Top 5 Easter Canal Boat Holiday Breaks

Canal boat holidays are great for families, offering the chance to set off on an adventure together out in the open air, learning how to work the locks and speak the boating lingo, as well as spotting wildlife, exploring traffic-free towpaths and visiting waterside attractions along the way.

Drifters offers the choice of 550 boats from 45 bases across the country.  All our operators provide hirers with life jackets and boat steering tuition.  To celebrate the Spring and the start of the main boating season, we’ve published our top five destinations for Easter 2022:

1. Cruise through the beautiful Churnet Valley

From our narrow boat hire base at Stoke on Trent at the junction of the Caldon and Trent & Mersey canals in Staffordshire, on a short break canal boat holiday-makers can cruise along the Caldon Canal to Flint Mill and back.  Often described as ‘one of the finest canals in Britain’, the peaceful 17-mile long Caldon Canal runs from the Trent & Mersey Canal at Etruria in Stoke-on-Trent, to Froghall Wharf in the Staffordshire Moorlands.  The route to Flint Mill takes boaters through moorlands close to Denford, water meadows at Cheddleton and the beautiful wooded Churnet Valley.  There and back, the journey travels 23 miles, through 24 locks (12 each way) and takes around 15 cruising hours.

2. Visit the Tudors exhibition at The Holbourne Museum in Bath

On a short break from Drifters’ base at Hilperton in Wiltshire, boaters can travel gently along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal to reach moorings at Sydney Wharf on the edge of Bath City Centre.  The journey there and back travels 25 miles, passing through six locks (three each way) and takes around 13 cruising hours.  Along the way, the route passes through the historic town of Bradford on Avon with its fascinating 14th century Tithe Barn, and over the beautiful Avoncliff and Dundas Bath stone aqueducts.  Once at Sydney Wharf, boaters can moor up and take a 15-minute walk into Bath City Centre to visit a choice of attractions, including the The Holbourne Museum’s The Tudors exhibition.

3. Stop off at the World’s biggest Cadbury shop

Perfect for beginners, boaters can travel lock-free to Birmingham in just five hours from our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, stopping off along the way for handmade Easter eggs at Cadbury World.  With more canals than Venice, boaters can travel right into the heart of the City of Birmingham, where over-night moorings are available at Gas Street Basin, close to Brindleyplace.  There’s plenty for families to see and do, including penguin feeding at the National Sea Life Centre and star gazing in the Planetarium at Birmingham’s Science Museum Thinktank.

4. Navigate to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge

On a short break from our narrow boat rental base at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the Rochdale Canal to Hebden Bridge and back.  The journey there and back travels 14 miles, passes through 20 locks (10 each way) and takes around 11 hours.  The route takes boaters through Mytholmroyd, birthplace of Ted Hughes and Fallingroyd Tunnel.  Once at Hebden Bridge, visitors can choose from a series of scenic waymarked walks and a great variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs.

5. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

From our boat yard at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the pretty Eisteddford town of Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains can be reached on a short break.  Along the route, boaters cross the UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, towering 38 metres above the Dee Valley.  On reaching Llangollen, boaters can moor up and enjoy visiting the town’s independent shops, pubs and restaurants, as well as its Steam Railway and Horseshoe Falls.  On a week’s break, narrow boat holiday-makers can also travel east to Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.

Hire a canal boat for Mother’s Day

Day boat hire on Britain’s peaceful network of inland waterways is a great way to enjoy the countryside this spring, and a lovely family day out for Mother’s Day (27 March 2022).

Drifters offers day boat hire from 14 boat yards across England and Wales, with prices starting from less than £10 per person.  Full tuition is included so if you are new to narrow boating, it’s a great opportunity to get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.

All our day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle, and most also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.  So you can plan a picnic afloat or stop off for lunch at a canalside pub along the way.

Here’s a guide to our Top 12 day boat destinations for Mother’s Day 2022:

1. Cruise through the remains of the Forest of Arden

From our day boat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can cruise north through the remains of the Forest of Arden to Kings Norton Junction.  There’s a choice of pubs to moor at along the way, including the canalside Crown and Weighbridge pubs at Alvechurch.  The route is lock-free but there are two tunnels to pass through, including Wast Hill Tunnel, which is nearly 2.5km long.

Day boat ‘Emma’ can carry up to 10 people.  Weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays £150.

2. Navigate to The Star Inn at Mamhillad in the Brecon Beacons

From our day boat hire base at Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, boaters can enjoy incredible mountain views on the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the popular Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62.

Day boats ‘Robin’ and Rooster’ can carry up to eight people each.  Prices start from £137.

