Enjoy a festival afloat this summer


Dancers at the Llangollen Eisteddfod

 A series of exciting canalside events are taking place over the summer holidays, so enjoy some festival fun afloat on your next canal boat holiday.   From small-scale village festivals to world-class city attractions, here are our top five:

The Llangollen Eisteddfod, 9-14 July
The International Musical Eisteddfod at Llangollen on the Llangollen Canal is one of the world’s great musical events, bringing a fiesta of music, language, dance and colour and attracting thousands of people from around the world.
Six days of world-class competitions and concerts will end with a spectacular fireworks display.

Our nearest canal boat hire bases are at Trevor (just two hours away), Chirk (three hours away) and Blackwater Meadow (eight hours away).

IWA National Festival, 19-21 July
The Inland Waterway’s 2013 National Festival will take place at Cassiobury Park on the Grand Union Canal in Watford.  Crafts, food, real ale and boats galore (both new and used) will help to make this a festival to remember. The entertainment will include a flypast by a World War II Spitfire (circumstances permitting), a Victorian fairground, plus song and dance throughout.

Our nearest narrowboat holiday hire base is nine hours away on the Grand Union Canal in West London.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2-26 August
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival with more than 2,800 shows and 24,000 performers bringing their work to 270 venues across the city.  Among the shows with the broadest appeal is a stage adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption, based on the book that inspired the cult movie, starring comedian Omid Djilili and Dad’s Army’s Ian Lavender. Taggart star Blythe Duff will perform in Ciara, a new play by David Harrower, and Game of Thrones star Gemma Whelan stars in the premiere of Dark Vanilla Jungle by Philip Ridley.  Big name comedians vying for audiences include Al Murray, Alexei Sayle, Sandi Toksvig, Ardal O’Hanlon, David Baddiel, Lucy Porter, Sean Hughes and Susan Calman.

Our base at the Falkirk Wheel on the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals is an 11-hour cruise away. Visitor moorings can be found at Edinburgh Quay, just five minutes from Princes Street in the city centre.

Cropredy Music Festival, 8-10 August
The annual Fairport’s Cropredy Convention takes place in the village of Cropredy, on the Oxford Canal near Banbury.
Widely acclaimed as the ultimate celebration of folk-rock, increasingly the tens of thousands of music-loving folkies who invade the normally tranquil village of Cropredy in North Oxfordshire for three days each August, are treated to a more eclectic range of music. Festival founders and rock-folk originators Fairport Convention are still the principal headliners, but the bill this year includes several distinctly non-folk performers, including the original shock-rocker Alice Cooper, 10cc, Levellers and Nik Kershaw.

Our nearest bases are at Oxford (seven hours away) and Napton (10 hours away).

Blisworth Canal Festival, 10-11 August
During the Blisworth Canal Festival, the village waterfront will be full of trade boats and stalls selling everything from cheese to boat oil. Two trip boats will be operating and the Funion Bargee will provide free supervised play sessions for children.  Seven village venues will offer a variety of exciting attractions including pony rides, a master blacksmith, a ‘have-a-go bell-tower!’, a variety of food outlets, wood carving, laser arena, bars, rural craft demonstrations, companion dog show, vintage caravans, WWII re-enactment, children’s fairground, chicken display, art gallery and Bistro. And on the Sunday, 10 local gardens will be open. There will also be free heritage walks and longer guided rambles, plus free live music to enjoy.

Our nearest base is round the corner at Gayton, or 12 hours away at Rugby.

Top 20 Canal Boat Names

Holiday makers enjoying Anglo Welsh's Romney

With the help of the Canal & River Trust, Drifters has gathered a list of the top 20 most popular canal boat names:

1. Kingfisher 2. Dragonfly 3. Phoenix 4. Willow 5. Merlin 6. Poppy 7. Serenity 8. Tranquility 9. Serendipity 10. Sapphire  11. Dreamcatcher 12. Free Spirit 13. Blue Moon 14. Freedom 15. Narrow Escape 16. Grace 17. Bluebell 18. Andante 19. Heron 20. Kestrel

There are over 33,000 canal boats on Britain’s 3,000-mile network of inland waterways, and 1,100 of them are available for holiday hire.

Tim Parker, Chairman of Drifters, says: “The most popular canal boat names reflect the gentle nature of our peaceful inland waterways and the wildlife that inhabits them.  Narrowboat holidays offer the chance to slow right down and escape the hectic pace of our everyday lives.  Holiday-makers can enjoy the quietness of our beautiful countryside when travelling rural stretches, as well as the attractions on offer in our vibrant waterside towns and cities.”

Overall, the number of boats on our inland waterways has increased by 40 per cent in the last 10 years.  According to the British Marine Federation’s latest ‘Watersports Participation Survey’, 287,000 people went canal boating last year and the numbers have increased by 23 per cent in the last five years.

Celebrity Canal Boaters

Over a quarter of a million people enjoy canal boating every year on Britain’s peaceful network of canal and rivers, including a number of celebrities.

Last month, the BBC’s outdoor girl Julia Bradbury enjoyed a trip on a canal boat at the Crick Boat Show & Waterways Festival. Julia said:“I thoroughly enjoyed exploring some of Britain’s canals for my Canal Walks series. They cut a sedate path through some of the country’s finest scenery.”

Hollywood hero Harrison Ford, his wife Calista Flockhart and her son Liam, took a holiday on the Llangollen Canal in Wales in 2004. In a recent interview on the subject, Harrison said: “there’s nothing quite like it to slow your life down and I do it a lot.”

In 2010, Pirates of the Caribbean star Kiera Knightley rented a canal boat on a canal in London’s East End to use as a romantic weekend hideaway with boyfriend Rupert Friend. A neighbour interviewed by Marie Claire magazine said: “they like nothing better than strolling along the canal hand in hand and going to the chippy for a fish supper.”

The Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey enjoyed a weekend canal boating on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Bradford on Avon in 2008. According to the Moonraker Narrowboat Company, “he had so much fun, he ended up skipping some appointments in London to stay longer.”

David Suchet CBE, best-known for playing Poirot and a great supporter of the canals, spent the first five years of his marriage to actress Sheila Ferris, living on a narrowboat. He has taken regular holidays on the canals ever since and says: “I think it’s the independence that canal life affords you, the views of the countryside, the peace and the privacy.”

Timothy West CBE and Prunella Scales CBE, both renowned actors from stage and screen, have enjoyed many holidays on their own narrowboat. West said in a 2009 Daily Telegraph interview: “A canal boat holiday was a particular blessing when the children were younger because they got so wonderfully tired working the locks and swing bridges that they’d be exhausted by six and drop straight off to sleep, leaving us free to sit down and open a bottle of wine.”

Stan Cullimore, guitarist and singer with the 80s indie pop band The Housemartins, has taken several canal boat holidays in the last year. He says: “being on the canals is like going back to the 50s – everyone is just so nice to each other, and so helpful.”

BBC’s The One Show presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff took a holiday with her family on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bradford on Avon last autumn. Of canal boats, she says: “the moment you set foot on them, your pulse seems to slow and you relax as the pace is snail-like and there is nothing you can do to hurry things along.”

Veteran television presenter John Craven OBE, and Friend of the Canal & River Trust, says: “Over the years I have explored many canals. I grew up visiting the Five Rise flight of locks at Bingley on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and taking a narrowboat across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct left me lost for words.”

Acclaimed British actor Timothy Spall OBE and his wife Shane bought a narrowboat in 1997 and explored the canal network for a number of years, before swapping it for the seafaring Princess Matilda in 2004.

Visit a castle on your next canal boat holiday

Narrowboat holidays are a great way to sightsee and there are hundreds of top historic attractions on, or close to, Britain’s 3,000-mile canal network.

We’ve listed of our top five favourite canalside castles to visit on your next holiday afloat, together with our nearest canal boat hire base.


Warwick Castle on the River Avon…said to be Britain’s greatest medieval experience, Warwick Castle was developed from an original castle built by William the Conqueror in 1068. If offers visitors the chance to explore its grand interiors, climb its impressive towers and ramparts and visit some of its special attractions, including the terrifying Castle Dungeon. There are also regular ‘Flight of the Eagles’ and ‘Mighty Trebuchet’ firing displays in the extensive castle grounds. Warwick Castle is a seven-hour cruise from our base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire.

Chirk Castle on the Llangollen Canal…this magnificent medieval fortress at Chirk was completed in 1310 and is the last Welsh castle from the reign of Edward I still lived in today. Features from its 700 years include the medieval tower and dungeon, 17th century long gallery, grand 18th century state apartments, servants’ hall and historic laundry. It also boasts award-winning gardens and incredible views over the Cheshire and Salop plains. Drifters’ nearest base is at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal in Wrexham.

Windsor Castle on the River Thames… Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world and has been the family home of British kings and queens for almost 1,000 years. It is an official residence of Her Majesty The Queen and is still used regularly for ceremonial and State occasions. State Banquets are held in St George’s Hall, where a single table can seat 160 people. Windsor can be reached on a week’s holiday from our base is at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Berkshire.

Berkhamsted Castle on the Grand Union Canal…one of the oldest motte and bailey castles in England, the fascinating ruins of Berkhamsted Castle can be found close to the Grand Union Canal in Hertfordshire. When William the Conqueror was crowned King in 1066, he granted the Manor and Honour of Berkhamsted to his half-brother Robert, Count of Mortain, and work started on the castle. The castle went on to become the home of many key Royal figures, including The Black Prince from 1337. Berkhamsted can be reached on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ base at London on the Grand Union Canal in Hertfordshire.

Skipton Castle on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal…Over 900 years old, Skipton Castle in North Yorkshire is one of the most complete and best preserved castles in England. Visitors can explore every corner of this impressive castle, which withstood a three-year siege during the Civil War. They can explore the banqueting hall, kitchen, bedchamber and privy, and climb from the depths of the dungeon to the top storey of the watch tower. Skipton is 10 hours from our Foulridge base on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Cumbria.

Hire a canal boat for Father’s Day


Pubs and boats – sound like a good combination for a Father’s Day treat?

Most Dads would agree there’s nothing quite like messing about in boats, so why not hire a canal boat for the day and plan a visit to a pub along the way.

Drifters offers day boat hire at nine of its bases, from less than £10 per person. Full tuition is included so those new to canal boating can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.

Boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle so the boating party can enjoy a picnic afloat or head for a waterside pub. Most day boats also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.

Here’s a list of Drifters’ day canal boat hire centres and prices for 2013:

Staffordshire delights – from Drifters’ base at Great Haywood on the Staffs & Worcs Canal near Stafford, the recommended day boat cruise is a six-hour journey to the historic market town of Rugeley and back through several locks, past Lord Lichfield’s beautiful Shugborough Hall. Stop at Shugborough for a picnic in the grounds, visit a pub in Rugeley or stop at the delightful ‘Wolseley Arms’ in Wolseley Bridge. Day boat hire from Great Haywood starts at £99 for up to 10 people.

Sightseeing along ‘The Shroppie’ – from Drifters’ base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union near Crewe, cruise south past Barbridge and Nantwich to Baddington Bridge. With no locks to negotiate and plenty of pubs ‘en route’, it’s a delightful way to spend the day afloat. Day boat hire from Bunbury starts at £99 for up to 10 people.

Tunnel through rural Worcestershire – from Drifters’ base at Tardebigge on the Worcs & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, a pretty rural route with historic pubs along the way, including the family-friendly ‘Hopwood House’ at Alvechurch. The route is lock-free but there are three tunnels to pass through. Day boat hire from Tardebigge starts at £99 for up to 10 people.

Visit ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from the Drifters’ base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales it’s just 20 minutes by boat to the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (AKA ‘The Stream in the Sky’), offers a fantastic waterway adventure. With not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure the stunning views of the Dee Valley below, canal boaters literally feel like they are floating above the earth! Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £110 for up to 10 people.

Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from Drifters’ base at Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, enjoy incredible mountain views on the way to the ‘Horse & Jockey’ pub. Goytre means ‘place in the woods’ and the wharf was once used to supply coal to the nearby estate. Interactive displays on site tell visitors more about the wharf’s history. Day hire from Goytre starts at £90 for up to 12 people.

Explore Shakespeare’s country – from Drifters’ base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford Upon Avon, you can choose between an easy day cruising to Wilmcote and back (2.5 hours each way), or a more challenging cruise to Lowsonford and back, negotiating a total of 16 locks, with the opportunity to stop for an hour at the ‘Fleur de Lys’ pub, famous for its pies (3.5 hours each way). Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people.

Take a cruise in Bath – Drifters’ base at Sydney Wharf in the World Heritage City of Bath offers the chance to sample a scenic cruise on one of Britain’s most popular waterways, the Kennet & Avon Canal. Head east to Bathampton and make the historic ‘George Inn’, a vision of Olde England and once a 12th century monastery, your lunchtime destination. Or head west into Bath City Centre, with fantastic views of its beautiful Georgian architecture. Day boat hire from Bath starts at £120 for up to 10 people.

Wend your way through Wiltshire – from Drifters’ base at Hilperton Marina in Wiltshire on the Kennet & Avon, cruise east through unspoilt countryside to waterside ‘The Barge Inn’ at Seend or head West to Bradford on Avon and the ‘Cross Guns’ pub at Avoncliffe Aqueduct, with fantastic views of the foothills of the Cotswolds. Day boat hire from Hilperton starts at £105 for up to eight people.

Experience the rural North Oxford Canal – from Drifters’ base at Stretton-under-Fosse near Rugby, cruise north through open farmland to the pretty village of Ansty with its pottery and ‘Rose & Castle’ pub. Or head south, travelling through quiet woodland and Newbold Tunnel to the village of Newbold with several pubs to choose from. Day boat hire from Rugby starts at £150 for a boat for 12 people.

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Get the family afloat this summer

Narrowboat 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 along the way.

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 boats.

Here are some ideas for family canal boat holiday destinations this summer:

Explore the markets of Skipton…On a week’s holiday from our base at Foulridge on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Cumbria, boaters can reach the historic and vibrant market town of Skipton on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.

On the way, enjoy extensive views of sheep country, stone walls, farm houses and the occasional village or small town.

It takes ten hours to travel the 16 miles and 15 locks to Skipton, where you can find moorings in the centre of town and explore the medieval castle, street markets, quirky shops, tea rooms and restaurants.

Visit Bristol’s Floating Harbour, home of Blackbeard the Pirate…on a short break from Sydney Wharf in the centre of the beautiful World Heritage City of Bath, canal boat holiday-makers can head west on the River Avon to moor up in Bristol’s Floating Harbour.

There you can visit Brunel’s masterpiece, the SS Great Britain, as well as the new Blue Reef Aquarium and find out more about the city’s fascinating marine history, including Blackbeard the Pirate, said to have been born there.

The journey from Bath to Bristol takes eight hours, passing through 13 locks.

Watch the Lion King at the Birmingham Hippodrome…Boaters can travel lock-free to Birmingham City Centre in just five hours from our base at Tardebigge. Centrally located over-night moorings can be found at Gas Street Basin.

Birmingham offers plenty for families to see and do including a visit to the Sea Life Centre at Brindley Place, shopping at the Mailbox and Bullring or a visit to the fantastic Lion King show, on at the Birmingham Hippodrome from 29 June to 28 September.

Meander down the Oxford Canal…one of the oldest in the country, the pretty Oxford Canal follows the contours of the land. From our base at Napton on the North Oxford Canal in rural Warwickshire, it takes a week to travel to Oxford and back on a boating holiday.

Along the way, you pass through Banbury and some lovely canalside villages, including Thrupp, Lower Heyford and Shipton-on-Cherwell, with stone built houses, cosy pubs, ancient churches and village greens.

There are centrally located moorings in Oxford, giving boaters the chance to visit some Oxford’s world famous sites, including the Bodleian Library and Ashmolean Museum.

Travel to Chester by boat…Our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley in Cheshire is just seven hours by boat away from historic Chester.

Famous for its Medieval architecture and city walls, Chester also offers a vibrant market hall, an award-winning zoo, busy racecourse, trendy bars, shopping malls, restaurants and a series of festivals across the summer.

Visit a National Trust property on your canal boat holiday

There are dozens of National Trust properties within easy reach of our canals and rivers, making them great places to stop-off at on your narrowboat holiday.

We’ve put together a list of our top 10, together with Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base:

The Rock Houses at Kinver Edge on the Staffs & Worcester Canal…Kinver’s famous Holy Austin Rock Houses near Stourbridge were inhabited until the 1950’s and give an atmospheric glimpse into a bygone age.  The woodland sandstone ridge out which the houses are built, offers dramatic views across surrounding counties.  Drifters’ nearest hire base is at Gailey on the Staffs & Worcester Canal.

Knot garden at Little Moreton Hall on the Macclesfield Canal…this iconic Tudor Manor House in Congleton offers an insight into life in the 1600s and its manicured knot garden grows herbs and vegetables used by the Tudors for their cooking and medicines.  Drifters’ nearest base is at Stoke on Trent (Peak District) on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

William Morris interiors at Wightwick Manor on the Staffs & Worcester Canal…described as ‘the haven of a romantic industrialist’, this beautiful timber-framed house in Wolverhampton has stunning interiors decorated with the designs of William Morris and his Arts & Crafts contemporaries.  Drifters’ nearest base is at Great Haywood on the Staffs & Worcester Canal.

Timber-frames at Greyfriars House close to the River Severn…this late Medieval merchant’s house and walled garden in Worcester city centre was rescued from demolition after the Second World War and has been carefully restored and refurbished.  The closest Drifters’ base is at Worcester on the River Severn.

700 years of history at Chirk Castle on the Llangollen Canal…this magnificent medieval fortress at Chirk was completed in 1310 and is the last Welsh castle from the reign of Edward I still lived in today.  Features from its 700 years include the medieval tower and dungeon, 17th century Long Gallery, grand 18th century state apartments, servants’ hall and historic laundry.  It also boasts award-winning gardens and incredible views over the Cheshire and Salop plains.  Drifters’ nearest base is at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal.

Profumo Affair links at Cliveden on the River Thames at Maidenhead…a country retreat on a grand scale, Cliveden’s magnificent gardens and breath-taking views have been admired for centuries.  Once the glittering hub of society and visited by virtually every British Monarch since George I, Cliveden was renowned for hosting exclusive parties and political gatherings, and later became infamously associated with the Profumo Affair.  Today visitors can explore the stunning gardens, peaceful woodlands and Thames riverbank.  Drifters’ nearest base is at Aldermaston on The Kennet & Avon Canal.

Notable topiary at Packwood House on the Stratford Canal…originally built in the 16th century, the interiors of this timber-framed Tudor house at Lapworth were extensively restored between the First and Second World Wars by Graham Baron Ash to create a fascinating 20th century evocation of domestic Tudor architecture.  Its gardens have fine herbaceous borders and a famous collection of yews.  Drifters’ nearest base is at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.

Exquisite embroideries at East Riddlesden Hall on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal…this 17th century manor house at Keighley was a hive of farming activity for generations.  It has a cosy lived-in feel with exquisite embroideries and blackwork, plus oak furniture and pewter on show.  Drifters nearest base is at Foulridge on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

18th century gardens at Hanbury Hall on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal…built in 1701 by Thomas, Vernon, a lawyer and whig MP for Worcester, Hanbury Hall near Droitwich Spa is a beautiful country house with 20 acres of recreated early 18th century gardens and 400 acres of parkland.  Drifters’ closest base is at Stoke Prior on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.

Holy Grail connections at Shugborough Hall on the Staffs & Worcester Canal…Lord Lichfield’s beautiful Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire is set in 900 acres of stunning parkland and riverside gardens.  This rare survival of a complete estate, with all major buildings including the fine Georgian Mansion House, servants’ quarters, model farm and walled garden, is rumoured to have connections to the Holy Grail.  Drifters’ nearest base is just five minutes away at Great Haywood.


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Culture on the Canals

There are dozens of fantastic art and historic centres on or very close to Britain’s 3,000 mile canal and river network.

We’ve put together a list of our top five cultural destinations to head for on your narrowboat holiday, together with our nearest canal boat hire base.

***The Swan Theatre in Stratford…Drifters’ base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley in Arden is a six hour cruise from Stratford-on-Avon and its world-famous riverside Swan Theatre.  The theatre’s 2013 summer season includes productions of Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ and ‘As You Like It’.

***The David Hockney Gallery at Saltaire…canal boat holiday-makers can easily reach Sir Titus Salt’s fascinating model town on a week’s narrowboat holiday from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge.  Saltaire, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was founded on the banks of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Bradford in 1851 by Sir Titus Salt, a leading industrialist in the woollen industry.  Salts Mill has a number of galleries, including the stunning David Hockney Gallery showing both permanent and temporary collections of the Bradford-born artist’s work.

***The Theatre Royal in Bath…Drifters’ base at Bradford on Avon is just a seven-hour cruise from Bath City centre, where narrowboat holiday-makers can find convenient moorings.  Over 200 years old, the World Heritage City of Bath’s beautiful Georgian theatre is one of the country’s best-loved.  Diana Quick is currently starring in ‘The American Plan’ and The Moscow City Ballet is performing there until 17 March.

***The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford…Drifters’ base at Oxford on the River Thames is just a three-hour cruise from Oxford City Centre, home of the Ashmolean Museum.  Founded in 1683, and extensively refurbished in 2007, it is Britain’s first public museum and home to the University of Oxford’s world-class collections of art and archaeology.  The Ashmolean has a series of permanent exhibition galleries, including a fascinating and significant collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts.  Its 2013 exhibition programme has opened with ‘Xu Bing’s Landscape Landscript’, showing landscapes by one of China’s most exciting and innovative artists working today.

***Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire…Drifters’ base at Great Haywood on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal near Stafford, is just a short cruise or walk from Lord Lichfield’s beautiful Shugborough Estate, now owned by the National Trust.  Set in 900 acres of stunning parkland and riverside gardens, it is a rare survival of a complete estate with all major buildings including the fine Georgian Mansion House, servants’ quarters, model farm and walled garden. Visitors can explore the Mansion’s state rooms and private apartments of the Earls of Lichfield, see costumed characters in the servant’s quarters and farmstead make cheese, beer and bread and find out about the estate’s rumoured connections to the Holy Grail.

Posted in boating holidays canal boat holidays narrowboat hire narrowboat holidays Short breaks by rob52. Comments Off on Culture on the Canals

BANK HOLIDAY BOATING – Our top 10 short breaks

With two bank holidays on the horizon, we’ve put together an inspirational list of our top ten short break canal boat holidays:

Enjoy the Pennines afloat…from our 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 and fields, canal boat holiday-makers pass through the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills, before reaching Todmorden.  The journey there and back covers 20 miles, 32 locks and takes around 16 hours.

***Short break canal boat hire from Sowerby Bridge in May starts at £430.

Visit the Medieval City of Chester…from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley in Cheshire, Chester is a lovely seven-hour cruise away.  Famous for its Medieval architecture and city walls, Chester also offers a vibrant market hall, an award winning zoo, busy racecourse, trendy bards, shopping malls and a huge variety of restaurants.

***Short break canal boat hire from Bunbury in May starts at £595.

Find out more about the ‘car park king’ Richard III…from our 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.  King Richard’s body was recently found beneath a Leicester car park.

***Short break canal boat hire from Stretton in May starts at £495.

Cruise into the heart of Birmingham…Brindley Place is just a five-hour cruise from our base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove.  With 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 the Mailbox and Bullring shopping centres, theatres, museums and restaurants.

***Short break prices from Tardebigge in May start at £595.

Visit Braunston canal village at the heart of the canals…from our base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, it’s a peaceful day’s cruise to Braunston, passing through the villages of Weedon and Norton.  Situated at the junction of the Oxford and Grand Union canals, Braunston is said to be ‘at the heart of the UK canal system’.  The main village is high on a hill above the canals, with plenty of pubs serving good food and a fish and chip shop.

***Short break prices from Gayton in May start at £745.

Navigate the Droitwich Ring…our base at Worcester on the River Severn is on 21-mile long Droitwich Ring – the only cruising ring in Europe which can be completed on a short break.  The 16-hour journey, which includes 33 locks, takes boaters through the historic Spa town of Droitwich and along the River Severn, with stunning views of the Worcestershire countryside.

***Short break prices from Worcester in May start at £645.

Enjoy the beautiful Llangollen Canal…from Drifters’ base at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the picturesque town of Llangollen with walking access to the famous Horseshoe Falls, is an eight-hour cruise away.  The journey includes traversing the awesome 305-metre long World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which towers 38 metres high above the Dee Valley.  Definitely not for the feint-hearted!

***Short break prices from Chirk in May start at £574.

Cruise to trendy Camden Lock…from our base on the Grand Union Canal in West London, Little Venice and Paddington Basin are just a four-hour cruise away.  From here narrowboat holiday-makers can use their canal boat as a base to visit some of the Capital’s attractions.  And just one hour further along the Regent’s Canal, boaters will reach Camden Lock, London’s most popular open air market area with vibrant shopping and entertainment areas, live music, comedy, cafes and bars.

***Short break prices from London in May start at £723.

Experience the World Heritage City of Bath…Bath City centre with its fabulous Georgian architecture, is a delightful seven-hour cruise from our base at Bradford on Avon on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire.  Along the way boaters pass fascinating historic pubs, like The George at Bathampton (once a 12th century monastery) and a series of impressive canal structures, including the Avoncliffe and Dundas aqueducts.

***Short break prices from Bradford on Avon in May start at £595.

Journey along the peaceful Caldon Canal…from our base at Stoke on Trent on the Trent & Mersey Canal, a trip along Wedgewood’s Caldon Canal is the perfect short break route.  One of the quietest and most picturesque canals in Britain, the Caldon Canal was originally built to transport porcelain.  It branches off the Trent & Mersey Canal at Etruria near Stoke on Trent and travels 17 miles and 17 locks through the beautiful Churnet Valley to Froghall Wharf.

***Short break prices from Stoke in May start at £574.


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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.