge holiday hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal it takes just over three hours to reach Skipton, the ‘Gateway to the Dales’. Here, Skipton Castle Woods with acres of woodlands trails, is a great place to explore in the Spring. For nearly a thousand years the woods provided fuel, food and building materials for castle inhabitants. Today there are at least 18 species of trees flourishing there, and hundreds of flowering plants, including wild orchids and bluebells in the Spring. The journey along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Silsden passes through the typical Yorkshire stone built villages of Kildwick and Farnhill. And on into a dense wooded area famous for its bluebells and deer. The journey to Silsden and back travels 13 miles and takes around seven cruising hours.
3. Travel to Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains
On a week-long holiday from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire you can reach the pretty town of Llangollen. Along the way, you’ll travel through the beautiful Shropshire Lake District and across the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Once in Llangollen, you can moor up to enjoy exploring this pretty town nestled on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains. There are regular markets packed with local produce, a choice of independent shops and restaurants, and the famous Horseshoe Falls. The journey to Llangollen and back takes around 24 cruising hours, and passes through just four locks (two each way).
4. Wend your way to Fradley Pool Nature Reserve
On a short break from our base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood near Stafford, you can reach Fradley Pool Nature Reserve. Fradley Pool is home to a variety of water birds and it’s a great place to spot bats swooping across the water at dusk. There are walking trails, sculpture trails, places to picnic and a choice of places to eat and drink, including the historic Swan Inn. The journey to Fradley and back travels 24 miles, passes through 10 locks (five each way) and takes around 12 hours.
5. Navigate the Four Counties Ring for stunning views of the Cheshire Plains
On a week or 10-day break from our narrowboat rental base at Bunbury you can cruise the popular Four Counties Ring through some of England’s best loved countryside. The route takes you through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire. It cruises sections of the Trent & Mersey, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Shropshire Union canals. There panoramic views to enjoy from the flight of 31 locks between Middlewich and Kidsgrove on the Trent & Mersey Canal. And stunning views of the rolling Cheshire Plains on the Shropshire Union Canal. From Bunbury, completing the Four Counties Ring takes around 58 cruising hours and passes through 96 locks.
6. Take part in #BlossomWatch at Packwood House
On a short break from our Tardebigge base near Bromsgrove, you can cruise to the village of Lapworth, home of the National Trust’s Packwood House. The route takes you through the Worcestershire countryside along the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal to Kings Norton Junction. There you can transfer onto the Stratford Canal to reach the village of Lapworth. At Packwood House every Spring blossom spreads across the garden and parkland, including on the cherry and apple trees in the orchard. The National Trust’s #BlossomWatch invites visitors to share pictures of spring blossom on social media. The journey to Lapworth and back takes around 14 hours.
7. Enjoy bird spotting at Ellesmere in the heart of Shropshire Lake District
From our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, on a short break you can reach the medieval market town of Ellesmere. Along the way, you’ll cross over the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, 38 metres high above the Dee Valley. The Mere at Ellesmere is a large lake packed with wildlife. There are woodland walks, places to eat, drink and picnic, a sculpture trail and adventure playground. You can spot many of types of birds, including kingfishers, yellow hammers, tree sparrows, lapwing, sand martins and ringed plovers. There are also wading birds such as curlew, greenshank, godwit and whimbrel, as well as herons using the heronry on Moscow Island. The journey to Ellesmere and back takes around 14 hours and passes through four locks (two each way).
8. Cruise along the River Thames past riverside woodlands and meadows
On a short break from our Oxford base, you can enjoy a Thames boating holiday to the historic market town of Abingdon. Along the way, you’ll cruise through the outskirts of the ancient City of Oxford. Then on through beautiful stretches of Oxfordshire countryside, with lush riverside meadows and the chance to hear cuckoos calling. There are also riverside woodlands with carpets of bluebells to look out for. Once moored up at Abingdon, you can enjoy exploring riverside walks, parks and eateries, including the popular waterside Nag’s Head. The journey to Abingdon and back takes around 10 hours, passing through 12 locks (six each way).
