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.

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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.

Top 6 Romantic Destinations Afloat

ww_27759Cosy double berths, frosty towpaths and quiet moorings make canals the perfect Romantic hideaway.

We offer winter cruising and romantic boats for two from a number of our bases, giving couples the chance to escape on board their very own ‘love boat’.

Once afloat, lovers can cuddle up for a romantic evening afloat, or stop-off at historic country pubs with roaring log fires.

Today’s canal boats are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons, including central heating, hot water, televisions and DVD players. Many now have Wifi too and some also have their own multi-fuel stove. So whatever the weather, it’s always nice and cosy on board.

It’s free to moor almost everywhere on the waterway network, so a canal boat could provide the perfect romantic hide-away in the countryside miles from anywhere, or a base to explore exciting waterside destinations like Stratford upon Avon or Birmingham.

Here are our top six romantic destinations on the canals:

1. Propose along the ‘Stream in the Sky’…the awe-inspiring 300metre-long World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which soars nearly 40 metres high above the rushing waters of the River Dee, is truly one of the wonders of the waterways. And what a place to propose?! From our canal boat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, close to the aqueduct, a short break to Ellesmere and back, offers the chance to explore the beautiful Vale of Llangollen and Shropshire Lake District.

2. Travel to Stratford upon Avon, home of the Bard…from Drifters’ base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal in Warwickshire, Stratford upon Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare, is a six-hour cruise, giving boaters plenty of time to “whisper sweet nothings” along the way. There are moorings in Bancroft Basin, just a stone’s throw from the famous Swan Theatre and the town’s waterside restaurants, perfect for a candlelit dinner for two.

3. Potter through rural Leicestershire to the heart of the canal network…our base at Union Wharf in Market Harborough offers the chance to explore the beautiful Leicestershire countryside afloat. On a short break, couples can reach the pretty village of Crick, on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal, stopping off at rural locals along the way. On a week’s holiday, they can reach Braunston at the heart of the canal network.

4. Enjoy classic English countryside on the Oxford Canal…On a short break from our Stretton-under-Fosse base near Rugby, boaters can head south along the beautiful Oxford Canal to Braunston, winding through classic scenery, much of which hasn’t changed for centuries. On a week’s holiday, canal boat holiday-makers can continue south to Banbury, via the canalside villages of Napton and Fenny Compton.

5. Chug through rural Warwickshire…From Drifters’ Rugby base on the North Oxford Canal in Warwickshire, boaters can travel along quiet rural waterways to the pretty village of Crick, passing through the “chocolate box” village of Stoke Bruerne, with canalside pubs, a curry house and quaint Canal Museum. On a week’s break they can complete the Warwickshire Ring, and include a visit to Birmingham’s City Centre to buy expensive presents for each other at The Mailbox!

6. Travel to Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man…our base at Great Haywood on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, on a week’s holiday boaters can reach Market Drayton where the first recorded mention of gingerbread being made was in 1793. Steeped in history, with lively street markets and beautiful architecture, Market Drayton is a great place to celebrate St Valentine’s Day. On a short break from Great Haywood, boaters can travel to the village of Fazeley, passing the National Trust’s Shugb

Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2016

With boats travelling at a maximum speed of 4mph and over 3,000 miles of navigable peaceful inland waterways to explore across Britain, canal boat holidays really are the fastest way to slow down.

From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, narrowboat holiday-makers can use their boat as a floating holiday home and base to explore.

Here are our top 10 holidays for 2016:

1. Celebrate the Leeds & Liverpool Canal’s Bicentenary…in 2016 it will be 200 years since the magnificent Leeds & Liverpool Canal was completed. Linking the cities of Liverpool and Leeds, at 127 miles long the Leeds & Liverpool Canal is the longest canal in Britain built as a single waterway. Leaving Liverpool, the canal passes through East Lancashire then crosses the Pennine countryside and picturesque villages on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, before reaching Leeds. Along the way, boaters pass Sir Titus Salt’s World Heritage Status model town at Saltaire and the spectacular Bingley 5-Rise locks, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. Canal boat holiday-makers can take a one-way trip across the Pennines starting at our base at Sowerby Bridge and ending at Barnoldswick. The week-long journey travels 79 miles, through 79 locks and takes about 45 hours.

