The Ashby Canal: A Perfect Introduction to Narrowboating

You might think that it would be difficult to transition between hiring a motor cruiser on the Norfolk Broads and taking your first narrowboat holiday on the UK canals, especially when it comes to doing the locks. However, there are some lock-free canals in the UK where you can try your hand at narrowboating without the extra task of pulling locks open and pushing them closed.  The Ashby Canal in Central England is an excellent example of this and our ‘Stoke Golding’ location is the perfect place to start your lock-free trip.

Our base at Stoke Golding offers a variety of narrowboats which are suitable for between 2 and 10 people. All boats are comfortably well-equipped and the staff at Stoke Golding are particularly friendly, helpful and patient – the narrowboat handling tuition they’ll give you on arrival is never rushed and they are more than happy to answer any questions that might pop up.

The Ashby Canal is renowned for its lovely countryside as well as its simplicity – the further north you go up the canal, the prettier it gets. There are a couple of farm stores along the canal but generally not many shops as it’s pretty rural, so boaters are advised to bring their own provisions. However, there are pubs and cafés within reach of the canal by foot if you mostly prefer to eat out.

Wharf Bridge (No. 25) at Stoke Golding

The area surrounding this canal also has a strong association with the historic War of the Roses and the ‘Battle of Bosworth Field’. Just an hour’s cruise north of Stoke Golding people can moor up and walk just 20 minutes to visit Bosworth Battlefield itself, where King Richard III was killed and Henry Tudor seized the English crown in 1485. There’s a museum there now, with a hands-on gallery, kids’ activities and guided battlefield walks.

Further up the canal, just eight minutes’ walk from Shenton Aqueduct, you’ll find Shenton Railway Station. The steam trains regularly run from here, via Market Bosworth, to Shackerstone on the ‘Battlefield Line’ which is a 20 minute journey. At the railway station there is a Victorian tearoom, a locomotive shed, a glass blowing business, a small museum and a gift shop for your enjoyment.

Stopping near canal Bridge 42, you might like to walk into Market Bosworth which takes around 25 minutes. There are coffee shops, pubs, shops and a couple of takeaways in the village. However, if you prefer to eat out somewhere closer to the waterway itself there are pubs dotted here and there, with about and hours’ cruising between each. 

At the northern end of the canal, at Snarestone, you’ll find one of these pubs just before the tunnel (250 yards long) and just a 1.5 mile walk from the village you’ll find another – the oldest pub in Leicestershire, the ‘Belper Arms’ which is apparently haunted by a ghost known as ‘5.00pm Fred’ for obvious reasons.

Fancy a day off the boat? Twycross Zoo is less than 10 minutes by taxi from Snarestone. Twycross is renowned as a specialist primate zoo, caring for a wide variety of monkeys and apes as well as everything else from Rhinos and Zebras to Meerkats and Tigers. It’s a brilliant place to visit with the whole family and in 2022 they also introduced the added attraction of ‘Gruffalo Discovery Land’ to the mix for the little’uns.

‘Golding’, pet friendly, sleeps 4

The canal also continues to the south of Stoke Golding, heading all the way down towards the city of Coventry. Along the southern part of the canal there are more places for you to stop off including 3 canalside pubs with restaurants.

You’ll also pass through the market town of Hinckley, which houses the ‘Triumph Factory Visitor Experience’ if you’re into classic motorbikes – there are moorings available reasonably close to the factory itself, at bridge 17A.

The Ashby Canal definitely has some interesting places to visit and quite a few places to stop for meals off the boat if you don’t fancy cooking all the time; all of this whilst being surrounded by green and peaceful English countryside, farmland, woodland; puttering along under pretty arched bridges and feeding the occasional family of hungry ducks.

All things considered, Stoke Golding is a really great starting point for your first narrowboat adventure, cruising along the lovely lock-free Ashby Canal….so why not give it a try? Our website shows live availability and pricing, and we are open 6 days a week on 01252 796400 if you would like to speak to one of our friendly advisors about booking a boat on the Ashby Canal.