Hire a canal boat for Father’s Day

AW Day Boat (low res portrait)‘Ratty’ from ‘Wind in the Willows’, famously pronounced ‘there is nothing half as much worth doing as simply messing about in boats’.

Day boat hire on the canals offers the chance to treat Dads with a fun day out on the water, nourished by a pint and a pub lunch along the way.

We offer day boat hire from 15 of our bases, from less than £10 per person.  Full tuition is included so those new to canal boating can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.

Boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle and most day boats also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.

Here’s a list of Drifters’ day boat hire centres and prices for 2016:

  1. 1. A choice of historic pubs in the heart of the canal network – from Drifters’ base at Braunston on the North Oxford Canal in Northamptonshire, day boat hirers can enjoy lock-free boating and a choice of historic canalside pubs.  The quiet village of Hillmorton is a delightful seven-mile, two-hour cruise away, where boaters can stop for lunch at the canalside Old Royal Oak, or take a short stroll into the village to the Stag & Pheasant.  Alternatively, day-boat hirers can head south along the Oxford Canal to Napton on the Hill for lunch in the village at The Crown or King’s Head Inn, or canalside at the Bridge at Napton.  Again this journey is lock free and takes around two gentle hours.*****Weekday boat hire from Braunston on ‘Water Ouzel’, which can carry up to 12 people, is £130, £165 on weekends and bank holidays.
  2. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it’s a 20-minute cruise to the World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the wonders of the waterways, offering stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  Day boaters can reach the pretty mountain-side town of Llangollen in two hours.****Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £110 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  3. Catch a lift on the lowland canals in Scotland – from Falkirk at the junction of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in Scotland, day boat hirers can travel through the incredible Falkirk Wheel, the World’s first rotating boat lift and along the Union Canal to Polmont, where they can moor up and enjoy a short walk to The Claremont Inn.  Or continue on to the canalside Bridge 49 café bar and bistro, next to Causewayend Marina.****Day boat hire on the ‘Jaggy Thistle’ which can carry up to eight passengers, is £220, Friday to Sunday.
  4. Visit the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ – Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, is next to the historic Anderton Boat Lift.  This incredible edifice, also known as ‘the Cathedral of the canals’, looks like some giant three-storey-high iron spider and provides a 50-foot vertical link between two navigable waterways – the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal.  From Anderton, the canalside Leigh Arms at Little Leigh (bridge 209 for Black Price forge), offering home-cooked pub food and cask ales, is an easy day trip away.*****Day boat hire from Anderton starts at £150 for up to 12 people.
  5. Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, enjoy incredible mountain views on the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the popular Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62.*****Day hire from Goytre starts at £110 for up to 12 people.
  6. Explore Shakespeare’s country – from Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford Upon Avon, boaters can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote and back (2.5 hours each way), and enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn.  Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  7. Wend your way through Wiltshire – from Hilperton Marina near Trowbridge in Wiltshire on the beautiful Kennet & Avon, cruise east through unspoilt countryside to the waterside Barge Inn at Seend, or head west to historic Bradford on Avon, with its stunning medieval Tithe Barn and choice of pubs, cafes and restaurants.  Day boat hire from Hilperton starts at £105 for up to eight people, £130 on weekends and bank holidays.
  8. Experience the rural North Oxford Canal – from Stretton-under-Fosse near Rugby, cruise north through open farmland to the pretty village of Ansty with its pottery and Rose & Castle pub.  Or head south, travelling through quiet woodland to the village of Newbold, and enjoy home cooked food at the canalside Barley Mow pub.  Day boat hire from Rugby starts at £180 for a boat for 12 people, £220 on weekends and bank holidays, and weekdays in July and August.
  9. Chug along the Staffs & Worcs Canal – from Great Haywood on the Staffs & Worcs Canal near Stafford, cruise to the historic market town of Rugeley and back, through several locks, past Lord Lichfield’s beautiful Shugborough Hall and the delightful Wolseley Arms at Wolseley Bridge.  The journey there and back takes a total of six hours.  Day boat hire from Great Haywood starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  10. Sightseeing along ‘The Shroppie’ – from Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Crewe, cruise south past Barbridge and Nantwich to Baddington Bridge.  With no locks to negotiate and plenty of pubs en route, it’s a delightful way to spend the day afloat.  Day boat hire from Bunbury starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  11. Tunnel through rural Worcestershire – from Tardebigge on the Worcs & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, a pretty rural route with historic pubs along the way, including the family-friendly Hopwood House at Alvechurch.  The route is lock-free but there are three tunnels to pass through, including the 610-yard long Shortwood Tunnel and the 580-yard long Tardebigge Tunnel.  Day boat hire from Tardebigge starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  12. Discover the beauty of Berkshire – from Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in West Berkshire, day-boaters can travel east to Tyle Mill Lock in just over two hours, and take a ten-minute walk to The Spring Inn in the pretty village of Sulhamstead for lunch.  Up to eight people can enjoy a day out on Aldermaston’s day boat ‘Wyvern’.  Day hire prices at Aldermaston start at £125.
  13. Visit Foxton Locks – from Union Wharf in Market Harborough it’s a pleasant two-and-a-half hour cruise to the top of Foxton Locks, with stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, plenty of places to picnic and the historic Foxton Locks Inn.  Visitors can watch canal boats negotiate the famous Foxton Staircase flight of locks and find out about the intriguing Victorian Foxton Inclined Plane Boat Lift that once operated there at the tiny little museum dedicated to it.*****Day boat hire at Market Harborough starts at £150 during the week for up to 12 people, £200 at weekends and bank holidays.
  14. Enjoy a Shropshire rural idyll…from Whitchurch in rural Shropshire, day boaters can head west along the beautiful Llangollen Canal, reaching Whixall Mosses National Nature Reserve in two hours.  For a longer journey, continue on to Bettisfield Mosses, travelling through unspoilt countryside straddling the Welsh borders.  There are no locks, but there are four easily-operated lift bridges along the way.****Day boat hire at Whitchurch starts at £110 per day for 10 people.
  15. Perfect picnicking on the Llangollen Canal…from Blackwater Meadow on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, day boaters can head east to Whixall Moss, one of Shropshire’s truly remote wild places, and a mecca for a diversity of wildlife with plenty of lovely places to picnic.  Or head West, passing a series of farms, small villages and distant hills, to the Narrowboat Inn at Whittington, with Real Ale and a delightful canalside garden.****Day boat hire at Blackwater Meadow starts at £110 per day for 10 people. 


Let the stresses of 21st century life float away

_HOD2930 (2)Savvas Eleftheriades wrote about his holiday on the Kennet & Avon Canal in the Daily Mirror, published 7 April 2016. Find out how he and his family discovered a simpler way of life after casting off their electronic gadgets…

I wish I’d filmed my childrens’ faces as I outlined our holiday plans. “So, we are going on a canal boat,” I said. Big smiles. “We’re going for the authentic 18th Century experience,” I added. Puzzled, but still smiling.

“Which obviously means no internet, Instagram, What’s App, Snapchat, Facebook or Twitter. No phones, no iPads and no video games,” I finished.

The smiles collapsed and the cries of horror could probably be heard from London to Silicon Valley as they ¬contemplated four days without their virtual world. “What about all my followers?” cried 11-year-old Mimi.

“I’m sure they’ll survive you not posting pictures of your latest face swap with a pot of ice cream.”

“But Dad, you don’t understand, I’m about to beat my friend’s score in Dead Trigger 2,” said Luca, 14.

But I’m not listening. I’m lost in a vision of me sipping a G&T on a gently bobbing narrowboat without the sound of zombie death cries in my ears.

“Mum…..???!” they plead, as if having a smartphone is a fundamental human right. “Yes, tidy your rooms,” she mutters. She’s not listening, She’s busy imagining the peace of gliding down a canal without the ding, ding, ding of Instagram in her ears.

So, we set off from London to Bath to pick up our narrowboat and on the way a strange thing happened, we found ourselves having a lively conversation. The rest of the journey flew by as we chatted about everything from chocolate, to friendships and TV shows from the 70s.

Our boat, the Carol Ann, was well equipped with two single beds, a double bed, shower and full-functioning kitchen. After a run-through of how to operate her and how to navigate the locks we decided to stay moored in Bath and explore the city for the first night.

Fifteen minutes’ walk from our boat we found ourselves in the heart of Bath, which has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world and well deserves its Unesco World Heritage Site label.

We wandered the majestic streets and took in 2,000 years of history from when the Romans established one of their biggest settlements outside Rome to the city’s 18th Century heyday as a society watering hole and social centre.

We had a great meal at Italian restaurant Aqua, which is inside a converted church, (aqua-restaurant.com) and then settled in for our first night afloat.

The next morning we checked the oil and water as instructed, fired up the engine, cast off our moorings and Luca took the tiller as we set off eastwards on the Kennet & Avon canal.

The canal was started in 1794 and completed in 1810 as a way of linking Bristol to London because ships were finding the coastal route too hazardous due to storms and pesky French warships which kept raiding merchant vessels.

We marvelled at how such an amazing feat of engineering was completed mainly with picks, shovels and wheelbarrows.

When you are navigating a narrowboat, the simplest things become wonderfully all-consuming. The kids threw themselves into moving us along the canal. Luca was in his element, steering us through the narrowest gaps, while Mimi went into action, moving swing bridges almost single-handedly. They were both first off the boat to operate locks that had to be negotiated along the way.

The thing about chugging along at barely walking pace is that it’s impossible to rush at anything, and pretty soon you start to feel properly slowed down yourself.

We took in every detail of the stunning Somerset countryside as we left Bath, passed Salisbury Hill and drifted through towns that would pass in a blur of seconds if you were speeding along the motorway.

Bathampton, Claverton, Limpley Stoke and Freshford rose slowly into view and out again. We stopped at the cheekily named Brassknocker Basin to fill up our water tanks. Here we got chatting to other boaters, including a group of men who holidayed together every year in a narrowboat that had its own micro-brewery.

They seemed very happy and extremely organised, considering.

Gradually we got a feel for the unique and varied community that uses the canal. We saw boats of every kind. The most interesting were clearly people’s permanent homes. Each one gripped us like a story as we passed; peeling paint, elaborate artwork, pots of flowers, stacks of tools, smoking chimneys, sleeping cats, children’s bikes and toys. Some were so decrepit it was hard to see how they stayed afloat. Others had every mod con going.

We passed across the Dundas and ¬Avoncliff aqueducts, both masterpieces of Georgian engineering and moored at ¬Bradford on Avon for the night.

We checked out the medieval splendour of Bradford’s tithe barn, built in the mid-14th Century with an amazingly complex vaulted wooden roof. It felt more like a cathedral than a barn and you can still see the stonemasons’ marks on the walls to ensure they got paid for their work.

We pootled further east towards Salisbury Plain but stopped short of the daunting Devizes locks, known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways.

These 29 consecutive locks raise the level of the canal by 237ft in just over two miles and can take six hours to negotiate. Knowing we would have to come back down again, we decided to leave that for another trip. It was a case of lock but don’t touch.

Back in Bath we spent an afternoon exploring the Roman Baths. There is something pretty jaw-dropping about running your hand through water knowing it last saw daylight when it fell as rain in 10,000 BC.

Around 1,170,000 litres fill the bathing site every day, bursting from source at a steaming 46C. It’s easy to see why the Romans believed it was a gift from the gods and built a vast baths complex and place of worship, the biggest outside Rome.

The excavations are epic and the artefacts uncovered include thousands of coins and part of the statue of the goddess Sulis Minerva.

The audio guide, free with your ticket, offers a choice of commentary: for chidren, adults, or Bill Bryson’s take on it all. A must-do.

Back home Mimi picked up her phone. “I’ve had 163 messages,” she said.

“Does any of it matter?”

“No, I just want to find out more about the Romans… and I want to live in Bath.”

Travel File
Top Tips: Make sure you have plenty of warm clothing. It always seems to be that bit colder on the canals and you will be outside most of the time on the tiller. In summer you will need a sun hat. If you see a free water outlet fill up. It’s surprising how much is used by the shower and toilet and if you have to wait for another boat to fill up you could be there for an hour.
Respect other boaters. Always go slowly past moored boats or you might get shouted at. Get the kids involved, they love the responsibility. Get a map and note where the turning points are.
Eating out: Good canal side pubs on the route include the Cross Guns at Avoncliffe, the Viaduct Hotel at Brassknocker Hill and the Canal Tavern at Bradford on Avon.
If you go past the one you need you will have to wait for next one and it could be several hours before you find somewhere to turn
Museums: Entry to the Roman baths costs £15 for adults and £9.50 for children. Family ticket for two adults and up to four children £44.00.

Top 5 Luxury Canal Boats for Hire

Aquila interior low resThere are now over 30,000 canal boats on our inland waterways, more than at the time of the Industrial Revolution, and unprecedented numbers of people are visiting and holidaying on our canals.

The popularity of boating has been fuelled by the waterway renaissance which has swept across the UK, and by the standard of accommodation now available.

Today’s canal boats are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons – central heating, hot water, TV, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets. Some of the boats available for hire offer five star accommodation, with extras like baths, solid-fuel stoves and King-sized beds.

Here are our Top 5 luxury canal boats for hire:

1. Enjoy the stylish interior of ‘Aquila’ – the new four-berth Constellation Class ‘Aquila’ has arrived at Drifters’ Wootton Wawen base on the Stratford Canal near Stratford upon Avon. Boasting exacting standards of craftsmanship, comfort and finish, ‘Aquila’ has full-size showers, flexible and private berths, a solid fuel stove, large TV, WiFi, and spacious kitchen with stylish fittings and lighting. On a short break (three or four nights) narrowboat holiday-makers booking ‘Aquila’ travel through the beautiful Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon to join in the celebrations marking 400 years since the death of Shakespeare. On a week’s holiday, boaters can reach historic Warwick or Brindleyplace in Birmingham’s City Centre.

****Aquila’s hire prices start at £695 for short break, £995 for a week.

2. Sleep on a King-sized bed on board ‘Alvechurch Sanderling’ – the eight-berth 60ft-long wide beam (double the width of a narrowboat) ‘Alvechurch Sanderling’ is available to hire from our base at Falkirk, at the junction of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in the Scottish lowlands. This stunning boat has a King-sized bed cabin, two fixed double bunks and space in the dining area to create another double bed or two singles. It has two bathrooms, both with showers, and a fully equipped galley with a four-burner gas cooker, with grill and oven, refrigerator, sink and drainer, work surfaces and storage. Holiday-makers booking ‘Alvechurch Sanderling’ can travel to through the iconic Falkirk Wheel (the world’s first and only rotating boat lift) and on to the Union Canal, passing through a series of historic villages with a choice of waterside eateries, including Linlithgow and Ratho, reaching Edinburgh in a day and a half. Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street, with easy access to the City’s many attractions.

****Alvechurch Sanderling’s 2016 hire prices start at £1109 for a short break, £1299 for a week.

3. Take a bath on the ‘Regency 4’ – from Napton Marina on the North Oxford Canal in Warwickshire, canal boat holiday-makers can pick a boat from the luxury ‘Regency’ range, including the six-berth ‘Regency 4’. This first class boat features: two bathrooms with baths; three double cabins (two with king-size beds and one with two extra-wide singles); a rear deck table for alfresco dining; TVs in all bedrooms; an extra-large TV in the saloon; mobile Wifi; 240v mains supply; 240v charging socket; a quality sound system; fully equipped kitchen with fridge, full sized cooker, microwave, toaster and coffee maker; quiet modern diesel engine; oak fittings; 6ft 4 head-room throughout; and a host of other extras. A range of routes are available from Napton Marina, including the short break option to travel south down the Oxford Canal to the pretty village Cropredy, with Brasenose Arms and Red Lion pubs and a grocery shop. On a week’s holiday, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to the rural Ashby Canal, and visit the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field.

****2016 Regency 4 hire prices start at £795 for a short break (three or four nights) and £1,195 for a week.

4. Feel like Royalty aboard the ‘Princess 6’ – this beautiful boat can be hired from a number of our bases, including Chirk on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales. The Princess 6 sleeps up to six people with a flexible bed configuration, full central heating, airing cupboards, two full-sized showers with bi-fold doors, flat screen TV with Freeview, radio, CD and DVD player, fully-equipped kitchen, 12v/USB pint for charging, security safe and free mobile WiFi on request. On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Chirk, boaters can travel across the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, truly one of the Wonders of the Waterways, and reach the pretty town of Llangollen, with Steam Railway, Horseshoe Falls and waterside eateries, including the popular Corn Mill. On a week’s break, boaters can also reach Ellesmere, Shropshire’s Lake District, teaming with wildlife, and the historic market town of Whitchurch, with a wealth of independent shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. The Princess 6 can also be hired from Stoke Prior, Acton Bridge, Napton, Peak District, Falkirk and Bradford on Avon.

****2016 short break prices for the Princess 6 from Chirk start at £795, weekly hire from £1,180.

5. Find 5 Star family luxury aboard the brand new ‘Charlotte’ – new for the 2016 season, the 70 foot, eight-berth ‘Charlotte’ is available to hire from late June onwards from Drifters’ base on the Grand Union Canal at Warwick. Delivering the finest example of quality boat building, ‘Charlotte’ has two fixed doubles, each with an en-suite bathroom offering full-sized showers with bi-fold doors, and electric toilets. Her third cabin provides twin beds, with bunks over, making her a fantastic boat for families. ‘Charlotte’ is fully equipped with 240 electric, radiator central heating, a well-equipped galley, TV, DVD player and has a cruiser stern open back deck with room for a number of people to stand together to watch the world go by. On a short break from Warwick, narrowboat holiday-makers can head for the pretty canal village of Braunston, with plenty of waterside pubs and villages to stop-off at along the way. On a week’s break, boaters could travel to Stratford upon Avon, moor-up in Bancroft Basin close to the town centre and use their boat to explore Shakespeare’s fascinating home town with waterside restaurants, Swan Theatre, shops and museums.

****Charlotte’s 2016 prices start at £1040 for a week, or £655 for a short break.

Top 5 Bank Holiday Boating Breaks

Napton - Regency Rear Deck DiningMay is a great time to take to the water, with the British countryside bursting into life and many of our waterside towns and cities putting on special events over the bank holiday weekend.

Our 2016 late May bank holiday (27-30 May) canal boat hire prices start at £625 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, £965 for a week.

Here’s our Top five narrowboat holiday breaks for the Whitsun Weekend:

1. Enjoy starry night skies afloat in the Brecon Beacons…from Drifters’ base on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal at Goytre Wharf, canal boat holiday makers can travel through the Brecon Beacons and enjoy some of the darkest night skies in Britain, perfect for star gazing. On a short break, narrowboat holiday-makers can reach Talybont-on-Usk and enjoy walking, cycling or canoeing from there.

2. Witness the Mighty Trebuchet Fireball at Warwick Castle…from Drifters’ base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal, canal boat holiday-makers can reach Warwick on a short break and use their canal boat as a base for exploring Warwick and its fascinating castle. Over the Whitsun May Bank Holiday Weekend, Warwick Castle will be offering jaw-dropping history, magic, myth and adventure, including the new Horrible Histories Maze, Castle Dungeon, birds of prey shows and spectacular trebuchet fireball demonstrations.

3. Glide across the Stream in the Sky to the Llangollen Speed Fest…At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the awesome UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, is an incredible feat of engineering, offering canal boat holiday-makers panoramic views of the stunning Dee Valley below. On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Chirk, boaters can travel across the aqueduct and reach the pretty town of Llangollen, with Steam Railway, Horseshoe Falls and the Llangollen Speed Fest (27-30 May), celebrating music and motor sport with exhibitors and acts from across the UK.

4. Cruise along the peaceful South Oxford Canal…on a short break from Drifters’ base at Napton in Warwickshire, boaters can travel along the South Oxford Canal to the pretty Oxfordshire village of Cropredy and back. The route passes through a flight of locks at Napton and is followed by four hours of gentle lock free cruising. Once at Cropredy, boaters can enjoy the Red Lion and Brasenose Arms pubs and stock up on provisions at the village grocery shop.

5. Travel through the North Wessex Downs…from Drifters’ base at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in West Berkshire, boaters on a week-long holiday can travel to Pewsey and back, travelling through the North Wessex Downs Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty, dotted with prehistoric features. The route passes through a series of pretty canalside villages and towns, including Kintbury, Newbury and Hungerford with its Antiques Market, before arriving at Pewsey. Newbury can be reached on a short break, with nearby Downton Abbey fame Highclere Castle hosting its Country Show, 29-30 May.

Open Day Attracts Record Numbers

Bunbury Open Day 2016 (2)Over 3,000 people enjoyed a free canal boat trip on Sunday 17 April 2016 as part of our National Open Day.

The event, which was supported by the Canal & River Trust, offered taster sessions at 19 of our canal boat hire bases across England and Wales.

Tim Parker, Chairman of Drifters Waterway Holidays, says: “We are absolutely delighted with the response to our National Open Day this year, with around 4,000 people visiting 19 events across England and Wales, and over 3,000 of those enjoying a free mini boat trip.

“It has been our most popular Open Day event so far – last year just over 1,000 people took part. The lovely spring weather enjoyed by much of the country on Sunday certainly helped, plus the continued popularity of TV programmes like ‘Great Canal Journeys’, which are drawing people to our beautiful inland waterways.

“It’s absolutely vital that we attract newcomers to the canals with taster events like these. Last year, the Drifters’ group enjoyed a 12 per cent increase in bookings compared to 2014. We hope that bookings remain buoyant this season and many more people book a canal boat holiday for the first time.

“Our open days with free boat trips are only once a year, but we are always happy to see people at our boatyards to chat about boats, routes and holidays.”

Mike Grimes, head of boating at the Canal & River Trust, added: “It’s fantastic that so many people took to the water last Sunday at a Drifters’s Open Day event, many for the first time. Narrowboat holidays can often be the start of a lifelong passion for the waterways. We hope many of these visitors will return to the waterways soon!”

Top 6 Yorkshire Canal Boat Holidays

shaw1With the Leeds & Liverpool Canal celebrating its 200th birthday this year, and a new pop-up base established at Ashton-under-Lyne, we’ve put together our Top 6 Yorkshire holidays for 2016.

2016 prices from our Yorkshire bases start at £415 for a short break (three or four nights), £610 for a week on a boat for two.

1. One-way across the Pennines…Starting from our canal boat hire base at Barnoldswick on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Skipton, this week-long holiday is truly one of the great canal journeys, taking canal boat holiday-makers across the backbone of England. The scenery varies from the timeless calm of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal summit to the hubbub of the Leeds City Centre waterfront, and includes the Bingley Five Rise locks, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways, and the opportunity to visit Sir Titus Salt’s World Heritage Status model town at Saltaire.

2. Visit Skipton and its medieval castle…on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Barnoldswick, boaters can head east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Skipton and back (total journey there and back of 26 miles, 30 locks, 20 hours). This breath-taking route winds along the contours of the side of Airedale, with extensive views of sheep country – farmhouses, barns, stone walls and the occasional village or town. Once in Skipton, boaters can moor in the centre of the town, visit shops and restaurants and explore the 900-year old Skipton Castle, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.

3. Travel along the beautiful Peak Forest Canal to Busgworth Basin…from our new pop-up base at Ashton-under-Lyne, on a week’s holiday canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the Peak Forest Canal, one of Britain’s most scenic waterways, to Bugsworth Basin and back (32 miles, 32 locks, 20 hours). The Peak Forest Canal, which runs through magnificent landscape to the edge of the Peak District, was originally built to transport limestone from the quarries of Derbyshire. The route passes through Marple, with its stunning newly-restored three-arch aqueduct, a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Then on to New Mills and Whaley Bridge before reaching the astonishing Bugsworth Basin, also a Scheduled Ancient Monument, all restored by volunteers. Once at Bugsworth, enjoy country walks and visit the popular Navigation Inn.

4. Bumble along to Brighouse and back for some brass band history…from 1 July onwards, on a short break (three or four nights) canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Brighouse and back along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge. This historic town, famous for its Brighouse and Rastick Brass Band, offers glorious Pennines walks, food and craft markets, places to eat and shops. Along the way, boaters pass through the historic market town of Elland and the village of Mirfield, with medieval stocks and ducking stool, plus Dumb Steeple, thought to have been a landmark to guide travellers on their way across the moor and later a Luddite rallying point (12 miles, 20 locks, 8 hours return).

5. To Rishton and back for a trip through industrial history…on a week’s holiday from our Barnoldswick base, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel west along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Rishton and back (insert miles, locks and hours). The journey begins on the summit before plunging into Foulridge Tunnel then down to Barrowford Locks. After 20 miles on one level, boaters sail above Burnley’s rooftops on its embankment, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. Boaters can stop-off the Weavers Triangle visitor centre at Burnley before carrying on through largely open scenery and the historic town of Rishton, the first place calico cloth was woven on an industrial scale. The trip includes spectacular views of the Lancashire Calder Valley and Pendle Hill, famous for its witches (53 miles 14 locks 20 hours).

6. Take a cultural cruise to Wakefield…from 1 July, on a mid-week break from our Sowerby Bridge base, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Wakefield and back to visit the fabulous Hepworth Wakefield (40 miles, 52 locks, 22 hours). The Gallery, which has moorings right outside and is the largest purpose-built exhibition space outside London, offers over 1,600 square metres of light-filled gallery spaces, bringing together work from Wakefield’s art collection, exhibitions by contemporary artists and rarely seen works by Barbara Hepworth. Self-confessed ‘artoholic’, and retired BBC Radio 4 writer Tim Sayer has bestowed a significant gift of modern and contemporary British art to Wakefield. Amassed over the last 50 years, the extensive collection includes works by modern and contemporary artists including Alexander Calder, Kenneth Martin, Henry Moore, Sean Scully, Naum Gabo, Antony Gormley, Louise Bourgeois, David Hockney, Paul Nash, John Nash, David Nash, Sol LeWitt, Robert Motherwell, Bridget Riley, Anthony Caro, Richard Smith, Prunella Clough and Alan Reynolds. Major works from the Tim Sayer Bequest will go on display at the gallery from 30 April 2016. Boaters can also take the 96 bus from Wakefield direct to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, with open-air displays of work by some of the world’s finest artists, including Henry Moore.

Drifters creates pop-up fleet at Ashton

Shire Cruisers Marple low res

Despite the serious damage to Yorkshire’s waterways as a result of the Boxing Day floods, Drifters’ member Shire Cruisers has started the season on time, with holidays beginning this week from both its Sowerby Bridge and Barnoldswick bases, plus a new pop-up fleet at Ashton-under-Lyne.

Short break boaters travelling from Sowerby Bridge can enjoy the Calder Valley between Elland and Hebden Bridge.

Holiday options from here will expand as post-flooding repairs progress through the spring and, by July, canal boat holiday-makers should be able to reach Wakefield and beyond.

Shire Cruisers has created a pop-up fleet at Ashton-under-Lyne to give more customers the chance to explore the Pennine scenery of the Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canals. And the fleet on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Barnoldswick has been expanded to provide unlimited cruising for customers on longer holidays.

This spring, Shire Cruisers’s famous one-way trips will travel between Barnoldswick and Huddersfield rather than Sowerby Bridge, covering the Leeds & Liverpool, Aire & Calder and Calder & Hebble. And to cover the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, one way trips will run between Ashton and Huddersfield.

Celebrate the Brindley 300

Brindley Place Birmingham (low res)

This year marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of the pioneering canal engineer James Brindley.

Brindley was responsible for eight waterways, stretching 360 miles, including the Bridgewater Canal, the first of the industrial age.

Born in 1716, the son of hill farmers near Buxton, at the age of 17 Brindley was apprenticed to a millwright where he learned to control water flows to make mills more efficient.

It was his work to install a pumping station at a colliery near the Duke of Bridgewater’s estate in Lancashire which led him to be employed by the Duke as the onsite engineer for the Bridgewater Canal project in the late 1750’s.

Inspired by canals in France and the Netherlands, the Duke of Bridgewater asked his estate manager to draw up plans for his own waterway to transport coal from his mine at Worsley to Manchester.

This canal is now recognised as the first real canal in Britain and its impressive engineering feats, including the Barton Aqueduct, gave Brindley the reputation as the man to turn to if you need a canal building.

After the Bridgewater, Brindley was the surveyor and principle engineer on a further seven canals – the Trent & Mersey, Oxford, Staffs & Worcs, Birmingham, Droitwich, Chesterfield and Coventry canals.

He worked tirelessly surveying his canals and devising ground-breaking engineering solutions, including the use of ‘puddled clay’ to line canals and provide a watertight channel.

Brindley was very good at convincing others of the need for canals. When a new canal was proposed it would go before a government commission and he was often called to convince MP’s of the viability of the scheme.

Sadly Brindley died in September 1772, long before many of the canals he surveyed and engineered were completed.  But he had trained a number of people to continue his work, and the great engineers that followed – especially Telford and others involved with later canal building during the ‘canal mania’ period – provided the transport network for the Industrial Revolution, making Britain the wealthiest nation in the world.

Of course, Brindley’s canals are still in use today as a national leisure resource – his lasting legacy. And his name appears on pub names, town squares and perhaps most famously at Brindleyplace in Birmingham.

Events are taking place across the country this year to celebrate the 300th anniversary of his birth include special activities at the Crick Boat Show (28-30 May) and an exhibition at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port from September.

Canal boat holiday-makers can reach Crick from Drifters’ bases at Braunston and Gayton, and Ellesmere Port from Anderton and Acton Bridge.

Top 5 Easter Canal Boat Holidays

®CRT_1094 -DSC_3596Canal boat holidays are fantastic for families, offering the chance to set off on an adventure together – learning how to work the locks, navigate tunnels, speak the boating lingo, spot wildlife, explore traffic-free towpaths and visit waterside attractions along the way.

Our Easter prices start at £495 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, and £775 for a week. Here are our top 5 destinations:

1. Boat to Birmingham & enjoy Cadbury World’s Easter Eggstravaganza…Perfect for beginners, boaters can travel lock-free to Birmingham in just five hours from Drifters’ base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, stopping off along the way to find handmade Easter eggs in the World’s biggest Cadbury shop at Cadbury World. With more canals than Venice, there’s no better way to visit Birmingham, where over-night moorings are available at Gas Street Basin, close to Brindleyplace. There’s plenty for families to see and do this Easter in Britain’s second city, including penguin feeding at the National Sea Life Centre or Mary Poppins at the Hippodrome.

