New ‘getting started’ film for boaters

We’ve worked with The Canal & River Trust (CRT) to produce a new training film to show new canal boat holiday-makers the ropes.

It’s a companion to the popular Boaters’ Handbook and contains lots of ‘getting started’ tips for narrowboat hirers and new boat owners, as well as important reminders to old hands about how to boat safely.

Sally Ash, head of boating at CRT, says: “We want new boaters to have a safe and enjoyable experience of the waterways. The friendly spirit that pervades the waterways means there is a lot of help available on the spot but it’s obviously a good idea for new boaters to build up their knowledge and confidence in other ways too. The film covers the fundamentals of boat handling, lock operation and general safety afloat.”

Customers booking with Drifters will be offered a free DVD. The 30-minute film is also available free to stream online via the CRT website and the free DVD can be ordered via the CRT on-line shop or by telephone 0303 040 4040.

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Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2014

Pontycysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales

1. Celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday…in 2014 it will be 450 years since the birth of the Bard and 50 years since the reopening of the Stratford Canal. It’s a picturesque six-hour cruise to Stratford upon Avon along the Stratford Canal from our base at Wootton Wawen, near Henley in Arden. Boaters can moor up in Stratford canal basin, a stone’s throw from the Swan Theatre and the town’s shops, restaurants and museums. 2014 canal boat hire prices from Wootton Wawen start at £465 for a short break (three or four nights) on a four berth boat, weekly hire from £660.

2. Travel along Scotland’s lowland canals…new for 2014, we will be offering Alvechurch Sanderling for hire from our Falkirk base – a 60ft wide beam boat with spacious accommodation for up to eight people. Holiday-makers can travel to through the iconic Falkirk Wheel (the world’s first and only rotating boat lift) and on to the 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 many attractions. 2014 Alvechurch Sanderling hire prices start at £825 for a short break, £1255 for a week.

3. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’…the Llangollen Canal’s incredible 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. From our base at Trevor, close to the Aqueduct, holiday-makers can travel to the pretty towns of Llangollen and Ellesmere, taking in the Ellesmere Lakes (AKA the Shropshire Lake District) and Chirk, with its 900-year old Castle. 2014 hire prices from Trevor start at £465 for a short break on a boat for four, weekly hire from £660.

4. Celebrate the Cheshire Ring…After a series of canal restorations, the Cheshire Ring reopened 40 years ago, on 1 April 1974. Narrowboat holiday-makers can celebrate the anniversary by travelling round the canal ring from our base at Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal. This popular circuit includes sections of six canals, passing through Manchester City Centre and rural Cheshire, with stunning views of the Peak District and Cheshire Plain. It takes a week to complete, tackling 92 locks, travelling 97 miles in around 55 hours. Weekly hire on a boat for four from Anderton starts at £695.

5. Visit the Hepworth Museum in Wakefield…Travelling gently along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation from our base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, it takes 12 hours to reach Wakefield, with moorings right outside The Hepworth Wakefield. This inspiring new gallery explores the work of major contemporary artists in one of the UK’s largest purpose-built galleries outside London. 2014 hire prices from Sowerby Bridge start at £435 for a short break (three or four nights) on boat for four, weekly hire from £670.

6. Mark the bicentenary of Foxton Locks…2014 will see the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Foxton Locks on the Grand Union Canal Leicester Line. The Foxton flight consists of two ‘staircases’ of five locks with a pound (or layby) in the middle. The water in the locks is controlled by paddles painted red or white. Red paddles fill the locks, white paddles empty them. Once boaters have started the flight they must continue until they have finished. The lock keeper warns boaters to look carefully at the paddle colours and operate “red before white, you’ll be alright, white before red, you’ll wish you were dead!” Foxton, with its stunning views of the Leceistershire countryside, is five hours from our base at North Kilworth. In 2014, short breaks (three or four nights) on boats for four from North Kilworth start at £465, weekly hire from £660.

