Hire a canal boat for Mother’s Day

Why not spoil the hard-working Mum in your life with a relaxing day on the water, nourished by a posh picnic afloat or a pub lunch along the way.

We offer day boat hire at 12 of our bases, from less than £12 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 also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.

Here’s a list of our day boat hire centres, suggested routes and prices for 2015:

• Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – Our 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 £110 for up to 10 people. £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

• 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.

• Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from our boat yard 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 £90 for up to 12 people. £105 on weekends and bank holidays.

• Explore Shakespeare’s country – from our hire 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. £120 on weekends and bank holidays.

• Wend your way through Wiltshire – from our canal boat hire 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. £130 on weekends and bank holidays.

• Experience the rural North Oxford Canal – from our narrowboat hire base at 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 £150 for a boat for 12 people. £190 on weekends and bank holidays.

• Staffordshire delights – from our boat yard 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. £120 on weekends and bank holidays.

• Sightseeing along ‘The Shroppie’ – from our 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. £120 on weekends and bank holidays.

• Tunnel through rural Worcestershire – from boating 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 three tunnels to pass through. Day boat hire from Tardebigge starts at £99 for up to 10 people. £120 on weekends and bank holidays.

• Discover the beauty of Berkshire – Our base at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in West Berkshire is now offering day boat hire. 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 start at £105 for a weekday, £130 for weekends and bank holidays.

• Visit Foxton Locks – from our boat yard 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 £140 during the week for up to 12 people, £180 at weekends and bank holidays.

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John Sargeant takes to the canals on ITV1

In a new eight-part ITV1 series Barging Around Britain, John Sergeant sets off on a voyage along Britain’s canals, exploring their extraordinary stories.

Drifters operators were involved in the making of the series, including: Shire Cruisers on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and Aire & Calder Navigation; Black Prince on the Grand Union, Trent & Mersey, Llangollen and Kennet & Avon canals; and Anglo Welsh on the Grand Union Canal.

John says: “Canals changed the map of Britain. They were the motorways of the age. Now, it was easy to transport goods in bulk across the country and for the first time, towns could become home to new industries.”

John’s voyage takes him from the gentle downs of Somerset in the south to the spectacular Caledonian Canal, running coast to coast in Scotland.

In episode one, he journeys across the Pennines on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, which runs for 127 miles and was to give the textile industry of Leeds a direct route to the docks of Liverpool.

John says: “This canal took 40 years to build. It could have been completed much sooner, money troubles got in the way, and we had to see off Napoleon at Waterloo. But these things happen, and in 1816 this great route across the Pennines was up and running.”

Barging Around Britain starts on Friday 13 February at 8pm on ITV1 and runs for eight weeks.

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Hire a love boat for Valentine’s Day

Cosy double berths, frosty towpaths and quiet moorings make canals the perfect Romantic hideaway and a number of our bases offer winter cruising, giving couples the chance to escape aboard their very own ‘love boat’ for Valentine’s Day.

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

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

Here’s a list of our boat yards offering Valentine’s cruising and ideas of where to go:

Enjoy the classic English countryside of the Oxford Canal…On a short break from our base at 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. Once there, enjoy a special Valentine’s menu at the Blue Ball pub. On a week’s holiday, continue south to Banbury via Napton and Fenny Compton.

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, right next to the aqueduct, a short break to Ellesmere and back, offers the chance to travel over the aqueduct and explore the beautiful Vale of Llangollen and Shropshire Lake District. On a week’s break, boater’s can reach the Shropshire market town of Whitchurch, home to J B Joyce, the oldest clock makers in the world.

Head for the bright lights of Birmingham…the vibrant City of Birmingham with central moorings in Gas Street Basin, next to Brindley Place, is just a five-hour cruise away from our base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove. With no locks to negotiate, there’s plenty of time to cuddle-up together at the tiller!

Cruise along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal…from our base at Bradford on Avon on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire, on the edge of the Cotswolds, boaters can reach moorings at the bottom of the Caen Hill Flight in Devizes eight hours, with a choice of cosy rural pubs along the way, including the Barge Inn at Seend.

Potter through rural Leicestershire…our base at Union Wharf in Market Harborough offers the chance to explore the beautiful Leicestershire countryside afloat and a bottle of sparkling wine is included for Valentine’s Day bookings. On a short break, couples can reach the pretty village of Crick, travelling along the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal. On a week’s holiday, they can reach Braunston.

