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!”

Top 6 Yorkshire Canal Boat Holidays

shaw1With the Leeds & Liverpool Canal celebrating its 200th birthday this year, and a new pop-up base established at Ashton-under-Lyne, we’ve put together our Top 6 Yorkshire holidays for 2016.

2016 prices from our Yorkshire bases start at £415 for a short break (three or four nights), £610 for a week on a boat for two.

1. One-way across the Pennines…Starting from our canal boat hire base at Barnoldswick on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Skipton, this week-long holiday is truly one of the great canal journeys, taking canal boat holiday-makers across the backbone of England. 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 opportunity to visit Sir Titus Salt’s World Heritage Status model town at Saltaire.

2. Visit Skipton and its medieval castle…on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ 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.

3. Travel along the beautiful Peak Forest Canal to Busgworth Basin…from our new pop-up base at Ashton-under-Lyne, on a week’s holiday canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the Peak Forest Canal, one of Britain’s most scenic waterways, to Bugsworth Basin and back (32 miles, 32 locks, 20 hours). The Peak Forest Canal, which runs through magnificent landscape to the edge of the Peak District, was originally built to transport limestone from the quarries of Derbyshire. The route passes through Marple, with its stunning newly-restored three-arch aqueduct, a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Then on to New Mills and Whaley Bridge before reaching the astonishing Bugsworth Basin, also a Scheduled Ancient Monument, all restored by volunteers. Once at Bugsworth, enjoy country walks and visit the popular Navigation Inn.

4. Bumble along to Brighouse and back for some brass band history…from 1 July onwards, on a short break (three or four nights) canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Brighouse and back along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge. This historic town, famous for its Brighouse and Rastick Brass Band, offers glorious Pennines walks, food and craft markets, places to eat and shops. Along the way, boaters pass through the historic market town of Elland and the village of Mirfield, with medieval stocks and ducking stool, plus Dumb Steeple, thought to have been a landmark to guide travellers on their way across the moor and later a Luddite rallying point (12 miles, 20 locks, 8 hours return).

5. To Rishton and back for a trip through industrial history…on a week’s holiday from our Barnoldswick base, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel west along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Rishton and back (insert miles, locks and hours). The journey begins on the summit before plunging into Foulridge Tunnel then down to Barrowford Locks. After 20 miles on one level, boaters sail above Burnley’s rooftops on its embankment, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. Boaters can stop-off the Weavers Triangle visitor centre at Burnley before carrying on through largely open scenery and the historic town of Rishton, the first place calico cloth was woven on an industrial scale. The trip includes spectacular views of the Lancashire Calder Valley and Pendle Hill, famous for its witches (53 miles 14 locks 20 hours).

6. Take a cultural cruise to Wakefield…from 1 July, on a mid-week break from our Sowerby Bridge base, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Wakefield and back to visit the fabulous Hepworth Wakefield (40 miles, 52 locks, 22 hours). The Gallery, which has moorings right outside and is the largest purpose-built exhibition space outside London, offers over 1,600 square metres of light-filled gallery spaces, bringing together work from Wakefield’s art collection, exhibitions by contemporary artists and rarely seen works by Barbara Hepworth. Self-confessed ‘artoholic’, and retired BBC Radio 4 writer Tim Sayer has bestowed a significant gift of modern and contemporary British art to Wakefield. Amassed over the last 50 years, the extensive collection includes works by modern and contemporary artists including Alexander Calder, Kenneth Martin, Henry Moore, Sean Scully, Naum Gabo, Antony Gormley, Louise Bourgeois, David Hockney, Paul Nash, John Nash, David Nash, Sol LeWitt, Robert Motherwell, Bridget Riley, Anthony Caro, Richard Smith, Prunella Clough and Alan Reynolds. Major works from the Tim Sayer Bequest will go on display at the gallery from 30 April 2016. Boaters can also take the 96 bus from Wakefield direct to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, with open-air displays of work by some of the world’s finest artists, including Henry Moore.

Drifters creates pop-up fleet at Ashton

Shire Cruisers Marple low res

Despite the serious damage to Yorkshire’s waterways as a result of the Boxing Day floods, Drifters’ member Shire Cruisers has started the season on time, with holidays beginning this week from both its Sowerby Bridge and Barnoldswick bases, plus a new pop-up fleet at Ashton-under-Lyne.

Short break boaters travelling from Sowerby Bridge can enjoy the Calder Valley between Elland and Hebden Bridge.

Holiday options from here will expand as post-flooding repairs progress through the spring and, by July, canal boat holiday-makers should be able to reach Wakefield and beyond.

Shire Cruisers has created a pop-up fleet at Ashton-under-Lyne to give more customers the chance to explore the Pennine scenery of the Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canals. And the fleet on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Barnoldswick has been expanded to provide unlimited cruising for customers on longer holidays.

This spring, Shire Cruisers’s famous one-way trips will travel between Barnoldswick and Huddersfield rather than Sowerby Bridge, covering the Leeds & Liverpool, Aire & Calder and Calder & Hebble. And to cover the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, one way trips will run between Ashton and Huddersfield.

Celebrate the Brindley 300

Brindley Place Birmingham (low res)

This year marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of the pioneering canal engineer James Brindley.

Brindley was responsible for eight waterways, stretching 360 miles, including the Bridgewater Canal, the first of the industrial age.

Born in 1716, the son of hill farmers near Buxton, at the age of 17 Brindley was apprenticed to a millwright where he learned to control water flows to make mills more efficient.

It was his work to install a pumping station at a colliery near the Duke of Bridgewater’s estate in Lancashire which led him to be employed by the Duke as the onsite engineer for the Bridgewater Canal project in the late 1750’s.

Inspired by canals in France and the Netherlands, the Duke of Bridgewater asked his estate manager to draw up plans for his own waterway to transport coal from his mine at Worsley to Manchester.

This canal is now recognised as the first real canal in Britain and its impressive engineering feats, including the Barton Aqueduct, gave Brindley the reputation as the man to turn to if you need a canal building.

After the Bridgewater, Brindley was the surveyor and principle engineer on a further seven canals – the Trent & Mersey, Oxford, Staffs & Worcs, Birmingham, Droitwich, Chesterfield and Coventry canals.

He worked tirelessly surveying his canals and devising ground-breaking engineering solutions, including the use of ‘puddled clay’ to line canals and provide a watertight channel.

Brindley was very good at convincing others of the need for canals. When a new canal was proposed it would go before a government commission and he was often called to convince MP’s of the viability of the scheme.

Sadly Brindley died in September 1772, long before many of the canals he surveyed and engineered were completed.  But he had trained a number of people to continue his work, and the great engineers that followed – especially Telford and others involved with later canal building during the ‘canal mania’ period – provided the transport network for the Industrial Revolution, making Britain the wealthiest nation in the world.

Of course, Brindley’s canals are still in use today as a national leisure resource – his lasting legacy. And his name appears on pub names, town squares and perhaps most famously at Brindleyplace in Birmingham.

Events are taking place across the country this year to celebrate the 300th anniversary of his birth include special activities at the Crick Boat Show (28-30 May) and an exhibition at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port from September.

Canal boat holiday-makers can reach Crick from Drifters’ bases at Braunston and Gayton, and Ellesmere Port from Anderton and Acton Bridge.

Top 5 Easter Canal Boat Holidays

®CRT_1094 -DSC_3596Canal boat holidays are fantastic for families, offering the chance to set off on an adventure together – learning how to work the locks, navigate tunnels, speak the boating lingo, spot wildlife, explore traffic-free towpaths and visit waterside attractions along the way.

Our Easter prices start at £495 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, and £775 for a week. Here are our top 5 destinations:

1. Boat to Birmingham & enjoy Cadbury World’s Easter Eggstravaganza…Perfect for beginners, boaters can travel lock-free to Birmingham in just five hours from Drifters’ base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, stopping off along the way to find handmade Easter eggs in the World’s biggest Cadbury shop at Cadbury World. With more canals than Venice, there’s no better way to visit Birmingham, where over-night moorings are available at Gas Street Basin, close to Brindleyplace. There’s plenty for families to see and do this Easter in Britain’s second city, including penguin feeding at the National Sea Life Centre or Mary Poppins at the Hippodrome.

2. Join the Easter Boat Gathering at the National Waterways Museum…from 25 to 28 March the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire celebrates the start of the Summer boating season with a large boat gathering and Sea Shanty Festival. From Drifters’ base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, it’s a 10-hour journey to Ellesmere Port (21 miles and 12 locks), where canal boat holiday-makers can moor up and join the gathering.

