Pennine One-way trips – available all season

Pennine One-way trips – available all season

Drifters offers new one-way canal boat holidays

Drifters Waterway Holiday bases at Stretton on the North Oxford Canal near Rugby and Stockton on the Grand Union Canal close to Braunston have teamed up to offer some new one-way trips in June and July.

The collaboration gives narrowboat holiday-makers the chance to see more of the canals in Warwickshire on a short break and provides an alternative to the traditional “out and back” short break holiday.

A one-way break from Stockton to Stretton (or vice versa) takes boaters along the Grand Union and North Oxford canals via Napton, Braunston and Hillmorton, with plenty of historic pubs to sample along the way.  It takes around nine hours to cruise between the bases.

Canal boat hire prices from Stretton in June and July start at £715 for a short break on a five-berth boat, rising to £1130 for a nine-berth boat.  Prices include fuel, damage waiver and transfer between bases.

One-way narrowboat holidays are also available across the boating season from Drifters’ northern bases at Foulridge in Lancashire, Ashton-under-Lyne in Greater Manchester and Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire, giving holiday-makers the chance to cross the Pennines by canal boat.

Canal boat hirers can choose a variety of seven and 14-night one way routes, including:

  • Sowerby Bridge to Foulridge via Leeds (7 nights, 82 miles, 79 locks, 45 hours) – travelling across the backbone of England and through the heart of West Riding;
  • Sowerby Bridge to Foulridge via Manchester (14 nights, 107 miles, 169 locks, 85 hours via Huddersfield or 14 nights, 100 miles, 136 locks, 65 hours via Rochdale);
  • Sowerby Bridge to Ashton-under-Lyne by the Huddersfield (7 nights, 33 miles, 97 locks, 40 hours) travelling down the Calder Valley to Brighouse, up the Broad Canal to Huddersfield, on to the Huddersfield Narrow to its dramatic passage under the moors through Standedge Tunnel, the longest and highest in Britain; and
  • Sowerby Bridge to Ashton-under-Lyne by the Rochdale (7 nights, 38 miles, 100 locks, 36 hours), crossing the summit to Littleborough and descending through town and country to the centre of Manchester.

2012 canal boat holiday prices for Drifters’ Yorkshire bases start at £645 (including fuel) for a week on a three-berth boat.


Visit the Llangollen Eisteddfod by Canal Boat

Visit the Llangollen Eisteddfod by Canal Boat

The 66th Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, one of the world’s most inspirational cultural festivals, takes place from 3-8 July 2012 and is easily accessible from the Llangollen Canal.

So why not combine a canal boat holiday with a trip to the Eisteddfod?

The Eisteddfod has been staged at Llangollen since 1947.  Each year over 4,000 performers from across the globe head to the beautiful little Welsh town to take part in a unique event combining competition, performance and international peace and friendship.

Around 25 different competitions celebrate song, music and dance, climaxing with the presitigous ‘Choir of the World’ where winning choirs compete for the Pavarotti Trophy.

Drifters offers narrowboat holidays from a number of bases within easy reach of Llangollen, including Trevor, just a two-hour cruise away, Chirk four hours away and Whitchurch around ten hours away.

Canal boat hire from these bases in July starts at £525 for a short break and £745 for a week’s narrowboat holiday.


Drifters attends Braunston Historic Boat Rally

Drifters attends Braunston Historic Boat Rally

Drifters canal boat hire operator Rose Narrowboats will be at the 2012 Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally & Canal Festival (23-24 June) showcasing its 60ft long, eight-berth boat Cascade.

Over 80 historic boats will gather at this year’s Historic Boat Rally, held annually at Braunston Marina.

The event, which raises money for the canals and local causes, will include: boat parades; trade exhibitors; live music; morris dancing; boat horse demonstrations; waterway artists; food and drink; a real ale beer tent; and evening entertainment on the Saturday.

Rose Narrowboats offers 20 self-drive boats for narrowboat holidays from its base on the North Oxford Canal at Stretton-Under-Fosse near Rugby.

Cascade is built along traditional lines externally with a light, airy interior and a cruiser stern.  Designed to sleep up to eight people, she has a well laid out galley with side doors for extra ventilation on warm days, a centre cabin which can offer either two singles or a double bed, a convertible dinette in the saloon, two cabins each with two bunks and wash basins at the stern, a shower room with a toilet, plus a separate toilet at the rear.

2012 hire prices start for Cascade start at £695 for a short break and £1065 for a week’s canal boat holiday.

Other Drifters’ bases close to Braunston, include Stockton, Gayton and Rugby.


Visit an Edinburgh Festival by Canal Boat

Visit an Edinburgh Festival by Canal Boat

Edinburgh, the world’s Festival City, is a delightful 12 hour cruise along the Union Canal from Drifters’ base at Falkirk.

Once in Edinburgh, there are centrally located moorings in Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street.

So why not take a canal boat holiday this summer and enjoy an Edinburgh Festival at the same time?

Events take place across the summer, including the Edinburgh International Film Festival (20 June to 1 July), the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (3-27 August) and the Edinburgh International Festival (9 August to 2 September).

As well as festivals, Edinburgh offers fantastic shops and restaurants, and a host of terrific attractions, including Edinburgh Castle, The Real Mary Kings Close, Lyceum Theatre, Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh Zoo and the Scottish National Gallery.

From the Drifters canal boat hire base next to the Falkirk Wheel, you can travel the 32 rural miles to Edinburgh in just two leisurely days.  The Union Canal only has three locks as it mainly uses aqueducts and tunnels to pass over valleys and through hills.

The Scottish Lowland canals were restored to celebrate the new Millennium and their centrepiece, the incredible Falkirk Wheel boat lift, connects the Forth & Clyde and Union canals, lifting boats 115ft high (equivalent to eight double decker buses).

Journeying from Falkirk, narrowboat holiday-makers soon enter the calming surrounds of open countryside and picturesque woodland.  Things to look out for along the way include: the Antonine Wall; the Avon, Almond and Slateford Aqueducts; the Falkirk Tunnel; the Laughin’ Greetin bridge at Glen Village, famous for its carved faces on the keystones; and the pretty villages of Linlithgow and Ratho.

Narrowboat hire from Drifters’ base at Falkirk starts from £534 for a short break on a five berth boat or £821 for a week’s holiday.


Enjoy the Breacon Beacons Afloat

Enjoy the Breacon Beacons Afloat

The beautiful Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, which celebrated its bicentenary this year, meanders its way through the Brecon Beacons National Park for 36 miles, offering a fantastic canal boat holiday.

Isolated from the main canal network, the canal is quieter than others and arguably one of the most picturesque, with diverse scenery and glorious views of the Brecon Beacons.

Clinging to the mountainside, the canal follows the River Usk, from the historic market town of Brecon to the new town of Cwmbran.

There are plenty of places to stop off along the way on your narrowboat holiday, including: Crickhowell with its 13th century castle, excellent food and shopping; Abergavenny, known as the ‘Gateway to Wales’, with its medieval castle, town hall, market, theatre, pubs and shops; and Talybont Reservoir for bird watching, trout fishing and easy walks to the waterfalls at Blaen y Glyn.

Canal boat hire from Drifters’ base at Goytre Wharf on the Mon & Brec Canal near Abergavenny starts at £580 for a short break on a five berth boat or £885 for a week’s holiday.

Visit Warwick Castle by Canal Boat

Visit Warwick Castle by Canal Boat

Warwick Castle, said to host ‘Britain’s Greatest Mediaeval experience’, is close the Grand Union Canal and easily accessible on a canal boat holiday from Drifters’ bases at Stockton, Napton, Rugby, Tardebigge, Stoke Prior and Stretton.

The Castle, with a history dating back almost 1,100 years, offers a fantastic day out with stunning towers and ramparts to climb, 60 acres of rolling landscaped gardens to explore, Trebuchet firing demonstrations, birds of prey displays, the Castle Dungeon – highlighting some of the darkest, bloodiest and most frightening times in history, the Princess Tower, Merlin Dragon Tower, Great Hall, Georgian State Rooms, Castle Chapel and Kingmaker tour – bringing to life the Earl of Warwick’s preparations for the Battle of Barnet in 1471.

Warwick Castle also hosts a series of special events, including jousting displays, mediaeval banquets and concerts.

The historic market town of Warwick boasts numerous fine mediaeval timber framed buildings, the beautiful Collegiate Church of St Mary, St John’s Museum housed in a Jacobean mansion, a number of military museums, Warwick Racecourse, a variety of shops, cafes and restaurants and a series of attractive parks and gardens.

Warwick can easily be reached on a short break narrowboat holiday from Drifters’ base at Stockton, with seven hours of cruising and 12 locks to negotiate along the way.

Or visit Warwick by boat as part of a week’s tour of Warwickshire’s beautiful waterways, travelling the 101-mile long Warwickshire Ring.

Short breaks from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Stockton start at £330, including fuel, weekly breaks from £470.

Boaters Flock to Stone Food & Drink Festival

Visit Saltaire & The Hockney Gallery by canal boat

You can easily reach Sir Titus Salt’s fascinating model town at Saltaire in West Yorkshire on a week’s narrowboat holiday from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge.

Saltaire, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Bradford, was founded by Sir Titus Salt, a leading industrialist in the woollen industry in 1851.

Salt, a visionary who wanted his workforce to be healthier, happier and more productive, moved his five mills to the new green site away from the overcrowded town centre of Bradford, housing them in beautiful Italianate buildings.  He built neat stone houses for his workers with community facilities including wash-houses, a hospital, an institution for recreation and education with a library, reading room, concert hall, billiard room, science laboratory and gymnasium.  He also built a village school for the children of the workers, almshouses, allotments, a park and a boathouse.

Today, the extraordinary town of Saltaire is a popular tourist destination with guided walks, events, shops, restaurants, cafes and galleries, including the wonderful David Hockney Gallery.  A special exhibition of Hockney’s three 27-foot-long pictures of Bessingby Road, Bridlington is on display this summer at Salts Mill, plus other Yorkshire landscapes and recent portraits of his family and friends.

As well as visiting Saltaire, on your week’s canal boat holiday from Sowerby Bridge you could also visit: the new Barbara Hepworth Museum at Wakefield; the Stanley Ferry Aqueduct (like a miniature Sydney Harbour Bridge); Leeds and its regenerated waterfront; and the Bingley Five Rise of locks, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways.

Canal boat hire from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge starts at £515 for a week, £335 for a short break.

A two hundred year old canal

A two hundred year old canal

It is quite hard for us to imagine what life must have been like two hundred years ago. There were few roads – only muddy tracks. No railways, either. So, when the Industrial Revolution started, the real problem facing those who wanted to take advantage of it was how to move the raw materials from where they were extracted from the ground to the rapidly-growing industrial centres. The answer presented itself in the form of canals.

In Wales, in what is now the Brecon Beacons National Park, limestone was brought from the hills by horse tramway to the canal to be processed in kilns then loaded onto boats for transport to the docks at Newport.

Now, just 200 years later, this canal is celebrating its bicentenary and is still in use, but for a very different purpose. Today, the canal finds itself at the centre of a National Park, and is used exclusively for pleasure by narrowboats.

The canal, now known as the Monmouth & Brecon Canal, is a great place to take a canal boat holiday. The canal runs for almost all of its length through the Brecon Beacons National Park, with wonderful views over the valley of the River Usk and the peaks of the Beacons and the Black Mountains.

It’s not a long canal, and there are relatively few locks, so it can hardly be beaten for a relaxing, scenic boating holiday. Drifters have a hire boat base at Goytre, near Pontypool, from which you can hire a narrowboat any time from March to October, and it is one of our most popular holiday bases.

There will be celebrations at various points along the canal this year to mark the bicentenary, but it will be just as pretty next year.

As well as winding its way through a magnificent landscape, the canal is tree-lined for much of its length, so it is very green and there are banks of wild flowers in many places. Because this canal runs mainly through unspoilt countryside, there is always plenty of wildlife, including herons fishing in the canal and red kites soaring overhead.

All our canals can be described as scenic, but it would be hard to find one to rival the Monmouth & Brecon for sheer wonderful beauty. It never disappoints, and many people return to it time and again as the best place to unwind on holiday.

The Droitwich Canal

The Droitwich Canal

The Droitwich Canal is now celebrating its first full year since re-opening to navigation.

So, it’s still a bit of an unknown to most people on the canals – this makes it rather exciting. Droitwich Spa is just north of Worcester and it’s easy to get to from several Drifters bases (Alvechurch, Tardebigge, Stoke Prior and Worcester).

We stock a really detailed guide book to the Droitwich canal, which answers any questions about the new route. It’s a bit of an adventure to go on any ‘new’ canal, so there’s a buzz in the air when you meet other boaters around Droitwich.

There’s a bit of everything on the short canal, including a staircase lock, unique lock side ponds, a tunnel under a motorway, a canalised river section – and the historic old salt town of Droitwich.

Before restoration, the canal bed was largely dried up, and formed the largest reed bed in Worcestershire. Some of the reeds have been kept lining the banks of the canal, which gives you a great chance to see some quite rare birds in amongst the reeds as you cruise by. Also, a vast new reed bed has been created just beside the canal which now forms a nature reserve where several rare species have taken up residence.

The opening of the Droitwich canal has resulted in the creation of a new cruising ring – known as the Mid-Worcestershire Ring.  This also involves part of the River Severn and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. This makes a great short break narrowboat or canal boat holiday from any of the nearby Drifters bases, and you can be one of the first to enjoy it.

