Top 7 Autumn Breaks Afloat

ABC four berth (low res)A canal boat holiday is a great way to enjoy the splendid colours of autumn in the hedgerows and trees that line our waterways, where the colours are dramatically mirrored in the water.

There’s plenty of wildlife to spot along the way during the autumn months, including the arrival of flocks of fieldfare and redwing arriving in October to search out the hawthorn berries in our hedgerows and small mammals like wood mice and bank voles, busily stocking up on berries before the winter.

And there are plenty of foraging opportunities along the way – narrowboat holiday-makers can look out for apples, blackberries, elderberries, damsons and sloes and make freshly-picked fruit crumbles and drinks on board.

Here are our top seven autumn destinations:

1. Star gaze at Talybont-on-Usk…the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal offers 35 miles of quiet countryside to explore with incredible views of the Brecon Beacons. From our base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, boaters can journey through the the wooded Usk Valley, visiting historic market towns like the Georgian town of Crickhowell with its 13th century castle and picturesque Talybont-on-Usk, with walking access to Blaen y Glyn waterfalls and some of the darkest night skies in Britain, perfect for star gazing.

2. Amble along the Ashby…on a short break from our narrowboat hire base at Stoke Golding on the pretty Ashby Canal, boaters can travel lock-free to Snarestone and back, passing close to Market Bosworth and the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field, which ended the reign of Richard III and led to Henry Tudor becoming Henry VII, the first of the Tudor monarchs. The hawthorn bushes at Stoke Golding are said to be where Richard’s crown was discovered following the battle. Rich in wildlife, the tranquil Ashby Canal winds peacefully through the countryside for almost the whole of its 22-mile length and from Snarestone to Carlton Bridge, the canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

3. Go blackberry picking on the Stratford Canal…from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, it’s a picturesque seven-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon, with plenty of hedgerow foraging opportunities along the way. Once at the birthplace of the Bard, boaters can moor up in Bancroft Basin, just a stone’s throw from the Swan Theatre and town’s shops, restaurants and museums.

4. Visit the old mill town of Hebden Bridge…from our base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation through the Calder Valley to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills. Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, the journey there and back covers 14 miles, 20 locks and takes around 11 hours.

5. Enjoy stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside…Foxton Locks, on the Grand Union Canal Leicester Line, can be reached on a short break from our base at Market Harborough. From the top of the Foxton staircase of locks, boaters can enjoy panoramic views of the Leicestershire countryside and check out the tiny Museum dedicated to the Foxton Inclined Plane boat lift, an extraordinary feet of Victorian engineering which once operated there.

6. Step back in time in Bradford on Avon…the historic town of Bradford on Avon can be reached on a short break from our Hilperton base on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge, with beautiful views of the Wiltshire countryside and southern Cotswold hills to enjoy along the way. Bradford on Avon is an architectural treasure chest, with gems including the magnificent 14th century Tithe Barn and striking Town Bridge over the River Avon. The town has many independent shops and places to eat, including the canalside Barge Inn and Mr Salvat’s 17th century Coffee Room, where customers are served by staff in period clothes.

7. Cruise through the Scottish lowlands to Linlithgow…from our base at the Falkirk Wheel boat lift, it’s a peaceful five-hour cruise through the Scottish lowlands along the Union Canal to the historic town of Linlithgow. Here, narrowboat holiday-makers can visit the beautifully preserved remains of Linlithgow Palace on the shores of Linlithgow Loch, and sample some of the town’s excellent eateries, including the award-winning Four Marys pub.

Top 10 nautical phrases

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As we were once a great sea-faring nation, much of our everyday language is peppered with nautical references.

We’ve put together our favourite everyday phrases with nautical origins to ‘Chew the Fat’ over on your next adventure afloat:

1. Barge in – barge has two nautical meanings: a flag officer’s boat; or a flat-bottomed workboat which is hard to manoeuver – hence ‘barge in’. Please note, narrowboats are often referred to as barges, but this isn’t correct – narrowboats are just 6ft 10 to 7ft wide, while canal barges are at least 14ft 6inches beam. Nor are they longboats…

2. Adrift – from the Middle English drifte (to float), sailors used the word to describe anything missing or come undone. From this came drifter, a person without purpose or aim in life, then the wholly relaxing Drifters Waterway Holidays!

3. Bitter End – the end of the anchor line was secured to a bitt (sturdy post) on the deck. The line was let out to set the anchor, but if the water was deeper than anticipated, the rope would pay out to the bitter end…

4. Blood Money – originally known as bounty money, this was the financial reward for sinking an enemy ship. The amount was based on the number of crew members killed.

5. Chewing the Fat (friendly conversation) – it took a lot of chewing to make the seaman’s daily ration of tough, salt-cured beef or pork edible.

6. Clean Slate (starting anew) – before computers, courses and distances were recorded on a slate. At the end of each watch, these were added to the ship’s log and the slate wiped clean ready for the next watch.

7. Cranky (irritable) – a crank was an unstable sailing vessel (usually a result of faulty design, lack of ballast or cargo imbalance), that would heel too far in the wind.

8. Cut of his jib (judging a person by outward appearance) – this term originated in the 18th century when sailing navies could identify the nationality of a vessel by the shape of its jib (triangular sail at the front of the boat), long before her colours could be seen.

9. Down the hatch (a toast) – has its origins in sea freight where cargoes were lowered into the hatch.

10. Fly-by-Night (here today, gone tomorrow) – originally referred to an easily set extra sail, used temporarily when running before the wind.

Top of the Rings

Drifters boat entering River Severn (web)

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

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

Here are our Top 9 cruising rings:

1. The Droitwich Ring (21 miles, 33 locks, 16 hours): Starting from the Drifters’ narrowboat hire bases at Worcester or Stoke Prior, this cruising ring is the only one in Europe which can be completed on a short break. It re-opened five years ago following the £13million restoration of the Droitwich Canals, which reconnected the River Severn and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Worcester. 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 Outer Pennine Ring (192 miles, 248 locks, 130 hours): not for the faint-hearted nor inexperienced, this epic three-week journey can be undertaken from Drifters’ bases at Sowerby Bridge or Barnoldswick. It crosses the Pennines twice and includes the passage of Britain’s longest canal tunnel. It takes in the Calder & Hebble Navigation, the Huddersfield Narrow, Ashton, Rochdale, Bridgewater, Leeds & Liverpool canals; and the Aire & Calder Navigation with electric locks. Highlights include: dramatic Pennine views; Tuel Lane Deep Lock; Manchester City Centre; and the awesome three and a quarter-mile long Standedge Tunnel which cuts through the Pennies to link Marsden and Diggle; Bingley Five Rise locks; Skipton with its medieval castle; Leeds City Centre and waterside Royal Armouries Museum.

3. The Stourport Ring (74 miles, 118 locks, 44 hours): Starting from our canal boat hire bases at Autherley, Stoke Prior, Tardebigge, Gailey or Alvechurch, this offers an exhilarating and hugely popular week. The route takes in the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, the Worcester & 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; Brindleyplace and Gas Street Basin in Birmingham; open countryside on the River Severn; Stourport Basins; Bratch Locks at Wombourne; the pretty village of Kinver with National Trust rock houses; the Black Country Living Museum; and Cadbury World.

4. The Cheshire Ring (97 miles, 92 locks, 55 hours): starting from the Drifters’ base at Anderton, Acton Bridge, Autherley or Peak District, this superb route takes narrowboat holiday-makers 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 on the Peak Forest Canal; the Cheshire Plain; and heavily locked ‘Heartbreak Hill’.

5. The Warwickshire Ring (101 miles, 94 locks, 48 hours): starting from Drifters’ bases at Stoke Golding, Stoke Prior, Napton, Coventry, Warwick, Stockton, Stretton, Braunston 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.

6. Avon Ring (108 miles, 130 locks, 58 hours): Starting from Drifters’ bases at Napton, Autherley, Stoke Prior, 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 Avon Ring navigates sections of the Stratford Canal, River Avon, River Severn and Worcester & 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.

7. The Four Counties Ring (110 miles, 94 locks, 55 hours): Starting from our bases at Autherley, Acton Bridge, Coventry, Brewood, Great Haywood, Peak District or Gailey, this ring is achievable on a week-long holiday. The four counties are Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire and 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 Pottery 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.

8. The Black Country Ring (125 miles, 79 locks, 60 hours): from Drifters’ bases at Autherley, Great Haywood, Coventry or Gailey 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.

