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!

Posted in canal boat holidays narrowboat holidays by rob52. Comments Off on All Aboard a 12 berth Canal Boat!


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.


Posted in boating holidays hotel boat holidays narrowboat holidays Short breaks by rob52. Comments Off on ROUTES PUBLISHED FOR 2013 HOTEL BOAT HOLIDAYS

Celebrate Christmas Afloat

A canal boat holiday offers a great antidote to the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

A number of our canal boat hire bases offer winter cruising, giving you the chance to enjoy cosy evenings afloat, trips to waterside pubs with roaring log fires, frosty towpaths and crisp clean air.

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

And whether it’s a snug boat for two or jolly boat for 10, celebrating Christmas or New Year afloat offers a memorable getaway.  It’s free to moor almost anywhere on the network, so a your narrowboat could provide the perfect place to lay your head after enjoying New Year’s Eve celebrations in exciting waterside towns and cities like Bath, Birmingham, Chester and Warwick.

Here’s a list of Drifters bases offering winter narrowboat holidays:

  • Visit historic Warwick…a week’s break from Drifters’ 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 the Regency centre of Lemington Spa and the stunning Mediaeval Warwick Castle.  The journey takes a total of 30 hours cruising, with 26 locks along the way.  Or head south along the beautiful Oxford Canal, one of England’s most peaceful waterways which winds slowly through classic scenery, much of which hasn’t changed for centuries.  A week can easily take you as far as the historic town of Banbury and back, cruising a total of 40 hours and negotiating 25 locks.  Christmas and New Year prices from Stretton start at £505 for a short break and £755 for a week. 
  • Travel to Bath along the Kennet & Avon Canal…Drifters’ base in the historic town of Bradford on Avon offers the chance to cruise to the World Heritage Status City of Bath and back.  Fabulous country pubs to enjoy along the way include the George Inn at Bathampton, once a 12th-century monastery, and The Cross Guns at Avoncliffe, one of Wiltshire’s oldest and most popular pubs, with panoramic views of the foothills of the Cotswolds.  Christmas and New Year breaks from Bradford on Avon start at £650 for short break and £930 for a week.
  • Take a lock free journey to Birmingham…Birmingham is just a five hour cruise away from Drifters’ 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.  Short breaks over Christmas and New Year from Tardebigge start at £425, weekly hire from £605.
  • Navigate ‘The Stream in the Sky’…the awesome 300-metre long World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, soars nearly 40 metres above the rushing waters of the River Dee, carrying the Llangollen Canal.  From Drifters’ hire 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.  Short breaks over Christmas and New Year from Trevor start at £525 and weekly hire from £745.
  • Visit the Mediaeval City of Chester…from Drifters’ base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal, the ancient City of Chester is just a seven hour journey away.  Chester boasts a vibrant market hall, an award winning zoo, busy racecourse, trendy bars, shopping malls and restaurants.  Or head south from the base to the historic market town of Middlewich on the junction of the Trent & Mersey and Shropshire Union Canals.  Short breaks over Christmas and New Year from Bunbury start at £425 and weekly hire from £605.
  • 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 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.  Short breaks over Christmas and New Year from Great Haywood start at £525 and weekly hire from £745.
Posted in canal boat holidays narrowboat holidays Short breaks by rob52. Comments Off on Celebrate Christmas Afloat

FILMS MADE ON THE CANALS…take a canal boat holiday and follow in the wake of the stars!


From romantic waterside encounters to gritty urban scenes, Britain’s canals and rivers have featured in many movies and television shows over the years.

To celebrate this, Drifters Waterway Holidays ( has put together a list of some of its favourite waterway starring moments and listed the closest canal boat hire bases:

The World is Not Enough (1999): the opening sequence of this action-packed adventure was shot in the Isle of Dogs.  Look closely and you should also be able to spot Camden Lock on the Regents Canal in the first few minutes of the film.  To follow in the footsteps of 007 (albeit at a safer more leisurely pace), hire a canal boat from Drifters’ West London base on the Grand Union Canal and head east, reaching Camden Lock within five hours.

Young Adam (2003): in this romantic thriller, Ewan McGregor played a young drifter working on a barge on the Clyde in the 1950s.  The film is beautifully shot and provides poignant insights into the half-forgotten era when our waterways were an integral part of working life.  To see the Scottish Lowlands from the perspective of a modern-day canal boat, take a narrowboat holiday from Drifters’ base at the Falkirk Wheel, where the Forth & Clyde meets the Union Canal.

The Full Monty (1997): the canals make their star appearance close to the beginning of this popular northern comedy.  The scene where Gaz (played by Robert Carlyle) and Dave (Mark Addy) float down the canal on a partially submerged car was shot on Bacon Lane, Sheffield, along the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation.  To re-live the laughter, hire a narrowboat from Drifters’ Yorkshire base at Sowerby Bridge and travel through the Pennines to Sheffield.

Breaking and Entering (2006): the filming of this romantic thriller from director Anthony Minghella brought Hollywood A-listers Jude Law and Ray Winstone to the Regent’s Canal in Camden.  To recall the thrill of the chase, hire a canal boat from Drifters’ West London base on the Grand Union Canal and head east, reaching Camden Lock within five hours.

Inspector Morse (1987-2000): Inspector Morse (played by John Thaw) and his side-kick Lewis (Kevin Whately) were frequently seen enjoying a pint at The Trout on the River Thames at Wolvercote.  To take in that scene, hire a boat from Drifters’ Oxford base on the River Thames at Eynsham, a three-hour cruise from The Trout.

The River (1988): David Essex played a solitary canal lock-keeper in this popular romantic comedy made for television.  The lock cottage at Wootton Rivers on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Pewsey was chosen for setting of his home.  Drifters’ base at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal is a delightful three-day cruise away through the West Berkshire Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the idyllic countryside of the Vale of Pewsey.

Canal Walks (2011): for this popular BBC series, Julia Bradbury explored some of Britain’s finest scenery via the towpaths of the Caledonian, Worcester & Birmingham, Kennet & Avon and Llangollen canals.  Our favourite of the four episodes was her visit to the magnificent World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales.  To follow Julia’s footsteps afloat, hire a boat from Drifters’ base at Trevor, right next to the Aqueduct.

The Bargee (1964): Harry H Corbett and Eric Sykes star in this classic comedy about the life of a canal bargee with an eye for the ladies.  Look out for shots of the Grand Union Canal in Hemel Hempstead and Apsley among the plentiful canal footage.  To reach this area of the network, head south from Drifters base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire.

Tezz (2011): Bollywood came to Birmingham’s canals to film a section of this action thriller starting Anil Kapoor of Slumdog Millionaire fame.  During the filming, stunt actors jumped off the canal bridge onto moving narrowboats, outside the Mailbox shopping centre.  Don’t try this one at home!  But to visit Birmingham City Centre and explore some of the City’s incredible network of canals, hire a boat from Drifters base at Tardebigge and you can be in Brindley Place in just five hours.

Posted in boating boating holidays canal boat holidays Llangollen Canal narrowboat hire narrowboat holidays Short breaks by rob52. Comments Off on FILMS MADE ON THE CANALS…take a canal boat holiday and follow in the wake of the stars!

Ten good reasons to take a canal boat holiday.


  1. It’s the fastest way to slow down – with speed limits of 4mph and hundreds of miles of tranquil unspoilt countryside to cruise through, on a narrowboat holiday stress levels are immediately reduced and a whole new much steadier pace of life takes over.
  2. Freedom – across the majority of our 3,000-mile inland waterways network moorings are free, so, glass of wine in hand, you are free to choose where to moor your canal boat for the night.
  3. Fitness – working the locks, exploring local footpaths, cycling the towpaths and standing at the tiller enjoying the fresh air – all the ideal antidote to stuffy gyms and office blues.
  4. 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 a boat, you’ll be using a third of the fuel and emitting a sixth of the pollution.
  5. Plenty of pubs – with hundreds of waterside pubs, a watering hole is never far away, many of them historic rural locals.
  6. History is all around – thousands of historic structures make up the waterway system, including the soaring majesty of the World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the extraordinary Anderton Boat Lift AKA “The Cathedral of the Canals”.
  7. Watch out for wildlife – waterways provide homes for large numbers of birds, plants and animals, including many protected species – the water vole, otter and kingfisher, so there’s always something special to look out for.
  8. Enjoy all the comforts of home – today’s canals boats are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons: central heating, microwaves, ovens, hot water, TV, DVD players, showers and flushing toilets.
  9. Help keep the local economy afloat – over £1½ billion is spent by visitors to the waterways each year on goods and services, supporting some 54,000 jobs.
  10. Try something new – around a fifth of hire boaters are new to canal boat hire each year so it’s easy to learn to steer a boat and navigate the waterways.


Posted in boating holidays canal boat holidays narrowboat hire narrowboat holidays Short breaks by rob52. Comments Off on Ten good reasons to take a canal boat holiday.

Watch out for Wildlife

Britain’s canals and rivers have become important havens for wildlife so canal boat holidays are great for anyone interested in nature.

Many kinds of animals live on the canals, from common sights such as ducks, coots, geese, swans and moorhens, to rarer creatures like otters, kingfishers and water voles.

On a narrowboat holiday, as you potter along as just four miles per hour or less, you are likely to spot a whole host of creatures during the day – birds in the hedgerows, waterfowl on the water, herons fishing quietly on the bank.

You might see kestrels in the air, a stoat on the towpath or frogs and newts in shallow waters.

At night, if you moor up somewhere rural and close to trees, you might also hear an owl, witness bats swooping across the canal or glimpse a badger wandering close to the riverbank.

In the morning, you will probably wake to the sound of birds singing and in the summer, you might even hear a cuckoo calling.

Depending on the time of year, you are also likely to see many representatives from the insect world – dragonflies, damselflies, bumblebees and butterflies to name but a few.

Canal boat hire gives you the chance to holiday on the water and watch out for the wildlife that lives there.


Posted in boating holidays canal boat holidays narrowboat hire narrowboat holidays Short breaks by rob52. Comments Off on Watch out for Wildlife

Top of the Rings

Top of the Rings

Cruising rings are popular with canal boat holiday-makers, offering journeys which travel along several different waterways and take in a huge variety of landscapes.

Some are seriously challenging with long flights of locks and deep tunnels to negotiate.  While others, like the new Droitwich Ring, are easier and more suitable for narrowboat holiday beginners.

We’ve put together our Top 10 Cruising Rings and our best hire boat bases to start from:

1. The Droitwich Ring (21 miles, 33 locks, 16 hours): Starting from the Drifters’ bases at Worcester or Stoke Prior and ideal for beginners, this cruising ring is the only one in Europe which can be completed on a short break.  It opened up last year following the £13million restoration of the Droitwich Canals, which now reconnect the River Severn and Worcester & Birmingham Canal. Highlights include: the historic Spa town of Droitwich; the Hanbury flight of locks; and the beautiful City of Worcester with its stunning cathedral.

2. The London Ring (44 miles, 25 locks, 18 hours): Starting from the Drifters’ base at Greenford in West London, this exciting journey for seasoned canal boaters is best done in a week, leaving plenty of time to enjoy London’s world-class museums, restaurants, theatres and shops.  The route takes you through the heart of London along the Grand Union and Regent’s canals, then onto the Thames via Limehouse Lock and back onto the Grand Union Canal at Brentford Lock.  Highlights include: Paddington Basin and Little Venice, Camden Lock and market, Victoria Park, Limehouse Basin, views of London’s major landmarks along the Thames (including the Tower of London, the Millennium Wheel and the Houses of Parliament) and the historic flight of locks at Hanwell.

3. The South Pennine Ring (71 miles, 197 locks, 80 hours): not for the faint-hearted, this epic two-week journey can be taken from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge.  It crosses the Pennines twice and includes passage of Britain’s longest canal tunnel.  It takes in the Calder & Hebble Navigation, the Huddersfield Broad and Narrow canals, the Ashton and Rochdale canals.  Highlights include: dramatic Pennine views; Tuel Lane Deep Lock; Manchester City Centre; and, one of the Seven Wonders of Waterways, the awesome three and a quarter-mile long Standedge Tunnel which, designed by Thomas Telford, cuts through the Pennies to link Marsden and Diggle.

4. The Stourport Ring (74 miles, 118 locks, 44 hours):  Starting from Drifters’ base at Tardebigge, this offers an exhilarating and hugely popular week.  The route takes in the Staffs & Worcs Canal, the Worcs & Birmingham Canal Navigation, the upper section of the River Severn, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, Birmingham Canal Main Line and the Birmingham Canal Old Main Line.  The Stourport Ring visits three cities: Wolverhampton; Birmingham (with central moorings in Gas Street Station, close to shops, restaurants and museums); and the ancient City of Worcester.  Highlights include: Wolverhampton 21 locks; Brindley Place and Gas Street Basin in Birmingham; open countryside on the River Severn; Stourport Basins; Bratch Locks at Wombourne; the pretty village of Kinver; the Black Country Living Museum; and Cadbury World.

