…frosty towpaths, cosy fires and traditional pubs make the canals a festive destination
Britain’s canals can offer a great antidote to the hustle and bustle of Christmas. A number of Drifters’ (www.drifters.co.uk) canal boat hire bases offer winter cruising giving people the chance to crank-up the on-board heating, light the stove, stop-off at cosy country pubs with roaring log fires and wake up to frosty towpaths and crisp clean air.
Today’s canals boats are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons, including central heating, hot water, TV, DVD players, showers and flushing toilets, so whatever the weather, it’s always nice and cosy on board.
As its low season, not only are the canals even more peaceful than usual, but boat hire prices are cheaper than in the summer.
Whether it’s a cosy boat for two or jolly boat for six, celebrating Christmas or New Year afloat offers a great getaway. And it’s free to moor almost anywhere on the network, so a canal boat could provide the perfect place to lay your head after enjoying new year celebrations in waterside towns and villages like Bath, Chester, Devizes, Bradford on Avon, Stratford upon Avon, Braunston, Banbury and Ellesmere.
Here’s a list of Drifters bases offering winter cruising:
- Visit historic Stratford Upon Avon…Short breaks from Drifters’ base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal in Warwickshire, not far from Henley-in-Arden, can take you to historic Stratford and back, with its famous theatre and pubs a plenty. While a week’s cruise can easily take you on to Warwick and back, cruising through the heart of rural England and Shakespeare’s country. Or head north into the cosmopolitan City of Birmingham with its fantastic shops and restaurants. Take a boat for four from Wootton Wawen for Christmas week for £895 (23-30 Dec) or for just the weekend for £575 (24-27 Dec). Take a boat for six for Christmas week for £1,195 (23-30 Dec) or a boat for six for £837 (23-26 Dec). Take a romantic boat for two for £895 for a week (24-31 Dec) or £627 for short break (24-27 Dec). A boat for four over New Year starts at £895 (26 Dec to 2 Jan) and a boat for six is £1,195 (26 Dec to 2 Jan). A boat for two is £895 (27 Dec to 3 Jan). Mid week breaks are also available.
- Travel to Bath along the Kennet & Avon Canal...stretching 86 miles from Bath to Reading, the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal travels through the southern tip of the Cotswolds, the stunning Wiltshire countryside and West Berkshire’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Drifters’ base in the historic town of Bradford on Avon is currently offering 20% off winter cruising. A short break could take you east to the bottom of the Caen Hill Flight at Devizes and back, while a week’s cruise gives time to navigate the marathon of locks! Or head west to the World Heritage City of Bath with lovely country pubs to enjoy along the way, including the George Inn at Bathampton. Once a 12th-century monastery, this watering hole is packed with character and boasts priest holes, low ceilings, creaking beams and real fires to snuggle up to. The Cross Guns at Avoncliffe, one of Wiltshire’s oldest and most popular pubs, has panoramic views of the foothills of the Cotswolds and John Rennie’s Avoncliffe Aqueduct, plus a large central inglenook fireplace in the same style as those at Hampton Court. Take a week’s cruise over Christmas on a boat for six from Bradford on Avon for £1,120 (23-30 December) or a short break for £800 (23-26 Dec). Or take a boat for four for a week for £796 (24-31 Dec) or a short break for £560 (24-27 Dec). Take a boat for six over New Year for £1,120 (26 Dec to 2 Jan) or a boat for four for £856 (26 Dec to 2 Jan).
- Wending through Worcestershire…A week’s cruise from Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove can take you to Warwick and its fascinating castle or to Worcester and its magnificent cathedral. Or cruise the Stourport Ring, one of the most popular circular routes and mix rural idyll with city lights. The journey will take you to three cities – the newly recognised City of Wolverhampton, industrial Birmingham, including Brindley Place, Gas Street Basin and Broad Street at the heart of its rejuvenated waterfront and the ancient City of Worcester. On a short break, take a lock free journey to the City of Birmingham and back or keep it rural and head to the pretty village of Lapworth with its highly recommended Navigation Inn. Take a short Christmas break on a romantic boat for two from Tardebigge for £627 or a boat for four for a week for £975 (24-31 Dec). A short break on a boat for four over Christmas is £683 (24-27 Dec), a week on a boat for six is £1,195 (24-31 Dec). A boat for four over New Year is £975 (27 Dec to 3 Jan) and a boat for six is £1,195 (27 Dec to 3 Jan). Mid week breaks are also available.