7. Travel to beautiful Bath…The World Heritage City of Bath is just six hours by canal boat from our base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bradford on Avon. Boaters can enjoy views of Bath’s fabulous Georgian architecture and moor up in the city centre, close the Pulteney Bridge to visit the City’s many attractions, including the Roman Baths. 2014 hire prices from Bradford on Avon start at £428 for a short break (three or four nights) on boats for four, weekly hire from £659.

8. Glide through the Brecon Beacons…the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal offers 35 miles of canal surrounded by quiet countryside to explore, with incredible mountain views. From our base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, boaters can journey through the Brecon Beacons National Park from Brecon to Cwmbran, visiting the Georgian town of Crickhowell with its 13th century castle and picturesque Talybont-on-Usk, with walking access to Blaen y Glyn waterfalls. 2014 short breaks on four berth boats from Goytre start at £429, weekly hire from £649.

9. Navigate Europe’s only short break canal circuit…The Droitwich Ring, which takes 16 hours to cruise, covering 21 miles and 33 locks, is the only ring in Europe which can be completed on a short break. Starting from our base at Worcester, boaters can visit the historic Spa town of Droitwich and enjoy stunning views of the Worcestershire countryside along the River Severn. 2014 short breaks on four berth boats from Worcester start from £389, weekly hire from £599.

10. Visit London afloat…from our West London base, canal boat holiday-makers can travel through the heart of London along the Grand Union and Regent’s canals, to the Docklands at Limehouse Basin. The journey passes through picturesque Little Venice, Regent’s Park, London Zoo, Camden Lock, Kings Cross and Victoria Park. There are plenty of safe places to moor with easy access to London’s top attractions, theatres, restaurants and shops. 2014 short break prices from London start at £546 for a five-berth boat, weekly hire from £840.

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Celebrate Christmas on the canals

Britain’s canals offer a great antidote to the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

A number of our canal boat hire bases offer winter canal boat holidays, giving boaters the chance to enjoy cosy evenings afloat, visit waterside pubs with roaring log fires, and wake-up to frosty towpaths and crisp clean air.

Whether it’s a snug boat for two or jolly boat for 10, celebrating Christmas or New Year afloat offers a great getaway.

It’s free to moor almost anywhere on the network, so a narrowboat could provide the perfect base to enjoy new year celebrations in waterside destinations like Bath, Birmingham and Banbury.

All boats have central heating, hot water, televisions and DVD players. Some also have multi-fuel stoves. So, whatever the weather, it’s always nice and cosy on board.

Here’s a list of our bases offering winter cruising, with prices and routes for Christmas narrowboat holidays:

Travel to Bath along the Kennet & Avon Canal…our base in the historic town of Bradford on Avon offers the chance to cruise to the World Heritage Status City of Bath and back. Cosy country pubs to enjoy along the way include the George Inn at Bathampton, once a 12th-century monastery, and the Cross Guns at Avoncliffe, with panoramic views of the foothills of the Cotswolds. Christmas and New Year prices from Bradford on Avon start at £480 for short break (three or four nights) and £675 for a week on a boat for four.

Take a lock free journey to Birmingham…Birmingham is just a five-hour cruise away from our base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal – with no locks to negotiate. City centre moorings are available at Gas Street Basin, close to the bars, restaurants, shops and museums at Brindley Place. Christmas and New Year prices from Tardebigge start at £555 for a short break (three or four nights), and £790 for a week on a boat for four.

Navigate ‘The Stream in the Sky’…the awesome 300-metre long World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, carries the Llangollen Canal 40 metres above the rushing waters of the River Dee. From our base at Trevor, right next to the aqueduct, the village of Llangollen is a two-hour cruise to the west and Ellesmere is a seven-hour journey to the east, passing through the beautiful Vale of Llangollen. Christmas and New Year prices from Trevor start at £555 for a short break (three or four nights), and £790 for a week on a boat for four.

