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.
Hire a canal boat for the day and explore the countryside afloat
This summer, great days out are going to be more important than ever after months of lockdown restrictions.
If you are looking for ways to entertain your family locally this summer, how about hiring a canal boat for the day? It’s easy to learn how to steer a narrowboat and full tuition is included in our day boat hire packages.
All the family will enjoy cruising gently through the countryside, watching out for wildlife along the way, learning how to steer the boat and navigate the canals, as well as stopping off for towpath walks and waterside picnics along the way.
Here at Anglo Welsh, we offer day boat hire at six of our canal boat hire bases, including Trevor on the Llangollen Canal, which, subject to guidance from the Welsh government, will reopen on 13 July*.
Day boat hire is now open at all our English bases and all our day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery, a kettle, fridge, cooker and a toilet so you can pack a picnic and head out for the day with everything you need. Prices start at £99 per day for up to 10 people.
Here’s a guide to our day boat hire option available this summer:
Cheshire: our day boat ‘Bella’ operates from our boat hire base at Bunbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley. From there, you can cruise south for six sedate miles, and travel across the impressive Grade II* listed Nantwich Aqueduct with panoramic views across the town. Dating back to 1826, Nantwich Aqueduct, which carries the canal over the A534 Chester Road, was designed by the famous canal engineer Thomas Telford. With no locks along the way, the journey to Nantwich takes around two hours. Prices for up to ten people are £99 on a weekday, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
Shropshire: our day boat ‘Julia’ is available to hire from our canal boat hire base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire. From Whixall, you can either head east to Whitchurch, or west to Ellesmere. The lock-free journey to the historic market town of Whitchurch takes just over two hours, and travels through six peaceful miles of countryside, passing the remains of the medieval motte and bailey Pan Castle. Alternatively, the journey to Ellesmere takes around three hours, cruising through eight miles of stunning countryside, passing Bettisfield Windmill, Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park along the way. Day boat hire prices are £99 for up to 10 people on a weekday, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
Staffordshire: our day boats ‘Daphne’ and ‘Abi’ are available to hire from our narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford. From there, you can either travel south to the historic market town of Rugeley, or north to the village of Sandon. The journey to Rugeley travels four miles, passes through two locks and takes around two hours. Along the way, you’ll pass the National Trust’s impressive Shugborough Estate, the Cannock Chase Forest Area of Outstanding Beauty the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wolseley Centre. Alternatively, the journey north to Sandon takes you through five miles of peaceful Staffordshire countryside, passing through just three locks along the way. Prices are £99 for up to 10 people on a weekday, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
Warwickshire: our day boats ‘Dolly’ and ‘Charlie’ operate out of our narrowboat rental base at Wootton Wawen near Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire. From there, you can either head south along the Stratford Canal to the historic village of Wilmcote, or north to Lowsonford. The two-hour journey to Wilmcote crosses the impressive Edstone Aqueduct and passes through just one lock. Alternatively, the journey to the village of Lowsonford takes three hours, travelling eight miles and passing through eight locks along the way. The route passes through fields and wooded sections, the remains of the Forest of Arden. Prices are £99 for up to 10 people on a weekday, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
Wrexham (from 13 July): our day boats ‘Jacob’, ‘Daniel’ and ‘Lotty’ operate out of our canal boat hire centre at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales. On a day afloat, we recommend you cruise across the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which stands at over 38 metres high and offers boaters incredible views across the Dee Valley below. After travelling across the Aqueduct, you can continue on to Gledrid. This gentle five-mile journey with no locks, also takes canal boaters across Chirk Aqueduct and through Whitehouse and Chirk tunnels. Alternatively, you can head to Llangollen, reaching the town in around two hours. Prices are £120 on a weekday, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.
Worcestershire: our day boat ‘Emma’ is available to hire from our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove. On a day out, you can cruise north along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Kings Norton Junction in around two-and-a-half hours. The eight-mile, zero-lock journey passes through fields, wooded sections and two canal tunnels, including Wast Hills, which at 2,493 metres long is one of the longest in the country. Day boat hire from Tardebigge costs £99 on a weekday and £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
*At the time of publication, government guidance to control the spread of the coronavirus in England allows two households to cruise together, plus their ‘support bubble’. And in Wales two households will be able to join together to form an “extended household” and would be able to cruise together. For more information about visiting the canals safely at this time, go to https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/safety-on-our-waterways/coronavirus
Summer holiday season is almost upon us and what better way to spend it then hiring a narrowboat and floating gently along a beautiful historic canal.
