Exploring the Kennet & Avon Canal from Hilperton

Countryman Magazine editor Mark Whitley describes his recent Drifters narrow boat holiday, cruising the Kennet & Avon Canal from Hilperton to Keynsham, via Bradford on Avon and Bath.

Created in the white heat of the Industrial Revolution, canals are nowadays places for pleasure and relaxation. One of the most popular canals is the Kennet & Avon Canal, and it’s a delight to explore by narrowboat.

I and three friends (my crew for the week) met up at Hilperton Marina, for a week-long cruise on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

Day One – to Bradford on Avon

At the marina, we were given a tour and tuition for navigating the canal aboard the ‘African Swift’, a luxuriously fitted out narrow boat, with all the mod cons. Then, we were off!

It was a short trip for the first day. Around three miles, and an hour-a-bit, later, we were tackling our first lock at Bradford on Avon. We’re all fairly experienced narrowboaters, but even for first-timers the locks are nothing to get nervous about.  Just take your time, and there’s often a Canal & River Trust volunteer or fellow boater on hand to offer advice or a helping hand if needed. We moored up and went to the Lock Inn Café for our evening meal and a few drinks overlooking the canal.

Day Two – to Bath

After a leisurely brunch on board, we set off towards Bath.  We crossed the Avoncliff and Dundas aqueducts – two of the most spectacular and impressive structures on the whole of the canal network. There are moorings below Sydney Wharf for those who want to walk into Bath City Centre on a short break from Hilperton.

But as we were experienced boaters and we were away for a week, we navigated on through the Bath locks to join the River Avon. After a few hair-raising moments when the river current caught the boat, we managed to moor up. The strong currents, and rapidly changing river levels especially when it’s raining, mean boating on the River Avon is often more suitable for experienced boaters.  We spent a very pleasant evening exploring Bath, one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the country.

Day Three – to Bitton

In the morning we continued on along the River Avon, and moored up on the floating pontoon alongside Bitton Picnic Area. From here it’s a short walk to Bitton Station, home of the Avon Valley Railway. This heritage railway runs trains most weekends, and we arrived on a ‘steam day’. There-and-back trip takes about an hour, and it’s a heart-gladdening experience. We overnighted at the pontoon, and enjoyed the peace and calm of the water.

Day Four – to Keynsham

We had planned to boat into Bristol, but, at Hanham Lock we phoned ahead to the Bristol lock keeper (as advised) and he suggested, as the river levels were very high following so much rain, we should avoid the tidal stretch of the River Avon. So, we erred on the side of caution and turned round to overnight at nearby Keynsham.

Day Five – back to Bath

A couple of us took the train into Bristol to visit the Floating Harbour and the SS Great Britain. Then in the afternoon, with everyone back on board, we returned along the River Avon to rejoin the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath.

Day Six – exploring Bath

We spent the day exploring the delights of Bath. It is a World Heritage site, so there is plenty to see and do. In glorious summer sunshine, we visited the Holbourne Museum, Pulteney Bridge, the Royal Crescent and the Abbey.  After drinks in the beer garden of the White Hart, we enjoyed a take-away curry from nearby Bikanos Indian Cuisine.

Day Seven – back to Bradford on Avon via Claverton Pumping Station

Around lunchtime reached moorings outside Claverton Pumping Station. This rare and remarkable surviving example of Georgian industrial technology is now run by the Claverton Pumping Station volunteers.  They maintain it as an industrial heritage museum, which is open to the public most weekends.

In the afternoon, we re-crossed Avoncliff and Dundas aqueducts. Dundas Aqueduct is also the junction with the Somerset Coal Canal, and we enjoyed a pleasant short walk along its towpath to the café at Brassknocker Basin.

Then we continued to Bradford on Avon to stop overnight there again, visiting the Barge Inn this time.  This left us with just a short journey the next morning to return our boat at Hilperton Marina.

 

Top 5 narrow boat holidays for the August Bank Holiday

Narrow boat holidays provide a floating holiday home.  Cruising along at just four miles per hour, watching out for wildlife along the way, you can take all the supplies you need for an adventure afloat.

