Plan your canal boat holiday for 2019: Beautiful spring cruising routes
There is no prettier time of year in Britain than the spring. As the crocuses, primroses and daffodils start to flower and lambs gambol through green fields, this is the perfect time to hop aboard a narrowboat for a relaxing canal holiday.
The best spring canal routes are the ones which showcase the loveliness of the British countryside.
The canals of England and Wales are at their most scenic and serene at this magical time of year when there is far less traffic on our historic waterways than in the peak summer holiday season. Those who opt for a spring narrowboat holiday will face far less queuing at locks or waiting patiently at one-way stretches and enjoy the ultimate escape.
So, take advantage of the lengthening days and warmer weather during this tranquil season to plan your perfect narrowboat holiday.
To help, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most beautiful spring cruising routes on the canals of England and Wales:
The canal continues towards Devizes on the edge of the rolling Wiltshire Downs where you must ascend the dramatic Caen Hill Locks, a flight of 16 locks offering great views from the top. The market town of Devizes boasts more than 500 listed buildings as well as some independent shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs.
From the newly revamped marina, you can travel easily onto the Llangollen Canal which snakes through the gorgeous border country that straddles England and Wales.
You first pass through the market town of Ellesmere, aptly named for the series of lakes which surround it which were formed by glacial compression at the end of the last Ice Age.
Beyond that, the canal meanders west through luscious surroundings, to reach the Chirk Aqueduct which takes you across the border into north Wales and is quickly followed by the atmospheric 459-yard single width Chirk Tunnel.
Next is arguably the most spectacular sight of all the canals of England and Wales, Thomas Telford’s masterpiece, the soaring Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This crowning jewel of historic waterway engineering completed in 1805, spans more than 1000 feet at a tremulous height of 126-ft above the River Dee, offering passing boats sweeping views of the river valley in each direction. It is the highest canal aqueduct in the world.
After this the canal twists and turns clinging to the edge of the dramatic Welsh hills, with far reaching views across the valley, until it reaches the pretty town of Llangollen, steeped in myth and legend overlooked by hilltop ruins of Dinas Bran Castle.
Stratford-on-Avon to Warwick
Step back in time and cruise through Shakespeare’s England, taking in the unspoilt Warwickshire countryside and its array of wonderful waterside pubs. From our base at Wootton Wawen you can reach the birthplace of the famed playwright in just a day or two, wander its cobbled streets and admire the cluster of Tudor buildings.
Travel back past the canal base through bucolic farmland, copses of oak and sycamore, quaint villages and past idyllic country pubs. Heading north the Stratford Canal takes boats over the longest aqueduct in England, the Edstone Aqueduct.
You can moor up at the rustic Fleur-de-Lys at Lowsonford which offers passersby a great selection of real ales and pub grub to be enjoyed in its large canalside garden.
Continue through open countryside to join the Grand Union Canal which leads past more idyllic villages and pubs with a ye olde world charm including the Tom O’ The Wood in Rowington. It is then just five miles through the famous ‘Hatton Flight’ of 21 locks on to the centre of Warwick itself, built around its formidable medieval castle.
Bunbury to Market Drayton and beyond
The Shropshire Union canal takes narrowboats across miles of quintessentially English countryside, dotted with dozens of isolated canalside pubs which once served the commercial traffic that used this main route between the midlands and north west.
This makes it a particularly scenic and tranquil route to cruise, starting at the Anglo Welsh base in Bunbury and heading south towards Market Drayton.
Due to its rural loveliness ‘the Shroppie’, as it is affectionately known, is a favourite with narrowboaters up and down the country so can get very crowded in the summer making spring the perfect time to explore it.
From Bunbury, you cross the Cheshire Plain, thronging with dairy cattle and sheep enjoying its rich pastures, past historic Nantwich, before ascending the Audlem Flight of locks towards pretty Market Drayton.
Shortly after leaving the town and passing through the deep cutting at Woodseaves, you’ll be treated to a great view of The Wrekin, a huge hill more than 15 miles away.
The canal then proceeds south east through the unspoilt undulating Shropshire countryside of fields, hills and wooded valleys with stretches where there are no towns for miles, towards Wolverhampton.