Top of the Rings

Top of the Rings

…Drifters Waterway Holidays picks 10 of the best canal cruising rings

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

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

Drifters Waterway Holidays, which offers over 50 canal boats for hire from 36 locations across the country, has put together a list of its Top 10 Cruising Rings:
  1. 1. The Droitwich Ring (21 miles, 33 locks, 16 hours): Starting from the Drifters’ bases at Worcester or Stoke Prior and ideal for beginners, this cruising ring is the only one in Europe which can be completed on a short break.  It opened up last year following the £13million restoration of the Droitwich Canals, which now reconnect the River Severn and Worcester & Birmingham Canal. Highlights include: the historic Spa town of Droitwich; the Hanbury flight of locks; and the beautiful City of Worcester with its stunning cathedral.
    1. 2. The London Ring (44 miles, 25 locks, 18 hours): Starting from the Drifters’ base at Greenford in West London, this exciting journey for seasoned canal boaters is best done in a week, leaving plenty of time to enjoy London’s world-class museums, restaurants, theatres and shops.  The route takes you through the heart of London along the Grand Union and Regent’s canals, then onto the Thames via Limehouse Lock and back onto the Grand Union Canal at Brentford Lock.  Highlights include: Paddington Basin and Little Venice, Camden Lock and market, Victoria Park, Limehouse Basin, views of London’s major landmarks along the Thames (including the Tower of London, the Millennium Wheel and the Houses of Parliament) and the historic flight of locks at Hanwell.
    2. 3. The South Pennine Ring (71 miles, 197 locks, 80 hours): not for the faint-hearted, this epic two-week journey can be taken from Drifters’ 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.
    3. 4. The Stourport Ring (74 miles, 118 locks, 44 hours):  Starting from Drifters’ base at Tardebigge, this offers an exhilarating and hugely popular week.  The route takes in the Staffs & Worcs Canal, the Worcs & Birmingham Canal Navigation, the upper section of the River Severn, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, Birmingham Canal Main Line and the Birmingham Canal Old Main Line.  The Stourport Ring visits three cities: Wolverhampton; Birmingham (with central moorings in Gas Street Station, close to shops, restaurants and museums); and the ancient City of Worcester.  Highlights include: Wolverhampton 21 locks; Brindley Place and Gas Street Basin in Birmingham; open countryside on the River Severn; Stourport Basins; Bratch Locks at Wombourne; the pretty village of Kinver; the Black Country Living Museum; and Cadbury World.
    4. 5. The Cheshire Ring (97 miles, 92 locks, 55 hours): starting from the Drifters’ base at Anderton, this superb route takes you through the heart of Manchester and the Peak District via the Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals.  Highlights include: the spectacular vertical Anderton Boat Lift, also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’; Preston Brook Tunnel; Dunham Massey Hall and its working Elizabethan Mill alongside the Bridgewater Canal; Castlefield Basin; Manchester’s China Town; the Rochdale 9 locks; Buxworth Basin, Whaley Bridge and the glorious Top Lock at Marple; and the Cheshire Plain and heavily locked ‘Heartbreak Hill’.
    5. 6. The Warwickshire Ring (101 miles, 94 locks, 48 hours): starting from Drifters’ 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, one of the tightest turns on the system where the Oxford joins the Coventry; Hillmorton locks (three pairs); the Knowle Flight of five locks; the pretty canal village of Braunston; Napton Junction; Newbold and Shrewley tunnels; the awesome Hatton Flight of 21 locks; Warwick Castle; Leamington Spa; and Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin.
    6. 7. Avon Ring (108 miles, 130 locks, 58 hours): Starting from Drifters’ base at Tardebigge or Wootton Wawen, this World-famous journey includes 130 locks.  Most people do this trip in a more leisurely 10 days or two weeks, but it is possible to do it in a week.  The 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.
      1. 8. The Four Counties Ring (110 miles, 94 locks, 55 hours):  Starting from Drifters’ bases at Brewood near Stoke on Trent or Great Haywood in Staffordshire, this ring is achievable on a week-long holiday.  The route includes the Trent & Mersey, Staffs & Worcs and Shropshire Union canals.  Predominantly rural, this ring’s highlights include: the World famous 2670-metre long Harecastle Tunnel; extravagant cuttings and embankments on the Shropshire Union; Market Drayton home of gingerbread; Wedgewood Visitor Centre; views of the rolling Cheshire Plains; the Roman town of Middlewich; the Ski Centre, China Gardens and Waterworld at Etruria; Shugborough Hall; Churches Mansion; the waters at Tixall Wide on the Staffs & Worcs; the narrow canal at Autherley Junction; and the flight of 15 locks at Audlem.
      2. 9. The Black Country Ring (125 miles, 79 locks, 60 hours): from Drifters’ base at Great Haywood in Staffordshire this exhilarating ring is achievable in a week.  The Ring takes in the Birmingham & Fazeley, Birmingham Main Line, Coventry, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Trent & Mersey canals.  Highlights include: Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin with access to city centre shops, restaurants and museums; 21 locks at Wolverhampton; the Black Country Living Museum; Dudley Zoo & Castle; Drayton Manor Park at Fazeley; the Staffs & Worcs Roundhouses; the waters at Tixhall Wide; Fradley Pool Nature Reserve at Fradley Junction; 11 locks at Ashton; and 13 at Farmer’s Bridge.

10. The Leicester Ring (157 miles, 102 locks, 75 hours): from Drifters’ 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; 11 locks at Atherstone; Coventry and views of its magnificent cathedral; and the 18th century canal village of Shardlow.

For more information about Drifters canal boat holidays call 0844 984 0322 or visit

For more information about cruising rings visit