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

To celebrate the approaching August bank holiday, we’ve listed our top five short break narrow boat holidays:

1. Enjoy the remote countryside of Airedale afloat

On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Barnoldswick in Lancashire, you can cruise to Gargrave and back.  There’s stunning wild and remote scenery to enjoy along the way, as well as village pubs.  The journey there and back travels 16 miles, passes through 26 locks and takes around 12 hours.

2. Cruise through the Shropshire Lake District

On a mid-week break from our canal boat hire at Wrenbury Mill on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, you can cruise to Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  The journey there and back travels 39 miles, passes through 20 locks and takes around 22 hours.

3. Navigate to Chester and back for some Roman history

On a short break from our narrow boat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, you can travel to the ancient City of Chester.  The route takes you through beautiful unspoilt countryside.  You’ll pass by the ruins of Beeston Castle and the village of Christleton along the way.  The journey there and back travels 24 miles, passes through 18 locks and takes around 14 hours.

4. Explore Birmingham by canal

From our canal boat hire base at Alvechurch on the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can cruise into the centre of Birmingham.  The route begins through open countryside, passing a series of rural canalside pubs.  Gradually the scenery becomes more urban as you travel right into the heart of Birmingham City Centre.  Moorings for visiting narrow boats are available in Gas Street Basin, close to Brindleyplace.  The journey there and back travels 22 miles, and takes around 10 hours.  There are no locks so it’s good route for beginners.

5. Drift through the Calder Valley

From our boat yard at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, you can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge.  The journey to Hebden Bridge covers seven miles, passes through 10 locks and takes around five and a half hours.  Once at Hebden, you can moor up in the centre of town to enjoy a good choice of places to eat, and hikes up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags

Cruising the Avon Ring

The Avon Ring is one of a dozen or so popular circular routes for narrowboat holiday-makers.

It covers a distance of 108 miles, passes through 130 locks and takes around two weeks to complete.  Sections of the Stratford Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal, River Severn and River Avon make up the route.

Drifters has canal boat hire bases on the ring route at Tardebigge, Alvechurch, Stoke Prior and Worcester on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, as well as Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal.

Starting from Tardebigge and travelling anti-clockwise round the Avon Ring, from abbeys and canalside pubs, to theatres and Tudor mansions, here’s a guide to the highlights:

The Tardebigge Flight

With 30 locks in just 2¼ miles it’s the longest lock flight in the country.  There are fantastic views of the Worcestershire countryside to enjoy as boaters descend, with popular Queen’s Head pub to enjoy between locks 29 and 28.  Drifters’ Stoke Prior base is halfway down the flight.

Hanbury Wharf

The Eagle & Sun pub at Hanbury is a popular staging post for narrowboat holiday-makers.  It’s on the junction where the Droitwich Junction Canal meets the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.

Diglis Basin

Opened in the 19th century to allow transhipment of cargoes between the River Severn and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. Two broad locks take boaters down into the River, operated by lock keepers.

The River Severn

With the distant outline of the Malvern Hills in overlooking this magnificent river takes boaters through miles of peaceful countryside.  Upton on Severn is a good place to moor, with plenty of shops and pubs.

Tewkesbury

This historic market town with its 12-century abbey, half-timbered buildings and historic pubs is a great place to visit, and it’s here that the River Severn meets the River Avon.

Pershore

One of the finest market towns in Worcestershire, Pershore offers lots of places to eat and shop, and a magnificent abbey to explore.

Evesham

Site of another famous abbey and plenty of pubs and cafes too.

Bidford

The seven arched medieval bridge at Bidford dates from 1482.  Look out for signage, as only one of the arches is suitable for boats to pass through.

Stratford upon Avon

Shakespeare’s home town has a great choice of shops, pubs, cafes, museums and theatres.  Bancroft Basin right opposite the Royal Shakespeare Theatre is the perfect place to moor up and explore the town.  The Basin connects the River Avon with the Stratford Canal.