Silsden to Skipton and beyond
One of England’s last surviving wildernesses, the Yorkshire Dales are a treat at any time of year but in the spring their looming hills and river valleys are at their most beautiful.
Heading west out of Silsden, a town dating back to Saxon times, the canal passes through enchanting Yorkshire stone-built villages of Kildwick and Farnhill into a densely wooded area famous for its bluebells which carpet the area in late April. If you’re lucky you may even spot a deer.
Motor on through Bradley, a typical ‘mill village’ with a cricket field and a country pub then to Skipton, known as the ‘Gateway to the Dales’ which boasts a market four days a week. You could then choose to continue through classic Dales countryside, above the River Aire, to reach more delightful villages such as Gargrave and the flight of locks at Bank Newton which are lauded as the most beautiful locks on the whole canal system.
To celebrate the New Year, and a new cruising season just around the corner, we’ve picked the brains of our boat yard managers across the country, to find some of the most interesting, quirky and unusual stories on our waterways. We hope you find them fun and inspiring for when you plan your new holiday afloat!
Keep an eye out for the Water Buffalo at Napton – From our canal boat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, it takes just over two hours to cruise to the village of Napton, where alongside the Oxford Canal, a herd of Water Buffalo can often be seen grazing. In 1999, the Buffalo Farm at Chapel Green started milking 20 ‘Bubalus Bubalis’, a species native across Asia, and it’s now home to 140 cows and 100 young buffalo. If you fancy sampling some of their produce, Napton Village Stores sells the farm’s Buffalo burgers, sausages, meatballs, steaks and ice cream. On a midweek break, from Napton you can continue on to Fenny Compton, travelling a total of 20 hours there and back from Stockton and passing through 12 locks each way. On a week’s break you can travel on to Cropredy.
Enjoy the most heart-stopping boat trip in Britain – The World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is a stone’s throw away from our canal boat hire base at Trevor in North Wales. This magnificent feat of engineering was built over 200 years by canal engineers Thomas Telford and William Jessop. Incredibly, ox blood was added to the lime mortar which binds the structure’s masonry together (forming 18 titanic brick pillars), following an ancient superstition that the blood of a strong animal would strengthen a structure. And sugar was boiled with Welsh flannel then mixed with tar to seal the cast joints of the structure’s cast iron trough, which carries the Llangollen Canal 127 feet above the Dee Valley. With not even a handrail on the north side, when travelling across by canal boat, it’s probably the most heart-stopping and exhilarating experience on the canal network! On a short break from Trevor, you can glide across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and travel on to Ellesmere and back. On a week’s break, you can continue on to the historic market town of Whitchurch, cruising for a total of 24 hours and passing through two locks each way.
Spot the mysterious barrel roofed lock cottages on the Stratford Canal – The southern section of the pretty Stratford Canal, running from Bancroft Basin in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon up to the village of Lapworth, is characterised by split bridges with gaps for the tow ropes of boat horses and a series of curious barrel roofed lock cottages. The reason for these quirky structures is actually purely practical – engineers building the canal knew more about building bridges than houses so when they turned their hand to building dwellings for the lock keepers, they adapted their skills, producing barrel-shaped roofs. On a short break from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, you can travel to Stratford and back, cruising for a total of 12 hours and passing through 17 locks each way. On a week’s break you can travel the Birmingham Mini Ring, cruising for 35 hours and negotiating 83 locks.
Look out for World War II pill boxes on the K&A – Following the British Expeditionary Forces’ evacuation from Dunkirk, and the prospect of imminent German invasion, General Sir Edmund Ironside, Commander-in-chief of the Home Forces created a series of static defence lines, one of which was the Kennet & Avon Canal from Reading to Bristol, named GHQ Stop Line Blue. Pill boxes and tank traps designed by the War Office were built along the canal and manned by the home guard. Today there are still a large number of pillboxes lining the canal, including one at next to Avoncliff Aqueduct, one at Rotherstone in Devizes, one at Freewarren Bridge at Crofton and two between the canal and the railway line at Hungerford Common. From our canal boat rental base at Sydney Wharf in Bath, it takes just over three hours to reach Avoncliff Aqueduct, great for a short break. From Bath, it takes around 29 hours to reach Hungerford, passing through 61 locks along the way – perfect for a 10-day or two-week break.
