Anglo Welsh’s Top 10 narrowboat holidays for 2023
Emma Lovell, Anglo Welsh’s reservations manager, gives an overview of the top canal boat holiday destinations in England and Wales for 2023
There are thousands of miles of navigable waterways to explore in England and Wales, offering the chance to set off on your very own adventure afloat.
You can cruise slowly through the countryside, watching out for wildlife and planning your next stop. There’s a choice of hundreds of waterside destinations to visit, from canalside pubs, restaurants and walks, to museums, theatres and festivals.
To celebrate the new boating season ahead, here’s a guide to our Top 10 narrowboat holidays for 2023:
1. See the rhino calf born at Chester Zoo
On a short break from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal you can reach the ancient City of Chester, home to the award-winning Chester Zoo. Visitors to Chester Zoo will find over 20,000 animals from 500 species, including Jiya, an endangered greater one-horn rhino calf. Jiya was born to Mum Asha after a 16-month pregnancy in October 2022. The journey to Chester from Bunbury takes around seven hours, and passes through nine locks.
2. Cruise to Lechlade on Thames for a great choice of country walks
Setting off on a mid-week break from our Oxford base, you can take a Thames boating holiday to Lechlade. The pretty historic town of Lechlade has a choice of pubs, including the 16th century Swan Inn and riverside Trout Inn. And you can pick up a guide to six local walks at the Post Office or Library, including information about the history of the area. The journey to Lechlade passes through seven locks and takes around nine hours.
3. Visit Birmingham, home of the Peaky Blinders
From our Tardebigge base near Bromsgrove, it’s an eight-and-a-half hour, three-lock journey to the Black Country Living Museum. Scenes for all five series of the BBC’s epic gangster drama Peaky Blinders were filmed at the 26-acre Museum. As well as walking in the footsteps of the Shelbys, visitors can explore period shops and homes and have a drink in the ‘Bottle & Glass Inn’. You can also sample the Museum’s famous traditionally cooked 1930’s-style fish and chips and take a trip ‘into the thick’ to experience life in an 1850’s coal mine.
4. Visit the Fairport Convention folk festival at Cropredy
On a week’s holiday from Stockton, you can cruise along the Oxford Canal to enjoy the festival of folk and rock music at Cropredy (10-12 August). The journey begins on the Grand Union Canal, soon transferring onto the Oxford Canal at Napton-on-the-Hill. Here, there’s a good choice of pubs, including the Kings Head. From there, the route winds gently on through the countryside, passing through 21 locks along the way. The 12-mile journey to Cropredy takes around 12 hours.
5. Moor up to see a play in Shakespeare’s Stratford
From our base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, you can reach Stratford upon Avon on a short break. There you can moor up in Bancroft Basin to enjoy the town’s lively markets, shops, restaurants and museums. And you can choose from an exciting theatrical programme, including productions of ‘The Tempest’, ‘Julius Caesar’ and ‘Macbeth’ at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. From Wootton Wawen, it takes around six hours, to reach Shakespeare’s Stratford, passing through 17 locks.
6. Navigate the Four Counties Ring
On a week’s break from our base at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, you can navigate the ‘Four Counties Ring’. This popular circuit will take you along sections of the Trent & Mersey, Shropshire Union and Staffordshire & Worcestershire canals. In total, you’ll cruise 110-miles in around 60 hours, passing through 94 locks. Along the way, you’ll pass through some of the most beautiful landscapes in England, including the Peak District and Cheshire Plains. Highlights include: Wedgewood Pottery in Stoke on Trent; the 1.5 mile long Harecastle Tunnel; the flight of 31 locks at Kidsgrove; the Roman town of Middlewich; and the historic market town of Market Drayton.
7. Pass through the Bingley Five Rise Staircase
From our Silsden base it takes around four hours to reach the Bingley Five Rise Staircase, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. Completed in 1774, this spectacular staircase of locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal raises (or lowers) boats 18 metres in five massive chambers. The locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom gate of the next. On a short break from Silsden, you can continue on to Shipley or Saltaire. On a week’s holiday from Silsden, you can reach Leeds.
8. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’
Departing from our base at Trevor in North Wales, you’ll soon encounter the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. One of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’, this incredible structure transports canal boats 38 metres high across the Dee Valley. On a short break from Trevor, you can travel cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, and continue cruising along the Llangollen Canal to Ellesmere. The Mere at Ellesmere offers visitors woodland walks, places to eat, a sculpture trail and an adventure playground. The journey to Ellesmere takes around seven hours, passing through two locks.
9. Travel up the Caen Hill Flight
On a week’s break from our base at Monkton Combe near Bath, you can reach Pewsey Wharf, travelling up the famous Caen Hill flight of locks along the way. The route, which is perfect for a week away, takes you along the Kennet & Avon Canal through 37 locks, including the 29 locks of the Caen Hill Flight at Devizes. You’ll also cruise across two dramatic Bath stone aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff, through the historic market town of Bradford on Avon and the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the West Berkshire Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
10. Experience the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod afloat
Taking a week’s break from Whixall, you can cruise through the Shropshire Lake District to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen. Every year, thousands of people descend on the pretty town of Llangollen, nestled in the Berwyn Mountains, to celebrate dance, music, costume and culture. The 2023 Eisteddfod is on from 4-9 July. The journey takes around 12 hours and passes through just two locksTags: canal barge hire, canal boat hire, canal boat holiday, Kennet & Avon Canal, Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Llangollen Canal, narrowboat hire, narrowboat holiday, River Thames, Shropshire Union Canal, Stratford Canal, Thames boating holiday, Trent & Mersey Canal, Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal