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

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.


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 ‘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.

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

The Kennet Horse Boat Company brings you two ways to enjoy a leisurely boat trip on one of England’s finest canals

They’re both great ways to escape from the madness of modern life and experience the slower pace of yesteryear.

Just sit back and soak up the beauty of the countryside from a totally different viewpoint.

Horse-Drawn Boat Trips

Our public horse-drawn trips on the Kennet and Avon Canal last from two to three hours and can operate seven days a week, from Easter to the end of September. You can just hop on if we have any spare seats – but it’s best to book in advance so that you guarantee reserved seats.

Self-Drive Boat Day Hire

A group of up to eight people can enjoy the freedom of the Kennet and Avon canal with self-drive day-hire on our traditional style 9m (30ft) narrow boat, Cygnet, which is built to a very high specification. Everyone gets a great view, the main passenger area can be opened up to enjoy the fresh air. It is available for hire most of the year. 

Gift Vouchers

Treat a friend or family to a magical trip onboard one of our crafts with a gift voucher.

Give the perfect gift that they will always remember.

NEW - Wild glamping experience

Unique stays in our shepherd's hut

From £75 (for 1 night, 4 people)

  • Family and Dog Friendly
  • Glampsite set in 10 acres of pastureland near Newbury in Berkshire
  • A 15-minute drive to Hungerford, Greenham Common and Highclere Castle
  • Shepherd’s hut heated by wood burner; exclusive use of shower hut
  • Located in the historic village of Hamstead Marshall, the shepherd’s hut is walking distance from the Kennet and Avon Canal and that all-important village pub.
Get closer to nature

Enjoy a leisurely canal boat trip

A unique experience, perfect for sharing time or perhaps celebrating a birthday with friends and family

Interested in booking a public trip, a private charter or a school day out?

We’re delighted that clients

say nice things about us

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 are 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

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This