Carl Cowlishaw, Operations Director for Anglo Welsh, reflects on 55 years of providing great value narrowboat holidays
This year we are delighted to be celebrating our 55th birthday. In that time, we’ve grown from a fledgling canal boat hire company, operating just two boats from Market Harborough, to one of the largest operators on the network. We now offer over 160 narrowboats for hire from 11 bases across England and Wales.
Since we began operating, Britain’s canals have undergone an incredible renaissance, with hundreds of miles of canals restored to navigation and over £1billion invested in the network.
Tom Rolt inspired a generation to fight to save the waterways
In the 1960’s, freight carrying on our waterways had been in major decline for decades. It was Tom Rolt’s pioneering journey on narrowboat ‘Cressy’ in 1939 and his book ‘Narrow Boat’, that inspired a generation to fight to save Britain’s ailing inland waterways network, and sparked the beginning of the canal boat holiday era.
Canal boat holidays in the 1940’s and 50’s were usually on ex freight-carrying boats, altered to provide very basic accommodation with no shower, freshwater storage, heating or insulation. Instead, it was just camp beds, pump toilets, camping stoves and blankets.
In 1968, Barbara Castle’s Transport Act officially recognised the nation’s canals as a leisure resource, paving the way for new life to be breathed into the network. And by the 1970’s Anglo Welsh had established itself as a fully operating hire boat company. Back then we were running a fleet of 48 narrowboats out of four locations – Market Harborough, Trevor, Wootton Wawen and Great Haywood.
Today, after decades of investment by successive governments, and the tireless efforts of thousands of canal restoration volunteers across the country, the canal network is in great shape. There are now over 35,000 canal boats on the network, and around 350,000 people holiday on the canals each year.
All mod cons are provided on today’s holiday hire boats
As well as a thriving network to cruise along, the standard of accommodation on board today’s purpose-built holiday narrowboats has changed dramatically. All the essential mod cons are provided on board our purpose-built holiday narrowboats.
From central heating and hot water to TV’s, WiFi, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets. Here at Anglo Welsh, we offer a range of boats – from traditional value for money narrowboats, to the very best in luxury and space afloat, with extra shower rooms and toilets, more space per person and multi-fuel stoves.
Our holidays are more popular than ever
The coronavirus pandemic has led many people to explore their local area for the first time, and discover the beauty of their local waterway. And with staycations increasing in popularity, our holidays have never been more popular.
We look forward to welcoming you on board
We are very much looking forward to welcoming canal boat holiday-makers back to our boats and the canals. Customer service continues to be of paramount importance to us, so whether you’re a complete novice or an experienced canal boater, our knowledgeable staff are on hand to provide all the advice you need. We can help you to choose the best boat, departure point and route for you, and your family or friends.
On behalf of the Anglo Welsh team, we’d like to thank all our customers for coming to us for their canal boat holiday experience over the last 55 years. We look forward to continuing to provide great value canal boat holidays, and hopefully welcoming you on board again soon!
Plan your 2021 canal boat holiday adventure with our bucket list guide
Canal boat holidays are a wonderful way to explore the countryside and some of Britain’s most exciting historic attractions. With the narrowboat as your mobile floating holiday home, you can moor up in a new spot every night, and discover fascinating things to see and do along the way.
To help you plan the perfect narrowboat holiday adventure in 2021, here’s a guide to some of our canal boat holiday musts:
1. Be wowed by the wildlife
Canals and rivers are home to an incredible array of wildlife, from rare mammals, birds and amphibians to many species of plants. Even in cities, canals provide green corridors, enabling animals and plants to flourish. If you are vigilant and have a pair of binoculars at the ready, you may be able to spot some of the rarer and shier waterway inhabitants such as water voles, otters and kingfishers, as well as the more common water birds, like ducks, swans, coots, moorhens and geese. You can also take a look down at the water to spy fish, frogs, toads, newts, or up at the sky to see bats, owls, woodpeckers, hedgerow birds and birds of prey.
2. Visit a historic town or city
The waterways were once the primary means of transport and communication between centres of industry and commerce, so they pass through many exciting historic towns and cities. You can choose a route which takes you to some of Britain’s best preserved ancient cities, including Bath, Oxford and Chester, all with an impressive array of beautiful historic buildings to admire. The canals can also take you into the heart of bustling cities, like Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham and to historic market towns, such as Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick, Devizes, Llangollen, Whitchurch, Bradford on Avon and Abingdon.
3. Marvel at the historic engineering of the canals
Most of our canals were built over 200 years ago during the Industrial Revolution, starting with the opening of the Bridgewater Canal in 1761. Despite their age, the canals still use, for the most part, the same engineering structures – lock gates, swing bridges, tunnels and aqueducts. There are some particularly impressive feats of historic engineering which are worth trying to incorporate into your canal boat holiday route, such as the incredible lock flights at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, the Kennet & Avon Canal at Caen Hill or the Grand Union Canal at Hatton. There are many famous tunnels, such as the Chirk Tunnel on the Llangollen Canal, the Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal and the Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Canal. And there are soaring aqueducts to glide across, including the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal and the Edstone Aqueduct on the Stratford Canal.
4. Enjoy a pint at a canalside pub
From busy city boozers to rustic country inns, the canals are lined with wonderful pubs where you can enjoy a pint, shoot the breeze and watch the world float by. During the years when canals provided key transport thoroughfares, many pubs sprung up along their routes to cater for the canal workers who would travelling up and down the country delivering their cargo. To this day, some of the country’s oldest and most characterful taverns are found along our canals, so enjoy taking some time out from boating to enjoy a warm canalside pub welcome.
5. Explore on foot
Canal towpaths offer thousands of miles of wonderful walking and cycling routes and hundreds of footpaths connect into waterway paths. These include some of Britain’s most famous walking routes, such as the Pennine Way, the Offa’s Dyke Path, the Heart of England Way and the Shropshire Way. Plan some lovely circular walks to explore more of the gorgeous unspoilt countryside through which you are passing, or the historic towns and villages you moor up in.
6. Stop off at a castle or stately home
Britain has a wealth of historic properties to visit, from castle ruins to perfectly preserved stately homes. People travel from all over the world to see these treasures and a canal boat holiday is the perfect way to reach some of our nation’s most amazing sights. Many stately homes house incredible art collections and antique furnishing, as well as landscaped formal gardens and parkland. National Trust properties close to the canals include: Packworth House close to the Stratford Canal at Lapworth in Warwickshire; Shrugborough Hall next to the Trent & Mersey Canal near Great Haywood; and Chirk Castle close to the Llangollen Canal. There are also fascinating castles at Oxford, Skipton and Warwick to explore, as well as historic sites like Avebury close to the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire and the Battle of Bosworth Field next to the Ashby Canal in Leicestershire.
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.
Cruising rings are great because they offer journeys along different waterways, take in a wide variety of landscapes and bring you back to your narrowboat hire base without having to travel the same way twice.
Some are seriously challenging, with steep flights of locks and long dark tunnels to negotiate, while others are easier and more suitable for canal boat holiday beginners. All offer a wonderful summer holiday adventure and the chance to explore some of Britain’s best loved countryside from your very own floating holiday home.
Here’s a list of our Top eight Summer Circuits to explore:
1. The Black Country Ring – setting off from our canal boat rental base at Great Haywood in Staffordshire or Tardebigge in Worcestershire, this circuit can be done on a week’s holiday. Cruising sections of the Birmingham & Fazeley, Birmingham Main Line, Coventry, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Trent & Mersey canals, highlights along the way include: Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin; the 21 locks at Wolverhampton; and the waters at Tixall Wide. To complete the Black Country Ring from Tardebigge, you will travel 104 miles, passing through 79 locks, which will take around 53 hours. From Great Haywood it’s 75 miles, 79 locks and takes 43 hours.
2. The Four Counties Ring – departing from our bases at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, Bunbury in Cheshire or Whixall in Shropshire, this popular circuit can be completed in a week. It takes canal boat holiday-makers through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire and highlights along the way include: the 2670-metre long Harecastle Tunnel; flight of 15 locks at Audlem; views of the rolling Cheshire Plains; and the Roman town of Middlewich. To complete the Four Counties Ring from Great Haywood, you will travel 110 miles, pass through 94 locks, which will take around 55 hours. From Bunbury, it will be 115 miles, 96 locks and 58 hours. From Whixall, it’s 137 miles, 132 locks and 86 hours.
3. The Cheshire Ring – cruising out from our narrowboat hire base at Bunbury in Cheshire, this route, which runs through the heart of Manchester and the Peak District via the Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals, can be completed in a week. Highlights along the way include: the incredible Anderton Boat Lift, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways; stunning views of the Peak District from the Top Lock at Marple on the Peak Forest Canal; and Manchester’s China Town. To complete the Cheshire Ring from Bunbury, you will travel 122 miles and pass through 102 locks, which will take about 86 cruising hours.
4. The Stourport Ring – navigating from our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge in Worcestershire, this ring, which can be completed in a week, takes in sections of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, the River Severn, Birmingham Canal Main Line and Stourbridge canals. Highlights include: cruising through central Birmingham; Kinver with its National Trust rock houses; the City of Worcester with its magnificent cathedral; countryside views along the River Severn; and the dramatic flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge, the longest in the country. To complete the Stourport Ring from Tardebigge, you will travel 84 miles and pass through 118 locks in around 52 hours.
5. The Warwickshire Ring – setting off from our canal boat hire base at Stockton in Warwickshire, this circuit which can be done in a week, cruises sections of the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals. Highlights include: the flight of 11 locks into Atherstone; the pretty canal village of Braunston; the awesome flight of 21 locks at Hatton; and Warwick Castle. To complete the Warwickshire Ring from Stockton, you will travel 104 miles and pass through 121 locks in around 56 hours.
6. The Birmingham Mini-Ring – this popular ring can be completed on a four night short break from our base at Tardebigge in Worcestershire. It takes in sections of the Worcester & Birmingham, Birmingham Main Line and Grand Union canals, and highlights include: the historic village of Bournville, home of Cadbury’s chocolate; Gas Street Basin in central Birmingham; and the flight of 13 locks at Farmers Bridge. To complete the Birmingham Mini-Ring from Tardebigge, you will travel 45 miles and pass through 49 locks, which takes around 27 hours.
7. The Avon Ring – canal boat holiday-makers can complete this epic circuit on a two week break from our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge or Wootton Wawen. Navigating sections of the Stratford Canal, River Avon, River Severn and Worcester & Birmingham Canal, highlights include: Shakespeare’s Stratford; the River Avon with its panoramic views; the charming historic town of Evesham; the Cotswold medieval town of Tewskesbury; the City of Worcester with its magnificent cathedral; and the flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge. To complete the Avon Ring from either Tardebigge or Wootton Wawen, you will travel 109 miles and pass through 131 locks, which will take around 58 hours.
8. The East Midlands Ring – on a two week break from our narrowboat rental base at Stockton boaters can journey round the East Midlands Ring, also known as the Leicester Ring. Travelling sections of the Birmingham & Fazeley, Coventry, Oxford, Trent & Mersey and Grand Union canals, as well as the rivers Soar and Trent, highlights include: Saddlington Tunnel; the Foxton Staircase; the pretty canal village of Stoke Bruerne with its Canal Museum; Blisworth Tunnel; the 11 locks at Atherstone; the City of Coventry; and the historic village of Shardlow. To complete the East Midlands Ring from Stockton, you will travel 170 miles and pass through 107 locks in around 84 hours.
First pets are free on our holidays so you don’t have to leave your furry friend behind!
Narrowboats provide a floating holiday home so it’s possible to take all sorts of pets on the canals.
Canal boat holidays are especially great for dogs, with plenty of towpath walks and dog-friendly canalside pubs to visit, but over the years, we’ve accommodated many other kinds of pets, including rabbits, cats, hamsters, caged birds and goldfish.
First pets go for free on all our holidays, and we charge a £25 supplement for a second pet on a short break, £35 for a week.
Guide dogs go free of charge. We allow a maximum of two pets, plus a guide dog, but all bedding and pet facilities must be provided by the owner(s).
We recommend our cruiser stern boats for holidays with a dog, as there’s more room ‘on deck’ for the dog and the rest of the family to enjoy watching the world go by.
Now for some do’s and don’ts:
Do bring your dog’s bed to help them feel at home and don’t leave your dog unattended on board. Don’t let your dog swim in the canals, especially when there are ducklings, signets, goslings and other water bird chicks about and don’t forget to pack your poo bags!
To celebrate the fact our holidays are pet-friendly, we’ve put together our Top 10 destinations for animal lovers:
Cruise to Cannock Chase for acres of dog walking trails – on a short break from our barge hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, you can easily reach Cannock Chase Forest where there are miles of walking trails enjoy, as well as a dog activity trail. Once a Royal Forest, Cannock Chase is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with over 6,800 hectares of landscapes to explore. There are mixed deciduous woodlands, coniferous plantations and healthlands, which are home to a wide variety of animals and insects, including a herd of fallow deer, a number of rare and endangered birds, including migrant nightjars, as well as butterflies, bats and reptiles. The Wolseley Centre and Nature Reserve is next to the Trent & Mersey Canal at Wolseley Bridge, just two miles and two locks from Great Haywood, and offers a great gateway to Cannock Chase.
Cruise to the foot of the Caen Hill Flight – from our canal boat rental base at Brassknocker Basin on the Kennet & Avon Canal just outside Bath, on a short break (three or four nights) you can travel to Fox Hanger Wharf, at the foot of the mighty Caen Hill flight of locks in Devizes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. Along the way, you’ll pass through miles of peaceful Wiltshire countryside, with a series of villages and dog-friendly country pubs to visit along the way, including The Cross Guns at Avoncliff, the Barge Inn at Bradford on Avon and the Barge Inn at Seend. Once at Caen Hill, you can moor up and explore the flight and its large side ponds, which provide a fantastic haven for wildlife. Full of fish, the side ponds provide an ideal habitat for dragonflies, butterflies and many types of water fowl – from swans, ducks and geese, to coots, moorhens, herons and cormorants. The journey to Fox Hanger Wharf and back takes around 19 hours, passing through 16 locks (eight each way).
Cruise to Ellesmere for some heron spotting – from our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, on a short break (three or four nights) you can cruise to the Shropshire Lake District, teeming with water birds and other wildlife. The journey to the medieval market town of Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District, takes around seven hours, passing through just two locks and over two magnificent aqueducts, including the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Moscow Island on The Mere in Ellesmere is home to the Heron Watch Scheme, where cameras allow visitors to watch the birds build nests and raise chicks. If you are on a four-night break, you will also have time to cruise to the pretty town of Llangollen, passing The Sun at Trevor, a traditional Welsh country pub and winner of the Rover Dog Friendly Awards in 2019.
Explore the gardens and the ancient topiary at Packwood House – from our canal boat rental base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it’s a seven-mile, 31-lock and 10-hour journey to Lapworth Lock No 6, a half-mile walk from the National Trust’s beautiful Packwood House. Packwood’s magnificent gardens boast stunning herbaceous borders (including the unusual North African Cabbage Trees), a bountiful Kitchen Garden, Memorial Orchard, wildflower meadows and the iconic Yew Garden, where according to legend, the 350-year old trees represent the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. Dogs are welcome at Packwood on leads in the car park, on public footpaths across the estate, on the café terrace and in the barnyard. The house and formal gardens are only for humans.
Travel round the Stourport Ring and the up the longest lock flight in the country – on a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can travel round the Stourport Ring. This popular circuit takes boaters on an 84-mile, 114-lock journey, in around 56 cruising hours. Much of the route is rural, cruising sections of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, River Severn, Birmingham Canal Main Line and Stourbridge canals. Rural highlights include: Kinver Edge with its extensive woodlands and National Trust Holy Austin Rock Houses; idyllic stretches of Worcestershire countryside along the River Severn; and the dramatic flight of 30 locks at Tardebigge. Climbing two-and-a-quarter miles with spectacular views of the open countryside all around, Tardebigge is the longest lock flight in the country.
Boat to the historic village of Wrenbury and back -from our canal boat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire it takes around six hours, passing through 11 locks, to reach Wrenbury Mill on the Llangollen Canal. The journey takes you along 10 miles of waterway through quintessential Cheshire farmland and countryside. The historic village of Wrenbury, which is on the South Cheshire Way offers lots of countryside walks. It’s also a registered conservation area with plenty of wildlife to watch out for, particularly in the gardens of the Grade II listed St Margaret’s Church, and there’s a choice of pubs to visit: the canalside Dusty Miller, and the Cotton Arms in the village of Wrenbury.