9. The Leicester Ring (157 miles, 102 locks, 75 hours): from Drifters’ bases at Stoke Golding, Rugby, Napton, Coventry, Braunston, Stretton, Market Harborough or Gayton, 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.

Visit a National Park by Canal Boat

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Canal boat holidays offer the chance to explore some of Britain’s most beautiful countryside, including a number of our National Parks.

Pottering along at just four mph is the perfect way to relax, unwind and take in the scenery.

And narrowboat holiday-makers can wake up every day in a new location, with all the comforts of home on board.

Here are our Top 3 narrowboat holidays for exploring National Parks:

1. Travel through the Yorkshire Dales to Skipton – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Barnoldswick, boaters can head east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Skipton and back (total journey there and back of 26 miles, 30 locks, 20 hours). This breath-taking route winds along the contours of the side of Airedale, with extensive views of the Yorkshire Dales – sheep, farmhouses, barns, stone walls and the occasional village or town. Once in Skipton, boaters can moor in the centre of the town, visit shops and restaurants and explore the 900-year old Skipton Castle, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England. On a week’s break from Barnoldswick, hire-boaters can travel on to Sir Titus Salt’s Model Town of Saltaire, designated a World Heritage Status destination.

2. Glide around the Breacon Beacons – isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park. Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, this peaceful waterway, with very few locks, offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views. From Drifters’ base Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, on a week’s break, boaters can cruise to Brecon and back, passing through Georgian Crickhowell, with its fascinating 13th century castle, and Talybont-on-Usk with walks to the waterfalls at Blaen y Glyn. Brecon itself is home to a cathedral, theatre, cinema, castle ruins and stunning Georgian architecture, as well as some of the best views of the Brecon Beacons from Pen y Fan, the highest point in Southern Britain at 886m. On a short break from Goytre, canal boat holiday-makers can travel lock-free to Llangynidr and back, stopping off at village pubs along the way, including the Lion Inn at Govilon.

3. Potter around the Peak District – on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ Peak District base at the junction of the Trent & Mersey and Caldon canals near Stoke on Trent, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to into the Peak District to the terminus of the beautiful Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge. The route goes through the Harecastle Tunnel, joining the Macclesfield Canal at Hardings Wood and then travelling through Congleton, Macclesfield and Marple, before turning onto the Peak Forest Canal. On a short break, boaters can travel along the Caldon Canal through the stunning Churnet Valley to Froghall and back.

Canal Boat Garden to inspire visitors to BBC Gardener’s World Live

GWL16 Paul Stone Canal Boat Garden low resThis year’s BBC Gardener’s World Live will feature a Canal Boat Garden by award winning designer Paul Stone, celebrating the Midlands’ canal network.

The Canal & River Trust and Drifters member ABC Boat Hire will be exhibiting at the event, which takes place at the Birmingham NEC, 16-19 June 2016.

Visitors to the Canal & River Trust stand (G522, Hall 6) can enter our competition to win a £500 Drifters canal boat holiday voucher.

Mike Grimes, head of boating at the Canal & River Trust, explains: “We are delighted to be working with BBC Gardener’s World Live to help create a fantastic Canal Boat Garden feature for the event.

“The Canal Boat Garden will include a lock side scene complete with a full size narrow boat donated by ABC Boat Hire as well as some old lock gates from the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.”

Surrounded by planting typical of the ecosystems found alongside canals, the Canal Boat Garden display will also include a Lock Keeper’s cultivated Garden and a “moving roof garden” on the narrow boat itself, to give inspiration to those wanting to grow flowers and edibles in tight space.

The Canal Boat Garden also has a focus on invasive plant species, which cost the Canal & River Trust thousands of pounds a year to clear, can be a real frustration for boaters and are damaging to native wildlife.

Paul Stone is a veteran garden designer and Gold Medal winner having exhibited at RHS Chelsea Flower Show amongst many others. Veolia are supporting the Canal Boat Garden by donating Pro-Grow products.

The Show is open 9am till 6pm daily, 16-19 June 2016. Tickets include free entry to the BBC Good Food Show.

Top 5 Summer Canal Boat Holidays

Goytre Open Day 2016

Narrowboat holidays offer families the chance to set off on a summer holiday adventure together – learning how to work the locks, navigate tunnels, spot wildlife, explore traffic-free towpaths and visit waterside attractions along the way.

