Year of the Snake

Year of the Snake

Chinese New Year will be celebrated by a third of the world’s population on Sunday (10 February) and this year is the year of the Snake.

To celebrate, we’ve put together a list of serpent-related canal boat holiday destinations:

Look out for our native grass snake…from April to September, narrowboat holiday-makers in England and Wales might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of our native grass snake.

Grey/green in colour, the grass snake is a shy, placid, sun-loving creature that enjoys basking on grassy banks on warm summer days.  River banks, ponds and ditches are their preferred habitats, although they will also make a home of hedgerows, meadows and woodland margins.

If frightened, the grass snake will either turn and run or ‘play dead’, an impressive performance that can involve the snake writhing onto its back and lolling its tongue out of its mouth.

Be amazed by the black mamba at London Zoo…the world’s oldest scientific zoo is right next to the Regent’s Canal in Regent’s Park, so even if you don’t moor up and visit, you can still see some of the animals as you cruise by.

London Zoo’s Reptile House (which features in the opening scene of the first Harry Potter film), is home to some of the biggest and most venomous snakes on earth, including a black mamba.

Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Grand Union Canal in West London, just a four and a half hour cruise away

See the venomous king cobra at West Midlands Safari Park…the venom from a single bite of a king cobra is strong enough to kill an elephant.  But the main source of food for these feared animals is other snakes, making them cannilbalistic as well as deadly!

To reach the West Midlands Safari Park, narrowboat holiday-makers can moor up in Kidderminster on the Staffs & Worcester Canal and take a 10 minute taxi ride to the zoo.  Kidderminster is a seven-hour cruise from Drifters’ base at Worcester.

Marvel at the reticulated pythons at Chester Zoo…famous for its medieval architecture and city walls, Chester is also home to an award-winning zoo with over 8,000 animals to see.  The Zoo’s impressive reptile collection includes two enormous reticulated pythons, the longest species of snake in the world.

Medieval Chester is just seven hours from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal.

See stuffed snakes at the Natural History Museum at Tring…snakes are included in an incredible array of over 4,000 stuffed animals on display at the Natural History Museum at Tring in Hertfordshire.  This fascinating collection, which was gifted to the nation in by the Rothschild family 1937, was put together by the scientist, collector and founder of the Museum,  Lionel Walter, 2nd Baron Rothschild.

Tring is close to the Grand Union Canal in Hertfordshire, so canal boat holiday-makers can moor close by at Bulbourne and walk to Tring town centre, just over a mile away.

Visit the boa constrictors at Dudley Zoological Gardens…Eighteen months ago reptile keepers at Dudley Zoo were surprised by the birth of 19 boa babies in their Reptile House.  These large non-venous snakes from Central and South America kill their food by constriction.  The babies have now been re-homed but their parents are still in residence.

Dudley Zoo is about an eight-hour cruise from Drifters’ base at Tardebigge.  Moor up on the Dudley Canal at the Black Country Living Museum and it’s a five-minute taxi ride to the Zoo.

Discover the mythology of snakes at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford…there are many representations of serpents in the extraordinary collection of objects from lost cultures held by the Pitt Rivers Museum.

For example, the Court Art of Benin collection from southern Nigeria, has a number of artefacts depicting snakes.  In Benin cosmology, snakes symbolize the power of Osun, the god of nature.  The python is also a symbol of Olokun, the god of water and it is said that pythons are sent by Olokun to punish wrongdoing.

Drifters has a base at Eynsham on the River Thames, just a three-hour cruise from moorings close to Oxford City Centre.

Swap theme park thrills for animal magic at Drayton Manor Zoo…part of the Drayton Manor Family Theme Park, Drayton Manor Zoo at Tamworth in Staffordshire is home to one of the largest collections of snakes in Britain.

Drifters’ base at Great Haywood is a 12-hour cruise and short taxi ride away.

See Taiwan beauty snakes at Edinburgh Zoo…as well as being home to the UK’s only giant pandas, Edinburgh Zoo offers visitors the chance to see Taiwan beauty snakes.  These large snakes are colourful with beautifully patterned bodies.  They are seen as a delicacy in their native country and are often found in the food markets and menus of Taiwanese restaurants, as well as being used in traditional medicine.

Edinburgh, with centrally located moorings at Edinburgh Quay, is a day and a half’s cruise along the Union Canal from Drifters’ base at the Falkirk Wheel.  There’s a frequent bus service to the Zoo from the City Centre.

Visit the rattlesnakes at Bristol Zoo…the reptile house at Bristol Zoo is home to a variety of snake species, including the Aruba Island rattlesnake.  Belonging to the family of vipers, there are only about 230 of these critically endangered animals left in the wild.

Drifters’ base at Bath on the Kennet & Avon Canal is an eight hour journey away from Bristol Floating Harbour.  Bristol Zoo Gardens is in Clifton, a short taxi or bus ride away.


Spring is a great time of year to take to the water as the countryside bursts into new life – trees come into leaf, birds nest and spring flowers emerge on the towpath.

Canal boat holidays offer the chance to see the abundance of wildlife that lives in and around our beautiful 3,000 mile inland waterway network.  From kingfishers, cuckoos and swans to bats, water voles and otters, there’s always something special to look out for.

Drifters’ Spring canal boat hire prices start at £355 for a short break (3 or 4 nights) and £545 for a week on a boat for four.