9. Travel through the Northamptonshire countryside to Stoke Bruerne
On a mid-week or week-long break from our base at Stockton, you can cruise to the pretty Northamptonshire village of Stoke Bruerne. The journey along the Grand Union Canal takes you gently through the countryside and the 2,813-metre long Blisworth Tunnel. You can moor up in Stoke Bruerne to enjoy a choice of canalside pubs and browsing the intriguing waterway history collections at the Canal Museum. And there’s a wonderful woodland walk and sculpture trail alongside the canal to explore, with the chance to spot a wide variety of woodland birds. The journey to Stoke Bruerne and back takes around 25 hours and passes through 34 locks (17 each way).
10. Navigate the Avon Ring through some of England’s best loved countryside
On a 10-day break from Wootton Wawen, you can complete the Avon Ring. This 109-mile circuit travels through some of the most beautiful countryside in England. You’ll first travel along the pretty Stratford Canal to Shakespeare’s Stratford. Here you can transfer onto the River Avon to begin cruising through idyllic countryside, to Evesham and Tewkesbury, with panoramic views of Warwickshire and the Cotswolds beyond. At Tewkesbury you’ll lock onto the River Severn, and later transfer onto the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal at Diglis. Completing the Avon Ring from Wootton Wawen takes around 58 hours and passes through 131 locks.
The narrowboat holiday kit list: what to pack for your staycation
Our canal boats are like floating holiday cottages, so you’ll find many of the comforts of home waiting for you on board. This includes a galley kitchen equipped with cutlery, crockery, cooking utensils, saucepans, a gas cooker with an oven and grill and a fridge with a small freezer compartment. Bed linen and towels are supplied and you’ll also find hand towels in the bathrooms and tea towels in the kitchen.
There’s a surprising amount of storage space on board for your belongings, but you should still pack sensibly. To help you prepare for your narrowboat holiday, we’ve put together a list of useful items to pack:
Extra towels – While bath and hand towels are provided on board our boats, we do recommend bringing some extra, especially during the wetter months, or if you’re bringing pets along.
Re-usable items – to help to reduce the amount of plastic you acquire during your holiday, don’t forget to pack your re-useable shopping bags. Re-useable plastic bottles and coffee cups are also recommended to help minimise single-use waste.
DVDs & games – cards and board games are a great way to spend cosy nights afloat. You might also wish to pack some DVDs, as a consistent TV reception cannot be guaranteed on the canals.
A torch – country moorings can get very dark at night, which is fantastic for stargazing, but not so much for finding your way back from the canalside pubs in the evenings!
Extra toilet roll – we supply some toilet roll in our loos, but do bring along extra. Please ensure that they are not quilted and please don’t use wipes.
Shampoo & body wash – the water you use to wash with will empty straight into the canal, which is why we recommend you pack eco-friendly, micro-bead free shampoos, conditioners, face and body washes.
Prepare for all weather types – if it’s wet, you’ll need a reliable waterproof jacket and a large golfing umbrella for the skipper. In sunnier weather, you’ll need a hat, sunglasses and sun cream. Gloves are recommended for working the locks and for steering when it’s cold.
Sensible footwear – trainers or rubber-soled shoes are the best choice for boating and lock working. It’s also a good idea to bring slippers or warm socks to wear on board in the evenings.
Binoculars – wildlife spotting is one of the most special things about a canal boat holiday, so pack some binoculars if you own them to enhance your experience.
A canal map – there are some great canal maps available to buy in advance from our Booking Team or in our boatyard shops, for example the Nicholson’s or Pearson’s guides. You can also plan your trip online using the mapping tools on the Canal & River Trust’s website, but be aware that mobile phone signals can be patchy along the canal network.
Drinks – the water on board is drinkable once boiled, but we recommend that you bring a large bottle for drinking water to top up at water points. If you want to enjoy a glass of wine after a day of exploring all the canals have to offer, boxed wine is a great space saver and safer to transport than bottled wine.
Condiments – the galley kitchens on board our boats are fully equipped for home cooking, but don’t forget to pack some extra flavourings, such as salt & pepper, sauces, herbs and spices.
Phone chargers – our boats have 240 volt 3-pin sockets powered by the onboard batteries so you can charge your phones, tablets and cameras on board. But to avoid draining the batteries, we advise you to only do this when the engine is running as there is a limit to power available. Anything below 1000 watts can be plugged in, for example blenders, cool boxes and hair straighteners, but nothing above 1000 watts is permitted – so no kettles, irons, hairdryers or heaters. See our electrical safety page for more info.
Your pet’s bed – all our boats are pet friendly, and maximum of two pets are welcome on board provided you let us know at the time of booking. Remember to bring your pet’s blanket or basket with you as they are not permitted on the beds or chairs. Don’t forget to bring poo bags, too!
First aid kit – we recommend you pack a basic first aid kit, including antiseptic, plasters & bandages, in case of any cuts, scrapes or sprains. Remember your trusty hand sanitiser, too!
Top 12 Tips for First-Time Narrowboat Holiday Makers
You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy a canal boat holiday, in fact, each year around one fifth of narrowboat hirers are new to the waterways!
It’s easier than you think to take control of a narrowboat, but to help settle any nerves about a staycation afloat, we’ve put together our top 12 canal boating tips for first-timers:
Keep to the right: Unlike what you will be used to when driving, canal boats travel on the right side of our canals and rivers, so when you meet another boat, be sure to keep to the right.
Steering basics: It might sound confusing at first, but really, it’s simple: if you want to go left, push the tiller to the right, and if you want to go right, push it to the left. Put the engine in reverse to stop. You’ll soon get the hang of it!
Lock logistics: Always make sure you have a steerer on the boat when in a lock, and ensure that the boat is kept forward of the gates and cill (step). Be careful of slippery surfaces when pushing the gates open. Take your time and leave slowly to avoid any bumps.
Close the gates behind you: Check that all paddles and gates are shut after you’ve used a lock, unless you can see another boat approaching.
Sharing is caring: If possible, always share a lock with other boats to save water. This works to your advantage, as it means you can share the lock operation, and have a chat with other narrowboaters!
Use your horn: The horn is there to enable you to warn canal boats coming towards you when approaching any sharp bends and when entering a tunnel.
Tunnel tricks: Switch on your headlight before entering a tunnel, and if it’s a one-way tunnel, always make sure there isn’t already a boat inside before you begin to navigate your way through. To be sure, sound your horn upon approach.
Slow down to walking pace: There’s a 4mph speed limit on the inland waterways. If you’re creating too much wash, you’re going too fast. Washes in the canals disturb wildlife and erodes the banks.
Reduce your speed even further: Slow down when you are approaching bridges, locks, bends or junctions, and when passing other canal boats or anglers.
Mooring musts: When mooring up at busy spots, make sure to avoid leaving a big gap between your boat and the bank. Never moor opposite winding holes, on bends, near to bridges, on private property, on lock landings (unless you are waiting to lock through) or at water points (unless you are filling up).
Tying up: To keep your narrowboat secure, you need to tie it to the bank with a rope from both the front and the back of the barge, and on rivers you should fix your upstream rope first.
Enjoy yourself! Above all, relax & enjoy your boating holiday!
There are hundreds of historic pubs alongside the inland waterways of the UK, that offer perfect spots for canal boat holiday-makers to moor up, relax and enjoy some great food and drink.
In fact, many who enjoy a narrowboat staycation say that visiting canalside pubs is one of the best things about a holiday afloat on Britain’s beautiful inland waterways!
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to charming canalside pubs and restaurants. So, to celebrate the start of the 2022 canal boat holiday season, we’ve put together a guide to our Top 11:
The Barge Inn at Seend – this beautiful pub on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire has a large waterside beer garden offers classic pub favourites, including great Sunday roasts. The Barge Inn is next to Seend Lock no.18. It takes around seven hours to reach this pub from our canal boat hire base at Bath. The journey travels 17 miles, through 4 locks and passes over the magnificent Bath stone aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff.
