Black Prince canal holidays review: plain sailing on a scenic Worcestershire waterway

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As we eased gently along the peaceful canal, the scene ahead unfolded like a Monet painting, all green leaves, spreading branches and blue sky reflected on smooth water.

As a way of ditching the stress and strain of modern life, Britain’s waterways are hard to beat.

Chugging along at well under the maximum 4mph, you feel yourself ease into a lower gear too, as you gently move the tiller to steer down the cut.

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It’s also a way of getting back to nature, eye to eye with a heron among the reeds or watching in awe as I did when four swans took off right over my head.

A view along the Worcester and Birmingham Canal.A view along the Worcester and Birmingham Canal.
A view along the Worcester and Birmingham Canal.

The modern world does intrude now and again - a train whooshes past and then just as quickly it’s gone and you’re back to the gentle chug of the boat’s engine.

Or you look on, puzzled, as cars and lorries hurtle along a motorway. What on earth can they be up to that needs all that huff and puff?

Of course, it’s not all gentle cruising. Although some crew members might avoid it, there’s the job of lifting or lowering the boat in locks as you travel uphill and down dale through the landscape.

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And while some of the lock gates need a fair old shove to open or close them, it’s filling and emptying locks via the paddles, operated by a handheld windlass, that is often the tricky bit.

Max at the helm.Max at the helm.
Max at the helm.

Our strong, but slender teenager could just about manage both most of the time but now and again it took dad’s extra - ahem - bulk to shift one.

Once you’ve got the hang of steering and operating the locks, the whole process becomes pretty straightforward, and the rest is up to you. Plough on to complete a set itinerary or potter along at your own pace, whatever takes your fancy.

You’ve everything on board to be self-sufficient, from shower and toilet to cooker, fridge, TV and radio. Or, if you fancy, there are plenty of pubs and cafes along the way for a drink and a bite.

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Our trip was on a narrowboat from Black Prince’s Stoke Prior base in rural Worcestershire. We chose to cruise down to Worcester, mixing soothing countryside with an historic city that’s full of things to see and do, from the cathedral to a fine variety of restaurants, with the excellent tapas at The Olive Branch worthy of special mention.

The boat’s interior. Image: Mark WattsThe boat’s interior. Image: Mark Watts
The boat’s interior. Image: Mark Watts

Britain is criss-crossed with canals, so where you go is entirely up to you. Cast off and the choice is yours…


A four-night holiday from Stoke Prior in May costs from £1,044 for up to four sharing with space for one dog. Diesel is extra and costs around £15 per day. Book via the website or call 01527 575 115.

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