Visit the birthplace of the canal restoration movement – At the top of the mighty 30-lock Tardebigge Flight on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, a plaque commemorates the famous meeting between Tom Rolt and Robert Aickman, which took place aboard Rolt’s Narrowboat ‘Cressy’, moored just above Tardebigge Top Lock. Rolt and Aickman were the passion and brains behind the formation of the Inland Waterways (IWA) in 1946. Their aim was to keep Britain’s canal network navigable and it is thanks to this incredible movement that the canals are in the fantastic shape that they are today, with over 3,000 miles of navigable waterways available to explore. Our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge is next to the Top Lock. On a short break from here, it’s best to head north to Lapworth or Birmingham. On a week’s break, you could travel the Droitwich or Stourport Ring, which includes the Tardebigge Flight.
Navigate the Harecastle Tunnel – The Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire links Kidsgrove and Tunstall. But there are actually two tunnels here built 40 years apart by two famous canal engineers – James Brindley and Thomas Telford. The earlier Brindley tunnel fell into disrepair is long closed, but the Telford tunnel is still used to this day. At 1.5 miles long, it is one of the longest canal tunnels in Britain and takes around 40 minutes to navigate. There is only space for one boat to pass through at one time, so you may have to wait to enter. The tunnel keeper instructs boaters when to go through and what to do. Back when the tunnel was first built it didn’t have a towpath and so boats had to be ‘legged’ through. This involves laying a plank of wood across the bows and having people lying across it to literally walk the walls. From our canal boat hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood it takes around 12 hours, travelling 22 miles and passing through 18 locks to reach the south end of the Harecastle Tunnel. From there, on a week or more away, you can continue on to complete the Four Counties Ring, travelling a total of 110 miles and travelling through 94 locks.
Watch out for the dazzling canalside murals at Oxford – in north Oxford, the Oxford Canal is crossed by two bridges with large canalside walls. Three years ago, spurred on by the horrified comments of Timothy West and Prunella Scales when seeing the graffiti here on one of their ‘Great Canal Journeys’ for Channel 4, the local community set about creating four striking murals to improve the environment, reflecting the area’s history and wildlife of the canal. From our canal boat hire base on the Thames at Oxford, it takes just over an hour to reach Duke’s Cut Lock, the gateway to the Oxford Canal right next to the two bridges. On a midweek break, you can continue north along the Oxford Canal to Lower Heyford, cruising a total of 18 hours and passing through 14 locks each way. On a week’s break, you can travel on to Banbury, cruising for a total of 30 hours and passing through 21 locks each way.
Have a pint at the Shroppie Fly – originally a canalside cheese warehouse, the popular Shroppie Fly pub on the Shropshire Union Canal in the picturesque village of Audlem, has a narrowboat as a bar. The name of the pub pays tribute to a type of narrowboat designed for speed in the early days of the canal – particularly important when transporting cheese and fresh farm produce to town and city markets. Fly-boats were the Amazon Prime of their day, with fine lines to help them to glide easily through water and specially selected elite boatmen and horses to maximise speed, they ran non-stop, day and night. From our canal boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury it takes around five hours to reach Audlem, passing through seven locks to the wharf and passing Nantwich along the way – perfect for a short break. On a week’s holiday from Bunbury, you can continue on to the Caldon Canal, cruising a total of 48 hours and travelling through 104 locks.
Read the lock wall poem in Bath – a poem created by Jessica Kashdan-Brown has been stencilled into the wall of Lock 13 near Pulteney Road in Bath. The equivalent of 820 full bath tubs of water drains from the lock on each descent, gradually revealing the poem to boaters and gongoozlers. Lock 13 (also known as Bath Top Lock) is just five minutes by boat from our canal boat hire base at Sydney Wharf. From there, you can travel through the six locks that make up the Bath flight and reach moorings in Bath City Centre in just two hours. Experienced boaters can travel on along the Bristol Avon to Bristol’s Floating Harbour, travelling through another seven locks and cruising for a further six hours.
Cruise through a lake on the Staffs & Worcs Canal – Tixall Wide is a beautiful wide stretch of waterway close to the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal’s junction with the Trent & Mersey. Permission to build the canal was granted by the local landowner Thomas Clifford, on condition that the canal was made wide enough to look like a lake so that it didn’t spoil the view from his house. Today, over 250 years later, Tixall Wide is home to an abundance of wildlife and is a great place to moor up for the night. It’s just over a mile away from our narrowboat rental base at Great Haywood, on the junction of the Staffs & Worcs and Trent & Mersey Canal. On a short break, you can cruise on from Tixall Wide to the village of Gailey and back, travelling a total of 26 miles and passing through 12 locks each way. On a week’s break, you can travel on to Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man or complete the Black Country Ring, which takes narrowboat holiday-makers on a 45-hour waterway odyssey, cruising a total of 75 miles and passing through 79.
Get a first-hand insight into why canal boat holidays are such an enjoyable way to slow down and unwind when 20 canal bases across England and Wales offer visitors the chance to jump aboard for free. Narrowboat hire companies including Anglo Welsh will be hosting short boat trips from 11am to 4pm. We will be running boat rides from our bases in Trevor, Bunbury, Great Haywood, Wootton Wawen and Tardebigge. No booking is required.
Taking place in Little Venice since 1983, the Inland Waterway Association’s Canalway Calvacade is one of the biggest and best canal festivals in the UK. Hundreds of narrowboats and other canal craft decorated with bunting line up along the Grand Union and Regents Canal providing the backdrop to a weekend of live music, dancing and fabulous food and drink. A highlight is the boat ‘pageant’ which sees boats competing for the best décor with a different theme each year.
Thousands of visitors descend upon Skipton over the May Bank Holiday to see dozens of decorated narrowboats line the canal basin and surrounding towpaths. There will be a full programme of entertainment over three days with children’s activites and rides, as well as craft stalls and delicious food and drink.
Launched in 2007, this family festival which takes place across Vines Park in Droitwich and the historic town centre, has grown to include street markets and exhibitions, live entertainment and a vintage car rally alongside the canal boat gathering. The festival culminates with ‘The Great Droitwich Duck Race’ at 4.30pm on the Monday afternoon.
This celebration of canals, community and the environment brings hundreds of traditional narrowboats and other craft from different eras together from across the country. At least 20,000 visitors come to Rickmansworth to enjoy the boats, music, performances, displays and colourful range of traders.
Britain’s biggest inland waterways festival with more than 27,000 visitors last year, the Crick Boat Show bring together over 280 exhibitors, dozens of boats of all ages, dimensions and styles, talks by boating experts, boat trips and boat handling taster sessions all topped off with great live music and food and drink to get everyone in a celebratory mood. Now in its 20th year, this boat show is a great day out for all the family.
This is a must visit for anyone who loves boats in all their forms, with three days of ‘simply messing about in boats’ in this beautiful lake next to the River Thames. Visitors can admire classic boats, wooden boats, fibre glass boats, motor boats, sailing boats and much more with boat trips and rides. For any members of the family less keen on boats, there is also a vintage vehicle rally and many more land-based activities to enjoy.
Enjoy live music on the canalside main stage to the backdrop of hundreds of narrowboats. Fringe music events can also be enjoyed in up to 15 venues dotted across the town over three days as well as Morris dancing performances, a Celidh night, craft workshops and a rich variety of stalls celebrating Middlewich’s heritage.
Narrow boats, including one of our own from Anglo Welsh, congregate from far and wide to enjoy the live music, craft stalls, market traders and food and drink sellers which bring the banks of the River Avon to life over two fun-filled days. The live music and street performances are topped off by a spectacular illuminated boat parade and firework display on the Saturday night.
Live music, arts and crafts, fairground rides and of course boat trips are just some of the reasons to visit the Burnley Canal Festival. The town’s historic waterside blossoms with a busy programme of performances and workshops for all ages from puppet making to circus skills, alongside a tempting array of food and drink stalls.
This festival sees a whole host of family friendly activities line the banks of the River Soar. A narrowboat rally provides a colourful backdrop to the event where visitors can enjoy boat trips, live music and attractions such as a petting zoo, as well as a bustling street food market.
Usually at the end of July, this one-day festival celebrates canal life, conservation, the countryside and the traditional rural crafts. Along the canal an eclectic mix of working, historical and trade boats display their wares alongside the colourful pleasure boats which visit to soak up the festival atmosphere. Old English crafts can be admired alongside food and drink stalls all to a backdrop of live folk and country music and performance.
This canalside festival brings together live music, art and crafts, a dog show, boat rides, walks, talks, films, fairground rides and some healthy competition in the form of the ‘canal Olympics’. Canal boats line up to sell their wares or simply look decorative. All the money raised at the event will towards a community narrowboat restoration project.
Nearest Anglo Welsh base: Oxford
If you would like further advice on getting to any of these, or other, events, please don’t hesitate to contact our team on 0117 304 1122 or via our website: www.anglowelsh.co.uk/Contact-Us.
We’re opening a new canal boat hire base at Whixall
From next Spring, we are delighted to offer canal boat hire from our new narrowboat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire.
From this popular marina, surrounded by beautiful Shropshire countryside, it takes just 30 minutes to reach the main line of the Llangollen Canal, offering a fantastic range of cruising destinations.
On a short break (three or four nights) canal boat holiday-makers can head west along the Llangollen Canal to Ellesmere and the Shropshire Lake District, or you can travel on to Chirk with its magnificent aqueduct, 459-yard long tunnel, choice of canalside pubs and access to the National Trust’s Medieval Chirk Castle.
On a week’s holiday, boaters heading west can cross the awesome World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and travel on to the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains.
Heading east, you can reach the pretty historic town of Whitchurch in less than four hours, where there’s a selection of independent shops and places to eat, including the Wheatsheaf Hotel and the award-winning Black Bear pub.
From Whitchurch, it takes around nine hours, passing through 19 locks to reach Hurleston Junction, where the Llangollen Canal meets the Shropshire Union Canal. From here, if you’re on a week’s holiday you can head to Nantwich, Market Drayton or Chester, or on a 10-day or two-week break, you can tackle the Four Counties Ring.
Why choose Whixall?
It offers easy access to the beautiful Llangollen Canal, one of the most popular waterways on the network and home to the incredible World Heritage site of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
Whixall offers a range of routes, from easy lock-free cruising short breaks perfect for beginners, to epic journey cruising rings for more experienced canal boat holiday-makers on longer breaks
Buried deep in the Shropshire Countryside, holidays starting from Whixall offer the chance to visit the Fenn’s, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses national nature reserve, home to an abundance of wildlife, including 29 species of dragonfly and damselfly, 670 species of moth, 32 species of butterfly and 166 species of wetland birds.
As well as a choice of standard boats, we’re offering a range of luxury canal boats from Whixall, including the 4 berth Constellation Class boat ‘Aquila’, the 6 berth Constellation Class boat ‘Perseus’ and the Constellation 12 berth boat ‘Andromeda’. We are also introducing a brand-new Constellation 10 berth Class in 2019, which will feature the new boat ‘Gemini’ based at Whixall. The popular Weir Class will also receive a brand-new addition to the fleet and ‘Grafton’ will cruise from Whixall in the new year.
Whixall Marina has a café on site and the popular Dog & Bull pub is just a few miles away at Coton.
By road, Whixall is 27 miles from Chester, 30 miles from Stoke-on-Trent, 34 miles from Stafford, 57 miles from Manchester, 52 miles from Liverpool and 60 miles from Birmingham, putting it within easy reach for narrowboat holiday-makers travelling from the North West and Midlands.
This winter we are offering winter cruising* from seven of our canal boat hire bases, giving narrowboat holiday-makers the chance to can set sail to a choice of exciting waterside towns and cities, all offering special festive events and fantastic Christmas shopping opportunities.
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 warm, cosy and welcoming on board. Some of our boats also come with multi-fuel stoves for that extra injection of winter warmth.
Our winter cruising hire boat yards offer a choice of routes, so this winter, whether you want to head to a fun-filled festive destination or escape from it all in a quiet rural backwater, Christmas on the canals offers a very special experience.
Christmas prices start at £495 for a short break, £705 for a week.
Here are our Top 6 festive destinations for 2018:
Ride the Big Wheel in Birmingham – from our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s a five-hour, lock-free cruise to reach city centre moorings. From here you can use your canal boat as a base to enjoy some of the many exciting Christmas events in Britain’s exciting second city, including incredible shopping at the Mailbox and Bull Ring, the Frankfurt Christmas Market at Victoria Square (15 Nov to 23 Dec) and indoor ice rink and big wheel on New Canal Street (15 Nov to 27 Jan).
Enjoy an Elf Adventure at Trentham Shopping Village – from our canal boat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, it takes around 10 hours to reach Trentham, travelling 13 miles and passing through 13 locks along the way. Once there, you can moor up and explore the beautiful Trentham Gardens with its enchanting woodland fairy trail, and visit Trentham Shopping Village where the Elf Adventure Challenge gives families the chance to take part in festive themed games, join in the music and listen to Elves tell their tales (selected dates from 15 to 24 Dec).
Revel in swash-buckling Panto fun at Theatre Royal Bath – it takes just two hours to reach moorings in Bath City Centre from our narrowboat hire base, Sydney Wharf, on the Kennet & Avon Canal. From our base at Monkton Combe at Brassknocker Basin, the cruise is a short four-hour cruise. From there, it’s a 15-minute stroll into the City where the Peter Pan family pantomime will be on at the Theatre Royal (13 Dec to 13 Jan), as well as carols by candlelight at Bath Abbey, skating on the outdoor Bath on Ice rink.
Be transported to Lapland aboard the Llangollen Steam Railway – from our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, on a short break narrowboat holiday-makers can travel to the pretty town of Llangollen and back, home of the Llangollen Steam Railway. The Railway will be running Santa Christmas Specials on selected dates from Sat 1 Dec to Mon 24 Dec, offering the chance to board a specially decorated steam train travelling from Llangollen Station to Carrog – temporarily renamed Lapland for Santa’s visit. On board children receive a special gift and grown-ups can look forward to a mince pie and tipple from Santa’s Little Helpers.
Visit the Real Father Christmas in Stratford upon Avon – it’s a picturesque six-hour cruise to Shakespeare’s Stratford from our narrowboat hire base at Wootton Wawen, near Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire. Once there, you can moor up in Bancroft Basin to enjoy all the festive fun dealt out each year by the home of Bard, including stunning Christmas lights, fantastic markets, atmospheric carol singers and, at Magic Alley ‘The most authentic Father Christmas in the country’.
Go skiing at Etruria – from our canal boat rental base at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, on a week’s break boaters can travel north up the Trent & Mersey Canal to Etruria in Stoke-on-Trent. The journey takes around 11 hours, travelling 18 miles and passing through 18 locks. Once at Etruria, you can moor up to enjoy a choice of family activities, including the Tropical waters of the Waterworld Aqua Park and the much colder dry ski slopes of the Stoke Ski Centre.
*Winter cruising routes can be affected by stoppages and closures as a result of winter maintenance work
Our 2,000-mile network of navigable canals and rivers pass through some of the most picturesque scenery and exciting towns and cities in Britain, offering canal boat holiday-makers the chance to set sail on an inspiring travel adventure closer to home.
To give you an idea of what you can experience, here at Anglo Welsh we’ve put our heads together to come up with our Top 5 “international” themed canal boat adventures:
Cruise the canals like you are in Venice – with more canals than Venice, Birmingham offers narrowboat holiday-makers the chance glide through Britain’s vibrant second city and moor up in its centre for some sight-seeing. The Pre-Raphaelite collection in Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is the best in the World and there’s even a couple of Canalettos on display (though they are paintings of Warwick Castle rather than the Grand Canal). From our canal boat hire base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Tardebigge near Bromsgrove, it takes just five hours to reach Birmingham City Centre.
Travel the Kennet & Avon like you are in the Loire Valley – the beautiful Avon Valley in Bath and Wiltshire offers a mini version of France’s stunning Loire Valley. With historic sites like Bath Abbey and the Tithe Barn in Bradford on Avon, gourmet experiences like the Ivy Bath Brasserie and Michelin starred Olive Tree in Bath, nature trails in the ancient Savernake Forest and even a Vineyard at Pewsey, a cruise along the Kennet & Avon Canal can provide canal boat holiday-makers with a fantastic cultural and natural environment escape.