Wilmcote Locks

The Stratford Canal is a narrow canal and the flight of 11 locks at Wilmcote take boaters up to the village of Wilmcote.  This historic village is home to Mary Arden’s Farm, one of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s museums and where Shakespeare’s mother grew up.

Edstone Aqueduct

The longest cast iron structure in England, the impressive Edstone Aqueduct offers great views of the surrounding Warwickshire countryside.

Wootton Wawen

There’s another smaller aqueduct here, a Drifters canal boat hire base here and the Yew Tree Farm farm shop and Cowshed Cafe.

Lowsonford

One of a series of quiet villages through which the Stratford Canal passes, Lowsonford is famous for its Fleur de Lys pub.

Lapworth Flight

Fifteen locks at Lapworth take boaters up hill to Hockley Heath, passing close to the National Trust’s Tudor mansion, Packwood House.  There’s a good choice of places to eat and drink at Hockley Heath, including a Chinese takeaway and the canalside Wharf pub.

King’s Norton Junction

After passing through Brandwood Tunnel and the stop lock with its guillotine-like gate hanging overhead, boaters reach the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at King’s Norton Junction.

Wast Hill Tunnel

Turning left at King’s Norton Junction, boaters soon encounter the 2,726 yard long Wast Hill Tunnel.  The journey through the tunnel, which is wide enough for two boats to pass, takes around 30 minutes.

Alvechurch

There’s a choice of canalside pubs here.  The Crown and the Weighbridge at Alvechurch marina, one of Drifters’ narrowboat hire bases.

Just under an hour later, boaters will be back at Tardebigge.

Tips on how to have good narrowboating manners

The waterways look set to be very busy this summer, so it’s more important than ever to have good boating manners.

Tuition is included in all our holiday packages.  During your boat handover, as well as showing you how to operate your boat, our boat yard staff will explain the rules and how to navigate the waterways in a considerate way.

Here are our tips on how to share the space and be kind:

Considerate mooring

  • Be considerate to householders and moorers in nearby boats – avoid running your engine to charge your batteries or make hot water between 8pm and 8am, keep the music and TV volume down, and don’t come home late from the pub talking loudly. Sound travels amazingly well over water.
  • Shuffle up and share at visitor moorings – don’t leave big gaps between boats when you moor up
  • Don’t moor up next to locks, bridges or bends – this makes navigating the canals harder for others
  • Keep reasonable cruising hours – try not to push the envelope on cruising times. So don’t set off too early or carry on too late.  We suggest mooring up by around 6pm.

Watch your speed

  • Keep your speed in check – the maximum speed on our waterways is 4mph. Ways to check you aren’t speeding, include making sure you aren’t creating breaking wash, and someone walking reasonably briskly on the towpath should be able to overtake you.
  • Don’t rock the boat – slow right down to tick-over when passing moored boats, so you don’t cause unnecessary movement and tipping
  • Don’t bang into other boats – however narrow the channel or strong the wind, you really shouldn’t biff other boats. If you do misjudge it, and someone yells at you, don’t make it worse by answering back.  Just say you are sorry.

Take steps to save water

  • Share locks whenever possible
  • Make sure you close all lock gates and gate paddles
  • When you moor for the night in a short length between two locks, check that all the paddles on the lock below you really are fully closed.  Otherwise you’ll end up having to call the Canal & River Trust out in the middle of the night when the water has gone down and your boat is tilting. 

There’s more information on boating etiquette in The Boaters’ Handbook and video https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/boating/a-guide-to-boating/boaters-handbook

 

Top 9 Canal Boat Holidays for Autumn 2021

A canal boat holiday is a great way to enjoy the splendid colours of autumn in the hedgerows and trees that line our waterways.  And there’s plenty of wildlife to spot along the way during the autumn months, including flocks of fieldfare and redwing searching for hawthorn berries.

Here are Drifters’ top nine narrowboat holiday destinations for autumn 2021:

1. Visit Coventry UK City of Culture afloat

From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Braunston, it takes 12 hours to reach Coventry Basin, travelling 28 miles and passing through just four locks.  The journey takes boaters up the North Oxford Canal, transferring on to the Coventry Canal at Hawksbury Junction.  Along the way, boaters travel through the Northamptonshire countryside, passing a series of canalside pubs, including the popular Greyhound Inn at Hawkesbury Junction.

2. Go blackberry picking on the Stratford Canal

From our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, it’s a seven-hour cruise to Stratford upon Avon.  The route, which is perfect for a short break, passes through the Warwickshire countryside, with plenty of hedgerow foraging opportunities along the way.  Once at the birthplace of the Bard, boaters can moor up in Bancroft Basin and use it as a base to explore the town’s many independent shops, restaurants and museums.

3. Complete the Stourport Ring

On a week’s break from our base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, boaters can travel the popular Stourport Ring.  This circuit travels 74 miles and passes through 118 locks in around 44 cruising hours.  Highlights include: Gas Street Basin in Birmingham City Centre; open countryside on the River Severn; and the Tardebigge Flight of 30 locks.

4. Glide across The Stream in the Sky

On a week’s break from our base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, boaters can reach the pretty town of Llangollen.  The journey takes 12 hours, passes through two locks, two tunnel and crosses over the magnificent World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  From there, boaters can enjoy amazing views across the Dee Valley and the Welsh Mountains.

5. Cruise to Manchester & back

On a week’s break from Acton Bridge, canal boaters can cruise to Manchester and back.  The route, which passes through a mixture of urban and rural landscapes, travels 68 miles of waterway (34 each way) and passes through just one lock.  Places to stop off at along the way, include Stockton Heath, with a choice of shops, boutiques, restaurants and pubs, and the historic village of Lymm.  On arrival in Manchester, there are places to moor at Castlefield Basin, within easy reach of City Centre attractions. And to visit the Trafford Centre, boaters can return via Worsley on the Bridgewater Canal.

6. Drift through the Calder Valley

On a short break from Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, boaters can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge.  Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, the journey to Hebden Bridge covers seven miles, passes through 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 places to eat, as well as hikes up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags.

7. Cruise through the Scottish lowlands to Linlithgow

On a short break from Falkirk, boaters can experience a peaceful five-hour cruise through the Scottish lowlands to the historic town of Linlithgow.  The route passes over the Falkirk Wheel (the world’s first rotating boat lift), goes through two tunnels and crosses two aqueducts on the Union Canal.

8. Potter through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton

From Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, it takes around 10 hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton.  Along the way, boaters pass through miles of beautiful Shropshire countryside, six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs.  Pubs include the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.

9. Cruise through the Bath Valley

On a short break from Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, boaters can travel to the World Heritage Status City of Bath and back.  The journey to Sydney Wharf takes just six hours, travelling across two magnificent aqueducts and passing through one lock.  There’s a choice of canalside pubs, including the Barge Inn at Seend and the Cross Guns at Avoncliff.  Once in Bath, boaters can moor up a short walk away from the centre of Bath.

Tips for narrowboat holiday-makers, come rain or shine

Nigel and Kathryn Crawford of MrandMrs50Plus.com recently enjoyed a Drifters narrowboat holiday, setting off from our canal boat hire base at Worcester.

The UK weather is a fickle thing.  A May weekend on the canals can throw just about everything at you in just three days.  On our recent Drifters narrowboat holiday we bounced from blazing hot sunshine to driving rain and hail within hours.

A canal holiday, however, is beautifully versatile.  All Drifters narrowboats have central heating, little sun decks at the bow, and many are equipped with umbrellas and waterproof clothing.  Despite everything the weather threw at us, it didn’t in any way spoil what was a thoroughly enjoyable few days.

Narrowboats are homely and well-equipped

There’s even something quite tranquil and relaxing about pottering along the canal in the pouring rain.  It’s a totally different take on the waterway environment. It’s important to remember to close the cabin door when it’s like that though, to make sure your duvet doesn’t get wet on the bed below!  Notwithstanding the meteorological challenges, the boats are comfy, homely and well-equipped.

