Meet the people behind the boats

The Kennet Horse Boat Company is a small, family-run business that operates traditional canal barges for public boat trips and private charters. 

The company was established in 1970 and has been run by the Butler family since 1980. The business is now owned and run hands-on by the second generation of the family, Stephen Butler and his wife Charlotte, who took over from Stephen’s parents, Bob and Jenny, in 2004.

We are working hard to keep the horse-drawn barge tradition alive, and on every trip with us, you can be assured of a friendly welcome and attentive professional service from Charlotte, Steve and our helpful staff. We all love our horses and thoroughly enjoy enabling our customers to experience the magic of drifting sedately along the Kennet and Avon canal in our horse-drawn barge, or exploring the canal in our self-drive motor barge.

Customers frequently come to us via recommendations or as repeat business, and we attract visitors from all over the UK, as well as from further afield, such as Australia, Norway, South Africa and New York.

Our classic barges

Reflecting the role of the barge in England's heritage, our barges are painted in the traditional ‘roses and castles’ decorative style, which became fashionable in the mid-1800s. They all have full weather protection, so the show goes on even when it rains.

Kennet Valley

Kennet Valley

Our horse-drawn barge is a wide-beam passenger trip boat, purpose built in 1976. She operates from Kintbury and is 20.4m (67ft) long by 3m (10ft) wide. Powered solely by the 1hp towing action of the horse, she carries a maximum of 53 to 64 passengers, depending on the type of trip.

Cygnet

Cygnet

Based at Kintbury, our self-steer narrow boat, Cygnet, is available almost all year round for self-drive day-hire. It is a traditionally styled 9m (30ft) boat built to a very high specification, offering maximum comfort and safety for up to eight people. Everyone gets a great view, the main passenger area can be opened up to enjoy the fresh air, and there is a toilet on board for your comfort.

Our horses

Adults and children alike adore our cross-Shire horses, Monty and Drummer, who are the pride and symbol of our business.

Monty

Monty

Monty ‘The Star’ a Welsh Cob Shire Cross joined us in 2012. Now fully grown, he has matured into a great worker. He is our senior horse and a pleasure to work with.

Drummer

Drummer

Our new arrival in 2016 is a young Clydesdale Cobb Cross. He has shown a good working temperament during his ‘on the job’ training.

  • We were a couple on the Kevendy's coach that visited you on Tuesday. We would just like to say how much we enjoyed the trip on your horse drawn barge and the lovely afternoon tea you provided. You certainly worked hard in getting the lovely Monty to keep going in the darker parts of the tow path! Again thank you for a lovely relaxing afternoon.

    Kind regards John and Sarah Sarling.

    I should like to thank you all at Kennet Horse Boat Company, including of course the magnificent Freddy, for the lovely trip we had on the canal last Tuesday. Our members had a wonderful time and we are grateful for the kindness and consideration shown to those needing a steadying hand getting on and off the barge. We appreciated being able to get off at the lock and watch proceedings from the lovely old bridge, and were much impressed by the nonchalant manner Steve and his assistant leapt between the barge and the bank - do they ever fall in?

    We were lucky in it being a lovely afternoon but the welcome and friendliness shown to us made the afternoon very special - thank you.

    With best wishes, Ann Ireland

    On behalf of 'Downton Good Companions' I should like to thank you all at Kennet Horse Boat Company, including of course the magnificent Freddy, for the lovely trip we had on the canal last Tuesday. Our members had a wonderful time and we are grateful for the kindness and consideration shown to those needing a steadying hand getting on and off the barge. We appreciated being able to get off at the lock and watch proceedings from the lovely old bridge, and were much impressed by the nonchalant manner Steve and his assistant leapt between the barge and the bank - do they ever fall in?

    We were lucky in it being a lovely afternoon but the welcome and friendliness shown to us made the afternoon very special - thank you.

    With best wishes, Ann Ireland

    I would like to thank you, Steve and the other colleagues who gave us such a very pleasant trip on the canal on Saturday. All the guests enjoyed it very much and some are intending to return again when they have the opportunity. I will certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a "different" trip.

    Please pass on my thanks to Steve with whom I caught a few words at the beginning and end. I think most of my guests would have been very happy to have returned on the boat! Thanks again.

    John Hicks, Russet Lodge, Brimpton

    I just wanted to say my husband and I really enjoyed our trip along the canal yesterday, made more interesting by the difficulties caused by the wind, making us more aware of the problems faced years ago by the early canal users. The young man leaping on and off other barges seemed to have an enviable amount of energy!! He certainly needed it for the return trip, oh to be young again. The scones and cake were beautiful.

    It was our first trip out for a few weeks, my hubby is terminally ill, and had been very ill with a chest infection which had bowled him over, making us pretty well housebound for a period of time, I was so pleased when he said he felt able to do the trip yesterday, and even more pleased that we both enjoyed it so much. Thank you so much, and big hugs to Freddie too!

    Marion Kemp

    Thank you to the whole team. It was the most pleasurable experience through from booking to going on the trip and to coming back and discussing it. We’ve had the most fabulous time and it is thanks to your wonderful team that it is so smoothly run and such a successful day out.

    Many many thanks and hopefully we will do it next year and the year after and for many years to come.

    Esther Redhouse

    On July 21st we had the great pleasure of being aboard your horse drawn boat...what an amazing day for us. We wish to thank you all for a memorable time celebrating my husbands' 80th birthday with friends and family. You even had a word with the "Man upstairs and got the weather right!! Without exception all said what a great experience it was for them.

    I would like to say a big THANK YOU to you all..Steve, Shirley and the young man "steering" at the back...sorry but your name eludes me at the moment.

    We really had the most wonderful time and please give and extra pat for Freddie who was indeed a STAR!

    Thank you very much all of you from the Young family and friends