2. Navigate the Cheshire Ring…starting from the Drifters’ base at Anderton, this superb cruising ring, which in 2016 celebrates 40 years since its restoration, travels 97 miles, through 92 locks and takes around 55 hours to cruise. The journey takes boaters through the heart of Manchester and the Peak District via the Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals. Highlights include: the spectacular vertical Anderton Boat Lift, also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’; Preston Brook Tunnel; Dunham Massey Hall and its working Elizabethan Mill alongside the Bridgewater Canal; Castlefield Basin; Manchester’s China Town; the Rochdale 9 locks; Buxworth Basin, Whaley Bridge and the glorious Top Lock at Marple; and the Cheshire Plain and its heavily locked ‘Heartbreak Hill’.

3. Cruise through Shakespeare country…in 2016 it will be 400 years since the death of the Bard. Mark this anniversary with a cruise through Shakespeare country, starting with a picturesque six-hour journey to Stratford upon Avon from Drifters’ base at Wootton Wawen, near Henley in Arden in Warwickshire – perfect for a short break. Boaters can stop off along the way to visit Mary Arden’s Tudor Farm in the canalside village of Wilmcote where Shakespeare’s mother grew up, and once in Stratford, moor up in Bancroft Basin, just a stone’s throw from the Swan Theatre and the town’s shops, restaurants and museums.

4. Explore the River Thames & visit Oxford afloat…Drifters’ Oxford base is a tranquil three-hour cruise along the River Thames from the City centre, where canal boat holiday-makers can moor-up close to Hythe Bridge and use their boat as a base to the explore ‘the city of dreaming spires’. New for 2016, the luxurious 12-berth ‘Andromede’ has extra room to relax outside and more space to chill out inside, plus Wifi and a large TV – perfect for extended family holidays or a city break afloat for groups of girls or boys.

5. Travel Brindley’s Trent & Mersey…2016 will mark the 300th anniversary since birth of James Brindley, one of the most notable engineers of the 18th century. Brindley worked on the construction of a number of canals, including the Trent & Mersey Canal, the country’s first long distance canal stretching 94 miles from the River Trent at Derwent Mouth in Derbyshire to the River Mersey via the Bridgewater Canal at Preston Brook in Cheshire. Canal boat holiday-makers can celebrate Brindley’s birth with a journey on the Trent & Mersey, starting at our base at Acton Bridge in Cheshire. On a short break, boaters can head south to Middlewich, travelling through glorious Cheshire countryside or on a week’s break continue on to the medieval City of Chester, one of the best preserved walled cities in Britain.

6. See the largest pair of equine statues on the planet…at 30-metres high, the magnificent Kelpies stand at the gateway to the Forth & Clyde Canal in Glasgow. Based on the heavy horses that one plied the canal towpaths, these mythical water horses are an extraordinary site and form part of a new 350-hectare park at the end of the Forth & Clyde Canal near Grangemouth. From Drifters’ base at Falkirk, narrowboat holiday-makers can reach the Kelpies on a short break, and also enjoy a turn through the iconic Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift.

7. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ and visit the Eisteddfod…the Llangollen Canal’s incredible World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales stands at over 38 metres high above the Dee Valley. It consists of a cast iron trough supported on iron arched ribs, carried on 19 hollow pillars. Each span is 16-metres wide. With not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure the stunning views of the valley below, canal boaters literally feel like they are floating above the earth. From Drifters’ base at Chirk, canal boat holiday-makers can travel across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and on to the pretty town of Llangollen to visit the famous Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod 5-10 July 2016, where each year around 4,000 performers and 50,000 visitors converge to sing and dance.

8. Float along to the Roman Baths in Bath…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 Georgian architecture, great shopping, museums and restaurants, Bath is home to the award winning Roman Baths, site of one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world and the perfect place to find out exactly what the Romans did for us.