Planning ahead

As experienced boaters we had planned our little trip before arriving at the Worcester Marina base. We bore in mind the location of public moorings, water points, winding points (turning areas) and how many locks we’d encounter on our route.  In our earliest narrowboat escapades, I think in retrospect we were a little over-eager in our planning. On more than one occasion we ended up having to cover unnecessarily long distances to get back to base on time.  Nowadays, we’re far more conservative, focusing just as much on the moored-up time as on the canal transit.

The Importance of Maps

We can’t stress how important having a good detailed canal map can be.  It really helps you to plan ahead and avoids stressful twilight searches for suitable mooring places or watering points.  We always buy and download digital pdf maps that we can view on pretty much any device.  We particularly like those from waterwayroutes.co.uk. They’re an invaluable part of any waterways holiday nowadays.

Make space for chill time

We found a lovely mooring near The Bridge pub at Tibberton and found lots to see and do up around Droitwich Spa.  One possibility that we had considered was doing the ‘Droitwich Ring’ but we decided that it was an optimistic challenge for a weekend hire.  We decided instead to re-trace our steps back down the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to give us more ‘chill time’. It was a short, but memorable weekend to keep the narrowboating flame burning.

Find out more about Kathryn and Nigel’s adventures afloat here https://mrandmrs50plus.com/narrowboating-with-drifters/

Visit Coventry on a canal boat holiday

This year’s City of Culture – Coventry – is a key destination on the midlands canal network, so it’s a great place to visit on a canal boat holiday.

The city, which led the way in the cloth and textiles trade, has its own canal.  The Coventry Canal runs 38 miles from Coventry Basin, up to the Trent & Mersey Canal at Fradley.  The first five and a half miles of the Coventry Canal between Coventry Basin and Hawkesbury Junction was designated a conservation area in 2012.

Special City of Culture events include a three-day music festival in July and the BBC spoken word festival in September.  The City’s many permanent attractions, include its famous Cathedral, St Mary’s Guildhall and Coventry Transport Museum.

To celebrate this year’s UK City of Culture, we’ve listed our Top 4 narrowboat holidays to Coventry:

1. Cruise the Coventry Canal from Kings Orchard in Staffordshire

From our new canal boat hire base at Kings Orchard it takes 16 hours to reach Coventry Basin.  The journey travels 34 miles of the Coventry Canal and passes through 13 locks.  The route takes you through the Staffordshire countryside.  And it passes a series of canalside pubs, including The Greyhound Inn at Hawkesbury Junction.

2. Navigate the Oxford Canal from Braunston in Northamptonshire

From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Braunston, it takes 12 hours to reach Coventry Basin.  You’ll cruise 28 miles of waterway and pass through just four locks.  You’ll journey through the Northamptonshire countryside and past a series of canalside towns and villages, including Hillmorton and Rugby.

3. Travel to Coventry from Napton in Warwickshire

From our boat yard at Napton on the Oxford Canal, it takes 14 hours to reach Coventry Basin.  The route navigates 33 miles of canals and passes through four locks.  You’ll travel through the countryside and past a series of canalside pubs, including the Royal Oak at Hillmorton.

4. Cruise to Coventry from Stockton in Warwickshire

From Stockton on the Grand Union Canal it takes 15 hours to reach Coventry.  You’ll travel along 36 miles of waterway, and pass through seven locks.  The route transfers onto the Oxford Canal at Napton Junction, and takes you through the countryside to Coventry.

For more information about Coventry UK City of Culture events, go to https://coventry2021.co.uk/

To book a mooring space in Coventry Basin, go to https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/boating/planning-your-boat-trip/booking-your-passage-online or call The Canal & River Trust on 0303 040 4040.

Top 10 canalside pubs to visit on a narrowboat holiday

Canalside pubs are popular destinations for canal boat holiday-makers, and there are hundreds to choose from.

They often have names like The Lock Inn, The Navigation Inn, The Narrowboat, The Tunnel and The Bridge.  And many date back to the days when canals were the transport infrastructure of the industrial revolution.  Canalside inns provided refreshment for working boat families and their horses, as well as professional leggers who propelled boats through tunnels.