Cruise along the River Thames into the Cotswolds – from our narrowboat hire base on the River Thames at Oxford, on a four-night mid-week break, you can take a tranquil nine-hour, seven-lock Thames boating holiday travelling west to the pretty market town of Lechlade on the edge of the Cotswolds. Along the way, boaters travel through miles of peaceful Oxfordshire countryside, with plenty of dog walking opportunities. Places to visit include the village of Radcot with its 800-year old bridge across the Thames, dog-friendly bar in the Ye Olde Swan Hotel and Civil War Garrison Earthworks, and Kelmscott with its Grade I listed Kelmscott Manor, once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris, and popular Plough Inn.
Watch out for wildlife on the Montgomery Canal – from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around six hours to reach Frankton Junction, where the Llangollen Canal meets the Montgomery Canal. This beautiful canal, which runs for 38 miles between England and Wales, is recognised as a Special Area of Conservation, making it one of the most important sites for wildlife in Europe. Currently only around half the Montgomery Canal is navigable, including a seven-mile section from Frankton Junction to Gronwyn Wharf. The restoration of a further section from Gronwyn Wharf to Crickheath is expected to be completed later this year. From Whixall, the journey to Gronwyn Wharf and back takes around 20 hours, travelling through 34 miles of beautiful countryside and passing through 16 locks (eight each way). Along the way, you can look out for many types of waterway birds, animals and insects, including dragonflies, damselflies, the shy nocturnal otter, Daubenton’s bats skimming over the water at dusk, and the critically endangered water vole.
Travel round the Warwickshire Ring – from our canal boat hire base at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can travel round the Warwickshire Ring, one of the most popular canal cruising circuits in Britain. Cruising sections of the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals, the Warwickshire Ring covers 104 miles, passes through 120 locks and takes around 60 hours to navigate. It can be done in a week, but a 10-day or two-week break gives more time for sight-seeing. Passing through many miles of countryside, with fields and ancient meadows and the occasional sleepy village for much of its length, the route also takes you through the vibrant city centre waterfronts of Birmingham. Destination highlights along the way include: the pretty canal village of Braunston; the awesome flight of 21 locks at Hatton; the splendid medieval Warwick Castle; and Birmingham’s Brindleyplace with its impressive National Sealife Centre.
See David Hockney’s Dachshunds at Saltaire – on a short break from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool in West Yorkshire, you can reach the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saltaire. Founded on the banks of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Bradford in 1851 by Sir Titus Salt, as a place for his woollen mill to operate and works to live, today Salts Mill has a number of galleries, including the stunning David Hockney Gallery. This beautiful exhibition space shows both permanent and temporary collections of the Bradford-born artist’s work, including prints of some of the portraits he has made of his beloved Dachshunds, Stanley and Boogie. Unfortunately dogs aren’t allowed in Salts Mill so if you bring your dog, you’ll have to take it in turns to visit.
Fun for all the family: Why narrowboating appeals to all generations
A canal boat holiday is a wonderful way to bring the family together as there is something for every age group to enjoy. With constantly changing scenery and a new destination daily – if you choose – narrowboat holidays offer an amazing variety of sights, attractions and activities. The joy of a canal boat holiday is that you can shape it to suit your specific wishes – from the style and size of narrowboat you hire and which location you set out from to your chosen destinations and how long you linger at each of these. It is this flexibility that makes a narrowboat break such a great family holiday – appealing to every generation.
Any parent will tell you, children are easily bored. This means a holiday in which they are regularly on the move, seeing and experiencing new things every day is perfect to ward off the dreaded cries of: “Mummy, I’m bored.”
With miles of canal towpaths and open countryside lining the waterways, most narrowboat holidays also offer plenty of space for kids to run around, play, breathe the fresh country air and generally expend their energy so they collapse in bed and sleep soundlessly at the end of each day.
Most children love the novelty of life afloat and get very excited by the workings of the narrowboat and canals, whether navigating through a tunnel or helping work a lock. For most kids it is a far cry from their day to day.
Probably the most difficult age group to satisfy on a family holiday, teenagers crave independence and freedom to roam, usually as far from their parents as possible! Luckily, this is perfectly achievable on a canal boat holiday as teenagers can take themselves off for walks, runs, bike rides on the safety of the traffic-free towpaths. Towpaths also make it almost impossible to get lost!