The Bay Horse at Snaygill – on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Skipton, this popular country pub dates back to 1822. It’s a Vintage Inn serving country pub classics and cask ales. From our boat yard at Silsden, it takes just under three hours to reach The Bay Horse.
The Crown Inn at Alvechurch – this country pub on the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal close to the village of Alvechurch offers great food and drink, rustic charm and a lovely pub garden. The Crown Inn is just three miles from our boat yard at Tardebigge. Just an hour and a half away, it’s a good first night stopping point when heading towards Birmingham.
The Bridge Inn at Chirk Bank – also known as the last pub in England, this traditional pub on the Llangollen Canal in the village of Chirk Bank offers visitors fantastic views of Chirk Aqueduct. The Bridge Inn is just a two-and-a half hour cruise from our canal boat rental base at Trevor so it’s a great place to stop on the first night of your canal boat holiday, if you are heading to Ellesmere or beyond.
The Blue Lias at Stockton – this historic pub on the Grand Union Canal at Stockton in Warwickshire is well known for its great beer and canalside garden. It was named after the limestone and clay quarried locally. This is derived from material laid down in the early Jurassic seas, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The Blue Lias is less than a mile away from our canal boat hire base at Stockton, but you need to go through eight locks, so it takes around one hour and forty minutes to cruise there.
The Fleur De Lys at Lowsonford – this pretty 17th century country pub in the Warwickshire village of Lowsonford is famous for its pies and beer garden on the banks of the Stratford Canal. Choose from eleven different types of pie, accompanied by seasonal vegetables, chunky chips and gravy. The Fleur De Lys just over three hours from our narrow boat centre at Wootton Wawen.
The Nag’s Head in Abingdon – this award-winning pub on the River Thames offers drinkers and diners a peaceful retreat in its riverside gardens. The Nag’s Head serves gourmet cuisine and wood fired pizzas. It takes around five hours to reach the Nag’s Head from canal barge base on the Thames at Oxford. Along the way, you’ll travel 15 miles, passing through six locks.
The Horse & Jockey at Grindley Brook – this family owned pub on the Llangollen Canal at the bottom of Grindley Brook Locks near Whitchurch offers great food, drink and service. It takes around four and a half hours to reach The Horse & Jockey from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina. The journey travels seven miles and passes through five locks.
The Plume of Feathers at Barlaston – this popular pub on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire is part-owned by the actor, Neil Morrissey. Sample some of Neil’s beers and ales, and choose from a menu of homemade dishes made from fresh local ingredients. It takes just over seven hours to reach The Plume of Feathers from our Great Haywood base. The journey travels 12 miles through the Staffordshire countryside, passing through 12 locks and the town of Stone.
The Olde Barbridge Inn near Nantwich – this historic pub on the Shropshire Union Canal sells local ales brewed at its own local brewery and serves classic British food made with local produce. The Olde Barbridge Inn is an hour’s cruise from our narrow boat hire base at Bunbury.
The Cross Guns at Avoncliff – this 17th century Wiltshire inn has riverside pub gardens with panoramic views of the foothills of the Cotswolds. It’s next to the Kennet & Avon Canal’s beautiful Bath stone Avoncliff Aqueduct. The Cross Guns serves a selection of British pub favourite food, local ales, cider and craft beer and it’s less than an hour away from our narrow boat hire base at Monkton Combe.
Britain’s peaceful 3,000 mile network of inland waterways provides the perfect staycation destination for 2022.
Emma Lovell, reservations manager for Anglo Welsh, says:
“Pottering slowly through the countryside at just four miles per hour, watching out for wildlife, is a great way to relax.
“Narrow boat holidays offer a self-contained floating holiday home experience, and the chance for hirers to navigate their very own adventure afloat. It’s free to moor up almost anywhere, so boaters can stop off at canalside pubs, villages and waterside destinations along the way.”
