Top 5 narrowboat holidays on the Trent & Mersey Canal

All Aboard for some August Bank Holiday Slow Time

Research shows people feel happier and more relaxed by Britain’s beautiful inland waterways* and with speed limits of just four miles per hour, canal boat holidays are often said to be ‘the fastest way to slow down’. 

So for anyone thinking of slowing right down over the August Bank Holiday, here’s a list of Drifters’ Top 7 August bank holiday boating breaks:

  1. Glide through the Peak District to Cheddleton and back – on a short break from Drifters’ Peak District narrowboat hire base at Etruria in Stoke on Trent, canal boat holiday-makers can travel into the Peak District along the beautiful Caldon Canal, reaching Cheddleton Flint Mill in around eight hours, passing through 12 locks and travelling just over 11 miles.  As the Caldon Canal leaves Stoke, it begins to pass through gently rolling hills and wooded areas, past old mills and then alongside the stunning River Churnet.  At Denford, boaters can take refreshment at the popular Hollybush Inn and at Consall Forge, the secluded Black Lion pub serves good food and real ales.
  2. Go star gazing in the Brecon Beacons – isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park, said to have some of some of the highest quality dark skies in the UK, perfect for star gazing.  Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, this peaceful waterway, with very few locks, offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views and a series of villages with country pubs to enjoy along the way.   On a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, boaters can cruise lock-free to Talybont-on-Usk and back, with excellent walking trails and eateries, the Canalside Café and the Star Inn.  
  3. Watch out for wildlife on the Ashby Canal – on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Braunston, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to the pretty village of Snarestone and back, travelling a total of 47 miles, passing through eight locks and taking around 32 hours.  This largely rural route takes boaters up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby and on to Hawkesbury Junction to join the Coventry Canal.  Five miles later, the route transfers onto the peaceful lock-free Ashbury Canal, which winds gently through countryside for 22 miles.  From Carlton Bridge to Snarestone, the canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), recognising the diversity of its plant, insect and animal life, including nine species of dragonfly, the water shrew, water vole and rare native white-clawed crayfish.  
  4. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey to Hungerford – from our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, it takes around 20 hours, travelling 27 miles through 53 locks to reach the historic town of Hungerford, perfect for a week afloat.  Along the way, boaters travel up the spectacular flight of 16 locks in a row at Caen Hill and cruise through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, passing close to prehistoric Avebury and along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest.  Once at Hungerford, narrowboat holiday-makers can enjoy dining at a choice of pubs and browsing in dozens of antique shops. 
  5. Step back in time at the Black Country Museum – from Drifters’ Tardebigge canal boat hire base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s an eight-hour, three-lock journey to moorings right outside the fascinating 26-acre open-air Black Country Living Museum.  Here visitors can meet costumed characters explaining what it was like to live and work in one of the world’s most heavily industrialised landscapes, explore period shops and homes, have a drink in the ‘Bottle & Glass Inn’, test their times tables in a 1912 school lesson, sample the Museum’s famous traditionally cooked 1930’s-style fish and chips, take a ride on a vintage tram or bus or take a trip ‘into the thick’ to experience life in an 1850’s coal mine.  
  6. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Trevor on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which this year celebrates 10 years of World Heritage Status, is just a five minute cruise away.  Standing at over 125ft high above the Dee Valley, this incredible 1,000ft long structure consists of a cast iron trough supported on iron arched ribs, carried on 19 enormous hollow pillars.  With not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure the stunning views of the valley below, canal boaters literally feel like they are floating above the earth.  After crossing the Aqueduct, boaters can cruise on to Ellesmere, also known as ‘The Shropshire Lake District’, with a choice of canalside pubs to enjoy along the way. 
  7. Cruise to Todmorden for some stunning Pennine scenery – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the Rochdale Canal to Todmorden, a journey which takes around eight hours, travelling 10 miles and passing through 17 locks.  This historic town offers visitors fine Victorian architecture, plenty of pubs and restaurants, and a busy market.  Along the way, boaters pass through the beautiful Calder Valley village of Mytholmroyd, the birthplace of Ted Hughes, and the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills, with a series of scenic waymarked walks and an amazing variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs.