Top 10 Spring canal boat holidays 2023
Spring is a fantastic time to take a narrowboat holiday on Britain’s beautiful inland waterways, when the countryside is bursting with new life.
With blossoming waterside trees and hedges, busy nest-building birds, ducklings bobbing on the water, spring lambs playing in the fields, and carpets of bluebells in waterside woodlands, there’s so much to look out for on a Spring adventure afloat.
To celebrate Spring and the wildlife that makes its home on our canals and rivers, we’ve put together our Top 10 Spring canal boat holiday destinations for 2023:
1. Drift through the beautiful prehistoric Vale of Pewsey
On a week’s break from our canal boat rental base at Monkton Coombe you can cruise through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You’ll travel along the Kennet & Avon Canal passing through miles of peaceful Wiltshire countryside, and a series of villages and country pubs along the way. You’ll travel up the mighty Caen Hill Flight of 29 locks at Devizes and along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest and then on through the Vale of Pewsey. The journey to Pewsey and back takes around 38 hours, passing through 74 locks (37 each way).
2. Cruise to the gateway of the Yorkshire Dales to explore Skipton Castle Woods
From our barge holiday hire base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal it takes just over three hours to reach Skipton, the ‘Gateway to the Dales’. Here, Skipton Castle Woods with acres of woodlands trails, is a great place to explore in the Spring. For nearly a thousand years the 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. The journey to Silsden and back travels 13 miles and takes around seven cruising hours.
3. Travel to Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains
On a week-long holiday from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire you can reach the pretty town of Llangollen. Along the way, you’ll travel through the beautiful Shropshire Lake District and across the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Once in Llangollen, you can moor up to enjoy exploring this pretty town nestled on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains. There are regular markets packed with local produce, a choice of independent shops and restaurants, and the famous Horseshoe Falls. The journey to Llangollen and back takes around 24 cruising hours, and passes through just four locks (two each way).
4. Wend your way to Fradley Pool Nature Reserve
On a short break from our base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood near Stafford, you can reach Fradley Pool Nature Reserve. Fradley Pool is home to a variety of water birds and it’s a great place to spot bats swooping across the water at dusk. There are walking trails, sculpture trails, places to picnic and a choice of places to eat and drink, including the historic Swan Inn. The journey to Fradley and back travels 24 miles, passes through 10 locks (five each way) and takes around 12 hours.
5. Navigate the Four Counties Ring for stunning views of the Cheshire Plains
On a week or 10-day break from our narrowboat rental base at Bunbury you can cruise the popular Four Counties Ring through some of England’s best loved countryside. The route takes you through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire. It cruises sections of the Trent & Mersey, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Shropshire Union canals. There panoramic views to enjoy from the flight of 31 locks between Middlewich and Kidsgrove on the Trent & Mersey Canal. And stunning views of the rolling Cheshire Plains on the Shropshire Union Canal. From Bunbury, completing the Four Counties Ring takes around 58 cruising hours and passes through 96 locks.
6. Take part in #BlossomWatch at Packwood House
On a short break from our Tardebigge base near Bromsgrove, you can cruise to the village of Lapworth, home of the National Trust’s Packwood House. The route takes you through the Worcestershire countryside along the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal to Kings Norton Junction. There you can transfer onto the Stratford Canal to reach the village of Lapworth. At Packwood House every Spring blossom spreads across the garden and parkland, including on the cherry and apple trees in the orchard. The National Trust’s #BlossomWatch invites visitors to share pictures of spring blossom on social media. The journey to Lapworth and back takes around 14 hours.
7. Enjoy bird spotting at Ellesmere in the heart of Shropshire Lake District
From our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, on a short break you can reach the medieval market town of Ellesmere. Along the way, you’ll cross over the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, 38 metres high above the Dee Valley. The Mere at Ellesmere is a large lake packed with wildlife. There are woodland walks, places to eat, drink and picnic, a sculpture trail and adventure playground. You can spot many of types of birds, including kingfishers, yellow hammers, tree sparrows, lapwing, sand martins and ringed plovers. There are also wading birds such as curlew, greenshank, godwit and whimbrel, as well as herons using the heronry on Moscow Island. The journey to Ellesmere and back takes around 14 hours and passes through four locks (two each way).
8. Cruise along the River Thames past riverside woodlands and meadows
On a short break from our Oxford base, you can enjoy a Thames boating holiday to the historic market town of Abingdon. Along the way, you’ll cruise through the outskirts of the ancient City of Oxford. Then on through beautiful stretches of Oxfordshire countryside, with lush riverside meadows and the chance to hear cuckoos calling. There are also riverside woodlands with carpets of bluebells to look out for. Once moored up at Abingdon, you can enjoy exploring riverside walks, parks and eateries, including the popular waterside Nag’s Head. The journey to Abingdon and back takes around 10 hours, passing through 12 locks (six each way).
9. Travel through the Northamptonshire countryside to Stoke Bruerne
On a mid-week or week-long break from our base at Stockton, you can cruise to the pretty Northamptonshire village of Stoke Bruerne. The journey along the Grand Union Canal takes you gently through the countryside and the 2,813-metre long Blisworth Tunnel. You can moor up in Stoke Bruerne to enjoy a choice of canalside pubs and browsing the intriguing waterway history collections at the Canal Museum. And there’s a wonderful woodland walk and sculpture trail alongside the canal to explore, with the chance to spot a wide variety of woodland birds. The journey to Stoke Bruerne and back takes around 25 hours and passes through 34 locks (17 each way).
10. Navigate the Avon Ring through some of England’s best loved countryside
On a 10-day break from Wootton Wawen, you can complete the Avon Ring. This 109-mile circuit travels through some of the most beautiful countryside in England. You’ll first travel along the pretty Stratford Canal to Shakespeare’s Stratford. Here you can transfer onto the River Avon to begin cruising through idyllic countryside, to Evesham and Tewkesbury, with panoramic views of Warwickshire and the Cotswolds beyond. At Tewkesbury you’ll lock onto the River Severn, and later transfer onto the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal at Diglis. Completing the Avon Ring from Wootton Wawen takes around 58 hours and passes through 131 locks.Tags: barge holidays, BlossomWatch, canal boat hire, canal boat holidays, canal boat rental, GoNorthWales, Grand Union Canal, Kennet & Avon Canal, Leeds & Liverpool Canal, LifesBetterByWater, Llangollen Canal, narrowboat hire, narrowboat holidays, narrowboat rental, petfriendly, River Avon, River Severn, River Thames, Shropshire Union Canal, Staycation, Stratford Canal, Thames boating holidays, VisitChester, VisitWales, widebeam boat hire, Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal