Top 6 waterways on screen destinations

Celebrity 5 Go Barging

Britain’s thriving 3,000-mile network of navigable canals and rivers have featured in many movies and television shows over the years.

Recently, a number of television series have put canal boat holidays at the centre of the action, with popular series like ‘Great Canal Journeys’ and ‘Celebrity 5 Go Barging’.

To celebrate canals on screen, we’ve put together our Top 6 waterways on screen destinations:

  1. Take a Peak at the Peaky Blinders – the Black Country Museum in Birmingham is the office home of the BBC’s epic gangster drama, the Peaky Blinders.  Many scenes for all five series were filmed at the 26-acre Museum, including Tommy Shelby’s iconic walk past the firing furnaces in series one and in season three, the Museum’s St James’s School is the setting for the murder of Father Hughes in the nail biting season finale.  From our canal boat hire base at Alvechurch on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s an eight hour, three-lock journey to moorings outside the Black Country Living Museum. 
  2. Follow in the wake of Celebrity 5 Go Barging – last autumn, five celebrities took to the canals for a four part series on Channel 5.  In the first episode, Shaun Williamson, Michael Buerk, John Prescott, Anita Harris and Amanda Barrie set off from Drifters Peak District narrowboat hire base in Stoke on Trent and travelled along the beautiful Caldon Canal.  This mostly rural waterway, takes boaters through the beautiful Churnet Valley, to enjoy quiet countryside, watching out for wildlife and a series of popular canalside pubs.  On a short break from Drifters’ Peak District base, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel to Flint Mill and back in around 21 hours, cruising for 23 miles and passing through 24 locks (12 each way).
  3. Visit Oxford like a gyptian – Philip Pullman’s fascinating boat-dwelling ‘gyptian’ characters are brought vividly to life on screen in the BBC’s recent adaptation of his ‘The Northern Lights’ novel. And Oxford’s stunning Bodleian Library features in many ‘His Dark Materials’ scenes. From our narrowboat hire base at Eynsham on the River Thames near Oxford, canal boat holiday-makers can take to the water like gyptians, reaching city centre moorings at Hythe Bridge in just three hours.  From there, it’s just a short walk to the Bodleian Library and many other famous historic sites and museums.
  4. Cruise to Little Venice, site of a dramatic chase scene in Paddington 2 – Little Venice, where the Regents Canal meets the Grand Union, was the backdrop to a chaotic chase scene in Paddington 2, with Paddington riding on the back of a dog in Browning’s Pool.  From Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Berkshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel to Little Venice and back on a two week break.  The journey takes boaters along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Reading, transfers onto the Thames and passes, through Marlow, Bray, Windsor, Hampton Court, Richmond and then transfers onto the Grand Union Canal at Brentford.  There and back, boaters will cruise a total of 178 miles in around 70 hours, passing through 92 locks.
  5. Zomboat the Birmingham Mini Ring – the six-part zombie apocalypse series Zomboat! premiered last autumn on ITV2, telling the story of sisters Kat and Jo attempting to escape the carnage in Birmingham by canal boat.  On a week’s holiday from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, boaters can travel the Birmingham Mini Ring, taking them right into the heart of Birmingham.  The total journey travels 45 miles, passes through 49 locks and takes around 27 hours.
  6. Cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct for a Great Welsh Adventure – last autumn, Welsh rugby legend Gareth Edwards took to the canals of North Wales for his ‘Great Welsh Adventure’, chronicled on the BBC in four episodes.  Gareth set off from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal.  From there, it takes around six hours to reach the incredible UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysytlle Aqueduct, which Gareth travels across in episode one.
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Top 10 canal boat holidays for beginners

With a thriving 3,000-mile network of navigable inland waterways, the health benefits of spending time by the water proven and the merits of a lower carbon staycation, UK narrowboat holidays offer a great holiday experience.

A licence isn’t required to steer a canal boat and all our operators provide boat steering tuition as part of their holiday packages.

If you’re planning to pack up and ship out to learn the ropes of a narrowboat holiday adventure in 2020, here’s a list of our top 10 canal boat holidays for beginners:

  1. Glide through the Breacon Beacons – isolated from the main canal network, the scenic Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park.  This quiet waterway, which with very few locks is nice and easy for beginners, offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views, dark night skies for star gazing, plenty of wildlife to watch out for and a series of village pubs to enjoy along the way.  On a week’s holiday from our base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, you 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. 
  2. Cruise to the bright lights of Birmingham – boasting more canals than Venice, Birmingham simply has to be visited by water.  And with no locks between our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove and Birmingham City Centre, it’s the perfect opportunity for novice canal boat holiday-makers to ‘dip their toe in the water’.  It takes just five hours to reach Birmingham, with the first half of the journey passing through fields, woodlands and sleepy villages.  Once in the centre of Birmingham, you can find over-night moorings at Gas Street Basin, with easy access to Brindleyplace, the Mailbox, Sea Life Centre and other city centre attractions. 
  3. Boat into the Pennines – starting from our base at Reedley on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Lancashire, you can travel north east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal into North Yorkshire, passing through Nelson, Barrowford, Salterforth, Barnoldswick and Greenber Field along the way.  Once at East Marton, there’s a choice of canalside pubs and the canal connects to the Pennine Way just south of the village.  The journey there and back covers 47 miles, passes through 10 locks (five each way) and takes around 17½ hours.
  4. Float gently along to Fradley – on a short break from our canal boat hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, you can head south to Fradley Junction, where the Coventry Canal meets the Trent & Mersey.  The journey takes around five hours, travelling through 12 peaceful miles of Staffordshire countryside and passing through just five locks.  At Fradley, you can moor up to visit the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn, and take a wander around the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
  5. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular navigations on the network.  The journey from our narrowboat hire base at Trevor near Llangollen to Ellesmere and back offers a fantastic short break holiday for beginners.  There are just four locks between Trevor and Ellesmere at the heart of the Shropshire Lake District, a journey which takes around seven hours.  And the route includes the experience of travelling across the awesome World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’, with incredible views of the Dee Valley 30 metres below.
  6. Potter through the Peak District – Drifters’ Peak District base, at the junction of the Caldon and Trent & Mersey canals in Stoke on Trent, offers a fantastic way to experience this beautiful National Park in the heart of England.  Starting at the Etruria, home of the industrial potteries, the gentle eight-hour cruise along the peaceful Caldon Canal to Cheddleton Flint Mill is perfect for beginners on a short break.  The route, which passes through 12 locks, takes you out into open countryside, through Denford with its popular Hollybush Inn and on to Cheddleton with its Flint Mill Museum, Black Lion pub and Old School Tearooms.
  7. Visit Georgian Bath – from our canal boat hire base at Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, the World Heritage Status City of Bath is a delightful six-hour cruise away.  The route passes through seven locks, over two stunning Bath stone aqueducts and past a series of popular historic canalside pubs, including the Barge Inn at Bradford on Avon and the Cross Guns at Avoncliff.  Once in Bath, you can use your canal boat as a base to enjoy all that the City has to offer, including the Roman Baths, Jane Austen Museum and Royal Crescent.
  8. Watch out for wildlife on the Ashby Canal – on a week’s holiday from our canal boat hire base at Braunston, you can cruise to the pretty village of Snarestone and back, travelling a total of 47 miles, passing through just eight locks (four there and four back) in around 32 hours.  This largely rural route follows a section of the North Oxford Canal to Rugby and then joins the Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury Junction.  Five miles later, the route transfers onto the peaceful lock-free Ashby Canal, which winds gently through countryside for 22 miles.  A six mile section of this rural waterway is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), recognising the importance of its wildlife, including nine species of dragonfly, the water shrew, water vole and rare native white-clawed crayfish. 
  9. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh – from our boat yard at Falkirk,Edinburgh Quay is a sedate 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal.  The journey, perfect for beginners on a mid-week or week-long break, starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first and only rotating boat lift – and then passes through the lovely lowland villages of Linlithgow, Broxburn and Ratho.  Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street, with easy access to the City’s many attractions, including Edinburgh Castle and Mary King Close, frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.
  10. Boat to Brewood and back – the journey to Brewood and back from our narrowboat rental base at Gailey on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal offers an excellent short break route for narrowboat holiday beginners.  Travelling a total of 25 miles, and passing through just two locks (one on the way, one on the way back), this gentle journey through the Shropshire countryside passes the waterside Anchor Inn at Cross Green and transfers boaters onto the Shropshire Union Canal at Autherley Junction.  On reaching the historic village of Brewood, with its half-timbered houses cottages and Georgian houses, visitors have a good choice of places to eat, including the canalside Bridge Inn.
Watch out for Wildlife

Top 5 canal boat holidays for wildlife spotting

Britain’s 3,000-mile canal and river network provides great habitats for an abundance of wildlife species. Cruising gently through the countryside, canal boat holiday-makers can enjoy spotting anything from ducks, moorhens, swans and dragonflies, to kingfishers, otters, bats and water voles.  And even in city centres, waterways provide safe havens for a wide variety of plants and animals.

Drifters offers over 550 boats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales.  Here’s our guide to the best narrowboat holidays for wildlife spotting:

Spot Kingfishers on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Isolated from the main canal network, this beautiful waterway in South Wales meanders peacefully for 36 miles through the Brecon Beacons National Park, providing excellent habitat for many woodland and water birds, including kingfishers.

Usually glimpsed as a sudden flash of glistening blue, the ‘King of Fishers’ travels at lightning speeds catching several fish each day.  These colourful birds raise up to three broods every season and fiercely defend their territory at all times.  There are more than 80 species of kingfisher around the world, but only one is native to Britain. 

***On a short break (three or four nights), from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Goytre Wharf on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, boaters can cruise to Llangynidr and back, enjoying dramatic views of the Usk Valley.  On a week’s break, boaters can cruise as far as the historic market town of Brecon. 

Watch out for Bats on the Caldon Canal

The 17-mile long Caldon Canal runs into the Peak District from the Trent & Mersey Canal at Etruria in Stoke-on-Trent, to Froghall Wharf in the Staffordshire Moorlands.  Its stunning wooded sections, where it passes through the beautiful Churnet Valley, provide particularly rich habitat for bats.

There are 18 different kinds of bat in Britain, including Daubenton’s bats, also known as the ‘water bat’.  They use the canal and river network extensively for foraging and they can frequently be found roosting in hollowed out tree trunks and many of the 200 year old engineering structures, such as bridges and aqueducts, which were built alongside the canals themselves.

Bats can be spotted around dusk as they venture out to hunt their insect prey.  They use a highly sophisticated form of radar – high frequency squeak – which bounces off objects back to the bat. This tells it the size, location, velocity and even texture of whatever is in its path.

***On a short break from Drifters’ Peak District narrowboat hire base at Etruria in Stoke on Trent, canal boat holiday-makers can travel into the Peak District along the beautiful Caldon Canal, reaching Cheddleton Flint Mill in around eight hours, passing through 12 locks and travelling just over 11 miles. 

Count Dragonflies on the Ashby Canal

A six-mile section of this peaceful waterway in Leicestershire is designated a Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI), recognising the diversity of its plant, insect and animal life, including nine species of dragonfly

These colourful insects, whose origins began 300 million years ago, are voracious hunters.  They use the reed fringes of our canals and rivers as breeding and hunting grounds.  They are insects in the sub-order ‘Anisoptera’ meaning “unequal winged” as their hind wings are usually shorter and broader than their forewings.

***On a week’s holiday from our narrowboat hire base on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston, boaters can cruise to the pretty village of Snarestone and back, travelling a total of 47 miles, passing through just eight locks (four there and four back) in around 32 hours.  This largely rural route takes boaters up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby and on to Hawkesbury Junction to join the Coventry Canal.  Five miles later, the route transfers onto the peaceful lock-free Ashbury Canal, which winds gently through countryside for 22 miles.

Look out for Otters on the Montgomery Canal

This historic waterway runs for 38 miles between England and Wales.  Designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on both sides of the border, and the entire length in Wales is also recognised as a Special Area of Conservation, making it one of the most important sites for wildlife in Europe. 

Currently only around half the Montgomery Canal is navigable, including a seven-mile section from its junction with the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire at Frankton Locks to Gronwyn Wharf.  Work is underway to restore a further section, extending this navigable stretch to Crickheath.  As part of this £4.2million project, which is expected to be completed next year, the Canal & River Trust, Shropshire Union Canal Society and other partners are constructing two nature reserves to ensure important local habitat is protected, including otters and water voles.  

Thanks to the work of conservationists, the UK’s population of otters is showing healthy signs of growth after its sad decline in the 1950’s.  Lakes, rivers and coastal areas are the otters’ natural habitats but these timid nocturnal creatures can also be seen hunting on quiet stretches of the canals.

***On a short break from our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Chirk, it takes around eight hours to cruise to Gronwyn Wharf on the Montgomery Canal, travelling 15 miles and passing through 10 locks.

Listen for Reed Bunting on the Droitwich Canals

Many birds live and nest amongst the reeds that line sections of our inland waterways, including the moorhen, coot, sage warbler and the chirruping reed bunting.  One of the best waterways to see these lively little birds, perched up high on reed tops singing at the top of their voices, are the Droitwich Canals in Worcestershire. These historic waterways offer a linear mosaic of habitats, including substantial reedbeds.

Reed buntings are sparrow-sized but slim with long, deeply notched tails.  The male has a black head with a white collar in the summer.  The black head becomes a dull brown in the winter.  Females have a brown head, buff throat and buff-coloured lines above and below their eyes.  Reed buntings feed on seeds and insects and they nest in a cup of grass and moss built on the ground, usually amongst reeds or grasses in a wet or marshy place.

***The Droitwich Canals can be reached on a short break from Drifters’ canal boat holiday rental base at Worcester on the River Severn.  The Droitwich Ring, a 21-mile, 33-lock canal boat holiday circuit which takes around 16 hours to navigate, takes in sections of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and the River Severn, as well as the Droitwich Barge and Junction canals.

Drifters’ 2020 hire prices start at £554 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £791 for a week.  Tuition is included in all Drifters holiday packages.

Take a Canal Boat Holiday this Halloween

Top 9 spooky destinations afloat

With ghosts galore, bats, toads, moths, spiders and frogs aplenty – as well as creepy tunnels, spooky locks and misty towpaths – Britain’s 2,000-mile, 200-year old canal network provides the perfect backdrop for a haunting Halloween.

Here’s a guide to Drifters’ spookiest destinations for Halloween 2019:

  1. Hear echoes of a killing at Kidsgrove – the Trent & Mersey Canal’s spooky 2,676-metre long 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.  Harecastle Tunnel can be reached in around 12 hours (travelling 22 miles through 18 locks) from our canal boat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford. 
  2. Mind the Monkey Man at Norbury – the Shropshire Union Canal is said to be Britain’s most haunted canal with five ghosts along its length, including the terrifying ‘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.  Narrowboat holiday-makers can head north from our base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal near Stafford, reaching Bridge 39 in around four and a half hours. 
  3. 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 2,795 metres long, it’s one of the longest on the canal system.  When construction began in 1793, the tunnel was a major engineering challenge.  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 must have 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…?  The Blisworth Tunnel is less than an our away from our narrowboat hire base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire. 
  4. Steel yourself for a visit from the Viscount – Once a 13th century monastery, The George Inn at Bathampton is said to be haunted by the ghost of Viscount John Baptiste Du Barre, who mortally wounded in the last legal duel fought in Britain.  The Viscount was reputedly a decadent man who held lavish parties and enjoyed gambling.  Following an argument over a card game, a challenge was thrown down and on 18 November 1778, he and his opponent met on Claverton Down at dawn.  Drifters’ narrowboat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath is a 20-minute cruise from the George Inn. 
  5. Witness some ghostly goings-on at The Navigation Inn – the Navigation Inn on the Calder & Hebble Navigation at Sowerby Bridge dates back to the 15th century, and served travellers along the old salt road from Chester to York long before the canal was built.  According to the landlord, there’s plenty of supernatural activity in this ancient building, including noises in the cellar, clocks that mysteriously stop and spirits that appear in the kitchen.  The Navigation Inn is very close to our canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge. 
  6. Beware the blood stained steps at Brindley Bank – the Trent & Mersey Canal at Brindley Bank Aqueduct in Staffordshire, is said to be haunted by Christina Collins, who was murdered there on 17 June 1839 and her body flung into the canal.  Three boatmen were convicted of her killing; two were hanged, the third transported.  As Christina’s body was dragged from the water, her blood ran down a flight of sandstone steps leading from the canal, and it is said that the stain occasionally reappears on those stones.  Brindley Bank is just over an hour away from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal.
  7. 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.  Canal boat holiday-makers can hire a boat from our canal boat yard at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, and reach Chester in seven hours, and passing through nine locks. 
  8. Watch out for 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 UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which carries canal boat holiday-makers 38 metres high in the air above the River Dee.  From narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, it’s a 10-minute cruise to the Aqueduct.  
  9. Look out for the ghost of the lusty farm hand – originally an 18th century farm house, The Blue Lias pub on the Grand Union Canal at the bottom of the Stockton flight in Warwickshire, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a red-haired farm labourer who was murdered when the vengeful farmer returned home from market one day to find the labourer in bed with his wife.  The Blue Lias pub is just under a mile and eight locks away from our canal boat rental base at Stockton. 
Common pipistrelle, pipistrellus pipistrellus

 

Top 8 October half term canal boat holidays

Top 8 October half term canal boat holidays

Canal boat holidays are fantastic for families, offering the chance to enjoy the autumn countryside, watch out for waterway wildlife, learn how to work the locks and speak the boating lingo.

This October Half Term, why not set sail together for a family adventure afloat, enjoying the splendid colours of autumn in the hedgerows and trees that line our waterways and stopping off at canalside destinations along the way.

Drifters’ 2019 October Half Term prices start at £582 for a short break (three or four nights), £795 for a week on a boat for four people.  Here are our top 8 destinations for families this October Half Term:

  1. Glide through the Usk Valley to Brecon and back – the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal offers 35 miles of quiet countryside to explore with incredible views of the Brecon Beacons.  From Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, on a week’s break boaters can journey through the wooded Usk Valley to the pretty market town of Brecon, home to a cathedral, theatre, cinema, castle ruins and great access to the National Park with walking routes, cycle hire and pony trekking.  Along the way, boaters can stop off at Llanfoist to take the old tramway into the Black Mountains, visit the 13th century caste at Crickhowell and walk to the Blaen y Glyn waterfalls at Talybont-on-Usk.  The total journey there and back travels 51 miles, passing through 12 locks and takes around 25 hours. 
  2. Travel through the Shropshire countryside to the home of the gingerbread man – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, it takes around 10 hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man – perfect for a mid-week break afloat.  Along the way, boaters pass through 21 miles of beautiful Shropshire countryside, six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall. 
  3. Visit Georgian Bath afloat – on a mid-week (four-night) break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, canal boat holiday-makers can travel west to the beautiful World Heritage Status City of Bath, famous for its stunning Georgian architecture.  Along the way, boaters travel across two magnificent aqueducts crafted out of Bath stone and can enjoy stopping off at historic canalside pubs, including the Barge Inn at Seend, the Lock Inn at Bradford upon Avon and the Cross Guns at Avoncliff.  Arriving at Sydney Gardens just outside Bath City Centre, boaters can find quiet moorings just a 15-minute walk from Bath’s major attractions, including the Roman Baths.  The journey to Bath takes around nine hours, travelling 19 miles and passing through eight locks.
  4. Travel across the Stream in the Sky – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, boaters can travel seven peaceful miles to Ellesmere and back, with just two locks to pass through and the magnificent World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, with stunning views of the Dee Valley below to travel across.  Once at Ellesmere, boaters can explore the famous Mere with its historic castle, woodland paths and fascinating wildlife. 
  5. Cruise along the Ashby to the site of the Battle of Bosworth – on a week’s holiday from Drifters canal boat hire base at Braunston, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to the pretty village of Snarestone and back, travelling a total of 47 miles, passing through eight locks and taking around 32 hours.  This largely rural route takes boaters up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby and on to Hawkesbury Junction to join the Coventry Canal.  Five miles later, boaters can transfer onto the peaceful lock-free Ashbury Canal, which winds peacefully through countryside for almost the whole of its 22-mile length.  From Carlton Bridge to Snarestone, the canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  Along the way, boaters pass close to Market Bosworth and the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field, where in 1485 Richard III lost his crown to Henry Tudor.
  6. Visit the historic Yorkshire mill town of Hebden Bridge – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the leafy Rochdale Canal to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills.  Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, the journey to Hebden Bridge covers seven miles, 10 locks and takes around five and a half hours.  Once at Hebden, boaters can moor in the centre of town to enjoy a good choice of pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops and markets as well as stunning walks up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags
  7. Explore Birmingham by boat – with more canals than Venice and incredible canalside regeneration areas like Brindleyplace, there’s no better way to explore Birmingham than by boat.  From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes just five hours to reach City Centre moorings at Gas Street Basin, the perfect base for exploring the many attractions of Britain’s vibrant Second City, including the fantastic Thinktank Science Museum.  With no locks along the way, it’s a great route for beginners to enjoy testing the waters.
  8. Cruise through the Scottish lowlands to Linlithgow Palace – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at the Falkirk Wheel boat lift, it’s a peaceful five-hour cruise along the Union Canal to the historic town of Linlithgow – perfect for a short break (three or four nights).  The route starts with a journey through the Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first rotating boat lift which replaced a flight of 11 locks – and then passes through two tunnels and two aqueducts, plus miles of peaceful countryside before reaching Linlithgow.  Once there, narrowboat holiday-makers can visit the beautifully preserved remains of Linlithgow Palace on the shores of Linlithgow Loch, the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, and visit some of the town’s excellent eateries, including the award-winning Four Marys pub.

 

Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2020

Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2020

From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, narrowboat holiday-makers can use their boat as a floating holiday home to explore Britain’s beautiful 3,000-mile network of inland waterways, with the choice of hundreds of waterside destinations and historic canalside pubs to enjoy visiting along the way. 

Drifters offers over 550 boats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales.  Tuition is included in all our holiday packages.

Here are Drifters’ Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2020:

  1. Celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Grand Union Canal with a cruise to Warwick Castle – in 2020, the Grand Union Canal will celebrate 90 years since its formation, when eight independent waterways were merged.  On a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Grand Union Canal at Stockton in Warwickshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can reach the historic centre of Warwick and moor up to explore the town’s magnificent castle on the banks of the River Avon, said to be ‘Britain’s greatest medieval experience’. The journey to moorings close to the Castle cruises 11 miles, passes through 22 locks and takes around nine hours.
  2. Wend your way to East Marton and back – starting from our narrowboat hire base at Reedley in Lancashire, boaters can travel along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal into North Yorkshire, passing through Nelson and then Barrowford, with its fascinating Pendle Heritage Centre and popular village pub.  The route then takes boaters through seven locks and the Foulridge Tunnel, then on to the market town of Barnoldswick, with plenty of places to eat.   After miles of peaceful countryside and the three locks at Greenberfield, the canal winds its way through hilly landscape into the village of East Marton, where there’s a choice of canalside pubs and the canal connects to the Pennine Way.  The journey there and back covers 28 miles, passes through 20 locks (10 each way) and takes around 12 hours.
  3. Float through the Brecon 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, with very few locks, this peaceful waterway offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views, a series of villages with country pubs and a wealth of wildlife to watch out for along the way.   On a four night break from our canal boat rental base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, boaters can cruise lock-free to Talybont-on-Usk and back, with excellent walking trails, the Canalside Café and the Star Inn.  The journey there and back covers a total of 38 miles, passes through 10 locks (five there and five back) and takes around 18 hours.
  4. Cruise the epic Stourport Ring – on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ Tardebigge boat yard on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, canal boat holiday-makers can travel the popular Stourport Ring, mixing long sections of countryside cruising with key waterside destinations.  Cruising 84 miles in around 44 hours, this circuit takes boaters through 118 locks, including the longest lock flight in Britain (the 30 locks at Tardebigge) and along sections of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal, the River Severn, Birmingham Canal Main Line and Stourbridge canals.  Along the way, narrowboat holidays pass through central Birmingham, the Stourport Basins, Kinver with its National Trust rock houses and the City of Worcester with its magnificent cathedral.
  5. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey to Hungerford – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, it takes around 20 hours, travelling 27 miles through 53 locks to reach the historic town of Hungerford, perfect for a week afloat.  Along the way, boaters travel up the spectacular flight of 16 locks in a row at Caen Hill (one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways) and cruise through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, passing close to prehistoric Avebury and along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest.  Once at Hungerford, narrowboat holiday-makers can enjoy dining at a choice of pubs and browsing in dozens of antique shops. 
  6. Glide along the Forth & Clyde to visit Glasgow – from our narrowboat hire base at the incredible Falkirk Wheel boat lift, it’s a peaceful nine-hour cruise along the Forth & Clyde Canal to the City of Glasgow – perfect for a short break.  Along the way, boaters will travel 22 miles and will pass through five locks.  This scenic route passes through Auchinstarry, the River Kelvin Valley with magnificent views of the Campsie Fells above, and the town of Kirkintillock.  There are moorings at Applecross Street Basin, with access to Glasgow’s wealth of museums, galleries and cultural centres, including the Hunterian Museum, home to one of Scotland’s finest collections.
  7. Watch out for wildlife on the Ashby Canal – on a week’s holiday from our canal boat hire base at Braunston, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to the pretty village of Snarestone and back, travelling a total of 47 miles, passing through just eight locks (four there and four back) in around 32 hours.  This largely rural route takes boaters up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby and on to Hawkesbury Junction to join the Coventry Canal.  Five miles later, the route transfers onto the peaceful lock-free Ashbury Canal, which winds gently through countryside for 22 miles.  From Carlton Bridge to Snarestone, the canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), recognising the diversity of its plant, insect and animal life, including nine species of dragonfly, the water shrew, water vole and rare native white-clawed crayfish. 
  8. Glide through the Peak District to Cheddleton and back – on a short break from our Peak District narrowboat hire base at Etruria in Stoke on Trent, canal boat holiday-makers can travel into the Peak District along the beautiful Caldon Canal, reaching Cheddleton Flint Mill in around eight hours, passing through 12 locks and travelling just over 11 miles.  As the Caldon Canal leaves Stoke, it begins to pass through gently rolling hills and wooded areas, past old mills and then alongside the stunning River Churnet.  At Denford, boaters can take refreshment at the popular Hollybush Inn and at Consall Forge, the secluded Black Lion pub serves good food and real ales.
  9. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Llangollen and back – from Drifters’ base at Chirk on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen, can be reached on a short break.  Standing at over 125ft high above the Dee Valley, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is 1,000ft long, supporting a cast iron trough across 19 enormous hollow pillars.  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. Once in Llangollen, boaters can moor up to enjoy exploring this pretty town nestled on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains, including its regular markets packed with local produce, choice of independent shops and restaurants and famous Horseshoe Falls.
  10. Cruise to Todmorden and back for some stunning Pennine scenery – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Todmorden and back along the Rochdale Canal – a journey which travels a total of 20 miles, passing through 34 locks and takes around 16 hours.  The historic town of Todmorden offers visitors fine Victorian architecture, plenty of pubs and restaurants, and a busy market.  Along the way, boaters pass through the beautiful Calder Valley village of Mytholmroyd, the birthplace of Ted Hughes, and the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills, with an amazing variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs and a series of scenic waymarked walks. 

 

Top 7 Autumn Breaks Afloat

All aboard for Autumn Afloat

A canal boat holiday is a great way to enjoy the splendid colours of autumn in the hedgerows and trees that line our waterways, as they are dramatically mirrored in the water.

There’s plenty of wildlife to spot along the way during the autumn months, including flocks of fieldfare searching for hawthorn berries, and small mammals stocking up on food before the winter.

There are also foraging opportunities along the way, such as apples, blackberries, sweet chestnuts, rosehips, elderberries, damsons and sloes – perfect for fresh fruit crumbles and drinks on board.

To celebrate, here are our top nine destinations for this autumn:

  1. Amble along the Ashby to Snarestone and back – on a week’s holiday from Drifters canal boat hire base at Braunston, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to the pretty village of Snarestone and back, travelling a total of 47 miles, passing through eight locks and taking around 32 hours.  This largely rural route takes boaters up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby and on to Hawkesbury Junction to join the Coventry Canal.  Five miles later, boaters can transfer onto the peaceful lock-free Ashbury Canal, which winds peacefully through countryside for almost the whole of its 22-mile length.  From Carlton Bridge to Snarestone, the canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  Along the way, boaters pass close to Market Bosworth and the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field.  Here in 1485 the reign of Richard III ended and Henry Tudor became Henry VII, the first of the Tudor monarchs.
  2. Glide across The Stream in the Sky from our new canal boat rental base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, boaters can reach the pretty town of Llangollen in 12 hours with just two locks to pass through, perfect for a relaxing week afloat. Along the way, boaters travel through the historic market town of Ellesmere and over the magnificent Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (also known as the Stream in the Sky), which this year celebrates 10 years of World Heritage Status.  Once in Llangollen, canal boat holiday makers can enjoy visiting some of the town’s many local shops, restaurants and markets, including The Buttered Crust Café and Bailey’s Deli.
  3. Go blackberry picking on the Stratford Canal – from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, it’s a picturesque seven-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon, with plenty of hedgerow foraging opportunities along the way – perfect for a short break.  Once at the birthplace of the Bard, boaters can moor up in Bancroft Basin, just a stone’s throw from the Swan Theatre, to explore the town’s many independent shops, restaurants and museums, including Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Tudor World. 
  4. Float through the Brecon Beacons to Taylbont-on-Usk – the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal offers 35 miles of quiet countryside to explore with incredible views of the Brecon Beacons.  From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, on a short break (three or four nights) boaters can journey through the wooded Usk Valley to Talybont-on-Usk, visiting villages and historic market towns along the way, including the Georgian town of Crickhowell with its 13th century castle.  Once at Talybont-on-Usk, boaters can enjoy walking access to Blaen y Glyn waterfalls and a choice of pubs, including the Star Inn and the White Hart Inn.  The total journey there and back travels 36 miles, passing through 10 locks and takes around 18 hours.  
  5. Visit the old mill town of Hebden Bridge – on a short break (three or four nights) rom Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation through the Calder Valley to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills.  Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, the journey to Hebden Bridge covers seven miles, 10 locks and takes around five and a half hours.  Once at Hebden, boaters can moor in the centre of town to enjoy a good choice of pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops and markets as well as stunning walks up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags
  6. Explore Georgian Bath afloat – on a short break from our Hilperton boat yard on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to the World Heritage Status City of Bath and back, enjoying beautiful views of the southern Cotswold Hills along the way.  The journey to Sydney Wharf takes just six hours, travelling across two magnificent aqueducts, passing through one lock and several canalside pubs, including the popular Cross Guns at Avoncliff.  Once in Bath, boaters can moor up and it’s a short walk to the City Centre to visit some of the City’s world class attractions, including the Roman Baths and Royal Crescent. 
  7. Complete the Stourport Ring – from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, on a week’s break narrowboat holiday-makers canal travel the popular Stourport Ring, travelling a total of 74 miles and passing through 118 locks, which takes around 44 hours).  The route takes in the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, upper section of the River Severn, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, Birmingham Canal Main Line and the Birmingham Canal Old Main Line.  The Stourport Ring visits three cities – Wolverhampton, Birmingham and the ancient City of Worcester.  Highlights include: Wolverhampton 21 locks; Brindleyplace and Gas Street Basin in Birmingham City Centre; open countryside on the River Severn; Stourport Basins; Bratch Locks at Wombourne; the pretty village of Kinver with access to the National Trust’s famous rock houses; the Black Country Living Museum; and Cadbury World.
  8. Cruise through the Scottish lowlands to Linlithgow and back – from our canal boat hire base at the Falkirk Wheel boat lift, it’s a peaceful five-hour cruise through the Scottish lowlands along the Union Canal to the historic town of Linlithgow – perfect for a short break (three or four nights).  The route begins passing over the Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first rotating boat lift which replaced a flight of 11 locks and then passes through two tunnels and two aqueducts, plus miles of peaceful countryside before reaching Linlithgow.  Once there, narrowboat holiday-makers can visit the beautifully preserved remains of Linlithgow Palace on the shores of Linlithgow Loch, and sample some of the town’s excellent eateries, including the award-winning Four Marys pub.   
  9. Potter through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, it takes around 10 hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man – perfect for a mid-week break afloat.  Along the way, boaters pass through miles of beautiful Shropshire countryside, six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.  Once at Market Drayton, boaters can enjoy picking up supplies at the Wednesday Cheshire market and admiring the town’s beautiful architecture.

 

Top 5 narrowboat holidays on the Trent & Mersey Canal

All Aboard for some August Bank Holiday Slow Time

Research shows people feel happier and more relaxed by Britain’s beautiful inland waterways* and with speed limits of just four miles per hour, canal boat holidays are often said to be ‘the fastest way to slow down’. 

So for anyone thinking of slowing right down over the August Bank Holiday, here’s a list of Drifters’ Top 7 August bank holiday boating breaks:

  1. Glide through the Peak District to Cheddleton and back – on a short break from Drifters’ Peak District narrowboat hire base at Etruria in Stoke on Trent, canal boat holiday-makers can travel into the Peak District along the beautiful Caldon Canal, reaching Cheddleton Flint Mill in around eight hours, passing through 12 locks and travelling just over 11 miles.  As the Caldon Canal leaves Stoke, it begins to pass through gently rolling hills and wooded areas, past old mills and then alongside the stunning River Churnet.  At Denford, boaters can take refreshment at the popular Hollybush Inn and at Consall Forge, the secluded Black Lion pub serves good food and real ales.
  2. Go star gazing in the Brecon Beacons – isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park, said to have some of some of the highest quality dark skies in the UK, perfect for star gazing.  Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, this peaceful waterway, with very few locks, offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views and a series of villages with country pubs to enjoy along the way.   On a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, boaters can cruise lock-free to Talybont-on-Usk and back, with excellent walking trails and eateries, the Canalside Café and the Star Inn.  
  3. Watch out for wildlife on the Ashby Canal – on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Braunston, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to the pretty village of Snarestone and back, travelling a total of 47 miles, passing through eight locks and taking around 32 hours.  This largely rural route takes boaters up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby and on to Hawkesbury Junction to join the Coventry Canal.  Five miles later, the route transfers onto the peaceful lock-free Ashbury Canal, which winds gently through countryside for 22 miles.  From Carlton Bridge to Snarestone, the canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), recognising the diversity of its plant, insect and animal life, including nine species of dragonfly, the water shrew, water vole and rare native white-clawed crayfish.  
  4. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey to Hungerford – from our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, it takes around 20 hours, travelling 27 miles through 53 locks to reach the historic town of Hungerford, perfect for a week afloat.  Along the way, boaters travel up the spectacular flight of 16 locks in a row at Caen Hill and cruise through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, passing close to prehistoric Avebury and along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest.  Once at Hungerford, narrowboat holiday-makers can enjoy dining at a choice of pubs and browsing in dozens of antique shops. 
  5. Step back in time at the Black Country Museum – from Drifters’ Tardebigge canal boat hire base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s an eight-hour, three-lock journey to moorings right outside the fascinating 26-acre open-air Black Country Living Museum.  Here visitors can meet costumed characters explaining what it was like to live and work in one of the world’s most heavily industrialised landscapes, explore period shops and homes, have a drink in the ‘Bottle & Glass Inn’, test their times tables in a 1912 school lesson, sample the Museum’s famous traditionally cooked 1930’s-style fish and chips, take a ride on a vintage tram or bus or take a trip ‘into the thick’ to experience life in an 1850’s coal mine.  
  6. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Trevor on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which this year celebrates 10 years of World Heritage Status, is just a five minute cruise away.  Standing at over 125ft high above the Dee Valley, this incredible 1,000ft long structure consists of a cast iron trough supported on iron arched ribs, carried on 19 enormous hollow pillars.  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.  After crossing the Aqueduct, boaters can cruise on to Ellesmere, also known as ‘The Shropshire Lake District’, with a choice of canalside pubs to enjoy along the way. 
  7. Cruise to Todmorden for some stunning Pennine scenery – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the Rochdale Canal to Todmorden, a journey which takes around eight hours, travelling 10 miles and passing through 17 locks.  This historic town offers visitors fine Victorian architecture, plenty of pubs and restaurants, and a busy market.  Along the way, boaters pass through the beautiful Calder Valley village of Mytholmroyd, the birthplace of Ted Hughes, and the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills, with a series of scenic waymarked walks and an amazing variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs. 