To celebrate the return to indoor drinking and eating in pubs from next Monday, we’ve listed our Top 10 waterside pubs for 2021:

1. The Weighbridge at Alvechurch Marina in Worcestershire

This historic country pub next to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal has a rustic vibe with quirky décor.  It’s renowned for its two-in-one pie, with beef (or other filling options) on one side and cauliflower cheese on the other, topped with pastry. Our nearest canal boat hire base is next door at Alvechurch Marina.

2. The Holly Bush Inn at Denford in Staffordshire

Housed in an old flour mill on the Caldon Canal, the Holly Bush Inn is surrounded by Staffordshire Moorlands.  The pub offers award winning ales and delicious homemade food.  It has a large canalside beer garden and is both family and dog friendly.  From our narrowboat hire base at Stoke on Trent, it takes around seven hours to reach The Holly Bush.

3. The Stubbing Wharf at Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire

The Stubbing Wharf on the Rochdale Canal offers home cooked food, including Sunday lunch roasts. It has a choice of real ales and a canalside beer garden. The pub was built soon after the completion of the Rochdale Canal in 1789.  It served travellers on both the canal and the turnpike road.  Its curious name derives from the ancient settlement of Stubbing, an Anglo-Saxon word for clearing where the tree stumps have been left.  From Drifters canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge, it takes around five-and-a-half hours to reach Hebden Bridge.

4. The Swan at Fradley Junction in Derbyshire

At the junction of the Trent & Mersey and Coventry canals at Alrewas, the historic Swan pub is known locally as the ‘Mucky Duck’.  The pub offers traditional home cooked meals and a choice of cask ales.  The Swan’s bar area is decorated with Roses & Castles narrowboat art. Drifters’ base at Great Haywood is a six-hour cruise away, and Kings Orchard is just one-and-a-half hours away.

5. The Blue Lias at Stockton in Warwickshire

Located on the Grand Union Canal, this historic rural pub was named after the limestone and clay that is quarried locally.  The clay is derived from material laid down in the early Jurassic seas, when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  The Blue Lias is around two-and-a-half hours by boat from our Stockton base.

6. The Plume of Feathers at Barlaston in Staffordshire

This popular pub on the Trent & Mersey Canal is part owned by the actor Neil Morrissey.  Visitors can sample some of Neil’s own beers and ales, and choose from a menu of homemade dishes made from fresh local ingredients.  It takes just over three hours to reach Barlastan from Drifters’ base at Stoke on Trent, and its seven cruising hours from Great Haywood.

7. The Cross Guns at Avoncliff in Wiltshire

Located alongside the Kennet & Avon Canal, this 17th century inn has idyllic riverside pub gardens.  It has panoramic views of the foothills of the Cotswolds and the beautiful Avoncliff Aqueduct.  The Cross Guns serves a selection of British pub favourite food, local ales, cider and craft beer.  It’s just an hour from ours base at Monkton Combe, and an hour and a half from Hilperton.

8. The Olde Barbridge Inn at Nantwich in Cheshire

This historic pub on the Shropshire Union Canal near Nantwich sells a selection of local ales brewed at its own local brewery. And serves classic British food made with local produce.  The Olde Barbridge Inn is an hour’s cruise from our narrowboat hire base at Bunbury.

9. The Narrow Boat at Whittington in Shropshire

With its tranquil canalside location and beer garden, the family owned Narrow Boat Inn on the Llangollen Canal offers hearty pub food and real ale.  The Narrow Boat is just over an hour by boat from Drifters base at Blackwater Meadow, and three hours from Chirk.

10. The Fleur De Lys at Lowsonford in Warwickshire

This pretty 17th century country pub on the banks of the Stratford Canal has a lovely beer garden.  The Fleur De Lys has been famous for its pies since the 1950’s, all served with seasonal vegetables, chunky chips and gravy.  Drifters nearest narrowboat hire base is just three cruising hours away at Wootton Wawen.

Top 8 New Narrowboats for Hire in 2021

Today’s narrowboats for hire are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons.  These include central heating, hot water, televisions, DVD players, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets.  And some boats are fitted with extras, like wider beds, larger showers, baths, solid-fuel stoves and WiFi.