5. The Cheshire Ring (97 miles, 92 locks, 55 hours): starting from the Drifters’ base at Anderton, this superb route takes you through the heart of Manchester and the Peak District via the Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals.  Highlights include: the spectacular vertical Anderton Boat Lift, also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’; Preston Brook Tunnel; Dunham Massey Hall and its working Elizabethan Mill alongside the Bridgewater Canal; Castlefield Basin; Manchester’s China Town; the Rochdale 9 locks; Buxworth Basin, Whaley Bridge and the glorious Top Lock at Marple; and the Cheshire Plain and heavily locked ‘Heartbreak Hill’.

6. The Warwickshire Ring (101 miles, 94 locks, 48 hours): starting from Drifters’ bases at Napton or Rugby, with a mixture of urban and rural landscapes, the Warwickshire Ring is easily navigated in two weeks.  It takes in the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals.  Highlights include: the flight of 11 locks into Atherstone, Hawkesbury Junction, one of the tightest turns on the system where the Oxford joins the Coventry; Hillmorton locks (three pairs); the Knowle Flight of five locks; the pretty canal village of Braunston; Napton Junction; Newbold and Shrewley tunnels; the awesome Hatton Flight of 21 locks; Warwick Castle; Leamington Spa; and Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin.

7. Avon Ring (108 miles, 130 locks, 58 hours): Starting from Drifters’ base at Tardebigge or Wootton Wawen, this World-famous journey includes 130 locks.  Most people do this trip in a more leisurely 10 days or two weeks, but it is possible to do it in a week.  The ring navigates sections of the Stratford Canal, River Avon, River Severn and Worcs & Birmingham Canal.  Highlights include: Stratford-Upon-Avon and its famous Swan Theatre; the Lapworth flight of 25 locks; the Wilmcote flight of 11 locks; the River Avon and its panoramic views across Wawickshire and the Cotswolds; historic Evesham and Tewskesbury; Worcester and its magnificent cathedral; Telford’s lofty Mythe Bridge; the tidal River Severn double river-lock at Diglis, the 30 lock Tardebigge Flight, the longest in the country; and the 2495 metre long Wast Hills Tunnel.

8. The Four Counties Ring (110 miles, 94 locks, 55 hours):  Starting from Drifters’ bases at Brewood near Stoke on Trent or Great Haywood in Staffordshire, this ring is achievable on a week-long holiday.  The route includes the Trent & Mersey, Staffs & Worcs and Shropshire Union canals.  Predominantly rural, this ring’s highlights include: the World famous 2670-metre long Harecastle Tunnel; extravagant cuttings and embankments on the Shropshire Union; Market Drayton home of gingerbread; Wedgewood Visitor Centre; views of the rolling Cheshire Plains; the Roman town of Middlewich; the Ski Centre, China Gardens and Waterworld at Etruria; Shugborough Hall; Churches Mansion; the waters at Tixall Wide on the Staffs & Worcs; the narrow canal at Autherley Junction; and the flight of 15 locks at Audlem.

9. The Black Country Ring (125 miles, 79 locks, 60 hours): from Drifters’ base at Great Haywood in Staffordshire this exhilarating ring is achievable in a week.  The Ring takes in the Birmingham & Fazeley, Birmingham Main Line, Coventry, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Trent & Mersey canals.  Highlights include: Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin with access to city centre shops, restaurants and museums; 21 locks at Wolverhampton; the Black Country Living Museum; Dudley Zoo & Castle; Drayton Manor Park at Fazeley; the Staffs & Worcs Roundhouses; the waters at Tixhall Wide; Fradley Pool Nature Reserve at Fradley Junction; 11 locks at Ashton; and 13 at Farmer’s Bridge.

10. The Leicester Ring (157 miles, 102 locks, 75 hours): from Drifters’ base at Rugby on the Grand Union Canal, this epic route is achievable in two weeks.  The route cruises a mixture of non-tidal, broad and narrow canals, including the Birmingham & Fazeley, Coventry, Oxford, Trent & Mersey canals, the Grand Union Leicester Line and the rivers Soar and Trent.  Highlights include: the Saddlington Tunnel, a roost for bats on the Leicester Line; the Foxton Staircase of Locks and Museum dedicated to the incredible Foxton Inclined Plane Boat Lift which once carried boats up and down the hill in two giant bath tubs; the pretty canal village of Stoke Bruerne with its Canal Museum; Blisworth Tunnel; Braunston canal village; Hillmorton Locks; 11 locks at Atherstone; Coventry and views of its magnificent cathedral; and the 18th century canal village of Shardlow.