If you are planning a canal boat holiday this summer, it is worth doing some research into the many fun events and attractions you could reach by narrowboat.
Our historic waterways come alive during the summer holiday season so wherever you want your canal boat hire to start from, we can guarantee there will be something fun or interesting within easy cruising distance.
With so much to see and do along the canals, there is something for every generation to enjoy. So, if you are planning a canal barge holiday for the whole family, don’t worry, there will be plenty to keep the kids entertained.
Here are a few of our top choices for summer holiday fun along the canals this year:
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire bases: Bath and Monkton Combe
A little earlier than most school summer holidays but worth including just the same as each year Bath Carnival bring the streets of this historic city to life in a colourful celebration of diverse world cultures. Flamboyant floats, costumes, music and dancing thrill the crowds and leave the whole city wanting to party.
Bristol Harbour Festival, Friday 19th to Sunday 21st July, River Avon
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Bath
Bristol’s harbourside plays host to the city’s biggest free festival which combines art, music and performance while showcasing the city’s maritime heritage. The floating harbour is lined by stages and stalls selling fantastic local food and drink with live music, shows, workshops, boat trips and more fun for all the family.
Manchester MCM Comic Con, Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th July, Bridgewater Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Bunbury
Dig out your favourite superhero costume and geek out at the UK’s biggest pop-culture event. Comic Con returns to Manchester with a blockbuster weekend of special guests including Guardians of the Galaxy’s Michael Rooker as well as TV, movies, comic books and cosplay that can be enjoyed by parents and children alike.
Afternoon tea at Anderton Boat Lift, Sunday 28th July, the Trent & Mersey Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Bunbury and Great Haywood
Admire this historic feat of engineering while sipping on afternoon tea and wolfing down delicious dainty sandwiches and cakes in a perfect afternoon out. The special ‘afternoon tea experiences’ include a look around the magnificent 144-year-old boat lift followed by a boat trip on the River Weaver and a delicious afternoon tea in the lift view marquee.
Gifford Circus at Stonor Park, Thursday 25th July to Monday 29th July, River Thames
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Oxford
The famous Gifford Circus will be bringing its new show Xanadu to Stonor Park in Henley. Inspired by the 70s flower power movement, the new show promises to be a spectacular evening of incredible acrobatics, jaw-dropping aerial tricks alongside clowns, musicians and even horses. Enter the magic wonderland that is Gifford’s Big Top and wait to fall under their spell.
The Oxford Shakespeare Festival, running until Saturday 10th August, River Thames
Nearest AngloWelsh canal boat hire base: Oxford
Enjoy one of the Bard’s masterpieces in the dramatic open air surroundings of Oxford Castle and Prison’s courtyard. There is tragedy and comedy on offer depending on your preference. Tomahawk Theatre presents Macbeth from 1st to 27th July while Siege Theatre performs Twelfth Night from 29th July to 10th August.
Summer festival at World of Wedgwood, Saturday, 10th and Sunday 11th August, Trent & Mersey Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Great Haywood
After the popularity of the monthly market, World of Wedgewood is extending it into a two-day celebration of mouth-watering food and drink and artisan crafts. More than 50 stalls will be showcasing the best edible delights from local suppliers alongside hand-crafted products to a backdrop of great live music throughout the weekend.
National Waterways Museum, Horses at work day, Sunday, 11 August, Llangollen Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire bases: Whixall and Trevor
The museum at Ellesmere Port is hosting a special day to pay homage to the special role of horses in the history of the waterways. Go along to see boats being towed along the canal by horses in the traditional style as well as lots of other horse related activities.
The Oxford Proms, Saturday, 10th August and Thursday, 15th August, River Thames
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Oxford
Treat yourself to some of the best live classical music you’ll ever hear with one of these two amazing Oxford Prom concerts, both featuring virtuoso pianist Maki Sekiya. The first, the Hall of Fame Classic concert at University Church of St Mary the Virgin will showcase Beethoven and Shostakovich. The second, The Magic of Mozart, held at the same venue, will, as the name suggests celebrate the work of the Austrian musical genius.
Chester Zoo Little Explorers Outdoor Adventure Club, various dates from 20th July to 17th August, Shropshire Union Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Bunbury
Chester Zoo is doing its bit to foster the next generation of David Attenboroughs with weekly clubs throughout the holidays for children aged 5 to 8, exploring different types of wildlife: 20 July, Feathery Friends; 27 July, Brilliant Bugs; 3 August, Pond Creatures; 17th August, Mammal Detectives. It is also a great chance for mum and dad to do a bit of sightseeing in peace and quiet.
On the Beach’s Great Northern Summer, running until Saturday, 31st August, Bridgewater Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Bunbury
Great Northern Square has been transformed by a giant sandpit containing 50 tonnes of sand and wood rounds which will keep children happy for hours. The sandpit provides the focal point for a whole summer of family friendly activities such as markets, play sessions, yogathons and more.
Drayton Manor Theme Park Summer of Fun, Saturday 20th July to Sunday 1st September, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Great Haywood
With over 100 rides and a 15 acre zoo, Drayton Manor is a theme park the whole family can enjoy and it is hosting a ‘summer of fun’ throughout the holidays. It even boasts Thomas Land where younger children can spend a day meeting Thomas and his friends and testing out rides like Bertie Bus and Toby’s Tram Express. With special events and family activities to be announced throughout the summer, Drayton really does have every age group covered.
Cadbury World, Freddo’s Treasure Trove Stage Show, Saturday, 20th July to Sunday 1st September, Worcester & Birmingham Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Tardebigge
This temple to chocolate making is presenting a special show throughout the summer starring a living, breathing version of Freddo, which is a guaranteed hit with the little ones. The show, included in the normal ticket price, invites you to set sail with Captain Freddo and learn what it takes to become a pirate on the Seven Seas. Lean how to walk and talk like a pirate, or risk walking the plank!
National Sealife Centre, daily until Sunday, 8th September, Birmingham Canal Navigations Mainline or Gas Street Canal Basin
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Tardebigge and Great Haywood
This awe-inspiring Norman Foster-designed aquarium where you can see more than 60 strange, beautiful and fascinating creatures of the deep, is hosting a special ‘Pirates and Mermaids’ underwater treasure hunt adventure to keep the kids entertained this summer.
Warwick Castle Falconer’s Quest, daily until Sunday, 3rd November, Grand Union Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Stockton and Wootton Wawen
Experience the UK’s biggest birds of prey show at one of the best preserved medieval castles in Britain. Kids and adults alike will be wowed as up to 70 birds of prey take to the skies in an action packed dynamic display of aerial avian acrobatics. The shows will take place daily throughout the summer and into Autumn.
Skipton Castle re-enactment events, weekends throughout summer, Leeds & Liverpool Canal
Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat hire base: Silsden
This magnificent medieval castle hosts a series of re-enactment events throughout summer which will transport you back centuries to witness dramatic episodes from British history. On the 20th to 21st July you can experience life as it would have been in Skipton during the Wars of the Roses, on the 3rd to 4th of August you can watch the Civil War Regiment prepare for battle against the Parliamentarian army and on the 17th to 18th August watch 12 century knights display their fighting prowess.
What’s on in May: Canalside events to look forward to
Who doesn’t love May? It’s the month when summer finally starts to show its fair face, when blossom coats the hedgerows, when the sun shines late into the evening, when wearing shorts and flipflops becomes a reality, rather than a distant dream.
It is the month when the British countryside blooms, literally, bathing passersby in the sweet honeyed scents.
It is also the month when villages, towns and cities burst into life with the first of the summer’s fetes, festivals, carnivals and other colourful events all making May a busy few weeks.
In short, it is the perfect month to plan a canal boat holiday and explore some of the beautiful historic waterways which crisscross much of the UK.
To help you in planning your narrowboat break, here is a selection of just some of wonderful things taking place along the canals of England and Wales this May:
3rd to 5th May
Bristol Folk Festival, Bristol: River Avon
The best talent from the UK’s folk music scene serenade audiences across Bristol over the May bank holiday weekend. This year’s line up includes Cara Dillon, Sam Kelly & the Lost Boys and Lady Maisery with gigs held at St Stephen’s Church, Bristol Folk House and the beautiful St George’s. There will also be workshops and after hours sessions at other venues across the city.
The newly revamped Royal Pump Rooms offer a spectacular setting for this festival of chamber music which attracts fans from all over the UK and beyond. Violinist Tamsin Little and Russian pianist Andrey Gugnin will launch a stellar festival line up which will see exquisite music provided by organist Jonathan Cunliffe, the Aronowitz Ensemble, Roderick Williams and many more.
Taking place in Little Venice since 1983, the Inland Waterway Association’s Canalway Calvacade is one of the biggest and best canal festivals in the UK. Hundreds of narrowboats and other canal craft decorated with bunting line up along the Grand Union and Regents Canal providing the backdrop to a weekend of live music, dancing and fabulous food and drink. A highlight is the boat ‘pageant’ which sees boats competing for the best décor with a different theme each year.
Thousands of visitors descend upon Skipton over the May Bank Holiday to see dozens of decorated narrowboats line the canal basin and surrounding towpaths. There will be a full programme of entertainment over three days with children’s activites and rides, as well as craft stalls and delicious food and drink.
Launched in 2007, this family festival which takes place across Vines Park in Droitwich and the historic town centre, has grown to include street markets and exhibitions, live entertainment and a vintage car rally alongside the canal boat gathering. The festival culminates with ‘The Great Droitwich Duck Race’ at 4.30pm on the Monday afternoon.
The 2019 Chester racing season starts with the prestigious Boodles May Festival which takes place over three days and kick-starts the racing calendar in style. It starts with City Day on the Wednesday followed by the hats, frocks and thrills of Ladies Day and finishing with Chester Cup Day on the friday.
40s Weekend at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens, Castle Bromwich: Birmingham & Fazeley Canal
Step back in time to a wartime era of with a weekend of stories, music and vintage fun. This is a great excuse to dig out that retro or fancy dress, get dancing to some swing music and admire some classic cars and more. Entertainment will be provided by Kevin Mack, George Formby Experience and the Bluebird Belles while re-enactors from the Home Front include Peggy Skivvy, Victory Belles WI and the Bevan Boys and reminders of the fighting forces will be provided by Pathfinders, Red Caps and more. Tickets are £5 and can be bought on the door.
Running over 11 days in May, this annual celebration of music, literature and spoken word brings Bath to life with a rich array of concerns and performances. Traditionally the festival opens with the ‘Party in the City’ when dozens of parks and venues across the city host live bands and solo artists throughout the evening for everyone to enjoy. The programme then showcases an amazingly rich array of world famous musicians, writers and cultural figures. This year will see stars including Sir Michael Parkinson, Dame Darcey Bussell and Jo Brand entertaining audiences across Bath.
This celebration of canals, community and the environment brings together hundreds of traditional narrowboats and other craft from different eras together from across the country. At least 20,000 visitors come to Rickmansworth to enjoy the boats, music, performances, displays and colourful range of traders.
The Independent Birmingham Festival at the Bond, Birmingham: Grand Union Canal
Birmingham’s best independent local food traders gather to tickle the tastebudes of all visitors to this two day culinary celebration, organised by Independent Birmingham and Birmingham Seasonal Markets. Visitors can enjoy a spectacular line up of pop up restaurants, cocktail bars, street food, craft beer, fine wine all to a backdrop of great music. For those arriving via narrowboat the Bond sits conveniently right on the canalside.
Britain’s biggest inland waterways festival with more than 27,000 visitors last year, the Crick Boat Show bring together over 280 exhibitors, dozens of boats of all ages, dimensions and styles, talks by boating experts, boat trips and boat handling taster sessions all topped off with great live music and food and drink to get everyone in a celebratory mood. Now in its 20th year, this boat show is a great day out for all the family.
The biggest two-day LGBT party in the UK, Birmingham Pride is a weekend of flamboyant fun with colourful Carnival Parade through the city centre and live music from a fantastic line up including Years & Years, Lady Leshurr and Mabel. Alongside the main stage, the ‘Gay Village’ also features a dance arena, cabaret marquee, funfair, community village green, central market street, and the friendliest street party for all.
A fantastic boutique, family friendly music festival with more than 33 bands over three days showcasing the best in new talent and established acts. Last year saw around 5000 people soak up the sun and music and this year promises to get even bigger. The line up so far includes top tribute acts from The Stones, Re-Take That and Queen tribute, Mercury.
A celebration of all things delicious, independent food producers and street food traders will ply their wares at the World of Wedgewood over two days. Foodies can combine tasting wonderful local food and enjoying live music with exploring the historic pottery centre which provides a fascinating insight into what was once the region’s key industry and remains a famous English brand to this day.
Travel back to 1455 when the House of Lancaster’s hold on the English throne under King Henry VI is challenged by the House of York. The rival houses clash in battle leading to a war that lasted more than 30 years. The legendary Wars of the Roses is played out before audiences during an epic live action show at Warwick Castle. Experience a spectacle never seen before in the UK, complete with perilous stunt riders, fearless jousting and state of the art special effects. The show takes place every day throughout half term.
This is a must visit for anyone who loves boats in all their forms, with three days of ‘simply messing about in boats’ in this beautiful lake next to the River Thames. Visitors can admire classic boats, wooden boats, fibre glass boats, motor boats, sailing boats and much more with boat trips and rides. For any members of the family less keen on boats, there is also a vintage vehicle rally and many more land-based activities to enjoy.
Plan your Easter canal boat holiday: The best waterway routes for kids
It’s finally getting a little bit lighter and there is hope that winter may not last forever.
In fact, it is the perfect time to cheer yourself out of any winter blues by planning your next narrowboat trip. With the school Easter break now just a few weeks away, why not treat the whole family to a canal boat holiday this year. Kids love the novelty of being on the water just as much as adults and all our narrowboats are designed to be family friendly. You could even bring your pets!
To help, we’ve had a think about the best canal boat holiday routes to do with children.
We’ve chosen varied waterway journeys that combine rural beauty and tranquility with more urban settings that are packed with family friendly activities to keep the kids entertained throughout. No more of those, ‘Mum/Dad, I’m boooored,’ comments.
Tardebigge to Birmingham
Set in the heart of rural Worcestershire, Tardebigge offers an idyllic starting point for any canal boat cruise. The base sits at the top of an impressive lock ladder climbing 220 feet, offering wonderful views over the surrounding countryside.
If you are heading towards Birmingham you have a relaxing lock free five-hour cruise north along the Worcester and Birmingham Canal through rolling fields, woodland and quiet villages with welcoming pubs.
On the outskirts of the ‘City of canals’ as Birmingham is romantically labelled, you’ll pass through Bourneville where the canal takes you within touching distance of the old Cadbury chocolate factory. Now Cadbury World, this celebration of all things chocolate is a guaranteed hit with the kids.
Continue to the historic Gas Street Basin right in the city centre, from where you can access all Birmingham’s most famous attractions including the National Sea Life Centre, which is a great day out for the whole family.
Great Haywood to Froghall
Jump aboard a narrowboat at Great Haywood and head north west on the Trent and Mersey canal, following the River Trent valley.
To ease you into boating life gently there is a long stretch with no locks, passing through tranquil meadows and the pretty villages of Weston, Salt and Sandon which boast good pubs for a pit stop. After a few more miles, you reach your first lock at Aston, then proceed through more luscious countryside to the historic market town of Stone, which has some great canalside pubs, restaurants and a monthly farmers market.
It is then just seven miles until you reach the towns that make up Stoke on Trent and The Potteries. At Barlaston, you pass the Wedgewood factory with its World of Wedgewood visitor centre offering factory tours, a museum and craft and decorating studios where visitors can test out their talent on the pottery wheel.
The last few miles before you branch off east on the Caldon Canal in Stoke on Trent are dominated by old factories and warehouses, brick furnaces alongside more modern buildings. The Caldon Canal will take you into the picturesque Churnet Valley to Froghall. Here the kids are in for a real treat for it is just a short bus ride to Alton Towers, the UK’s biggest theme park, just make sure you book your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment!
Bunbury to Chester
The Shropshire Union Canal is renowned to be one of the most unspoilt scenic of canals, making it a favourite with narrowboaters from all over the UK.
From Bunbury, cruise north across the expansive open country of the Cheshire Plain past the medieval ruins of Beeston Castle looking down from its rocky crag which offers views all the way to the Pennines. Run by English Heritage and surrounded by a 40-acre woodland park, this is a great place to take the kids. Stop off for refreshment at the canal side Shady Oak Pub, next to Bate’s Mill Bridge, before heading north again.
The canal snakes its way through more green and pleasant farmland until reaching Christleton, a charming village on the edge of Chester with a traditional green surrounded by historic houses.
But most people will be impatient to get to Chester itself, one of the most beautiful cities in the UK, steeped in history. The canal takes you right into the centre of the city, with its cluster of 700-year-old buildings, great shops, restaurants and cafes, and stunning sandstone cathedral all encircled by the imposing medieval city walls.
Take the children to Chester Zoo where you can admire more than 21,000 endangered and exotic animals in the 125 acres of beautiful gardens. This is said to be the most visited tourist attraction in the UK outside of London.
Stockton to Warwick
Leaving our Stockton base, the Grand Union Canal descends through the Stockton Locks to reach the village of Long Itchington where you can reward your hard work at one of the two canalside pub, the Two Boats Inn and The Cuttle Inn.