3. Visit Georgian Bath and its Award-winning Egg theatre…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 and the Theatre Royal’s award-winning egg theatre.

4. Enjoy an amphibian ‘Easter’ egg hunt at Fens Pool in Dudley…On Friday 25 March, senior Canal & River Trust ecologist Paul Wilkinson is running an amphibian ‘Easter’ egg hunt at Fens Pool at Brierley Hill from 10am till noon. From Drifters’ base at Alvechurch on Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, Brierley Hill on the Stourbridge Canal mainline is a two-day journey away (30 miles and 12 locks), giving canal boat holiday-makers the chance to explore some of Birmingham’s extensive network of canals along the way.

5. Step back in time for a Horrible Histories Easter Adventure at Warwick Castle…Warwick Castle is launching its new Horrible Histories Maze this Easter, where visitors can muddle through time and face fun challenges to unravel history’s best kept secret. Their Horrible Histories Wicked Warwick live stage show will also be performed this Easter, plus fearsome fireballs from the trebuchet and soaring eagle displays. Narrowboat holiday-makers can reach Warwick on a short break from Drifters’ base at on the Grand Union Canal at Stockton.

We have 7 new bases for 2016

Union Canal Carriers baseWe’ve added seven new departure points to our canal boat hire offering, giving our customers booking narrowboat holidays in 2016 the choice of 45 starting points and 588 boats across England, Scotland and Wales.

Kate Boats at Warwick, Union Canal Carriers at Braunston, Ashby Boats at Stoke Golding near Nuneaton, Valley Cruises at Stratford Upon Avon and Coventry Canal Basin, and Napton Narrowboats at Napton Marina and Autherley Junction, have joined existing Drifters members Anglo Welsh, Black Prince, Countrywide Cruisers, Rose Narrowboats, Shire Cruisers and ABC Boat Hire.

Tim Parker, Chairman of Drifters, explains: “We are delighted to welcome five new members to the Drifters stable, adding seven bases and over 100 boats to our offering, and providing many more route options for our customers.

“With these new members, Drifters now offers over 60 per cent of the available narrowboats for hire in England, Scotland and Wales. By working together, Drifters members can shout louder to promote canal boat holidays, share best practice and help each other to adapt to changes in legislation. Together we are stronger!”

Canal boat holidays have been enjoying a resurgence in recent years, with Drifters members reporting a 12 per cent increase in bookings in 2015, compared to the 2014 season. Close to 400,000 people go canal boating each year and according to research*, the numbers have increased by 23% since 2009.

Drifters 2016 hire prices start at £395 for a short break, £575 for a week. Narrowboats range from 32ft to 70ft and can accommodate up to 12 people.

Hire a canal boat for Mother’s Day

RS nb Rumba ROSE NARROWBOATS1

Day boat hire on the canals offers the chance to spoil hard-working Mums with a relaxing day afloat, nourished by a posh picnic afloat or a pub lunch along the way.

We offer day boat hire from 11 of our bases, with prices starting at less than £10 per person.

Full tuition is included so it’s a great way to dip your toe in the water and have a go at 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 our day boat hire centres open for Mother’s Day in 2016:

1. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – Drifters’ base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales is a 20-minutes cruise from the World Heritage site 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 £120 for up to 10 people weekdays, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.

2. Visit the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ – our base at 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 Leigh Arms at Little Leigh (bridge 209 for Black Price forge) is an easy day trip away. This friendly, canalside pub offers home-cooked pub food and cask ales. ***Day boat hire from Anderton starts at £150 for up to 12 people weekdays, £180 on weekends and bank holidays.

3. Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from our base at Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, enjoy incredible mountain views on the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62. ***Day hire from Goytre starts at £110 for up to 12 people weekdays, £130 on weekends and bank holidays.

4. Explore Shakespeare’s country – from Drifters’ base at 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 weekdays, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

5. Wend your way through Wiltshire – from our base at Hilperton Marina in Wiltshire on the Kennet & Avon, cruise east through unspoilt countryside to waterside The Barge Inn at Seend, or head west to historic Bradford on Avon, with its stunning Tithe Barn and plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants to choose from. ***Day boat hire from Hilperton starts at £105 for up to eight people, weekdays, £130 on weekends and bank holidays.

6. Staffordshire delights – from our base at 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 in Wolseley Bridge. The return journey takes six hours. ***Day boat hire from Great Haywood starts at £99 for up to 10 people weekdays, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

7. Sightseeing along ‘The Shroppie’ – from Drifters’ base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union near Crewe, cruise south past Barbridge and Nantwich to Baddington Bridge. With no locks to negotiate and plenty of pubs en route, it’s a delightful way to spend the day afloat. ***Day boat hire from Bunbury starts at £99 for up to 10 people weekdays, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

8. Tunnel through rural Worcestershire – from our base at Tardebigge on the Worcs & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, a pretty rural route with historic pubs along the way, including the family-friendly Hopwood House at Alvechurch. The route is lock-free but there are two tunnels to pass through. ***Day boat hire from Tardebigge starts at £99 for up to 10 people weekdays, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

9. Visit Foxton Locks – from our base at Union Wharf in Market Harborough it takes a pleasant two-and-a-half hours to cruise to the top of Foxton Locks, with stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, plenty of places to picnic and the Foxton Locks Inn. Visitors can watch canal boats negotiate the famous Foxton Staircase flight of locks and find out about the intriguing 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.

Top 8 canal events in 2016

Crick Boat Show Marina (low res)Britain’s canals and rivers host hundreds of exciting events each year, bringing people to the waterways and celebrating all the things that make them special.

Here’s our pick of the best events in 2016:

1. Crick Boat Show, 28-30 May 2016…over 200 exhibitors will gather at Crick Marina on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal near Daventry, showcasing thousands of inland waterways products and services. The event will offer an exciting programme of family entertainment, including boat trips, live music, food and drink stalls, plus special talks and displays celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of canal engineer James Brindley. Our nearest bases are at Gayton, North Kilworth and Market Harborough.

2. Saltaire World Heritage Day, 16-17 April 2016…ride the historic Shipley Glen Tramway, enjoy guided trails, Saltaire Stories, exhibitions celebrating the bicentenary of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and family activities at Sir Titus Salt’s fascinating World Heritage Status town at Saltaire on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, near Bradford. Our nearest bases are at Barnoldswick and Sowerby Bridge.

3. St Richards Boat & Car Festival, 30 April–2 May 2016…this annual event takes place in Vines Park alongside the Droitwich Barge Canal and offers family entertainment, live music, boats, classic cars, markets, duck races and a real ale bar. Our nearest bases are Worcester, Stoke Prior and Tardebigge.

4. IWA Canalway Cavalcade, 30 April-2 May 2016…the Inland Waterway Association’s Canalway Cavalcade takes place at Little Venice in London. This community festival offers fun for all the family with a pageant of boats, trade stalls, live music, kids’ activities, competitions, Morris Dancers, a real ale bar and variety of food stalls. Our nearest bases are at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal and Oxford on the River Thames.

5. Stratford River Festival, 2-3 July 2016…the Stratford & Warwick Waterways Trust put on a free family event in Stratford-upon-Avon each year, with music, craft and food stalls, family zone, charity stalls, an illuminated boat parade and spectacular fireworks display. Our nearest base is on the Stratford Canal at Wotton Wawen.

6. Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, 5-10 July 2016…thousands of people from around the world descend on the pretty town of Llangollen on the Llangollen Canal each year to celebrate dance, music, costume and culture. With six days of world-class competitions and concerts with performers from around the globe, the Llangollen Eisteddfod is one of the world’s great music and culture events. Our nearest bases are Trevor, Chirk and Blackwater Meadow.

7. The Great British Food Festival, 9-10 July 2016…head to this event to find over 80 top local producers, stunning hot food, real ale and wine bars, craft and gift stalls, activities and rides for the kids, live music and top chef demos including Great British Bake Off finalist Luis Troyano, all in the stunning surrounds of the National Trust’s Shugborough Hall, on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford. Our nearest bases are at Great Haywood, Brewood and Peak District.

8. Rickmansworth Canal Festival, 21-22 May 2016…this community and environment event attracts a spectacular array of canal boats from across the country. Occupying part of the Aquadrome and the Grand Union Canal, visitors can enjoy music, performing arts, displays, presentations, traders and catering. Our nearest base is at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire.