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Top 6 summer canal boat holiday circuits

Best canal boat holiday circuits and rings

Canal circuits and rings take in a wide variety of landscapes and are popular routes for narrowboat holidays

Canal boat holiday circuits and cruising rings bring you back to your narrowboat hire base without having to travel the same way twice.

Some are seriously challenging, with steep flights of locks and long dark tunnels to negotiate.  Others are easier and more suitable for boating beginners.

All offer a wonderful summer holiday adventure and the chance to explore some of Britain’s best loved countryside, as well as vibrant city centres.  All from your very own floating holiday home.

Here’s a guide to our top six narrowboat holiday summer circuits to explore:

1. The Black Country Ring

Setting off from our canal boat rental base at Great Haywood, the Black Country Ring can be done in a week.  You’ll cruise sections of the Birmingham & Fazeley, Birmingham Main Line, Coventry, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Trent & Mersey canals.  Highlights include: Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin; the 21 locks at Wolverhampton; and the peaceful waters at Tixall Wide.  To complete the Black Country Ring from Great Haywood you’ll travel 75 miles, through 79 locks in around 43 hours.

2. The Four Counties Ring

Departing from our bases at Great Haywood, Bunbury or Whixall, this popular circuit can be completed on a 10-day or two-week break.  It takes you through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire. Highlights include: the 2670-metre long Harecastle Tunnel; the flight of 15 locks at Audlem; views of the rolling Cheshire Plains; and the Roman town of Middlewich.  To complete the Four Counties Ring from Great Haywood, you will travel 110 miles, pass through 94 locks, which will take around 55 hours.  From Bunbury, it will be 115 miles, 96 locks and 58 hours.  From Whixall, it’s 137 miles, 132 locks and 86 hours.

3. The Cheshire Ring

From our Bunbury base, you can complete the Cheshire Ring on a 10-day or two-week break.  The journey will take you right through the heart of Manchester and into the Peak District via the Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals.  Highlights along the way include: the incredible Anderton Boat Lift; stunning views of the Peak District; and Manchester’s China Town.  To complete the Cheshire Ring from Bunbury, you will travel 122 miles and pass through 102 locks, which takes around 86 hours.

4. The Warwickshire Ring

Setting off from Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, you can complete the Warwickshire Ring on a 10-day or two-week break. You’ll travel along sections of the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals.  Highlights include: the flight of 11 locks into Atherstone; the pretty canal village of Braunston; the awesome flight of 21 locks at Hatton; and Warwick Castle.  To complete the Warwickshire Ring from Wootton Wawen, you’ll pass through 128 locks in around 59 hours.

5. The Birmingham Mini-Ring

With more canals than Venice, exploring the Birmingham area by boat is one of the best ways to experience Britain’s vibrant second city. You can complete the Birmingham Mini-Ring on a week’s break from Wootton Wawen.  The route takes in sections of the Worcester & Birmingham, Birmingham Main Line and Grand Union canals. Highlights include: the historic village of Bournville, home of Cadbury’s chocolate; Gas Street Basin in central Birmingham; and the flight of 13 locks at Farmers Bridge.  To complete the Birmingham Mini-Ring from Wootton Wawen it takes around 35 hours and you’ll pass through 83 locks.

6. The Avon Ring

You can complete this epic circuit on a two week break Wootton Wawen.  The journey navigates sections of the Stratford Canal, River Avon, River Severn and Worcester & Birmingham Canal. Highlights include: Shakespeare’s Stratford; the River Avon with its panoramic views; the charming historic town of Evesham; the Cotswold medieval town of Tewskesbury; the City of Worcester with its magnificent cathedral; and the flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge.  To complete the Avon Ring from Wootton Wawen, you’ll travel 109 miles and pass through 131 locks, which will take around 58 hours.

To check availability and book click here or call us on 0117 463 3419.

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Best August bank holiday boating breaks

Top 10 short break canal boat holidays

The August bank holiday weekend is a great time to take to the water for a boating break

Canals and rivers take narrowboat holiday-makers through some of Britain’s best-loved countryside, and into the heart of some our most famous waterside towns and cities.

Canal boat holidays are great for families, bringing everyone together for an adventure afloat.  From steering the boat and working the locks, to planning the route and watching out for wildlife, there’s plenty to get involved in.

Pets are welcome aboard all our boats, so all the family can enjoy a relaxing staycation together.  And there’s everything you need on board for a self-catering holiday afloat if you want to keep your costs down.

There are hundreds of waterside destinations in England and Wales to choose from.  To celebrate the upcoming August bank holiday, we’ve put together a guide to our top 10 weekend boating breaks.

1. Cruise along the Llangollen Canal to Ellesmere

On a weekend away from Trevor in North Wales, you can cruise to Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  The journey takes you across the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, 39 metres high above the Dee valley. At Ellesmere, you can moor up to explore this historic market town and its ancient mere, with woodland walks and places to eat.  The journey to Ellesmere takes around seven hours, crosses two aqueducts, and passes through two locks and two tunnels.

2. Navigate the Stratford Canal to Stratford-upon-Avon

From Wootton Wawen it takes around six hours to cruise along the Stratford Canal to Shakespeare’s Stratford.  The route takes you through the Warwickshire countryside to reach overnight moorings in Bancroft Basin in the heart of Stratford upon Avon.  Once there, you can walk to top attractions, including the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Shakespeare’s Birthplace.  There are 17 locks to pass through along the way, and you’ll cross the impressive Edstone Aqueduct, the longest aqueduct in England.

3. Take a Thames boating holiday to Oxford

From our Oxford base on the River Thames at Eynsham, it takes just over three hours to reach Oxford City centre.  There are just four locks to pass through along the way and some are manned, offering help to newcomers.  Along the way, you’ll pass through Wolvercote, home of the popular riverside Trout Inn.  Once in Oxford, you take time to explore the city, including the Bodleian Library, Carfax Tower and Oxford Castle.

4. Travel along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Fradley

From Great Haywood, you can head south along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Fradley Junction.  The journey takes around five hours, travelling 12 miles through the Staffordshire countryside.  There are just five locks to pass through, and you’ll pass canalside pubs at Wolseley and Rugeley.  At Fradley, you can enjoy refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn. And you can take a wildlife-spotting walk along the woodland trail and boardwalk at Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.

5. Cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Chester

On a weekend away, from Bunbury you can navigate to the ancient city of Chester.  Cruising along the Shropshire Union Canal, the route passes through beautiful Cheshire countryside and a series of canalside villages.  There are historic local pubs along the way, including The Ring O’Bells at Christleton and The Shady Oak at Bates Mill Bridge.  Once in Chester, you can to explore some of the City’s attractions, including the Roman Amphitheatre, city walls and Chester Rows shops. The journey to Chester takes around seven hours and passes through nine locks.

6. Float along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Bradford on Avon

From our base at Sydney Wharf near Bath, it takes just four hours to reach the lovely market town of Bradford on Avon. There’s just one lock to pass through and stunning Bath stone aqueducts to glide across at Dundas and Avoncliff.  You’ll pass a series of canalside pubs along the way, including The George at Bathampton and Cross Guns at Avoncliff.  Once in Bradford on Avon, you can moor up to visit Historic England’s medieval Tithe Barn.  And there’s a great choice of places to eat, including the riverside Timbrell’s Yard.

7. Cruise along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Gargrave

From Silsden, you can cruise through the Yorkshire countryside to Gargrave on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  The route travels 12 miles and passes through Skipton, home to the medieval Skipton Castle and Woods.  At Gargrave, there are plenty of pubs to enjoy, including The Mason’s Arms and Cross Keys Inn.  The route to Gargrave passes through three locks, and takes around 6½ hours.

8. Glide along the Llangollen Canal to Chirk

On a weekend break from Whixall Marina in Shropshire, you can cruise through the countryside to Chirk, on the border between England and Wales.  The journey takes around eight hours and passes through just two locks.  Along the way, you’ll pass Whixall Moss nature reserve and the historic market town of Ellesmere. At Chirk, there’s a choice of canalside pubs and the National Trust’s medieval Chirk Castle to visit.

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

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Top 9 canal boat holiday staycations

Canal boat holidays on the Llangollen Canal

Britain’s beautiful canal network provides the perfect destination for a boating staycation experience

Whether it’s the appeal of pottering slowly through the countryside, watching out for wildlife and stopping off at canalside pubs. Or the lure of an exciting waterside attraction in a vibrant waterfront city destination, our canal boats provide the perfect floating holiday home adventure.

To help plan your next UK waterway-getaway, here are our top 9 narrowboat holidays for the year ahead:

  1. Take an Oxford ‘His Dark Materials’ mini-break – from our base on the River Thames near Oxford, you can enjoy a Thames boating holiday.  You can reach overnight moorings at Hythe Bridge in just three hours. From there, it’s just a short walk into Oxford’s city centre for the chance to explore dozens of historic sites.  These include the Bodleian Library, Lyra’s home in the BBC’s drama series ‘His Dark Materials’, based on Philip Pullman’s book ‘Northern Lights’.  Just seeing this incredible building from the outside is a bucket list experience, but adults and children aged 11 and over can also explore the museum, home to nine million books across over 100 miles of shelves.  The Museum also houses a number of fascinating maps, including the 14th century ‘The Bodleian Map’, the oldest surviving map of Great Britain.
  2. Watch out for wildlife on the Montgomery Canal – from Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around six hours to reach Frankton Junction, where the Llangollen Canal meets 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.  The entire length in Wales is also recognised as a Special Area of Conservation, making it one of the most important sites for wildlife in Europe.  Currently only around half the Montgomery Canal is navigable, including an eight-mile section from Frankton Junction to Crickheath Basin.  From Whixall, the journey to Crickheath and back takes around 19 hours, travelling through 36 miles of beautiful countryside.  The route takes you through 16 locks (eight each way).  Along the way, you can enjoy looking out for many types of waterway birds, animals and insects. As well as the shy nocturnal otter and critically endangered water vole.
  3. Navigate the Four Counties Ring – on a week’s break from Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, you can travel round the ‘Four Counties Ring’. Cruising sections of the Trent & Mersey, Shropshire Union and Staffordshire & Worcestershire canals, this popular circuit takes boaters on a 110-mile, 60-hour, 94-lock canal boat holiday odyssey.  You’ll pass through some of the most beautiful landscapes in England, including the Peak District, the rolling Cheshire Plains and the Potteries.  Highlights along the way include Wedgewood Pottery in Stoke on Trent and the 1.5 mile long Harecastle Tunnel.  You’ll also encounter the flight of 31 locks between Middlewich and Kidsgrove known as ‘Heartbreak Hill’. You’ll visit the Roman town of Middlewich and the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man.
