Chill out on a canal boat holiday this Halloween

Reputedly playing host to hundreds of ghosts, with bats and frogs aplenty, creepy tunnels, spooky locks and misty towpaths, Britain’s 200-year old canal network provides the perfect backdrop for a haunting Halloween afloat.

Here are a few of the spookiest places to go:

Get the chills in Chester…visit the City’s old Northgate where the canal was dug into part of the town’s moat and a Roman centurion can sometimes be seen guarding the entrance to the City. And The King’s Inn, an old coaching house, is believed to be haunted by three separate spirits. Travel from our canal boat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, reaching Chester in seven hours, passing through nine locks.

• Watch out for the Monkey Man on the Shroppie…the Shropshire Union Canal is said to be Britain’s most haunted canal with five ghosts along its length, including ‘The Monkey Man’ at Bridge 39 near Norbury. This hideous black, shaggy coated being is believed to be the ghost of a boatman drowned there in the 19th century. Head north from our’ base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal in Staffordshire near Stafford.

Ghost Tunnel…Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, close to our Gayton base, has spooked a number of boaters over the years. At 3,076 yards (2.81km) it’s one of the longest on the canal system. When construction began in 1793, the tunnel was a major feat of engineering. Teams of navvies worked with picks and shovels for three years until they hit quicksand and the tunnel collapsed, killing 14 men. A new route for the tunnel was found and it finally opened on 25 March 1805. Over the years, a number of boaters travelling through the tunnel have reported seeing lights and a second route emerging. But the tunnel runs straight through the hill so people have must seen the flicker of candlelight at the spot where the first tunnel would have intersected with the main canal tunnel. Perhaps the ghostly navvies are still working there…?

Tunnel Terror on the Union Canal in Scotland…two walkers and their dogs were terrified by the apparition of a man who had been lured to the Union Canal tunnel at Falkirk in the 1940s and viciously murdered after he had been unable to pay his gambling debt. Our Falkirk base is very close to this tunnel.

A Killing at Kidsgrove…the Trent & Mersey Canal’s Harecastle Tunnel at Kidsgrove is said to be home to a shrieking boggart – the ghost of Kit Crewbucket who was murdered and whose headless corpse was dumped in the canal. Travel there from our Peak District base on the Trent & Mersey near Stafford.

Aqueduct apparition…The Llangollen Canal in Wrexham is haunted by an eerie figure that can sometimes be seen on moonlit nights gliding along the towpath by the World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Our base at Trevor is just 20 minutes from the Aqueduct.

Top 5 Autumn breaks afloat

A canal boat holiday is a great way to enjoy the splendid colours of autumn in the hedgerows and trees that line our waterways.

And there are plenty of foraging opportunities along the way – look out for apples, blackberries, elderberries, damsons and sloes and make freshly-picked fruit crumbles on board.

Here are our top five destinations this autumn:

1. Go blackberry picking on the Stratford Canal…from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, it’s a picturesque six-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon, with plenty of hedgerow forgaging opportunities along the way. Once at the birthplace of the Bard, boaters can moor up in Bancroft Basin, just a stone’s throw from the Swan Theatre and town’s shops, restaurants and museums.

2. Enjoy stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside…Foxton Locks, on the Grand Union Canal Leicester Line, celebrated its 200th anniversary this year. The Foxton flight can be reached in five hours from our base at North Kilworth. From the top of the flight, boaters can enjoy panoramic views of the Leicestershire countryside and check out the tiny Museum dedicated to the Foxton Inclined Plane boat lift, an extraordinary feet of Victorian engineering which once operated there.

3. Wend your way through Wiltshire…the historic town of Bradford on Avon can be reached on a short break from our Hilperton base on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge, with beautiful views of the Wiltshire countryside to enjoy along the way. Bradford on Avon is an architectural treasure chest, with gems including the magnificent 14th century Tithe Barn and striking Town Bridge over the River Avon.

4. Cruise through the Scottish lowlands…from our base at the Falkirk Wheel boat lift, it’s a peaceful five-hour cruise through the Scottish lowlands along the Union Canal to the historic town of Linlithgow. Here, narrowboat holiday-makers can visit the beautifully preserved remains of Linlithgow Palace on the shores of Linlithgow Loch, and sample some of the town’s excellent eateries, including the award-winning Four Marys pub.

5. Explore the Brecon Beacons afloat…the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal offers 35 miles of quiet countryside to explore with incredible mountain views. From our base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, boaters can journey through the Brecon Beacons National Park from Brecon to Cwmbran, visiting the Georgian town of Crickhowell with its 13th century castle and picturesque Talybont-on-Usk, with walking access to Blaen y Glyn waterfalls.

Top 10 August bank holidays afloat

Canal boat holidays are great for families, offering the chance to set off on an adventure together, learn how to work the locks, spot wildlife, explore traffic-free towpaths and visit waterside attractions along the way.

All our 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 hire boats.

Here are our top 10 August Bank Holiday destinations for 2014:

1. Visit the magnificent Horseshoe Falls…from our base at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the picturesque town of Llangollen with walking access to the famous Horseshoe Falls, is an eight-hour cruise away. The journey includes traversing the awesome 305-metre long World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which towers 38 metres high above the Dee Valley.

2. See the tigers at London Zoo…from our base on the Grand Union Canal in West London, ZSL London Zoo can be found alongside the Regent’s Canal, just a five-hour cruise away. Narrowboat holiday-makers can explore the world’s oldest scientific zoo and head to Tiger Territory to see the three Sumatran tiger cubs born there in February.

3. Visit Edinburgh Castle and Mary King’s Close…from our base at the Falkirk Wheel boat lift 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.

4. See the freshly cleaned dinosaurs at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History…this fascinating museum reopened earlier this year after a £2million project to fix its leaking roof. Over 8,500 Victorian glass tiles were individually removed and resealed and a mass specimen cleaning project was undertaken, including all the big dinosaurs! Our Oxford base on the River Thames is just a three-hour cruise from the City centre where canal boat holiday-makers can moor-up close to Hythe Bridge and use their boat as a base to visit the Museum and explore the City.

5. Watch Wicked at the Birmingham Hippodrome…With more canals than Venice, there’s no better way to travel into Birmingham City Centre than by canal boat. Boaters can travel lock-free to Birmingham in just five hours from our base at Tardebigge, and find centrally located over-night moorings at Gas Street Basin. There’s plenty for families to see and do there, including a visit to the Sea Life Centre at Brindley Place and the chance to see the acclaimed musical ‘Wicked’ at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

6. Enjoy the Pennines afloat…from our base at Sowerby Bridge on the junction of the Rochdale Canal and Calder & Hebble Navigation, a trip to the historic market town 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.

7. 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 makes a great 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.

8. Visit Bristol’s Floating Harbour, home of Blackbeard the Pirate…on a short break from Sydney Wharf in the centre of Bath, canal boat holiday-makers can head west on the River Avon and moor up in Bristol’s Floating Harbour. Once there, boaters can visit Brunel’s masterpiece, the SS Great Britain and the Blue Reef Aquarium to 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.

9. Visit the Roman Baths in Bath…our base at Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire is a day’s cruise from Bath City Centre. Canal boaters can moor-up close to Pulteney Bridge (reminiscent of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence), enjoy views of Bath’s fabulous Georgian architecture and visit the Roman Baths, one of 17 museums located within a square mile of this World Heritage Status city.

10. Swap your canal boat for a steam train…from our Peak District base at the junction of the Caldon and Trent & Mersey canals, near Stoke on Trent, it’s a gentle 12-hour cruise along the peaceful Caldon Canal to Froghall Basin. From there, it’s a short walk to Froghall Station and the opportunity to take a steam train ride on the Churnet Valley Railway.

Top 10 reasons to take a canal boat holiday

Canal boating on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire

1. It’s the fastest way to slow down – with speed limits of 4mph and hundreds of miles of tranquil unspoilt countryside to cruise through, stress levels are immediately reduced on a narrowboat holiday and a whole new much steadier pace of life takes over

2. Freedom to explore – the majority of our inland waterways offer boating holiday-makers free moorings, so, glass of wine in hand, you are free to choose wherever you lay your boat for the night

3. Keep up your fitness – working the locks, exploring local footpaths, historic sites, towns and villages, cycling the towpaths and standing at the tiller enjoying the fresh air are all the ideal antidote to stuffy gyms and office blues

4. The greener way – a canal boat holiday is estimated to be some 20 times better for the planet than spending two hours flying for a holiday overseas and as soon as you swap your car for a boat, you’ll be using a third of the fuel and emitting a sixth of the pollution

5. Pubs galore – with hundreds of waterside pubs, a watering hole is never far away, many of them historic rural locals

6. History is all around – thousands of historic structures make up the waterway system, including: the soaring majesty of the World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct; the extraordinary Anderton Boat Lift, also known as “The Cathedral of the Canals”; and the awesome three-mile long Standedge Tunnel cutting through the Pennines

7. Watch out for wildlife – waterways provide homes for large numbers of birds, plants and animals, including many protected species – the water vole, otter and kingfisher, so there’s always something special to look out for

8. All the comforts of home – today’s canal boats are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons – central heating, hot water, TV, showers, flushing toilets, and some now have Wifi too

9. Help keep the local economy afloat – £1½ billion is spent by visitors to the waterways each year on goods and services, supporting over 54,000 jobs

10. Try something new – with around a fifth of canal boat hire boaters new to the market each year, it’s easy to learn how to steer a boat and navigate the waterways.

Canal boat holidays are great for pets

Canal boat holidays are perfect for dogs, with plenty of towpath walks, dog-friendly canalside pubs and other dogs to meet along the way.

And as well as hundreds of dogs, Drifters canal boat hire operators have accommodated many other kinds of pets aboard their floating holiday homes, including rabbits, hamsters, caged birds, a goldfish and a tortoise.

Drifters director Nigel Stevens explains: “Narrowboats provide a floating holiday home so it is possible to take all sorts of pets on the canals. Most of our operators charge a supplement for a pet of between £25 and £35, but some allow the first pet to go free, so it can work out a lot cheaper to bring your pet along on your holiday and let them enjoy the cruise too!”

Here are our top five canal boat holiday destinations for animal lovers:

1. Visit the Sea Life Centre at Brindleyplace…With over 60 displays of freshwater and marine life, the Sea Life Centre at Brindleyplace in Birmingham is a fantastic destination for animal lovers. Boaters can travel lock-free to Birmingham in just five hours from our base at Tardebigge, and find centrally located over-night moorings at Gas Street Basin. 2014 prices from Tardebigge start at £555 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, and £790 for a week.

2. Get close to the tigers at ZSL London Zoo…the world’s oldest scientific zoo is right next to the Regent’s Canal in Regent’s Park and is now home to two critically endangered Sumatran tigers and their three cubs. From our West London base on the Grand Union Canal, canal boat holiday-makers can reach the Zoo in just five hours. 2014 hire prices from London start at £594 for a short break on a five berth boat, weekly hire from £963.

3. See David Hockney’s Dachshunds at Saltaire…canal boat holiday-makers can reach Sir Titus Salt’s fascinating model town on a week’s narrowboat holiday from our base at Sowerby Bridge. Saltaire, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was founded on the banks of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Bradford in 1851 by Sir Titus Salt, a leading industrialist in the woollen industry. Salts Mill has a number of galleries, including the stunning David Hockney Gallery showing both permanent and temporary collections of the Bradford-born artist’s work, including prints of some of the portraits he has made of his beloved Dachshunds, Stanley and Boogie. 2014 weekly hire from Sowerby Bridge starts at £530 for a two berth boat.

4.Watch Rooney the penguin in training at Chester Zoo…famous for its medieval architecture and city walls, Chester is also home to an award-winning zoo with over 11,000 animals to see. Each year the Zoo’s keepers name their baby penguins after a particular theme and this time round they’ve been named after English World Cup stars, past and present. Rooney the penguin, who hatched in spring, has been moved into a nursery at the zoo to learn how to swim, hunt and feed, along with classmates Gerrard, Banks and Moore. Chester is a seven-hour cruise from our Bunbury base on the Shropshire Union Canal. 2014 prices from Bunbury start at £555 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, and £790 for a week.

5. Admire the Kelpies at Falkirk…towering a colossal 30 metres above the Forth & Clyde Canal, The Kelpies horse statues form a dramatic gateway to the canal entrance at Falkirk. Constructed of structural steel with a stainless steel outer skin, each of the Kelpies weighs over 300 tonnes. They are the centrepiece of The Helix park and serve as a monument to horse powered heritage across Central Scotland. 2014 prices from our base at Falkirk start at £499 for a short break (three or four nights) on a four berth boat, weekly hire from £913.

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.

Drifters’ top 5 canalside pubs

There are hundreds of lovely waterside pubs across the canal network but we’ve put together a list of our top 10:

1. The George at Bathampton is on the Kennet & Avon Canal just half an hour by boat from our canal boat hire base at Bath and two-and-a-half hours from Bradford on Avon. Once a 13th-century monastery, The George is described by the Cool Canals ‘Pub Days Out’ guide as “a vision of Olde England in a building packed with character…priest holes, low ceilings, creaking beams, nooks and crannies and real fires to snuggle up to, give this pub special cosiness.” Part of the Chef & Brewer group, it offers an extensive menu and a range of pub drinks, including cask ale.