Here’s our top 10 rural journeys for this Spring:

***Travel to the Shropshire Lake District…from Drifters’ bases at Trevor, Chirk or Whitchurch on the incredibly beautiful Llangollen Canal, the Ellesmere Lakes (also known as The North Shropshire Lake District) are reachable on a short break.  Made up of nine glacial meres, these lakes and their surrounding woodlands are a nature lover’s paradise.

***Journey through the Leicestershire Countryside and visit Foxton Locks…from Drifters’ base at North Kilworth on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal narrowboat holiday-makers can reach Foxton Locks on a short break, enjoying magnificent views of the Leicestershire countryside.

***Cross the Pennines on a canal boat…from Drifters’ bases at Foulridge on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Cumbria or Sowerby Bridge on the Calder & Hebble Navigation in Yorkshire, narrowboat hirers can cross the backbone of England in a week and travel through the heart of West Riding, immersed in timeless scenery.

***Cruise through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey…the pretty canalside village of Pewsey in Wiltshire is reachable on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ bases on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Hilperton or Bradford on Avon.  The canal cuts through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, which is an area of lower lying ground separating the chalk downs of Salisbury Plain to the south from the Malborough Downs to the north and is part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

***Glide through the Breacon Beacons…isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park.  Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, this peaceful waterway has very few locks and incredible mountain views.  Drifters has a base here at Goytre Wharf, close to Abergavenny.

***Take a short break on Wedgwood’s Caldon Canal…one of the quietest and most picturesque canals in Britain, the Caldon Canal is a branch of the Trent & Mersey Canal originally built to transport porcelain.  The waterway travels 17 miles from its junction with the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stoke on Trent, through the beautiful Churnet Valley to Froghall Wharf.  Drifters’ base at Stoke on Trent in Staffordshire is ideally placed for canal boat hirers to enjoy a short break on the Caldon.

***Meander along the Oxford Canal…Drifters’ base at Napton in Warwickshire is at the head of the predominantly rural Oxford Canal.  One of the earliest built, the canal follows the contours of the land, meandering its way south to Oxford through pretty villages like Shipton-on-Cherwell with stone built houses, cosy pubs, ancient churches and village greens.

***Visit the Scottish Lowlands by boat…from Drifters’ base at Falkirk the stunning Scottish Lowlands can be explored by canal boat.  Boaters heading east to Edinburgh must first travel through the magnificent Falkirk Wheel boat lift, built at the intersection of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals as part of the Millennium Link project to restore the waterways linking the east and west coasts of Scotland.  Once through the Wheel, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the peaceful Union Canal, passing through the pretty canal villages of Ratho and Linlithgow and reaching Edinburgh in a day and a half.

***Enjoy the rural Ashby Canal…from Drifters’ base at Stretton under Fosse on the North Oxford Canal near Rugby, boaters easily can travel to the peaceful and entirely rural Ashby Canal.  Originally built to move coal and limestone from the Ashby Woulds, the canal passes close to the historic market town of Market Bosworth, the famous Battlefield of Bosworth and a number of cosy country pubs.

***Wonder at West Berkshire’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty…Drifters’ base at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal offers canal boat holiday-makers the chance to cruise through parts of the North Wessex Downs – one of the largest tracts of chalk downland in southern England and perhaps one of the least affected by development.  A four night mid-week break gives enough time to cruise to Hungerford and back, passing through Newbury and the pretty village of Kintbury along the way.


Visit a Waterway Museum

To find out more about the fascinating history of our canal network, including the people who built and worked on it, why not visit a waterway museum on your canal boat holiday.

We’ve listed our favourite museums and visitor attractions, together with the nearest Drifters canal boat hire base.

The National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port

History comes to life at the National Waterways Museum on the banks of the Mersey and Manchester Ship Canal in Cheshire, with extensive in-door displays, boat trips and historic buildings.

Designed by Thomas Telford under the direction of William Jessop, the docks at Ellesmere Port were still in use as late as the 1950’s.  Visitors to the museum can walk round its locks, docks and warehouses and visit its forge, stables and workers cottages.

The Museum is also home to the waterways archive and a unique fleet of historic working boats, cared for by the Heritage Boatyard team.  It offers an exciting programme of events, featuring everything from beer festivals to historic boat rallies.

Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is a ten-hour cruise away at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire.  Prices start at £465 for a short break and £660 for a week.

The London Canal Museum

Housed in a former ice warehouse on the Regent’s Canal in King’s Cross, The London Canal Museum tells the story of London’s canals, the cargoes carried, the people who lived and worked on the waterways and the horses that pulled their boats.

Visitors can peer down into the huge Victorian ice well used to store ice imported from Norway by ship and canal boat.  The warehouse was built in 1862-3 for Carlo Gatti, the famous ice cream maker so the Museum also features the history of the ice trade and ice cream.

Drifters’ nearest base on the Grand Union Canal in West London is a six-hour cruise away.  2013 prices start at £525 for a short break and £808 for a week.

The Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne

Set in the beautiful village of Stoke Bruerne alongside the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, The Canal Museum is a treasure trove of stories, displays, films and collections about our waterways.

Housed on two floors of a historic corn mill, the museum provides an excellent overview of the history of Britain’s canals.

Visitors can find out about the great engineers and navvies who created the canals, and the boat families, ‘leggers’ and lock keepers who lived and worked on them.

Examples of canal crafts, traditional clothing and specialist tools are on display, as well as models of working boats, Claverton Pumping Station and the Foxton Inclinded Plane boat lift.

Drifters’ nearest base is just an hour away on the Grand Union Canal at Gayton.  Prices start at £455 for a short break and £695 for a week.

Gloucester Waterways Museum

The Waterways Museum at Gloucester is housed in a Grade II listed warehouse at the heart of the City’s fine Victorian docks, beside the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal and River Severn.

It is home to historic boats, real working engines, intricate models, objects designated of national importance, interactive displays, archive films and trip boats.

Through a series of galleries, the Museum sheds light on all aspects of our waterways.  For example, ‘Trade and The Docks’ captures the atmosphere of a working warehouse and shows the role played by docks and canals in the British Empire and Industrial Revolution.

While ‘The Story of Canals’ gives a fascinating overview of the people who created, worked and lived on the canals.

Drifters’ nearest base is at Worcester, a 10-hour cruise along the River Severn.  Prices start at £355 for a short break and £545 for a week.

The Standedge Tunnel

Tunnelling three and a quarter miles beneath the Pennines, Standedge is the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in Britain.

It took the navvies 16 years to build, cutting through solid rock to connect Marsden in West Yorkshire with Diggle in Greater Manchester in 1811.

The story of this incredible feat of 18 and 19th century engineering is told at the Standedge Tunnel visitor centre at Marsden, where a trip boat also operates.

Narrowboat holiday-makers can book a passage through the tunnel with a Canal & River Trust pilot, giving a vivid personal commentary.

Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is 20 miles away at Sowerby Bridge.  Prices for a week’s break start at £515 (including fuel).

The Anderton Boat Lift

No description can adequately convey the sheer scale of this engineering feat, designed by Edwin Clark.

Also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’ this extraordinary structure raises boats 15 metres (50ft) from the River Weaver to the Trent & Mersey Canal.  It consists of two huge counterbalanced water tanks, each large enough to take a barge or pair of narrowboats, held within a giant three-storey-high iron spider-like construction.

The Operations Centre at Anderton tells the story of the lift, with interactive displays.  Narrowboat hirers can book a passage through in advance through their hire company.

Drifters has a base at Anderton, with 2013 prices starting at £455 for a short break and £695 for a week’s hire. 

The Falkirk Wheel

Built as part of the Millennium Link project to restore the canals linking the east and west coasts of Scotland, The Falkirk Wheel is the world’s first and only rotating boat lift.

Standing at a height of 35 metres, it moves boats between the Union Canal and Forth & Clyde Canal, replacing a flight of 11 locks which was dismantled in 1933.

It can carry 600 tonnes, including eight or more boats and uses just 1.5KWh of energy to turn – the same amount as it would take to boil eight household kettles.

The Falkirk Wheel visitor centre vividly tells the story of the canals and the Wheel.

Drifters has two canal boat hire bases at the Falkirk Wheel, with 2013 prices starting at £446 for a short break and £686 for a week’s hire.

Bingley Five Rise Locks

Completed in 1774, this spectacular staircase of locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal 17 miles from Leeds, raises (or lowers) boats 18 metres (60ft) in five cavernous chambers.

The locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom gate of the next.

The Five Rise Café has a cabinet of curiosities which explains why the canal and locks were built.  There’s also a Family Trail to follow and a Smartphone App to download with videos and real stories about the locks.

Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is 30 miles away at Foulridge.  2013 prices for a week’s break start at £515 (including fuel).

Foxton Inclined Plane Museum

The Foxton Inclined Plane was short-lived but fascinating example of Victorian ingenuity.

The Foxton staircase of locks on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal was built in 1810.  A trip through the locks takes about 45 minutes, rising 75ft and uses 25,000 gallons of water.  Only narrowboats can travel through.

Towards the end of the 19th century, with the coming of the railways, canal carrying companies wanted to use bigger boats to take coal from the North to the London factories.  Grand Junction Canal Company engineer Gordon Cale Thomas put forward the idea of a unique boat lift which consisted of two huge tanks of water linked by wire rope.

A steam driven winch at the top wound the rope on to one side of its drum and simultaneously let it off the other, raising and lowering the tanks.  Two narrowboats or one barge could fit in each tank.

The lift, which opened in 1900, reduced the journey time up or down the hill to 12 minutes and used considerably less water.

Sadly, with the reduction in traffic on the canals, the lift was mothballed in 1911 to save money and in 1928 the machinery was sold for scrap.

The Foxton Inclined Plane Trust runs a small museum in the lift’s former boiler house at Foxton Locks which tells the story of the incredible Foxton Inclined Plane.

Drifters’ nearest base is a five-hour cruise away at North Kilworth.  2013 prices start at £465 for a short break or £660 for a week.


…and visit waterside attractions along the way, including Cadbury World, the Sea Life Centre at Brindley Place, National Garden Festival, SS Great Britain, Standedge Tunnel and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

Drifters is offering some fantastic UK family canal boat hire breaks on our beautiful inland waterway network at Easter, with prices starting at just £536 for a short break and £825 over the Easter weekend on a boat for four.

Canal boat holidays offer families the chance to set off on an adventure together – learning how to work the locks, navigate tunnels, speak the boating lingo, spot wildlife, explore mile upon mile of traffic-free towpaths and visit waterside attractions.

All our operators provide hirers with life jackets and boat steering tuition.  Bikes can be stored on the roof of the boat and dogs are welcome aboard most hire boats.

Many canalside attractions will be hosting special Easter events, so why not pack up and ship out for some Easter holiday fun afloat.

Here are some ideas for a family adventure afloat at Easter:

***Visit the Peak District and National Garden Festival Site…Drifters base at Stoke on Trent on the Trent & Mersey Canal is on the National Garden Festival Site with its exciting Water World, dry ski-slope, multi-screen cinema, ten pin bowling and shopping centre.

This canal boat hire base offers a huge variety of routes for both beginners and experienced boaters.

On a short break travel through the stunning Churnet Valley along the Caldon Canal and head to the Churnet Valley railway and the Black Lion Pub at Consall Forge.

On a week’s break, travel the 111 mile long Four Counties Ring, stopping off along the way at the Wedgewood Factory, Lord Lichfield’s historic working estate at Shugborough Hall and Churche’s Mansion – the stunning timber framed Elizabethan Mansion House in Nantwich.

Short breaks on a boat for four from Stoke on Trent over Easter start at £536, weekly hire from £825.

***Visit the home of Cadbury’s Chocolate and the bright lights of Birmingham…Boaters can travel lock-free to Birmingham in just five hours from Drifters’ base at Tardebigge, stopping off along the way to sample the delights of Cadbury World.

With more canals than Venice, there’s no better way to travel into Birmingham City Centre where over-night moorings are available in Gas Street Basin, close to Brindley Place.

There’s plenty for families to see and do in Birmingham, including a visit to the Sea Life Centre at Brindley Place, shopping at the Mailbox and Bullring or take in a show at one of the City’s theatres, museums or art galleries.

Short breaks on a boat for four from Tardebigge over Easter start at £595, weekly breaks from £855.

***Visit Bath and Bristol on the Kennet & Avon Canal…a short break from Sydney Wharf in the centre of the beautiful World Heritage City of Bath could take narrowboat holiday-makers to historic Bradford on Avon, with its stunning Tithe Barn, used for many a costume drama film set.

Or hirers can head west to Bristol’s Floating Harbour and visit Brunel’s masterpiece – the SS Great Britain and the new Blue Reef Aquarium.  The journey to Bristol takes eight hours, passing through 13 locks.

Easter short breaks on a boat for four from Bath start at £680, weekly cruises from £970.

***Travel across the Stream in the Sky…At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (AKA ‘The Stream in the Sky’) on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, is an incredible feat of engineering and offers the canal boat ride of your life!

Even though boats travel at just four miles an hour, with not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure panoramic views of the stunning Dee Valley below, boaters literally feels like they are floating above the earth.

And travelling along the Llangollen Canal offers the chance to experience one of the UK’s most stunning stretches of waterway, explore Shropshire’s mini lakes teeming with wildlife, visit historic Chirk Castle and ride the Llangollen Steam Railway.

Short breaks on a boat for four from Trevor at Easter start from £590, weekly cruises from £840.

***Visit the Pennines afloat, the incredible Standedge Tunnel and Selby Abbey…Hire a boat for a week from Sowerby Bridge on the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation in Yorkshire and cruise through the stunning Calder Valley, then onto the Huddersfield Broad to Huddersfield.

Once in Huddersfield, narrowboat holiday-makers can moor their boat and switch to a train for a short but scenic rail trip to Marsden and the Standedge Tunnel Visitor Centre.

At 3.25miles long, Standedge is the highest, longest and deepest canal on the UK canal system.  An engineering marvel, carved through hard millstone grit, the tunnel runs beneath the Pennines from Marsden in Yorkshire to Diggle in Lancashire.  Navigating the tunnel is a specialist one-way trip for experienced boaters only but the visitor centre at Marsden offers fantastic guided boat trips in a glass topped boat.

Once back on board their hire boat in Huddersfield, boaters can head back down to the Calder & Hebble to the ancient town of Selby, with its beautiful abbey and vibrant Monday market, before heading back to Sowerby Bridge.

Short breaks on a boat for four from Sowerby Bridge over Easter start at £590, weekly hire from £910.

***Explore the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire…Drifters’ base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire is one of the most popular in the country.  Not only is it centrally located and easy to get to (it’s just minutes away from junction 15a of the M1), but it also offers a great variety of cruising routes for boaters, whether novices or experienced navigators.

A short break (four nights) could take boaters south to Fenny Stratford and back, cruising through miles of delightful countryside.  On the way canal boat holiday-makers pass through the picturesque village of Stoke Bruerne, with its friendly waterside pubs and fascinating Canal Museum housed in an old corn mill.

On a week’s cruise, boaters can travel to the historic town of Market Harborough and back via the Foxton staircase of locks, with wonderful views of the Leicestershire countryside and the chance to find out about the intriguing Foxton Inclined Plane boat lift which once operated there.

Short breaks on a boat for four from Gayton over Easter start at £655, weekly breaks from £995.

For more information about Drifters boating holidays call 0844 984 0322 or visit


For Drifters press enquiries contact Debbie Walker on 01628 635831/077486 40577


Top 10 reasons why canal boat holidays are great for families


  1. It’s the fastest way to slow down: canal boat holidays give families the chance escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and the hectic school run.  And slowing right down to four miles per hour allows everyone to live life in the moment again;
  2. Embark on a new adventure together: families can work together as a team to master navigation skills, operate the locks and venture into the world of narrowboat holidays together – with true bonding potential!;
  3. It’s fun to learn the boating lingo: canal boat hire offers the chance to learn the language of boating, with words like ‘windlass’, ‘winding hole, ’tiller’ and ‘stern’, to name but a few;
  4. Watch out for wildlife: canals are havens for wildlife so families can enjoy spotting animals together.  From the flashing blue of the kingfisher and bats skimming the water at dusk to the ‘plop’ of the watervole and the hoot of an owl, there’s always something special to look and listen out for;
  5. A break from the usual evening routine: most of our boats have televisions and DVD players but why not take the chance to dust-off long neglected cards and board games for cosy onboard evening entertainment;
  6. Enjoy exciting waterside attractions along the way: there are many family attractions to found close to the water’s edge, including the Sea Life Centre in Birmingham, SS Great Britain in Bristol, Waterworld near Stoke on Trent, Cadbury World near Warwick, the Swan Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon and Sir Titus Salt’s model town at Saltaire;
  7. Enjoy the great outdoors: keep fit together by exploring mile upon mile of traffic-free towpaths by foot or by bike;
  8. Breathe in plenty of fresh air: whether standing at the tiller with a cuppa or jumping off to work the locks, the whole family will be breathing in buckets of fresh air, guaranteeing a peaceful night’s sleep;
  9. History is all around: most of our canals were constructed over 200 years ago and thousands of historic structures make up the waterway system, including the soaring majesty of the World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the extraordinary Anderton Boat Lift AKA “The Cathedral of the Canals”, and the awesome three-mile long Standedge Tunnel in Yorkshire; and

10.  It’s the greener way: a boating holiday is estimated to be some 20 times better for the planet than spending two hours flying for a holiday overseas and as soon as you swap your car for your hire boat, you’ll be using a third of the fuel and emitting a sixth of the pollution.  


Take a romantic canal boat holiday for two this Valentine’s

Cosy double berths, wood burning stoves, frosty towpaths and still moorings make canals the perfect romantic hideaway.

A number of our canal boat hire bases offer winter cruising and luxury boats for two, giving couples the chance to escape on board their very own ‘love boat’!

Once afloat, light the on-board wood-burning stove and cuddle up for a romantic evening afloat or stop-off at historic country pubs with roaring log fires.

Today’s narrowboats are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons, including central heating, hot water, televisions and DVD players, so whatever the weather it’s always nice and cosy on board.

It’s free to moor almost everywhere on the waterway network, so a canal boat could provide the perfect romantic hide-away in the countryside miles from anywhere or a base for exploring exciting waterside destinations like Bath, Chester and Birmingham.

Here’s a list of boat yards offering winter narrowboat holidays and ideas of where to go:

  • Enjoy Valentine’s Day afloat in Bath…Drifters’ base at Sydney Wharf in the centre of the World Heritage City of Bath offers the chance to enjoy Valentine’s afloat in one of Britain’s most romantic places.  With world-famous museums, galleries, shops and restaurants and some of the finest Georgian architecture in Britain, Bath makes a fantastic destination for couples.  And if you fancy a cruise, you can head east along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal to historic Bradford on Avon with its early Saxon church and mediaeval tithe barn. Short breaks from Bath over Valentine’s Day start at £525, weekly hire from £745.
  • Visit the romantic ‘Stream in the Sky’the beautiful 46-mile Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular on the inland waterway network, and navigating the awe-inspiring 300metre World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, soaring nearly 40 metres high above the rushing waters of the River Dee is tantamount to free flight.  What a place to propose?! From Drifters’ hire base at Trevor, right next to the aqueduct, a short break to Ellesmere and back, offers the chance to travel over the aqueduct and explore the beautiful Vale of Llangollen and Shropshire Lake District.  Short breaks from Trevor over Valentine’s Day start at £465, weekly hire from £660.
  • Head for the bright lights of Birmingham…the vibrant City of Birmingham with city centre moorings at Gas Street Basin is just a five-hour cruise away from Drifters base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, making it the perfect journey for beginners.  Short breaks from Tardebigge over Valentine’s Day start at £465, weekly hire from £660.
  • Visit Mediaeval Chester…from Drifters’ base at Bunbury you can reach the ancient City of Chester on a short break, travelling along the Shropshire Union Canal.  Chester boasts a vibrant market hall, an award winning zoo, busy racecourse, trendy bars, shopping malls and restaurants.  Or head to the historic market town of Middlewich on the junction of the Trent & Mersey and Shropshire Union Canals.  Short breaks from Bunbury over Valentine’s Day start at £465, weekly hire from £660.
  • 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 variety of routes.  On a week’s cruise travel to historic Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man along the Shropshire Union.  On a short break, head through quiet countryside to the South Staffordshire village of Coven on the Staffs & Worcs Canal.  Short breaks from Great Haywood over Valentine’s Day start from £465, weekly hire from £660.

Visit the Montgomery Canal

Although only seven miles of this incredibly beautiful and remote canal is currently navigable, a narrowboat holiday along The Monty is a must for wildlife enthusiasts.

Once derelict, the Montgomery Canal reverted back to nature so well that much of it has become a haven for rare plants and animals and some sections have been designated Sights of Special Scientific Importance (SSSIs).

Authorised by an act of parliament in 1794, the canal runs for 38 miles from its junction with the Llangollen at Frankton Locks near Ellesmere in Shropshire to Newtown in Montgomeryshire, now part of Powys.

While most canals could generate enough income from the cargo they carried to be financially viable, the Montgomery Canal was built to transport lime for agricultural purposes.  Local landowners and promoters of the canal hoped to achieve a return on their investment through greater crop yields, rather than the more usual share dividends.

Partly because of the late arrival of railways in the area, the canal remained profitable until after the First World War.  But from then it became increasingly run down and was sadly officially abandoned in 1944.

Thanks to the dogged restoration efforts of the Shropshire Union Canal Society, boaters can now travel through six locks as far as Queens Head, passing over the new single span Perry Aqueduct.

Volunteer working parties continue to work towards full restoration for boats but the stretch already opened has much to offer the canal boat holiday-maker.

The route is incredibly quiet and rural and access to the canal is controlled by the lock keeper at Welsh Frankton, allowing only a limited number of boats on the length at any one time.  This helps to create a delicate balance between the needs of a navigation built for boats with the important ecology that is now established there.

A further isolated 17 mile section is usable through Welshpool and canoeists can access almost the entire canal, apart from the three mile dry section between Redwith Bridge and Llaymynech.  Thankfully, the towpath runs the full length, giving full access to walkers.

Just some of the waterways’ highlights include: historic warehouses at Rednal and Queens Head; pubs, restaurants, bike and canoe hire at the pretty village of Maesbury Marsh; the nature reserves at Aston Top Lock; angling at Gronwen; the stone built Vyrnwyn Aqueduct; and the market town of Welshpool, with its medieval timber castle.

Our nearest canal boat hire bases are at Blackwater Meadow near Ellesmere in Shropshire and at Chirk in Wrexham, both on the Llangollen Canal.



  1. Take a one-way trip through the Pennines…One of the great canal journeys this takes you across the backbone of England and through the heart of West Riding, in scenery varying from the timeless calm of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal summit to the hubbub of Leeds waterfront.  Highlights: the Stanley Ferry aqueducts; Leeds waterfront and Royal Armouries Museum; Sir Titus Salt’s Italianate mills and model town at Saltaire; Bingley Five Rise of locks; spectacular views of the Yorkshire Dales; and Foulridge Tunnel driven through the top of the Pennies.  Bases: Drifters One-way trips start either at the junction of the Rochdale Canal and Calder & Hebble Navigation in Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire or on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Foulridge in Lancashire.  Prices: a week’s hire on a boat for four people starts at £825, rising to £1500 in the peak of the summer holidays.  Fuel is included.  First pet goes free.  Transfers for four people cost £40.
  2. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’…the Llangollen Canal’s awesome 305-metre long World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales stands at over 38 metres high above the Dee Valley.  With not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure the stunning views of the valley below, canal boaters literally feel like they are floating above the earth!  Journey highlights: the picturesque town of Llangollen and its access to Horseshoe Falls; Ellesmere lakes (the Shropshire Lake District) teeming with wildlife; Chirk Castle; and the historic market town of Whitchurch.  Bases: Trevor is the closest base to the aqueduct, just 20-minutes cruise away but Drifters also has bases on the Llangollen at Chirk, Wrenbury, Whitchurch and Blackwater Meadow.  Prices: start at £385 for a short break and £595 for a week.
  3. Travel on a luxury boat to Bath…dozens of new boats are being introduced to the Drifters fleet for holidays 2013, including the new ‘Lark’ class at Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire near Trowbridge.  These six-berth boats have same extra special features such as wider beds, a TV in the bedroom as well as the saloon and a front deck table – perfect for al fresco dining.  From Hilperton, the World Heritage City of Bath is a day and half’s peaceful cruise away along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal.  Or pick up the new four-berth ‘Bond’ class boat from Bradford on Avon, just a seven-hour cruise from Bath City Centre.  Special features on ‘Bond’ boats include an extra shower room, a large stern and foredeck and a solid fuel stove.  Journey highlights: Bath’s fabulous Georgian architecture, Thermae Spa, shops, restaurants and museums; the stunning Medieval Tithe Barn at Bradford on Avon; and The George at Bathampton, once a 12th century monastery.  Bases: Hilperton and Bradford on Avon on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire.  Prices: a short break on a ‘Bond’ Class boat from Bradford on Avon starts at £560 and weekly hire from £800.  A short break on a ‘Lark’ starts at £585 and a week’s hire from £895.
  4. Glide through the Brecon Beacons…isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal offers 35 miles of quiet countryside.  Running through the Brecon Beacons National Park from Brecon to Cwmbran it has few locks but incredible mountain views.  Journey highlights: the wonderful Georgian town of Crickhowell with 13th century castle; picturesque Talybont-on-Usk with access to Blaen y Glyn waterfalls; and Brecon with its cathedral, castle ruins and stunning Georgian architecture.  Base: Goytre Wharf on the Mon & Brec near Abergavenny.  Prices: start at £455 for a short break and £695 for a week on a five berth.
  5. Discover Europe’s only short break canal circuit…50 years ago campaigning began to restore the Droitwich Canals and they finally reopened in 2011, creating the only cruising ring in Europe which can be completed on a short break.  The Droitwich Ring takes 16 hours to cruise, covering 21 miles and 33 locks.  It incorporates the River Severn and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, as well as the Droitwich Canals. Journey highlights: the historic Spa town of Droitwich; the Hanbury flight of locks; stunning views of the Worcestershire countryside along the River Severn; and the beautiful City of Worcester with its stunning 12th century cathedral.  Bases: Drifters base at Worcester is on the ring and Stoke Prior is just a few miles north of the ring on the Worcester & Birmingham.  Prices: start at £412 for a short break and £634 for a week on a boat for four.
  6. Cruise into the heart of Birmingham and take in a show…boasting more canals than Venice, Birmingham simply has to be visited by water.  City centre moorings are available at Gas Street Basin with easy access to Brindley Place, the Mailbox and Bullring shopping centres, theatres, museums and restaurants.  In 2013, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery is holding a special exhibition of The Staffordshire Hoard Anglo-Saxon collection and War Horse comes to the Birmingham Hippodrome in the autumn. Journey highlights:  Brindley Place and Gas Street Basin.  Bases: Drifters base at Tardebigge is just a five-hour lock-free cruise away from Birmingham City Centre.  Birmingham is also accessible on a week’s break from Drifters bases at Alvechurch and Stoke Prior.  Prices: start at £465 for a short break and £660 for a week on a four berth boat.
  7. Visit Scotland’s lowland canals and experience the World’s first rotating boat lift…Built as part of the Millennium Link project to restore the canals linking the east and west coasts of Scotland, The Falkirk Wheel is the world’s first and only rotating boat lift.  Standing at a height of 35 metres, it moves boats between the Union and Forth & Clyde canals, replacing a flight of 11 locks dismantled in 1933.  It can carry up to 600 tonnes and uses just 1.5KWh of energy to turn – the same amount as it would take to boil eight kettles.  Once the Wheel has taken you up, boaters can travel along the peaceful Union Canal, reaching Edinburgh in a day and a half.  Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street with easy access to the City’s fantastic museums, shops, restaurants and its world-famous castle.  Highlights: the Falkirk Wheel; the pretty canal villages of Ratho and Linlithgow; and the bright lights of Edinburgh.  Bases:  Drifters has two bases at the Falkirk Wheel.  Prices: start at £455 for a short break and £695 for a week on a boat for four.
  8. Meander through the heart of England on the Warwickshire Ring…the popular Warwickshire Ring combines stretches of beautiful unspoilt countryside with exciting urban centres, including Birmingham and Warwick.  It covers 101 miles, 94 locks and takes 48 hours of cruising, so can be done is a week but there’s more time for sight-seeing on a two week break.  The journey includes stretches of the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals.  Journey highlights: the pretty canal village of Braunston; the awesome Hatton Flight of 21 locks; Warwick Castle; Leamington Spa; and Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin.  Bases: Stretton, Rugby and Napton on the North Oxford Canal in Warwickshire.  Prices: start at £595 for a week.
  9. Enjoy a short break on Wedgwood’s Caldon Canal…one of the quietest and most picturesque canals in Britain, the Caldon Canal is a branch of the Trent & Mersey Canal and was originally built to transport porcelain.  The Caldon travels 17 miles and uses 17 locks from its junction with the Trent & Mersey Canal at Etruria near Stoke on Trent, through the beautiful Churnet Valley to Froghall Wharf.  The journey is ideal for newcomers to canal boat holidays and can easily be done on a short break.  Journey highlights: stunning views along the River Churnet; the Black Lion Pub at Consall Forge; and the Churnet Valley Railway.  Bases: Stoke on Trent at the junction of the Caldon and Trent & Mersey Canals in Staffordshire.  Prices: short breaks start at £412, weekly hire from £634.

10. Visit London afloat and see an unexpected side of the Capital…travel through the heart of London, starting on the Grand Union Canal at Greenford in West London and finishing in the docklands in the east at Limehouse Basin, where the Regent’s Canal meets the mighty River Thames.  Along the way you’ll see a quieter more peaceful side of the Capital, passing through Little Venice, Regent’s Park, London Zoo and Victoria Park.  There are plenty of safe places to moor with easy access to London’s top attractions, theatres, restaurants and shops.  Journey highlights: passing over the North Circular and watching the queues of traffic as you glide on by; pretty and tranquil Little Venice with waterside eateries; vibrant Camden Lock and its market; the Victorian Ragged School Museum at Mile End; and Gordon Ramsey’s The Narrow Pub at Limehouse Lock.  Base: London on the Grand Union Canal at Greenford.  Prices: short breaks start at £525, weekly hire from £808.

For more information about Drifters canal boat holidays call 0844 984 0322 or visit


For Drifters press enquiries, including photos and destination details, contact Debbie Walker on 01628 635831/077486 40577

Notes to editors

Drifters Waterway Holidays is made up of a consortium of six hire boat companies: Anglo Welsh, Black Prince, Countrywide Cruisers, Rose Narrowboats, Shire Cruisers and UK Boat Hire.  Between them they offer over 500 boats for hire, operating from 35 bases across the country.  2013 prices start at £355 for a short break and £545 for a week.  Narrowboats range from 42ft to 70ft and can accommodate up to 12 people. Tel 0844 984 0322.



All Aboard a 12 berth Canal Boat!

A canal boat holiday on a boat that sleeps 12 people is a great way to bring family or friends together for an adventure afloat.

It’s also cost effective, with 12 berth canal boat hire prices starting at less than £12 per person per night.

Enjoy dinner parties afloat, get-togethers in waterside pubs, taking it in turns to work the locks and steer the boat, plus days and nights out in exciting waterside city centres, including Birmingham, Bath, Chester and Oxford.

The following Drifters’ bases offer 12 berth canal boats for short break narrowboat holidays or weekly hire:

  • Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in West Berkshire;
  • Alvechurch on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal in Worcestershire;
  • Anderton on the junction of the Trent & Mersey Canal and River Weaver Navigation in Cheshire;
  • Bradford on Avon on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire;
  • Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire;
  • Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire;
  • Great Haywood on the Staffs & Worcs Canal in Staffordshire;
  • Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire;
  • Oxford on the River Thames in Oxfordshire;
  • Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal in Worcestershire;
  • Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in Wrexham; and
  • Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal in Warwickshire.

Configurations vary, but typically the accommodation on board is made up of dinette doubles, single bunks and single cabins.  You will also find a kitchen, two showers and two toilets on board, plus storage space for luggage.

So check out our 12 berth boat availability and book your party afloat now!


Flagships, a collection of small family-run hotel boat businesses, has published it 2013 journeys – offering the choice of over 75 narrowboat holidays.

Hotel boating on the canals offers all the benefits of a relaxing cruise on Britain’s beautiful inland waterways, with the catering and navigating chores taken out of it.  Singletons, couples, families or groups of friends are welcome and it’s a great way to meet people.

Flagships operators are independently inspected by qualified Tourist Board inspectors.

They offer short breaks and seven-night canal boat holidays all across the country.  Prices start at £665 for a week and £550 for a short break (five nights).

Follow the link from our website or go direct to

Visit London’s canals in the Spring with Snipe & Taurus

Traditional 70ft long narrowboat pair Snipe & Taurus, will begin their 2013 season with a seven-night trip from Warwick to Market Harborough along the Grand Union Canal, starting on 26 April.  The journey will take in 52 miles of canal and 48 locks along the way.

Over the next six months they will visit Leighton Buzzard, London, Ware, Windsor, Hungerford, Bath, Devizes, Newbury, Oxford, Warwick, Stafford, Peak District, Manchester, Liverpool, Northwich, Chester, Brewood, Worcester, Stratford upon Avon, Birmingham and Coventry.

Their last cruise of the season will take them back to Warwick via the Ashby Canal and Leamington Spa, departing on 3 October from Coventry.

Owner Neil Thomsett explains: “Travelling at just four miles per hour, enjoying the wildlife, peaceful countryside and historic pubs and houses along the way, hotel boat passengers can’t help but change gear both mentally and physically.  Holiday-makers can just sit back and watch the world go by or get active by helping to work the locks, steer the boat or walk along the towpath.

“All our cruises include transport to and from the nearest mainline railway station and car parking can be arranged at some of our departure/destination points.  All meals and snacks are included as part of the cruise, plus soft drinks, teas and coffees.

“One of our favourite trips this year will be a visit to London’s canals in the Spring, travelling from metropolitan Little Venice to rural Ware, with overnight stops at the Docklands and Waltham Abbey.”

Snipe & Taurus offer comfortable accommodation for up to nine guests in five single, one twin and one double cabin.  Snipe & Taurus cruises start at £695 for seven nights and £550 for five nights.

Pass through the Pennines with hotel boat Periwinkle

Periwinkle offers accommodation for just three passengers at a time.  Her season starts on 3 April 2013 with a cruise from Barnoldswick to Manchester on the Leeds & Liverpool and Bridgewater canals.

From there she will visit Northwich, Chester, Llangollen, Nantwich, Birmingham, Stratford, Worcester, Kidderminster, Stone, Rugby, Warwick, Market Harborough, Burton on Trent, Congleton, Kidsgrove, Middlewich, the Peak District, Liverpool, Burnley, Leeds and Hebden Bridge.  Their last cruise will leave Leeds on 10 October, arriving in Salterforth six days later.

Gill and Steve Cookson, the husband and wife team who own and operate the boat, explain: “Our holidays really are the fastest way to slow down.  Our customers come from all over the world to enjoy a quieter pace of life on Britain’s beautiful inland waterways.  We provide full board, including a four-course dinner each evening, plus comfortable beds and a lovely hot shower.

“One of the highlights this year will be our journeys through the Pennines in September and October, travelling along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and through the Bingley Five Rise Locks, an incredible feat of engineering.

“We also offer walking holidays afloat.  After organising your route and giving you a hearty breakfast, we will drop you off with a packed lunch, arranging a time and place to meet you later in the day.”

Hotel boat Periwinkle offers seven-night cruises at £730 per person per cruise and six-night cruises at £630.

Visit Royal Windsor afloat with Duke & Duchess

Traditional narrowboat pair Duke & Duchess offer a hotel boat service for up to eight people.  For the 2013 season, owner David Owen and his family are offering 26 cruises, starting on 20 April with a seven-night cruise from Birmingham to Nantwich, along the Shropshire Union Canal.

From Nantwich they will visit Llangollen, Chester, Manchester, Stone, Stoke, Coventry, Leighton Buzzard, Little Venice, Windsor, Newbury, Bath, Oxford, Warwick, Droitwich, Northwich, Kidderminster, Birmingham and Stratford upon Avon.  Their final cruise of the season will leave Stratford upon Avon on 12 October, arriving in Warwick five nights later.

David explains: “Hotel boats offer a perfectly relaxed chore-free way to discover the secrets of the canals.  Our small moving hotel offers a friendly atmosphere with personal attention, wonderful company and delicious cuisine!  The boats are a traditional 70 foot narrowboat pair, with the motor Duke towing the unpowered butty Duchess.  Although built in the traditional style, they provide modern hotel comforts, plus the added bonus of ever changing views.

“This season we are looking forward to spending extra time on the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal as well as exploring down river to the Bristol Floating Harbour.  And we are looking forward to cruising up to Windsor in June, with spectacular views of the castle and the magnificent Great Park.”

Prices start at £640 for five nights and £665 for seven nights.