Wend your way through rural Warwickshire…from our base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal in Warwickshire, canal boat holiday-makers can reach Hatton on a short break, passing through a series of pretty canal villages along the way, including Lapworth. Here, the Punchbowl English country pub, with a real log fire, is offering a special Valentine’s Day menu. On a week’s break from Wootton Wawen, boaters can head to historic Warwick and visit Warwick Castle, said to be Britain’s greatest medieval experience.

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Top 10 canal & river events in 2015

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

Here’s our pick of the best events to head for in 2015:

1. Crick Boat Show & Waterways Festival, 23-25 May 2015…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 celebrates the canals and offers an exciting programme of family entertainment, including boat trips, live music, children’s activities, arts and crafts stands and a wide variety of food and drink stalls. Our nearest bases are at Gayton, North Kilworth and Market Harborough.

2. St Richards Boat & Car Festival, 1-4 May 2015…this annual event, which takes place in Vines Park alongside the Droitwich Barge Canal, with a celebration of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal’s Bicentenary. The event 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.

3. IWA Canalway Cavalcade, 2-4 May 2015…the Inland Waterway Association’s Canalway Cavalcade takes place at Little Venice in London. This unique waterways and community festival offers fun for all the family with a boaters’ gathering, pageant of boats, trade stalls, live music, kids’ activities, competitions, Morris Dancers, a real ale bar and variety of food stalls. Our nearest base is on the Grand Union Canal in West London.

4. Stoke Bruerne Village at War, 12 September 2015…organised by the Friends of the Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum, the annual vintage themed Village at War event takes people back to the 40’s with live music, tea dances, vintage fashion shows, a Black Market, tanks and other military vehicles, re-enactments and displays. Historic boats are on show, including the Museum’s own restored narrowboat ‘Sculptor’, which saw action in London as a fire boat during the Blitz. Our nearest bases are Gayton, Stretton, North Kilworth and Rugby.

5. Stratford River Festival, 4-5 July 2015…organised by the Stratford & Warwick Waterways Trust, this event offers free family fun in Stratford-upon-Avon with music, a gathering of boats, 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, 7-12 July 2015…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. The Llangollen Eisteddfod is one of the world’s great music and culture events with six days of world-class competitions and concerts featuring an array of international performers. Our nearest bases are Trevor, Chirk and Blackwater Meadow.

7. Stone Food & Drink Festival, 2-4 October 2015…Staffordshire’s biggest celebration of all things gastronomic takes place at the Georgian market town of Stone on the Trent & Mersey Canal. As well as a range of themed food marquees, the festival hosts demonstrations by top chefs, a beer festival, live music, gourmet dining in the pop-up restaurant, street food and a farmers’ market. Our nearest bases are Great Haywood, Brewood and Peak District.

8. Rickmansworth Canal Festival, 16-17 May 2015…celebrating canals, the community and the environment, the 22nd Rickmansworth Canal Festival attracts a spectacular array of canal boats from across the country. Occupying part of the Aquadrome and the Grand Union Canal towpath between Stockers Lock and Batchworth Lock, the event hosts a range of music, performing arts, displays, presentations, traders and catering. Our nearest base is on the Grand Union Canal in West London.

9. Chester Dragon Boat Festival, 21 June 2015…this annual and very colourful charity event on the River Dee in Chester sees over 10 dragon boat teams of up to 16 people and a drummer battling to become the champions. Our nearest bases are Bunbury and Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal.

10. Edinburgh Canal Festival, 27 June 2015…taking place at Lochrin Basin, at the Edinburgh end of the Union Canal, this community event includes free boat trips, canoe taster-sessions, children’s entertainment, music, dance and food. Our nearest base is at Falkirk.

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Drifters helps Julia Bradbury explore the Wonder of Britain

A brand new series for ITV celebrates some of the most impressive natural and manmade wonders that make Britain great, including the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales.

Julia Bradbury embarks on a stunning 12,000-mile journey around the country to some of Britain’s most spectacular locations and chooses some of the greatest assets she believes we should be most proud of.

The five-part series will begin on Tuesday 6 January at 9pm with a look at Britain’s beautiful buildings.

In the second instalment, which focuses on our industrial story, Julia will be seen cruising along the Llangollen Canal aboard a Drifters boat.

Rob Lawrence, Managing Director of Drifters’ group member Anglo Welsh, explains: “We were delighted to be involved in Julia’s exciting new television series which looks at different aspects of what makes Britain so great.

“During her investigation of our industrial past, where she looks at how our engineering achievements re-shaped the world, Julia took our aptly named Bond Class boat ‘Julia’ across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and amazed us all with her depth of knowledge of the structure and its history.”

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Celebrate the Worcester & Birmingham Canal’s Bicentenary

…travel along this beautiful historic waterway, from the cathedral City of Worcester, through the green hills of Worcestershire to the vibrant centre of Birmingham

In 2015 it will be 200 years since the Worcester & Birmingham Canal opened. This popular 29-mile long historic waterway starts in Worcester as an off-shoot of the River Severn, and ends in Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham.

The canal climbs 130 metres from Worcester to Birmingham. It has 58 locks along its length, including 30 at Tardebigge – one of the largest lock flights in Europe.

Construction of the canal began in 1792 from the Birmingham end, and the final section was completed in December 1815. A major user of the canal in its freight-carrying heyday was the canalside Cadbury chocolate factories at Bournville and Blackpole.

Today, holiday-makers can explore this beautiful historic waterway by canal boat, starting at Drifters’ Worcester base and reaching City centre moorings in Gas Street Basin in around 22 hours.

Beginning their journey with views of Worcester Cathedral, boaters pass Diglis Basin and soon reach open countryside. After a series of locks, including the Offerton Flight of six, the canal passes beneath the busy M5 motorway.

Next it’s the 230-yard long Dunhamsptead Tunnel and then Hanbury Junction, where the Droitwich Junction Canal connects with the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.
The National Trust’s Hanbury Hall can be reached by a pleasant walk across the fields from Astwood Bottom Lock and the village of Hanbury itself is said to be the real-life counterpoint of Radio 4’s Ambridge, home of The Archers.

Two smaller flights of locks follow before holiday-makers reach the base of the Tardebigge flight, with 30 locks over two miles, making it the longest in the country.
It was at Tardebigge Wharf at the top of the flight – with its dry dock, maintenance yard, workers cottages and historic warehouse – that Tom Rolt first met Robert Aickman, a union which led to the creation of the Inland Waterways Association, the driving force behind the restoration of the canal network.

Next the canal passes through the Lickley Hills using three long tunnels: Tardebigge the 580-yard long Tardebigge Tunnel; 613-yard Shortwood Tunnel; and Wasthill Tunnel, the longest at 2,726 yards.  This stretch also passes beneath the M42 and runs close to the Upper and Lower Bittell Reservoirs, built to feed the canal and once regularly visited by a young Bill Oddie.

Boaters next reach Kings Norton Junction, where the Worcester & Birmingham meets the Stratford Canal under permanently open guillotine gates.
Then on through the 105-yard long Edgbaston Tunnel and across the Holliday Street Aqueduct.

Finally, at its northern end, the canal joins the Birmingham Main Line at Gas Street Basin. Here traditional narrowboats and elegant black and white iron footbridges now sit alongside modern bars and restaurants and the City’s Mailbox luxury shopping centre.

Drifters also has bases on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Tardebigge, Alvechurch and Stoke Prior, all close to Bromsgrove in Worcestershire. And the Worcester & Birmingham Canal forms part of both the popular Avon and Stourport Cruising Rings.

2015 prices from Worcester start at £368 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, weekly hire from £560.

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Try canal boating for free at Drifters National Open Day Event

On Sunday 19 April 2015, Drifters is offering people the chance to try canal boating at 22 of its narrowboat hire bases across England and Wales.

The free taster sessions, which are supported by the Canal & River Trust, will include boat tours, holiday discounts and free trips on skippered boats.

Details of what each site is offering is published here www.drifters.co.uk/openday.  No booking is required.

Tim Parker, Chairman of Drifters, says: “Britain’s beautiful 2,000-mile canal and river network is a haven for wildlife and travelling at just 4mph, canal boat holidays are often described as ‘the fastest way to slow down.

“Our holidays offer families the chance to set off on an adventure together, learn how to work the locks, spot wildlife and visit waterside attractions along the way.

“Over 370,000* people go canal boating each year and we hope our free taster sessions will introduce many more people to the joys of a holiday afloat on our wonderful inland waterways.”

 

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Top 5 epic canal boat journeys

Britain’s 2,000-mile canal network offers a huge variety of canal boat holiday routes, from easy short breaks with no locks through to epic journeys around cruising rings, which take weeks and involve a lot of locks!

Weekly hire in 2015 starts at £480 and Drifters operators usually offer discounts on the second week of hire.

Here are our top five epic journeys to inspire:

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

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

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

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

5. The Warwickshire Ring (101 miles, 94 locks, 48 hours): starting from our bases at Napton or Rugby, with a mixture of urban and rural landscapes, the Warwickshire Ring is easily navigated in two weeks. It takes in the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals. Highlights include: the flight of 11 locks into Atherstone, Hawkesbury Junction with one of the tightest turns on the system where the Oxford joins the Coventry; Hillmorton locks (three pairs); the tricky 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.

Celebrate Christmas on the Canals

Britain’s canals can offer a great antidote to the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

Six 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 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 to enjoy new year celebrations in waterside towns and cities like Bath, Birmingham, Warwick and Stratford upon Avon.

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

Prices over Christmas and New Year start at start at £585 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, weekly hire from £840.

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

Travel to Bath along the Kennet & Avon Canal…our base in the historic town of Bradford on Avon 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. Christmas and New Year prices from Bradford on Avon start at £725 for short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four and £1,010 for a week on a boat for four.

Chug through rural Warwickshire…On a short break from our base at 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 could travel to Stratford upon Avon and back, passing through Warwick and Leamington Spa. Christmas and New Year prices from Stretton start at £585 for a short break (three or four nights) and £895 for a week on a boat for four.

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. Christmas and New Year prices from Tardebigge start at £680 for a short break (three or four nights), and £945 for a week.

Navigate ‘The Stream in the Sky’…the awesome 300-metre long World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, carries the Llangollen Canal 40 metres above the rushing waters of the River Dee. From our base at Trevor, next to the aqueduct, the village of Llangollen is a two-hour cruise to the west and to the east, Ellesmere is a seven-hour journey through the beautiful Vale of Llangollen. Christmas and New Year prices from Trevor start at £680 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for two, and £945 for a week.

• Explore the Potteries in Staffordshire…our base at Great Haywood, at the junction of the Staffs & Worcs and Trent & Mersey canals in Staffordshire, offers a variety of routes. On a week’s cruise 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. Christmas and New Year prices from Great Haywood start at £775 for a short break (three or four nights), and £1,085 for a week on a boat for six.

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. Christmas and New Year prices from Wootton Wawen start at £605 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, weekly hire from £840.

Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2015

With boats travelling at a maximum speed of 4mph, a canal boat holiday really is the fastest way to slow down. There are over 3,000 miles of peaceful canals and rivers to explore across Britain – from rural retreats to vibrant city centres.

Drifters offers over 500 boats for hire from 37 canal boat hire locations across England, Scotland and Wales. 2015 hire prices currently start at £368 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £480 for a week.

Here are our Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2014:

1. Celebrate the Worcester & Birmingham Canal’s Bicentenary…in 2015 it will be 200 years since the popular Worcester & Birmingham Canal opened. This 29-mile long waterway starts in Worcester, as an off-shoot of the River Severn, and ends in Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham. It has 58 locks along its length, including 30 at Tardebigge, one of the largest lock flights in Europe. A major user of the canal in its freight-carrying heyday was the Cadbury chocolate factories at Bournville and Blackpole. Today, narrowboat holiday-makers can explore this beautiful historic waterway by canal boat, starting at our Worcester base and reaching City centre moorings in Gas Street Basin, with easy access to the City’s Mailbox and Bullring shopping centres, theatres, museums and restaurants, in around 22 hours.

2. Enjoy a journey through the Yorkshire countryside to the famous Bingley 5-rise locks…from our Sowerby Bridge base it takes a week to travel to the Bingley 5-rise locks and back, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. Completed in 1774, this spectacular staircase of locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal 17 miles from Leeds, raises (or lowers) boats 18 metres (60ft) in five cavernous chambers. The locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom gate of the next. The journey from Sowerby Bridge starts with a cruise along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation, passing through Elland, Brighouse and Shepley Bridge. Then on through Wakefield, with moorings available right outside the Barbara Hepworth museum, then on to Stanley Ferry to see the aqueduct, which looks like a miniature Sydney Harbour Bridge. Now onto the Aire & Calder Navigation with electric locks and on to Leeds, passing the Royal Armouries Museum. Next boaters join the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, travelling through fields and woods and enjoying spectacular views of old West Riding industry and passing through Sir Titus Salt’s fascinating model town at Saltaire, with Italianate mills and Hockney Museum. After several staircase locks along the way, boaters reach the famous Five Rise Locks at Bingley. The total journey there and back travels 110 miles, passes through 118 locks and takes 54 cruising hours.

3. Experience the Edinburgh Festival afloat…Edinburgh Quay is a day and a half’s journey from our base at Falkirk, on the Lowland Canals in Scotland. The journey starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel (the world’s first and only rotating boat lift) and then on to the Union Canal, passing through Linlithgow, Broxburn and Ratho. Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street, with easy access to the City’s many attractions and Festival events. In 2015, the Edinburgh International Festival dates will run from 7-31 August, coinciding for the first time with the Fringe events. Highlights include a staging of Ivo van Hove’s Antigones, starring Juliette Binoche and a stripped-down production of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro by Iavn Fischer and the Budapest festival orchestra. 

4. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’…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 Trevor, close to the Aqueduct (which will celebrate its 210th birthday in 2015), holiday-makers can travel to the pretty towns of Llangollen and Ellesmere, visiting the Horseshoe Falls at Llangollen, the Ellesmere Lakes, teaming with wildlife and Chirk, with its 900-year old Castle.

5. Visit the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park & enjoy the Rugby World Cup afloat…Some of the matches for the 2015 Rugby World Cup will be held at the Olympic Stadium, on the banks of the River Lea. It takes around nine hours to reach Three Mills at the edge of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from our canal boat hire base on the Grand Union Canal Paddington Arm in West London. The journey passes through picturesque Little Venice, Regent’s Park, London Zoo, Camden Lock, Kings Cross and Victoria Park. There are plenty of safe places to moor along the way, with easy access to London’s top attractions, theatres, restaurants and shops. The first Olympic Stadium match takes place on Weds 23 September, France vs Romania.

6. Cruise the Caen Hill Flight, 25 years after it was restored…with 16 of its 29 locks falling in a straight line, the Caen Hill flight of locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes in Wiltshire is visually the most impressive in the country. The locks were the final link in the Kennet & Avon Canal’s construction, opening in 1810. By 1950 they had become derelict but after a major restoration effort, they were reopened HM The Queen in 1990. From our base at Hilperton near Trowbridge it takes less than four hours to reach the base of the Caen Hill Flight. The journey through the locks takes around five hours and it’s not long before boaters reach the beautiful Vale of Pewsey and the ancient Savernake Forest.

7. See the newly cleaned dinosaurs at the Oxford Museum of Natural History…the Oxford University Museum of Natural History reopened in 2014 after a £2million project to fix its leaking roof. Over 8,500 Victorian glass tiles were individually removed and resealed and a mass specimen cleaning project was undertaken, including all the big dinosaurs! Founded in 1860 as the centre for scientific study at the University of Oxford, this fascinating Museum now holds the University’s internationally significant collections of geological and zoological specimens, including the Oxfordshire dinosaurs and the Dodo. Our Oxford base on the River Thames is just a three-hour cruise from the City centre, where canal boat holiday-makers can moor-up close to Hythe Bridge and use their boat as a base to visit the Museum and explore the City.

8. Visit Bristol’s vibrant Floating Harbour…from our Sydney Wharf base in the centre of Bath, canal boat holiday-makers can head west on the River Avon, reaching Bristol’s exciting Floating Harbour in eight hours. Over 200 years ago, 80 acres of tidal river was impounded in Bristol, allowing visiting ships to remain afloat all the time. The Harbour grew as a busy commercial port. Today leisure boaters can enjoy moorings there and use it as a base to visit Brunel’s masterpiece, the SS Great Britain, the Blue Reef Aquarium and the @Bristol science centre with its Planetarium and hundreds of hands-on exhibits to explore.

9. Potter through the Peak District…Our Peak District base, at the junction of the Caldon and Trent & Mersey canals, near Stoke on Trent, offers the perfect way to experience this beautiful National Park in the heart of England. The gentle 12-hour cruise along the peaceful Caldon Canal to Froghall Basin is perfect for narrowboat holiday beginners on a short break. On a week’s break, boater’s can travel to Whaley Bridge at the end of the Peak Forest Canal and back, passing through Harecastle Tunnel, Congleton, Macclesfield and Marple.

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 our base at 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.