Top 5 bank holiday boating breaks

To celebrate the approaching May bank holiday holidays, Drifters has put together its top five short break narrowboat holidays:

1. See the pop-up art installations on the Droitwich Ring – as part of the Canal & River Trust’s Arts of the Waterways programme, the charity has commissioned artists to produce dynamic temporary artworks and live events along the 21-mile long Droitwich Ring, for visitors to enjoy this Spring and Summer. The restoration of the Droitwich Canals was completed in 2011, reconnecting them to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and the River Severn, and creating a canal boat holiday cruising ring that can be completed on a short break from our Worcester and Stoke Prior canal boat hire bases.

2. Step back in time at Mary King’s Close beneath Edinburgh’s Royal Mile – from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Falkirk, at the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals, on a mid-week (four night) break narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh and back. The journey starts with trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift, which lifts boats 100ft from the Forth & Clyde Canal to the Union Canal above. The 32-mile journey along the Union Canal to Edinburgh passes through three locks and takes around 11 hours. Once at there, boaters can moor up at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from City Centre attractions, including Mary King’s Close, a warren of streets frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.

3. Celebrate 950 years of history at Warwick Castle – from our narrowboat hire centre at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, it takes around eight hours, travelling 11 miles and passing through 22 locks, to reach the historic centre of Warwick. Here canal boat holiday-makers can take time to explore the magnificent Warwick Castle established 950 years ago by William the Conqueror on the banks of the River Avon, and said to be ‘Britain’s greatest medieval experience’ with ramparts to climb, birds of prey displays, trebuchet firing, Horrible Histories Maze, Kingmaker exhibition and many other attractions to explore.

4. Travel across the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Chirk on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct can be reached on a short break. 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.

5. Visit the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford – from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it’s a six-hour, 17-lock cruise through the beautiful Warwickshire countryside to Bancroft Basin in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon. From there, it’s a short walk to the town’s restaurants, shops, markets, museums and theatres, including the 1,040 seat Royal Shakespeare Theatre, home to the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Travel the Mid-Worcestershire Ring and enjoy inspiring artworks along the way

From March, a series of events and art installations will take place to celebrate the 21-mile circle of historic waterways which make up the Mid-Worcestershire Ring.

The route, which reopened seven years ago following the restoration of the Droitwich Canals, flows through the urban and rural landscapes of Worcester and Droitwich, via the Droitwich Canals, part of the River Severn and a section of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.

The Mid-Worcestershire Ring, also known as The Droitwich Ring, can be explored on a short break canal boat holiday from Drifters’ canal boat hire bases at Worcester or Stoke Prior, or on a week’s holiday from Tardebigge and Alvechurch.

The Ring arts programme, which is supported by the Canal & River Trust, features internationally acclaimed artists working with local communities to create a series of unexpected and inspiring artworks that explore the heritage, ecology and people along the waterways of Worcestershire.

Between March and September, audiences are invited to explore The Ring by boat, on foot or bicycle to discover activities taking place along the Mid-Worcestershire Ring waterways.
From sculpture and street art to music and poetry, the artists confirmed for The Ring include:

Rich White, Occupation (Diglis Island Residency), Diglis Island, Worcester (March – Sept 2018)
Bristol-based sculptor Rich White who will be taking residence on and exploring the heritage of Diglis Island, during which he will explore the island’s history and future, and create a temporary, large-scale sculpture, entitled Occupation.

Heather Wastie, The Muck and Shovel Brigade, Droitwich Canals
Former Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Heather Wastie has written a series of poems that sparkle with wit and warmth, inspired by the Droitwich Canals, the people who restored them.

Katy Beinart, Saltways, Vines Park, Droitwich and Droitwich Heritage Centre (May – Sept 2018)
Brighton-based interdisciplinary artist Katy Beinart will explore Droitwich’s historic past as a salt production centre, exporting salt around the world via vital canal routes and other ‘Saltways’.

NEON, Weorgoran Pavilion, South Quay, Worcester City Centre (15 – 24 June 2018)
This innovative performance pavilion will host a vibrant programme of literature, music, dance and workshops led by local artists.

Dave Crowe, Shire Skies, South Quay, Worcester City Centre (15 – 24 June 2018)
Beatboxer Dave Crowe and Stranger Faces headline our opening night performances on The River Spectacle stage (15 June) with a lively mix of funk and beatbox sounds.

Emily Speed, Hollowware, Diglis Canal Basin, Worcester (August 2018)
Working with the Museum of Royal Worcester, sited a short walk from The Ring’s route, Emily Speed presents an interactive performance work.

Lucy McLauchlan, Opening the Floodgates, Oil Dock Basin, Worcester (August – September 2018)
Lucy is one of the UK’s leading female street artists and her internationally acclaimed, large-scale monochromatic paintings combine ancient, almost prehistorical influences with graphic sensibilities.

To find out more about narrowboat holidays on the Mid-Worcestershire Ring visit https://www.drifters.co.uk/

Drifters’ Top 5 new canal boats for hire in 2018

There are now over 30,000 canal boats on our inland waterways, more than at the time of the Industrial Revolution, and half a century after the 1968 Transport Act officially recognised Britain’s canal network as a major leisure resource, the popularity of canal boat holidays continues to increase.

Today’s canal boats for hire are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons – central heating, hot water, TV, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets. To create ever higher standards of accommodation, the length of boat per berth is increasing and new canal boats for hire are arriving on the network with extras like baths, drinks fridges, larger showers, solid-fuel stoves, King-sized beds and WiFi.

Here are our top five new narrowboats available for hire in 2018:

1. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ aboard ‘Lily’ – the brand new luxury four-berth ‘Lily’ Heritage class boat is now available to hire from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Trevor, on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales. This 66ft long semi-traditional stern narrowboat offers ‘heritage’ features, including a Belfast sink, port holes and a solid fuel stove in the saloon, alongside modern home comforts, including two showers and two toilets, two double beds (which can be made into twin beds) in separate cabins, LED lighting, full radiator central heating and WiFi. ***ROUTES – on a short break from Trevor, canal boat holiday-makers can travel across the awesome World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a pioneering masterpiece of engineering. Standing at 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, this incredible 307-metre long structure offers stunning views of the valley below. ***PRICES for ‘Lily’ start at £740 for a short break, or £1,060 for a week. Price includes bed linen, towels, cancellation protection, first pet, parking and tuition on arrival. A £50 non-refundable damage waiver and fuel deposit (£50 for a short break, £90 for a week) are extra. Fuel charge is based on use, circa £10-15 per day.

2. Travel to Georgian Bath and back aboard ‘Darwin’s Fox’ – from our canal boat hire base at Foxhangers on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Devizes, this season the new 65ft ‘Darwin’s Fox’, with accommodation for up to seven people, takes to the water. This luxury canal boat is perfect for two couples or small families wanting the greatest amount of privacy and comfort aboard a narrowboat. It has a central saloon and open plan galley, with the two permanent sleeping cabins privately positioned at either end of the boat. The rear double can be converted from a standard double into a king size bed and the forward cabin has a range of flexible sleeping configurations. ‘Darwin Fox’ has central heating, a 240v electrical system, fully equipped galley including a microwave and extra drinks fridge. There are TV’s in each cabin, the saloon, the master double and secondary cabin/media room where a single bed converts into a desk and TV. ***ROUTES – from Foxhangers, canal boat holiday-makers can travel west to the World Heritage Status City of Bath, famous for its stunning Georgian architecture and fascinating Roman Baths, or head east to the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, travelling up the spectacular Caen Hill flight of locks, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. ***PRICES for ‘Darwin’s Fox’ start at £1,098 for a week. Price includes damage waiver, diesel and gas for cooking, bed linen and towels, car parking, tuition and buoyancy aids. Pets are charged at £30 each.

3. Enjoy stunning Pennine scenery aboard ‘Lincoln’ – this 46ft cosy narrowboat for two launches this season from Drifters’ narrowboat rental base at Sowerby Bridge on the junction of the Calder & Hebble Navigation and Rochdale Canal in West Yorkshire. ‘Lincoln’ offers canal boat holiday-makers a fixed double cabin (plus convertible single bed in the saloon), an extra-large shower, LED lighting, central heating, radio CD player with 4 speakers, Bluetooth, USB, iPod and Android, TV/DVD, hairdryer, 240v electrical system, a well-equipped galley with hob and fitted oven and grill, microwave, fridge and dining table. ***ROUTES – On a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Todmorden and back along the Rochdale Canal, passing through the beautiful Calder Valley and stunning Pennine scenery along the way. ***PRICES for ‘Lincoln’ start at £485 for a short break, £745 for a week. Price includes damage waiver, cruising guide, comprehensive instruction, fuel, gas, parking, buoyancy aids, bed linen and first pet.

4. Visit historic Warwick aboard the spacious ‘Harry Hudson’ – new for the 2018 season, the 70ft ‘Harry Hudson’ has accommodation for up to six people, with two fixed doubles (one of which can also be set up as two fixed singles), each with an en suite toilet and shower room. The spacious lounge can also be made up as either twin singles or a large double. ‘Harry Hudson’ has a fully equipped galley, with a full sized gas cooker, fridge, microwave, and plenty of worktop space. The spacious lounge is equipped with TV, DVD, radio with CD player. There are 3-pin sockets throughout the boat, and a USB charging point. ***ROUTES – on a short break from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Warwick on the Grand Union Canal, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to Long Itchington and back, with plenty of historic canalside pubs to enjoy a along the way. On a week’s holiday, canal boat hirers can complete the Warwickshire Ring, passing through the centre of Birmingham as well as the beautiful Warwickshire countryside. ***PRICES for ‘Harry Hudson’ start at and £720 for a short break (three or four nights), £1,000 for a week. Price includes diesel, gas, car parking, tuition on arrival, buoyancy aids and bed linen. A non-refundable compulsory damage waiver is extra, and pets are charged at £25 each.

5. Step aboard the new Warbler at Worcester and complete the Mid-Worcestershire Ring – a brand new 69ft ‘Warbler’ narrowboat, with accommodation for up to eight people, will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat hire centre at Worcester from this July. The ‘Warbler’ has three flexible layout cabins (all with wider beds), two bathrooms, LED lighting throughout, two TV’s, a fully equipped kitchen with a dining table and a front deck table too. ***ROUTES – from Worcester on the River Severn, canal boat holiday-makers can complete the Mid-Warwickshire Ring on a short break, travelling 21 miles, through 33 locks in around 16 hours, stopping off to enjoy ‘The Ring’ series of art installations taking place there this year. On a week’s holiday, boaters can complete the longer Stourport Ring, travelling through Wolverhampton, Birmingham and the mighty Tardebigge Flight of locks. ***PRICES for the Warbler start at £999 for a short break (three or four nights), £1,599 for a week. Price includes damage waiver, gas, parking, tuition, towels, bedding and first pet. Fuel is extra, circa £10-15 per day. A fuel deposit of £50 is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week’s hire.

 

 

Treat your Mum to a relaxing day afloat

Celebrate Mother’s Day by treating your Mum to a relaxing day afloat, nourished by a picnic afloat or a pub lunch along the way.

Drifters offers day boat hire at 18 boat yards, 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’ Top 10 day boat destinations:

1. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – Drifters’ base at 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. After cruising over the Aqueduct, there are two tunnels to pass through – Whitehouses and Chirk, as well as Chirk Aqueduct with a viaduct running alongside it. It takes around two-and-a-half hours to reach Chirk and the Poacher’s Pocket pub at Glendrid. Alternatively, day boaters can head in the other direction and reach the pretty mountain-side town of Llangollen in just two hours. ****Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £120 for up to 10 people, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.

2. Cruise to the Canal Museum in Stoke Bruerne – from Drifters’ day boat hire base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, it takes around an hour to chug along to the pretty canalside village of Stoke Bruerne, passing through the 2,795-metre long Blisworth Tunnel along the way. Once there, day-boaters can moor up and visit the intriguing Canal Museum, whose stories, films and collections give visitors a fascinating look at the history of Britain’s canals. And there are plenty of places to eat in Stoke Bruerne, including the Boat Inn, Navigation Inn and the Museum’s Waterside Café. ****Day boat hire aboard ‘Daylark’ which can carry up to 12 people, starts at £130 on a weekday, £165 on weekends and bank holidays.

3. Head out into open countryside on the Coventry Canal – from Drifters’ base at Coventry Basin, day boaters can travel north out of the city past the Ricoh Stadium and out into the open countryside, reaching Hawkesbury Junction in around two peaceful hours. Here The Greyhound pub offers a great place to stop for lunch or dinner if you’ve opted for evening hire. ****’Mole Valley’ can take up to 12 passengers, weekday hire starts at £180, weekends and bank holidays it’s £210.

4. Catch a lift on Falkirk Wheel 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.

5. Visit the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ – Drifters’ base at 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. ****‘Daydream’ can carry up to 12 people, weekday hire starts at £150, weekends & bank holidays £180.

6. Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, boaters can 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. ****‘Rooster’ can carry up to eight people, weekday hire from £130, weekends & bank holidays £150.

7. 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 and a visit to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Mary Arden’s Farm, the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother. ****Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

8. Boat to beautiful Bradford on Avon – from Hilperton Marina near Trowbridge in Wiltshire on the beautiful Kennet & Avon, day boaters can head west to the picturesque historic town of Bradford on Avon, with its stunning medieval Tithe Barn and choice of pubs, independent cafes and restaurants, including the canalside Barge Inn. ****‘Cheers’ can carry up to 10 people, weekday hire starts at £105, weekends & bank holidays £130.

9. Tunnel through rural Worcestershire – from Tardebigge on the Worcester & 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 Hopwood. The route is lock-free but there are two tunnels to pass through, including Wast Hill Tunnel. ****‘Emma’ can carry up to 10 people each, weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays £140.

10. Cruise through the Leicestershire countryside to Foxton Locks – from Union Wharf in Market Harborough it’s a pleasant two-and-a-half hour cruise along the Grand Union Canal Leicester Line to the top of Foxton Locks, with stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, plenty of places to picnic and the historic waterside Foxton Locks Inn for a pub lunch or drink. 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. ****‘Moorhen’ can carry up to 12 people, weekday hire starts at £150, weekends & bank holidays from £200.

Top 8 Easter destinations afloat

Canal boat holidays are fantastic for families – offering the chance to set off on an adventure together, learning how to work the locks and speak the boating lingo, as well as spotting wildlife, exploring traffic-free towpaths and visiting waterside attractions along the way.

Drifters’ prices this Easter start at £495 for a short break on a boat for four people, £775 for a week.

Here are our top eight destinations for Easter 2018:

1. Visit the World’s biggest Cadbury shop at Cadbury World – 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, boaters can travel right into the heart of the City where over-night moorings are available at Gas Street Basin, close to Brindleyplace with plenty for families to see and do, including penguin feeding at the National Sea Life Centre and the Planetarium at Birmingham’s Science Museum Thinktank.

2. Join the Easter Boat Gathering at the National Waterways Museum – over the Easter Weekend, 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 (travelling 21 miles through 12 locks), where canal boat holiday-makers can moor up and join the celebrations, passing through the historic City of Chester along the way.

3. Take in a show at the Egg theatre in Bath – on a short break from Drifters’ base at Hilperton near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, boaters can travel gently along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal, passing through Bradford on Avon and reaching Bath Top Lock in just seven hours, with just one lock to pass through. From there, it’s a short walk to Georgian Bath’s City Centre attractions, including the Roman Baths and the Theatre Royal’s award-winning egg theatre where each evening from 29 March to 8 April a different selection of new plays written and performed by local adults and children will be performed as part of the theatre’s ‘Out of Your Mind’ event.

4. Go on an Easter Egg Hunt at Kinver Edge – from our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s a 20-hour, 37-mile, 32-lock journey to Kinver on the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal. Kinver Edge offers visitors miles of wildlife-rich health land and woods to explore, and over the Easter weekend, starting from the site’s ancient Rock Houses, the National Trust is hosting daily Easter Egg Hunts. Kinver is on the route of the Stourport Ring, which can be navigated on a week’s holiday from Tardebigge, travelling a total of 76 miles via Birmingham, Kidderminster, Stourport and Worcester.

5. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from Drifters’ base at Chirk on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen can be reached on a short break. Standing at over 125ft high above the Dee Valley, the incredible 1,000ft long Pontcysyllte Aqueduct 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. On a week’s holiday, boaters can also head east along the Llangollen Canal to Ellesmere and the historic town of Whitchurch.

6. See a T-Rex skeleton at the National Museum of Scotland – from our boat yard at Falkirk, at the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals, on a mid-week (four night) or week’s break, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh and back. The journey starts with trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift, which lifts boats 100ft from the Forth & Clyde Canal to the Union Canal above. Once in Edinburgh, narrowboat holiday-makers can moor up in Edinburgh Quay to enjoy the City’s attractions, including the National Museum of Scotland’s Natural World Gallery with stuffed and model animals from around the world and a recreated Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton.

7. Wend your way to Warwick Castle – said to be Britain’s greatest Medieval experience, Warwick Castle is a leisurely day’s cruise from Drifters’ Stockton base on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire. Once there, canal boat holiday-makers can moor up in the centre of Warwick to explore the Castle and enjoy some of the special events planned there for Easter to celebrate the 950th anniversary of William the Conqueror’s motte and bailey castle, including the new ‘Conqueror’s Fortress’ interactive exhibition exploring the castle’s fascinating founding story and ‘Knight’s School’ where visitors can learn tactical defence skills.

8. Star Gaze in the Brecon Beacons – isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park, now officially an International Dark Sky Reserve, one of only five in the world. Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, this peaceful waterway, with very few locks, offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views, a series of historic village pubs to visit along the way and dark skies perfect for star-gazing and seeing the Blue Moon on 31 March. On a short break from Drifters’ base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, boaters can cruise lock-free to Llangynidr and back, passing the Lion Inn at Govilon and the Bridge End Inn at Llangattock. On a week’s break, boaters can travel on to Brecon, passing through Talybont-on-Usk with its popular White Hart and Star inns.

Ten reasons to take a canal boat holiday

With Britain’s inland waterways in better shape than ever, narrowboat holidays are becoming increasingly popular, and there are now more boats on the canal network than at the height of the Industrial Revolution.

Each year, around one fifth of canal boat hirers are newcomers. A licence isn’t required to steer a narrowboat and all our operators provide boat steering tuition as part of their holiday packages, so it’s easy to get afloat.

Here are our Top 10 reasons to take a canal boat holiday:

1. 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, as a whole new steadier pace of life takes over

2. Escape the screen – there’s plenty to keep idle hands busy – helping to steer and maintain the boat, work the locks and plan the route – so iPad addicts are happy to take a break from their screens

3. Freedom – 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 stop for the night

4. Fitness – working the locks, exploring local towns and villages, cycling the towpaths and being out in the fresh air are all the ideal antidote to stuffy gyms and office blues

5. The greener way – 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

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

7. You can bring your pet – pets are welcome on almost all our boats, and as well as dogs, we’ve welcomed many other kinds of pets, including rabbits, hamsters, caged birds, goldfish and tortoises

8. History is all around – thousands of historic structures make up the waterway system, including the soaring majesty of the World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales and the awesome three-mile-long Standedge Tunnel deep beneath the Pennines

9. Watch out for wildlife – waterways provide homes for large numbers of birds, plants and animals, including many protected species like water voles, otters and kingfishers, so there’s always something special to look out for

10. It’s a home from home – our floating holiday homes offer all the essential mod cons, including central heating, hot water, well equipped kitchens, TVs, DVD players, showers, flushing toilets and many now have WiFi too.

Top 4 Romantic Destinations Afloat

Cosy double berths, quiet moorings and historic canalside pubs with roaring log fires make canals the perfect Romantic hideaway.

Drifters offers winter cruising* and romantic boats for two from a number of its bases, giving couples the chance to escape on board their very own ‘love boat’.

Today’s canal boats are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons, including central heating, hot water, televisions and DVD players, and many now have Wifi too. So whatever the weather, it’s always nice and cosy on board.

Here are Drifters’ Top four romantic destinations for Valentine’s 2018:

1. Propose across the ‘Stream in the Sky’ – the awe-inspiring 300 metre-long World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which soars nearly 40 metres high above the rushing waters of the River Dee, is truly one of the wonders of the waterways. And what a place to propose?! From Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, close to the aqueduct, a short break to Frankton Junction and back offers the chance to explore the beautiful Vale of Llangollen and stop off at cosy country pubs along the way, like the Poacher’s Pocket at Gledrid.

2. Visit Georgian Bath and its romantic Pulteney Bridge – from our narrowboat hire centre on the Kennet & Avon Canal in the World Heritage Status City of Bath, it takes two hours, passing through six locks, to reach city centre moorings close to the romantic Pulteney Bridge. Together with the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Pulteney Bridge is one of the World’s most beautiful bridges, and is one of only a handful of historic bridges in the world with shops built into it. Bath offers a huge variety of places restaurants for romantic dining, including the ‘Sotto Sotto’ costy Italian restaurant set in one of Bath’s many underground vaults.

3. Potter through the rural ‘heart of the canal network’ – from Drifters’ boat yard in the historic canal village of Braunston at the heart of the canal network, on a short break (three or four nights) couples can cruise gently through the Northamptonshire countryside to the pretty village of Crick and back, stopping off at rural locals along the way, including The New Inn at Buckby Wharf, serving traditional British pub food. On a week’s holiday, canal boat holiday-makers can continue on to Foxton Locks, with stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside all around.

4. Cruise lock-free through the Warwickshire countryside – on a short break from canal boat yard at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes seven peaceful hours, passing through the beautiful Warwickshire countryside and remnants of the ancient Forest of Arden, to reach the village of Hockley Heath on the Stratford Canal. With no locks along the way, there’s plenty of time to stand together at the tiller, watching the world go by. Once at Hockley Heath, couples can moor up to enjoy a drink at The Wharf Tavern and take a stroll to the pretty red brick church of St Thomas.

*NB Winter stoppages affect some routes

Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2018

With boats travelling at a maximum speed of 4mph, and over 3,000 miles of navigable peaceful inland waterways to explore across Britain, canal boat holidays really are the fastest way to slow down.  From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, narrowboat holiday-makers can use their boat as a floating holiday home to explore.

Drifters’ offers over 580 boats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales. 2018 hire prices start at £395 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £575 for a week. Tuition is included in all our holiday packages.

There are hundreds of routes and destinations to choose from, but to help plan your next boating adventure, here are our Top 10 narrowboat holidays for 2018:

1. Visit the newly reopened iconic Piece Hall in Halifax…on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge, Salterhebble Basin on the Halifax Branch of the Calder & Hebble Navigation is a two mile cruise away. From there, it’s a two mile walk to Piece Hall, one of the most iconic heritage buildings in Britain. Once the centre of the global woollen trade, following a multi-million-pound transformation, this monumental Georgian structure with its immense, open air piazza is now home to a mix of independent bars, shops and cafes, and a seasonal programme of events.

2. See the pop-up art installations on the Droitwich Ring…as part of the Canal & River Trust’s Arts of the Waterways programme, the charity which cares for our canals and rivers is commissioning artists to produce dynamic temporary artworks and live events along the 21-mile long Droitwich Ring, for visitors to enjoy from March to September 2018. The restoration of the Droitwich Canals was completed in 2011, reconnecting them to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and the River Severn, and creating a canal boat holiday cruising ring that can be completed on a short break (three or four nights), travelling through 33 locks in around 15 hours from Drifters’ Worcester base.

3. Marvel at the Caen Hill Flight at Devizes…arguably the most impressive flight of locks on the UK waterway network, the spectacular 16 locks in a row climbing Caen Hill on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, forms the middle section of 29-lock flight stretching for two miles and raising the canal up by 237ft. The Caen Hill Locks were the final section of the canal to be completed in 1810 and one of the final sections to be restored before the re-opening of the Kennet & Avon Canal in 1990. From Drifters’ boatyard at Hilperton near Trowbridge, it’s a four-hour cruise, travelling seven miles, through seven locks, to reach Fox Hanger Wharf at the base of the Caen Hill Flight. It takes a further five hours to reach the top of the flight.

4. Follow the Lime Kiln Trail on the Mon & Brec…isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park and is home to a series of historic lime kilns. Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, this peaceful waterway, with very few locks, offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views and a fascinating insight into the history of lime production, in an area where both limestone and coal were in plentiful supply. On a short break from Drifters’ base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, boaters can cruise lock-free to Llangynidr and back, with lime kilns to visit along the way at Goytre, Gilwern and Llangattock.

5. See the ancient topiary at Packwood House…From our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it’s a seven-mile, 31-lock and 10-hour journey through the Forest of Arden to Lapworth Lock No 6. From there it’s a half-mile walk to the National Trust’s beautiful timber-framed Tudor manor house, Packwood House, where, according to legend, the famous 350-year old trees in Packwood’s iconic Yew Garden represent the ‘Sermon on the Mount’.

6. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’…from Drifters’ base at Chirk on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct can be reached on a short break. 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.

7. Discover the story of the Staffordshire Hoard…from our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s a five-hour (three-lock) journey to Gas Street Basin in the centre of Birmingham, a short walk from dozens of top attractions, including the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. Here visitors can see the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found and learn about its warrior history. Hundreds of pieces from the Hoard are on show, along with hands-on displays exploring how these intriguing items were used, before they were buried some 1,400 years ago.

8. Cruise the Cheshire Ring for some stunning Pennine views…on a week’s break from our Anderton base on the Trent & Mersey Canal, narrowboat holiday-makers can cruise the 97-mile, 92-lock Cheshire Ring in around 48 hours. This popular circuit takes six different waterways, the incredible Victorian Anderton Boat Lift and a complete range of canal scenery, including spectacular views of the Pennines from the Macclesfield Canal, gentle rolling Cheshire countryside on the Trent & Mersey Canal, and the lively city centre of Manchester on the Rochdale Canal.

9. Climb Edinburgh’s extinct volcano for stunning views of the city…From Drifters’ base at Falkirk, at the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals, on a week’s break narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh and back. The journey starts with trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift, which lifts boats 100ft from the Forth & Clyde Canal to the Union Canal above. The 32-mile journey along the Union Canal to Edinburgh passes through three locks and takes around 11 hours. Once at there, boaters can moor up at Edinburgh Quay, and walk through Holyrood Park to the top of Arthur’s Seat for stunning views of the city below.

10. Pass through Blisworth Tunnel to reach the Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne…on a week’s break from Drifters’ base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise gently through the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire countryside to the canalside village of Stoke Bruerne, passing through the 2,813-metre long Blisworth Tunnel, the third longest on the network. Once in Stoke Bruerne, visitors can enjoy a choice of canalside pubs, woodland walks and browsing the intriguing waterway history collections at the Canal Museum. The journey to Stoke Bruerne travels 30 miles, passing through 22 locks and takes around 19 hours.

A family afloat in Yorkshire – spending quality time together

A recent survey suggested that the pace and pressures of 21st-century living are taking their toll, with families, on average, now spending fewer than seven hours of quality time together each week.

Heron Publications editor Mike Firth decided to do something to redress the balance by taking his family – and their dog – on a canal boat holiday in Yorkshire. Setting off from Drifters’ Sowerby Bridge narrowboat hire base:

Please excuse me if I nod off while writing this holiday feature. You see, I’m just back from a tranquil autumn midweek family break, cruising along the Rochdale Canal, travelling so steadily that we were often overtaken by ducks and geese.

It was peacefulness personified and a wonderful time of year to barge through the backwaters of the Pennines, with red, yellow and golden leaves reflected in the mirror of the waterway.

Wife Helen had often commented on how much she would enjoy holidaying on a cruise, but I could tell from the expression on her face that our starting point just up the M1 in West Yorkshire hadn’t quite been what she’d had in mind.

But, along with teenage daughter Olivia, we had watched the pre-holiday instruction DVD and also checked out the latest canal adventures of Timothy West and Prunella Scales, so we were ready, willing and able to take to the waterway.

After being given a thorough bow-to-stern introduction to our 48ft red and blue boat called ‘Norfolk’, we cruised gingerly out of the large Sowerby Bridge boatyard, heading westwards on the Rochdale Canal. But there was most certainly no gentle introduction to what would be our way of life for the next five days.

Waiting to greet us just around the corner was a dimly-lit, 114-yard, ‘L’-shaped tunnel, leading us through to the deepest lock ever dug in the UK.

However, we were delighted that at this stage we were still receiving assistance from our instructor (Thanks, Stan!) and even more pleased when we learned that this cavern of a lock came equipped with its own professional lock-keeper.

Once tens of thousands of gallons of water had lifted us all of 19ft 8in (6m), the huge gates ahead of us yawned wide apart and – now on our own – we tentatively moved ahead.

And this was the moment our holiday really began.
I mentioned that our family break was a peaceful affair – and so it was for me at the tiller. However, miles of total tranquility were punctuated by frantic activity and an adrenalin rush whenever we approached a lock. And this canal offered plenty of them.

Fortunately, Helen rose to the challenge of working them all and, with Olivia ensuring our ropes kept us steady, my role was to ensure the boat was kept away from the sides and also the dangerous lock cills.

With most of the locks wide enough for two boats, the workload – and conversation – was shared with other floating families.

The scenery was a mixture of glorious countryside, old stone mills and the backsides of industrial units, with walkers, cyclists and workers all offering cheery greetings from the towpath.

The canal was broad in most places, a tight squeeze in others, and I soon learned to keep to the centre of the water wherever possible, as in the edges it was often only a couple of feet deep. When something approached in the opposite direction – which thankfully only happened three or four times – the way of the water was to pass on the right-hand side.

Controlling the throttle and tiller soon became second nature and standing there with a bacon butty and mug of coffee was the perfect way to start each day.

Although this was late autumn, the boat was warm and comfortable. With two made-up double beds, a well-equipped kitchen, toilet, shower, central-heating, TV, hair-dryer and more storage room than we had imagined possible, there was also plenty of space for the three of us, plus Harry the Basset Hound. He was bemused as to why we had finally slowed down to his pace of life.

After a first-night mooring at Luddenden Foot – and a great take-away Indian meal – day two saw us progress up a series of locks to Hebden Bridge, entering the town by what appeared to be the back door.

With many fascinating shops, cosy cafes, great pubs, a lovely park and helpful Tourist Information Centre, we were all well taken with the place and celebrated with a hearty meal at the Shoulder of Mutton – recommended.

With no real timetable to stick to and no urgency whatsoever, day three saw us take on water supplies and pootle up a few more of the canal’s locks towards Todmorden where the moment I had secretly dreaded – performing a three-point turn with people watching from the towpath – passed off so smoothly that I wished I could have done it again!

So now we were on our return journey in an easterly and downwards direction and for some reason the lock manoeuvres were far smoother and speedier.

With plenty of Hebden Bridge still to explore, we decided to moor there again for the evening and spent our time on board playing board games and watching DVDs.

The weather was glorious on day four and as we reluctantly made our way back towards Sowerby Bridge, I spotted rabbits and squirrels beside the water and fed the crusts from my morning bacon sandwiches to grateful Mallards and Muscovy ducks.

There was a queue of half-a-dozen boats awaiting assistance from the lock-keeper at the mighty Tuel Lock, but no-one was in any rush and the delay provided all crews with a perfect opportunity to exchange stories and experiences.

We could have gone on to explore a little of the Calder and Hebble Navigation Canal, but instead decided to moor up for the night just below our final lock and head to the nearby Moorings pub to celebrate a wonderful family holiday.

Next morning we returned to base, commenting on what a revolutionary innovation canals and locks must have been more than two centuries ago, enabling all manner of goods to be transported from town to town, up and down hills. But where Pennine waterways such as the Rochdale Canal were once the domain of industry, nowadays they offer delightful pleasures for ramblers, walkers, day-trippers – and boating folk like us!

Top 12 facts about canal boats

1. Don’t call it a barge – as its name suggests, a narrowboat is not a barge as they are just seven feet wide and designed to fit Britain’s canal locks, while barges are at least twice as wide

2. Size matters – narrowboats range in length from 32ft to 70ft, and provide accommodation for between two and 12 people

3. Keep to the right when passing other boats – unlike cars on our roads, narrowboats move to the right when passing, otherwise it’s best to stay in the middle

4. You don’t need a licence to steer our boats – but all our canal boat hire operators provide expert tuition on arrival, as well as detailed information in advance of your narrowboat holiday

5. You can cook a proper meal – a gas oven, fridge, pots, pans, cooking utensils and crockery are all provided in the galley

6. You can bring your pet – up to two dogs or other pets are allowed on board many of our boats, and charges vary depending on the operator.

7. It’s nice and cosy on board – as all our boats have central heating, and some also have multi-fuel stoves

8. Toilets are fully flushing – our boats are fitted with flushing toilets and showers are fed by the boat’s hot water tank

9. There’s entertainment on board – all our boats have a TV, radio and DVD player, and many also have WiFi and we recommend bringing a pack of cards and some board games to play while on your canal boat holiday too

10. You can’t go over 1,000 watts – hairdryers, straighteners, phone and computer chargers, and other electrical appliances that use up to 1,000 watts can be used on board, but anything using above 1,000 watts won’t work

11. Special equipment is there for you – life jackets are available on request and many of our operators provide wet weather overalls for the helmsman

12. There’s a choice of stern – the backs of our boats have either a ‘cruiser stern’ or are ‘semi traditional’. The ‘cruiser stern’ gives you an open back deck, with room for a number of people to stand. While the ‘semi traditional’ gives a smaller rear deck with a seating area which can be enclosed with doors. Some people like having the larger deck for a number of people to congregate on, while others prefer the seating in the ‘semi traditional’ as it can be good for keeping dogs and children in a defined area.