Glide through the Peak District like you are in the Appalachians – the picturesque Caldon Canal in Staffordshire takes narrowboat holiday-makers into the Peak District, for an Appalachian-style experience. On a week’s break from our narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal, it’s a 43-hour return journey to Froghall Basin and back, travelling a total of 72 miles through 72 locks. After connecting onto the Caldon Canal at Etruria in Stoke on Trent, the journey passes through gently rolling hills and wooded areas and into ever more remote countryside, with plenty of wildlife to watch out for.
Voyage like you are on the Canal du Midi – from our narrowboat rental base at Oxford, you can enjoy a fabulous Thames boating holiday, passing historic riverside towns and villages, and fortresses at Oxford and Windsor, rivalling the charm of the Canal du Midi in southern France. And with restaurants like the three Michelin-starred Waterside at Bray and Le Clos at Wallingford serving top class French cuisine, the gastronomy can be matched too! On a 10-day break from our Oxford base, boaters can voyage to Windsor and back, travelling a total of 148 miles, passing through 52 locks and cruising for around 46 hours.
Visit Roman ruins like you are in the Eternal City – from our Bunbury canal boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, it’s a seven-hour, nine-lock journey to the ancient city of Chester, once a stronghold of the Roman Empire. With the largest Roman amphitheatre and biggest Roman fort in Britain to explore, plus extensive city walls to walk, blink and you might imagine you’re in Rome! Award-winning tours provide exclusive access to remains in basements with guides dressed up as Roman soldiers. And there are some lovely Italian restaurants to dine at in Chester, including The Yard and La Fattoria, so you don’t have to compromise on the quality of your pasta or pizza.
Every year more people experience the delights of holidaying on Britain’s beautiful inland waterways network.
You don’t have to be an expert and you don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat. It’s easy for first-timers to learn to operate our boats and as part of all our narrowboat holiday packages, we provide hirers with expert boat steering tuition.
With our nationally accredited handover, we’ll make sure you’re comfortable and in control before you set off. There is a manual on board every boat if you need to check on anything and our engineering teams are on hand 24 hours a day to help over the phone or come out to you if you need them.
So, if you’ve thought about taking a canal boat holiday, but you’re not sure where to begin, here’s a list of Top 8 short break narrow boat holidays for newcomers for 2019 to get you started:
Head to Birmingham lock-free – with no locks between our canal boat rental base at Tardebigge and Birmingham City Centre, this five-hour cruise is perfect for novice canal boaters. The first half of the journey passes through fields, woodlands and sleepy villages before becoming more urbanised. Once you reach the centre of Birmingham, there are over-night moorings at Gas Street Basin, with easy access to Brindley Place waterside restaurants, the Sea Life Centre, glitzy Mailbox shopping and other leading attractions.
Learn the ropes on the Llangollen – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular on the network. With just two locks along the way, the seven-hour journey from our boat yard at Trevor to Ellesmere and back offers a fantastic short break holiday for beginners. The route includes the experience of travelling across the incredible UNESCO World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, with jaw-dropping panoramic views of the Dee Valley 38 metres below and passing through Chirk Tunnel.
Dip your toe in the water at Bath – from our canal boat rental base at Sydney Wharf on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Bath, it takes just four hours to cruise to the lovely market town of Bradford on Avon, with just one lock to pass through. Skirting the southern foothills of the Cotswolds, the route passes over two stunning Bath stone aqueducts and past the popular Cross Guns Inn at Avoncliff. Bradford on Avon is an architectural treasure chest with many beautiful buildings, including the magnificent 14th century monastic stone Tithe Barn.
Float gently along to Fradley – from our boat yard at Great Haywood, you can head south along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Fradley Junction, where the Coventry Canal meets the Trent & Mersey. The journey takes around five hours, travelling 12 peaceful miles and passing through just five locks. At Fradley, take time to enjoy refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn and a wander around the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve, where a woodland trail and boardwalk offers a delightful tour of the reserve.