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Visit the Stone Festival on your narrowboat holiday

This year, the north Staffordshire market town of Stone on the Trent & Mersey Canal will host its annual Stone Food & Drink Festival from 5 to 7 October, celebrating all things gastronomic.

The festival features a range of themed gourmet marquees, a Real Ale Trail, demonstrations by top chefs, a special two-day farmers’ market, plus evening events.

There are also lots of special events and offers at local pubs and restaurants, including the ‘Manger at Trois’ roving meals event, where diners enjoy an elegant three-course meal, with each course served in a different restaurant.

Stone is on the Four Counties Ring which is easily reachable from Drifters’ canal boat hire bases at Brewood, Bunbury, Gailey, Great Haywood and Stoke.  Canal boat holiday-makers can also reach Stone on a short break from Gailey.

So why not head to the Stone Food & Drink Festival on board a Drifters boat and enjoy tasting some Staffordshire’s finest fresh local produce and watching some of the county’s most talented chefs at work, as part of your canal boat holiday this autumn.


Posted in boating holidays canal boat holidays narrowboat hire narrowboat holidays Short breaks by rob52. Comments Off on Visit the Stone Festival on your narrowboat holiday

Take a spooky canal boat holiday this Halloween

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

Here are someof the spookiest places to go on a narrowboat holiday:

The Shropshire Union Canal is said to be Britain’s most haunted canal with five ghosts along its length, including ‘The Monkey Man’ at Bridge39 near Norbury.  The hideous black, shaggy coated being is said to be the ghost of a boatman drowned there in the19th 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 from Drifters’ base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal in Staffordshire near Stafford.  A week’s canal boat hire from Brewood over Halloween starts at £795, short breaks £546.

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 Chester’s The King’s Inn, an old coaching inn believed to be haunted by three separate spirits. Hire a boat from Drifters’ base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire and you can easily make it to Chester and back on a short break, cruising for a total of 14 hours and negotiating 18 locks.  Short breaks from Bunbury over Halloween start at £330, weekly hire from £470.

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 Drifters’ base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal close to the Blisworth Tunnel starts at £665 for a short break and £1020 for a week.

At the Union Canal tunnel at Falkirk in 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 afire there.  Canal boat hire over Halloween from Drifters’ Falkirk base start at £534 for a short break and £821for 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 Drifters Stoke on Trent base on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire starts at £432 for a short break and £664 for a week.

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 awesome World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Canal boat hire over Halloween from Drifters’ base at Trevor, right next to the Aqueduct starts at £525 for a short break and £745 for a week.

At three and a quarter miles long, 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 Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge on the leafy 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 Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge over Halloween starts at £515.


Posted in boating holidays canal boat holidays narrowboat hire narrowboat holidays Short breaks by rob52. Comments Off on Take a spooky canal boat holiday this Halloween

Visit Birmingham’s Book Festival Afloat

Birmingham’s 14th Book Festival takes place 4-13 October 2012 and hosts events across the city.  Events will include: a Pop-Up Bookshop in the city’s Central Library; an all night writing workshop in the Black Country Living Museum; and a sermon by Jackie Kay in Birmingham’s Cathedral.

With more canals than Venice, hiring a narrowboat is the perfect way to visit Birmingham.  City centre moorings are just a five-hour cruise away from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Tardebigge and The Black Country Museum is just eight hours away.

Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin and Brindley Place, can also be reached on a short break narrowboat holiday from our Alvechurch base, or travel there on a week’s canal boat holiday from Napton, Stoke Prior or Gailey.

Acclaimed writers Liz Lockhead, Simon Armitage, Patrick Gale, David Edgar, Femi Oyebode, Tiffany Murray, Peter F Hamilton, Caitlin Moran and Stuart Maconie are all taking part in this year’s Book Festival.

In his ‘Walking Home’ event (5 October), poet and writer Simon Armitage will tell the story of his journey across the Pennines as a ‘modern troubadour’ – without a penny in his pocket, stopping along the way to give poetry readings in village halls, churches, pubs and living rooms.

While ‘The World According to Moran & Maconie’ (9 October) will see authors Caitlin Moran and Stuart Maconie talking about our life and times.

For more information visit


Posted in boating holidays canal boat holidays narrowboat hire narrowboat holidays Short breaks by rob52. Comments Off on Visit Birmingham’s Book Festival Afloat