Here’s a guide to our Top 10 narrow boat holidays for 2022:
1. Cruise to the World Heritage Site at Saltaire – from our narrowboat holiday base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, you can reach Saltaire on a short break. The journey to Sir Titus Salt’s famous Victorian industrial model town takes seven hours and passing through 11 locks. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Salt built the textile Mill and entire village for his mill workers, all in a beautiful Italianate style. Places to visit at Saltaire include the magnificent Salt’s Mill, displaying many examples of the work of Bradford born artist David Hockney.
2. Complete the Four Counties Ring – on a week’s break from our canal boat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, you can access the fabulous Four Counties Ring. The journey takes you on a 58-hour waterway odyssey, passing through 96 locks. The four counties travelled through are Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire. Highlights include: the 2670-metre long Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal and views of the rolling Cheshire Plains on the Shropshire Union Canal.
3. Step back in time at the Black Country Museum – on a short break from our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal you can reach the Black Country Museum. It’s an eight-hour, three-lock journey to moorings outside the 26-acre open-air site. Here you can meet costumed characters explaining what it was like to live and work in one of the world’s most heavily industrialised landscapes. There are period shops and homes to explore, the ‘Bottle & Glass Inn’, a 1912 school lesson and traditionally cooked 1930’s-style fish and chips. There are also vintage tram and bus rides and the chance to take a trip ‘into the thick’ to experience life in an 1850’s coal mine.
4. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from our boat yard on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, you’ll soon encounter the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. One of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’, this incredible structure transports canal boats 38 metres high across the Dee Valley. On a short break from Trevor, you can travel cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Chirk Aqueduct, and on to Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. The journey to Ellesmere and back takes around 14 hours, passing through two locks each way.
5. Take a Thames cruise to Henley – on a week’s break from our canal boat hire base close to Oxford, you can enjoy a Thames boating holiday to the historic town of Henley and back. The journey to Henley passes through 19 locks and takes around 16 cruising hours. Places to stop off at along the way include: the City of Oxford, packed with architectural treasures, including the magnificent Bodleian Library. You can also visit Abingdon with its popular riverside pub, the Nag’s Head. And Wallingford with its Castle Gardens dating back to Saxon times, and Agatha Christie Trail. Henley is home to the River & Rowing Museum and a choice of riverside pubs.
6. Navigate to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen – on a week’s break from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, you can cruise through the Shropshire Lake District and the Welsh mountains to Llangollen and back. The journey to Llangollen takes around 12 hours and passes through just two locks. It includes an 11-mile section of the Llangollen Canal, running from Gledrid Bridge to the Horseshoe Falls in Llangollen. Here stand the incredible Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts and the section was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2009. Once in Llangollen, you can moor up to enjoy exploring this beautiful Eisteddfod town, nestled in the Berwyn Mountains.
7. Float through the Avon Valley and up the Caen Hill Flight – from our base at Monkton Combe on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Bath, it takes around 19 hours to reach Pewsey Wharf. The route, which is perfect for a week away, takes you through 37 locks each way, including the 29 locks of the Caen Hill Flight at Devizes. This journey also takes you across two dramatic Bath stone aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff. And through the historic market town of Bradford on Avon and the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the West Berkshire Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
8. Travel through the Warwickshire countryside to Fenny Compton – on a short break from our base at Stockton, boaters can cruise through the countryside to the pretty canalside village of Fenny Compton. The journey begins on the Grand Union Canal, soon transferring onto the Oxford Canal at Napton-on-the-Hill. Here, there’s a good choice of pubs, including the Kings Head and Napton Village Stores selling produce from the nearby buffalo farm, including Buffalo burgers, sausages, meatballs, steaks and ice cream. From there, the route winds gently on through the countryside, with a series of locks to negotiate along the way. The journey to Fenny Compton and back takes around 20 hours, passing through 24 locks (12 each way).
