The canal less travelled

…try boating off the beaten track this summer

With more than 35,000 boats licensed on Britain’s canals and rivers, some routes can get very busy over the summer.  If holiday makers want to escape the crowds, the canal network is full of hidden gems and lesser-known routes that have much to offer the intrepid boater or cyclist.

With Drifters Waterway Holidays, which has 500 boats for hire from 35 bases across the country, offering 15 per cent off all its remaining boats for hire this August, it’s the perfect time to get afloat. Here are six suggestions for places off the beaten track to head to:

The Rochdale Canal

The Rochdale Canal is a 33-mile trans-Pennine route, running from the centre of Manchester to its junction with the Calder & Hebble Navigation, near Halifax.

Nigel Stevens, director of Shire Cruisers, says: “The thing I like most about the Rochdale Canal is the exhilaration of going up into the Pennines. The canal has a huge variety to see across its short length. There are stone buildings, interesting towns, scenery, access to the moors for walking, friendly pubs with amazing value – everything except queues of boats.”

Try a week on a boat for six from Sowerby Bridge (8-15 August) for £1262, saving £223 or a short break on a romantic boat for two (12-15 August) for £501, saving £89.  Click here for full availability and offers

From Blackburn westwards on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal is Britain’s longest canal, starting at the Aire & Calder Navigation in Leeds and running all the way to Merseyside, where the new Liverpool Link connects it to the famous Albert Dock.

Lesley Yates, partner at Canal Boat Cruises, says: “The western end of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal is very, very unspoiled and quiet, going through pretty, open countryside, and lots of rural villages. You can travel though Withnell Fold Nature Reserve, where there is an old paper mill, which used to produce all the paper for the UK’s money! After Wigan, the canal passes into the Douglas Valley, which is very flat, almost like the Fenlands. From there, you can go down the Liverpool Link and do a bit of shopping.”

Try a week on a boat for six from Foulridge on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal summit for £1224, saving £216 (13-20 August)  Click here for full availability and offers

The Montgomery Canal from Frankton Junction

The Montgomery Canal is a picturesque route through the Welsh Marches from the Llangollen Canal. Once derelict, half its length has now been restored.

Pam Langford, marketing co-ordinator at UK Canal Boating, says: “The Montgomery Canal is one of my favourites for the glorious scenery and the spectacular views across the countryside to the Welsh Berwyn Mountains and beyond to Snowdonia. It is so peaceful and, because access to the canal is controlled by the lock keeper, there are only ever a limited number of canal boat users on the stretch at any one time..

Try a short break on a boat for four from Chirk on the Llangollen Canal in Wrexham for £682, saving £121 (19-22 August) or save 30% on a week on a boat for six from Trevor, bringing the price down to just £1099, including fuel (19-26 August)  Click here for full availability and offers

The Droitwich Canals

The Droitwich Canals in Worcestershire were officially reopened this month, having been abandoned in 1939. They now connect the seven miles between the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and River Severn, meaning you can travel the brand new 21-mile ‘Mid Worcestershire Ring’ through this beautiful and historic county.

Try a short break on a boat for six from Worcester for £1003, saving £177 (12-15 August) or a week for £1542, saving £273 (13-20 August) Click here for full availability and offers.

The Slough Arm of the Grand Union Canal

The Slough Arm is a branch from the Grand Union Canal main line to Slough, originally built to serve the brick-making industry.

Garry W. Banthorpe, campaigner for the Slough Arm, says: “For boaters who want to experience a little-visited part of our canal heritage, the Slough Arm runs for five miles from Cowley to the Slough Basin. It is a great way to escape the crowds on the London waterways, with lots of chances to see wildlife.”

Contact Drifters for a boating holiday

The Calder & Hebble Navigation

Although the Calder & Hebble Navigation once served a very industrial area, it is now a rural and peaceful connection between the Yorkshire and Pennine canals.

Sally Ash, head of boating at British Waterways, says: “The Calder & Hebble Navigation passes through and near to Wakefield, Dewsbury and Huddersfield. Wakefield has a lovely waterfront area, the brand new Hepworth art gallery and canoeing, sailing and windsurfing at Pugneys Country Park.

“The canal provides a wonderful green corridor, interesting waterways architecture including quirky lever-operated locks, and is a great jumping-off point for walking and hiking in the Pennines.”

Try a week on a boat for four from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge on the Calder & Hebble for £1283, saving £227 (13-20 August) or a short break for £769, saving £136 (12-15 August)

For more information about narrowboat boating holidays on Britain’s inland waterways visit and for information on boat hire go to or call 0844 984 0322.


Comments are closed.