Drifters’ Top 12 places to hire a boat for the day

Ouzel II at Braunston

Day boat hire on the canals offers the chance to enjoy a fun day out on the water, nourished by a pint and a pub lunch along the way.

We offer day boat hire from 16 our boat yards across England, Scotland and Wales, with prices starting at less than £10 per person.  Full tuition is included so if you are new to canal boating, it’s a great way to get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.  Our day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle and most also have a toilet, cooker and fridge. 

Here’s a list of our top 12 day boat hire centres and destinations for 2019:

  1. Boat to the beautiful Avoncliff Aqueduct – from Hilperton Marina near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, day boaters can head west along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal to the stunning Avoncliff Aqueduct and back, passing through the historic town of Bradford on Avon, with its stunning medieval Tithe Barn.  Once at Avoncliff, boaters can moor up and visit the popular canalside Cross Guns pub and admire the beautiful Bath stone aqueduct.  It takes just under two hours to reach Avoncliff, passing through just one lock. ***Day boat ‘Cheers’ can carry up to 10 people, weekday hire starts at £99, weekends & bank holidays £160.
  2. Cruise through the Shropshire Lake District – from Drifters’ new canal boat hire base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, day boaters can cruise along the Llangollen Canal to Ellesmere in around two-and-a-half hours, passing lakes at Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park along the way.  Once at Ellesmere, boaters can moor up and explore the famous Mere with its historic castle, woodland paths and fascinating wildlife.  The journey travels eight miles and takes around two hours.  ***Day boats ‘Bella’ and ‘Julia’ can each carry up to 10 people. Weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays £140.
  3. Meander to Middlewich and back – Drifters’ narrowboat hire 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’, provides a 50-foot vertical link between the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal.  From Anderton, day boaters can travel along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Middlewich, passing through Marbury Country Park and Marston Flash along the way.  It takes around three hours, travelling nine miles with no locks, to reach Middlewich Big Lock, where the popular canalside Big Lock pub offers refreshments.  Or travel back five miles to lunch at the Old Broken Cross pub. ***Day boat ‘Daydream’ can carry up to 12 people, weekday hire starts at £99, weekends & bank holidays £190.
  4. Explore Shakespeare’s country – from Wootton Wawen near Henley in Arden in Warwickshire, boaters can head south along the peaceful Stratford Canal to the pretty village of Wilmcote to 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.  The journey takes two-and-a-half hours each way, and crosses over the impressive Edstone Aqueduct with beautiful views across the Warwickshire countryside. ****Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  5. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it’s a 20-minute cruise to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which this year celebrates 10 years of World Heritage Status.  Standing 38 metres high above the Dee Valley and stretching for 305 metres, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the wonders of the waterways.  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.  ***Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £120 for up to 10 people, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.
  6. Cruise gently through the Warwickshire countryside to Hillmorton – from Drifters’ day boat hire base at Braunston in Northamptonshire, it takes around three hours chugging gently along seven miles of the North Oxford Canal to reach the pretty canalside village of Hillmorton.  There’s a choice of pubs at Hillmorton – the canalside Old Royal Oak or the Stag & Pheasant in the village.  Day boaters can turn before three locks at Hillmorton or boat through with the help of volunteer lock keepers Maurice Farndon and Vince Laramy, who last year helped over 10,000 boaters through this busy flight of locks. ****Day boat ‘Ouzel II’ can carry up to 12 people.  Weekday hire is £145, and £175 on weekends and bank holidays.
  7. Catch a lift on the 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 £250, Friday to Sunday.
  8. 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. ***Day boat ‘Rooster’ can carry up to eight people, weekday hire from £99, weekends & bank holidays £160.
  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 three tunnels to pass through, including the 2493-metre long Wast Hill Tunnel, one of the longest canal tunnels in the country. ****‘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.  Here day boaters will find 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 also 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 in the tiny Foxton Canal Museum. ***Day boat ‘Moorhen’ can carry up to 12 people, weekday hire starts at £160, weekends & bank holidays from £210.
  11. Travel the Trent & Mersey to Rugeley – from Drifters’ boat yard at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, day boaters can cruise four miles, passing through two locks to reach the historic market town of Rugeley.  The journey, which takes around two hours, passes the National Trust’s stunning Shugborough Estate, the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wolseley Centre and the popular Wolseley Arms pub at Wolseley Bridge.  ***Day boats ‘Daphne’ and ‘Abi’ can carry up to 10 people each.  Weekday hire from Great Haywood starts at £99, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  12. Boat through the countryside to The Spring Inn – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Aldermaston in Berkshire, day boaters can cruise through the countryside for two hours to Tyle Mill Lock in around two hours.  From Tyle Mill Lock, it’s a ten minute walk to the Spring Inn gastropub in Sulhamstead, serving a weekly Sunday roast, as well as lunch and supper daily. ***Day boat ‘Hey Day’ can carry up to 10 people, weekday hire starts at £99, weekends & bank holidays £160.