Top 5 August Bank Holiday Canal Boat Breaks

Travelling through the countryside and waterside towns and villages at just four-miles-an-hour, canal boat holidays are the fastest way to slow down.

You don’t need a licence and it’s easy to learn how to steer a narrowboat. Tuition is included as part of all our holiday packages.

All our narrowboats have heating, well-equipped kitchens, quality furnishings, flushing toilets, hot water, showers, TVs and DVD players, and many now have WiFi on board too.

Many of our operators are offering some fantastic late deals over the August Bank Holiday. To celebrate and inspire, here are our top 5 August Bank Holiday breaks for 2018:

1. Glide across the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular on the network. On a short break from our canal boat hire base at Chirk, boaters can travel to the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen and back, with just four locks to go through and the magnificent World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to glide across.

2. Cruise to Lymm and back on the River Weaver – on a short break from our narrowboat hire base at Anderton in Cheshire, boaters can cruise along the Rive Weaver to the pretty canal village of Lymm, travelling 17½ miles and passing through just one lock, enjoying views of the distant Pennines along the way. The journey begins at the incredible Anderton Boat Lift, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. This incredible edifice, also known as ‘The Cathedral of the canals’, was the world’s first hydraulic canal boat lift, transporting boats 50 feet between the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey canal in two giant water tanks.

3. Visit Georgian Bath afloat – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire, it takes seven hours, travelling 13 miles and passing through three locks to reach moorings at Sydney Wharf, just outside Bath City Centre. Along the way, the route takes boaters past the pretty town of Bradford on Avon with its magnificent 14th century Tithe Barn, and across the stunning Avoncliff and Dundas Aqueducts.

4. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton – from our canal boat hire base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal in Shropshire, it takes around ten hours, cruising 11 miles and passing through six locks, to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man. Along the way, boaters pass through a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.

5. Visit Shakespeare’s Stratford afloat – on a short break from our narrowboat rental base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it takes six hours, passing through 17 locks, to reach Bancroft Basin in Stratford-upon-Avon. From there, it’s a short walk to the town’s theatres, shops, restaurants and museums, including the Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm, where hundreds of the world’s most beautiful butterflies fly in a tropic environment, with splashing waterfalls and fish-filled pools.

9 things you need to know about narrowboating

The sun is out and Britain’s beautiful canal network offers over 2,000 miles of waterways to explore.

If you’ve ever fancied taking a canal boat holiday, what better time to take the plunge?

Here are the top 9 things you need to know about narrowboating:

1. You don’t need a licence – it’s easy to learn how to steer a narrowboat and tuition is included as part of all Drifters’ holiday packages.

2. You drive on the right – unlike cars on our roads, boats travel on the right side of our canals and rivers.

3. You have all the comforts of home – all our narrowboats have heating, well-equipped kitchens, quality furnishings, flushing toilets, hot water, showers, TVs and DVD players, and many now have WiFi on board too.

4. It’s so relaxing – travelling gently along at just four-miles-an-hour, enjoying the ever changing view and visiting waterside towns and villages along the way, canal boat holidays are quite simply the fastest way to slow down.

5. There are plenty of pubs – there are hundreds of waterside pubs along the inland waterways, so a watering hole is never far away.

6. It’s better for the planet – 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.

7. It’s a floating safari – waterways provide homes for large numbers of birds, plants and animals, including many protected species like water voles, otters and kingfishers, so there’s always something special to look out for.

8. It’s a great adventure – from working the locks to travelling across soaring aqueducts, the canal network is made up of thousands of engineering marvels to encounter.

9. You can bring your pet – pets are welcome on almost all canal boats, and as well as dogs, we’ve welcomed rabbits, hamsters, caged birds, goldfish and tortoises.

 

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Why canal boat holidays are great for pets

Canal boats provide a floating holiday home, so it’s possible to take all sorts of pets on the canals.

And as well as hundreds of dogs each year, Drifters’ canal boat hire operators have accommodated many other kinds of pets aboard their canal boats, including rabbits, hamsters, caged birds, goldfish and tortoises.

Here are our top 7 reasons why canal boat holidays are great for pets:

1. The majority of canal boats fore hire allow pets on board so you don’t have to allocate holiday budget to pet care;

2. No extra vaccinations or pet passports are needed for your pet to cruise the canals;

3. Many Drifters narrowboat hire operators allow the first pet to travel free, while others charge a supplement of between £25 and £35;

4. Narrowboat holidays are especially great for dogs, with plenty of towpath walks, dog-friendly canalside pubs and other dogs to meet along the way;

5. Travelling through the countryside and waterside towns and villages at just four-miles-an-hour, canal boat holidays are the fastest way to slow down – if you’re more relaxed, your pets will be too;

6. Narrowboats with open cruiser-sterns at the back offer extra room ‘on deck’ for pets and the family to enjoy the ever-changing view; and

7. You can buy a doggy life-jacket with wide belly-strap and easy-to-grab handle for a quick retrieval if your dog accidently goes swimming!

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Union Canal Carriers celebrates 50 years afloat

Born in the dying days of the canal boat carrying trade on the Grand Union and Oxford Canals at Braunston, and in the year that Barbara Castle’s 1968 Transport Act officially recognised the nation’s canals as a leisure resource, Drifters’ member Union Canal Carriers helped pioneer narrow boating for pleasure.

The family-run narrowboat hire firm first started to run camping boats from its canal boat hire base below Braunston locks in 1968, using converted British Waterways working boats.

Tim Hewitt, of Union Canal Carriers, explains: “In those days holidays on the rapidly deteriorating canals were in their infancy. Scores of school children, scouts and guides bunked aboard boats that once carried coal, iron ore and aluminium billets, spending blissful, parent-free days just messing about on the canals.”

Today the company has a range of 16 modern hire boats, providing accommodation for up to 12 people, and a very popular day boat ‘Ouzel II’.

Tim adds: “Over the last 50 years we have introduced thousands of people to the delights of narrowboat holidays on the waterways. Many come back year after year and we’ve watched their children grow up. It’s such a pleasure to see our customers returning all happy and relaxed after a holiday on one of our boats.

“This year, we are also celebrating 50 years of canal renaissance, sparked by the 1968 Transport Act.”

Overseen by Transport Minister and canal-enthusiast Barbara Castle after years of campaigning by enthusiasts – the 1968 Transport Act marked the turning point for the waterways from being a declining freight network, to becoming a major leisure resource.

There are now over 30,000 canal boats on the network – more than at the time of the Industrial Revolution – and around 380,000 people holiday on Britain’s canals each year, a figure that has nearly doubled in the last 10 years.

Tim continues: “As well as investment in the waterways themselves, over the years, vast improvements have been made to the standard of accommodation provided on board holiday narrowboats – all now equipped with essential mod cons like central heating, hot water, TV’s, fitted kitchens, showers and flushing toilets.
“New research published by the Canal & River Trust shows that spending time by the waterways can make you happier and improve your life satisfaction. And the research reveals higher levels of happiness and lower levels of anxiety for longer trips – a powerful incentive to book a nice long canal boat holiday!
“It’s vital that the role of the waterways for helping to improve the wellbeing of millions of people is recognised to ensure our canals and rivers continue to be valued and used for the next 50 years.”

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Top 9 recent screen moments for canals

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

And recently, a number of television series have put canal boat holidays at very the centre of the action, with popular series like Tim and Pru’s ‘Great Canal Journeys’ and ‘Celebrity Carry on Barging’.

To celebrate canals on screen, we’ve put together our Top 9 waterway starring moments over the last 18 months:

1. Paddington 2 – Little Venice, where the Regents Canal meets the Grand Union, was the backdrop to a chaotic chase scene, with Paddington riding on the back of a dog in Browning’s Pool

2. Marcella – the Regent’s Canal in Camden provides the perfect place to dump a body in season two of BBC One’s hit thriller, starring Anna Friel

3. Building Britain’s Canals – historian Dan Jones explores the history of three of Britain’s most iconic canals (the Kennet & Avon, Grand Union and Leeds & Liverpool) in this Channel 5 series

4. Finding Your Feet – in this romantic comedy from director Richard Longcraine, starring Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, Josie Lawrence, John Sessions and Celia Imrie, Little Venice is home to Charlie’s narrowboat

5. Celebrity Carry on Barging – starring Lorraine Chase, Nigel Havers, Simon Callow and Debbie McGee, this four-part series on Channel 5 saw the celebrities pairing up to cruise and dine together

6. A Very English Scandal – this BBC drama, starring Hugh Grant as the MP Jeremy Thorpe and Ben Whishaw as his lover Norman Scott, includes a scene filmed at Hertford Lock on the River Lee

7. Swimming with Men – this film (to be released on 6 July) about an all-male group of synchronised swimmers, stars Rob Bryden and Charlotte Riley, and includes scenes filmed on a canal boat near the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

8. Anchor & Hope – this comic drama by rising Spanish filmmaker Carlos Marques-Marcet, starring Game of Thrones star Oona Chaplin, is set on the Regent’s Canal in London

9. Great Canal Journeys – Channel 4’s popular series featuring Timothy West and Prunella Scales travelling by canal boat along waterways both in the UK and overseas, has so far run for eight series, with the very latest episode visiting the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal in Wales

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Top 10 Summer Canal Boat Holidays

Travelling through the countryside and waterside towns and villages at just four-miles-an-hour, canal boat holidays are the fastest way to slow down.

You don’t need a licence and it’s easy to learn how to steer a narrowboat.

Drifters offers 590 narrowboats for hire from 47 bases across England, Scotland and Wales. Our summer holiday prices for a short break on a boat for four people start at £715, and at £1,020 for a week.

Tuition is included in all our holiday packages and all our boats have heating, well-equipped kitchens, quality furnishings, flushing toilets, hot water, showers, TVs and DVD players, and many now have WiFi on board too.

Here are our top 10 summer destinations for 2018:

1. Journey One-way across the Pennines – starting from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Skipton, this week-long holiday travelling across the backbone of England is truly one of the great canal journeys. The scenery varies from the timeless calm of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal summit to the hubbub of the Leeds City Centre waterfront, and includes the Bingley Five Rise locks, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways, and the chance to visit Sir Titus Salt’s World Heritage Status model town at Saltaire.

2. Cruise along the River Thames to Oxford – on a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the River Thames at Eynsham near Witney, boaters can reach the beautiful City of Oxford in just three hours. Most of the locks on the Thames are manned so it’s a nice easy journey for beginners. Once in Oxford, canal boat holiday-makers can moor up just a short walk from the City Centre and take time to explore some of the its historic attractions, including the Bodleian Library with its stunning 17th century Schools Quadrangle.

3. Travel the Warwickshire Ring – On a week’s holiday from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston, boaters can travel the popular Warwickshire Ring, travelling 101 miles, through 94 locks in around 54 hours through a mixture of urban and rural landscapes, with highlights including the awesome Hatton Flight of 21 locks and Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin.

4. Glide across the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular on the network. On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Chirk, boaters can travel to the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen and back, with just four locks to go through and the magnificent World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to glide across.

5. Travel along the peaceful Ashby Canal to Snarestone – on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Stretton-under-Fosse on the North Oxford Canal near Rugby, boaters can travel up the North Oxford Canal to connect with the beautiful Ashby Canal. With no locks and mile-upon-mile of countryside to enjoy, this peaceful 22-mile long waterway passes the pretty town of Market Bosworth and the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field, where King Richard lost his crown to Henry Tudor. The journey there and back, travels 63 miles and with just one lock to pass through each way, it offers around 26 hours of tranquil countryside cruising.

6. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh – from Drifters’ base at Falkirk, Edinburgh Quay is a sedate 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal, perfect for a four night mid-week break. The journey starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel (the world’s first rotating boat lift) and then passes through the lovely lowland villages of Linlithgow, Broxburn and Ratho. Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street and many of the City’s attractions, including Mary King Close, frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.

7. Take the Grand Union Canal to Warwick Castle – on a short break from Drifters’ base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, boaters can reach the historic centre of Warwick in just six hours. Here canal boat holiday-makers can take time to explore this beautiful market town in the heart of England and its magnificent castle on the banks of the River Avon, said to be ‘Britain’s greatest medieval experience’.

8. Visit Georgian Bath afloat – on a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, next to the spectacular Caen Hill flight of locks, canal boat holiday-makers can travel west to the beautiful World Heritage Status City of Bath, famous for its stunning Georgian architecture and fascinating Roman Baths.

9. Complete the Birmingham Mini-Ring – on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ narrowboat rental base on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen, narrowboat holiday-makers can complete the Birmingham Mini-Ring, travelling through 83 locks in around 35 hours. The route takes boaters through the Warwickshire countryside and right into the heart of the City, where moorings at Gas Street Basin are close to Brindleyplace, the Mailbox Shopping Centre and other City Centre attractions

10. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal in Shropshire, it takes around ten hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man – perfect for a short break. Along the way, boaters pass through a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.

Spending time by the waterways makes you happier

The Canal & River Trust, the charity that cares for the nation’s 2,000 miles of canals and rivers, has published research that shows spending time by the waterways can make you happier and improve your life satisfaction.

‘Assessing the wellbeing impacts of waterways usage in England and Wales’ reveals:

• the associated benefits of visiting a canal or river increase with the length of visit – with higher levels of happiness and lower levels of anxiety for longer trips;
• any visit to a waterway is associated with higher levels of life satisfaction;
• visiting regularly is associated with even higher levels of life satisfaction; and
• three-quarters of towpath users say they visit to ‘get away from it all and clear my head’ because they are ‘great places to relax and de-stress’

Canal boat holidays are often described as ‘the fastest way to slow down’ and the popularity of narrowboating has been fuelled by the waterways renaissance which has swept across the UK in the last 20 years, with over 200 new miles of waterways re-opened and over £1billion invested.

Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal & River Trust, says: “Our waterways are an amazing historic legacy for us all, and it is exhilarating to find that they can play such an important new role in our lives.”

Time to book that canal boat holiday?

 

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Drifters’ Top 10 Waterside Pubs

Hundreds of pubs can be found alongside Britain’s inland waterways, many of them historic rural locals offering the perfect place to eat, drink and relax on a canal boat holiday.

With names like the Lock, the Navigation, the Narrowboat and Bridge, canalside pubs often date back to the construction of the canals over 200 years ago, when they provided a place for navvies and canal builders to live, and later for the boatmen running cargoes.
To celebrate the lovely Spring weather, here at Drifters we’ve put together our Top 10 waterside pubs for 2018:

1. Watch out for dinosaurs at The Blue Lias – this historic pub on the Grand Union Canal near Stockton in Warwickshire, was named after the limestone and clay that is quarried locally and is derived from material laid down in the early Jurassic seas, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The Blue Lias is eight locks and less than a mile away from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Stockton Top Lock.

2. Try a pie at the Fleur De Lys – this pretty 17th century country pub in the Warwickshire village of Lowsonford has a lovely beer garden on the banks of the Stratford Canal and offers 11 different types of pie, all served with seasonal vegetables, chunky chips and gravy. The Fleur De Lys can be reached in just over three hours from our canal boat hire base at on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen, near Henley-in-Arden.

3. Enjoy the riverside gardens at The Nag’s Head – this award-winning pub on the River Thames in Abingdon offers drinkers and diners a peaceful retreat in its riverside gardens, with classic British food locally sourced. It takes around five hours, passing through six locks and travelling 15 miles, to reach Abingdon from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base on the River Thames near Oxford.

4. Take in the view at The Telford Inn – looking out across the World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the historic Telford Inn on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor makes the most of it waterside position and views with plenty of outdoor seating. Food is served daily and all dishes are freshly prepared, including their choice of six kinds of burger and tasty Little Dragons children’s menu. The Telford Inn can be reached in less than two hours from our boat yard on the Llangollen Canal at Chirk.

5. Visit Neil Morrissey’s Plume of Feathers – this popular pub on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Barlastan in Staffordshire is part owned by ‘Men Behaving Badly’ star, Neil Morrissey. Visitors can sample some of Neil’s own beers and ales choose from a menu of homemade dishes made from fresh local ingredients. It takes just over three hours to reach Barlastan from our Peak District canal boat hire base at Etruria in Stoke on Trent.

6. See the Cotswolds from The Cross Guns at Avoncliffe – this 17th century Wiltshire inn has idyllic riverside pub gardens offering panoramic views of the foothills of the Cotswolds and the Kennet & Avon Canal crossing the river via the beautiful Avoncliffe Aqueduct. The Cross Guns serves a selection of British pub favourite food, local ales and cider and craft beer. It takes around an hour and a half, travelling four miles and passing through just one lock, to reach Avoncliffe from our narrowboat hire base at Hilperton, on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge.

7. Enjoy home cooked food at The Stubbing Wharf – as well as a canalside beer garden and an excellent choice of real ales, the Stubbing Wharf on the Rochdale Canal at Hebden Bridge offers diners home cooked food, including traditional Sunday lunch roasts. Built soon after the completion of the Rochdale Canal in 1789 to serve the needs of travellers on both the canal and the turnpike road, its curious name derives from the ancient settlement of Stubbing, an Anglo-Saxon word for clearing where the tree stumps have been left. From our canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge, it takes around five hours to reach Hebden Bridge, travelling seven miles and passing through 10 locks.

8. Sample locally brewed ales at The Olde Barbridge Inn – this historic pub on the Shropshire Union Canal near Nantwich sells a selection of local ales brewed at its own local brewery, and serves classic British food made with local produce. The Olde Barbridge Inn is an hour’s cruise from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury in Cheshire.

9. Walk in the footsteps of Harrison Ford at The Narrow Boat – with its tranquil canalside location and beer garden, the family owned Narrow Boat on the Llangollen Canal at Whittington offers hearty pub food and real ale. Visit here and you’ll be following in the foot-steps of Hollywood legend Harrison Ford, who enjoyed a meal and a pint or two of Wells Bombardier here as part of his canal boat holiday with Calista Flockhart in 2004. The Narrow Boat can be reached from our narrowboat hire base at Blackwater Meadow in just over an hour.

10. The George Inn at Bathampton – dating back to the 12th-century when it was part of a monastery for the Prior of Bath, the picturesque Grade II listed George Inn on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bathampton is packed with character. Its delightful waterside and rural setting make it a popular destination for canal boat holiday-makers. The George is just over a mile from our narrowboat rental base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath.

Get afloat for Father’s Day

 

Day boat hire on the canals offers the chance to treat Dads with a fun day out on the water, nourished by a pint and a pub lunch along the way.

Drifters offers day boat hire from 18 canal boat hire yards, from less than £10 per person. Full tuition is included so if you are new to canal boating, you can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.

Our day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle and most also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.

Here’s a list of our top 10 day boat hire centres for 2018:

1. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from our narrowboat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it’s a 20-minute cruise to the World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Standing at over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the wonders of the waterways, offering stunning views of the Dee Valley below. After cruising over the Aqueduct, takes around two-and-a-half hours to reach Chirk and the Poacher’s Pocket pub at Glendrid. ****Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £120 for up to 10 people, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.

2. Cruise to the Canal Museum in Stoke Bruerne – from our canal boat rental centre at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, it takes around an hour to chug along to the pretty canalside village of Stoke Bruerne, passing through the 2,795-metre long Blisworth Tunnel along the way. Once there, day-boaters can moor up and visit the intriguing Canal Museum, whose stories, films and collections give visitors a fascinating look at the history of Britain’s canals. And there are plenty of places to eat in Stoke Bruerne, including the Boat Inn, Navigation Inn and the Museum’s Waterside Café. ****Day boat hire aboard ‘Daylark’ which can carry up to 12 people, starts at £130 on a weekday, £165 on weekends and bank holidays.

3. Head out into open countryside on the Coventry Canal – from our boat yard at Coventry Basin, day boaters can travel north out of the city past the Ricoh Stadium and out into the open countryside, reaching Hawkesbury Junction in around two peaceful hours. Here The Greyhound pub offers a great place to stop for lunch or dinner if you’ve opted for evening hire. ****’Mole Valley’ can take up to 12 passengers, weekday hire starts at £180, weekends and bank holidays it’s £210.

4. Catch a lift on the Falkirk Wheel – from Falkirk at the junction of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in Scotland, day boat hirers can travel through the incredible Falkirk Wheel, the World’s first rotating boat lift and along the Union Canal to Polmont, where they can moor up and enjoy a short walk to The Claremont Inn. Or continue on to the canalside Bridge 49 café bar and bistro, next to Causewayend Marina. ****Day boat hire on the ‘Jaggy Thistle’ which can carry up to eight passengers, is £220, Friday to Sunday.

5. Visit the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ – our day boat hire base at Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, is next to the historic Anderton Boat Lift, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. This incredible edifice, also known as ‘The Cathedral of the canals’, was the world’s first hydraulic canal boat lift, transporting boats 50 feet between the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal in two giant water tanks. From Anderton, the canalside Leigh Arms at Little Leigh (bridge 209 for Black Price forge), offering home-cooked pub food and cask ales, is an easy day trip away. ****‘Daydream’ can carry up to 12 people, weekday hire starts at £150, weekends & bank holidays £180.

6. Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, boaters can enjoy incredible mountain views on the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the popular Star pub at Mamhillad. ****‘Rooster’ can carry up to eight people, weekday hire from £130, weekends & bank holidays £150.

7. Explore Shakespeare’s country – from Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford Upon Avon, boaters can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote and back (2.5 hours each way), to enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn and a visit to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Mary Arden’s Farm, the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother. ****Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

8. Boat to beautiful Bradford on Avon – from Hilperton Marina near Trowbridge in Wiltshire on the beautiful Kennet & Avon, day boaters can head west to the picturesque historic town of Bradford on Avon, with its stunning medieval Tithe Barn and choice of pubs, independent cafes and restaurants, including the canalside Barge Inn. ****‘Cheers’ can carry up to 10 people, weekday hire starts at £105, weekends & bank holidays £130.

9. Tunnel through rural Worcestershire – from Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, day boaters can cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, a pretty rural route with historic pubs along the way, including the family-friendly Hopwood House at Hopwood. The route is lock-free but there are two tunnels to pass through. ****‘Emma’ can carry up to 10 people each, weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays £140.

10. Cruise through the Leicestershire countryside to Foxton Locks – from Union Wharf in Market Harborough it’s a pleasant two-and-a-half hour cruise along the Grand Union Canal Leicester Line to the top of Foxton Locks, with stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, plenty of places to picnic and the historic waterside Foxton Locks Inn. Visitors can watch canal boats negotiate the famous Foxton Staircase flight of locks and find out about the intriguing Victorian Foxton Inclined Plane Boat Lift that once operated there at the tiny little museum dedicated to it. ****‘Moorhen’ can carry up to 12 people, weekday hire starts at £150, weekends & bank holidays from £200.

Top 10 Canal Events in 2018

Britain’s canals and rivers host hundreds of exciting events each year, bringing people to the waterways and celebrating the things that make them special.

Waterway events make great destinations for canal boat holiday-makers, so we’ve put together a list of the top 10 events for 2018, along with information on our nearest canal boat hire bases:

1. St Richard’s Canal Festival, 4-7 May – this annual event, which takes place in Vines Park alongside the Droitwich Barge Canal, will be extra special this year as the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Society will be celebrating the 45th anniversary of the start of the restoration of the Droitwich Canals. The event offers family entertainment, live music, boats, classic cars, art workshops, community stalls, a real ale bar and the annual ‘Great Droitwich Duck Race’ with over 1,000 plastic ducks competing. Drifters’ nearest canal boat rental bases are Worcester and Stoke Prior.

2. IWA Canalway Cavalcade, 5-7 May – the Inland Waterway Association’s Canalway Cavalcade takes place at Little Venice, close to Paddington Basin in London. This unique waterways and community festival offers fun for all the family with a boaters’ gathering, pageant of boats, trade stalls, live music, kids’ activities, competitions, Morris Dancers, a real ale bar and variety of food stalls. Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire bases are at Oxford and Aldermaston.

3. Rickmansworth Canal Festival, 19-20 May – celebrating canals, the community and the environment, the annual Rickmansworth Canal Festival attracts a spectacular array of canal boats from across the country. Occupying part of the Aquadrome and the Grand Union Canal towpath between Stockers Lock and Batchworth Lock, the event hosts a range of music, performing arts, displays, presentations, traders and catering. Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston.

4. Crick Boat Show & Waterways Festival, 26-28 May – over 300 exhibitors will gather at Crick Marina on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal near Daventry to celebrate the canals and showcase thousands of inland waterways products and services. Now Britain’s biggest inland waterways festival, the event offers visitors a fantastic day out by the water, with free boat trips, live music, children’s activities, arts and crafts stands and a wide variety of food and drink stalls. Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire bases are at Gayton, Braunston and Market Harborough.

5. Chester Dragon Boat Festival, 10 June – this annual and very colourful charity event on the River Dee in Chester sees over 20 dragon boat teams of up to 16 paddlers and a drummer battling to become the champions. Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire rental centres are Bunbury and Brewood.

6. Edinburgh Canal Festival & Raft Race, 16 June – taking place at Edinburgh Quay on the Union Canal, this annual community event includes raft racing, music, stalls, kids activities, boat trips, canoe taster-sessions, water walkers, music, dance and food. Drifters’ nearest base is at Falkirk.

7. Stratford River Festival, 30 June-1 July – this two-day free annual event offers visitors waterside family fun in Stratford-upon-Avon with music, a gathering of boats, craft and food stalls, family zone, charity stalls, illuminated boat parade and spectacular fireworks. Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is Wotton Wawen.

8. Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, 3-8 July – every year thousands of people from around the World descend on the pretty town of Llangollen on the Llangollen Canal to celebrate dance, music, costume and culture. The Llangollen Eisteddfod is one of the world’s great musical and culture events with six days of world-class competitions and concerts featuring an array of international performers. Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire bases are at Trevor, Chirk and Blackwater Meadow.

9. Stoke Bruerne Village at War, 8-9 September – organised by the Friends of the Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum, the annual vintage themed Village at War event takes people back to the 40’s with live music, tea dances, vintage fashion shows, a Black Market, tanks and other military vehicles, re-enactments and displays. Historic boats are on show, including the Museum’s own restored narrowboat ‘Sculptor’, which saw action in London as a fire boat during the Blitz. Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire bases are Gayton, Braunston, Stretton and Rugby.

10. Stone Food & Drink Festival, 5-7 October – Staffordshire’s biggest celebration of all things gastronomic takes place at the Georgian market town of Stone on the Trent & Mersey Canal. As well as a range of themed food marquees, the festival hosts demonstrations by top chefs, a beer festival, live music, gourmet dining in the pop up restaurant, street food and a farmers’ market. Drifters’ nearest narrowboat rental bases are Great Haywood, Brewood and Peak District.