Britain’s beautiful inland waterways are a great place to visit in the Spring time, when the countryside is bursting into new life, with blossom on the hedges and waterside trees, birds busy rearing their young, spring lambs playing in the fields and bluebells in waterside woodlands.
To celebrate the beauty of Spring-time on the canals, here’s a guide to our top 8 Spring narrowboat holidays for 2024:
1. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey
From our boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, it takes around 20 hours, travelling 27 miles through 53 locks to reach the historic town of Hungerford, perfect for a week afloat. Along the way, you’ll travel up the spectacular flight of 29 locks at Caen Hill and cruise through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey. You’ll pass closeby to prehistoric Avebury and along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest, home to thousands of ‘Ancient’, ‘Veteran’ and ‘Notable’ trees and carpets of bluebells in the Spring. Once at Hungerford, there’s a choice of places to eat and drink and antique shops to browse in.
2. Explore the ancient woods at Skipton Castle
On a short break from Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, you can travel to the historic town of Skipton, with its medieval fortress and ancient woods bursting with bluebells to explore. Skipton’s 900-year old castle is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England and its extensive woodlands are home to at least 18 species of trees, and hundreds of flowering plants, including wild orchids and bluebells. The journey to Skipton and back takes around seven hours, travelling 13 miles with no locks.
3. Glide through the Brecon Beacons
Isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park and offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views, wooded sections full of the sound of woodland birds, and a series of historic village pubs to visit along the way. On a short break from Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, you can cruise lock-free to Llangynidr and back, passing the Lion Inn at Govilon and the Bridge End Hotel at Llangattock. On a week’s break, you can travel on to Brecon, passing through Talybont-on-Usk, with walks to the waterfalls at Blaen y Glyn and the popular Star Inn.
4. Boat to Brewood and back
From Gailey on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, it takes around five hours to reach the historic village of Brewood, with its half-timbered cottages and Georgian houses, perfect for a relaxing short break. The 13-mile journey, which passes through just one lock, takes you through beautiful stretches of Shropshire countryside, and passes the waterside Anchor Inn at Cross Green. On reaching Brewood, there’s a choice of pubs, restaurants and tea rooms to dine at, including the canalside Bridge Inn.
5. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’
From our base at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the pretty Eisteddford town of Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains can be reached on a short break, with the awesome World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to travel across along the way. Standing at 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, this incredible 300-metre long structure consists of a cast iron trough supported by 18 enormous pillars and 19 arches. On reaching Llangollen, you can moor up in Llangollen Basin and enjoy visiting the town’s independent shops, pubs and restaurants, as well as its Steam Railway and Horseshoe Falls.
6. Visit the old mill town of Hebden Bridge
On a short break from our base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, you can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation through the Calder Valley to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge. Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, the journey covers seven miles, passes through 10 locks and takes around five-and-a-half hours. Once at Hebden, you can enjoy an amazing variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs, as well as stunning countryside walks with woods, crags and the Calder running alongside.
7. Cruise through Shakespeare country
From Wootton Wawen, on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it takes around six hours, travelling through 17 locks to reach Stratford-upon-Avon, perfect for a short break. Travelling through the pretty Warwickshire countryside, you can stop off along the way to visit Mary Arden’s Tudor Farm in the canalside village of Wilmcote where Shakespeare’s mother grew up. Once in Shakespeare’s Stratford, you can moor up in Bancroft Basin, just a stone’s throw from the Swan Theatre and the town’s shops, restaurants and museums.
8. Navigate the Cheshire Ring
Starting from Anderton, this epic cruising ring takes you on a 97-mile tour through some of the most beautiful Cheshire countryside. The route passes through 92 locks and takes around 55 hours, taking you through the heart of Manchester and the Peak District via the Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals. Highlights include the spectacular vertical Anderton Boat Lift, also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’, Dunham Massey Hall and its working Elizabethan Mill alongside the Bridgewater Canal, Manchester’s China Town, the Top Lock at Marple on the Peak Forest Canal with fantastic views of the Peak District, and the Cheshire Plain with its heavily locked ‘Heartbreak Hill’. The Cheshire Ring can be done on a week’s break from Anderton, but a 10-day or two-week breaks gives more time to visit destinations along the route.