Drifters offers the choice of over 580 boats from 45 bases across England, Wales and Scotland. All our operators provide hirers with life jackets and boat steering tuition at the start of their holiday. Bikes can be stored on the roof of the boat and pets are welcome aboard most hire boats.

Drifters’ prices in July and August start at £625 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, £965 for a week.

Here are our Top 5 Summer Holidays Afloat:

1. Visit Georgian Bath Afloat – on a short break from Drifters’ base at Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, boaters can travel along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal and reach the centre of the World Heritage City of Bath in seven hours, with just seven locks to negotiate along the way. As well as stunning architecture, great shopping and restaurants, Bath has many fantastic family attractions, including the Roman Baths, the best preserved ancient temple and baths in Northern Europe.

2. Complete the Warwickshire Ring – from our base at Coventry Canal Basin, cruising the Warwickshire Ring makes for an energetic week’s cruise or a leisurely two-week expedition. The ring (101 miles, 94 locks, 48 hours) takes in the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals. Highlights include: the flight of 11 locks into Atherstone; the pretty canal village of Braunston; Newbold and Shrewley tunnels; the awesome flight of 21 locks at Hatton; Warwick Castle; Leamington Spa; and Birmingham City Centre.

3. Glide across the Stream in the Sky – At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the awesome World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, is an incredible feat of engineering, offering canal boat holiday-makers panoramic views of the stunning Dee Valley below. On a short break from our base on the Llangollen Canal at Chirk, boaters can travel across the aqueduct and reach the pretty town of Llangollen, with Steam Railway and Horseshoe Falls.  On a week’s holiday, canal boat holiday-makers can also reach Ellesmere, the Shropshire Lake District, teaming with wildlife and the pretty town of Whitchurch, offering a wealth of independent shops, cafes and restaurants.

4. Visit Skipton and its medieval castle – on a short break from our base at Barnoldswick, boaters can head east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Skipton and back (total journey there and back of 26 miles, 30 locks, 20 hours). This breath-taking route winds along the contours of the side of Airedale, with extensive views of sheep country – farmhouses, barns, stone walls and the occasional village or town. Once in Skipton, boaters can moor in the centre of the town, visit shops and restaurants and explore the 900-year old Skipton Castle, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.

5. Explore the heart of the canal network – our canal boat hire base at Braunston on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire offers a variety of routes through the heart of the canal network. For example, on a short break, boaters can reach the “chocolate box” pretty historic village of Stoke Bruerne, where little has changed since the heyday of the canals the first half of the 19th century, and a visit the Canal Museum to follow the story of the people who created and worked on the canals. On a week’s break from Braunston, boaters can tackle the Warwickshire Ring, travelling through Warwick and Birmingham and passing through 93 locks.

Hire a canal boat for Father’s Day

AW Day Boat (low res portrait)‘Ratty’ from ‘Wind in the Willows’, famously pronounced ‘there is nothing half as much worth doing as simply messing about in boats’.

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.

We offer day boat hire from 15 of our 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 and most day boats also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.

Here’s a list of Drifters’ day boat hire centres and prices for 2016:

  1. 1. A choice of historic pubs in the heart of the canal network – from Drifters’ base at Braunston on the North Oxford Canal in Northamptonshire, day boat hirers can enjoy lock-free boating and a choice of historic canalside pubs.  The quiet village of Hillmorton is a delightful seven-mile, two-hour cruise away, where boaters can stop for lunch at the canalside Old Royal Oak, or take a short stroll into the village to the Stag & Pheasant.  Alternatively, day-boat hirers can head south along the Oxford Canal to Napton on the Hill for lunch in the village at The Crown or King’s Head Inn, or canalside at the Bridge at Napton.  Again this journey is lock free and takes around two gentle hours.*****Weekday boat hire from Braunston on ‘Water Ouzel’, which can carry up to 12 people, is £130, £165 on weekends and bank holidays.
  2. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it’s a 20-minute cruise to the World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  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.  Day boaters can reach the pretty mountain-side town of Llangollen in two hours.****Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £110 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  3. Catch a lift on the lowland canals in Scotland – 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.
  4. Visit the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ – Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, is next to the historic Anderton Boat Lift.  This incredible edifice, also known as ‘the Cathedral of the canals’, looks like some giant three-storey-high iron spider and provides a 50-foot vertical link between two navigable waterways – the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal.  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.*****Day boat hire from Anderton starts at £150 for up to 12 people.
  5. Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, enjoy incredible mountain views on the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the popular Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62.*****Day hire from Goytre starts at £110 for up to 12 people.
  6. 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), and enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn.  Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  7. Wend your way through Wiltshire – from Hilperton Marina near Trowbridge in Wiltshire on the beautiful Kennet & Avon, cruise east through unspoilt countryside to the waterside Barge Inn at Seend, or head west to historic Bradford on Avon, with its stunning medieval Tithe Barn and choice of pubs, cafes and restaurants.  Day boat hire from Hilperton starts at £105 for up to eight people, £130 on weekends and bank holidays.
  8. Experience the rural North Oxford Canal – from 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 to the village of Newbold, and enjoy home cooked food at the canalside Barley Mow pub.  Day boat hire from Rugby starts at £180 for a boat for 12 people, £220 on weekends and bank holidays, and weekdays in July and August.
  9. Chug along the Staffs & Worcs Canal – from Great Haywood on the Staffs & Worcs Canal near Stafford, cruise to the historic market town of Rugeley and back, through several locks, past Lord Lichfield’s beautiful Shugborough Hall and the delightful Wolseley Arms at Wolseley Bridge.  The journey there and back takes a total of six hours.  Day boat hire from Great Haywood starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  10. Sightseeing along ‘The Shroppie’ – from Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal 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, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  11. Tunnel through rural Worcestershire – from 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, including the 610-yard long Shortwood Tunnel and the 580-yard long Tardebigge Tunnel.  Day boat hire from Tardebigge starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  12. Discover the beauty of Berkshire – from Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in West Berkshire, day-boaters can travel east to Tyle Mill Lock in just over two hours, and take a ten-minute walk to The Spring Inn in the pretty village of Sulhamstead for lunch.  Up to eight people can enjoy a day out on Aldermaston’s day boat ‘Wyvern’.  Day hire prices at Aldermaston start at £125.
  13. Visit Foxton Locks – from Union Wharf in Market Harborough it’s a pleasant two-and-a-half hour cruise to the top of Foxton Locks, with stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, plenty of places to picnic and the historic 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.*****Day boat hire at Market Harborough starts at £150 during the week for up to 12 people, £200 at weekends and bank holidays.
  14. Enjoy a Shropshire rural idyll…from Whitchurch in rural Shropshire, day boaters can head west along the beautiful Llangollen Canal, reaching Whixall Mosses National Nature Reserve in two hours.  For a longer journey, continue on to Bettisfield Mosses, travelling through unspoilt countryside straddling the Welsh borders.  There are no locks, but there are four easily-operated lift bridges along the way.****Day boat hire at Whitchurch starts at £110 per day for 10 people.
  15. Perfect picnicking on the Llangollen Canal…from Blackwater Meadow on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, day boaters can head east to Whixall Moss, one of Shropshire’s truly remote wild places, and a mecca for a diversity of wildlife with plenty of lovely places to picnic.  Or head West, passing a series of farms, small villages and distant hills, to the Narrowboat Inn at Whittington, with Real Ale and a delightful canalside garden.****Day boat hire at Blackwater Meadow starts at £110 per day for 10 people. 

 

Top 5 Luxury Canal Boats for Hire

Aquila interior low resThere are now over 30,000 canal boats on our inland waterways, more than at the time of the Industrial Revolution, and unprecedented numbers of people are visiting and holidaying on our canals.

The popularity of boating has been fuelled by the waterway renaissance which has swept across the UK, and by the standard of accommodation now available.

Today’s canal boats are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons – central heating, hot water, TV, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets. Some of the boats available for hire offer five star accommodation, with extras like baths, solid-fuel stoves and King-sized beds.

Here are our Top 5 luxury canal boats for hire:

1. Enjoy the stylish interior of ‘Aquila’ – the new four-berth Constellation Class ‘Aquila’ has arrived at Drifters’ Wootton Wawen base on the Stratford Canal near Stratford upon Avon. Boasting exacting standards of craftsmanship, comfort and finish, ‘Aquila’ has full-size showers, flexible and private berths, a solid fuel stove, large TV, WiFi, and spacious kitchen with stylish fittings and lighting. On a short break (three or four nights) narrowboat holiday-makers booking ‘Aquila’ travel through the beautiful Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon to join in the celebrations marking 400 years since the death of Shakespeare. On a week’s holiday, boaters can reach historic Warwick or Brindleyplace in Birmingham’s City Centre.

****Aquila’s hire prices start at £695 for short break, £995 for a week.

2. Sleep on a King-sized bed on board ‘Alvechurch Sanderling’ – the eight-berth 60ft-long wide beam (double the width of a narrowboat) ‘Alvechurch Sanderling’ is available to hire from our base at Falkirk, at the junction of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in the Scottish lowlands. This stunning boat has a King-sized bed cabin, two fixed double bunks and space in the dining area to create another double bed or two singles. It has two bathrooms, both with showers, and a fully equipped galley with a four-burner gas cooker, with grill and oven, refrigerator, sink and drainer, work surfaces and storage. Holiday-makers booking ‘Alvechurch Sanderling’ can travel to through the iconic Falkirk Wheel (the world’s first and only rotating boat lift) and on to the Union Canal, passing through a series of historic villages with a choice of waterside eateries, including Linlithgow and Ratho, reaching Edinburgh in a day and a half. Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street, with easy access to the City’s many attractions.

****Alvechurch Sanderling’s 2016 hire prices start at £1109 for a short break, £1299 for a week.

3. Take a bath on the ‘Regency 4’ – from Napton Marina on the North Oxford Canal in Warwickshire, canal boat holiday-makers can pick a boat from the luxury ‘Regency’ range, including the six-berth ‘Regency 4’. This first class boat features: two bathrooms with baths; three double cabins (two with king-size beds and one with two extra-wide singles); a rear deck table for alfresco dining; TVs in all bedrooms; an extra-large TV in the saloon; mobile Wifi; 240v mains supply; 240v charging socket; a quality sound system; fully equipped kitchen with fridge, full sized cooker, microwave, toaster and coffee maker; quiet modern diesel engine; oak fittings; 6ft 4 head-room throughout; and a host of other extras. A range of routes are available from Napton Marina, including the short break option to travel south down the Oxford Canal to the pretty village Cropredy, with Brasenose Arms and Red Lion pubs and a grocery shop. On a week’s holiday, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to the rural Ashby Canal, and visit the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field.

****2016 Regency 4 hire prices start at £795 for a short break (three or four nights) and £1,195 for a week.

4. Feel like Royalty aboard the ‘Princess 6’ – this beautiful boat can be hired from a number of our bases, including Chirk on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales. The Princess 6 sleeps up to six people with a flexible bed configuration, full central heating, airing cupboards, two full-sized showers with bi-fold doors, flat screen TV with Freeview, radio, CD and DVD player, fully-equipped kitchen, 12v/USB pint for charging, security safe and free mobile WiFi on request. On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Chirk, boaters can travel across the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, truly one of the Wonders of the Waterways, and reach the pretty town of Llangollen, with Steam Railway, Horseshoe Falls and waterside eateries, including the popular Corn Mill. On a week’s break, boaters can also reach Ellesmere, Shropshire’s Lake District, teaming with wildlife, and the historic market town of Whitchurch, with a wealth of independent shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. The Princess 6 can also be hired from Stoke Prior, Acton Bridge, Napton, Peak District, Falkirk and Bradford on Avon.

****2016 short break prices for the Princess 6 from Chirk start at £795, weekly hire from £1,180.

5. Find 5 Star family luxury aboard the brand new ‘Charlotte’ – new for the 2016 season, the 70 foot, eight-berth ‘Charlotte’ is available to hire from late June onwards from Drifters’ base on the Grand Union Canal at Warwick. Delivering the finest example of quality boat building, ‘Charlotte’ has two fixed doubles, each with an en-suite bathroom offering full-sized showers with bi-fold doors, and electric toilets. Her third cabin provides twin beds, with bunks over, making her a fantastic boat for families. ‘Charlotte’ is fully equipped with 240 electric, radiator central heating, a well-equipped galley, TV, DVD player and has a cruiser stern open back deck with room for a number of people to stand together to watch the world go by. On a short break from Warwick, narrowboat holiday-makers can head for the pretty canal village of Braunston, with plenty of waterside pubs and villages to stop-off at along the way. On a week’s break, boaters could travel to Stratford upon Avon, moor-up in Bancroft Basin close to the town centre and use their boat to explore Shakespeare’s fascinating home town with waterside restaurants, Swan Theatre, shops and museums.

****Charlotte’s 2016 prices start at £1040 for a week, or £655 for a short break.

Top 5 Bank Holiday Boating Breaks

Napton - Regency Rear Deck DiningMay is a great time to take to the water, with the British countryside bursting into life and many of our waterside towns and cities putting on special events over the bank holiday weekend.

Our 2016 late May bank holiday (27-30 May) canal boat hire prices start at £625 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, £965 for a week.

Here’s our Top five narrowboat holiday breaks for the Whitsun Weekend:

1. Enjoy starry night skies afloat in the Brecon Beacons…from Drifters’ base on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal at Goytre Wharf, canal boat holiday makers can travel through the Brecon Beacons and enjoy some of the darkest night skies in Britain, perfect for star gazing. On a short break, narrowboat holiday-makers can reach Talybont-on-Usk and enjoy walking, cycling or canoeing from there.

2. Witness the Mighty Trebuchet Fireball at Warwick Castle…from Drifters’ base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal, canal boat holiday-makers can reach Warwick on a short break and use their canal boat as a base for exploring Warwick and its fascinating castle. Over the Whitsun May Bank Holiday Weekend, Warwick Castle will be offering jaw-dropping history, magic, myth and adventure, including the new Horrible Histories Maze, Castle Dungeon, birds of prey shows and spectacular trebuchet fireball demonstrations.

3. Glide across the Stream in the Sky to the Llangollen Speed Fest…At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the awesome UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, is an incredible feat of engineering, offering canal boat holiday-makers panoramic views of the stunning Dee Valley below. On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Chirk, boaters can travel across the aqueduct and reach the pretty town of Llangollen, with Steam Railway, Horseshoe Falls and the Llangollen Speed Fest (27-30 May), celebrating music and motor sport with exhibitors and acts from across the UK.

4. Cruise along the peaceful South Oxford Canal…on a short break from Drifters’ base at Napton in Warwickshire, boaters can travel along the South Oxford Canal to the pretty Oxfordshire village of Cropredy and back. The route passes through a flight of locks at Napton and is followed by four hours of gentle lock free cruising. Once at Cropredy, boaters can enjoy the Red Lion and Brasenose Arms pubs and stock up on provisions at the village grocery shop.

5. Travel through the North Wessex Downs…from Drifters’ base at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in West Berkshire, boaters on a week-long holiday can travel to Pewsey and back, travelling through the North Wessex Downs Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty, dotted with prehistoric features. The route passes through a series of pretty canalside villages and towns, including Kintbury, Newbury and Hungerford with its Antiques Market, before arriving at Pewsey. Newbury can be reached on a short break, with nearby Downton Abbey fame Highclere Castle hosting its Country Show, 29-30 May.

Open Day Attracts Record Numbers

Bunbury Open Day 2016 (2)Over 3,000 people enjoyed a free canal boat trip on Sunday 17 April 2016 as part of our National Open Day.

The event, which was supported by the Canal & River Trust, offered taster sessions at 19 of our canal boat hire bases across England and Wales.

Tim Parker, Chairman of Drifters Waterway Holidays, says: “We are absolutely delighted with the response to our National Open Day this year, with around 4,000 people visiting 19 events across England and Wales, and over 3,000 of those enjoying a free mini boat trip.

“It has been our most popular Open Day event so far – last year just over 1,000 people took part. The lovely spring weather enjoyed by much of the country on Sunday certainly helped, plus the continued popularity of TV programmes like ‘Great Canal Journeys’, which are drawing people to our beautiful inland waterways.

“It’s absolutely vital that we attract newcomers to the canals with taster events like these. Last year, the Drifters’ group enjoyed a 12 per cent increase in bookings compared to 2014. We hope that bookings remain buoyant this season and many more people book a canal boat holiday for the first time.

“Our open days with free boat trips are only once a year, but we are always happy to see people at our boatyards to chat about boats, routes and holidays.”

Mike Grimes, head of boating at the Canal & River Trust, added: “It’s fantastic that so many people took to the water last Sunday at a Drifters’s Open Day event, many for the first time. Narrowboat holidays can often be the start of a lifelong passion for the waterways. We hope many of these visitors will return to the waterways soon!”