Top 10 Summer Holidays on the Canals

Narrowboat holidays offer families the chance to set off on an adventure together – learning how to work the locks, navigate tunnels, spot wildlife, explore traffic-free towpaths and visit historic waterside attractions along the way.

Drifters offers a huge range of family canal boat holidays, with school summer holiday prices starting at £635 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, and £895 for a week.

All our canal boat hire operators provide hirers with life jackets and boat steering tuition. Bikes can be stored on the roof of the boat and dogs are welcome aboard most of our boats.

1. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’…at over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, is an incredible feat of engineering and offers the canal boat holiday-makers the ride of their lives! Even though boats travel at just four miles an hour, with not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure panoramic views of the stunning Dee Valley below, boaters literally feels like they are floating above the earth. Travelling along the Llangollen Canal offers the chance to experience one of the UK’s most stunning stretches of waterway, explore Shropshire’s mini lakes teeming with wildlife, visit medieval Chirk Castle and ride the Llangollen Steam Railway. We have bases on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, Chirk, Wrenbury, Whitchurch and Blackwater Meadow.

2. Explore Skipton & its Medieval Castle…it takes 10 hours (16 miles, 15 locks) for boaters to reach the historic and vibrant market town of Skipton on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, perfect for a week’s holiday from our base at Foulridge on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Cumbria. Extensive views of sheep country, stone walls, farm houses and the occasional village or small town can be seen along the way. Moorings are available in the town centre of town, where visitors can explore Skipton’s street markets, quirky shops, tea rooms, restaurants and 900 year-old castle.

3. Visit Bristol’s Floating Harbour, home of Blackbeard the Pirate…on a short break from Sydney Wharf in the centre of the beautiful World Heritage City of Bath, canal boat holiday-makers can head west on the River Avon and moor up in Bristol’s Floating Harbour. Once there, families can visit Brunel’s masterpiece, the SS Great Britain, the new Blue Reef Aquarium and find out more about the city’s fascinating marine history, including Blackbeard the Pirate, said to have been born there. The journey to Bristol takes eight hours, passing through 13 locks.

4. Visit Edinburgh Castle and Mary King’s Close…from our base at the incredible Falkirk Wheel on the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals in Scotland, Edinburgh is an 11-hour cruise away. Visitor moorings can be found at Edinburgh Quay, just five minutes from Princes Street. From there, it’s easy to access to the sights of Edinburgh, including the magnificent castle and fascinating Mary King’s Close, frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.

5. See the shrunken heads at the Pitt Rivers Museum…our base on the beautiful River Thames is just a three-hour cruise from Oxford. Boaters can moor-up close to Hythe Bridge in the city centre and use their boat as a base to explore. The incredible Pitt Rivers Museum, just one of many world-class attractions in Oxford, displays the University’s archaeological and anthropological treasures, including shrunken heads from the Upper Amazon.

6. Travel to Chester by boat…our base at Bunbury, on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley in Cheshire, is just seven hours by boat from historic Chester. Founded as a Roman fort, with striking Medieval and Victorian architecture, Chester is said to be one of the best preserved walled cities in Britain. Visit the city’s vibrant market hall, award-winning zoo, racecourse, trendy bars, shopping malls, restaurants or one of a series of festivals held there across the summer.

7. Enjoy the Pennines afloat…from our base at Sowerby Bridge on the junction of the Rochdale Canal and Calder & Hebble Navigation, a trip to historic Todmorden is the perfect short break destination. Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, canal boat holiday-makers pass through the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills. The journey there and back covers 20 miles, 32 locks and takes around 16 hours.

8. Travel to Bosworth Field and find out more about King Richard III…from our base at Stretton under Fosse on the North Oxford Canal near Rugby, the beautiful Ashby Canal is the perfect short break destination. The canal passes close to the fascinating site of the Battle of Bosworth Field, where in 1485 King Richard III died and lost his crown to Henry Tudor.

9. Cruise to the home of the Gingerbread Man…our base at Brewood, on the Shropshire Union Canal near Stafford, is a nine-hour cruise from the pretty market town of Market Drayton. Home of gingerbread for the last 200 years, nearly three-quarters of this Saxon settlement was destroyed by fire in 1651 and the Buttercross in the centre of the town still has a bell at the top for people to ring if there’s ever another fire.

10. Potter through the beautiful Leicestershire countryside…our base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire is one of the most popular in the country. Not only is it centrally located and easy to get to (it’s just minutes away from junction 15a of the M1), but it also offers a great variety of cruising routes for boaters, whether novices or experienced navigators. On a week’s cruise, boaters can travel to the historic town of Market Harborough and back via the Foxton staircase of locks, with wonderful views of the Leicestershire countryside and the chance to find out about the intriguing Foxton Inclined Plane boat lift which once operated there.

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