There are also lots of water-based activities on offer along the canals such as kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding and fishing which may appeal to the teenagers of the family – and might even stop them from looking at their mobile phones for more than five minutes. Full more details of the many activities available along the canal, have a read of our blog on this subject.
Teenagers also have a great propensity to get bored so the constant movement and change of a narrowboat holiday will suit their desire for new surroundings. A canal boat holiday with a rich variety of urban and rural surroundings is likely to work best for teenagers – although clearly all this will vary greatly with the individual and their interests.
With 11 narrowboat hire bases to choose from dotted across England and Wales, families can opt for a canal boat holiday route which takes in locations and attractions most likely to interest and absorb their teenage crew members. Our narrowboats are built to provide ample space for all crew members so teenagers can enjoy the privacy of their own cabin and if they do need a social media fix, they can connect to the Wifi available on all barges but hopefully there’ll be enough distraction to make this unnecessary.
Narrowboat cruises are ideal holidays for groups of friends or couples wanting a romantic break with a twist. Our narrowboats, built for comfort and enjoyment of all our guests, range from cosy two berth barges perfect for couples to 12 berth floating hotels ideal for a big group holiday. There are plenty of top city break destinations along the canals such as Bath, Oxford and Chester all of which offer a rich combination of beauty, history and culture – as well as great places to eat and drink. For couples wanting some inspiration, read our most recent guide to the most romantic canal holiday destinations.
For group holidays the variety of activities and destinations on offer along the canals works perfectly. Some people might head off for a long walk while others choose to relax on deck or moor up by a waterside pub and enjoy a relaxing pint. A canal boat holiday can take in historic towns and cities, rural loveliness, famous sights and a whole bunch of activities that will keep everyone in the group happy, whatever their preference.
With fully equipped galleys, our narrowboats are well set up for cooking meaning those on a budget can enjoy preparing delicious meals onboard although there are countless tempting spots to go out for dinner along the waterways. If you want to treat yourself to dinner out, have a look at our guide to some great canal side pubs and restaurants.
For parents, a canal boat holiday is the ideal way to satisfy their children and themselves. As we’ve already mentioned, there is plenty on offer along the canals to keep children occupied and happy which will enable their parents to relax and enjoy themselves. Few people can fail to be seduced by the beauty and tranquility of the canals. For parents who often spend much of their lives racing around trying to balance the demands of their jobs and their children while still maintaining some sort of social life, slowing their life down to the stately canal barge pace of 3mph can offer much needed respite. By swapping the bustle of their day to day existence for the calm of the canals, they can escape their usual worries, breathe deeper and destress. To find out more, take a look at our blog about wellness on the waterways.
They may wish to mix things up with a taste of city life afloat as well as some rural cruising or stick to serene countryside routes. Some canal routes are renowned for their fascinating historic sights and feats of engineering, others boast abundant wildlife or incredible dramatic scenery. All canals provide a chance to get outside and get active after weeks cooped up in an office. Essentially, parents can tailor their canal boat holiday to ensure everyone is kept captivated throughout. Our narrowboats are all pet friendly so parents can even bring along the furrier members of the family if they don’t want to leave them behind.
Alternatively, for parents needing a break from their little ones should leave the kids at home with a friend or relative and treat themselves to one of these perfect child-free breaks for parents.
It is lovely for grandparents to be able to join their children and grandchildren on family holidays, particularly those who are now living on their own. This can also be an ideal set up for everyone as it enables parents to share a bit of the childcare and maybe even head off for a romantic meal or enjoy a child-free day out, while granny or grandpa can spend some quality time with the kids.
A canal boat holiday is the ideal way to bring everyone together as it can be as active or relaxing as those onboard choose. Grandparents who are still super fit and active will love the outdoorsy element while those who are less mobile can still enjoy gorgeous, constantly changing scenery from the comfort of the narrowboat. Towpaths offer easy walking routes and are generally wheelchair friendly with most being tarmacked or paved and relatively flat so accessibility need not be a problem.
Grandparents, like parents, are likely to love the rich variety of interesting destinations. There are buzzing cities like Birmingham and Bristol, historic destinations like Bath and Chester or cultural treasures such as Stratford upon Avon and Oxford. Away from the cities, there are stately homes, castles, parks and gardens galore in additional to the natural wonders of the British countryside.