9. Head to the historic heart of the canal network…from our canal boat hire base at Stretton under Fosse, on a short break boaters can cruise along the North Oxford Canal through delightful Northamptonshire countryside to historic Braunston. This pretty village on a hill, which lies at junction of the Grand Union and Oxford canals, thrived for over 150 years as an important stop-off point for canal traders carrying goods from the Midlands to London. Today Braunston is a popular place to visit with a good choice of canalside pubs and the UK’s largest annual historic narrowboat rally, 24-25 June 2016.

10. Glide through 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.

Shire Cruisers Highly Commended in Yorkshire Tourism Awards

Drifters’ member Shire Cruisers was given special recognition at Yorkshire Tourism’s White Rose Awards on 9 November, being ‘Highly Commended’ under the ‘Self-catering’ category.

The awards are the biggest tourism awards in the UK and have been recognising tourism stars for more than 25 years

Shire Cruisers was one of nearly 100 businesses – and the first ever canal boat holiday provider – to be shortlisted this year.

Sir Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “This year’s entries were of a particularly high standard and your success is a significant achievement. Each year we see standards across all tourism sectors rising considerably and this is what makes Yorkshire such a much visit destination.

“The judges wanted to recognise the experience, skills and dedication of one finalist in the ‘Self-catering’ category and have made a High Commended award.  Congratulations to Shire Cruisers.”

The judges commented: “Shire Cruisers is a 20-person company that offers the chance to spend time exploring the region’s secret waterways.  With 35 years’ experience under their belt, and 19 boats available to hire, skilled instructors ensure that guests are well prepared for their time afloat.”

Nigel Stevens, owner and operator of Shire Cruisers, added: “We are absolutely delighted to receive this award.  Shire Cruisers is a small family-run business with canal boat hire bases at Sowerby Bridge and Barnoldswick.  We are very proud to be able to offer visitors to Yorkshire the opportunity to explore this beautiful county by canal boat.

“This award recognises our fantastic staff, who take a huge amount of care to ensure our canal boat holiday-makers have a wonderful experience.  And I’d also like to thank the Canal & River Trust and Calderdale Council who work so hard to look after the canals our customers love.”

 

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Celebrate Christmas Afloat

With frosty towpaths, cosy fires and traditional pubs, a holiday on Britain’s peaceful canal network can offer a great antidote to the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

Eight of our canal boat hire bases offer winter cruising, giving canal boat holiday-makers the chance to enjoy cosy evenings afloat, visit waterside pubs with roaring log fires, and wake-up to frosty towpaths and crisp clean air.

Whether it’s a snug boat for two or a family affair for six, celebrating Christmas or New Year afloat offers a great getaway. It’s free to moor almost anywhere on the network, so a narrowboat could provide the perfect base for a rural retreat or to enjoy new year celebrations in waterside towns and cities like Bath, Birmingham, Warwick and Stratford upon Avon.

All our boats have central heating, hot water, televisions and DVD players. Some also have multi-fuel stoves and Wifi. So, whatever the weather, it’s always nice and cosy on board.

Our prices over Christmas and New Year start at start at £550 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, weekly hire from £785.

Here’s a list of our bases offering winter cruising:

1. Chug through rural Warwickshire…on a short break from Stretton-under-Fosse near Rugby, boaters can head south along the beautiful Oxford Canal to Braunston, winding through classic scenery, much of which hasn’t changed for centuries. On a week’s holiday, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel on to Leamington Spa and Warwick.

2. Visit the ‘chocolate box pretty’ canalside village of Stoke Bruerne…from Rugby on the North Oxford Canal, canal boat holiday-makers can choose from a number of routes, including a trip through rural Northamptonshire to the idyllic village of Stoke Bruerne. With two popular historic village pubs, a curry house, tranquil countryside walks and the Canal Museum – packed with canal artefacts, stories and films – there’s plenty of hospitality and tranquillity to enjoy.

3. Navigate ‘The Stream in the Sky’…from our Trevor hire base in the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome 300-metre long World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which carries the canal 40 metres above the rushing waters of the River Dee, is just a few minutes away. On a short break, boaters can cruise west to the Eistedfodd town of Llangollen and east to Ellesmere, also known as the Shropshire Lake District.

4. Moor-up in Stratford upon Avon…it’s a picturesque six-hour cruise to Stratford upon Avon from our base at Wootton Wawen, near Henley in Arden in Warwickshire. Boaters can moor up in Stratford canal basin, a stone’s throw from the Swan Theatre and the town’s shops, restaurants and museums.

5. Take a lock free journey to Birmingham…Birmingham is just a five-hour cruise away from our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal – with no locks to negotiate. City centre moorings are available at Gas Street Basin, close to the bars, restaurants, shops and museums at Brindley Place and the Mailbox and Bullring shopping centres.

6. Travel to Georgian Bath along the Kennet & Avon Canal…our base in the historic town of Bradford on Avon on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire offers the chance to cruise to the World Heritage Status City of Bath and back. Cosy country pubs to enjoy along the way include the George Inn at Bathampton, once a 12th-century monastery, and the Cross Guns at Avoncliffe, with panoramic views of the foothills of the Cotswolds.

7. Explore the Potteries in Staffordshire…from Great Haywood, at the junction of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Trent & Mersey canals in Staffordshire, a variety of routes are available. On a week’s cruise, canal boat holiday-makers can head up the Trent & Mersey Canal to the Caldon Canal, and travel through the beautiful Churnet Valley. Those on a short break can head to the town of Fazeley, via the pretty canal village of Fradley on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

8. Cruise through the beautiful Leicestershire countryside…on a short break from the historic market town of Market Harborough on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal, narrowboat holiday-makers can potter through rural Leicestershire and Northamptonshire to the pretty villages of Crick or Welford. On a week’s break, they can continue on to Stoke Bruerne.

Top 7 ghostly going-ons on the waterways

With regular ghost sightings, bats and frogs aplenty, creepy tunnels, spooky locks and misty towpaths, Britain’s 200-year old canal network provides the perfect backdrop for a haunting Halloween.

From shaggy coated beings to shrieking boggarts, we’ve put together a guide to the spookiest spots:

1. Towpath terrors in West London…between 6pm and 8pm on 31 October, expect to get properly spooked on a free ghost walk along the canal near Paddington. Ducking cobwebs and bats, you’ll creep along the towpaths of Little Venice listening to history and hearsay about local navvies, murders and hauntings. Come dressed appropriately!

2. Experience the chilling history of Standedge Tunnel…from 26 to 31 October, Halloween Week at Standedge Tunnel & Visitor Centre on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal at Marsden is offering a series of special events, including spooky boat trips into the dark and gloomy tunnel. At 3.25 miles long, Standedge is the longest on the canal network, and over its 200-year history it has witnessed some gruesome events. As well as tales of leggers who were crushed between boats and navvies dying in explosions, the story of the restless ghost of the poor 15-year old Matilda Crowther, murdered there in 1935, offers visitors a particularly chilling watery tale.

3. Get the chills in Chester…visit the City’s old Northgate where the canal was dug into part of the town’s moat and a Roman centurion can sometimes be seen guarding the entrance to the City. What’s more, the King’s Inn, an old coaching house, is believed to be haunted by three separate spirits. Hire a boat from Drifters’ base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, reaching Chester in seven hours, passing through nine locks.

4. Look out for the Monkey Man on the Shroppie…the Shropshire Union Canal is said to be Britain’s most haunted canal with five ghosts along its length, including ‘The Monkey Man’ at Bridge 39 near Norbury. This hideous black, shaggy coated being is believed to be the ghost of a boatman drowned there in the 19th century. Head north from our base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal in Staffordshire near Stafford.

5. Prepare to be spooked at Blisworth Tunnel…on the Grand Union Canal at Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire, the Blisworth Tunnel has spooked a number of boaters over the years. At 3,076 yards (2.81km) it’s one of the longest on the canal system. When construction began in 1793, the tunnel was a major feat of engineering. Teams of navvies worked with picks and shovels for three years until they hit quicksand and the tunnel collapsed, killing 14 men. A new route for the tunnel was found and it finally opened on 25 March 1805. Over the years, a number of boaters travelling through the tunnel have reported seeing lights and a second route emerging. But the tunnel runs straight through the hill so people have must seen the flicker of candlelight at the spot where the first tunnel would have intersected with the main canal tunnel. Perhaps the ghostly navvies are still working there…? Our nearest base is at Gayton Martina, less than a mile from Blisworth Tunnel’s north portal.

6. A Killing at Kidsgrove…the Trent & Mersey Canal’s Harecastle Tunnel at Kidsgrove is said to be home to a shrieking boggart – the ghost of Kit Crewbucket who was murdered and his headless corpse was dumped in the canal. Our nearest bases are at Stoke on Trent and Great Haywood.

7. An Aqueduct Apparition…the Llangollen Canal in Wrexham is haunted by an eerie figure that can sometimes be seen on moonlit nights gliding along the towpath by the World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Our nearest bases are at Trevor and Chirk.

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Picture Perfect – Stan Cullimore’s Mon & Brec Diary

Someone once told me that the Monmouth & Brecon is the prettiest stretch of canal in the UK. Hmm. Can’t leave an extravagant claim like that untested. So, Mrs Cullimore and I decided to go and see for ourselves. Test the waters, if you will.

We arrived at Goytre Wharf one afternoon and I have to say, it was a picture perfect place to start. Before setting off, we strolled in the sunshine, took in the views and visited the cafe for a cup of tea and cake. No sense in rushing, is there? Slowing down, that’s what canal boat holidays are all about.

Onboard, Nathan showed us round our home for the week, ‘Red Poll Finch’ – a lovely boat with a fixed double bed, airy living area and galley at the back. We then set off for seven days of hard research, or, as my wife put it, “a delightfully relaxing week afloat”.

To help us decide if it really was the loveliest part of the canal system, I kept a diary. Question is, after reading it, do you think this week long holiday is the very best canal journey around? Or can you think of a better bit of British canal? If so, do please let me know. I’m always up for a bit of research. Especially if it involves time afloat.

Day 1 – Goytre Wharf to Govilon
Bridges – 24
Locks – 0
Miles – 7
Hours Cruising – 3.5
Scenery – you’re in the heart of the countryside. On one side, there are wooded banks sloping down towards the canal. On the other side some delicious views of the valley below. At times the landscape clears and you get gorgeous views of the Brecon Beacons up ahead. That’s where we’re going and I can’t wait.
Provisions – stopped at Govilon. Village stores are well stocked and very friendly. Picked up bacon, fruit and lots more besides.
Pubs – two to choose from. We went to the Lion Inn. Great beer, friendly landlord, food looked lovely, all in all, delightful.
Highlight – sleeping in a warm, cosy bed with sweet dreams all night long. Bliss. If only Mabel the dog hadn’t got there first.

Day 2 – Govilon to Llangattock
Bridges – 29
Locks – 0
Miles – 6
Hours Cruising – 3.5
Scenery – more glimpses of the beacons brooding over the hedgerows, cloaked in cloud, looking muscular, mean and moody. Bit like Clint Eastwood used to be, really. The weather pulled off the difficult trick of raining, even as the sun shone. Was strange but lovely.
Provisions – stopped at Llangattock and strolled into Crickhowell. It’s a sweet market town with a bit of something for everyone. My favorite was the Adventure shop, though my wife preferred Nicholls, the gift shop. Great place to pick up supplies.
Pubs – lots of them, spoilt for choice. Went to the Bridge End Inn and had our dinner in the beer garden overlooking the River Usk. Great beer, great food, fantastic views. Love it.
Highlight – strolling over the ancient stone bridge into town and seeing people swimming in the waters below. They waved and suggested I took a photo. So I did.

Day 3 – Llangattock to Talybont-on-Usk
Bridges – 25
Locks – 5
Miles – 7.5
Hours Cruising – 5
Scenery – closer to the mountains now. Looking bigger and better. Feels like a landscape out of a fairytale. Keep on expecting to see a knight in shining armor cantering along the towpath. But all we see are lots of kids getting into kayaks. They seem very happy, mind.
Provisions – Talybont has a good village stores right next to the canal with a cafe attached. Genius.
Pubs – we moored the boat between two pubs and went to the White Hart Inn. A good choice – excellent range of beers and the food was just what the doctor ordered.
Highlight – an early evening stroll past fields filled with swallows, flitting about at knee height in search of their supper. Explains the sign we’d seen, asking us to avoid disturbing their nests.

Day 4 – Talybont-on-Usk to Pencelli & back to Talybont
Bridges – 26
Locks – 0
Miles – 4.5
Hours Cruising – 3
Scenery – the canal glides through a corridor of lovely trees for most of the way. Meant we could take in the towpath traffic. Lots of walkers, bikers, joggers and hikers. Everyone on water or land was very friendly. As they have been all week.
Provisions – Back for another visit to the Talybont village stores for supplies. Mission accomplished.
Pubs – we moored the boat in the same place as before, between two pubs. Went to the Star Inn. Very lovely indeed with a few interesting local ales on tap.
Highlight – Did a short day on the boat so we could take the dog for a walk along the towpath. Went past one of the wooden benches that are dotted along the canal and I realised there is map of the waterway carved into them. Who’d have thought it? Furniture that is both comfy and informative.

Day 5 – Talybont-on-Usk back to Llangattock
Bridges – 27
Locks – 5
Miles – 8
Hours Cruising – 4.5
Scenery – obviously, we’re on our way back the same way we came earlier in the week. But somehow the scenery looks even more impressive this time around. It’s just lovely, basically.
Provisions – Really excited to go back to Crickhowell for our shopping needs and more besides. It’s a really friendly little town, complete with ruined castle.
Pubs – getting a bit sentimental we went back to the Bridge End Inn to sit in the beer garden and watch the river again. Good place to chill out and count the arches in the bridge. Different number on each side, apparently.
Highlight – Mabel the dog. She is in doggy heaven all day, every day on this holiday. On the towpath she meets lots of other dogs to play with. On the boat she spends every minute of cruising time quivering with excitement. Sitting at the back sniffing the air as if it is the sweetest treat imaginable.

Day 6 – Llangattock to Golivon
Bridges – 17
Locks – 0
Miles – 3
Hours Cruising – 2
Scenery – still on our way back and enjoying the scenery in reverse. Today, the mountains were mainly misty and magnificent. And the slow motion, salmon pink, sunset was just about perfect.
Provisions – Didn’t need anything today, though the village shop in Govilon was still there just in case.
Pubs – making a habit of returning to old haunts we went back to the Lion Inn at Govilon. Great beer, very friendly people so we ate there. Had the best fish and chips I’ve had for weeks. I defy anyone to eat an entire portion without needing a lie down afterwards.
Highlight – there have been lots of things to look at as we drift slowly along all week. Birds, squirrels, all sorts of wildlife. And trees, obviously. But today’s tip of the topmost, literally, was a Giant Redwood tree right next to the bank. It was both enormous and totally unexpected. Wanted to give it a hug but my arms just weren’t big enough.

Day 7 – Golivon to Llanover
Bridges – 18
Locks – 0
Miles – 5
Hours Cruising – 3
Scenery – scenery is idyllic as ever. Seriously, the whole week has been one long journey through paradise. No wonder this area is a national park.
Provisions – Didn’t find any shops or places to buy stuff today. But no worries, we had plenty onboard.
Pubs – No pubs either. Still, it gave us an excuse to cook some food on the boat and drink some of the local beers we found in Crickhowell. Cheers.
Highlight – driving the boat along under cute stone bridges, checking out the view and drinking a freshly brewed coffee that my lovely wife made. Just being here, basically. Another perfect week on a canal boat, the best way to de-stress, chill out and relax that I know. All at slower than walking speed. Perfect.

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One way journey across the Pennines

Starting from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge at the junction of the Rochdale Canal and Calder & Hebble Navigation, this week-long holiday covers 79 miles and 79 locks, and takes around 45 hours.

Truly one of the great canal journeys, it takes boaters across the backbone of England via Leeds and Skipton, plus two fantastic waterside galleries, and includes sections of the Calder & Hebble Navigation, Aire & Calder Navigation and Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

All the locks are wide. Between the summit at Leeds and Barnoldswick, boaters will ascend 400ft.

Day 1 (Monday) Sowerby Bridge to Elland (3 miles, 5 locks, 3 hours): Collect the boat at 1pm and sail down the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation, to the historic market town of Elland, with visitor moorings at the Wharf and a number of pubs too choose from, including the Barge & Barrel on Elland Wharf.

Day 2 (Tuesday) Elland to Broad Cut (14 miles, 19 locks, 9 hours): Journey on to Brighouse, an interesting town with food and craft markets, festivals, useful shops and places to eat – including The Richard Oastler in an imposing building which was once a Victorian chapel, complete with organ – as well as the eponymous brass band. After Brighouse, boaters leave the canal and drop into the River Calder. The river soon passes under a towering motorway viaduct, a reminder of the world left behind, on to Shepley Bridge then Broad Cut and moorings at the Navigation Inn.

Day 3 (Wednesday) Broad Cut to Leeds (21 miles, 11 locks, 9 hours): Continue on to Wakefield, with its new Barbara Hepworth museum, the Hepworth Wakefield with canal boat moorings right outside. Travel on along the River Calder to Stanley Ferry to see the aqueduct, a miniature Sydney Harbour Bridge, built between 1836 and 1839 to take the Aire & Calder Navigation over the River Calder. Now on the Aire & Calder, a commercial waterway with electric locks and a wide channel, the journey continues on to Leeds and its regenerated waterfront. Moor at Leeds visitor moorings and visit the waterside Royal Armouries at Clarence Dock, Britain’s national museum of arms and armour, and one of the most important museums of its type in the world.

Day 4 (Thursday) Leeds to Apperley Bridge (8 miles, 13 locks, 6 hours): continue along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, quickly escaping the urban waterfront, passing through fields and woods, with spectacular views. The journey takes boaters past the historic Kirkstall Brewery, with a heritage stretching back to the 12th century when Cistercian monks founded an Abbey there. Once at Apperley Bridge, moor above or below Dobson Locks and choose from a number of pubs, including the historic Stansfield Arms which dates back to 1543.

Day 5 (Friday) Apperley Bridge to Riddlesden (10 miles, 16 locks, 8 hours): Continue west along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, stopping at Sir Titus Salt’s World Heritage Status model town at Saltaire with Salts Diner and impressive David Hockney gallery at Salts Mill. Continue on to the famous Bingley Five Rise locks, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways and moor for the night at Riddlesden and choose between the Willow Tree Inn and Marquis of Granby pubs.

Day 6 (Saturday) Riddlesden to Gargrave (15 miles, 3 locks, 5 hours): continue along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal main line, passing Silsden, then through Skipton with its 900-year old castle – one of the most complete and best preserved castles in England. Then on to Gargrave visitor moorings for the night with a variety of pubs to choose from, including the Masons Arms.

Day 7 (Sunday) Gargrave to Barnoldswick (7 miles, 12 locks, 5 hours): climb through open countryside via the lock flights of Bank Newton and Greenberfield and overshoot the boatyard to moor for the night at the Anchor, Salterforth or Café Cargo at Foulridge, just by the tunnel.

Day 8 (Monday): turn around and head back to Lower Park Marina, Barnoldswick in time to vacate the boat by 9.30am.