3. Cruise to The Mary Arden Inn at Wilmcote in Warwickshire

From our narrow boat hire base Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford Upon Avon, boaters can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote to enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn.  The journey takes two-and-a-half hours each way, and crosses over the impressive Edstone Aqueduct with beautiful views across the Warwickshire countryside.

Day boats ‘Dolly’ and ‘Charlie’ can carry up to 10 people each. Prices start at £99 weekdays, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

4. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

From our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes less than 20 minutes to reach the World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  Standing at over 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, this incredible structure offers boaters stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  After cruising over the Aqueduct, there are two tunnels and another aqueduct to cross, before reaching the The Bridge Inn at Chirk.

Day boats ‘Jacob’, ‘Daniel’ and ‘Lotty’ can carry up to 10 people each.  Weekday hire starts at £120, £180 on weekends and bank holidays.

5. Boat to Avoncliff Aqueduct and the Cross Guns pub

From our narrow boat hire base at Hilperton Marina on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge, you can head west past the picturesque town of Bradford on Avon and its striking 14th century Tithe Barn and on to Avoncliff Aqueduct for lunch at the Cross Guns.  The return journey to Avoncliff takes around six hours and there’s just one lock to pass through each way.

Day boat ‘Cheers’ can carry up to 10 people.  Prices start at £119.

6. Navigate through Cannock Chase to the Wolseley Arms

From our day boat hire base Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, you can cruise four miles, passing through two locks, to reach the historic market town of Rugeley.  The journey, which takes around two hours, passes the through the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the popular Wolseley Arms pub at Wolseley Bridge.

Day boats ‘Daphne’ and ‘Abi’ can carry up to 10 people each.  Weekday hire starts at £99, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

7. Cruise through the West Berkshire countryside to the Spring Inn

From our day boat hire centre at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Reading, you can cruise to Theale and back, stopping off to enjoy lunch at the Spring Inn, a 10-minute walk from the canal.  The total journey takes just over four hours and passes through two locks each way.

Day boat ‘Heyday’ can carry up to 8 people.  Prices start from £129.

8. Boat along ‘The Shroppie’ to Nantwich Aqueduct

From our canal boat hire base at Bunbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, day boaters can cruise south for six miles, and travel across the impressive Grade II* listed Nantwich Aqueduct, enjoying with panoramic views across the town.  With no locks along the way, the journey to Nantwich takes around two hours.

Day boat ‘Bella’ can carry up to 10 people.  Weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays £150.

9. Cruise to through the woodlands of Marbury Country Park to Middlewich

From our day boat hire centre at Anderton Marina, next to the incredible Anderton Boat Lift, boaters can travel to Middlewich and back.  The journey passes through Marbury Country Park and Marston Flash.  There’s a choice of pubs to stop at, including the Broken Cross at Rudheath.  The journey to Middlewich and back takes around six hours.  There are no locks.

Day boat ‘Daydream’ can carry up to 12 people.  Prices start at £139.

10. Cruise to the picturesque village of Napton-on-the-Hill

From our day boat hire centre at Braunston on the Grand Union Canal, you can cruise to the historic village of Napton-on-the-Hill.  The journey, which takes around three hours, takes boaters through the Northamptonshire countryside and into Warwickshire.  Once at Napton, day boaters can moor up and walk into the village where there’s a choice of pubs, including the Kings Head.

Day boat ‘Ouzel II’ can carry up to 12 people.  Weekday prices are £150, £195 for weekends and bank holidays.

11. Navigate through Blisworth Tunnel to Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum & Cafe

From our canal boat hire base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal near Northampton, you can navigate to the pretty village of Stoke Bruerne, home of the Canal Museum and waterside cafe.  The route takes boaters through the Blisworth Tunnel, which at 3076 yards long is the third longest on the canal network.  It takes around one and half hours to cruise to Stoke Bruerne, including thirty minutes to cruise through the tunnel.

Day boat ‘Day Lark’ can carry up to 12 people.  Prices start at £129.

12. Cruise through the Shropshire Lake District to Ellesmere

From our narrow boat hire centre at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal, day boaters travel to Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  The journey takes around two-and-a-half hours, cruising through eight miles of beautiful countryside, and Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park along the way.

Day boat ‘Julia’ can carry up to 10 people.  Weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays £150.

For more information about Drifters’ day boats go to https://www.drifters.co.uk/day-boats/

Top 9 canalside events in 2022

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

These events make great destinations for canal boat holiday-makers, so we’ve put together our top nine events for 2022, along with information on our nearest canal boat hire bases:

  1. Easter Boat Gathering, Friday 15 April to Monday 18 April

The annual Easter Boat Gathering at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port marks the official start of the cruising season.  Over the weekend, dozens of boats will moor up across the Museum’s seven-acre site and visitors can enjoy live music, children’s activities, workshop tours and historic boats.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire bases are at Bunbury and Anderton, both on the Shropshire Union Canal.

  1. IWA Canalway Cavalcade, Saturday 30 April to Monday 2 May

This annual event at Little Venice celebrates the best in life on the waterways in London.  The event includes live music, an illuminated boats procession and kids’ entertainment.  Drifters’ nearest base is at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

  1. St Richard’s Canal Festival, Friday 29 April to Monday 2 May

This annual event organised by the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Society takes place in Vines Park alongside the Droitwich Barge Canal.  Visitors can enjoy live music, boats, classic cars, art workshops, community stalls, a real ale bar and the annual ‘Great Droitwich Duck Race’ with over 1,000 plastic ducks competing.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat rental bases are Worcester and Stoke Prior.

  1. Rickmansworth Canal Festival, Saturday 21 May to Sunday 22 May

Celebrating canals, the community and the environment, the annual Rickmansworth Canal Festival attracts over 100 canal boats from across the country.  Occupying part of the Aquadrome and the Grand Union Canal towpath between Stockers Lock and Batchworth Lock, the event hosts a range of music, performing arts, displays, presentations, traders and catering.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston.

  1. Crick Boat Show, Friday 3 June to Sunday 5 June

Three hundred exhibitors will gather at Crick Marina on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal near Daventry, to showcase thousands of inland waterways products and services across the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Weekend.  Now Britain’s biggest inland waterways festival, Crick Boat Show offers visitors free boat trips, over 50 boats to look around, live music and a wide variety of food and drink stalls.  Drifters’ nearest narrow boat hire bases are at Gayton, Braunston and Market Harborough.

  1. Chester Dragon Boat Festival, Sunday 10 July

This annual and very colourful charity event on the River Dee in Chester sees over 20 dragon boat teams of up to 16 paddlers and a drummer battling to become the champions.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire rental centres are Bunbury, Anderton and Brewood.

  1. Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Thursday 7 July to Sunday 10 July

Every year thousands of people descend on the pretty town of Llangollen on the Llangollen Canal to celebrate dance, music, costume and culture.  The Llangollen Eisteddfod is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with four days of live music events, including Alec Jones and Russell Watson performing together to open the programme.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire bases are at Trevor, Chirk and Blackwater Meadow.

  1. Stone Food & Drink Festival, Friday July 15 to Sunday 17 July 2022

Staffordshire’s biggest celebration of all things gastronomic takes place at the Georgian market town of Stone on the Trent & Mersey Canal.  The festival will host cookery demonstrations and talks, licensed bars, street food, live music and family fun.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat rental bases are Great Haywood, Brewood and Peak District.

  1. Stratford upon Avon Food Festival, Saturday 17 September to Sunday 18 September

This two day annual event in Shakespeare’s Stratford offers cooking demonstrations, workshops, food stalls, live entertainment and competitions.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Stratford Canal at Wotton Wawen.

 

Top 9 Canal Boat Holidays for 2022

From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, narrowboat holiday-makers can explore Britain’s beautiful 3,000-mile network of inland waterways.  And there’s a choice of hundreds of waterside destinations and historic canalside pubs to visit along the way.

Drifters offers over 550 boats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales.  2022 hire prices start at £550 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £760 for a week.  Tuition is included in all Drifters holiday packages.

Here are Drifters’ Top 9 canal boat holidays for 2022:

1. Cruise to historic Shardlow

In Spring 2022, Drifters will open a new narrowboat hire base at Springwood Haven Marina on the Coventry Canal in Nuneaton.  On a week’s break from Springwood Haven, you can travel to the historic inland port of Shardlow and back.  The journey passes through Atherstone, across the Tame Aqueduct, through Fradley Junction, Alrewas, Branston and Burton-on-Trent, home of the National Brewery Centre. At Shardlow there are over 50 listed buildings, including the Salt Warehouse, housing Shardlow Heritage Centre.  The journey there and back passes through 58 locks and takes around 49 cruising hours.

2. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath

On a short break from our base at Devizes in Wiltshire, you can travel along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Sydney Wharf, on the edge of Bath.  The journey travels 19 miles, passing through eight locks and takes around nine hours.  Along the way, the route passes through the village of Seend with its canalside Barge Inn.  And the historic town of Bradford on Avon, with a choice of independent shops and restaurants.  The route also takes boaters over the beautiful Avoncliff and Dundas Bath stone aqueducts.  Once at Sydney Wharf, boaters can moor up and take a 15-minute walk into Bath City Centre.

3. Navigate to Manchester and back

On a week’s break from our canal boat hire base at Acton Bridge, you can cruise to Manchester and back.  The journey allows you to enjoy time in the countryside as well as well as the City.  The route, which travels a total of 68 miles of waterway (34 each way) passes through just one lock.  Places to stop off at include Stockton Heath, with a choice of shops and eateries, 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.  To visit the Trafford Centre, boaters can return via Worsley on the Bridgewater Canal.

4. Visit Warwick Castle afloat

From our boat yard at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can cruise to Warwick and back.  The journey there and back takes around 14 hours, and passes through 40 locks (20 each way).  Overnight moorings are available close to Warwick Castle on the banks of the River Avon.

5. Potter through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton

From oure base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, it takes around 10 hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton.  Along the way, you’ll pass through just six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs.  These include the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.

6. Cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Norbury

From our base at Autherley, on a short break you can cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Autherley and back.  This rural route, which is perfect for beginners, takes boaters through 15 miles of peaceful countryside.  It passes through just two locks and a series of pretty villages with canalside pubs. These include the Bridge Inn at Brewood and the Hartley Arms at Wheaton Ashton.

7. Spot wildlife on the Ashby Canal

On a week’s holiday from our Braunston base, you can cruise to the pretty village of Snarestone and back.  You will travel a total of 47 miles, passing through just eight locks (four each way) in around 32 hours.  This largely rural route goes 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 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).  This recognises the diversity of the waterway’s plant, insect and animal life, including nine species of dragonfly, and rare native white-clawed crayfish.

8. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

Our base at Trevor on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, is next to the awesome UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  From there, you can reach historic Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District on a short break.  Standing 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct carries the canal in a cast iron trough, supported by 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, you feel like you are floating above the earth!

9. Cruise to Todmorden for stunning Pennine scenery

On a short break from our Sowerby Bridge base in West Yorkshire, you can travel to Todmorden and back along the Rochdale Canal. The journey, which travels a total of 20 miles, passes 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, you’ll pass through the beautiful Calder Valley village of Mytholmroyd, the birthplace of Ted Hughes. And the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, with a variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs and a series of scenic waymarked walks.

We’re opening a new canal boat hire base on the Coventry Canal

In March 2022, Drifters will open a new narrow boat hire base at Springwood Haven Marina on the Coventry Canal at Nuneaton.

Haley Hadley, marketing & sales director for Drifters’ operator ABC Boat Hire, explains:

“Along with many other domestic holiday options, we’ve seen an increase in popularity of our holidays over the last two years.

“From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, narrow boat holiday-makers can use their boat as a floating holiday home to explore Britain’s beautiful 3,000-mile network of inland waterways.  Boaters have the freedom to moor their boats up where they choose, and can enjoy visiting waterside destinations along the way, including historic canalside pubs.

“In 2021 we opened a new base on the Coventry Canal at Kings Orchard Marina close to Lichfield, taking boaters deep into the Staffordshire countryside.

“With bookings for 2022 already up by around seven per cent compared to January 2020, this year we are opening a new base on the Coventry Canal at Springwood Haven, offering a choice of rural and urban destinations.”

Route options from Springwood Haven

Canal boat holiday-makers can choose from a range of short break and longer holidays from Sprinwood Haven.  For example, on a short break, boaters can travel to Coventry Basin, in the centre of 2021’s City of Culture. The journey travels 12 miles and takes around five hours.  With no locks along the way, it’s perfect for beginners.

Or on a week’s break, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the Ashby Canal to Snarestone and back.  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.  The route also takes boaters past the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field, where Here in 1485 the reign of Richard III ended and Henry Tudor became Henry VII.  The journey to Snarestone and back takes around 20 hours.

Other week-long destinations from Springwood Haven include: Tixall Wide on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal; Market Harborough on the Market Harborough Arm of the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal; Banbury on the Oxford Canal; Stoke Bruerne on the Grand Union Canal; and Shardlow on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

On a 10-day or two-week break, boaters can complete the Warwickshire or the East Midlands (Leicester) Ring.

Narrow boats available at Springwood Haven

Eleven narrow boats will be available to hire from Springwood Haven, ranging from boats for two people, to bigger boats with accommodation for up to 10.

Narrow boat hire prices for 2022 from Springwood Haven start at £849 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for up to four people, £1,189 for a week.

Top 10 places to spot wildlife on a canal boat holiday

One of the things that make our canals and rivers so special, is the wildlife that lives in and beside them.

You can spot anything from ducks, moorhens and dragonflies, to kingfishers, otters and water voles. Even in the heart of our towns and cities, you can get close to nature on a canal or river.

Many areas of the Canal & River Trust’s canals and rivers in England and Wales have been designated as important nature sites, including 63 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and over 1,000 wildlife conservation sites.

To celebrate, we’ve listed our Top 10 places to spot wildlife on a 2022 narrow boat holiday:

  1. Bittell Reservoir, Worcestershire

Built to supply water for the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, Bittell Reservoir at Barnt Green is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and home to over 200 species of water bird.  Boaters can reach the Bittell Arm in just 40 minutes from Drifters’ narrowboat boat hire base at Alvechurch, and in two hours from Tardebigge.

  1. Llangattock, Powys

The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal follows the line of the Usk Valley through the Brecon Beacons National Park, and is home to an abundance of wildlife.  For example, along the length passing through the village of Llangattock, there are kingfishers, butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies to look out for, as well as bats at dusk.  Boaters can reach Llangattock Wharf in around four-and-a-half hours from our’ canal boat rental base at Goytre.

  1. Fradley Pool Nature Reserve, Staffordshire

At Fradley Junction, where the Coventry Canal meets the Trent & Mersey Canal, Fradley Pool Nature Reserve is home to a variety of wildlife, including ducks, swans and bats.  There are sculpture trails, places to picnic, and a choice of places to eat and drink.  It takes around one-and-a-half hours to reach Fradley from Drifters’ base at Kings Orchard Marina, or six hours (passing through five locks) from Great Haywood.

  1. Sutton Cheney, Leicestershire

This tranquil SSSI stretch of the Ashby Canal offers the chance to spot freshwater mussels, rare native white-clawed crayfish, water shrew, dragonflies, damselflies, and a variety of water birds. Boaters can reach Sutton Cheney visitor moorings in around six hours from Drifters’ base at Kings Orchard Marina, and in around 16 hours (passing through four locks) from Braunston.

  1. Caen Hill, Wiltshire

The Caen Hill flight of locks at Devizes, is not only one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways, it’s also an important place for wildlife.  The Jubilee Woodland is providing more habitat for woodland birds, and the side ponds provide habitat for fish, water birds, water voles, otters and the rare chaser dragonfly.  Drifters’ Devizes canal boat hire base is at the bottom of the Caen Hill Flight, and our base at Hilperton is four-and-a-half hours away, with seven locks to pass through.

  1. Gronwyn Wharf, Montgomery Canal

The Montgomery Canal runs for 38 miles between England and Wales, and is one of the most important canals in country for nature.  Much of it is designated a SSSI, and the Welsh section is of international significance with a Special Area of Conservation designation for its aquatic plants.  Otters and water voles have been spotted there, and several nature reserves border the canal.  Boaters can cruise to Gronwyn Wharf from a number of Drifters bases, including Blackwater Meadow (six hours, eight locks away) and Whixall (10 hours, eight locks away).

  1. Consall Forge, Staffordshire

The 17-mile long Caldon Canal runs from Etruria in Stoke-on-Trent to the edge of the Peak District at Froghall Wharf.  Travelling alongside the River Churnet through woodlands and moorlands, boaters can look out for kingfishers, herons, jays and woodpeckers, as well as otters which have recently returned to the area.  From Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Stoke on Trent, boaters can reach Consall Forge, next to Consall Nature Park in around nine hours, passing through 16 locks.

  1. Marple Locks, Derbyshire

The flight of 16 locks at Marple on the Peak Forest Canal are one of the steepest in Britain, and from there boaters can enjoy magnificent views of the Peak District.  Surrounded by beautiful countryside, including stretches of ancient woodland, there are many types of woodland bird to look out for, as well as bats.  From Drifters’ base at Stoke on Trent it takes around 16 hours, passing through 13 locks, to reach Marple Junction.  And from Bunbury it takes around 29 hours, passing through 48 locks.

  1. Ellesmere, Shropshire

The Mere at Ellesmere is packed with wildlife, including kingfishers, yellow hammers, tree sparrows, lapwing, sand martins, ringed plovers, curlews, greenshanks and herons. There are woodland walks, places to eat, drink and picnic, a sculpture trail and adventure playground.  Drifters’ narrow boat hire base at Blackwater Meadow Marina is on the edge of Ellesmere, and Chirk is just four hours and two locks away.

  1. Bingley, West Yorkshire

The fields either side of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Bingley, close to the Bingley Five Rise Lock Staircase, are full of wild flowers.  There are walking trails and places to eat, drink and picnic.  From Drifters’ base at Barnoldswick on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, it takes around 14 hours to reach Bingley, passing through 15 locks.

Drifters’ Top 12 New Narrowboats for 2022

There are over 35,000 boats on Britain’s 3,000 mile canal network, and around 1,000 of these are holiday hire narrowboats.

