Top 10 August bank holiday boating breaks
Canals and rivers take narrowboat holiday-makers through some of Britain’s best-loved countryside, and into the heart of some our most famous waterside towns and cities.
Canal boat holidays are great for families, bringing everyone together for an adventure afloat. From steering the boat and working the locks, to planning the route and watching out for wildlife, there’s plenty to get involved in.
Pets are welcome aboard all our boats, so all the family can enjoy a relaxing staycation together. And there’s everything you need on board for a self-catering holiday afloat if you want to keep your costs down.
There are hundreds of waterside destinations in England and Wales to choose from. To celebrate the upcoming August bank holiday, we’ve put together a guide to our top 10 weekend boating breaks.
1. Travel along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Birmingham
With more canals than Venice, exploring Birmingham by boat is one of the best ways to experience Britain’s exciting second city. From our canal boat rental base at Tardebigge, you can cruise into the centre of Birmingham in just five hours. Your journey will begin in the Worcestershire countryside, passing through the remains of the Forest of Arden and a series of tunnels. The route becomes increasingly urban and once in the centre of the city, you can moor up in Gas Street Basin. From there you can walk to visit some of the city’s top attractions, including Birmingham’s Science Museum Thinktank and the Sea Life Centre.
2. Cruise along the Llangollen Canal to Ellesmere
On a weekend away from Trevor in North Wales, you can cruise to Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. The journey takes you across the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, 39 metres high above the Dee valley. At Ellesmere, you can moor up to explore this historic market town and its ancient mere, with woodland walks and places to eat. The journey to Ellesmere takes around seven hours, crosses two aqueducts, and passes through two locks and two tunnels.
3. Navigate the Stratford Canal to Stratford-upon-Avon
From Wootton Wawen it takes around six hours to cruise along the Stratford Canal to Shakespeare’s Stratford. The route takes you through the Warwickshire countryside to reach overnight moorings in Bancroft Basin in the heart of Stratford upon Avon. Once there, you can walk to top attractions, including the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Shakespeare’s Birthplace. There are 17 locks to pass through along the way, and you’ll cross the impressive Edstone Aqueduct, the longest aqueduct in England.
4. Take a Thames boating holiday to Oxford
From our Oxford base on the River Thames at Eynsham, it takes just over three hours to reach Oxford City centre. There are just four locks to pass through along the way and some are manned, offering help to newcomers. Along the way, you’ll pass through Wolvercote, home of the popular riverside Trout Inn. Once in Oxford, you take time to explore the city, including the Bodleian Library, Carfax Tower and Oxford Castle.
5. Travel along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Fradley
From Great Haywood, you can head south along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Fradley Junction. The journey takes around five hours, travelling 12 miles through the Staffordshire countryside. There are just five locks to pass through, and you’ll pass canalside pubs at Wolseley and Rugeley. At Fradley, you can enjoy refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn. And you can take a wildlife-spotting walk along the woodland trail and boardwalk at Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
6. Cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Chester
On a weekend away, from Bunbury you can navigate to the ancient city of Chester. Cruising along the Shropshire Union Canal, the route passes through beautiful Cheshire countryside and a series of canalside villages. There are historic local pubs along the way, including The Ring O’Bells at Christleton and The Shady Oak at Bates Mill Bridge. Once in Chester, you can to explore some of the City’s attractions, including the Roman Amphitheatre, city walls and Chester Rows shops. The journey to Chester takes around seven hours and passes through nine locks.
7. Float along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Bradford on Avon
From our base at Sydney Wharf near Bath, it takes just four hours to reach the lovely market town of Bradford on Avon. There’s just one lock to pass through and stunning Bath stone aqueducts to glide across at Dundas and Avoncliff. You’ll pass a series of canalside pubs along the way, including The George at Bathampton and Cross Guns at Avoncliff. Once in Bradford on Avon, you can moor up to visit Historic England’s medieval Tithe Barn. And there’s a great choice of places to eat, including the riverside Timbrell’s Yard.
8. Boat along the Grand Union Canal to Warwick Castle
From Stockton, you can cruise to Warwick and visit its magnificent castle, said to be Britain’s greatest medieval experience. The route takes you along the Grand Union Canal via Long Itchington and Royal Leamington Spa. There are visitor moorings along the Saltisford Arm, close to the Castle, where this summer War of the Roses Live jousting displays are taking place. The journey to Warwick takes eight hours and passes through 22 locks.
9. Cruise along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Gargrave
From Silsden, you can cruise through the Yorkshire countryside to Gargrave on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The route travels 12 miles and passes through Skipton, home to the medieval Skipton Castle and Woods. At Gargrave, there are plenty of pubs to enjoy, including The Mason’s Arms and Cross Keys Inn. The route to Gargrave passes through three locks, and takes around 6½ hours.
10. Glide along the Llangollen Canal to Chirk
On a weekend break from Whixall Marina in Shropshire, you can cruise through the countryside to Chirk, on the border between England and Wales. The journey takes around eight hours and passes through just two locks. Along the way, you’ll pass Whixall Moss nature reserve and the historic market town of Ellesmere. At Chirk, there’s a choice of canalside pubs and the National Trust’s medieval Chirk Castle to visit.
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