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Top 9 Summer Holidays Afloat

Top 9 Summer Holidays Afloat

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

Drifters offers 550 narrowboats for hire from 45 bases across England, Scotland and Wales.  Summer holiday prices for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people start at £785, or £1,125 for a week.

A licence isn’t required and it’s easy to learn how to steer a narrowboat.  Tuition is included as part of all our holiday packages. All our narrowboats have heating, well-equipped kitchens, quality furnishings, flushing toilets, hot water, showers, TVs and DVD players, and many now have WiFi on board too.

Here are our Top 9 summer destinations for 2019:

  1. Potter through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, it takes around 10 hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man.  Along the way, boaters pass through just six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.  Once at Market Drayton, boaters can enjoy picking up supplies at the Wednesday Cheshire market and admiring the town’s beautiful architecture, such as the 14th century church of St Mary, built from local sandstone.
  2. Cruise to Coventry to see the World’s largest tapestry – on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Napton on the Oxford Canal in Warwickshire, boaters can travel north up the Oxford Canal to connect with the Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury Junction.  The journey to Coventry takes around 14 hours, travelling 33 miles and passing through just four locks.  Along the way, the route passes through the pretty canal village of Braunston with a choice of pubs, the village of Hillmorton with its flight of three locks, Newbold Tunnel and Brinklow with the remains of its Norman motte and bailey castle.  Once at Coventry Basin, boaters can moor up to visit the Cathedral, home to the World’s largest tapestry, Graham Sutherland’s ‘Christ in Glory’. 
  3. Toddle to Todmorden for some stunning Pennine scenery – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the Rochdale Canal to Todmorden, a journey which takes around eight hours, travelling 10 miles and passing through 17 locks.  This historic town offers visitors fine Victorian architecture, plenty of pubs and restaurants, and a busy market.  Along the way, boaters pass through the beautiful Calder Valley village of Mytholmroyd, the birthplace of Ted Hughes, and the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills, with a series of scenic waymarked walks and an amazing variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs. 
  4. Travel the Warwickshire Ring – On a week’s holiday from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston, boaters can travel the popular Warwickshire Ring, travelling 101 miles, through 94 locks in around 54 hours through a mixture of urban and rural landscapes.  Highlights along the way include the awesome Fight of 21 locks at Hatton, Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin in the heart of Britain’s second city, the flight of 11 locks at Atherstone and the pretty canal village of Braunston. 
  5. Visit Georgian Bath afloat – on a mid-week (four night) break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, next to the spectacular Caen Hill flight of locks, canal boat holiday-makers can travel west to the beautiful World Heritage Status City of Bath, famous for its stunning Georgian architecture and fascinating Roman Baths.  The 20-mile journey to Bath passes through 10 locks and takes around 10 hours.  Along the way, the route passes through the village of Seend with its popular canalside Barge Inn, the historic town of Bradford on Avon with its fascinating 14th century Tithe Barn, over the beautiful Avoncliff and Dundas Bath stone aqueducts.
  6. Glide across the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular on the network.  On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Chirk, boaters can reach the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen, passing through four locks and over the magnificent Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which this year celebrates 10 years of World Heritage Status.  Built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop between 1796 and 1805 to enable slate and limestone to be moved from quarries in North Wales to the Midlands and beyond, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct measures a record-breaking 307 metres long, and at its highest point it is 38.4 metres above the River Dee. Its cast iron trough, along which canal boats travel, holds 1.5 million litres of water.
  7. Cruise along the River Thames into the Cotswolds -from Drifters narrowboat hire base on the River Thames at Oxford base, it’s a tranquil nine-hour, seven-lock cruise west to the pretty market town of Lechlade on the edge of the Cotswolds, perfect for a midweek break.  Along the way, boaters can miles of peaceful Oxfordshire countryside, and stop off along the way at the village of Radcot with its Swan Hotel and Civil War Garrison Earthworks, and Kelmscott with its popular Plough Inn and Grade I listed Kelmscott Manor, once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris.
  8. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh -from Drifters’ base at Falkirk,Edinburgh Quay is a sedate 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal, perfect for a four night mid-week break or a week away.  The journey starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel (the world’s first rotating boat lift) and then passes through the lovely lowland villages of Linlithgow, Broxburn and Ratho.  Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street and many of the City’s attractions, including Mary King Close, frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.
  9. Take the Grand Union Canal to Warwick Castle – on a short break from Drifters’ base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, boaters can reach the historic centre of Warwick in just six hours and can moor up to explore the town’s magnificent castle on the banks of the River Avon.  Said to be ‘Britain’s greatest medieval experience’, the castle offers visitors a fantastic day out with Flight of the Eagles displays, the Kingmaker Exhibition, Horrible Histories Maze, The Castle Dungeon tour, the Mighty Trebuchet in action and costumed interpreters bringing history to life.

