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Amazing Canal Facts

Amazing canal facts worth reading ahead of your narrowboat holiday

 

There are more than 2000 miles of navigable canals and rivers throughout England and Wales, making up an intricate network which enables boats to travel the length and breadth of the country. Between them, these inland waterways boast 1,569 locks, 53 tunnels, 3112 bridges, 370 aqueducts and 74 reservoirs. Most were built more than 200 years ago and have fascinating stories to tell as well as featuring many historic feats of engineering which still wow visitors today. This is a large part of what makes a canal boat holiday so magical – a narrowboat takes you on a journey through history and human endeavor.

If you are considering a canal boat holiday, why not first have a read of these amazing canal facts which will only add to the wonder of your cruise along these historic waterways.

1) The oldest working canal in the UK is about 1,900 years old

The Fossdyke Navigation which runs between Lincoln and the River Trent at Torksey was built by the Romans in around AD 120 and is still in use today. Extending 11.3 miles, with one lock, the Fossdyke formed part of a key transport route from Peterborough to York.

It is said to have been used by the invading Danes and the Normans to carry stone to build Lincoln Cathedral in the 11th century. The canal was revamped under King Henry I in 1121 but then fell into disrepair and silted up until, by the 17th century, it was virtually impassable. In 1744 a proper channel was restored and maintained and the canal has remained navigable ever since.

2) The longest canal tunnel in the UK runs for more than 5000 metres – or 3.5 miles

The Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal is the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in Britain. Built over 16 years from 1794 to 1811, it stands at 196 metres above sea level, at a depth of 194 metres underneath the Pennines. The canal was closed to traffic in 1943 and re-opened in May 2001. Moor up during your canal boat holiday and learn more about this 19th century wonder of engineering at the Standedge Tunnel and Visitor Centre.

3) Britain’s longest aqueduct extends more than 300 metres – or 1000 ft

Deservedly described as the jewel in the crown of Britain’s canals, the awe-inspiring Pontcysyllte Aqueduct carries narrowboats on the Llangollen Canal at a soaring 38 metres – 126 ft – above the River Dee, offering stunning views of the valley and surrounding hills. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, the 18-arch aqueduct was designed by legendary civil engineer Thomas Telford and built between 1795 and 1805.

Located right next to the Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base at Trevor, this is a spectacular way to start or finish a canal boat holiday from this idyllic location.

4) The longest lock flight in the UK is 30 locks long

The Tardebigge lock flight enables Worcester and Birmingham Canal to ascend 67 metres (220 feet) over a 2.25 mile stretch. Built between 1808 and 1815, the lock flight enabled an extension of the canal from Birmingham to the River Severn at Worcester to be completed. Until the lock ladder was constructed, originally with a boat lift in place of the 3.4-metre (11 feet) top lock, the canal only travelled as far the Old Wharf next to Tardebigge Tunnel.

The Canal and River Trust offers a certificate of achievement to any boaters that complete the journey through the 30 locks so why not make it your challenge for your next canal boat holiday. Find out how you can claim yours here.

5) The longest UK canal runs for 137 miles

The Grand Union Canal links London with Birmingham via Milton KeynesNorthampton and Leamington Spa and would take about 74 hours to cruise the whole length non-stop. It winds its way through rolling countryside, idyllic towns and villages with 158 locks and striking historic features including the Iron Trunk Aqueduct, the steep Hatton Lock Flight and The Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne.

The name of the canal offers a clue as to its origins, for it was not built as one waterway but was the result of connecting existing waterways to create an uninterrupted link between the industrial heartlands of Birmingham and the west midlands with the capital.

The longest canal in Britain built as a single waterway is the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at 127 miles long.

6) The newest canal in the UK was completed in 2002

The Ribble Link canal was opened just 17 years ago to connect the previously isolated Lancaster Canal with the rest of the national inland waterways network. It runs for just four miles from Preston to the River Ribble which then connects to the Leeds and Liverpool canal.

With nine locks, the Ribble Link is tidal so only navigable at certain times with advance booking needed as all boats must be helped through. A link between the Lancaster Canal and the wider canal network was first discussed 200 years ago but due to costs and engineering challenges did not come to fruition until 2000 with the help of a grant from the Millennium Commission.

7) Britain’s shortest canal is just 22 metres – or 72 feet – long

The Wardle Lock Branch of the Trent & Mersey Canal consists of just one 72ft-long lock and a few yards of canal on either side. It was built in 1829 to link the Trent and Mersey Canal with the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal.

8) A cow once swan the whole length of the Foulridge Tunnel

In 1912 a cow named Buttercup fell into the Leeds and Liverpool Canal near the southern end of the tunnel which carries the waterway for a mile under the Lancashire countryside. Rather than climb out of the canal as normal, Buttercup swam all 1500 metres to Foulridge at the northern end. On arrival, Buttercup was revived with brandy by locals drinking at the nearby Hole in the Wall pub.

9) Canals have plugs, literally

In 1978, a group of British Waterways workers who were dredging the Chesterfield Canal pulled up a chain which had a heavy lump of wood attached to the end. As the entire canal between Whitsunday Pie Lock and Retford Town Lock began to empty away into the River Idle, they realised they had pulled out a long forgotten canal plug.

10) There are more boats now on the UK canals than at any other time in history

While Britain’s industrial heydays of 18th and 19th century are generally viewed as the golden age of canals, there are actually more craft on our waterways today. Despite the canals being used by far less commercial traffic, they have become a mecca for pleasure craft and a growing number of people opting for floating homes. There are now around 34,000 boats on Britain’s canals and rivers, which provide homes, workplaces and holidays for millions of people. We are proud that Anglo Welsh can claim to be the proud owners of 160 of these vessels providing wonderful narrowboat holidays for people up and down the country.

 

 

A canal boat holiday takes you back in time. It is a journey through history as you float along waterways constructed in a bygone era of horse-drawn transport.

The vast majority of the canals in England and Wales were built at the dawn of industrialisation as the most efficient way of transporting the raw materials and goods going in and out the new factories.

This makes a narrowboat holiday a history lover’s dream come true as they can admire the antique engineering and the many sights, towns and cities along the routes which have all played notable roles in creating the modern Britain we know today.

To get you started, here we take you on a brief history of the canals of England and Wales.

Early history

While the UK was the first country to develop a nationwide canal network, the Chinese claim the title of being the earlier pioneers of inland waterways, constructing the Grand Canal of China in the 10th century. Most early canals were extensions of natural rivers.

The first canals of England and Wales were built by the Romans who dug the Fossdyke connecting Lincoln to the River Trent around AD50 and the nearby Car Dyke which ran southwards towards Cambridge.

Other early waterways of the medieval and post medieval period were constructed during to shorten, extend or link river routes such as the Exeter Canal, built in 1566 which featured the first pond locks in Britain.

But the golden age of canal building began as the Industrial Revolution took hold during the second half of the 18th century, with the construction of the Bridgewater Canal.

Golden age of canal building

Completed in 1776 under the watchful eye of engineer James Brindley, the Bridgewater Canal connects Runcorn, Manchester and Leigh. It was created in order to carry coal from the Duke of Bridgewater’s mines at Worsley into the industrial heart of Manchester where demand for coal to power the mills was soaring.

The Bridgewater Canal sparked a flurry of canal building during the half century that followed its construction. During an age of horse drawn transport and antiquated mud tracks for roads, the canals provided a highly efficient way to transport large quantities of goods. One horse could pull a canal boat carrying around 30 tonnes of cargo – more than ten times the amount that could be transport via a one horse cart.

The efficiency of the Bridgewater Canal meant the price of coal in Manchester dropped by nearly two thirds within a year of its opening. The waterway repaid the cost of its construction within a few years, proving the viability of canals.

Other industrialists began to follow suit and James Brindley suddenly found himself constantly in demand. He is largely responsible for the ‘Grand Cross’, the two thousand miles of canals linking the four great rivers of England – the Severn, Mersey, Humber and Thames.

There were two key canal building periods, from 1759 to the early 1770s and from 1789 to around 1800 when trains began to dominate.

The famous potter Josiah Wedgewood commissioned the construction of canals to transport his goods from the Staffordshire factories to Manchester and Birmingham. He was instrumental in the building of the Trent and Mersey Canal which was completed in 1777.

The Oxford Canal was completed in 1790, linking the coal mines and factories of the Midlands with London via the Thames while the Ellesmere Canal completed in 1805 and later incorporated into the Chester, MontgomeryShropshire Union and Llangollen canals, helped link the Mersey and the Severn.

Thomas Telford took over from Brindley as the leading canal engineer of the late 18th century designing incredible landmarks including the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which soars over the River Dee.

The epicenter of canal building was in the industrial West Midlands and North West. Birmingham and the Black Country boasted an intricate network of 160 miles of canals, known as the Birmingham Canal Navigations, most of which survive today.

Funding for the canals was raised largely through private investors keen to reap the promised high returns. But by the end of the 18th century the flurry of canal building was over. Virtually all Britain’s canals were completed by 1815 when attention began to turn to the development of steam powered railway locomotives.

Decline

In the early 19th century the canals continued to be the preferred method for transporting bulky heavy goods while the new railway lines focused on passengers and lighter cargo. But as the century progressed the railways were developed into a national network, out competing the canals in both cargo volumes and speed, forcing tolls down so that the canal companies went into terminal decline.

The emergence of the motorcar in the early 20th century and development of an improved reliable road system was another blow to the commercial appeal of the canals.

As most of the canals fell out of commercial use and the companies that had maintained them shut down or were bought out, the waterways themselves were left to wreck and ruin.

Reinvention

In 1947 under the post-World War II Labour government, Britain’s canal and railway systems were nationalised. In the decades that followed, the canals were gradually restored and reopened, primarily for leisure purposes. Restoration projects have been largely undertaken by enthusiastic volunteer groups and local canal societies and trusts.

The canals are now managed by the Canal and River Trust, the successor to British Waterways, which actively supports many of the ongoing restoration projects. The Inland Waterways Association is a charity which also promotes the ongoing protection and conservation of the canals.

