Canal boat holidays on the Grand Union Canal

Canal boat holiday Grand Union Canal

Visit the incredible medieval castle at Warwick, the mighty flight of locks at Hatton and peaceful villages with traditional pubs

Built to transport goods between London and Birmingham, today the Grand Union Canal is alive with pleasure boats, walkers, cyclists and wildlife.

Stretching 137 miles through 166 locks, the Grand Union Canal emerged as a result of the amalgamation of several independent waterways.

It cuts across the country from the River Thames at Brentford in London to the Digbeth Branch canal in the heart of Birmingham, taking boaters up through the rolling Chiltern Hills, rural Northamptonshire and Warwickshire.

Along the way, it has a series of branches, including the Paddington, Slough, Wendover, Aylesbury, Leicester and Northampton arms.

Some of its most dramatic features include the magnificent Iron Trunk Aqueduct carrying the canal over the River Ouse in Buckinghamshire, the 2,795-metre long Blisworth Tunnel in Northamptonshire and the Hatton Flight of 21 Locks in Warwickshire.

Just some of the canal’s key destinations are the county town of Warwick with its jaw-dropping castle on the banks of the River Avon, and the charming canal villages of Braunston and Stoke Bruerne.

On a short break from Wootton Wawen you can travel to Hatton and back

On a short break (three or four nights) from our narrowboat hire base at Wootton Wawen in Warwickshire, you can head north along the Stratford Canal to connect with the Grand Union Canal at Lapworth.  You can then cruise along the Grand Union Canal to the base of the Hatton Flight of 21 locks and walk up to the Hatton Locks cafe.

On a week’s break from Wootton Wawen you can travel to Warwick and back

On a week’s holiday from Wootton Wawen you can spend more time exploring the Grand Union Canal.

You can travel up the Hatton flight and on to Warwick. The journey to Warwick from Wootton Wawen travels 14 miles, passes through 38 locks and takes around 12 hours.

There’s a choice of moorings available for visiting Warwick and its magnificent medieval castle, which dates back to William the Conqueror. And the county town of Warwick itself has a vibrant market place hosting a variety of shops, pubs and cafes, as well as half a dozen museums, including the Yeomanry Museum.

On a 10-day or two-week holiday from Wootton Wawen you can cruise the Warwickshire Ring

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 Admiral Nelson.

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 or call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122.

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Canal boat holidays on the Llangollen Canal

Canal boat holidays on the Llangollen Canal

Take a boating break on the Llangollen Canal to enjoy breathtaking views, visiting historic market towns and a UNESCO World Heritage site

The beautiful 41-mile long Llangollen Canal crosses the border between England and Wales, and links the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen in Denbighshire with the Shropshire Union Canal, just north of Nantwich in Cheshire.

The scenery varies from rural sheep pastures and ancient peat mosses, to tree-lined lakes and the dramatic foothills of Snowdonia.

In 2009, an 11-mile section of the waterway from Gledrid Bridge to the Horseshoe Falls in Llangollen – including the incredible Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts – was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

Soaring 35 metres above the rushing waters of the River Dee, which tumble out of Snowdonia, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the wonders of the waterways.

Built by the great canal engineers Thomas Telford and William Jessop, the aqueduct was completed in 1805. Supported by 18 giant pillars, it’s the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain, carrying a 307-metre long iron trough water passage for a single narrowboat and a towpath for pedestrians, with an exhilarating sheer drop on one side!

Short break canal boat holidays on the Llangollen Canal

Passing through just two locks, the 14-hour journey from our base at on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor to the Shropshire market town of Ellesmere and back, offers a fantastic short break holiday for beginners.

Setting off from Trevor Basin, the spectacular Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, with its jaw-dropping panoramic views of the Dee Valley below, is just 10 minutes away.

Next it’s a lift bridge and The Aqueduct Inn at Froncysyllte serving excellent food, then on through Whitehouse Tunnel followed by Chirk Tunnel, before crossing Chirk Aqueduct.

Soon after the aqueduct, you’ll reach the Bridge Inn at Chirk Bank, Poachers Pocket pub at Gledrid, and the Lion Quays waterside restaurant at Moreton – all good places to moor up for the night.

Four miles later at Frankton Junction the Montgomery Canal meets the Llangollen Canal and after another three miles, the canal passes by the Canal & River Trust’s Ellesmere Canal Yard, which dates back to the early 1800s.

At Ellesmere there are plenty of visitor moorings, giving you the chance to explore this pretty market town with a mix of Tudor, Georgian and Victorian buildings, as well as its famous Mere with woodland walks.

There’s a range of places to eat and drink at Ellesmere, including The White Hart pub and The Red Lion coaching inn.

Week long holidays on the Llangollen Canal

On a week’s holidayfrom Trevor, you can travel on from Ellesmere to Wrenbury and back, cruising a total of 66 miles through 24 locks, and taking around 32 hours.

The route passes through Whixall Moss nature reserve then the historic market town of Whitchurch, known for its clock makers, including J B Joyce & Co, the oldest maker of tower clocks in the world, established there in 1782.

When in Whitchurch, look out for half-timbered buildings, fair trade independent shops and restaurants, way-marked circular walks, water voles at Staggs Brook, woodpeckers at Brown Moss nature reserve, a selection of Roman burial vases in the Civic Centre and a Joyce clock in the tower of St Alkmund’s Grade I Listed Georgian Church. And there are numerous pubs to choose from, including the award-winning Black Bear.

Six miles further east, having passed through the Grindley Brook Staircase of Locks with lockside café and stores, you’ll reach Wrenbury. The centre of the village is a conservation area with a range of historic houses and the 16th century St Margaret’s Church overlooking the village green. There is a Post Office with general stores and two pubs, the canalside Dusty Miller in a converted corn mill, and The Cotton Arms.

On returning to Trevor, if time allows you could take the two-hour journey on to the ancient Welsh town of Llangollen and moor up in Llangollen Basin to explore the town. Things to see include the famous Dee Bridge built by Bishop Trevor in 1345, the Llangollen Steam Railway, Plas Newydd house and gardens, Horseshoe Falls, plus many independent shops and places to eat, including the popular Corn Mill with stunning river and mountain views.

Two week canal boat holidays from Trevor

On a two week break from Trevor, boaters can continue on from Wrenbury to Barbridge, where the Llangollen meets the Shropshire Union Canal, and then tackle the Four Counties Ring.

This epic canal journey, travelling through Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands, covers 110 miles and 94 locks, and takes around 55 cruising hours. The total cruising time from Trevor is 97 hours, passing through 136 locks.

Travelling anti-clockwise around the Ring, at Barbridge you can head south down the Shropshire Union Canal to its junction with the Staffs & Worcs Canal at Aldersley. Along the way, the route passes through the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man, and a series of villages with excellent pubs, including The Hartley Arms at Wheaton Ashton and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.

At Aldersley, the route heads north east again along the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal to Great Haywood, where you’ll start travelling up the Trent & Mersey Canal. Places of interest along this section include the National Trust’s Shugborough Estate with extensive riverside gardens, the 2,675-metre long Harecastle Tunnel and the Wedgewood Museum at Stoke on Trent.

At Middlewich, the ring turns west back towards Barbridge, travelling along the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal.

Click here to make a booking or to get friendly advice on canal holidays, please call our Booking Office on 0117 304 1122.

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Explore the Kennet & Avon Canal by canal boat

Canal boat holidays on the Kennet & Avon Canal
From our canal boat hire bases at Bath and Monkton Combe you can enjoy a canal boat holiday on the Kennet & Avon Canal

One of our best-loved canals, the 87-mile long Kennet & Avon Canal links the Bristol Avon with the Thames at Reading, passing through spectacular landscapes and the World Heritage City of Bath.

Soaring aqueducts, prehistoric landscapes and a World Heritage City

From the foothills of the Cotswolds to the North West Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and Vale of Pewsey dotted with pre-historic features, this canal offers the chance to enjoy some of England’s most beautiful countryside.

Completed in 1810, the Kennet & Avon Canal is made up of two lengths of navigable rivers linked by a canal. From Bristol to Bath in the west the route follows the Bristol Avon, and at the eastern end, the River Kennet from Newbury to Reading.

The waterway has 105 locks along its length, including 29 at the dramatic Caen Hill locks in Devizes, as well two stunning Bath stone aqueducts at Avoncliff and Dundas, designed by the pioneering canal engineer John Rennie.

Visit Bath or Bradford on Avon on a short break

From our base at Monkton Combe on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Somerset, Bath Top Lock is a lovely two-hour cruise away – the perfect short break for beginners.

Once moored at Bath Top Lock, you can walk into the centre of the City in just 15 minutes to enjoy all that the World Heritage Status City of Bath has to offer – the ancient Roman Baths, the sweeping line of 30 Grade I listed Georgian terrace houses that make up the Royal Crescent and medieval Bath Abbey with its fascinating ladders of angels climbing up the West front.

Places to eat in Bath include the Italian Sotto Sotto on North Parade and the Green Park Brasserie & Bar at Green Park Station, which often hosts live music in the evenings.

Or set off from our Bath base and head east to Bradford on Avon, skirting the southern foothills of the Cotswolds and passing through the picturesque Avon Valley.

The route goes past the historic Claverton Pumping Station with its 200-year water-driven pump lifting water 48ft from the River Avon to the canal above. And you’ll cross over the amazing Bath stone aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff.  There’s a series of historic pubs and waterside eateries to enjoy along the way, including The George at Bathampton and The Cross Guns at Avoncliff.

At historic Bradford on Avon, sometimes described as a ‘mini Bath’, there’s a great choice of places to visit, including the Bradford on Avon Museum and the magnificent medieval Tithe Barn.  There are lots of places to eat and drink, including the popular canalside Barge Inn and Timbrell’s Yard.

You can also cruise to Bristol and back on four night break from our Bath or Monkton Combe bases, but this is recommended for experienced boaters only.

Take a longer holiday and head to Devizes, the Vale of Pewsey, Hungerford and Newbury

On a week’s break from Bath or Monkton Combe, you can travel east to the pretty village of Great Bedwyn and back, passing through tranquil Wiltshire countryside past sleepy villages, and tackling the magnificent Caen Hill flight of locks at Devizes along the way.

Once at Devizes, visitors to this historic market town 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 famous Devizes Cheesecake at the Dolcipani Bakery.

Then it’s on through the Vale of Pewsey, passing close to the Avebury Stone Circle, looking out for a Wiltshire White Horse on the hillside and stopping to see the striking painting on the ceiling of The Barge Inn at Honeystreet, with the subject matter reflecting the pub’s proximity to many crop-circles.

At the tiny hamlet of Wootton Rivers on the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest, boaters can stop for refreshment at the pretty thatched Royal Oak pub, soon after reaching the Kennet & Avon’s only tunnel – the 459-metre long Bruce Tunnel.

Then it’s down the Crofton flight and on to Crofton Pumping Station, home to two of the World’s oldest working steam beam engines, and neighbouring Wilton Water, created to supply the pumping station and feed the canal summit, now a haven for wildlife.

On reaching Great Bedwyn, boaters can turn and enjoy a visit to the village’s intriguing Stone Museum and the The Three Tuns pub.

On a two-week break, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel on to Reading, passing through Hungerford with antique shops dotted along its High Street, the village of Kintbury with its Dundas Arms gastro pub and the historic market town of Newbury, with a variety of arts venues including The Corn Exchange and Watermill Theatre, and nearby Highclere Castle, home of Downton Abbey.

For advice on our canal boat holidays, please call our Booking Office on 0117 304 1122.
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