Reputedly playing host to hundreds of ghosts, with bats and frogs aplenty, creepy tunnels, spooky locks, misty towpaths and thousands of historic buildings along the way, Britain’s 200-year old canal network provides the perfect backdrop for a haunting Halloween afloat.
Drifters Waterway Holidays offers over 500 boats from 35 bases across the country (www.drifters.co.uk).
Here are a few of the spookiest places to go:
- The Shropshire Union Canal is said to be Britain’s most haunted canal with five ghosts along its length, including ‘The Monkey Man’ at Bridge 39 near Norbury. The hideous black, shaggy coated being is said to be the ghost of a boatman drowned there in the 19th century. And at Betton Cutting near Market Drayton a shrieking spectre has been seen and heard. See if you can spot them by heading north from Drifters’ base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal in Staffordshire near Stafford. A short break for four costs £454 (28-31 October).
- Get the chills in Chester by visiting 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. You can also visit Chester’s The King’s Inn, an old coaching inn believed to be haunted by three separate spirits. Hire a boat from Drifters’ base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire and you can easily make it to Chester and back on a short break, cruising for a total of 14 hours and negotiating 18 locks. Try a boat for four from just £396 or a boat for six for £487 (28-31 October).
- Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire has spooked a number of boaters over the years. At 3,076 yards (2.81km) it’s one of the longest on the canal system. When construction began in 1793, the tunnel was a major feat of engineering. Teams of navvies worked with picks and shovels for three years until they hit quicksand and the tunnel collapsed, killing 14 men. A new route for the tunnel was found and it finally opened on 25 March 1805. Over the years, a number of boaters travelling through the tunnel have reported seeing lights and a fork in the waterways. But the tunnel runs straight through the hill so people have seen the flicker of candlelight at the spot where the first tunnel would have intersected with the main canal tunnel, showing the ghostly navvies are still working there! Hire a boat from Drifters’ popular base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal close to the Blisworth Tunnel and travel to Crick and back on a short break, which includes a trip through the tunnel. A boat for six for the Halloween weekend costs £665 (28-31 October).
- At the Union Canal tunnel at Falkirk in Scotland, two walkers and their dogs were terrified by an apparition of a man who had been lured to the tunnel in the 1940s and viciously murdered after he had been unable to pay his gambling debt. And there are plenty of ghostly goings on in the historic city of Edinburgh, including the ghost of the Great Lafayette at Edinburgh Festival Theatre, a magician who was killed in fire there. From the Drifters hire boat base at Falkirk, you can travel the 32 rural and peaceful miles to Edinburgh along the Union Canal in just two leisurely days, arriving at Edinburgh Quay, just five minutes walk from Princes Street. Take a boat for four from Falkirk for £536 (28-31 Oct) or a boat for six for £665 (28-31 Oct).
- The Trent & Mersey Canal’s Harecastle Tunnel at Kidsgrove is said to be home to a shrieking boggart – the ghost of Kit Crewbucket who was murdered and whose headless corpse was dumped in the canal. Hire a boat for four from Drifter’s base at Stoke on Trent on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire for £523 (28-31 Oct).
- 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 incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Hire a boat for four for a week from Drifters’ base at Trevor, right next to the Aqueduct for £670 (28 Oct to 4 Nov) or £469 for short break (28-31 Oct).
- At 3.25 miles long, The spooky Standedge Tunnel in Yorkshire is the longest, highest and deepest canal on the UK canal system and certainly not for the feint hearted! Take a boat for a week from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge on the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation in West Yorkshire and cruise through the stunning Calder Valley, then onto the Huddersfield Broad Canal to Huddersfield. There you can moor the boat and switch to a train for a scenic rail trip to Marsden and the Standedge Tunnel Visitor Centre which is running special haunted Halloween boat trips (22-30 October). A boat for six for a week from Sowerby Bridge costs £890 (28 Oct to 3 Nov).
For more information about Drifters boating holidays call 0844 984 0322 or visit www.drifters.co.uk