Today’s narrowboats for hire are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons, including central heating, hot water, televisions, DVD players, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets.  And some offer extras like wider beds, drinks fridges, larger showers, baths, deck tables, solid-fuel stoves, underfloor heating and WiFi.

Drifters offers the choice of over 550 boats from 45 bases across England, Wales and Scotland.  Each year dozens of new boats are added to our fleet.  Here’s a run-down of our Top 12 new boats for hire in 2022:

  1. ‘Einstein’s Fox’ takes to the water at Devizes

From next March, the 65ft ‘Einstein’s Fox’ for up to seven people will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Devizes on the Kennet & Avon Canal. This luxury boat is perfect for two couples or small families.  It has a central saloon and open plan galley, with the two permanent sleeping cabins privately positioned at either end of the boat. The rear double can be converted from a standard double into a king size bed, and the forward cabin has a range of flexible sleeping configurations. ‘Einstein’s Fox’ has full underfloor heating, a 240v electrical system, fully equipped galley including a microwave and extra drinks fridge.  There is a TV in the saloon, the master double and secondary cabin.  ROUTES: on a short break from Devizes, canal boat holiday-makers can travel west to the World Heritage Status City of Bath.  On a week away, boaters can head east to the Vale of Pewsey, travelling up the Caen Hill flight of locks. ***2022 prices for ‘Einstein’s Fox’ start at £1,583 for a week*.

  1. ‘Hemplow’ will navigate from Braunston

The new 69ft narrowboat for up to eight people ‘Hemplow’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Braunston on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire from May 2022.  ‘Hemplow’ will have three double bedrooms (which can also be made up as twins), two toilets, two bathrooms and a large saloon area where the dining area can be converted into an extra double bed.  She will have a Semi Trad rear deck with seating.  ROUTES: Braunston is in the heart of the canal network where the Grand Union Canal meets the Oxford Canal, providing a variety of route options.  For example, on a short break from Braunston, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby and back.  On a week’s break, they can travel on the beautiful Ashby Canal, a haven for wildlife.  ***2022 prices for ‘Hemplow’ start at £907 for a short break (three or four nights), £1,295 for a week*.

  1. The ‘Sooty Swift’ arrives at Whitchurch

The new 49ft narrowboat for up to four people ‘Sooty Swift’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Whitchurch in Shropshire from mid-March 2022.  ‘Sooty Swift’ will have one flexible cabin which can be made up as a double or two singles, plus a seating area which can be converted into a double.  She will have a TV in the bedroom and saloon, LED lighting, shower with a bi-fold door, front deck table and wider beds.  ROUTES: On a short break from Whitchurch, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through the Shropshire Lake District to Ellesmere and back.  On a week’s break, they can cruise on to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen, passing over the Chirk and Pontcysyllte aqueducts along the way.  ***2022 prices aboard ‘Sooty Swift’ start at £799 for a short break, £1,099 for a week*. 

  1. ‘Curzon’ arrives at Great Haywood

From 11 March 2022, the new 65ft Admiral Class narrowboat for four people ‘Curzon’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Great Haywood, on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire.  ‘Curzon’ will have two shower/toilet rooms, full central heating, a well-equipped galley and flexible accommodation in two cabins, ranging from two doubles to four singles.  On a short break from Great Haywood, boaters can travel to Fradley and back, passing alongside Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  On a week’s holiday, boaters can travel round the Four Counties Ring.  ***2022 prices start at £875 for short break, £1,210 for a week*. 

  1. The ‘American Black Swift’ launches at Blackwater Meadow

From mid-March, the new 49ft narrowboat for up to four people ‘American Black Swift’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ base at Blackwater Meadow on the Llangollen Canal.  ‘American Black Swift’ will have one flexible cabin which can be made up as a double or two singles, plus a seating area which can be converted into a double.  She will have a TV in the bedroom and saloon, LED lighting, a shower with a bi-fold door, front deck table and wider beds.  ROUTES: On a short break from Blackwater Meadow, boaters travel to Llangollen and back, passing over the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  On a week’s holiday they can travel to Chester or Ellesmere Port.  ***2022 prices aboard ‘American Black Swift’ start at £799 for a short break, £1,099 for a week*.

  1. The ‘Magnolia Warbler’ will depart from Wrenbury Mill

The new 69ft ‘Magnolia Warbler’ narrowboat for up to eight people will be available to hire from Drifters’ base at Wrenbury on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire from mid-March.  The boat will have three cabins, two of which can be configured as one double or two singles.  The mid cabin next to the second bathroom will have a fixed double bed. She will have LED lighting, a front deck table, optional wider beds, two shower/toilet rooms, WiFi and two TV’s.  ROUTES: on a short break from Wrenbury, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel gently through the countryside to Ellesmere and back.  On a week’s break, they can travel on to Llangollen, passing over the World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. ***2022 prices aboard ‘Magnolia Warbler’ start at £1,199 for a short break, £1,799 for a week*.

  1. The ‘Knot Sandpiper’ will cruise from Alvechurch

The new 66ft ‘Knot Sandpiper’ narrowboat for up to six people will be available to hire from Alvechurch, on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove from next April.  ‘Knot Sandpiper’ will offer flexible accommodation for up to six people with optional wider beds. The boat will have two cabins, which can be configured either as doubles or twins, and a seating/dining area in the saloon which can be converted into a double bed.  She will have two shower/toilet rooms, a front deck table, LED lighting, two televisions and WiFi.  ROUTES: on a short break from Alvechurch, boaters can travel into central Birmingham in just five hours.  On a week’s break, boaters canal tackle the popular Stourport Ring, cruising a total of 74 miles and passing through 118 locks.  ***2022 prices aboard ‘Knot Sandpiper’ start at £1,399 for a short break, £1,899 for a week*. 

  1. ‘Duncan’ arrives at Wootton Wawen

From 12 March 2022, the new 65ft Admiral Class narrowboat for four people ‘Duncan’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Wootton Wawen, on the Stratford Canal in Warwickshire.  ‘Duncan’ will have two shower/toilet rooms, full central heating, a well-equipped galley and flexible accommodation in two cabins, ranging from two doubles to four singles.  On a short break from Wootton Wawen, boaters can travel to Stratford upon Avon and back.  On a week’s holiday, boaters can complete the Birmingham Mini Ring.  ***2022 prices start at £875 for short break, £1,210 for a week*. 

  1. The ‘Obbia Lark’ will navigate from Gayton

From the beginning of May 2022, the 66ft ‘Obbia Lark’ for up to six people will be available to hire from Drifters’ narrow boat hire base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal near Northampton.  ‘Obbia Lark’ will offer flexible accommodation for up to six people with optional wider beds.  She will have two cabins, which can be configured either as doubles or twins, and a seating/dining area in the saloon which can be converted into a double bed.  She will have two shower/toilet rooms, a front deck table, LED lighting, two televisions and WiFi. ROUTES: on a short break from Gayton, boaters can travel to Braunston and back.  On a week’s holiday they can reach Warwick, Coventry, Snarestone or Market Harborough. ***2022 prices start at £1,299 for short break, £1,999 for a week*.

  1. The ‘Eurasian Wren’ will depart from Hilperton

From the beginning of May, the new 49ft ‘Eurasian Wren’ narrow boat for up to four people will be available to hire from Drifters’ base at Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire.  The boat will have one flexible cabin which can be made up as a double or two singles, plus a seating area which can be converted into a double.  There will be a TV in the bedroom and saloon, LED lighting, a shower with a bi-fold door, front deck table and wider beds.  ROUTES: on a short break from Hilperton, boaters can travel to Bath and back, and on a week’s break they can reach Hungerford.  ***2022 prices start at £999 for a short break, £1,399 for a week*. 

  1. The ‘Great Dusky Swift’ launches at Springwood Haven

From mid-March, the new 49ft narrowboat for up to four people ‘Great Dusky Swift’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ new canal boat hire base at Springwood Haven on the Coventry Canal in Warwickshire.  ‘Great Dusky Swift’ will have one flexible cabin which can be made up as a double or two singles, plus a seating area which can be converted into a double.  She will have LED lighting, a TV in the bedroom and saloon, a shower with a bi-fold door, a front deck table and wider beds.  ROUTES: On a short break from Springwood Haven, boaters travel to Snarestone and back.  On a week’s holiday they can reach Banbury, Market Harborough or Stoke Bruerne.  ***2022 prices aboard ‘Great Dusky Swift’ start at £799 for a short break, £1,099 for a week*.

  1. ‘Codrington’ cruises from Bath

From 16 April 2022, the new 65ft Admiral Class narrowboat for four people ‘Codrington’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat rental base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath.  ‘Codrington’ will have two shower/toilet rooms, full central heating, a well-equipped galley and flexible accommodation in two cabins, ranging from two doubles to four singles.  ROUTES: On a short break from Bath, boaters can travel to Fox Hanger Wharf at back at the base of the Caen Hill Flight.  On a week’s break they can continue on to Pewsey Wharf.  ***2022 prices start at £875 for short break, £1,210 for a week*. 

*NB Drifters individual operator charges for fuel and extras vary.

Celebrate 20 years since Anderton Boat Lift reopened

Next year, the Anderton Boat Lift in Cheshire will celebrate 20 years since the completion of its restoration in 2002.