 

Top 10 short breaks

Top 10 Late May Bank Holiday Boating Breaks

With Britain’s inland waterways in better shape than ever and the health benefits of spending time by the water proven, narrowboat holidays are becoming increasingly popular.

So why not pack up and ship out for a family adventure afloat over the Whitsun May holiday?

You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat and all our operators provide boat steering tuition as part of their holiday packages.

Drifters offers over 550 boats for hire from 45 bases across England, Scotland and Wales.  Narrowboats range from 32ft to 70ft and can accommodate up to 12 people.  All are equipped with essential home comforts, including central heating, hot water, TV, showers, microwaves, flushing toilets, and many now have WiFi too.

Prices over the late May bank holiday start at £715 for a short break (three of four nights) on a boat for four people, £1,020 for a week, though it’s always checking our availability online for offers.

Here’s a list of our Top 10 late May Bank Holiday boating breaks, all perfect for beginners:

  1. Cruise along the peaceful Oxford Canal to Rugby – from our canal boat hire base on the Oxford Canal at Napton in Warwickshire, it takes just over six hours, travelling 15 miles and passing through three locks, to reach the historic market town of Rugby.  The route takes boaters through quiet countryside, with farmland and woodlands bordering the canal most of the way.  There are canalside pubs to enjoy along the way at the villages of Hillmorton and Braunston and once at Rugby there’s a choice of pubs, restaurants and cafes to visit, as well as museums dedicated to the town’s history and history of the game of rugby.
  2. Enjoy the bright lights of Birmingham afloat – boasting more canals than Venice, Birmingham simply has to be visited by water.  With no locks between our base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove and Birmingham City Centre, it’s the perfect opportunity for novice canal boat holiday-makers to ‘dip their toe in the water’.  It takes just five hours to reach Birmingham, with the first half of the journey passing through fields, woodlands and sleepy villages.  Once in the centre of Birmingham, narrowboat holiday-makers can find over-night moorings at Gas Street Basin, with easy access to Brindleyplace, the Mailbox, Sea Life Centre and other city centre attractions. 
  3. Love the Llangollen – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular canals on the network.  The journey to Chirk from our new narrowboat hire base on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal at Whixall in Shropshire offers a fantastic short break holiday for beginners.  It takes around eight hours, passing through just two locks to reach the village of Chirk, with a choice of canalside pubs to enjoy and nearby Chirk Castle to visit.
  4. Potter through the Peak District – our Peak District base, at the junction of the Caldon and Trent & Mersey canals near Stoke on Trent, offers a fantastic way to experience this beautiful National Park in the heart of England.  Starting at the Etruria, home of the industrial potteries, the gentle 12-hour cruise along the peaceful Caldon Canal to Froghall Basin is perfect for narrowboat holiday beginners on a short break.
  5. Visit Georgian Bath – from our base at Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, the World Heritage Status City of Bath is a delightful six-hour cruise away.  The route passes through seven locks, over two stunning Bath stone aqueducts and past a series of popular historic canalside pubs, including The Cross Guns at Avoncliff.  Once in Bath, canal boat holiday makers can use their boat as a base to enjoy all that the City has to offer, including the Roman Baths, Jane Austen Museum and Royal Crescent.
  6. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh – from Drifters’ base at Falkirk,Edinburgh Quay is a sedate 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal.  The journey, perfect for beginners on a mid-week (four-night) or week-long break, starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first and only rotating boat lift – and then passes through the lovely lowland villages of Linlithgow, Broxburn and Ratho.  Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street, with easy access to the City’s many attractions, including Edinburgh Castle and Mark King Close, frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.
  7. Steer gently through the countryside to Stone – from our boat yard at Great Haywood it takes just five hours of gentle cruising along the Trent & Mersey Canal to reach the historic Shropshire market town of Stone.  Stone is renowned as the food and drink capital of Staffordshire, with regular markets, a good choice of restaurants and the annual Food & Drink Festival in October.  Along the way, there are just four locks to pass through and plenty of pubs to enjoy, including The Woolpack at Weston and The Holly Bush Inn at Salt.
  8. Navigate to the Yorkshire Dales – the journey from our narrowboat rental base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to the pretty North Yorkshire village of Gargrave and back takes 13 hours, passing through three locks each way.  The route takes boaters through the historic town of Skipton, with its striking medieval stone castle and extensive woodlands managed by the Woodland Trust.  Once at Gargrave, there are pubs to enjoy, including the popular Mason’s Arms, as well as easy access to the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Pennine Way.
  9. Boat to Brewood and back – the journey to Brewood and back from our canal boat rental base at Gailey on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal offers an excellent short break route for canal boat holiday beginners.  Travelling a total of 25 miles, and passing through just two locks (one on the way, one on the way back), this gentle journey through the Shropshire countryside passes the waterside Anchor Inn at Cross Green and transfers boaters onto the Shropshire Union Canal at Autherley Junction.  On reaching the historic village of Brewood, with its half-timbered houses cottages and attractive Georgian houses, visitors have a choice of pubs, restaurants and tea rooms to dine at, including the canalside Bridge Inn.
  10. Visit Shakespeare’s Stratford – from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it’s a delightful six-hour, 17-lock cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Bancroft Basin in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon.  From there, it’s a short walk to the town’s restaurants, shops, markets, museums and theatres, including the 1,040 seat Royal Shakespeare Theatre, home to the Royal Shakespeare Company.