Take to the tiller along the Thames – from our Oxford narrowboat hire base at Eynsham near Witney, you can enjoy a Thames boating holiday. It takes just over three hours, passing through four locks to reach City centre moorings in Oxford and many of the locks along the Thames are manned, so there’s often help on hand for newcomers. Once in Oxford, you take time to explore all that this fascinating city has to offer, including the famous Bodleian Library, Carfax Tower, Ashmolean Museum and traditional pubs like the Lamb & Flag, steeped in literary and film history.
Cruise up the Shroppie to historic Chester – it’s a seven-hour, nine-lock journey to the ancient city of Chester from our Bunbury canal boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire. The route passes through glorious English countryside and villages with historic local pubs, including The Ring O’Bells at Christleton and The Shady Oak at Bates Mill Bridge. Once in Chester, take time to explore this cosmopolitan ancient city, with its Roman Amphitheatre, city walls, Chester Rows shops, 1,000-year old cathedral, racecourse and award-winning Zoo.
Test the waters on the Leeds & Liverpool – setting off from our Silsden base on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, the journey to Gargrave travels 12 miles through just three locks, and takes around 6½ hours. Along the way, you’ll pass through the historic town of Skipton, with one of best preserved medieval castles in England. Once at Gargrave, there are plenty of pubs, including The Mason’s Arms and Cross Keys Inn, and as it’s on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, there’s also over 680 square miles of some of England’s finest walking country to explore.
Cross the border into Wales surrounded by breath-taking scenery – from our new canal boat hire base at Whixall Marina on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, on a short break narrowboat holiday-makers can cruise to Chirk and back in 16 hours, encountering just two locks. The route passes Whixall Moss nature reserve and Ellesmere, also known as the Shropshire Lake District, where visitors can enjoy strolling round the Mere’s Victorian gardens, woodland paths and historic castle. At Chirk, where the Llangollen Canal encounters the Welsh border, there’s a choice of canal side pubs and the National Trust’s Chirk Castle, one of several medieval marcher fortresses built on the Welsh-English border.
To book your first holiday with us, call our friendly booking team on 0117 304 1122.
The recent Blue Planet II series highlighted the alarming amount of plastic found in our oceans and consequently in the animals that live there. Sadly our inland waterways are also affected by plastic waste – and a staggering 80 per cent of marine debris comes from inland sources.
With this in mind, and to help plan ahead for your next canal boat holiday, we’ve put together a list of super easy ways to reduce the plastic waste you might generate on a narrowboat holiday and the amount entering our waterways:
Avoid products with microbeads. Much of the plastic polluting our waterways and oceans is microplastics which derive from bigger items breaking down, but also from products like face wash and toothpaste. Try to avoid using cosmetics with ‘polypropylene’ or ‘polyethylene’ on the ingredients list and go for natural biodegradable alternatives.
Bring a refillable thermos. If you stop off to buy a coffee somewhere on your canal barge holiday you won’t need a disposable cup, for which there are limited recycling centres.
Reduce your use of plastic bottles. You will need to have bottled drinking water on board your boat (though you can use water from the boat’s tank to boil and make a cup of tea), so we suggest bringing one large bottle or canteen, decanting it into reusable cups and topping up at water points.
Bring your own shopping bags. Remember to pack your re-useable bags every time you shop and avoid products with excess packaging.
Separate your recyclables and make use of recycling facilities. Most canalside rubbish compounds only accept boaters’ bagged domestic rubbish, but there are an increasing number of boaters’ recycling points and many of our canal boat hire bases have recycling bins too.
Bag all rubbish. Make sure the bags are tied securely so that they can’t spill open. Only dispose of your bagged domestic rubbish inside bins marked domestic waste and don’t forget to close the lid.
Don’t dump it! If the bins are full, keep your rubbish securely on board until the next available waste disposal point.
Avoid leaving bagged rubbish next to a litter bin. It’s not a collection point for boater’s rubbish and can be an invitation for animals to break into the bags looking for something to eat, spreading litter everywhere.
Help clean up. Join one of the many Plastic Patrol or Canal & River Trust Towpath Taskforce events taking place across the country.
Every little helps. If you don’t fancy taking part in an organised event, why not pledge to pick up and dispose of at least one piece of canalside litter a day while on your narrowboat holiday?
Hope these tips are helpful. Let’s help keep our waterways clean for everyone to enjoy.
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.