Top 10 Late May Bank Holiday Boating Breaks

With Britain’s inland waterways in better shape than ever and the health benefits of spending time by the water proven, narrowboat holidays are becoming increasingly popular.

So why not pack up and ship out for a family adventure afloat over the Whitsun May holiday?

You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat and all our operators provide boat steering tuition as part of their holiday packages.

Drifters offers over 550 boats for hire from 45 bases across England, Scotland and Wales.  Narrowboats range from 32ft to 70ft and can accommodate up to 12 people.  All are equipped with essential home comforts, including central heating, hot water, TV, showers, microwaves, flushing toilets, and many now have WiFi too.

Prices over the late May bank holiday start at £715 for a short break (three of four nights) on a boat for four people, £1,020 for a week, though it’s always checking our availability online for offers.

Here’s a list of our Top 10 late May Bank Holiday boating breaks, all perfect for beginners:

  1. Cruise along the peaceful Oxford Canal to Rugby – from our canal boat hire base on the Oxford Canal at Napton in Warwickshire, it takes just over six hours, travelling 15 miles and passing through three locks, to reach the historic market town of Rugby.  The route takes boaters through quiet countryside, with farmland and woodlands bordering the canal most of the way.  There are canalside pubs to enjoy along the way at the villages of Hillmorton and Braunston and once at Rugby there’s a choice of pubs, restaurants and cafes to visit, as well as museums dedicated to the town’s history and history of the game of rugby.
  2. Enjoy the bright lights of Birmingham afloat – boasting more canals than Venice, Birmingham simply has to be visited by water.  With no locks between our base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove and Birmingham City Centre, it’s the perfect opportunity for novice canal boat holiday-makers to ‘dip their toe in the water’.  It takes just five hours to reach Birmingham, with the first half of the journey passing through fields, woodlands and sleepy villages.  Once in the centre of Birmingham, narrowboat holiday-makers can find over-night moorings at Gas Street Basin, with easy access to Brindleyplace, the Mailbox, Sea Life Centre and other city centre attractions. 
  3. Love the Llangollen – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular canals on the network.  The journey to Chirk from our new narrowboat hire base on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal at Whixall in Shropshire offers a fantastic short break holiday for beginners.  It takes around eight hours, passing through just two locks to reach the village of Chirk, with a choice of canalside pubs to enjoy and nearby Chirk Castle to visit.
  4. Potter through the Peak District – our Peak District base, at the junction of the Caldon and Trent & Mersey canals near Stoke on Trent, offers a fantastic way to experience this beautiful National Park in the heart of England.  Starting at the Etruria, home of the industrial potteries, the gentle 12-hour cruise along the peaceful Caldon Canal to Froghall Basin is perfect for narrowboat holiday beginners on a short break.
  5. Visit Georgian Bath – from our base at Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, the World Heritage Status City of Bath is a delightful six-hour cruise away.  The route passes through seven locks, over two stunning Bath stone aqueducts and past a series of popular historic canalside pubs, including The Cross Guns at Avoncliff.  Once in Bath, canal boat holiday makers can use their boat as a base to enjoy all that the City has to offer, including the Roman Baths, Jane Austen Museum and Royal Crescent.
  6. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh – from Drifters’ base at Falkirk,Edinburgh Quay is a sedate 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal.  The journey, perfect for beginners on a mid-week (four-night) or week-long break, starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first and only rotating boat lift – and then passes through the lovely lowland villages of Linlithgow, Broxburn and Ratho.  Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street, with easy access to the City’s many attractions, including Edinburgh Castle and Mark King Close, frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.
  7. Steer gently through the countryside to Stone – from our boat yard at Great Haywood it takes just five hours of gentle cruising along the Trent & Mersey Canal to reach the historic Shropshire market town of Stone.  Stone is renowned as the food and drink capital of Staffordshire, with regular markets, a good choice of restaurants and the annual Food & Drink Festival in October.  Along the way, there are just four locks to pass through and plenty of pubs to enjoy, including The Woolpack at Weston and The Holly Bush Inn at Salt.
  8. Navigate to the Yorkshire Dales – the journey from our narrowboat rental base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to the pretty North Yorkshire village of Gargrave and back takes 13 hours, passing through three locks each way.  The route takes boaters through the historic town of Skipton, with its striking medieval stone castle and extensive woodlands managed by the Woodland Trust.  Once at Gargrave, there are pubs to enjoy, including the popular Mason’s Arms, as well as easy access to the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Pennine Way.
  9. Boat to Brewood and back – the journey to Brewood and back from our canal boat rental base at Gailey on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal offers an excellent short break route for canal boat holiday beginners.  Travelling a total of 25 miles, and passing through just two locks (one on the way, one on the way back), this gentle journey through the Shropshire countryside passes the waterside Anchor Inn at Cross Green and transfers boaters onto the Shropshire Union Canal at Autherley Junction.  On reaching the historic village of Brewood, with its half-timbered houses cottages and attractive Georgian houses, visitors have a choice of pubs, restaurants and tea rooms to dine at, including the canalside Bridge Inn.
  10. Visit Shakespeare’s Stratford – from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it’s a delightful six-hour, 17-lock cruise through the 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.