Top 10 Spring canal boat holiday destinations
By Kevin Yarwood, Manager at our Great Haywood canal boat hire base
Spring is a glorious time to celebrate the rich and diverse wildlife living in Britain. Global warming and climate change campaigners are raising awareness of the World’s fragile eco-systems and the importance of preserving what we have by reducing waste and lowering our carbon emissions. As a company we encourage our staff and customers to support British wildlife by removing litter and plastic from the waterways wherever they see it.
The UK’s inland waterways weave through urban, suburban and rural environments taking in cityscapes, stunning scenery, historic landmarks, industrial heritage, World Heritage, museums, galleries, pubs and shops. Travelling along as just four miles per hour, from the perspective of a narrowboat, Britain is a destination with something for everyone. And in Spring, when the countryside is teeming with new life, there is no better way to witness waterside trees and hedges bursting into blossom, nest-building birds, ducklings bobbing on the water, spring lambs playing in the fields, and carpets of bluebells in waterside woodlands. The Canal and River Trust as produced a wonderful Spotters Guide to Waterway Wildlife which is well worth a read.
Equipped with a bespoke travel plan, with our help you can design your own perfect UK Spring break – choosing to take in your favourite destinations on a cruise for a few days, a week or longer. And, as narrowboats travel at low speeds burning less fuel, this is a holiday with a reduced carbon footprint.
To celebrate Britain’s natural environment, we’ve put together our Top 10 Spring canal boat holiday destinations for 2020:
- Navigate through Shakespeare country and Warwickshire farmland – from Anglo Welsh’s 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.
- Cruise into the Peak District spotting kingfishers along the way – on a week’s break from Anglo Welsh’s barge hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, canal boat holiday-makers 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.
- Travel round the Stourport Ring through idyllic stretches of Worcestershire countryside – on a week’s break from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat rental base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, boaters can travel round the Stourport Ring. This popular circuit takes boaters on an 84-mile, 114-lock journey, in around 56 cruising hours. Much of the route is rural, cruising sections of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, River Severn, Birmingham Canal Main Line and Stourbridge canals. Rural highlights include: Kinver Edge with its extensive woodlands and National Trust Holy Austin Rock Houses; idyllic stretches of Worcestershire countryside along the River Severn; and the dramatic flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge, climbing two-and-a-quarter miles with spectacular views of the open countryside all around. This circuit also takes boaters through central Birmingham, Kidderminster and the ancient City of Worcester with its magnificent cathedral.
- Cruise to the gateway of the Yorkshire Dales and explore the ancient woods at Skipton Castle – from our barge holiday hire base at 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 a thousand 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.
- Drift through the beautiful prehistoric Vale of Pewsey – from our canal boat rental base at Brassknocker Basin 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, boaters 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).
- Travel to Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains – from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, 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, boaters travel through the beautiful Shropshire Lake District and across the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Once in Llangollen, boaters 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).
- Navigate the Four Counties Ring for stunning views of the Cheshire Plains – on a week’s break from our narrowboat rental base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, boaters can travel round the popular Four Counties Ring, one of the most rural canal cruising circuits. Travelling for around 58 hours and passing through 96 locks, this route takes canal boat holiday-makers 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; stunning 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.
- Cruise to the Shropshire Lake District and catch a glimpse heron chick – from our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, on a short break (three or four nights) boaters can cruise to the Shropshire Lake District, teeming with water birds and other wildlife. 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 two magnificent aqueducts, including the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This Wonder of the Waterways, carries the Llangollen Canal 38 metres high above the Dee valley, with magnificent views of the valley and Welsh Mountains beyond. 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.
- Take a Thames boating holiday to Abingdon and listen out for cuckoos calling – from our barge hire base on the River Thames near Oxford, 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. Along the way, as well as cruising through the outskirts of the ancient City of Oxford, boaters pass through beautiful stretches of Oxfordshire countryside, with lush meadows, stretches of woodlands alive with bluebells alongside the river and the chance to hear cuckoos calling. Once moored up at Abingdon, boaters can enjoy exploring riverside walks, parks and eateries, including the popular waterside Nag’s Head
- Travel through the Northamptonshire countryside to Stoke Bruerne – on a mid-week (four night) break from our canal boat rental base at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can cruise to the pretty Northamptonshire village of Stoke Bruerne and back. The journey takes around 12 hours, travelling 28 mostly rural miles and passes through 16 locks, as well as the 2813-metre long Blisworth Tunnel. Once in Stoke Bruerne, visitors can enjoy a choice of canalside pubs, browsing the intriguing waterway history collections at the Canal Museum and following the village’s charming woodland walk and sculpture trail.