The canal proceeds through gentle Warwickshire countryside until reaching elegant Royal Leamington Spa with its fine examples of Regency and Victorian architecture and ornate parks like Jephson Gardens. The Leamington Spa Spy Mission Trail is a great way to keep the kids entertained while you explore the town.
From here it is a stone’s throw to Warwick itself, with its unique combination of medieval, Queen Anne and Victorian buildings, all overlooked by the enormity of Warwick Castle. Taking you back in time more than 1000 years with its castle ruins, gruesome dungeons, live bird of prey displays and Horrible Histories maze, you could easily spend the whole day at the castle. But make sure you leave time to explore the historic delights of the town itself including the 14th century Lord Leicester Hospital, St Mary’s Church and The Mill Garden on the banks of the River Avon.
*Monkton Combe to Bristol
From Monkton Combe on the Kennet and Avon Canal you skirt the tail end of the Cotswold Hills to reach the famously beautiful city of Bath which, as a tourist honeypot, has plenty of family friendly activities from mini golf to glass making.
In Bath, you leave the canal to join the wider flowing waters of the River Avon which winds its way through gorgeous countryside first to Saltford, where the riverside Jolly Sailor Pub makes a good stop off, then on towards Bristol.
On the outskirts of the city you will pass Beese’s Riverside Bar and Tea Gardens with its idyllic secretive setting on the riverbank hemmed in by woodland. Try and ensure you’re hungry – or thirsty – so you have an excuse to stop.
After this the city begins to close in upon the river as you enter the old industrial area before turning off at Feeder Road to lock into the historic floating harbor. You can then cruise right into Bristol’s vibrant centre where you are within easy walking distance of the hugely popular We The Curious (formerly At-Bristol) science centre, the incredible SS Great Britain or M Shed with its varied exhibits, all designed to appeal to the little ones. If that’s not enough, catch a bus or taxi to Clifton where you can take the children to Bristol Zoo, with its 400 species of rare animals, 12 acres of gardens, water play area and aerial ropes course ending in an exciting zip wire.
*This route is only recommended for experienced boaters due to the tidal River.
This week Anglo Welsh’s narrowboat ‘Butterfly’ appeared on BBC One’s popular ‘Antiques Road Trip’, taking presenter Catherine Southon across the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales.
To celebrate, we’ve put together a list of our Top 6 moments in the spotlight over the last 12 months:
The Antiques Road Trip visited Trevor. Back in April, presenter Catherine Southon boarded our 62ft-long narrowboat ‘Butterfly’ at Trevor to film an episode of this BBC One favourite. Based at our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, ‘Butterfly’ is one of our popular Trent II Class narrowboats, offering flexible accommodation for up to eight people. If you missed it, the episode (screened on Wednesday 19 September at 4.30pm) can be found on the BBC iPlayer until 18 October. Image c/o Antiques Road Trip – STV Productions/BBC.
Globalmouse Travels visited the Kennet & Avon Canal. Last summer, Nichola West (AKA Globalmouse), currently ranked number two in Vuelio’s ‘Top 10 UK Family Travel Blogs’, enjoyed an Anglo Welsh family narrowboat holiday aboard ‘Selwood’. Setting off from our canal boat rental base at Bath, she travelled with her three children to Bradford on Avon and back over the August bank holiday. Describing their first night afloat in her review (published Sep 2017) she says: “It felt lovely mooring up on the side of the bank, hammering in pegs to tie-up our boat…on this quiet bit of the Kennet and Avon Canal. We cooked up pasta in our lovely little kitchen and listened to the gentle sounds of the river as we played card games afterwards and headed off to bed.”
Jasper Winn wrote the last chapter of ‘Water Ways’ aboard Summer. At the end of last year, the writer and slow adventurer Jasper Winn took to the water aboard Anglo Welsh’s 67ft Bond Class narrowboat ‘Summer’ to write the final chapter of ‘Water Ways’. Published in July by Profile Books, ‘Water Ways’ is a mix of travel, history and nature writing, in which Winn describes his year-long adventure exploring Britain’s waterways on foot and by bike, in a kayak and on narrowboats. ‘Summer’, based at our canal boat hire centre at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal in Warwickshire, features in the final chapter.