Commercial traffic is still permitted on a few key canal routes but the vast majority of waterways are now enjoyed by pleasure craft such as our own Anglo Welsh narrowboats.

There are said to be more boats using the British canals today than at any other point in their history.

Key sights of historic interest and engineering on the canals

Here are a few of the key sights which represented historic feats of engineering during the golden age of canal building and are still well worth a visit during a canal boat holiday today:

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, completed in 1805, the Llangollen Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Trevor

 

The Anderton Boat Lift, completed 1875, the Trent and Mersey Canal and River Weaver

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Bunbury

 

The Barton Swing Aqueduct, built 1893, Bridgewater Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Bunbury or Silsden

 

Chirk Aqueduct, completed 1801, Llangollen Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Trevor

 

Foxton Inclined Plane, opened 1900 and dismantled 1928, Grand Union Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Stockton

 

Dudley Tunnel, completed 1791, Dudley Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Great Haywood and Tardebigge

 

Blisworth Tunnel, completed 1805, Grand Union Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Stockton

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A brief history of the canals of England and Wales

A canal boat holiday takes you back in time. It is a journey through history as you float along waterways constructed in a bygone era of horse-drawn transport.

The vast majority of the canals in England and Wales were built at the dawn of industrialisation as the most efficient way of transporting the raw materials and goods going in and out the new factories.

This makes a narrowboat holiday a history lover’s dream come true as they can admire the antique engineering and the many sights, towns and cities along the routes which have all played notable roles in creating the modern Britain we know today.

To get you started, here we take you on a brief history of the canals of England and Wales.

Early history

While the UK was the first country to develop a nationwide canal network, the Chinese claim the title of being the earlier pioneers of inland waterways, constructing the Grand Canal of China in the 10th century. Most early canals were extensions of natural rivers.

The first canals of England and Wales were built by the Romans who dug the Fossdyke connecting Lincoln to the River Trent around AD50 and the nearby Car Dyke which ran southwards towards Cambridge.

Other early waterways of the medieval and post medieval period were constructed during to shorten, extend or link river routes such as the Exeter Canal, built in 1566 which featured the first pond locks in Britain.

But the golden age of canal building began as the Industrial Revolution took hold during the second half of the 18th century, with the construction of the Bridgewater Canal.

Golden age of canal building

Completed in 1776 under the watchful eye of engineer James Brindley, the Bridgewater Canal connects Runcorn, Manchester and Leigh. It was created in order to carry coal from the Duke of Bridgewater’s mines at Worsley into the industrial heart of Manchester where demand for coal to power the mills was soaring.

The Bridgewater Canal sparked a flurry of canal building during the half century that followed its construction. During an age of horse drawn transport and antiquated mud tracks for roads, the canals provided a highly efficient way to transport large quantities of goods. One horse could pull a canal boat carrying around 30 tonnes of cargo – more than ten times the amount that could be transport via a one horse cart.

The efficiency of the Bridgewater Canal meant the price of coal in Manchester dropped by nearly two thirds within a year of its opening. The waterway repaid the cost of its construction within a few years, proving the viability of canals.

Other industrialists began to follow suit and James Brindley suddenly found himself constantly in demand. He is largely responsible for the ‘Grand Cross’, the two thousand miles of canals linking the four great rivers of England – the Severn, Mersey, Humber and Thames.

There were two key canal building periods, from 1759 to the early 1770s and from 1789 to around 1800 when trains began to dominate.

The famous potter Josiah Wedgewood commissioned the construction of canals to transport his goods from the Staffordshire factories to Manchester and Birmingham. He was instrumental in the building of the Trent and Mersey Canal which was completed in 1777.

The Oxford Canal was completed in 1790, linking the coal mines and factories of the Midlands with London via the Thames while the Ellesmere Canal completed in 1805 and later incorporated into the Chester, MontgomeryShropshire Union and Llangollen canals, helped link the Mersey and the Severn.

Thomas Telford took over from Brindley as the leading canal engineer of the late 18th century designing incredible landmarks including the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which soars over the River Dee.

The epicenter of canal building was in the industrial West Midlands and North West. Birmingham and the Black Country boasted an intricate network of 160 miles of canals, known as the Birmingham Canal Navigations, most of which survive today.

Funding for the canals was raised largely through private investors keen to reap the promised high returns. But by the end of the 18th century the flurry of canal building was over. Virtually all Britain’s canals were completed by 1815 when attention began to turn to the development of steam powered railway locomotives.

Decline

In the early 19th century the canals continued to be the preferred method for transporting bulky heavy goods while the new railway lines focused on passengers and lighter cargo. But as the century progressed the railways were developed into a national network, out competing the canals in both cargo volumes and speed, forcing tolls down so that the canal companies went into terminal decline.

The emergence of the motorcar in the early 20th century and development of an improved reliable road system was another blow to the commercial appeal of the canals.

As most of the canals fell out of commercial use and the companies that had maintained them shut down or were bought out, the waterways themselves were left to wreck and ruin.

Reinvention

In 1947 under the post-World War II Labour government, Britain’s canal and railway systems were nationalised. In the decades that followed, the canals were gradually restored and reopened, primarily for leisure purposes. Restoration projects have been largely undertaken by enthusiastic volunteer groups and local canal societies and trusts.

The canals are now managed by the Canal and River Trust, the successor to British Waterways, which actively supports many of the ongoing restoration projects. The Inland Waterways Association is a charity which also promotes the ongoing protection and conservation of the canals.

Commercial traffic is still permitted on a few key canal routes but the vast majority of waterways are now enjoyed by pleasure craft such as our own Anglo Welsh narrowboats.

There are said to be more boats using the British canals today than at any other point in their history.

Key sights of historic interest and engineering on the canals

Here are a few of the key sights which represented historic feats of engineering during the golden age of canal building and are still well worth a visit during a canal boat holiday today:

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, completed in 1805, the Llangollen Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Trevor

 

The Anderton Boat Lift, completed 1875, the Trent and Mersey Canal and River Weaver

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Bunbury

 

The Barton Swing Aqueduct, built 1893, Bridgewater Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Bunbury or Silsden

 

Chirk Aqueduct, completed 1801, Llangollen Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Trevor

 

Foxton Inclined Plane, opened 1900 and dismantled 1928, Grand Union Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Stockton

 

Dudley Tunnel, completed 1791, Dudley Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Great Haywood and Tardebigge

 

Blisworth Tunnel, completed 1805, Grand Union Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh narrowboat hire base: Stockton

 

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Enjoy winter christmas cruising with Anglo Welsh

This winter we offering winter cruising* from six of our narrowboat hire bases, giving you the chance to celebrate Christmas or New Year on the canals.

Whether you want to head to a festive waterfront destination or escape from it all in a quiet rural backwater, Christmas on the canals offers a very special experience.  All our winter canal boat hire bases offer a choice of routes, and plenty of historic rural pubs with roaring log fires to stop off at along the way.

From a cosy narrowboat for two to a family canal boat for 12, all our boats have central heating, hot water, WiFi, TV and DVD players, so it’s always nice and warm and cosy on board.  Some of our boats also come with multi-fuel stoves for some extra special winter warmth.

Our prices over Christmas and New Year start at start at £495 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, weekly hire from £705.

 

 

Here are our Top 6 Christmas and New Year breaks afloat for 2019:

  1. Cross ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to the Shropshire Lake District – from our canal boat rental base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, you can travel through the Welsh Mountains by canal boat to Ellesmere and back, passing over the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way. This magnificent feat of Victorian engineering carries the canal 30 metres high above the Dee Valley, with amazing views to enjoy.  Historic pubs to enjoy along the way include The Poacher’s Pocket pub at Gledrid and the Aqueduct Inn at Froncysyllte.  Once at Ellesmere, at the centre of the Shropshire Lake District, you can moor up to visit the Mere created 10,000 years ago by the retreating ice age, now home to an abundance of wildlife.
  2. Cruise through the Staffordshire countryside to Fradley – heading south from our narrowboat holiday hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, you’ll reach Fradley Junction in five hours. Here the Trent & Mersey Canal meets the Coventry Canal.  The journey to Fradley passes through 12 peaceful miles of Staffordshire countryside, and just five locks.  Places to enjoy along the way include The Wolseley Centre run by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the Wolseley Arms, Cannock Chase Forest and the village of Rugeley with its canalside Mossley Tavern.  Once at Fradley, you’ll find refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn and walking trails at the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
  3. Float to through the Warwickshire countryside to Shakespeare’s Stratford – from our narrowboat rental base aon 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 in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon to enjoy festive fun in the home of Bard, including twinkling Christmas lights, regular markets, carol singers, Christmas menus at a wide range of restaurants and performances of Shakespeare’s ‘King John’ at the Swan Theatre.
  4. Travel into Birmingham for festive fun afloat – from our canal barge holiday hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes just five hours to cruise into the centre of Birmingham. With no locks to pass through along the way, it’s a great route for canal boat holiday beginners. Once there, you can moor up in Gas Street Basin, close to Brindleyplace to enjoy Christmas in Britain’s Second City, including ‘Snow White’ at the Hippodrome, ‘Grandpa’s Great Escape Live’ at the Birmingham Arena (23, 24 & 26 Dec), The Big Wheel and Ice Rink at Centenary Square and the Frankfurt Christmas Market at Victoria Square (until 23 Dec).
  5. Visit historic Chester for some Christmas sparkle – from our narrowboat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley in Cheshire, it takes around seven hours, passing through nine locks, to reach the historic city of Chester. Along the way, the route passes through 12 miles of beautiful Cheshire countryside and the popular Ring O’Bells canalside pub at Christleton. Once moored up at Northgate visitor moorings next to the Roman City Walls, special festive events to enjoy in Chester include performances of Peter Pan at the Storyhouse Theatre, the Christmas Tree Festival at Chester Cathedral, the Lantern Parade at Chester Zoo (until 23 Dec), the Chester Christmas Market (until 22 Dec) as well as fabulous City Centre Christmas lights and sparkling shops at the Grosvenor Shopping Centre.
  6. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to historic Whitchurch – from our barge holiay rental base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around four hours to reach the pretty historic town of Whitchurch. Along the way, the route passes Whixall Moss, a Mecca for wildlife, and Pan Castle just outside Whitchurch.  Special Christmas events in Whitchurch include performances of Aladdin in the Civic Centre (26-30 Dec), the Crib Festival at St Alkmund’s Church, sparkling Christmas lights and festive menus at many of the town’s eateries, including the Wheatsheaf Hotel and Black Bear pub.

*NB some of our routes will be affected by winter maintenance work on the canal network.

 

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Anglo Welsh Heritage Class – Supporting the Chelsea Pensioners

Anglo Welsh Heritage Class – the best of both worlds

Anglo Welsh now offers two luxury four-berth ‘Heritage Class’ boats for hire: ‘Poppy’ on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen; and ‘Lily’ on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor.

These beautiful luxury canal boats offer all the very best in modern narrowboat facilities, as well as some extra special heritage features.

Facilities on board these spacious boats with semi-traditional sterns include: central heating; LED lighting; two full-size shower rooms; spacious beds with sprung mattresses; a fully fitted galley; TV; DVD; and WiFi.

Heritage features include: port holes; side doors; a Belfast sink; brass fittings; tongue and grove dark stained woodwork; ivory coloured ceilings; and a cratch cover above the front deck for extra protection against the elements when needed.

In partnership with our Sponsor ‘Panda Sanctuaries’ we will continue to expand the Heritage fleet over the coming years.

                             Proud to support the Chelsea Pensioners

 

Anglo Welsh is supporting the Chelsea Pensioners by pledging to give £10 to The Royal Hospital Chelsea and Chelsea Pensioner’s Active Ageing Appeal for every booking made on ‘Poppy’ between 1 November 2019 and 1 November 2020.

Allan McLaren of The Chelsea Pensioners explains: “War and conflict take their toll on a soldier’s body and mind.  Mental and physical scars often only surface in later years.

“The Royal Hospital Chelsea and the Chelsea Pensioners are delighted Anglo Welsh have chosen to support our Active Aging Appeal.  Your support will help The Royal Hospital Chelsea provide the best possible care for those willing to risk their lives yesterday to give us the freedom we enjoy today.  Our new activity centre will enable more Pensioners to stay active, pursue hobbies and interests every day to enhance their mental and physical well-being and combat isolation.”

 

For more information about the Appeal, visit https://www.chelsea-pensioners.co.uk/

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The ultimate waterway ‘Staycation’ holiday

The benefits of choosing a staycation

 British summertime has a special kind of magic. When the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, everything is luscious and green and happy punters sit smiling outside cafés and pubs watching the world drift past, there is quite literally nowhere we would rather be.

With Anglo Welsh’s canal boat holidays, you can make the most of this happy season by exploring many of England and Wales’ most scenic destinations by narrowboat. From famous historic cities to idyllic rural getaways, our narrowboat holidays have it all, inspiring you with awe and wonder.

Travelling at a steady two to three miles an hour along our historic inland waterways, enables you to forget your worries and enjoy a more relaxed pace of life.

But choosing a staycation as your summer holiday also offers numerous other advantages. Here, we explore why holidaying on home ground can be such a great choice:

Green and pleasant land

Let’s face it, nowhere is more beautiful than the British countryside in summer. This is of course largely down to the large amount of rainfall we experience for most of the year which creates fertile verdant landscapes. The rolling green hills, patchwork quilt fields, oak woodland, river valleys and babbling streams offer a picturesque backdrop that is hard to beat. Of course, you can find grander and wilder scenery overseas, higher mountains, bigger rivers, enormous forests, but bigger does not always mean better. In fact, when travelling by narrowboat on a canal with limited time, shorter distances between destinations can be something of a relief. The small scale of England and Wales mean you enjoy incredible variety of landscapes in a very small area, travelling between mountains and sweeping flood plains in a couple of hours. The abundance of wild flowers, shrubs and trees which burst into life from spring onwards adorns our canal routes, adding to the picture postcard effect. Many of Anglo Welsh’s most popular canal boat holiday routes actually take you through areas of National Parks – such as the Leeds and Liverpool canal between Silsden and Burnley – or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – the Kennet and Avon canal between Bath and Bradford on Avon, for instance.

Wealth of history and culture

There is a reason that Britain has a booming tourism industry with around 40 million people from all over the world flocking here every year – it is because the UK has an incredible array of historical and cultural wonders to visit and admire. Few nations can boast the rich concentration of castles, stately homes, heritage buildings, ancient monuments, museums, galleries, theatres – even the canals themselves are historic with some sections such as the majestic Pontcysyllte Aqueduct named as a World Heritage Site. You can hire our canal boats from cities such as Oxford and Bath, renowned for their breath-taking historic architecture, motor your way into the heart of medieval Chester and Stratford-upon-Avon or float up to the walls of Warwick or Skipton Castles. There is so much to see and do along the canal routes, we could spend a year listing the attractions and still have more to mention.