2. The Narrowboat Inn at Whittington is a great place to stop-off at on a canal boat holiday on the Llangollen Canal, departing from our Trevor, Chirk, Whitchurch or Blackwater Meadow bases.  It has a lovely canalside beer garden and offers hearty pub food. Visit here and you’ll be following in the foot-steps of Hollywood legends Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart, who enjoyed a meal and a pint or two of Wells Bombardier here as part of their canal boat holiday on the Llangollen back in 2004.

3. The Leigh Arms at Little Leigh is on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Northwich in Cheshire and is a pleasant one-hour cruise from our base at Anderton. This friendly canalside pub offers home-cooked pub food and cask ales. There’s a children’s play area in the pub garden and dogs are welcome in the snug area. The Leigh Arms also offers a varied programme of events.

4. The Fleur de Lys at Lowsonford is a great place to eat and specialises in pies. It’s a three-and-a-half hour cruise from our base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal in Warwickshire. This unspoilt 17th century country pub has low ceilings with oak beams, open fires, real ales, pub games (including a free skittle alley) and cosy and relaxed atmosphere. The pub building was originally a row of three cottages and a barn, which once doubled as the village mortuary. The ghost of Abigail, a frail little girl from the 1800’s, is said to haunt the upper back room.

5. The Foxton Locks at Foxton is a two-and-a-half hour journey from our Market Harborough base and five hours cruise from North Kilworth. This historic family and dog-friendly pub has pretty views, serves traditional pub food and cask ales and offers a large canalside garden. It’s nestled at the bottom of the famous Foxton locks staircase and is close to the Foxton Inclined Plane Museum.

 

Hire a canal boat for Father’s Day

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 ten of our bases, from less than £12 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, kettle and most day boats also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.

Here’s a list of our day boat hire centres, suggested day trips and prices for 2014:

Visit the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ – Drifters’ base at Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, is next to the 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 Leigh Arms at Little Leigh (bridge 209 for Black Price forge) is an easy day trip away. This friendly, canalside pub offers home-cooked pub food and cask ales. ***Day boat hire from Anderton starts at £150 for up to 12 people.

Staffordshire delights – from Drifters’ base at 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. The return journey takes six hours. ***Day boat hire from Great Haywood starts at £99 for up to 10 people. £120 on weekends and bank holidays.

Sightseeing along ‘The Shroppie’ – from Drifters’ base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union 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. £120 on weekends and bank holidays.

Tunnel through rural Worcestershire – from Drifters’ base at 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. ***Day boat hire from Tardebigge starts at £99 for up to 10 people. £120 on weekends and bank holidays.

Visit ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – Drifters’ base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales is just 20 minutes by boat from the World Heritage site Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct offers stunning views of the Dee Valley below. Day boaters can reach the pretty mountain-side town of Llangollen, famous for its annual Eisteddfod, in two hours. ***Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £110 for up to 10 people. £120 on weekends and bank holidays.

Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from Drifters’ base at Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, enjoy incredible mountain views on the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62. ***Day hire from Goytre starts at £90 for up to 12 people. £105 on weekends and bank holidays.

Explore Shakespeare’s country – from Drifters’ base at 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. £120 on weekends and bank holidays.

Take a cruise in Bath – Drifters’ base at Sydney Wharf in the World Heritage City of Bath offers the chance to sample a scenic cruise on one of Britain’s most popular waterways, the Kennet & Avon Canal. Head east to Bathampton and make the historic George Inn, a vision of Olde England and once a 12th century monastery, your lunchtime destination. Or head west into the City Centre, with fantastic views of the City’s famous Georgian architecture. ***Day boat hire from Bath starts at £120 for up to 10 people. £165 on weekends and bank holidays.

Wend your way through Wiltshire – from Drifters’ base at Hilperton Marina in Wiltshire on the Kennet & Avon, cruise east through unspoilt countryside to waterside The Barge Inn at Seend, or head west to historic Bradford on Avon, with its stunning Tithe Barn and plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants to choose from. ***Day boat hire from Hilperton starts at £105 for up to eight people. £130 on weekends and bank holidays.

Enjoy the rural North Oxford Canal – from Drifters’ base at 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 £150 for a boat for 12 people. £190 on weekends and bank holidays.

Tim & Pru make ‘Grand Canal Journeys’

Often aboard Drifters’ boats, actors and national treasures Timothy West and Prunella Scales star in a new four-part canal adventure TV series on More4.

Approaching their 80’s and determined to keep canal adventuring for as long as they can, ‘Grand Canal Journeys’, which starts next Monday, follows these narrow-boating heroes as they celebrate their golden anniversary with four very special journeys across the canal network of Britain and France.

In the first of the series (10 March), Tim and Pru revisit the picturesque Kennet & Avon Canal, which they helped to save from closure 24 years ago.

Next (17 March), they undertake the strenuous climb up the industrial Pennines on the Rochdale and Huddersfield Narrow canals, and brave the longest underground canal in Britain.

In episode three (24 March), they marvel at the dramatic Welsh scenery and staggering engineering of the Llangollen Canal and in the final installment (31 March), they hop across the channel to see France’s famous Canal du Nivernais in Burgundy.

Each journey reveals the rich and diverse history and culture of canal life, explores the beautiful scenery of Britain’s landscapes and wildlife, and gives Tim and Pru the chance to recreate some of their most treasured family moments with their sons, Sam and Joe.

Top 10 short breaks

With two bank holidays in May on the horizon, we’ve put together our top 10 short break canal boat holidays to help you plan your bank holiday afloat.

1. Experience the World Heritage City of Bath…Bath City centre with its fabulous Georgian architecture, is a delightful seven-hour cruise from our base at Bradford on Avon on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire. Along the way narrowboat holiday-makers pass fascinating historic pubs, including The George at Bathampton (once a 12th century monastery), and a series of impressive canal structures, including Avoncliffe and Dundas aqueducts. Short break (three or four nights) prices from our Bradford on Avon canal boat hire base in May start at £551 for a boat for four.

2. Journey along the peaceful Caldon Canal…from our Peak District base at Stoke on Trent on the Trent & Mersey Canal, a trip along Wedgewood’s Caldon Canal is the perfect short break route. One of the quietest and most picturesque canals in Britain, the Caldon Canal was originally built to transport porcelain. It branches off the Trent & Mersey Canal at Etruria near Stoke on Trent and travels 17 miles and 17 locks through the beautiful Churnet Valley to Froghall Wharf. Short break prices from Peak District in May start at £768 for a boat for four people.

3. 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 first pass through the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills, before reaching Todmorden. The journey there and back covers 20 miles, 32 locks and takes around 16 hours. Short break prices from Sowerby Bridge in May start at £685 for a boat for four people.

4. Visit the Medieval City of Chester…from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley in Cheshire, Chester is a lovely seven-hour cruise away. Famous for its Medieval architecture and city walls, Chester also offers a vibrant market hall, an award winning zoo, busy racecourse, trendy bards, shopping malls and a huge variety of restaurants. Short break prices from Bunbury in May start at £551 for a boat for four people.

5. 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. King Richard’s body was recently found beneath a Leicester car park. Short break prices from Stretton in May start at £527 for a boat for four.

6. Cruise into the heart of Birmingham…Brindley Place is just a five-hour cruise from our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove. With more canals than Venice, Birmingham simply has to be visited by water. City centre moorings are available at Gas Street Basin with easy access to the Mailbox and Bullring shopping centres, theatres, museums and restaurants. Short break prices from Tardebigge in May start at £551 for a boat for four.

7. Visit Braunston canal village at the heart of the canal network…from our base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, it’s a peaceful day’s cruise to Braunston, passing through the villages of Weedon and Norton. Situated at the junction of the Oxford and Grand Union canals, Braunston is said to be ‘at the heart of the UK canal system’. The main village is high on a hill above the canals, with plenty of pubs serving good food and a fish and chip shop. Short break prices from Gayton in May start at £621 for a boat for four.

8. Navigate the Droitwich Ring…our base at Worcester on the River Severn is on 21-mile long Droitwich Ring – the only cruising ring in Europe which can be completed on a short break. The 16-hour journey, which includes 33 locks, takes boaters through the historic Spa town of Droitwich and along the River Severn, with stunning views of the Worcestershire countryside. Short break prices from Worcester in May start at £585 for a boat for four.

9. Enjoy the beautiful Llangollen Canal…from our base at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the picturesque town of Llangollen with walking access to the famous Horseshoe Falls, is an eight-hour cruise away. The journey includes traversing the awesome 305-metre long World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which towers 38 metres high above the Dee Valley. Definitely not for the feint-hearted! Short break prices from Chirk in May start at £768 for a boat for four.

10. Cruise to trendy Camden Lock…from our base on the Grand Union Canal in West London, Little Venice and Paddington Basin are just a four-hour cruise away. Narrowboat holiday-makers can use their canal boat as a base to visit some of the Capital’s attractions. Just an hour further along the Regent’s Canal, boaters will reach Camden Lock, London’s most popular open air market area with vibrant shopping and entertainment areas, live music, comedy, cafes and bars. Short break prices from London in May start at £735 for a boat for four.