John Craven cruised along the Llangollen Canal. Last October, the BBC’s Countryfile Magazine featured an article by veteran presenter John Craven recounting his holiday aboard our beautiful 67ft Bond Class boat for up to six people ‘Askrigg’. John set off from our canal boat rental base at Trevor for a short break with his two eldest grandsons, Charlie and Oliver, and said: “It had been an exhilarating, slow-motion few days. We had glided though breath-taking countryside while being overtaken by walkers and their dogs, joggers, cyclists and kayakers. Many peaceful hours of travelling had been dotted with moments of tension…as I tried to master the skills needed for a method of transportation that hasn’t changed in centuries. We agreed it had been far more than just a short holiday. The Llangollen Canal had given us an experience we’d never forget.”
The Daily Telegraph recommended Tardebigge. Earlier this month, Daily Telegraph travel writer Sarah Baxter listed ‘Cruise the canals like you are in Venice’ as one of her ’30 amazing weekend breaks to extend the British Summer’. The article explains that our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove if a five hour, lock free cruise from Birmingham’s centre where you can “use your boat as a hotel…or pootle along some of the 100 navigable miles of urban waterways”.
The Times recommended Wootton Wawen. In July, the Sunday Times Weekend magazine travel section suggested taking a canal trip through Shakespeare country as part of its ’30 great British mini-breaks’ feature. The article highlights the opportunity to cruise along the Stratford Canal from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen, reaching moorings by the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford upon Avon in just six hours, perfect for exploring “Bard-related sites such as Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Shakespeare’s Birthplace”.
Set off together this summer for a micro-adventure afloat, exploring the countryside and visiting exciting waterside attractions in some of Britain’s best-loved towns and cities.
Here are our Top 10 family destinations this Summer to help you plan ahead:
Explore The Big Hoot in Birmingham. From our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s a five-hour, lock free journey to moorings at Gas Street Basin in Birmingham City Centre, where this summer (until 7 September) 89 colourful owl sculptures have taken position across the city to form a public trail. All the giant owls have been sponsored by companies and organisations and at the end of the event, they will be auctioned off to raise money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
Visit the Tolkien exhibition at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. From our Oxford base, it’s a tranquil three-hour cruise along the River Thames to moorings at Hythe Bridge, perfect for exploring Oxford’s city centre, including the awe-inspiring Bodleian Library, one of the oldest libraries in Europe and home to over 12 million printed items. The Library’s new exhibition, in the Weston Library, ‘Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth’ (1 June to 28 October 2018) explores the creative genius of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ author, through manuscripts, artwork, maps, letters and artefacts.
Walk the walls of Chester. From our canal boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury, the Roman City of Chester is a delightful seven-hour, nine-lock cruise away, travelling through the rolling Cheshire landscape. Once there, take time to explore this great heritage city home to the most complete City Walls in Britain dating back to the Roman occupation 2,000 years ago. During this fascinating two-mile walk, you can follow in the footsteps of the Roman soldiers patrolling the walls and enjoy a unique perspective of Chester with panoramic views on both sides.
Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ in North Wales. Just five minutes by boat from our base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, boaters encounter the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, truly one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. Its cast iron trough, along which boats travel, is supported on iron arched ribs and carried 30 metres high above the Dee Valley on 19 hollow pillars. On 14 July, the annual ‘Under The Arches Music Festival’, one of Wales’ best-loved music, light, laser & firework shows, will take place beneath Thomas Telford’s stunning Pontcysyllte Aqueduct!
See the ‘Becoming Henry Moore’ exhibition in Leeds. From our base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, on a week’s holiday, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Leeds and back, cruising for a total of 34 hours and passing through 56 locks. Here, boaters can moor up and visit the Henry Moore Foundation where this summer, the Museum’s ‘Becoming Henry Moore’ exhibition charts Britain’s foremost modern sculptor’s creative trajectory from 1914 to 1930. Tickets to the exhibition include entrance to the sculpture gardens and Henry Moore’s studios (until 2 October).
Enjoy tea and cake at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath. From our base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at the historic town of Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, boaters can reach Bath Top Lock, in just six hours, travelling through one lock and over two beautiful Bath stone aqueducts. From there, it’s a 15-minute walk into Bath City Centre where visitors can find the Jane Austen Centre, dedicated to celebrating Bath’s most famous resident. Set in a classically decorated Georgian town house, you can get into the Jane Austen spirit by dressing up in the exhibition’s Regency costumes and ordering a cup of real leaf tea and homemade cake at the Regency themed Tea Rooms.
Step back in time at Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford upon Avon. From our base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, it’s a delightful six-hour, 17-lock cruise journey through the Warwickshire countryside to moorings in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon. From here, it’s a short walk to the town’s theatres, shops, restaurants and museums, including the Tudor house where Shakespeare was born and grew up. Here visitors can enjoy hearing tales of Shakespeare’s family life, live theatre performances on demand and seeing rare artefacts from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s collections.
Visit the Food & Drink Capital of Staffordshire. From our base at Great Haywood, near Stafford, it’s a peaceful five-hour, four-lock journey along the Trent & Mersey Canal to the bustling market town of Stone. With an excellent choice of restaurants, pubs and wine bars, regular markets, its own micro ‘Lymestone Brewery’ and a series of exciting ‘foodie’ festivals, Stone is known as The Food and Drink Capital for good reason.
Journey round the Warwickshire Ring. From our Stockton base on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, the 101-mile, 94-lock Warwickshire Ring takes narrowboat holiday-makers on a wonderful tour of the West Midlands, cruising for around 53 hours in total. Highlights include the beautiful country town of Warwick with its jaw-dropping medieval castle on the banks of the River Avon. From 22 July to 3 September, Warwick Castle is holding its ‘Wars of The Roses Live’ event, a new heart pumping, fist thumping, live action show!
Cruise to Devizes for some real ale and cheesecake. From our base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Sydney Wharf in Bath, boaters can reach Fox Hanger Wharf at the base of the awesome flight of locks at Caen Hill, in 10 hours, travelling through eight locks. Once here, the historic market town of Devizes is a short walk away, where visitors can enjoy the Wadworth Brewery Visitor Centre with its famous shire horses making daily deliveries, and sample delicious food at some of the town’s independent shops and restaurants, including seasonal favourites at the AA 5* ‘Peppermill Restaurant’ and the Devizes Cheesecake at the ‘Dolcipani Bakery’.
To book a holiday or break on any of Anglo Welsh’s fleet, call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122.
Celebrate Shakespeare and the start of summer at Stratford’s 2017 River Festival
Few towns are more quintessentially English than Stratford-upon-Avon, and there is no better way to celebrate Shakespeare than the annual River Festival in the Bard of Avon’s home town.
Stratford’s 2017 River Festival takes place on Saturday July 1st and Sunday July 2nd, the eighth edition of an event that is close to everybody’s canal-loving heart at Anglo Welsh. For two whole days every summer the riverside comes alive and this year’s festival promises more free events and fun activities than ever.
Last year more than 60,000 people enjoyed world-class entertainment at this award-winning festival on Stratford’s riverside. In the best tradition of English festivities there really is something for everyone, including live music on the Bandstand and Acoustic Stage, fun activities in the Family Zone, artisan craft markets and a mouth-watering selection of food and drink on global food stands.
As befits one of Britain’s biggest canal festivals there will also be a spectacular display of narrowboats, not least Anglo Welsh’s 67ft, 6-berth ‘Summer’, a high spec Bond Class boat that by popular consensus is among the finest narrowboat hires available anywhere on the UK’s waterways.
‘Summer’ will arrive at Stratford-upon-Avon after a leisurely short cruise from Anglo Welsh’s nearby base at Wootton Wawen, Henley-In-Arden, a popular starting point for narrowboat holidays on the Avon Ring, the Warwickshire Ring, Stratford Canal and the Grand Union Canal, among others.
Aside from narrowboats and natural beauty, the highlight of a fabulous two-day River Festival will be a spectacular firework display on the Saturday night. We can’t wait!
And as an extra incentive we will be offering a 20% discount for Anglo Welsh customers who book their Anglo Welsh holiday at the festival!
To book a canal holiday from Wootton Wawen or any of Anglo Welsh’s 11 bases at prime waterway locations, please call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122.
Terms and conditions apply. Only available on Anglo Welsh boats, excluding Silsden boats.
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.
The technical storage or access is strictly necessary for the legitimate purpose of enabling the use of a specific service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user, or for the sole purpose of carrying out the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network.
The technical storage or access is necessary for the legitimate purpose of storing preferences that are not requested by the subscriber or user.
The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for statistical purposes.The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for anonymous statistical purposes. Without a subpoena, voluntary compliance on the part of your Internet Service Provider, or additional records from a third party, information stored or retrieved for this purpose alone cannot usually be used to identify you.
The technical storage or access is required to create user profiles to send advertising, or to track the user on a website or across several websites for similar marketing purposes.