Miranda Krestovnikoff on her canal boat holiday in Wales

Miranda Krestovnikoff, TV presenter and president of the RSPB, describes her recent Drifters canal boat holiday on the Mon & Brec Canal in South Wales:

It’s been several years since we’ve ventured out on the canals. On our last trip, a few years back, we chose to go in late October as it was half term. My long lasting memory was how cold it was. This year we hit the July heatwave and were thankful of the shade of the woodland we floated through, as the sun was so hot. It couldn’t have been more different!

We spent five days on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, travelling from Goytre Wharf to Talybont-on-Usk and back – a most scenic and tranquil route through breath-taking scenery, made even more beautiful by the fact that many parts of the canal are elevated and the views are just spectacular.

Arriving Monday lunchtime, we all boarded in a rush. Kids eager to grab the best bed, me trying to figure out where to put all our stuff and the dog clearly very unhappy. She’s not a water dog, although she had been on a few boats before. Tail between her legs, she looked at me – very put out.

Keen to get going, we cast off. I had forgotten how slowly it all went.

“Chugging” is the only speed you can really go at. You just accept that it is going to take ages to get from A to B. So you can’t fight it, you just need to let the canal take over and breathe….

Nothing could be done fast and most things had to be left to chance – which is calming and frustrating all at once. I’m a planner so I like to have my days and trips mapped out. Here there is only one option – to go forward until you get to where you want to stop….

Once we had woken up the next morning, everything seemed different. We had left our busy lives behind and entered the “canal zone” – ready to take in the scenery, the wildlife, peace and tranquillity that you can only get from being a long way for roads and cities.

Even the dog had stopped pacing backwards and forwards and whining, as she had done on the first day. She stopped looking longingly at the towpath, looking for an opportunity to jump off and was happily sleeping with the kids at the bow as they sat whittling hazel twigs.

I sat at the back with my husband, drinking tea and just watching everything floating by. Rustles in the reeds could have been a water vole or even otter, but were more often than not a lost duckling, separated from mum by this 48 foot barge gliding through its home. Sorry!

Life was still and calm. The kids were occupied and we could watch the wildlife. Moving so slowly, you don’t really disturb it. Herons merely glanced at us from their perches as we slid by underneath them. Kingfishers darted past – a flash of colour and then they were gone. At night we moored up in the woods, listening to the tawny owls hunting with their new fledglings, bats flew past as we took the dog out for a last walk before bed and all was so utterly still. It was perfect.

I loved the people that we met, too. Obviously similar types to us – walkers, cyclists, kayakers, paddle boarders and people just enjoying life on the water. Conversations at lochs resulted in the exchange of information about local pubs, interesting walks and how best to try and turn this big beast of a barge around when we got halfway! People were quiet and considerate at night and I slept so well from a combination of fresh air, good food and peace.

It was the ultimate getaway. We returned our narrowboat recharged and relaxed. The children had learnt about lochs, and helming a huge boat, whittled more hazel sticks than I care to imagine and played a lot of cards. We didn’t use the TV or the WiFi (although they were available). We just enjoyed being a family, together. Even the dog didn’t even want to leave. Now… when can we book up next…?

Tags:
Posted in boating boating holidays canal boat holidays narrowboat hire narrowboat holidays Short breaks by pressguru. Comments Off on Miranda Krestovnikoff on her canal boat holiday in Wales

Top of the locks

There are over 1,800 locks on the 2,000 miles of navigable waterways in England and Wales, all enabling boats to travel up and down hills.

These structures have been around for hundreds of years but can be daunting for canal boat holiday newcomers, especially when there are lots of them in quick succession.

Fortunately there’s no mystery to using locks – just a series of step-by-step tasks. A lock is simply a chamber with gates at either end. By emptying or filling the chamber with water, boats can move up or down onto a new section of waterway.

There are many different kinds of locks, but they all on work on a similar principle. With the lock gates closed, boaters should open the sluices (paddles) to let the water in or out and when the water level under the boat is the same as the level it’s moving to, the boat can move in or out of the lock.

Some locks are operated by boaters, others by lock-keepers. Tuition is included in all Drifters canal boat holiday packages, and during the handover procedure boat yard staff will usually take canal boat holiday-makers through their first lock.

Here at Drifters’ we’ve put together our Top 6 flights of locks to celebrate these marvels of canal engineering:

1. Caen Hill – One of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ and a Scheduled Ancient Monument, the flight of locks at Caen Hill on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes in Wiltshire has to be one of the most iconic sites on the waterway network. With 29 locks spread out over two miles, raising the canal by 72 metres, it takes around six hours to passage through. The 16-lock section clustered together up the hill is truly a magnificent site. Drifters’ Devizes narrowboat hire base is at the base of the Flight at Foxhangers Marina.

2. Tardebigge – with 30 locks spread out over two-and-a-quarter miles, this awesome flight of locks on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal in Worcestershire is the longest on the inland waterways system. In total, the locks raise and lower boats 67 metres and it takes around five-and-a-half hours to travel through them. In recognition of the effort it takes, the Canal & River Trust issues certificates to boaters rising (or lowering) to the challenge. Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is at the top of the flight at Tardebigge Wharf.

3. Bingley 5 Rise – another of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’, this spectacular staircase of five locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Bradford, raises (or lowers) boats 18 metres in five cavernous chambers. The locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom of the next, and it takes around one-and-a-half hours to work through. The size of the chambers can be intimidating even for experienced boaters, but friendly lock-keepers are on hand to help. Drifters’ nearest canal boat rental base is 25 miles and 20 locks away at Barnoldswick.

4. Hatton – nicknamed ‘The Stairway to Heaven’ by the boaters who once carried cargos on the canals, this impressive flight of 21 locks on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire raises boats up 45 metres over two miles, and takes around four-and-a-half hours to travel through. Just below the Top lock, boaters will find the popular Hatton Locks Café for welcome refreshment and usually plenty of “gongoozlers” watching boats passing through the locks too! Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is at Warwick, just two miles and two locks from Hattton Bottom Lock.

5. Foxton – surrounded by stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, this set of 10 locks on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal raises boats up 23 metres in just a quarter-of-a-mile. Foxton Locks is the longest set of staircase locks in the UK – where the locks open directly one from another so that the top gate of one forms the bottom of the next – and they are designated a Grade II Listed structure. It takes around 45 minutes to pass through and there are lock keepers on hand to help, providing key advice when it comes to opening the paddles – “Red before white, you’ll be alright. White before red, you’ll be dead.” Drifters’ nearest narrowboat boat hire base is just two and a half hours away at Market Harborough.

6. Marple – one of the steepest flights on the system, the 16 locks on the stunning Peak Forest Canal at Marple raise boats by 64 metres over just one mile. The locks are built of local stone and are mostly tree-lined, giving the canal a lovely secluded feeling. In fact the Peak Forest Canals is said to be one of Britain’s most scenic waterways, running through beautiful countryside on the edge of the Peak District National Park. Drifters’ Peak District canal boat hire base is 32 miles and 14 locks away from the bottom of the Marple Flight.

Enjoy Christmas on the canals

With frosty towpaths, cosy fires and historic waterside pubs, a holiday on Britain’s peaceful canal network can be a great antidote to the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

Drifters offers winter cruising* from a number of its bases, with boats ranging from snug narrowboats for two to family vessels for twelve.

It’s free to moor almost anywhere on the network, so a narrowboat could provide the perfect base for a rural retreat or base to enjoy Christmas and New Year celebrations in exciting waterside destinations like Warwick and Stratford upon Avon.

All Drifters’ boats have central heating, hot water, televisions and DVD players. Some also have multi-fuel stoves and Wifi. So, whatever the weather, it’s always nice and cosy on board.

Drifters’ prices over Christmas and New Year start at start at £649 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, weekly hire from £860.

*NB some of our routes will be affected by winter maintenance work on the canal network.

Here’s our Top 5 Christmas and New Year breaks afloat for 2018:

1. Wend your way to Warwick for Christmas at the Castle – on a week’s break from Drifters’ base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to Warwick and back to explore its stunning medieval castle on the banks of the River Avon. Over Christmas, visitors the castle will find a 20-foot high Christmas tree in the Great Hall, ‘Stories with Santa’ in the Library, ‘A Winter Wedding’ in the Princess Tower and a spectacular Winter Birds of Prey show. Top mooring sites along the way include Long Itchington with its choice of six pubs, including ‘The Duck on the Pond’ in the village and the Blue Lias pub at the bottom of the Stockton flight.