Explore the Potteries in Staffordshire…On a week’s cruise from our base at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, boaters can head up the Trent & Mersey Canal to the Caldon Canal, and travel through the beautiful Churnet Valley. On a short break, canal boat holiday-makers can head to the town of Fazeley, via the pretty canal village of Fradley. Christmas and New Year prices from Great Haywood start at £555 for a short break (three or four nights), and £790 for a week on a boat for four.

Chug through rural Warwickshire…On a short break from our base at Stretton-under-Fosse near Rugby, boaters can head south along the beautiful Oxford Canal to Braunston, winding through classic scenery, much of which hasn’t changed for centuries. On a week’s holiday, narrowboat holiday-makers can continue south to Banbury via Napton and Fenny Compton. Christmas and New Year prices from Stretton start at £505 for a short break (three or four nights) and £755 for a week on a boat for four.

Visit a bonfire night event afloat

 

Pulteney Bridge in Bath

 

Some of our bases offer winter cruising and the opportunity to visit a waterside fireworks display afloat.

All our boats have central heating and some also have multi-fuel stoves. So, whatever the weather, it’s always nice and cosy on board.

Prices start at £385 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, weekly breaks from £575.

Here’s a guide to our top five waterside bonfire night celebrations:

Bath Rotary Club Fireworks Display, 2 November 2013…from Drifters’ base in the historic town of Bradford on Avon, central Bath is seven hours away. The Rotary Clubs annual fireworks display takes place at the Bath Recreation Ground, alongside the River Avon. Gates open at 6pm, fireworks begin at 7.30pm.

The Ultimate Fireworks Spectacular at Alton Towers, 8-10 November 2013…from Drifters’ base at Great Haywood on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal in Staffordshire, boaters can reach Froghall on the Caldon Canal in 22 hours. From there, Alton Towers theme park and its spectacular end of season fireworks show, is only a short bus ride away.

Ellesmere Bonfire Night, 5 November 2013…from Drifters’ base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal, Ellesmere and its beautiful series of lakes is just seven hours away.

Bonfire Night at the Black Country Museum, 5 November 2013…from Drifters’ base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, it takes eight hours to reach the Black Country Museum at Dudley. For the evening, the Museum’s canalside village will be lit up with atmospheric candle and gas-lights, there will be fire jugglers, musical entertainers and a Guy Fawkes Dramatic Performance. But no fireworks! The event starts at 6.30pm.

Warwick Town Bonfire & Fireworks, 2 November 2013…from Drifters’ base at Stretton-under-Fosse on the North Oxford Canal near Rugby, it takes 16 hours to reach the historic town of Warwick. The town’s annual bonfire event takes place at the Racecourse. Gates open at 5pm, display starts at 6.30pm.

Winter canal boat holidays

The Trent & Mersey Canal, John Blunn, Canal & River Trust

Winter cruising on Britain’s beautiful canal network offers the chance to enjoy the quiet calm of the countryside, cosy evenings afloat, waterside pubs with roaring log fires, frosty towpaths and crisp clean air.

All our boats have central heating, hot water, televisions and DVD players. Some also have multi-fuel stoves. So, whatever the weather, it’s always nice and cosy on board.

Prices start at £385 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, weekly breaks from £575.

Here’s a list of our canal boat hire bases offering winter narrowboat holidays:

Chug through rural Warwickshire…a week’s break from our 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 Medieval Warwick Castle. The journey takes a total of 30 hours cruising, with 26 locks along the way.  On a short break, head south along the beautiful Oxford Canal to Braunston, winding through classic scenery, much of which hasn’t changed for centuries.

Travel to Bath along the Kennet & Avon Canal…our base in the historic town of Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, offers the chance to cruise to the World Heritage Status City of Bath and back.  Cosy country pubs to enjoy along the way include the George Inn at Bathampton, once a 12th-century monastery, and the Cross Guns at Avoncliffe, with panoramic views of the foothills of the Cotswolds.

Take a lock-free journey to Birmingham…boaters can reach central Birmingham in just a five hours from our  base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal – with no locks to negotiate. City centre moorings are available at Gas Street Basin, close to the bars, restaurants, shops and museums at Brindley Place and the Mailbox and Bullring shopping centres.

Navigate ‘The Stream in the Sky’…the awesome 300-metre long World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, carries the Llangollen Canal 40 metres above the rushing waters of the River Dee.  From our base at Trevor, right next to the aqueduct, a short break to Ellesmere and back offers the chance to navigate the aqueduct and to explore the beautiful Vale of Llangollen.

Visit the Medieval City of Chester…from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal, the ancient City of Chester is just a seven-hour journey through the Cheshire countryside. Medieval Chester boasts Roman tours, a vibrant market hall, an award-winning zoo, busy racecourse, trendy bars, shopping malls and restaurants. Or head south from Bunbury to the historic market town of Middlewich in Cheshire, on the junction of the Trent & Mersey and Shropshire Union Canals.

Explore the Potteries in Staffordshire…Our 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 boaters can travel along the Shropshire Union Canal to historic Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man. On a short break, head through quiet countryside to the South Staffordshire village of Coven on the Staffs & Worcs Canal.

Visit a spooky attraction by canal boat this Halloween

From haunted castles and witch burning to bat forests and ghost walks, there are plenty of half term spooky goings-on in Britain’s canalside towns and cities.

Here are our top five spooky destinations for the October half term holiday:

1. Visit the Haunted Castle…experience Warwick Castle at night and some special goulish goings-on as part of the castle’s Halloween event, 24 October to 2 November, including the mighty Trebuchet Fireball show. Drifters’ base at Napton on the North Oxford Canal is 10 hours from Warwick. October half term canal boat hire from Napton starts at £489 for a short break, £750 for weekly hire.

2. Step into the darkness at Chester Zoo…11,000 animals reside at this award-winning zoo, including over 300 bats. Celebrate Halloween in style by entering the Zoo’s Fruit Bat Forest and explore the darkness with free-flying bats all around. Narrowboat holiday-makers can reach Chester in seven hours from Drifters’ base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury. Short breaks from Bunbury during the October half term start at £645, weekly breaks from £920.

3. Take a ghost walk in Bath…walk through the ancient and mystical streets of the Roman City of Bath, learning of macabre goings-on, hauntings and tragic events of yester-year. Ghost walks take place every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 8pm, starting outside the Garricks Head pub. Bath City Centre is a two-hour cruise from Drifters Bath base. Short breaks from Bath during the October half term holiday start at £645, weekly breaks from £920.

4. Enjoy a Halloween Spooktakular at Cadbury World…During October half term Cadbury World on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal will be turned into a ghoulish site, with staff replaced by witches and vampires, plus a special Halloween X-factor style show. Boaters can reach Cadbury World in just three hours from Drifters’ base at Tardebigge. Short breaks from Tardebigge during the October half term start at £645, weekly breaks from £920.

5. Find out about witch burning at Edinburgh…Edinburgh Castle dominates Scotland’s capital city from its great rock. Battles and sieges were fought over it, royalty lived and died within its walls, and hundreds of supposed witches were burnt at the stake there. Edinburgh is an 11-hour cruise along the Union Canal from Drifters’ base at Falkirk. Short breaks from Falkirk during the October half term holiday start at £585, weekly breaks from £895.

Take a spooky canal boat holiday this Halloween

Reputedly playing host to hundreds of ghosts, with bats and frogs aplenty, creepy tunnels, spooky locks and misty towpaths, Britain’s 200-year old canal network provides the perfect backdrop for a haunting Halloween afloat.

Drifters’ Halloween canal boat hire prices start at £489 for a short break and £750 for a week on a four berth.

Here are some 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 on narrowboat holiday from our base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal in Staffordshire near Stafford. Weekly breaks on a boat for four from Brewood over Halloween start at £847, short breaks £508.

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 The King’s Inn, believed to be haunted by three separate spirits. Hire a boat from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire and you can easily make it to Chester and back on a short break. Short breaks on a four berth from Bunbury over Halloween start at £645, weekly hire from £920.

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 second route emerging. But the tunnel runs straight through the hill so people have must seen the flicker of candlelight at the spot where the first tunnel would have intersected with the main canal tunnel. Perhaps the ghostly navvies are still working there?! Canal boat hire over Halloween from our Gayton base on the Grand Union Canal close to the Blisworth Tunnel starts at £585 for a short break and £895 for a week on a four berth.

At the Union Canal tunnel in Falkirk, Scotland, two walkers and their dogs were terrified by the 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 a fire there. Canal boat hire on a four berth over Halloween from our Falkirk base starts at £522 for a short break and £802 for a week.

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. Canal boat hire over Halloween at our Peak District base on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire starts at £489 for a short break and £750 for a week on a four berth.

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 World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Canal boat hire over Halloween from our base at Trevor, right next to the Aqueduct, starts at £645 for a short break and £920 for a week on a four berth.

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 our base at Sowerby Bridge on the 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 operates boat trips into the tunnel. Weekly hire from Sowerby Bridge over Halloween starts at £850 for a boat for four.

Why are boating holidays so special?

Spending quality time on board

In July we sent our newsletter subscribers a short survey and asked why canal boat holidays are so special.

Well done to 97% of respondents who correctly said ‘No’, you don’t need a licence to drive a canal boat.

The same number of people said they think narrowboat holidays are good for families and 96% said they would recommend them to their friends.

Most of our respondents (97%) also believe canal boat holidays are good for your health and 95% agreed they are the fastest way to slow down.

A quarter of our those who completed our survey said they had been on a canal boat holiday this year – or were planning to go later in the year.

We also had many insightful answers to our question, ‘Why are boating holidays special?’

Our competition winner’s answer was: Boating holidays are special because they allow you quality time to spend with the people you love whether that be family or friends, allowing you to experience new places together and provide the fun, group bonding task of getting there! Boating holidays take you back to basics and bring you closer to nature, allowing you to appreciate the important things in life, the ones you love.

Here are just a few of our other favourites:
*World of waterways, waiting to be explored, home from home living….in the great outdoors. Pretty villages, quaint places to stop. Once you come on board, you won’t want to get off!

*Cruise the waterways at a walking pace, discovering and visiting a brand new place! Mooring up for a lunchtime break, feeding the ducks swimming in the wake! A canal break is the break for me, So I can spend quality time with my family.

*My best holidays were spent on a boat, Sometimes with the weather I had to wear a coat, My childhood memories are all there, Floating on the water with no cares, Over aqueducts miles in the air, To see the scenery I would stop and stare. Time has no barrier as you will find, On a boat you are one of a kind, Meeting people whom live on a boat, Life is tranquil and no words are spoke, Wild animals you can see, and sometimes they would stop and look at me.

*I could caravan but I would be stuck, I would camp but I would be covered in muck! I could fly away abroad to the sun, but I would have to leave my dog behind being glum! So I would choose a boating holiday every time, sitting on the roof and drinking wine, while on the move around the UK, stopping here and there discovering new places to stay. Exploring the canals of beautiful Britain, doesn’t matter if it’s raining we can just sit in. Pop the kettle on and admire the view, waving at the ducks while sat on the loo. There is something for everyone so no need to pretend, making memories to last forever with my family and friends.

*Being afloat in a narrow boat gives you time to think with a relaxing drink. As the world drifts by, land water and sky, is all one can see and where I love to be.

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Top 10 places to picnic on the canals

Whether you are enjoying a canal boat holiday, or just planning a day out by the water, when the weather is good, it’s lovely to picnic by the water.

Here are some of our favourite canalside picnic spots, all perfect for watching the boats go by:

1. Tring Reservoirs, alongside the Grand Union Canal in Hertfordshire, are designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and are fantastic for bird watching, walking and angling. They consist of four reservoirs, including Wilstone Reservoir, famous for the first nesting in this country of black-necked grebes in 1918 and little ringed plovers in 1938. Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Grand Union Canal at Gayton, 19 hours away.

2. Foxton Locks, on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal in Leicestershire, are surrounded by stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside and are recognised as one of the most important industrial heritage sites in Europe. The locks themselves consist of two staircases of five locks, which take an average of 45 minutes for a boat to negotiate. The water is controlled by paddles painted red or white. Reds fill the locks, white empties them. Foxton lock keepers advise narrowboat holiday-makers to open “Red afore white and you’ll be alright, white afore red and you’ll wish you were dead!“ Our nearest base is just five hours away at North Kilworth on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal.

3. Stoke Bruerne, on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, is a picturesque village, home to the Canal Museum and east portal of Blisworth Tunnel. There are also waterside pubs to visit and a lovely woodland walk populated with sculptured wildlife to enjoy. Drifters’ nearest base is less than a mile away at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal.

4. Caen Hill Flight, on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes in Wiltshire, is one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. With 16 of the 29 locks stacked in a straight line up the hillside, it really is an impressive sight. It takes between five and six hours for a boat to travel the flight, giving plenty of “gongoozling” opportunities for picnickers. The flight is designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the sideponds and grassland alongside it are a haven for a rich variety of wildlife. Our nearest base is just five hours away at Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

5. Hatton Locks, on the Grand Union Canal near Wariwck in Warwickshire, consists of 21 locks which raise the canal by 45 metres over two miles. Opened in 1799, they were widened in the 1930’s and reopened by an earlier Prince George, The Duke of Kent. Back then, the flight was known as the “stairway to heaven” because it led to Camp Hill where the workmen would receive their wages. Our nearest base is nine hours away at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal.

6. Froghall Wharf, at the end of the Caldon Canal near Cheadle in Staffordshire, is set within the beautiful Churnet Valley. At Froghall, there are a series of way-marked circular walks, leading visitors through woods, fields and charming villages with country pubs. Our nearest base is Peak District, 10 hours away at the junction of the Trent & Mersey and Caldon canals.

7. The Bingley Five Rise Locks, on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Bradford, is the steepest flight in the UK and holds the tallest lock gates in the country. The staircase of five locks raises the canal 18 metres and the locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom gate of the next. There are places to picnic and a cafe with a cabinet of curiosities telling why the locks were built. Our nearest base is at Foulridge on the Leeds & Liverpool, some 30 miles away.

8. Salterhebble Locks, on the Calder & Hebble Canal near Halifax, includes the electrically powered Salterhebble guillotine lock, one of only three functional guillotine locks on the network. The junction with the Halifax Arm is after Salterhebble Top Locks. The branch once climbed via 14 locks right into the centre of Halifax, but is now just 600 yards long. A footpath follows the line of the original canal into Halifax. Our nearest base is just one hour away at Sowerby Bridge, at the junction of the Calder & Hebble Navigation and the Rochdale Canal.

9. Stratford on Avon Canal Basin, at the junction of the River Avon and the Stratford Canal, is a buzzing focus for visitors to the town’s beautiful Bancroft Gardens. The Gardens occupy the site of former canal wharves, warehouses and a second canal basin which in 1902 was filled in. They are populated by a number of statues, including figures of the Shakespearean characters Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, Falstaff and Prince Hal. Our nearest base is six hours away at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal.

10. Vines Park, on the newly restored Droitwich Canals in Worcestershire, offers three hectares of parkland to explore and an exciting wooden play area for children. Fifty years ago campaigning began to restore the Droitwich Canals and they finally reopened in 2011, reconnecting the River Severn and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal through Droitwich. Our nearest base is just an hour away at Stoke Prior on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.

Spend August Bank Holiday Afloat

The Falkirk Wheel, Scotland

Canal boat holidays are great for families, offering the chance to set off on an adventure together, work the locks, spot wildlife, explore traffic-free towpaths and visit waterside attractions along the way.

Our August bank holiday weekend canal boat hire prices start at £585 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, and £825 for a week. Here are our top ten August Bank Holiday destinations:

1. Visit Edinburgh Castle and Mary King’s Close…from Drifters’ base at the incredible Falkirk Wheel on the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals in Scotland, Edinburgh is an 11-hour cruise away. Visitor moorings can be found at Edinburgh Quay, just five minutes from Princes Street. From there, it’s easy to access to the sights of Edinburgh, including the magnificent castle and fascinating Mary King’s Close, frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.

2. Enjoy an outdoor theatre performance in Chester…Drifters’ base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley in Cheshire is seven hours by boat from historic Chester. Famous for its Medieval architecture, city walls and Roman heritage, Chester also offers a vibrant market hall, an award-winning zoo, busy racecourse, trendy bars, shopping malls, restaurants and from 5 July to 25 August, the City’s Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre is hosting productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Cyrano de Bergerac and Othello.

3. See the shrunken heads at the Pitt Rivers Museum…Drifters’ base on the River Thames is just a three-hour cruise from Oxford. Canal boat holiday-makers can moor-up close to Hythe Bridge in the city centre and use their boat as a base to explore. The incredible Pitt Rivers Museum, just one of many world-class attractions in Oxford, displays the University’s archaeological and anthropological treasures, including the witch in the bottle and shrunken heads from the Upper Amazon.

4. Watch the Lion King at the Birmingham Hippodrome…With more canals than Venice, there’s no better way to travel into Birmingham City Centre than by canal boat. Boaters can travel lock-free to Birmingham in just five hours from Drifters’ base at Tardebigge, and find centrally located over-night moorings at Gas Street Basin. There’s plenty for families to see and do there, including a visit to the Sea Life Centre at Brindley Place and the chance to see the fantastic Lion King show at the Birmingham Hippodrome, showing there until 28 September 2013.

5. Experience the Pennines afloat…from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge on the junction of the Rochdale Canal and Calder & Hebble Navigation, a trip to historic Todmorden is the perfect short break destination. Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, canal boat holiday-makers pass through the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills. The journey there and back covers 20 miles, 32 locks and takes around 16 hours.

6. Travel to Bosworth Field and find out more about King Richard III…from Drifters’ base at Stretton under Fosse on the North Oxford Canal near Rugby, the beautiful Ashby Canal is the perfect short break destination. The canal passes close to the fascinating site of the Battle of Bosworth Field, where in 1485 King Richard III died and lost his crown to Henry Tudor.

7. Visit Bristol’s Floating Harbour, home of Blackbeard the Pirate…on a short break from Sydney Wharf in the centre of Bath, narrowboat holiday-makers can head west on the River Avon and moor up in Bristol’s Floating Harbour. Once there, boaters can visit Brunel’s masterpiece, the SS Great Britain and the new Blue Reef Aquarium to find out more about the city’s fascinating marine history, including Blackbeard the Pirate, said to have been born there. The journey to Bristol takes eight hours, passing through 13 locks.

8. Visit the Roman Baths in Bath…Drifters’ base at Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire is a day’s cruise from Bath City Centre. Canal boaters can moor-up close to Pulteney Bridge (reminiscent of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence), enjoy views of Bath’s fabulous Georgian architecture and visit the Roman Baths, one of 17 museums located within a square mile of this World Heritage Status city.

9. Cruise to the home of the Gingerbread Man…Drifters’ base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal near Stafford, is a nine-hour cruise from the pretty market town of Market Drayton. Home of gingerbread for the last 200 years, nearly three-quarters of this Saxon settlement was destroyed by fire in 1651. The Buttercross in the centre of the town still has a bell at the top for people to ring if there’s ever another fire.

10. Swap the slow lane for a theme park…from Drifters’ Peak District base at the junction of the Caldon and Trent & Mersey canals, near Stoke on Trent, it’s a 12-hour cruise along the peaceful Caldon Canal to Froghall. From there, Alton Towers is a short bus ride away, so canal boat holiday-makers can swap the peace and quiet of the canal for an adrenaline-fuelled fun day out.