Some of the most extraordinary sights outside Birmingham remain hidden from view for most people. For down below busy roads, the River Severn winds its way past jaw-dropping nature and quirky buildings, giving a different perspective to unknown Worcestershire and the Cotswolds.
It’s here that Britain’s largest holiday hotel boat, the Edward Elgar, stands out as one of the most recognisable crafts on the water with its grand features. A smaller version of a cruise ship, it was made to fit exactly through even the smallest of locks on the Midlands route – a tight squeeze and amazing experience in itself.
Family-run English Holiday Cruises in Gloucestershire offers regular journeys along the Severn stretch and Gloucester to Sharpness Canal between its boathouse and royal Worcester. It goes via gems like Upton-upon-Severn, Powick and Tewkesbury during a six-night Seven Vale Discovery Cruise or Classic Cruise, to add to a new French Paris trip.
The first Edward Elgar cruise took place in 2005 and nearly 20 years later it’s still popular with those looking for a staycation with a difference, said Managing Director Jay Clements. We take a look onboard at why it’s so popular.
Much larger inside than it looks from the shore, the charming boat is like a Tardis. Entering over the gangplank, there’s a fully stocked bar and central large dining room and lounge where sumptuous meals are served three times a day, along with afternoon snacks.
Below deck are 11 refurbished cabins fitting up to 22 passengers, each with their own wetroom. While above is the viewing deck, 15ft above the water, to take in stunning views and unique landmarks.
Jay inherited the family business and is well-versed in it. He tells me how he learned to drive a boat before a car at the age of 16 and grew up in Singapore learning all about sailing. Those who want to become more nautical during the trip have the chance to go behind the wheel with the Captain too.
“We get everyone from couples to solo travellers, like widowers, who enjoy the social aspect of meeting new people on board,” said Jay. “Many want a change from going abroad and the stress of airports, but they are keen to see what’s on offer here in England.”
“There’s so much to see at water level that is normally hidden from view to most people,” said Jay as he points out The Severn Motor Yacht Club at Kempsey, known affectionately as the “Birmingham Navy”. It’s here that we see the secret underside of the busy A4440 carriageway to Malvern, plus the wildlife and remote buildings along the river banks including a World War Two fuel depot.
Sailing past the point where the River Teme joins the Severn near Powick, there are now herons and tranquil scenes where the water once ran red with blood from the Battle of Worcester in the Civil War. There’s also glorious, uninterrupted views of the Malvern hills behind reeds and old oak trees from the water.
An audio commentary from river enthusiast Chris Witts, the former Mayor of Gloucester, plays to guests while travelling upstream so they understand more on the history, wildlife and gems of this part of the world.
Buzzards soar overhead towards Upton, at other points, a deer swims past while a bevy of swans elegantly surround the boat when it’s moored in the shadow of Worcester Cathedral.
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“There’s a lot of beauty along the River Severn in this part of the world,” added Jay. “And it’s a lovely relaxing way to see it while sailing along.”
The all-inclusive stays, awarded four stars by Visit England, include both fine dining meals, wine with lunch and all the generous “house” alcohol drinks from the bar. The Captain even makes cocktails like Mojitos and Pina Coladas for everyone one night, plus there are quizzes, a game of quoits on the top deck and a final evening of English wine tasting.
There’s excursions every afternoon away from the boat by coach. These take holidaymakers to sights from Purton Barge Graveyard and Witley Court that Bob Dylan loved near Kidderminster to Woodchester Mansion or Painswick Rococo Gardens. The boat docks at a different spot each night.
That allows guests to explore stop-offs from pubs, shops or the Cathedral in Worcester city centre to gin tasting at Gloucester Docks and even a charming old country pub.
It may seem much smaller than one of the titanic-sized liners venturing abroad but the Edward Elgar cruise is on the biggest hotel boat you’ll find sailing within British rivers – and there is something unique about that.
Yet the real gem of this trip is likely to be the chance to sit back and watch the world go by on such a unique boat while discovering all those hidden spots along the waters edge.
How much is an English Holiday Cruise?
English Holiday Cruises is offering discounts on selected six night cruises between July and September 2023 available. The Severn Vale Discovery Cruise normally costs £3,700 and is reduced to £2,700 per cabin for two using code SV231K when booking.
The Classic Severn Cruise for six nights is reduced from £3,700 to £2,700 per cabin for two when using Code CS231K when booking.
Shorter trips or tailor-made boat hire can also be arranged. More information can be found at the website
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Contact details for English Holiday Cruises
The Edward Elgar Boat and English Holiday Cruises are based at 326 Bristol Road, Gloucester, GL2 5DH. Its discreet entrance and car park is right on the traffic light junction next to Enterprise car hire.
Call 01452 410411 for more information and bookings or visit website