  4. Climb aboard the SS Great Britain in Bristol’s Floating Harbour – from our base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath, it takes around eight hours, passing through 12 locks, to reach moorings in Bristol’s Floating Harbour. Once there you can moor up to explore the harbour and Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the ship that changed the world. *NB this route is recommended route for experienced boaters and overnight mooring fees will apply
  5. Visit the Orangutans at Chester Zoo – from Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire it takes around seven hours, passing through nine locks to reach the ancient City of Chester. Chester is home to the award-winning Chester Zoo, with over 20,000 animals from 500 species, including a family of Sumatran orangutans.  Sumatran orangutans are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature with fewer than 14,000 surviving in the wild.  At Chester Zoo, you can find out more about these fascinating animals and how to help to prevent their extinction.
  6. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to the Shropshire Lake District – just 10 minutes from our base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, you’ll reach the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. One of The Seven Wonders of the Waterways, the aqueduct’s carries the canal 38 metres high above the Dee Valley on 19 stone pillars.  In 2009 the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was added to the UNESCO World Heritage site list, putting it on a par with the Pyramids and Taj Mahal.  On a short break from Trevor, you can cross the aqueduct and then continue east to reach the Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  The journey to Ellesmere and back takes around six hours and passes through just two locks.
  7. Travel round the Warwickshire Ring – on a 10-day or two week break from our base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal in Warwickshire, you can cruise the Warwickshire Ring. Travelling sections of the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals, the Warwickshire Ring covers 104 miles, passes through 120 locks and takes around 60 hours to navigate.  You’ll pass through miles of countryside, with fields and ancient meadows and the occasional sleepy village. And you’ll also travel through the vibrant city centre waterfronts of Birmingham.  Destination highlights  include the pretty canal village of Braunston and the flight of 21 locks at Hatton. You can also visit Warwick Castle and Birmingham’s Brindleyplace. The whole trip from Wootton Wawen takes around 46 hours and passes through 118 locks.
  8. Cruise to the Yorkshire Dales National Park – on a short break from Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, you can travel to Gargrave on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  The journey there and back takes 13 hours and passes through six locks. This scenic route is perfect for beginners and you through the historic town of Skipton.  There you can explore the town’s medieval stone castle and extensive woodlands managed by the Woodland Trust.  Once at Gargrave, there are pubs to enjoy, including the popular Mason’s Arms.  And it’s easy to access to the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Pennine Way walking trail.
  9. See a play in Shakespeare’s Stratford – from Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, it’s a six-hour, 17-lock cruise journey through the Warwickshire countryside to reach moorings at Bancroft Basin.  This is in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon, just a stone’s throw from the Royal Shakespeare and Swan theatres. As well as enjoying the town’s lively markets, shops, restaurants and museums, you can can take in a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.  2024’s programme includes ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ and ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’.

Click here to check availability and book, or call us on 0117 304 1122.

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Best pet friendly canal boat holidays

Best pet friendly canal boat holidays

Narrowboats provide a floating holiday home so it’s possible to take many types of pets on the canals

Canal boat holidays are especially great for dogs, with plenty of towpath walks and dog-friendly canalside pubs to visit. Over the years, we’ve accommodated many other kinds of pets, including rabbits, cats, hamsters, caged birds and goldfish.

First pets go for free on all our holidays, and we charge a £25 supplement for a second pet on a short break, £35 for a week.

Guide dogs go free of charge. We allow a maximum of two pets, plus a guide dog, but all bedding and pet facilities must be provided by the owner(s).

We recommend our cruiser stern boats for holidays with a dog, as there’s more room ‘on deck’ for the dog and the rest of the family to enjoy watching the world go by.

Now for some do’s and don’ts

Do bring your dog’s bed to help them feel at home and don’t leave your dog unattended on board.

Do pack your poo bags.

Don’t let your dog swim in the canals, especially when there are ducklings, signets, goslings and other water bird chicks about.

To celebrate, here’s a guide to our top 7 destinations for animal lovers:

  1. Cruise to Cannock Chase for acres of dog walking trails – on a short break from our base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, you can easily reach Cannock Chase Forest where there are miles of walking trails enjoy, as well as a dog activity trail. Once a Royal Forest, Cannock Chase is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with over 6,800 hectares of landscapes to explore.  There are mixed deciduous woodlands, coniferous plantations and healthlands.  These habitats are home to a wide variety of animals and insects, including a herd of fallow deer, a number of rare and endangered birds, including migrant nightjars, as well as butterflies, bats and reptiles.  The Wolseley Centre and Nature Reserve is next to Wolseley Bridge is just two miles and two locks from Great Haywood, and offers a great gateway to Cannock Chase.
  2. Cruise to the foot of the Caen Hill Flight – from our base at Monkton Combe on the Kennet & Avon Canal you can travel to Foxhangers Wharf, at the foot of the Caen Hill flight of locks in Devizes. Along the way, you’ll pass through miles of peaceful Wiltshire countryside, with a series of villages and dog-friendly country pubs to visit along the way.  These include The Cross Guns at Avoncliff, the Barge Inn at Bradford on Avon and the Barge Inn at Seend.  Once at Caen Hill, you can moor up and explore the flight and its large side ponds, which provide a fantastic haven for wildlife.  Full of fish, the side ponds provide an ideal habitat for dragonflies, butterflies and many types of water birds.  You can look out for swans, ducks, geese, coots, moorhens, herons and cormorants.  The journey to Foxhangers Wharf and back takes around 19 hours, passing through 16 locks (eight each way).
  3. Cruise to Ellesmere for some heron spotting – on a short break from our base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, you can cruise to the Shropshire Lake District. The journey to the medieval market town of Ellesmere takes around seven hours, passing through just two locks.  You’ll also cross over the magnificent Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts.  Moscow Island on The Mere in Ellesmere is home to the Heron Watch Scheme, where cameras allow visitors to watch the birds build nests and raise chicks.  And there are plenty of woodland walks and trails to follow with your dog.
  4. Explore the gardens and the ancient topiary at Packwood House – from Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it’s a seven-mile, 31-lock and 10-hour journey to Lapworth Lock No 6.  From there, it’s a half-mile walk to the National Trust’s Packwood House, where there are miles of woodland and countryside walks to enjoy. Dogs are welcome at Packwood on leads on public footpaths across the estate, on the café terrace and in the barnyard.  The house and formal gardens are only for humans.
  5. Boat to the historic village of Wrenbury and back – from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire it takes around six hours, passing through 11 locks, to reach Wrenbury Mill on the Llangollen Canal. The journey takes you along 10 miles of waterway through quintessential Cheshire farmland and countryside.  The historic village of Wrenbury, which is on the South Cheshire Way offers lots of countryside walks.  It’s also a registered conservation area with plenty of wildlife to watch out for, particularly in the gardens of the Grade II listed St Margaret’s Church. There’s a choice of dog friendly pubs to visit, including the canalside Dusty Miller, and the Cotton Arms in the village of Wrenbury.
  6. Cruise along the River Thames into the Cotswolds – from our Oxford base on the River Thames, on a four-night mid-week break you can take a tranquil nine-hour, seven-lock Thames boating holiday to the pretty market town of Lechlade on the edge of the Cotswolds. Along the way, you’ll travel through miles of peaceful Oxfordshire countryside, with plenty of dog walking opportunities.  Places to visit include the village of Radcot with its 800-year old bridge across the Thames and dog-friendly bar in the Ye Olde Swan Hotel. And Kelmscott with its Grade I listed Kelmscott Manor, once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris, and popular Plough Inn.
  7. Watch out for wildlife on the Montgomery Canal – from Whixall Marina in Shropshire, it takes around six hours to reach Frankton Junction, where the Llangollen Canal meets the Montgomery Canal. This beautiful canal runs for 38 miles between England and Wales.  It is recognised as a Special Area of Conservation, making it one of the most important sites for wildlife in Europe.  Currently only around half the Montgomery Canal is navigable, including a seven-mile section from Frankton Junction to Gronwyn Wharf.  From Whixall, the journey to Gronwyn Wharf and back takes around 20 hours. You’ll travel through 34 miles of beautiful countryside and passing through 16 locks (eight each way).  Along the way, you can look out for many types of waterway birds, animals and insects.  These include dragonflies, damselflies, otters, Daubenton’s bats skimming over the water at dusk, and the critically endangered water vole.

Click here to check availability and book, or call us on 0117 304 1122.