2. Amble along the Ashby Canal to Snarestone on the edge of the National Forest – on a week’s break from Drifters’ base at Stretton-under-Fosse near Rugby, boaters can head north along the Oxford Canal to the outskirts of Coventry to reach the peaceful Ashby Canal, and from there enjoy 22 miles of lock-free cruising. Along the way, canal boat holiday-makers can enjoy visiting a series of historic canalside pubs, including the Rose & Castle at Ansty, The Greyhound at Hawkesbury Junction and The Lime Kilns at Watling Street, as well as visiting the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field, where in 1485 King Richard lost his crown to Henry Tudor. At the village of Snarestone, located on the edge of the National Forest, the Globe Inn 19th century coaching inn, offers an open fire classic British menu using local ethical ingredients. The journey there and back, travels 63 miles and with just one lock to pass through each way, it offers around 26 hours of tranquil countryside cruising.

3. Soar across the Stream in the Sky to Llangollen – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Blackwater on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel to the Eistedfordd town of Llangollen and back, passing over the awesome World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This magnificent feat of Victorian engineering carries the canal 300 metres above the Dee Valley, with incredible views to enjoy. Top mooring sites along the way include The Poacher’s Pocket pub at Gledrid and the Aqueduct Inn at Froncysyllte. Once at Langollen, boaters can enjoy walks through dramatic scenery, a ride on a steam train or a visit to the National Trust’s Plas Newydd Georgian manor house.

4. Explore Stratford and Shakespeare country afloat – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Stratford upon Avon, it’s a picturesque five-hour cruise along the Stratford Canal to the little village of Wootton Wawen, with its Yew Tree Farm Shopping Village, offering visitors a Farm Shop, Cowshed Café, antiques and crafts. And once back in Stratford, canal boat holiday-makers can take time to enjoy the historic town’s marvellous Christmas lights, markets, grottos, carol singers, traditional pubs, ghost walks, shops, Swan Theatre, cosy waterside restaurants and museums, including Shakespeare’s Birthplace. Top mooring sites along the way include the summit of the Wilmcote Flight for access to the village of Wilmcote, with Mary Arden Farm Museum and Mary Arden Inn. Along the 14-mile return journey, boaters encounter 32 locks.

5. Cruise gently through the countryside to Fradley – from our canal boat holiday hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can head south, reaching Fradley Junction in five hours. The journey passes through 12 peaceful miles of countryside, with just five locks to negotiate along the way, passing The Wolseley Centre run by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and the village of Rugeley with its canalside Mossley Tavern. At Fradley, boaters can enjoy refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn and explore the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.

Top 8 October Half Term Canal Boat Holidays

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

So if you are thinking of packing up and shipping out this October half term, take a look at our top 8 destinations, all suitable for beginners:

1. Glide through the Usk Valley to Brecon and back – the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal offers 35 miles of quiet countryside to explore with incredible views of the Brecon Beacons. From our canal boat hire base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, on a week’s break boaters can cruise through the wooded Usk Valley to the pretty market town of Brecon and back. Along the way, boaters can stop off at Llanfoist to take the old tramway into the Black Mountains, the Georgian town of Crickhowell with its 13th century castle, and Talybont-on-Usk, with walking access to Blaen y Glyn waterfalls. The total journey there and back travels 51 miles, passing through 12 locks and takes around 25 hours.

2. Visit Georgian Bath afloat – on a short break from our narrowboat boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, right next to the spectacular Caen Hill flight of locks, canal boat holiday-makers can travel west to the beautiful World Heritage Status City of Bath, famous for its stunning Georgian architecture. Along the way, boaters travel across two magnificent aqueducts crafted out of Bath stone and can enjoy stopping off at some excellent canalside pubs, including the Barge Inn at Seend, the Lock Inn at Bradford upon Avon and the Cross Guns at Avoncliff. Arriving at Sydney Gardens just outside Bath City Centre, boaters can find quiet moorings just a 15-minute walk from Bath’s major attractions. The journey to Bath takes around nine hours, travelling 19 miles and passing through eight locks.

3. Amble along the Ashby to Snarestone and back – on a week’s holiday from our boat yard 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, boaters can transfer onto the peaceful lock-free Ashbury Canal, which winds peacefully through countryside for almost the whole of its 22-mile length. From Carlton Bridge to Snarestone, the canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Along the way, boaters pass close to Market Bosworth and the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field. Here in 1485 the reign of Richard III ended and Henry Tudor became Henry VII, the first of the Tudor monarchs.

4. Visit the historic Yorkshire mill town of Hebden Bridge…on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation through the Calder Valley to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills. Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, the journey to Hebden Bridge covers seven miles, 10 locks and takes around five and a half hours. Once at Hebden, boaters can moor in the centre of town to enjoy a good choice of pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops and markets as well as stunning walks up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags.

5. Explore Birmingham by boat – with more canals than Venice and incredible canalside regeneration areas like Brindleyplace, there’s no better way to explore Birmingham than by boat. From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes just five hours to reach City Centre moorings at Gas Street Basin, the perfect base for exploring the many attractions of Britain’s vibrant Second City, including the fantastic Thinktank Science Museum. With no locks along the way, it’s a great route for beginners to enjoy testing the waters.

6. Potter to Sale and back via Lymm – from our canal boat hire base at Acton Bridge on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, it takes around eight peaceful hours, travelling 22 miles and passing through just one lock to reach Sale Bridge. Along the way, narrowboat holiday-makers encounter the 1,133-metre long Preston Tunnel and cruise along a section of the Bridgewater Canal, which passes through the pretty town of Lymm.

7. Cruise through the Scottish lowlands to Linlithgow and back – from Drifters’ canal boat hire 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 – perfect for a short break (three or four nights). The route starts with a journey through the Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first rotating boat lift which replaced a flight of 11 locks and then passes through two tunnels and two aqueducts, plus miles of peaceful countryside before reaching Linlithgow. Once there, narrowboat holiday-makers can visit the beautifully preserved remains of Linlithgow Palace on the shores of Linlithgow Loch, the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, and sample some of the town’s excellent eateries, including the award-winning Four Marys pub.

8. Travel across the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular on the network. On a short break from our canal barge hire base at Trevor, boaters can travel seven peaceful miles to Ellesmere and back, with just two locks to pass through and the magnificent World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, with stunning views of the Dee Valley below to travel across. Once at Ellesmere, boaters can explore the famous Mere with its historic castle, woodland paths and fascinating wildlife.

Top 9 Halloween destinations afloat

With ghosts galore, bats, toads, moths, spiders and frogs aplenty – as well as creepy tunnels, spooky locks and misty towpaths – Britain’s 2,000-mile, 200-year old canal network provides the perfect backdrop for a haunting Halloween.

Here’s a guide to our spookiest destinations for Halloween 2018:

1. Look out for the ghost of the lusty farm hand – originally an 18th century farm house, The Blue Lias pub on the Grand Union Canal at the bottom of the Stockton flight in Warwickshire, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a red-haired farm labourer who was murdered when the vengeful farmer returned home from market one day to find the labourer in bed with his wife. The Blue Lias pub is just under a mile and eight locks away from our canal boat rental base at Stockton.

2. Steel yourself for a visit from the Viscount – Once a 13th century monastery, The George Inn at Bathampton is said to be haunted by the ghost of Viscount John Baptiste Du Barre, who mortally wounded in the last legal duel fought in Britain. The Viscount was reputedly a decadent man who held lavish parties and enjoyed gambling. Following an argument over a card game, a challenge was thrown down and on 18 November 1778, he and his opponent met on Claverton Down at dawn. Drifters’ narrowboat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath is a 20-minute cruise from the George Inn.

3. Hear echoes of 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 his headless corpse was dumped in the canal. Harecastle Tunnel can be reached in around 12 hours (travelling 22 miles through 18 locks) from our canal boat rental base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford.

4. Witness some ghostly goings-on at The Navigation Inn – the Navigation Inn on the Calder & Hebble Navigation at Sowerby Bridge dates back to the 15th century, and served travellers along the old salt road from Chester to York long before the canal was built. According to the landlord, there’s plenty of supernatural activity in this ancient building, including noises in the cellar, clocks that mysteriously stop and spirits that appear in the kitchen. The Navigation Inn is very close to our canal boat yard at Sowerby Bridge.

5. Beware the blood stained steps at Brindley Bank – the Trent & Mersey Canal at Brindley Bank Aqueduct in Staffordshire, is said to be haunted by Christina Collins, who was murdered there on 17 June 1839 and her body flung into the canal. Three boatmen were convicted of her killing; two were hanged, the third transported. As Christina’s body was dragged from the water, her blood ran down a flight of sandstone steps leading from the canal, and it is said that the stain occasionally reappears on those stones. Brindley Bank is just over an hour away from our narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

6. 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. Canal boat holiday-makers can hire a boat from Drifters’ base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, and reach Chester in seven hours, and passing through nine locks.

7. Look out for the Monkey Man at Norbury – the Shropshire Union Canal is said to be Britain’s most haunted canal with five ghosts along its length, including the terrifying ‘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. Narrowboat holiday-makers can head north from boat yard at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal near Stafford, reaching Bridge 39 in around four and a half hours.

8. Prepare to be spooked at Blisworth Tunnel – on the Grand Union Canal at Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire, the Blisworth Tunnel has spooked a number of boaters over the years. At 2,795 metres long, it’s one of the longest on the canal system. When construction began in 1793, the tunnel was a major engineering challenge. 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…? .The Blisworth Tunnel is less than an hour away from our canal boat hire base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire.

9. Watch out for an 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 UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which carries canal boat holiday-makers 38 metres high in the air above the River Dee. From our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, it’s a 10-minute cruise to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

All aboard for autumn afloat on the canals

A canal boat holiday is a great way to enjoy the vibrant colours of autumn in the hedgerows and trees that line our waterways – dramatically mirrored in the water.

There’s plenty of wildlife to spot along the way during the autumn months, including flocks of fieldfare and redwing searching for hawthorn berries, and wood mice and bank voles stocking up on food before the winter.

There are also foraging opportunities for people along the way – apples, blackberries, elderberries, damsons and sloes all make fabulous ingredients for fresh fruit crumbles and drinks on board.

Here are Drifters’ top seven destinations this autumn:

1. Amble along the Ashby to Snarestone and back – 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, boaters can transfer onto the peaceful lock-free Ashbury Canal, which winds peacefully through countryside for almost the whole of its 22-mile length. From Carlton Bridge to Snarestone, the canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Along the way, boaters pass close to Market Bosworth and the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field. Here in 1485 the reign of Richard III ended and Henry Tudor became Henry VII, the first of the Tudor monarchs.

2. Go blackberry picking on the Stratford Canal – from our boat yard at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, it’s a picturesque seven-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon, with plenty of hedgerow foraging opportunities along the way – perfect for a short break. Once at the birthplace of the Bard, boaters can moor up in Bancroft Basin, just a stone’s throw from the Swan Theatre, to explore the town’s many independent shops, restaurants and museums, including Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Tudor World.

3. Float through the Brecon Beacons to Taylbont-on-Usk – the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal offers 35 miles of quiet countryside to explore with incredible views of the Brecon Beacons. From our narrowboat hire base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, on a short break (three or four nights) boaters can journey through the wooded Usk Valley to Talybont-on-Usk, visiting villages and historic market towns along the way, including the Georgian town of Crickhowell with its 13th century castle. Once at Talybont-on-Usk, boaters can enjoy walking access to Blaen y Glyn waterfalls and a choice of pubs, including the Star Inn and the White Hart Inn. The total journey there and back travels 36 miles, passing through 10 locks and takes around 18 hours. .

4. Visit the old mill town of Hebden Bridge – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation through the Calder Valley to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills. Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, the journey to Hebden Bridge covers seven miles, 10 locks and takes around five and a half hours. Once at Hebden, boaters can moor in the centre of town to enjoy a good choice of pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops and markets as well as stunning walks up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags.

5. Explore Georgian Bath afloat – on a short break from our Hilperton base on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to the World Heritage Status City of Bath and back, enjoying beautiful views of the southern Cotswold hills along the way. The journey to Sydney Wharf takes just six hours, travelling across two magnificent aqueducts, passing through one lock and several canalside pubs, including the popular Cross Guns at Avoncliff. Once in Bath, boaters can moor up and it’s a short walk to the City Centre to visit some of the City’s world class attractions, including the Roman Baths and Royal Crescent.

6. Complete the Stourport Ring – from our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, on a week’s break narrowboat holiday-makers canal travel the popular Stourport Ring, travelling a total of 74 miles and passing through 118 locks, which takes around 44 hours). The route takes in the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, upper section of the River Severn, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, Birmingham Canal Main Line and the Birmingham Canal Old Main Line. The Stourport Ring visits three cities – Wolverhampton, Birmingham and the ancient City of Worcester. Highlights include: Wolverhampton 21 locks; Brindleyplace and Gas Street Basin in Birmingham City Centre; open countryside on the River Severn; Stourport Basins; Bratch Locks at Wombourne; the pretty village of Kinver with access to the National Trust’s famous rock houses; the Black Country Living Museum; and Cadbury World.

7. Cruise through the Scottish lowlands to Linlithgow and back – from our canal boat hire 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 – perfect for a short break (three or four nights). The route begins passing over the Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first rotating boat lift which replaced a flight of 11 locks and then passes through two tunnels and two aqueducts, plus miles of peaceful countryside before reaching Linlithgow. Once there, 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.

 

Top 5 August Bank Holiday Canal Boat Breaks

Travelling through the countryside and waterside towns and villages at just four-miles-an-hour, canal boat holidays are the fastest way to slow down.

You don’t need a licence and it’s easy to learn how to steer a narrowboat. Tuition is included as part of all our holiday packages.

All our narrowboats have heating, well-equipped kitchens, quality furnishings, flushing toilets, hot water, showers, TVs and DVD players, and many now have WiFi on board too.

Many of our operators are offering some fantastic late deals over the August Bank Holiday. To celebrate and inspire, here are our top 5 August Bank Holiday breaks for 2018:

1. Glide across the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular on the network. On a short break from our canal boat hire base at Chirk, boaters can travel to the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen and back, with just four locks to go through and the magnificent World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to glide across.

2. Cruise to Lymm and back on the River Weaver – on a short break from our narrowboat hire base at Anderton in Cheshire, boaters can cruise along the Rive Weaver to the pretty canal village of Lymm, travelling 17½ miles and passing through just one lock, enjoying views of the distant Pennines along the way. The journey begins at the incredible Anderton Boat Lift, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. This incredible edifice, also known as ‘The Cathedral of the canals’, was the world’s first hydraulic canal boat lift, transporting boats 50 feet between the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey canal in two giant water tanks.

3. Visit Georgian Bath afloat – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire, it takes seven hours, travelling 13 miles and passing through three locks to reach moorings at Sydney Wharf, just outside Bath City Centre. Along the way, the route takes boaters past the pretty town of Bradford on Avon with its magnificent 14th century Tithe Barn, and across the stunning Avoncliff and Dundas Aqueducts.

4. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton – from our canal boat hire base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal in Shropshire, it takes around ten hours, cruising 11 miles and passing through six locks, to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man. Along the way, boaters pass through a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.

5. Visit Shakespeare’s Stratford afloat – on a short break from our narrowboat rental base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it takes six hours, passing through 17 locks, to reach Bancroft Basin in Stratford-upon-Avon. From there, it’s a short walk to the town’s theatres, shops, restaurants and museums, including the Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm, where hundreds of the world’s most beautiful butterflies fly in a tropic environment, with splashing waterfalls and fish-filled pools.

9 things you need to know about narrowboating

The sun is out and Britain’s beautiful canal network offers over 2,000 miles of waterways to explore.

If you’ve ever fancied taking a canal boat holiday, what better time to take the plunge?

Here are the top 9 things you need to know about narrowboating:

1. You don’t need a licence – it’s easy to learn how to steer a narrowboat and tuition is included as part of all Drifters’ holiday packages.

2. You drive on the right – unlike cars on our roads, boats travel on the right side of our canals and rivers.

3. You have all the comforts of home – all our narrowboats have heating, well-equipped kitchens, quality furnishings, flushing toilets, hot water, showers, TVs and DVD players, and many now have WiFi on board too.

4. It’s so relaxing – travelling gently along at just four-miles-an-hour, enjoying the ever changing view and visiting waterside towns and villages along the way, canal boat holidays are quite simply the fastest way to slow down.

5. There are plenty of pubs – there are hundreds of waterside pubs along the inland waterways, so a watering hole is never far away.

6. It’s better for the planet – 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.

7. It’s a floating safari – 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.

8. It’s a great adventure – from working the locks to travelling across soaring aqueducts, the canal network is made up of thousands of engineering marvels to encounter.

9. You can bring your pet – pets are welcome on almost all canal boats, and as well as dogs, we’ve welcomed rabbits, hamsters, caged birds, goldfish and tortoises.

 

Posted in boating boating holidays canal boat holidays canal holidays Scotland narrowboat hire narrowboat holidays Uncategorized by pressguru. Comments Off on 9 things you need to know about narrowboating

Why canal boat holidays are great for pets

Canal boats provide a floating holiday home, so it’s possible to take all sorts of pets on the canals.

And as well as hundreds of dogs each year, Drifters’ canal boat hire operators have accommodated many other kinds of pets aboard their canal boats, including rabbits, hamsters, caged birds, goldfish and tortoises.

Here are our top 7 reasons why canal boat holidays are great for pets:

1. The majority of canal boats fore hire allow pets on board so you don’t have to allocate holiday budget to pet care;

2. No extra vaccinations or pet passports are needed for your pet to cruise the canals;

3. Many Drifters narrowboat hire operators allow the first pet to travel free, while others charge a supplement of between £25 and £35;

4. Narrowboat holidays are especially great for dogs, with plenty of towpath walks, dog-friendly canalside pubs and other dogs to meet along the way;

5. Travelling through the countryside and waterside towns and villages at just four-miles-an-hour, canal boat holidays are the fastest way to slow down – if you’re more relaxed, your pets will be too;

6. Narrowboats with open cruiser-sterns at the back offer extra room ‘on deck’ for pets and the family to enjoy the ever-changing view; and

7. You can buy a doggy life-jacket with wide belly-strap and easy-to-grab handle for a quick retrieval if your dog accidently goes swimming!

Posted in boating boating holidays canal boat holidays canal holidays Scotland narrowboat hire narrowboat holidays Short breaks Uncategorized by pressguru. Comments Off on Why canal boat holidays are great for pets

Union Canal Carriers celebrates 50 years afloat

Born in the dying days of the canal boat carrying trade on the Grand Union and Oxford Canals at Braunston, and in the year that Barbara Castle’s 1968 Transport Act officially recognised the nation’s canals as a leisure resource, Drifters’ member Union Canal Carriers helped pioneer narrow boating for pleasure.

The family-run narrowboat hire firm first started to run camping boats from its canal boat hire base below Braunston locks in 1968, using converted British Waterways working boats.

Tim Hewitt, of Union Canal Carriers, explains: “In those days holidays on the rapidly deteriorating canals were in their infancy. Scores of school children, scouts and guides bunked aboard boats that once carried coal, iron ore and aluminium billets, spending blissful, parent-free days just messing about on the canals.”

Today the company has a range of 16 modern hire boats, providing accommodation for up to 12 people, and a very popular day boat ‘Ouzel II’.

Tim adds: “Over the last 50 years we have introduced thousands of people to the delights of narrowboat holidays on the waterways. Many come back year after year and we’ve watched their children grow up. It’s such a pleasure to see our customers returning all happy and relaxed after a holiday on one of our boats.

“This year, we are also celebrating 50 years of canal renaissance, sparked by the 1968 Transport Act.”

Overseen by Transport Minister and canal-enthusiast Barbara Castle after years of campaigning by enthusiasts – the 1968 Transport Act marked the turning point for the waterways from being a declining freight network, to becoming a major leisure resource.

There are now over 30,000 canal boats on the network – more than at the time of the Industrial Revolution – and around 380,000 people holiday on Britain’s canals each year, a figure that has nearly doubled in the last 10 years.

Tim continues: “As well as investment in the waterways themselves, over the years, vast improvements have been made to the standard of accommodation provided on board holiday narrowboats – all now equipped with essential mod cons like central heating, hot water, TV’s, fitted kitchens, showers and flushing toilets.
“New research published by the Canal & River Trust shows that spending time by the waterways can make you happier and improve your life satisfaction. And the research reveals higher levels of happiness and lower levels of anxiety for longer trips – a powerful incentive to book a nice long canal boat holiday!
“It’s vital that the role of the waterways for helping to improve the wellbeing of millions of people is recognised to ensure our canals and rivers continue to be valued and used for the next 50 years.”

Tags: ,
Posted in boating boating holidays canal boat holidays narrowboat hire narrowboat holidays Short breaks by pressguru. Comments Off on Union Canal Carriers celebrates 50 years afloat