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Best spring canal boat holidays

Best spring canal boat holiday breaks in 2024

Experience a spring break on Britain’s beautiful canal network and see the countryside bursting with new life

Spring is a glorious time to celebrate the rich and diverse wildlife living in Britain.

Kevin Yarwood, manager at our Great Haywood base, explains:

“Our beautiful inland waterways weave through the countryside taking in woodlands, farmland, nature reserves and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Travelling along at just four miles per hour on a canal boat holiday, there’s always something special to look out for.

“In spring, when the countryside is bursting with new life, there’s no better way to see waterside trees and hedges covered blossom, nest-building birds, ducklings bobbing on the water, spring lambs playing in the fields, and carpets of bluebells in waterside woodlands.”

To celebrate Britain’s natural environment, we’ve put together a guide to our best spring canal boat holiday destinations:

  1. Navigate through Shakespeare country and Warwickshire farmland 

    From our narrowboat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it takes around six hours, travelling through 17 locks to reach Stratford-upon-Avon. Travelling over the Edstone Aqueduct and on through the pretty Warwickshire countryside, with spring lambs playing in the fields alongside the canal, boaters can stop off to visit Mary Arden’s Tudor Farm in the canalside village of Wilmcote, where Shakespeare’s mother grew up.  Once in Stratford, there are overnight moorings in Bancroft Basin, perfect for enjoying all that Shakespeare’s birthplace has to offer, including riverside parks, theatres, shops, restaurants and museums.

  2. Cruise into the Peak District spotting kingfishers along the way

    On a week’s break from our barge hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, you can easily reach the beautiful Caldon Canal and travel into the Peak District. The journey takes boaters up to Stoke on Trent, passing Wedgewood World along the way, and, once on the Caldon, through gently rolling hills and wooded areas alongside the beautiful River Churnet.  Here there’s the chance to spot kingfishers, herons, jays and woodpeckers, as well as otters which have recently returned to the area.  The return journey along the Caldon to Froghall takes around 43 hours, travelling a total of 72 miles and passing through 70 locks.

  3. Cruise to Ellesmere to catch a glimpse of a heron chick

    On a short break from our 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. 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 the Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts.  Formed thousands of years ago by the melting of the glaciers during the retreating ice age, the meres of the Shropshire Lake District, including The Mere at Ellesmere are particularly beautiful in Spring.  And every Spring, Moscow Island on The Mere is home to the Heron Watch Scheme, with cameras allow visitors to watch the birds build nests and raise chicks.

  4. Cruise to the gateway of the Yorkshire Dales and explore the ancient woods at Skipton Castle

    From Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just over three hours to reach Skipton, the ‘Gateway to the Dales’, with its medieval fortress and acres of woodland trails to explore. For nearly 1,000 years Skipton Castle Woods provided fuel, food and building materials for castle inhabitants.  Today there are at least 18 species of trees flourishing there, and hundreds of flowering plants, including wild orchids and bluebells in the Spring.  The journey along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Silsden passes through the typical Yorkshire stone built villages of Kildwick and Farnhill and on into a dense wooded area famous for its bluebells and deer.

  5. Drift through the beautiful prehistoric Vale of Pewsey

    From our base at Monkton Combe on the Kennet & Avon Canal just outside Bath, it takes around 19 hours to reach Pewsey Wharf, perfect for a week afloat. Along the way, you’ll pass through miles of peaceful Wiltshire countryside, with a series of waterside villages and country pubs to visit along the way.  Highlights on this route include: the mighty Caen Hill Flight of 29 locks at Devizes; cruising along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest; and the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and home to prehistoric Avebury.  The journey to Pewsey and back takes around 38 hours, passing through 74 locks (37 each way).

  6. Travel to Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains

    From Whixall, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire , it takes around 12 hours to reach the pretty town of Llangollen. Along the way, you’ll travel through the beautiful Shropshire Lake District and across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Once in Llangollen, you can moor up to enjoy exploring this pretty town nestled on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains, including its regular markets packed with local produce, choice of independent shops and restaurants, steam railway and famous Horseshoe Falls.  The journey to Llangollen and back passes through just four locks (two each way).

  7. Navigate the Four Counties Ring for stunning views of the Cheshire Plains  

    On a week’s break from Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, you can travel round the popular Four Counties Ring. Travelling for around 58 hours and passing through 96 locks, this route takes you through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire and travels sections of the Trent & Mersey, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Shropshire Union canals.  Rural highlights include: panoramic views from the flight of 31 locks (also known as ‘Heartbreak Hill’) between Middlewich and Kidsgrove on the Trent & Mersey Canal; views of the rolling Cheshire Plains on the Shropshire Union Canal; acres of farmland on the Middlewich Branch; wildlife spotting at Tixall Wide on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal; and the National Trust’s Shugborough Hall with its extensive waterside gardens.

  8. Take a Thames boating holiday to Abingdon and listen out for cuckoos calling

    From our Oxford barge hire base on the River Thames, it takes around five hours, passing through six locks and travelling 15 miles to reach the historic riverside market town of Abingdon – perfect for a short break Thames boating holiday. As well as cruising through the outskirts of the ancient City of Oxford, you’ll pass through beautiful stretches of Oxfordshire countryside, with lush meadows, stretches of bluebells woodlands alongside the river and the chance to hear cuckoos calling.  Once moored up at Abingdon, you can enjoy exploring riverside walks, parks and eateries, including the popular waterside Nag’s Head.

Click here to check availability and book.

The Canal & River Trust as produced a Spotters Guide to Waterway Wildlife.

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Explore the Kennet & Avon Canal by canal boat

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

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

Soaring aqueducts, prehistoric landscapes and a World Heritage City

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

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

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

Visit Bath or Bradford on Avon on a short break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once at Devizes, visitors to this historic market town can enjoy the Wadworth Brewery Visitor Centre with its famous shire horses making daily deliveries, and sample delicious food at some of the town’s independent shops and restaurants, including seasonal favourites at the AA 5* Peppermill Restaurant and the famous Devizes Cheesecake at the Dolcipani Bakery.

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

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

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

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

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

For advice on our canal boat holidays, please call our Booking Office on 0117 304 1122.
To make a booking, go to https://www.anglowelsh.co.uk/
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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?

Over 55 years providing unique canal boat holidays in England and Wales.
Modern and spacious narrowboat and wide beam barge hire – from 2 to 12 berths.
Wide choice of narrowboat hire locations and canal boat holiday destinations.
Canal boat holiday routes for novices & experienced boaters.
Flexible holiday booking, no hidden costs.
Family friendly and pet friendly holidays.
Great days out on the water.
Luxury canal boat hire and Thames boating holidays.

Anglo Welsh. So much more than narrowboats

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

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