Last but not least, everyone onboard is needed to help on and off the boat, from steering and tying up to working the locks. A narrowboat holiday is all about teamwork. It brings everyone together, united by a common aim to get from place to place as efficiently as possible while having lots of fun.
A canal boat holiday is not only huge fun – it is also great for your health.
With so many of us now working desk based jobs in which we are often sedentary for several hours a day in an air conditioned office, a canal holiday is a chance to get outside and get active.
Rather than lying immobile, sweating on a sun lounger all day while knocking back cocktails, a narrowboat cruise offers a health enhancing, rejuvenating way to take a break. As part of a narrowboat crew during your holiday, you will need to help work the locks and bridges, steer and moor up.
The canals provide thousands of miles of beautiful walking, running, cycling, canoeing, kayaking and cruising routes. They essentially offer an amazing, free outdoor gym that stretches the length and breadth of the country.
A canal boat holiday takes you away from the rush of your everyday existence and encourages a steadier, more mindful way of living as you drift past mile upon mile of beautiful countryside – in this way it is as nourishing for your mind as your body.
Here are just some of the health benefits of a canal boat holiday:
There are countless activities to enjoy during a canal boat holiday which will get your pulse rate up. Whether you enjoy running, cycling or perhaps a pleasant walk, all these forms of aerobic exercise will boost your fitness bringing huge benefits to your heart and lungs, which in turn improve your overall health.
The fitter you are, the more efficient your body becomes at absorbing and transporting oxygen to all your cells. Aerobic exercise helps increase the number of blood vessels in your lungs, assisting your ability to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide, increases the strength of your heart, increases the number of blood vessels supplying your muscles and increases the number of mitochondria, the energy factories in your cells.
This reduces blood pressure, lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and heart attacks, lowers your heart rate, burns body fat, increases bone mass and boosts your immune system.
So forget the gym – come and enjoy some exercise on the canals.
A canal boat holiday can offer just as good a strength work out as lifting irons in the gym – certainly when it comes to opening and closing the locks and bridges. These big heavy lever systems will test your muscles, particularly if you are climbing or descending a lock ladder requiring repeated opening and closing of the thick wooden lock gates.
Don’t let this put you off as with two people pushing the lock gates, you can make lighter work of it! But it offers great strength training which helps build lean muscle mass – something that often diminishes with age. By building the muscles, strength training also strengthens your bones, improves your balance, coordination and posture, helps burn fat, reduce blood pressure and boost heart health.
Stress has become an epidemic in the UK today and is very damaging to our mental and physical health. A canal boat holiday is a chance to disconnect from your many day to day pressures and live in the moment.
The leisurely nature of canal boat holidays – narrowboats’ maximum speed is 3mph, a healthy walking pace – is very effective in forcing people to mentally slow down. The changing nature of the scenery and need to focus on steering the boat and working the canals means it is a mindful activity which focuses attention on the present, giving people a break from thinking about work or other responsibilities.
Studies have shown that being among nature reduces levels of cortisol, the key stress hormone. It makes sense, we have evolved to be among nature so escaping the frantic urban environment and returning to our more natural habitat is good for us. The canals of England and Wales will take you on a tranquil journey through miles of unspoilt countryside teeming with wildlife, enabling your mind to quietly take in the green surroundings and let any stress slowly ebb away. Since stress has many knock on effects on other aspects of health, this can lead to further benefits such as lowering bad cholesterol, reducing blood pressure and regulating blood sugar.
Holidays tend to put us in a good mood initially but if they have involved too much lying around, eating and drinking, they can leave us feeling low and drained by the time we return to work.
A canal boat holiday however, can leave you feeling energised and positive in a longer term, more sustainable way that should see you return to work with a smile. This is because it is a naturally healthy holiday that boosts wellbeing and thus mood.
Exercise in all forms triggers the release of endorphins – your body’s natural feel good chemicals – while being among nature has also been shown to lift our mood. Then there is the natural release of stress and tension that a canal boat holiday encourages.
Lastly, a canal boat holiday involves an element of learning as our team teaches you the rudiments of how to control, steer and moor a narrowboat as well as the rules and etiquette of the canals – the ‘Waterway Code’. Research has shown that learning new skills improves mental wellbeing by boosting confidence and self-esteem, offering a sense of purpose and helping connect you with others. Continual learning throughout life also helps keep the brain sharp as like a muscle, it needs to be worked to stay fit.
All this combined means that canal boat holidays are a wonderfully enjoyable way to do something good for yourself. As many lifestyle related chronic health problems are on the rise, there has never been a better time to take a healthy holiday. So, if you haven’t already tried it, make 2020 the year you experience the joy of a canal boat holiday and come back glowing with health and happiness.
It is well documented that stress is bad for the health – both mental and physical. Stress has been linked to high blood pressure, raised cholesterol levels, heart disease, depression and much more. Yet many aspects of our busy modern lives contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety. This makes it all the more important to take time out to relax and decompress away from your usual responsibilities and pressures.
A mounting body of evidence shows that human connection is a vital component of wellbeing. Canals are wonderfully sociable places with everyone, whether on the water or the towpath, giving one another a wave and a smile as they pass. So, whether you go out walking, cycling or boating along the canals, you will quickly be welcomed into a friendly community of people who share a love of these beautiful inland waterways.
You can also get involved with the Canal and River Trust volunteers who give up their time to help care for and maintain the canals from painting and planting to litter picking and wildlife surveying. Alternatively, head along to one of the many wonderful events that take place along the canals with everything from group walks to photo exhibitions, special cruises and behind the scenes heritage days.
If you are on a canal boat holiday you are likely to find yourself mooring up alongside or in close proximity to other narrowboats and sharing locks. One of the joys of a narrowboat trip is making friends with fellow boaters. There is a great camaraderie on the canals so enjoy being part of it.
Most of us are far too sedentary in our daily lives due to office based jobs, cars and of course, the lure of television. While it may seem more relaxing to lounge on a sofa than get outside for a walk, the opposite is true. There is lots of research to show that exercise is one of the best ways to tackle stress, promote good sleep and boost mental wellbeing in addition to the countless physical benefits it brings.
The canals offer ideal routes for walking, running or cycling away from the noise and fumes of the roads, with more than 2000 miles of well laid towpaths snaking through green and luscious countryside.
During your canal boat holiday, step ashore and walk alongside the narrowboat for a while to stretch your legs. Since the boats cruise at walking pace, you can easily keep pace. Alternatively moor up and head off exploring on foot as there are many lovely circular walking routes to be enjoyed all the way along the waterways. With so many great pubs, historic sights, villages and towns dotted along the canals you can almost always incorporate a drink or lunch stop into your walk, run or cycle.
Exercise in virtually any circumstances will always promote good health but exercise in gorgeous tranquil surroundings is even more rejuvenating to mind, body and soul.
The new trend for mindfulness is all about being present in the moment and aware of your surroundings rather than being constantly distracted by your mobile or anything else. Mobile technology has meant we spend a worrying proportion of our lives with our minds fixed on a small screen rather than taking in our surroundings while the pressures of work mean we are often running through future or past to do lists rather than simply living in the moment.
A canal boat holiday is a chance to put on your out of office, switch off that phone, ignore those emails, sit back and admire the wonders of the British countryside and some of our finest towns and cities from Oxford and Bath to Chester and Birmingham.
One of the joys of a canal holiday is that you are constantly on the move so there is always something new to look at, rare wildlife to spot, another lock to navigate, a swing bridge that needs working, a night-time mooring to locate, a pub with local ale to sample and more. With changing surroundings and a narrowboat to navigate, you will find yourself completely absorbed in the moment.
The canals are actually busier today than at any other time in their history with around 34,000 boats gracing their waters, providing homes, workplaces or simply holiday escapes like our own narrowboats. If you are able to give any time towards helping look after these much used and loved resources, you will be helping enhance the lives of millions of people who enjoy them every year. Most of the volunteering is also great fun, involving getting outdoors and active with likeminded people doing their bit to keep the canals in good working order.
At Anglo Welsh we are hugely grateful to all the people who contribute to these waterways which enable all our guests to enjoy magical canal boat holidays year after year.
We offer a range of different types of holidays such as City Breaks, Relaxation Cruises and Popular Destinations
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.