The Cross Guns pub at Avoncliff on the Kennet & Avon Canal

Top 10 canalside pubs to visit on a canal boat holiday

Canalside pubs are popular destinations for canal boat holiday-makers, and there are hundreds to choose from.

They often have names like The Lock Inn, The Navigation Inn, The Narrowboat, The Tunnel and The Bridge.  And many date back to the days when canals were the transport infrastructure of the industrial revolution.  Canalside inns provided refreshment for working boat families and their horses, as well as professional leggers who propelled boats through tunnels.

We’ve published a guide to our top 10 canalside pubs to visit on a canal boat holiday in 2024:

1. The Cross Guns at Avoncliff in Wiltshire

Located alongside the Kennet & Avon Canal, this 17th century inn has idyllic riverside pub gardens.  It has panoramic views of the foothills of the Cotswolds and the beautiful Avoncliff Aqueduct.  The Cross Guns serves a selection of British pub favourite food, local ales, cider and craft beer.  It’s close to our bases at Bath, Monkton Combe, Hilperton and Bradford on Avon.

2. The Holly Bush Inn at Denford in Staffordshire

Housed in an old flour mill on the Caldon Canal, the Holly Bush Inn is surrounded by Staffordshire Moorlands.  The pub offers award winning ales and delicious homemade food.  It has a large canalside beer garden and is both family and dog friendly.  From our narrowboat hire base at Stoke on Trent, it takes around seven hours to reach The Holly Bush.

3. The Stubbing Wharf at Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire

The Stubbing Wharf on the Rochdale Canal offers home cooked food, including Sunday lunch roasts. It has a choice of real ales and a canalside beer garden. The pub was built soon after the completion of the Rochdale Canal in 1789.  It served travellers on both the canal and the turnpike road.  Its curious name derives from the ancient settlement of Stubbing, an Anglo-Saxon word for clearing where the tree stumps have been left.  From Drifters canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge, it takes around five-and-a-half hours to reach Hebden Bridge.

4. The Swan at Fradley Junction in Derbyshire

At the junction of the Trent & Mersey and Coventry canals at Alrewas, the historic Swan pub is known locally as the ‘Mucky Duck’.  The pub offers traditional home cooked meals and a choice of cask ales.  The Swan’s bar area is decorated with Roses & Castles narrowboat art. Drifters’ base at Great Haywood is a six-hour cruise away, and Kings Orchard is just one-and-a-half hours away.

5. The Blue Lias Inn at Stockton in Warwickshire

Located on the Grand Union Canal, this historic rural pub was named after the limestone and clay that is quarried locally.  The clay is derived from material laid down in the early Jurassic seas, when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  The Blue Lias is around two-and-a-half hours by boat from our Stockton base.

6. The Plume of Feathers at Barlaston in Staffordshire

This popular pub on the Trent & Mersey Canal is part owned by the actor Neil Morrissey.  Visitors can sample some of Neil’s own beers and ales, and choose from a menu of homemade dishes made from fresh local ingredients.  It takes just over three hours to reach Barlastan from Drifters’ base at Stoke on Trent, and it’s seven cruising hours from Great Haywood.

7. The Crown Inn at Alvechurch in Worcestershire

This historic country pub next to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal has a rustic charm, a good selection of ales and lagers and great value food.  Our nearest bases are at Alvechurch and Tardebigge.

8. The Olde Barbridge Inn at Nantwich in Cheshire

This historic pub on the Shropshire Union Canal near Nantwich sells a selection of local ales brewed at its own local brewery. The pub serves classic British food made with local produce.  Our nearest bases are at Nantwich and Bunbury.

9. The Poacher’s Pocket at Chirk in Shropshire

With its tranquil canalside location and beer garden, the Poacher’s Pocket on the Llangollen Canal offers authentic pub food, including curries, steaks, burgers and salads.  Our nearest bases are at Chirk, Trevor and Blackwater Meadow.

10. The Fleur De Lys at Lowsonford in Warwickshire

This pretty 17th century country pub on the banks of the Stratford Canal has a lovely beer garden.  The Fleur De Lys has been famous for its pies since the 1950’s, all served with seasonal vegetables, chunky chips and gravy.  Drifters nearest narrowboat hire base is just three cruising hours away at Wootton Wawen.