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Best February half term canal boat holiday destinations

Best February half term canal boat holiday destinations

There’s a great choice of exciting family destinations to visit on a half term boating breaks on the canals

All our boats have central heating, and some also have multi-fuel stoves, so it’s always nice and cosy on board.

Here’s a guide to our top four destinations on a family canal boat holiday this February half term:

  1. Visit the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon – from our base at on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen, near Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire, it’s a picturesque six-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Shakespeare’s Stratford. Once there, you can moor up in Bancroft Basin and visit Stratford’s museums, theatres, restaurants and shops, including the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
  2. Swap the water for the Steam Railway at Llangollen – from Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes just two hours to cruise to the beautiful town of Llangollen, on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains.  Once there, you can moor up and take time to explore this pretty town which offers plenty of places to eat and visit, including the Llangollen Steam Railway.
  3. Discover Britain’s Secret Nuclear Bunker – from Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, it takes around three-and-a-half hours, travelling nine miles and passing through just two locks, to reach moorings close to the Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker Museum.  This fascinating blast-proof underground bunker was once one of the nation’s most secret defence sites.
  4. Cruise to Waterworld for Tropical Aqua Park – heading north from Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, you can reach the Festival Park in Stoke on Trent in around 13 hours. From there it’s a 10-minute walk to Waterworld, where you can enjoy 30 thrill seeking rides, including the legendary Thunderbolt.

Click here to book or call us on 0117 304 1122.

NB Winter maintence work on the canals can lead to route closures.

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Best spring canal boat holidays

Best spring canal boat holiday breaks in 2024

Experience a spring break on Britain’s beautiful canal network and see the countryside bursting with new life

Spring is a glorious time to celebrate the rich and diverse wildlife living in Britain.

Kevin Yarwood, manager at our Great Haywood base, explains:

“Our beautiful inland waterways weave through the countryside taking in woodlands, farmland, nature reserves and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Travelling along at just four miles per hour on a canal boat holiday, there’s always something special to look out for.

“In spring, when the countryside is bursting with new life, there’s no better way to see waterside trees and hedges covered blossom, nest-building birds, ducklings bobbing on the water, spring lambs playing in the fields, and carpets of bluebells in waterside woodlands.”

To celebrate Britain’s natural environment, we’ve put together a guide to our best spring canal boat holiday destinations:

  1. Navigate through Shakespeare country and Warwickshire farmland 

    From our narrowboat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it takes around six hours, travelling through 17 locks to reach Stratford-upon-Avon. Travelling over the Edstone Aqueduct and on through the pretty Warwickshire countryside, with spring lambs playing in the fields alongside the canal, boaters can stop off to visit Mary Arden’s Tudor Farm in the canalside village of Wilmcote, where Shakespeare’s mother grew up.  Once in Stratford, there are overnight moorings in Bancroft Basin, perfect for enjoying all that Shakespeare’s birthplace has to offer, including riverside parks, theatres, shops, restaurants and museums.

  2. Cruise into the Peak District spotting kingfishers along the way

    On a week’s break from our barge hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, you can easily reach the beautiful Caldon Canal and travel into the Peak District. The journey takes boaters up to Stoke on Trent, passing Wedgewood World along the way, and, once on the Caldon, through gently rolling hills and wooded areas alongside the beautiful River Churnet.  Here there’s the chance to spot kingfishers, herons, jays and woodpeckers, as well as otters which have recently returned to the area.  The return journey along the Caldon to Froghall takes around 43 hours, travelling a total of 72 miles and passing through 70 locks.

  3. Cruise to Ellesmere to catch a glimpse of a heron chick

    On a short break from our base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, on a short break (three or four nights) you can cruise to the Shropshire Lake District, teeming with water birds. The journey to the medieval market town of Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District, takes around seven hours, passing through just two locks and over the Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts.  Formed thousands of years ago by the melting of the glaciers during the retreating ice age, the meres of the Shropshire Lake District, including The Mere at Ellesmere are particularly beautiful in Spring.  And every Spring, Moscow Island on The Mere is home to the Heron Watch Scheme, with cameras allow visitors to watch the birds build nests and raise chicks.

  4. Cruise to the gateway of the Yorkshire Dales and explore the ancient woods at Skipton Castle

    From Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just over three hours to reach Skipton, the ‘Gateway to the Dales’, with its medieval fortress and acres of woodland trails to explore. For nearly 1,000 years Skipton Castle 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.

  5. Drift through the beautiful prehistoric Vale of Pewsey

    From our base at Monkton Combe on the Kennet & Avon Canal just outside Bath, it takes around 19 hours to reach Pewsey Wharf, perfect for a week afloat. Along the way, you’ll pass through miles of peaceful Wiltshire countryside, with a series of waterside villages and country pubs to visit along the way.  Highlights on this route include: the mighty Caen Hill Flight of 29 locks at Devizes; cruising along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest; and the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and home to prehistoric Avebury.  The journey to Pewsey and back takes around 38 hours, passing through 74 locks (37 each way).

  6. Travel to Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains

    From Whixall, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire , it takes around 12 hours to reach the pretty town of Llangollen. Along the way, you’ll travel through the beautiful Shropshire Lake District and across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Once in Llangollen, you can moor up to enjoy exploring this pretty town nestled on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains, including its regular markets packed with local produce, choice of independent shops and restaurants, steam railway and famous Horseshoe Falls.  The journey to Llangollen and back passes through just four locks (two each way).

  7. Navigate the Four Counties Ring for stunning views of the Cheshire Plains  

    On a week’s break from Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, you can travel round the popular Four Counties Ring. Travelling for around 58 hours and passing through 96 locks, this route takes you through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire and travels sections of the Trent & Mersey, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Shropshire Union canals.  Rural highlights include: panoramic views from the flight of 31 locks (also known as ‘Heartbreak Hill’) between Middlewich and Kidsgrove on the Trent & Mersey Canal; views of the rolling Cheshire Plains on the Shropshire Union Canal; acres of farmland on the Middlewich Branch; wildlife spotting at Tixall Wide on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal; and the National Trust’s Shugborough Hall with its extensive waterside gardens.

  8. Take a Thames boating holiday to Abingdon and listen out for cuckoos calling

    From our Oxford barge hire base on the River Thames, it takes around five hours, passing through six locks and travelling 15 miles to reach the historic riverside market town of Abingdon – perfect for a short break Thames boating holiday. As well as cruising through the outskirts of the ancient City of Oxford, you’ll pass through beautiful stretches of Oxfordshire countryside, with lush meadows, stretches of bluebells woodlands alongside the river and the chance to hear cuckoos calling.  Once moored up at Abingdon, you can enjoy exploring riverside walks, parks and eateries, including the popular waterside Nag’s Head.

Click here to check availability and book.

The Canal & River Trust as produced a Spotters Guide to Waterway Wildlife.

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Canal boat holidays on the Stratford Canal

Canal boat holidays on the Stratford Canal

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

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

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

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

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

On a short break canal boat holiday from Wootton Wawen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Top 8 places to celebrate Halloween on a canal boat holiday

Best destinations to celebrate Halloween on a barge holiday

Canal boat holidays offer the chance to enjoy a family staycation afloat this October Half Term, spending time together and visiting waterside destinations hosting spooky Halloween events.

Your floating holiday cottage will be equipped with the key comforts of home, including central heating and hot water, so it’s always nice and cosy on board.

All our boats also have fully equipped kitchens, so you can enjoy a self-catering holiday afloat.

To celebrate the October Half Term holiday, we’ve put together a guide to our top 8 narrowboat holiday destinations hosting Halloween events*:

1. Take The Sinister Side of Shakespeare Walking Tour’ in Stratford-upon-Avon

From our basw on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen, it takes around six hours to reach moorings in the centre of Shakespeare’s Stratford.  You can book online to experience ‘The Sinister Side of Shakespeare’s Stratford Walking Tour’ where you’ll learn about the town’s infamous witches, and discover the real-life tragedies that inspired Shakespeare.  The journey to Stratford and back takes around 12 hours and passes through 24 locks (12 each way).

2. Explore the ‘Half Term Halloween Trail’ at Chirk Castle

From Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, you can reach Chirk Bank in around one-and-a-half hours.  From there it takes around 30 minutes to walk up to the National Trust’s Chirk Castle, where you can take part in a ‘Half Term Halloween Trail’, 21-31 October 2023.  The event sends you on a quest to protect the castle from the evil spirits, elves and goblins that lurk around. The journey from Trevor to Chirk and back takes around three hours, and passes over the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way.

3. Get spooked at a ‘Halloween Night’ at the Black Country Living Museum

On a short break from Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal you can reach the Black Country Living Museum.  On Saturday 23, Friday 29 and Saturday 30 October, the Museum will host special ‘Halloween Nights’, giving you the chance to trick-or-treat your way round spooky streets, spot fantastical characters and dress-up to go to the monster’s ball.  The journey from Tardebigge to the Black Country Living Museum and back takes 16 hours and passes through six locks (three each way).

4. Follow the Halloween Trail at Chester Zoo

On a short break from Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can reach Chester, home of the award-winning Chester Zoo.  This October, Chester Zoo which is home to over 27,000 animals, will be hosting an interactive Halloween Trail across its 128 acres of zoological gardens.  The journey from Bunbury to Chester and back takes around 14 hours and passes through 18 locks (nine each way).

5. See ‘The Lost Boys’ at the Shugborough Estate outdoor cinema event

Our base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood is less than an hour’s cruise away from the National Trust’s Shugborough Estate.  At 7.30pm on Tuesday 31 October, the Estate is hosting an outdoor screening of the vampire classic ‘The Lost Boys’, starring Kiefer Sutherland.

6. Experience Warwick Castle’s ‘Haunted Castle’ event

On a short break from Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can reach moorings close to Warwick Castle.  From 21 October to 5 November, the Castle’s ‘Haunted Castle’ event features a series of spooky experiences, including the Castle Dungeon and the Horrible Histories Maze.  The journey from Stockton takes seven hours and passes through 20 locks.

7. Go on a Spooky Tour at Oxford Castle

On a short break from our Oxford base on the River Thames at Eynsham you can reach overnight moorings in Oxford City Centre.  From there, it’s a short walk to Oxford Castle where from 16-31 October 2023 you can experience an evening Spooky guided tour of the 1,000 year-old haunted castle.  From our Oxford base, it takes three-and a-half-hours, passing through three locks to reach moorings in Oxford city centre.

8. Visit Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein in Bath ‘After Dark’

On a short break from Monkton Combe, you can reach moorings in Bath City Centre. There you can visit Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein to experience its ‘After Dark – nights to die for’ Halloween event, on from 20-31 October 2023. The experience offers the chance to venture through rooms cloaked in darkness and features live actors, games and special effects.  From our Monkton Combe base it takes four hours, passing through six locks, to reach moorings in Bath City Centre.

*NB Most of the events listed need to be booked in advance via the venue’s website

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Be Inspired

We offer a range of different types of holidays such as City Breaks, Relaxation Cruises and Popular Destinations

City Breaks
Rural retreats
Popular places

So why choose Anglo Welsh?

Over 55 years providing unique canal boat holidays in England and Wales.
Modern and spacious narrowboat and wide beam barge hire – from 2 to 12 berths.
Wide choice of narrowboat hire locations and canal boat holiday destinations.
Canal boat holiday routes for novices & experienced boaters.
Flexible holiday booking, no hidden costs.
Family friendly and pet friendly holidays.
Great days out on the water.
Luxury canal boat hire and Thames boating holidays.

Anglo Welsh. So much more than narrowboats

...but don't just take our word for it

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