Each year dozens of new boats are added to the Drifters fleet.  Here’s a run-down of our top 8 new boats for hire in 2021:

‘Arbury’ is navigating from Braunston

The new 65ft narrowboat for up to six people ‘Arbury’ is now for hire from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Braunston, on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire.  ‘Arbury’ has two double bedrooms (which can also be made up as twins).  She has two shower/toilet rooms and a large saloon area where the dining area can be converted into an extra double bed.  Arbury’s prices start at £850 for a short break (three or four nights), £1,165 for a week.  Price includes diesel, gas, damage waiver, cancellation protection, parking, tuition and first pet. Second pet is charged at £25 per week.

‘Bedford’ glides out of Sowerby Bridge

The new 56ft narrowboat for up to six people ‘Bedford’ is available to hire from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire.  She has two double cabins (which can also be set up as twins), as well as a saloon dining area which can be converted into a double or two single beds.  She has a shower/toilet room, plus a second toilet.  Bedford’s 2021 prices start at £825 for a short break, £1,375 for a week.  Price includes damage waiver, pre-holiday information, comprehensive instruction, fuel, gas, parking, buoyancy aids and bed linen.

The ‘White Wagtail’ is now available at Whitchurch

This spacious new 70ft narrowboat for up to ten people is based at Whitchurch, on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire.  ‘White Wagtail’ has two flexible cabins which can be made up as doubles or singles, plus two seating areas which can be converted into a double or two singles.  There’s an optional high level single bed which can be added above a single bed in both cabins.  She features LED lighting throughout, optional wider beds, two TVs, two bathrooms with showers, a fully equipped kitchen and front deck table.  2021 prices aboard ‘White Wagtail’ start at £1,199 for a short break, £1,849 for a week.  Price includes bedding, towels, collision damage waiver, first pet, car parking and tuition.  Fuel is extra.  A £90 deposit is taken for a week’s holiday.  Actual cost based on use, circa £10-15 per day.

‘Serena’ arrives at Napton

From July, the 60ft narrowboat for up to six people, ‘Serena’ will be available from Napton, on the Oxford Canal in Warwickshire.  She has two double cabins (which can also be made up as twins), two full bathrooms, and an extra outside table for alfresco dining.  She has a reverse layout, so the galley is at the back of the boat.  The interior dining area can be converted into a double bed.  2021 prices start at £925 for a short break, £1,295 for a week.  Price includes up to four adults, fuel, diesel, parking, tuition and bed linen.  There’s a compulsory extra £55 damage waiver, pets are charged at £35 each per week and extra adults are charged at £30 each.

‘Fitzroy’ arrives at Trevor

The 65ft Admiral Class narrowboat for four people ‘Fitzroy’ is available to hire from Trevor, on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales.  ‘Fitzroy’ has two shower/toilet rooms, full central heating, a well-equipped galley and flexible accommodation in two cabins, ranging from two doubles to four singles.  Fitzroy’s 2021 prices start at £835 for short break, £1,150 for a week.  Price includes bed linen, towels, cancellation protection, first pet, parking and tuition on arrival.  A £50 non-refundable damage waiver and fuel deposit (£50 for a short break, £90 for a week) are extra. Fuel charges are based on use, circa £10-15 per day.

The ‘Blackcap Warbler’ is departing from Anderton

The 69ft ‘Blackcap Warbler’ narrowboat for up to eight people is available to hire from Anderton in Cheshire.  The boat has three cabins, two of which can be configured as one double or two singles.  The mid cabin next to the second bathroom has a fixed double bed. She has LED lighting throughout, a front deck table, optional wider beds, two shower/toilet rooms, WiFi and two TV’s.  2021 prices aboard ‘Pine Warbler’ start at £1,199 for a short break, £1,849 for a week.  Price includes bedding, towels, collision damage waiver, first pet, car parking and tuition.  Fuel is extra.  A £90 deposit is taken for a week’s holiday.  Actual cost based on use, circa £10-15 per day.

‘Bewicks Wren’ is now available from Alvechurch

The 49ft ‘Bewsicks Wren’ narrowboat for up to four people is available to hire from Alvechurch, on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove.  She offers flexible accommodation for up to four people with optional wider beds. The boat has one cabin, which can be configured as a double or two singles, and the seating/dining area in the saloon can be converted into a double bed.  She has a shower/toilet room, front deck table, LED lighting, two televisions and WiFi. 2021 prices aboard ‘Bewicks Wren’ start at £749 for a short break, £1,149 for a week.  Price includes bedding, towels, collision damage waiver, first pet, car parking and tuition.  Fuel is extra.  A £90 deposit is taken for a week’s holiday.  Actual cost based on use, circa £10-15 per day.

‘Pine Warbler’ is departing from Kings Orchard

The  69ft ‘Pine Warbler’ narrowboat for up to eight people is available to hire from Kings Orchard on the Coventry Canal.  The boat has three cabins, two of which can be configured as one double or two singles.  The mid cabin next to the second bathroom has a fixed double bed. She has LED lighting throughout, a front deck table, optional wider beds, two shower/toilet rooms, WiFi and two TV’s.  2021 prices aboard ‘Pine Warbler’ start at £1,199 for a short break, £1,849 for a week.  Price includes bedding, towels, collision damage waiver, first pet, car parking and tuition.  Fuel is extra.  A £90 deposit is taken for a week’s holiday.  Actual cost based on use, circa £10-15 per day.

Top 5 places to watch the sunset on a narrowboat holiday

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

You can explore Britain’s beautiful 3,000-mile network of inland waterways, with the choice of hundreds of waterside destinations to visit along the way.

It’s free to moor almost anywhere on the network, so you can plan your journey around your chosen mooring sites.  These can include canalside pubs, beauty spots and places to relax and enjoy a sundowner on deck.

To help you plan your next narrowboat holiday adventure, we’ve listed the top five places to watch the sunset afloat:

1. Tixall Wide in Staffordshire

From our canal boat holiday hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, it takes just half an hour to cruise to Tixall Wide.  This beautiful lake on the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal was created at the time of the construction of the canal.  It was designed to mitigate objections of the residents of Tixall Hall, who didn’t want the new canal to spoil their view.  Today it’s a peaceful haven for wildlife and the perfect place to watch the sun go down.

2. Lock 37 on the Rochdale Canal in Lancashire

From our narrowboat yard at Sowerby Bridge is at the junction of the Calder & Hebble Navigation and the Rochdale Canal.  From there, it takes around 13 hours (travelling 13 miles and passing through 35 locks) to reach West Summit Lock 37 on the Rochdale Canal.  This takes you high up in the Pennines. Here you can moor up before the lock to watch the sun go down.  And then take a short walk to the village of Summit and The Summit Inn.

3. Calcutt Locks in Warwickshire

From our narrowboat hire base at Stockton Top Marina on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, it takes just half an hour to reach the bottom of Calcutt Locks.  This is a great place to view the sunset over Stockton. From there, on a short break you can continue on to the pretty canal village of Braunston with a choice of pubs.  On a week away, you can continue on up the North Oxford Canal and on to the Ashby Canal.  From there, you can enjoy 23 miles of lock free cruising through the countryside.

4. Chirk Aqueduct in North Wales

From our narrowboat hire base at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal, it takes half an hour to reach Chirk Aqueduct.  This carries boaters 21 metres high across the River Ceiriog and the English/Welsh border. There are moorings on the north side, perfect for looking out across the valley beyond.  On a short break from Chirk, you can continue on to cross the World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  It stands 38 metres high across the Dee Valley.  Then you can cruise on to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen, on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains.

5. Castleford Flood Lock in West Yorkshire 

From Sowerby Bridge, it takes around 15 hours to reach Castleford Flood Lock No.9 on the Aire & Calder Navigation. The journey travels 29 miles and passes through 31 locks. Along the way, you’ll travel along the Calder & Hebble Navigation through Elland, Brighouse, Mirfield and Wakefield.  Then you cane transferg onto the Wakefield section of the Aire & Calder Navigation.  Then cruise on to Castleford, the birthplace of the sculptor Henry Moore.