- The Llangollen Canal in North Wales…the beautiful 46-mile Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular on the inland waterway network, and navigating the awe-inspiring 1000ft, 19-arch long World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, soaring 126ft high above the rushing waters of the River Dee is tantamount to free flight. From Drifters’ hire base at Trevor, right next to the aqueduct, a short break to Ellesmere and back, offers the chance to explore the Vale of Llangollen and the Shropshire Lake District. Pubs to enjoy along the way include The Bridge Inn at Chirk, AKA ‘The last pub in England’ with glorious views and numerous fire places, and The Narrow Boat Inn at Whittington, visited by Hollywood legends Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart, as part of their canal boat holiday on the Llangollen in 2004. Take a boat for four over the Christmas week for £895 (24-31 Dec) or just for the weekend for £627 (24-27 Dec). Take a boat for six over the Christmas week for £1,060 (24-31 Dec) or just for the weekend for £742 (24-27 Dec). Take a boat for four over New Year for £895 (27 Dec to 3 Jan) or a boat for six for £1,195 (26 Dec to 2 Jan).
- Cruise the Shropshire Union Canal from Bunbury…offers a number of routes, including a short break to the ancient City of Chester and back along the Shropshire Union Canal. Alternatively, head south to the Llangollen Canal and historic Whitchurch. A week’s cruise could take you to Llangollen and back, via the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct or tackle the Four Counties Ring, including 96 locks and the world famous 2670 metre long Harecastle Tunnel. Take a boat for six from Bunbury for Christmas week for £1,100 (23-30 Dec) or just for the weekend for £770 (23-26 Dec). Or hire a romantic boat for two for a week for £820 (24-31 Dec) or just for the weekend for £574 (24-27 Dec). Take a boat for six over New Year for £1,100 (26 Dec to 2 Jan) or a boat for two for £820 (27 Dec to 3 Jan). A short Christmas break on a boat for six is £770 (24-27 Dec). Take a boat for four over New Year for £975 (26 Dec to 2 Jan) or a boat for two for £895 (27 Dec to 3 Jan). A boat for six over New Year is £1,100 (27 Dec to 3 Jan).
- Explore the Potteries in Staffordshire…Drifters’ base at Great Haywood at the junction of the Staffs & Worcs and Trent & Mersey canals in Staffordshire offers a huge array of routes. On a week’s cruise, head north on the Trent & Mersey and join the pretty Caldon Canal to Froghall or travel to historic Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man along the Shropshire Union. For a cruising challenge, tackle the Four Counties Ring, taking in 94 locks and the world famous 2670 metre long Harecastle Tunnel along the way. On a short break, head to historic Stone or to pretty Fradley at the junction of the Trent & Mersey and Coventry canals. Take a short break over Christmas on a boat for four for £683 (23-26 Dec) or a week for £975 (23-30 Dec). Take a romantic boat for two for £627 (24-27 Dec) or a jolly boat for six for £1,100 (24-31 Dec).
- The Oxford Canal at Rugby…A week’s break from Drifters’ base at Stretton-under-Fosse near Rugby could take you to historic Warwick and back along the Grand Union Canal, via Braunston and Napton Junctions, with plenty of time to visit the Regency centre of Lemington Spa and Warwick with its castle and lovely antique shops. The journey takes a total of 30 hours cruising, with 26 locks along the way. Or head south along the beautiful Oxford Canal, one of England’s most peaceful waterways which meanders slowly through classic scenery, much of which hasn’t changed for centuries. A week can easily take you as far as the historic town of Banbury and back, cruising a total of 40 hours and negotiating 25 locks. Take a romantic boat for two for a week for £715, a boat for four for £1,145 or a boat for six for £1,295 (24-31 Dec).
For more information about Drifters boating holidays call 0844 984 0322 or visit www.drifters.co.uk