9. Cruise into the Peak District – on a week’s break from our base at Great Haywood near Stafford, you can travel into the Peak District. It takes around 20 hours to reach Froghall Basin, passing through 35 locks. The route takes you along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Stoke on Trent, where it transfers onto the Caldon Canal. Beautiful stretches of unspoilt countryside soon open up as you chug gently out of Stoke, with moorlands, woodlands and an abundance of wildlife to enjoy.
10. Navigate the Avon Ring – on a two-week break from our base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, you can navigate the Avon Ring. This epic journey covers 108 miles and passes through 130 locks. You will navigate sections of the River Avon, River Severn, Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal and the Stratford Canal. Highlights along the way include: Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare; Tewkesbury and its 12th-century abbey; and the 30 locks at Tardebigge.
Britain’s 3,000 mile network of navigable inland waterways provides the perfect destination for a Staycation afloat in 2021.
Pottering slowly through the countryside at just four miles per hour, watching out for wildlife, is a great way to relax.
Canal boat holidays offer a self-contained floating holiday home experience, and the chance to curate your very own adventure afloat. It’s free to moor up almost anywhere, so you can stop off at canalside pubs, villages and waterside destinations along the way.
To help plan your next waterway-getaway, here are our Top 10 narrowboat holidays for 2021:
1. Cruise across the Pennines – from our canal barge rental base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, on a week’s break you can cruise across the Pennines to Foulridge Tunnel and back. The journey to Foulridge takes around 13 hours and passes through 15 locks. Along the way you’ll pass through Skipton (known as ‘The Gateway to the Yorkshire Dales’), with its medieval stone castle. And you’ll pass through a series of villages with traditional pubs, including The Slaters Arms at Bradley, The Anchor Inn at Gargrave and The Cross Keys at East Marton.
2. Navigate the Stourport Ring – on a week’s break departing from our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge near Bromsgrove, you can cruise the popular Stourport Ring. With 79 miles of waterway to cruise and 118 locks to pass through, it takes around 52 hours. The scenery ranges from peaceful open country on the River Severn, to vibrant cityscapes on the Birmingham Main Line. Destinations to visit include: Worcester Cathedral; Cadbury’s World; and the Sea Life Centre at Brindleyplace.
3. Take a Thames cruise to Wallingford – on a short break from our canal boat hire base close to Oxford, you can take a Thames boating holiday to the historic town of Wallingford. The journey passes through 11 locks each way and takes around 18 hours, there and back. You can stop off at Oxford, packed with architectural treasures, including the magnificent Bodleian Library. And Abingdon with its popular riverside pub, the Nag’s Head. At Wallingford, you can take time to explore the Castle Gardens dating back to Saxon times, and follow the Agatha Christie Trail.
4. Spot an otter on the Montgomery Canal – on a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, you can cruise a section of the Montgomery Canal. This beautiful canal, which runs for 38 miles between England and Wales, is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on both sides of the border. You can cruise a seven-mile section to Gronwyn Wharf and back, looking out for otters and water voles. From Whixall, the journey to Gronwyn Wharf and back takes around 20 hours, travelling through 34 miles of beautiful countryside and passing through 16 locks (eight each way).
5. Cruise to Caen Hill – on a short break from our base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath, it takes around 9 hours to reach the Caen Hill Flight of Locks. One of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways, this dramatic flight of locks at Devizes is one of the most iconic sights on the waterways. You’ll pass through eight locks each way. You can enjoy stops at Bradford on Avon, with its magnificent medieval Tithe Barn, and Avoncliff Aqueduct with its popular Cross Guns pub.
6. Head to ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’ – from our canal boat hire base at Bunbury in Cheshire, it takes around nine hours to reach the iconic Anderton Boat Lift. This Wonder of the Waterways is also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’. It lifts boats 15 metres between two waterways in two giant tanks of water. On the way to Anderton, you’ll navigate through beautiful Cheshire countryside along the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. And you’ll pass through the historic Roman town of Middlewich
7. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from our boat yard on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, you’ll soon encounter the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. One of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’, this World Heritage structure transports canal boats 38 metres high across the Dee Valley. On a short break from Trevor, you can travel cross the aqueduct and on to Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. The journey to Ellesmere and back takes around 14 hours, passing through two locks each way.