2. Join the Easter Boat Gathering at the National Waterways Museum…from 25 to 28 March the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire celebrates the start of the Summer boating season with a large boat gathering and Sea Shanty Festival. From Drifters’ base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, it’s a 10-hour journey to Ellesmere Port (21 miles and 12 locks), where canal boat holiday-makers can moor up and join the gathering.

3. Visit Georgian Bath and its Award-winning Egg theatre…on a short break from Drifters’ base at Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, boaters can travel along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal and reach the centre of the World Heritage City of Bath in seven hours, with just seven locks to negotiate along the way. As well as stunning architecture, great shopping and restaurants, Bath has many fantastic family attractions, including the Roman Baths and the Theatre Royal’s award-winning egg theatre.

4. Enjoy an amphibian ‘Easter’ egg hunt at Fens Pool in Dudley…On Friday 25 March, senior Canal & River Trust ecologist Paul Wilkinson is running an amphibian ‘Easter’ egg hunt at Fens Pool at Brierley Hill from 10am till noon. From Drifters’ base at Alvechurch on Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, Brierley Hill on the Stourbridge Canal mainline is a two-day journey away (30 miles and 12 locks), giving canal boat holiday-makers the chance to explore some of Birmingham’s extensive network of canals along the way.

5. Step back in time for a Horrible Histories Easter Adventure at Warwick Castle…Warwick Castle is launching its new Horrible Histories Maze this Easter, where visitors can muddle through time and face fun challenges to unravel history’s best kept secret. Their Horrible Histories Wicked Warwick live stage show will also be performed this Easter, plus fearsome fireballs from the trebuchet and soaring eagle displays. Narrowboat holiday-makers can reach Warwick on a short break from Drifters’ base at on the Grand Union Canal at Stockton.

Now that’s what I call a holiday

Mon & Brec landscapeRoyal Sun photographer Arthur Edwards describes his trip along the Mon & Brec with Drifters’ operator ABC, published in The Sun newspaper, 2 January 2016…

We called ourselves the Ancient Mariners. Taking to the waters with my wife Ann and pals Chris and Maureen we had an average age of 70.

But despite our advanced years, we had no problems at all navigating our traditional narrowboat down the beautiful Monmouthshire and Brecon canal.

We’d had a thorough driving lesson from Nathan at the ABC boat hire yard, at the Goytre Marina near Abergavenny. And Sue’s safety briefing put us even further at ease. While handing out lifejackets she assured us that if we fell overboard, the best way to save ourselves would be to stand up — the canal is only three feet deep.

And although our 18-tonne narrowboat was a solid beast, the biggest obstacles as we meandered our way down the 200-year-old canal were a stretch of bridges with names that oozed heritage, such as Preacher’s Bridge and Workhouse Bridge.

We were puttering along through 36 miles of gorgeous countryside from Brecon to Cwmbran, winding our way through the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Snail’s pace

After a nervous first half hour we all began to relax. And by mid-afternoon, with confidence growing, I felt I could have captained the Queen Mary with ease.

Our narrowboat may have been traditional but it came with all the mod-cons. We had two double cabins, a shower room and two toilets as well as central heating to keep us cosy. There was a small, well quipped galley, plus all the 21st-century gadgets you need including TV, radio and even some rather sporadic wifi.

This is not a holiday for speed freaks. Our maximum was just four knots but, pretty soon, you adjust to the pace and begin to enjoy the scenery serenely floating by. There’s no deadline. We cruised an easy four hours each day but never felt bored. Wildlife was admired at a snail’s pace — we spotted herons wading, kingfishers diving and fish leaping. Each night, we moored up and settled in. By the riverbank one night for a cosy supper cooked in the galley.

And for two other nights, we chose the villages of Govilon and Llangattock where pubs, barely a stone’s throw from our mooring, were perfect for a decent meal and a pint. We took our recommendations from local dog walkers on the canal path and were not disappointed.

From Llangattock we visited Crickhowell, a smart Georgian town with excellent shopping. At the start of a new day, you set sail with a great feeling of discovery and adventure. One morning, we sheltered under a bridge during a rain storm and talked all things rugby with an Aussie hiker.

On another day, we tested our “sea legs” with a visit to a stately home in the morning, and in the afternoon rescued a stranded sailor and his dog, towing them to a nearby mooring. This may have been sailing for softies but we loved the gentle pace — with the chance to appreciate scenery from a very different perspective. And we all arrived back in one piece. Now that’s what I call a holiday.