No flights

Staying in the UK means you cut out the most tiresome part of any holiday – the flights. No 3am alarm call, no hastily devoured overpriced coffee and croissant, no check-in queues, no airport security and lastly, no cramped airplane in which the seats appear to have been designed to fit a six-year-old. Instead, you can indulge in a relaxed start to your holidays. After a leisurely breakfast, jump in the car – or bus or train depending upon which canal boat base you are starting from – and make your way with no stress to your intended destination ready to collect the keys to your narrowboat at 3pm and run through your training and briefing, before you float away. You start your holiday feeling fresh and cheerful not sleep deprived, crabby and possibly even jet lagged.

Less travel time

Running on from the point above, by staying in the UK, it is likely you will significantly reduce your travel time. This is particularly helpful if you have limited holiday days and do not wish to devote at least two of them to simply getting to your destination and back. A staycation will at most require a car, bus or train journey of a few hours. With 11 Anglo Welsh canal boat bases to choose from as your starting point, all in wonderful locations scattered across England and Wales, you will always be able to select a route that minimises your travel time to no more than a couple of hours.

Easier with the kids

For all the reasons above and more, a staycation is a great option if you are bringing children along. Young kids do not respond well to long journeys cooped up in a car or airplane – especially if they have been woken up at 3am for it. It is often when you most need the little ones to behave themselves that they start acting up, creating a stressful and tiring journey for all involved. If you choose a narrowboat holiday for your staycation, the kids will love the novelty of life afloat and because you are constantly on the move, they’ll have far less chance to get bored and start misbehaving.

Take your pets along for the ride

If you are not crossing any international borders, there is no reason why your four legged friends shouldn’t join you on holiday. Dogs, cats and other animals are often much loved members of the family so it is unsurprising people do not like leaving them behind. As well as the guilt, made worse by their sad faces as the luggage is packed, there is also often a significant cost to having them well looked after in your absence. At Anglo Welsh we welcome pets on our narrowboats with the first pet travelling for free. Dogs in particular hate being separated from their owners – or pack – for even a short time so why not include them in the fun. With its focus on the great outdoors, a narrowboat holiday is perfect for dogs, with plenty of space and wonderful walks all along the canals. For more on why a canal boat makes a perfect pet friendly holiday and our top tips on bringing along your furry friend, read on here.

No language barrier

By staying in the UK you remove any potential for awkward misunderstandings or stress due to language barriers. While some people welcome the challenge of taking on a new language, most of us are left babbling incoherently while steadily reddening with embarrassment as we try and order a coffee in broken French or Spanish. The British are notoriously bad at foreign languages, let’s not deny it. So, holiday in the UK and unwind in your mother tongue. You’ll no longer have to worry about being served a completely different dish to the one you wanted or nodding at a series of instructions and hand gestures only to set off in completely the wrong direction. There’s no doubt, it is more relaxing when you actually understand what everyone is talking about.

Save money

Last but not least, by cutting out lengthy travel arrangements, currency exchange and possibly child or pet care, you could save yourself a lot of money by opting for a staycation in the UK. This will leave you with more funds to channel towards the important things such as sightseeing, fun activities, food and drink – all of which will really add to the overall holiday experience. If you choose an Anglo Welsh canal boat holiday, you will essentially be provided with a floating home and fully equipped kitchen so you can also save hard earned cash by preparing and enjoying meals onboard rather than relying on restaurant food. With so many wonderful things to see and do along the waterways you should be able to reach virtually everything you want on foot.

If all this hasn’t persuaded you that a holiday in the UK is the best option, then have a peruse of our website to look at the different canal boat bases and routes available which will take you through some of the most stunning countryside Britain has to offer.

If you want to discuss your preferences and requirements with one of our team to get some expert advice on which locations and boats would best suit you, please don’t hesitate to give us a ring.

 

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Wonderful UK canal side pubs and restaurants

Wonderful canalside pubs worth a visit during any narrowboat holiday

One of the joys of any holiday is whiling away languid hours in the sun with a beer, glass of wine or whatever is your preferred tipple – and canal boat holidays are no exception. Luckily the historic waterways of England and Wales – once main transport thoroughfares – are dotted with welcoming pubs, many of which used to cater for the canal workers of bygone years as they travelled up and down transporting coal and other materials to fuel the industrial revolution. Now of course they cater to a more pleasure-seeking crowd, including those fortunate enough to be enjoying a narrowboat holiday. There are literally dozens of charming pubs where you can stop on your canal trip, but here we list just some of our favourites:

 

Cross Guns Avoncliffe, near Bradford on Avon, on the Kennet and Avon canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat bases: Bath and Monkton Combe

This 16th century inn overlooking a picture perfect stretch of the Kennet and Avon Canal as it snakes its way through a green Cotswold valley is the stuff pub dreams are made of. Stop off enroute to the historic market town of Bradford-upon-Avon and enjoy a refreshing pint in their canalside garden which has lots of outdoor seating meaning you can find space even in the height of summer.

 

Black Lion Pub, near Stoke on Trent, on the Caldon Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat bases: Great Haywood

A lovely traditional Staffordshire pub located at the heart of the idyllic Churnet Valley next to the rushing water of a weir. Sitting in the pub garden, watching the narrowboats floating past and steam trains coming and going on the Churnet Valley Railway Line surrounded by the green valley sides, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d been transported back 100 years in time.

 

The Blue Bell Cider House, near Solihull, on the Stratford upon Avon canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat bases: Wootton Wawen and Tardebigge

This 17th century pub, with its own onsite brew house, has a snug rustic interior where you can warm up while sipping one of their delicious ciders or ales or in summer sit in the canalside garden and admire the gorgeous Warwickshire countryside that surrounds you.

 

The Anchor Inn, near High Offley, on the Shropshire Union Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat bases: Bunbury

This tiny historic pub, which also runs a camping site, has been run by the same family for more than 100 years. It still boasts the same tables and settles that were in situ when the family took over, with beer often brought up in a jug from the cellar to this day. The multi-award-winning pub was recently given heritage status for its historic importance.

 

The George Inn near Bath, on the Kennet and Avon canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat bases: Bath and Monkton Combe

Located in a beautiful 12th century stone building that was originally a monastery, the George Inn has been carefully refurbished by Chef and Brewer to create a stylish welcoming interior with open fires keeping things cosy in winter. Once the sun is shining, enjoy some canalside al fresco beers or sit in the sheltered sun trap of a courtyard.

 

The Swan in Fradley, on the Coventry Canal and Trent and Mersey Canal junction

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat bases: Great Haywood

This 18th century pub, located on the famous Fradley junction of two key canals with a ye olde world charm, offers good beer, fine wine and proper pub grub. It is a great place to sit outside and watch the narrowboats navigating their way between the two historic waterways. And, you’re guaranteed a warm welcome from the owners.

 

The Boat Inn in Stoke Bruerne on the Grand Union Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat bases: Stockton

In a charming thatched building, owned and run by the Woodward family since 1877, the Boat Inn offers as warm a welcome now as it did 130 or so years ago, with same open fires still burning through the winter. With ales, ciders and wines to suit every palette, the pub also boasts two eateries with a more informal bistro and Woodwards Restaurant with its gorgeous canalside views.

 

Camp House Inn, near Worcester, on the River Severn between the Droitwich Canal and the Worcester and Birmingham Canal junctions

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat bases: Tardebigge

Sitting on the banks of the Severn with great views of the nearby lock and weir, this rustic pub is a wonderful spot to sit and watch life on the river. The large garden is enlivened by the resident peacocks, chickens, ducks, geese and Sandy the turkey. A small mooring spot is available for passing boats to stop off for some refreshment.

 

The Trout Inn in Lechlade on the River Thames

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat bases: Oxford

With a history stretching back 800 years when it was originally built as an almshouse, the Trout Inn could reasonably claim to be one of the oldest pubs in the country. It became an inn in 1472 and has continued in that guise, being renamed The Trout Inn in 1704 in recognition of the ancient fishery rights bestowed upon the pub by Royal Charter – it still controls two miles of trout and coarse fishing waters. The pub has been owned and run by Penny Warren for nearly three decades and she has worked hard to preserve its traditional charm, with roaring log fires in winter and a gorgeous riverside garden to enjoy in summer.

 

Jack Mytton Inn in Hindford on the Llangollen Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat bases: Trevor

This beautiful waterside free house deep in the Shropshire countryside is surrounded by three acres of park-like gardens next to the famous Llangollen Canal. With its tap room and cosy snug warmed by a fire in winter, the Jack Mytton also boasts a sheltered courtyard with seating and a Mediterranean style al fresco bar for hot summer days. There is private mooring space for up to six boats.

 

The Bay Horse in Skipton, on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal

The nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat bases: Silsden

The Bay Horse dates back to 1822 and grew in popularity as the industrial revolution saw the local population working the mills soar. Today it remains an idyllic traditional inn with cask ales and hearty food, surrounded by the breath-taking landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales, with a sheltered garden overlooking the canal.

 

Willeymoor Lock Tavern, near Whitchurch, on the Shropshire Union Canal

Nearest Anglo Welsh canal boat bases: Whixhall and Bunbury

This lock keeper’s cottage turned pub on the Cheshire-Shropshire border sits right beside a working lock on the Llangollen canal, making it an ideal spot to watch the narrowboats coming and going. The family run pub has a large beer garden and playground and great cask ales often sourced from local breweries, making it popular with boaters, walkers and locals alike.

 

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Top 10 Easter Canal Holidays

TOP 10 EASTER CANAL BOAT BREAKS

Take to the water this Easter, and cruise through the beautiful Spring countryside, adorned with new leaves, fragrant blossom, delightful daffodils, playful spring lambs and chirping birds.

You can cruise gently along aboard your own floating holiday home to enjoy an outdoor family adventure, stopping-off along the way to visit waterside destinations hosting special Easter holiday activities.

From medieval fortresses, battles and jousting, to Easter egg decorating, hunting and (of course) eating, here are our Top 10 Easter canal boat holiday family destinations:

  1. Visit the World’s biggest Cadbury shop at Cadbury World – apparently, if you placed all the Cadbury Creme Eggs made in a year from end to end, they would stretch from Bournville to Sydney, Australia! This Easter, you can discover more amazing chocolate facts, and buy some Creme Eggs at the World’s biggest Cadbury shop, at Cadbury World at Bournville, right next to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.  From our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge, near Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, it takes just two hours to reach moorings outside Cadbury World, and three more lock-free hours to reach Birmingham City Centre.
  2. Have an ‘Eggstraordinary Easter Eggventure’ at the University of Oxford’s Natural History Museum – 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 University of Oxford Natural History Museum, which is hosting an Easter egg hunting trail, 6-22 April. Housed in a stunning Victorian neo-Gothic building, Oxford’s Natural History Museum is home to an internationally significant collection of natural history specimens, including T-rex skeletons, the Oxford Dodo, whale skeletons, British bird displays, dinosaur fossils and the 4.5 billion-year-old Nantan meteorite.
  3. Enjoy a Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt at Chirk Castle – from our narrowboat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes just over an hour to reach Chirk, passing over the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which this year celebrates 10 years of World Heritage Status. Once moored-up, it’s a half-hour walk up to the National Trust’s stunning medieval fortress, Chirk Castle, where over the Easter Weekend (19-22 April), children can follow the Easter Trail, solve the clues and win a Cadbury chocolate prize.
  4. Watch medieval jousting at the Royal Armouries Museum – 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. Over the Easter weekend (19-22 April) the waterside Royal Armouries Museum will be hosting its spectacular International Jousting event, where four teams of knights from the UK, Poland, the USA and Canada will battle for honour and trophies.
  5. Tour the Roman Baths by Torchlight – from our canal boat rental base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Brassknocker Basin just outside Bath it takes around four hours, passing through six locks to reach Bath City Centre, just a short walk away from the Roman Baths Museum. Over the Easter Weekend (19-22 April), the Museum will be hosting torchlit evening openings (6pm-8pm), giving visitors the chance to see the remarkably preserved remains of one of the greatest religious spas of the ancient world in a different light.  Easter evening visitors can also enjoy live music, impromptu performances from the Natural Theatre Company and a drink in a pop-up Prosecco Bar.
  6. See the World’s oldest working steam engines – on a week’s holiday from our narrowboat hire base at Sydney Wharf, you can travel along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal to Crofton, near Marlborough, to visit the Crofton Pumping Station. Over the Easter Weekend (20-22 April), the Easter Steam Event allows visitors to witness the work of the oldest working steam engines in the world, still performing the job they were built to do.  The two beam engines, one of which is an original 200-year old Boulton & Watt, are both fed by a hand-stoked, coal fired Lancashire boiler. The journey to Crofton takes around 23 hours, cruising 40 miles and passing through 47 locks.
  7. Join the annual Easter Boat Gathering at Ellesmere Port – over the Easter Weekend (19-22 April), the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire celebrates the start of the Summer boating season with a large boat gathering, live music and the Shropshire Boatmen telling waterway stories in song. From our canal boat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, it takes 10 hours to reach Ellesmere Port, travelling 21 miles through 12 locks, and passing through the ancient City of Chester along the way.
  8. Do some Easter egg decorating at Mary Arden’s Farm – from our base at Wootton Wawen on the pretty Stratford Canal, it takes around an hour-and-a-half to reach the village of Wilmcote, home to Mary Arden’s Farm, where Shakespeare’s mother grew up. Over the Easter holidays, as well as experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of a Tudor farm, visitors can enjoy decorating eggs with traditional Tudor designs at Mary Arden’s Farm.  On a short break, you can continue on to Bancroft Basin in the Centre of Stratford to visit waterside eateries, Shakespeare’s Birthplace and the famous Swan Theatre.
  9. Explore the Eggcellent Easter Trail at Trentham Monkey Forest – during the Easter holidays (15-26 April), visitors to Trentham Monkey Forest, where monkeys live in total freedom, can walk amongst the monkeys and follow the Easter Woodland Trail to find a hidden word to gain entry to a prize draw. From our boatyard at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, it takes approximately 10 hours to reach Stoke bottom lock No. 36, a short walk away from Trentham Monkey Forest.  The journey cruises 13 miles and passes through 13 locks.
  10. Take a Guided Walk at the Battle of Bosworth Museum – from our canal boat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, it takes around 18 hours, travelling 44 miles and passing through seven locks, to reach Sutton Cheney, close to the Bosworth Heritage Centre & Country Park. Here, where King Richard III famously lost his crown to Henry Tudor in 1485, visitors to the multi-award-winning Bosworth Battlefield Experience can enjoy hands-on displays and guided walks to find out more about medieval warfare, how the battle unfolded and the impact of the powerful Tudor dynasty.

 

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Best Canal Routes For Kids

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.

 

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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?

More than 55 years providing unique canal boat holidays.
Modern & spacious narrowboat holiday fleet – from 2 to 12 berths.
Wide choice of narrowboat hire locations and canal.
Canal boat holiday routes for novices & experienced boaters.
Flexible holiday booking, no hidden costs.
Family friendly holidays, pets also welcome.

Anglo Welsh. So much more than narrowboats

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

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