8. Navigate the beautiful Oxford Canal – on a short break from our canal boat hire base at Stockton, you can reach the pretty canalside village of Fenny Compton. You’ll begin your journey on the Grand Union Canal in the Warwickshire countryside. You can transfer onto the Oxford Canal at Napton-on-the-Hill, with a choice of pubs. From there, the route winds gently through the countryside, with a series of locks to negotiate along the way. The journey to Fenny Compton and back takes around 20 hours, passing through 24 locks (12 each way).
9. Cruise into the Peak District – on a week’s break from our narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood near Stafford, you can travel into the Peak District. It takes around 20 hours to reach Froghall Basin, passing through 35 locks. The route will take you along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Stoke on Trent. Here you can transfer onto the Caldon Canal. You’ll then travel through beautiful stretches of unspoilt countryside, with moorlands, woodlands and an abundance of wildlife.
10. Visit Shakespeare’s Stratford – from our base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, it takes around six hours to reach Bancroft Basin in the centre of Shakespeare’s Stratford. Along the way, you’ll pass through 17 locks and miles of peaceful Warwickshire countryside. You can moor up in the basin and use it as a base to explore Stratford-upon-Avon. This lively market town has a great choice of shops, restaurants, museums and theatres.
From the doldrums of lockdown to the busiest summer on record, Matt Lucas-Stern looks back on the 2020 narrowboat holiday season at Wootton Wawen.
“The coronavirus pandemic has bought dramatic changes to our lives, particularly for those of us involved in the world of travel and hospitality.
When the main 2020 boating season got underway at the beginning of March, even though we knew that Covid-19 was devastating communities elsewhere in China and parts of Europe, we still didn’t have any idea how much it was going to affect our lives.
Here at Wootton Wawen, we were focussing on getting all our boats in tip top shape ready for the main boating season, and making plans to hold an open day to show off our newly painted day boats. When Boris announced a national lockdown on that unforgettable evening on 23 March, everything changed and our boats were suddenly grounded until further notice.
At first we focused on enjoying watching the waterway burst into life as a particularly sunny and warm Spring progressed. As for many people, the peace and quiet of lockdown gave us the chance for reflection, family time and to connect to nature.
But as the weeks went by, we worried more and more about what the future would hold for our industry and when our holidays would be able to resume.
Then on the 20th of June, we received the fantastic news that domestic holidays could resume on the 4th of July. We needed to get our team back from furlough and put in all the necessary measures to ensure our holidays were safe.
We put in new social distancing measures at our boat yards, introduced extra cleaning regimes and we made a video showing people all the facilities on board our boats and how to operate them, to give holiday-makers extra information in advance of their boat handover.
It was a busy and exciting time, both for everyone working at the boat yards, and for our bookings team who were inundated with calls and emails from people wanting to book their canal boat holiday. Many of them were newcomers who had often thought about taking a canal boat holiday, but never quite got around to it before. They realised how perfect our staycation holidays are – offering the chance to escape into the countryside aboard a self-contained, self-catering floating holiday home!
The next two months were full on. For the first time ever, literally all our boats were booked out for the six week summer holiday peak. The first few weeks of July were a bit strange as everyone got used to the news ways of working and just being around people again. But we soon got everything working like clockwork and before long, it became the new normal.
With canal boat holidays, people usually turn up to the boat yard a bit stressed and anxious to get their holiday underway. But by the time they return, the slow time of the canals makes people much calmer and more relaxed.
It was great to see the smiling faces of families returning from their holidays, with kids telling us about some of their experiences. We had a 13-year-old lad who was really keen on narrowboating and ended up working all 113 locks by himself on his family holiday to Stratford on Avon and Warwick. He proudly told the staff about his achievements when they got back at Wootton, and has decided he is definitely coming again next year! He’s even bought his own windlass.
Another really enthusiastic group of newcomers to the world of narrowboating made friends with our boat yard team, and even took a hand painted dipper from my boatman’s cabin to hang over their fireplace to remind them of their boating adventures!
Going into the autumn, particularly in September and over the October Half Term, we were still extremely busy with most of our boats booked out by people taking advantage of the mild weather, and the chance to see the changing colours of the autumn leaves on the trees that line our waterways.
Now it’s November, and sadly another lockdown has just been announced. Here at Wootton Wawen we stay open all year round for winter cruising, so we hope our boats can get back out again in December.
In the meantime, here at Anglo Welsh we are all extremely grateful to the vast majority of our customers who have been prepared to postpone their holidays with us, rather than cancel. We are glad that our holidays were able to resume and have been more popular than ever, helping to support other businesses like canalside pubs and village shops.
As we continue to live with the coronavirus and the changes it has made to our lives, the future remains uncertain. But spending time by the water always somehow makes things feel better, watching nature peacefully continue to change with the seasons.”
A canal boat holiday: the perfect way to celebrate an end to lockdown
After so many weeks cooped up within the same four walls, most of us are raring to get out and about again – especially now that summer is here.
Never before have we all so appreciated the joys of being able to move freely and explore new places.
So with foreign travel still restricted, let’s celebrate a relaxation of lockdown rules by becoming tourists within our own green and pleasant land and enjoying a truly memorable ‘staycation’.
The UK has so many fascinating and beautiful places to discover, sometimes the best holidays are the ones closer to home.
One of the best ways to explore new areas of England and Wales and uncover our country’s hidden gems is on a canal boat holiday.
Here are just a few of the reasons why a narrowboat holiday is the perfect way to make the most of being allowed out again:
The right to roam – or float
A canal boat holiday is a journey. By holidaying aboard a narrowboat, you can cruise along the stunning waterways of England and Wales covering new ground each day and taking in a range of landscapes and attractions along the way. After so long confined to one place, a holiday which involves being on the move with constantly changing scenery is particularly appealing. We have 11 narrowboat hire bases scattered across England and Wales all of which offer access to wonderful and varied canal holiday routes. There are easy holiday cruises to historic towns and cities, perfect for those wanting a short weekend break, or longer more challenging circuits for two week canal holidays exploring whole regions.
Soak up the space
There are more than 2,000 miles of canals and rivers winding their way through the luscious landscapes of England and Wales. A canal boat holiday gives you access to amazing open countryside and remote beauty spots difficult to access by any other means. Cruising through these remote and hidden corners of the country offers a feeling of space and freedom you have probably been craving for the last few months. You can moor up and take off on foot or by bicycle to explore the surrounding area, or remain onboard the narrowboat and simply take it all in as you motor along at a stately three miles an hour. Whatever your preference, enjoy those limitless horizons.
Variety is the spice of life
One of the joys of a canal boat holiday is the vast array of different things to see and do. With dozens of different canal holiday routes to choose from, you could opt for a city break or rural tranquility – or both. Canals pass through mountainous landscapes and flood plains, through woods and farm land. They pass historic villages, stately homes, castles, museums, themes parks, zoos and more. Then there is the range of activities to be enjoyed along the waterways, including walking, cycling, kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing and fishing. On a canal boat holiday, there really is something for everyone to enjoy.
Bring the pets
We offer pet-friendly holidays at Anglo Welsh so you can bring up to two furry friends along for the ride. If you are craving a much needed break away from home, but don’t want to leave your dog or another much loved pet on their own, you can bring one animal along for free then pay a small fee for a second.
We offer a range of different types of holidays such as City Breaks, Relaxation Cruises and Popular Destinations
So why choose Anglo Welsh?
Over 55 years providing unique canal boat holidays in England and Wales.
Modern and spacious narrowboat and wide beam barge hire – from 2 to 12 berths.
Wide choice of narrowboat hire locations and canal boat holiday destinations.
Canal boat holiday routes for novices & experienced boaters.
Flexible holiday booking, no hidden costs.
Family friendly and pet friendly holidays.
Great days out on the water.
Luxury canal boat hire and Thames boating holidays.
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