Top 10 canal boat staycations


It looks like more and more people are planning to give airport madness a miss and stay in the UK for their holidays next year – and Britain’s beautiful canal network provides the perfect destination for a Staycation afloat in 2020.

Whether it’s the appeal of pottering slowly through the countryside, watching out for wildlife and stopping off at canalside pubs and villages along the way, or the lure of an exciting waterside attraction in a vibrant waterfront city destination, our canal boat holidays provide a floating holiday home experience and the chance to curate your own unique adventure afloat.

To help plan your next UK waterway-getaway, here are our Top 10 narrowboat holidays for the year ahead:



  1. Take an Oxford ‘His Dark Materials’ mini-break – from our narrowboat hire base at Eynsham on the River Thames near Oxford, canal boat holiday-makers can take to the water like a gyptian, and enjoy a Thames boating holiday, reaching overnight moorings at Hythe Bridge in just three hours. From there, it’s just a short walk into Oxford’s city centre for the chance to explore dozens of historic sites, including the fascinating Bodleian Library, Lyra’s home in the BBC’s drama series ‘His Dark Materials’, based on Philip Pullman’s book ‘Northern Lights’.  Just seeing this incredible building from the outside is a bucket list experience, but adults and children aged 11 and over can also explore the museum, home to nine million books across over 100 miles of shelves.  The Museum also houses a number of fascinating maps, including the 14th century ‘The Bodleian Map’, the oldest surviving map of Great Britain.
  2. 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 designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on both sides of the border, and the entire length in Wales is also 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.  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, boaters can enjoy looking out for many types of waterway birds, animals and insects, including the shy nocturnal otter and critically endangered water vole.
  3. Visit the home of the Peaky Blinders – from our canal barge hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s an eight and a half hour, three-lock journey to moorings outside the Black Country Living Museum, the official home of the Peaky Blinders. Scenes were filmed at the 26-acre Museum for all five series of this BBC epic gangster drama, centred round a famous Birmingham gang.  As well as walking in the footsteps of the Shelbys, visitors can meet costumed characters explaining what it was like to live and work in one of the world’s most heavily industrialised landscapes, explore period shops and homes, have a drink in the ‘Bottle & Glass Inn’, test their times tables in a 1912 school lesson, sample the Museum’s famous traditionally cooked 1930’s-style fish and chips and take a trip ‘into the thick’ to experience life in an 1850’s coal mine.
  4. Navigate the Four Counties Ring – on a week’s break from our narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel round the ‘Four Counties Ring’. Cruising sections of the Trent & Mersey, Shropshire Union and Staffordshire & Worcestershire canals, this popular circuit takes boaters on a 110-mile, 60-hour, 94-lock canal boat holiday odyssey, passing through some of the most beautiful landscapes in England, including the Peak District, the rolling Cheshire Plains and the Potteries.  Highlights along the way include: Wedgewood Pottery in Stoke on Trent; the 1.5 mile long Harecastle Tunnel; the flight of 31 locks between Middlewich and Kidsgrove known as ‘Heartbreak Hill’; the Roman town of Middlewich; the Elizabethan Churche’s Mansion house at Nantwich; and the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man.
  5. Celebrate Bristol’s vibrant Street Art scene – from our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath, it takes around eight hours, passing through 12 locks, to reach moorings in Bristol’s Floating Harbour. Once there you can moor up to explore the harbour and Bristol’s vibrant street art scene, which goes mainstream in 2020 with official exhibitions planned at The Royal West of England Academy and the M Shed.  These exhibitions, which will begin in June, celebrate Bristol as the birthplace of modern British street art.  Visitors to Bristol’s Floating Harbour can also enjoy Brunel’s incredible SS Great Britain ship museum and We The Curious, Bristol’s exciting Harbourside science museum. *NB this route is recommended route for experienced boaters and overnight mooring fees will apply
  6. Visit the Orangutans at Chester Zoo -from Anglo Welsh’s canal boat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire it takes around seven hours, passing through nine locks to reach the ancient City of Chester, home to the award-winning Chester Zoo. Visitors to Chester Zoo will find over 20,000 animals from 500 species, including a family of Sumatran orangutans who welcomed the birth of a male baby in November 2019.  Sumatran orangutans are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature with fewer than 14,000 surviving in the wild.  At Chester Zoo, you can find out more about these fascinating animals and how to help to prevent their extinction.
  7. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to the Shropshire Lake District – just 10 minutes from Anglo Welsh’s narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, boaters encounter the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. Its cast iron trough filled with water, is carried 38 metres high above the Dee Valley on 19 hollow pillars.  In 2009 the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was added to the UNESCO World Heritage site list, putting it on a par with the Pyramids and Taj Mahal.  On a short break from Trevor, you can cross the aqueduct and then continue east to reach the Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District – a journey that takes around six hours and passes through just two locks.
  8. Travel round the Warwickshire Ring – our canal boat hire base at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, provides perfect access to one of the most popular canal cruising circuits in Britain. Travelling 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 boaters 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.
  9. Cruise to the Yorkshire Dales National Park – from our canal boarge rental base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, on a short break, you can travel to the pretty village of Gargrave and back, cruising for a total of 13 hours and passing through six locks. This scenic route, which is perfect for beginners, takes boaters through the historic town of Skipton, with its striking medieval stone castle and extensive woodlands managed by the Woodland Trust.  Once at Gargrave, there are pubs to enjoy, including the popular Mason’s Arms, as well as easy access to the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Pennine Way walking trail.
  10. See a play in Shakespeare’s Stratford – from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, it’s a delightful six-hour, 17-lock cruise journey through the Warwickshire countryside to reach moorings at Bancroft Basin in Stratford-upon-Avon, just a stone’s throw from the Royal Shakespeare and Swan theatres. As well as enjoying the town’s lively markets, shops, restaurants and museums, visitors to the home of the Bard in 2020 can choose from an exciting theatrical programme, including productions of ‘The Comedy of Errors’ and ‘The Winters Tale’ at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

*NB Depending on rainfall levels, it is possible there will be some navigation opening hour restrictions on some canals on the network.  We can provide information to help you plan your holiday around any lock opening hours that may be in place.


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