Nicknamed ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’, and listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways, Anderton lifts barges 50 feet from the River Weaver Navigation to the Trent & Mersey Canal.

Boat lifts are faster and more water efficient than lock flights, and Anderton is the world’s oldest operational boat lift.  The Anderton Boat Lift was designed by canal engineer Edwin Clark and originally opened in 1875.  The imposing iron structure is 60 feet high, 85 feet long and 49 feet wide.  It lifts boats up and down between the two waterways in two giant tanks.  Each tanks weighs 252 tonnes when full of water and is big enough for two narrowboats or one barge.

The Lift operated until 1983, when serious deterioration of the structure was discovered.  By 2001, £7million had been raised to fund its restoration and in 2002 the lift reopened.

To celebrate 20 years since the restoration, we’ve listed our Top 5 narrow boat holidays which include the chance to take a passage through the Lift:

  1. Take a short break to the Lift from Bunbury

From our canal boat hire base at Bunbury in Cheshire, it takes nine hours, passing through 10 locks to reach Anderton Boat Lift.  The journey begins on the Shropshire Union Canal and transfers onto the Trent & Mersey Canal at Middlewich Junction.

  1. Cruise to Barbridge via the Lift from Acton Bridge

On a four night break from our narrow boat hire base at Acton Bridge on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Northwich in Cheshire, boaters can reach Barbridge via the Anderton Boat Lift.  The journey there and back cruises 42 miles, passes through 16 locks and takes around 21 hours.

  1. Navigate to Nantwich from Anderton

On a four night mid-week break setting off from our boat yard at the bottom of the Anderton Boat Lift, canal boat holiday-makers can reach Nantwich.  The journey takes boaters down the Trent & Mersey Canal to Middlewich, and then on to the Shropshire Union Canal to Nantwich.  The journey there and back travels 46 miles, passes through 16 locks and takes around 21 cruising hours.

  1. Complete the Cheshire Ring

On a very active week, or a more relaxed 10-day or two-week break from Acton Bridge, boaters can complete the Cheshire Ring.  The route, which travels 97 miles, passes through 92 locks and takes around 56 cruising hours, takes boaters past the Anderton Boat Lift. The Cheshire Ring takes canal boat holiday-makers along sections of the Trent & Mersey, Bridgewater, Rochdale, Ashton and Peak Forest canals.

  1. Boat to Anderton from Whixall

Boaters can reach Anderton on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Whixall Marina on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal.  The route transfers onto the Shropshire Union Canal at Hurleston Junction and onto the Trent & Mersey Canal at Middlewich Junction.  The journey there and back, including going up and down the Lift, travels 82 miles, passes through 54 locks and takes around 48 cruising hours.

For more information about the Anderton Boat Lift, and to book your passage through the Lift, visit https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/places-to-visit/anderton-boat-lift-visitor-centre/boating-through-anderton-boat-lift or call 0303 0404 040.

Exploring the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire

Last month, Elaine Wilson of Eccentric England enjoyed a weekend away on the Grand Union Canal.

Travelling with her friend Julie, she set off from our Stockton base, and travelled to Napton and Braunston.  She talks about the people they met, the places they ate and the features aboard their boat.

To read Elaine’s review, go to https://eccentricengland.co.uk/home/canal-boat-kateboats/

Spend Christmas or New Year on a narrow boat

Drifters offers winter cruising over Christmas and New Year from nine of its narrow boat hire bases.

All our boats have central heating and hot water, and some of our boats also come with multi-fuel stoves.

Some routes will be affected at times by the Canal & River Trust’s winter maintenance programme, but the following routes are available over Christmas and New Year:

  1. Travel along the Stratford Canal to Stratford upon Avon – from our base on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen in Warwickshire, it’s a six-hour cruise to Stratford upon Avon. The journey takes boaters through the Warwickshire countryside, passing through 17 locks along the way.
  2. Navigate the Kennet & Avon Canal to Bath – on a short break from our base at Monkton Combe, you can reach moorings in Bath City Centre in around four hours. The route takes boaters through Claverton and Bathampton and up the Bath flight of six locks.
  3. Cruise the Trent & Mersey Canal to Fradley Junction – heading south from our base at Great Haywood, boaters can reach Fradley Junction in around five hours. The journey passes through five locks and 12 miles of Staffordshire countryside, including the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  4. Boat along the Llangollen Canal to Ellesmere – from our base at Whixall in Shropshire, it takes around four hours to reach the historic town of Ellesmere. The journey travels through the Shropshire Lake District, past Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park.
  5. Cruise along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Birmingham – from our base at Tardebigge near Bromsgrove, it takes around five hours to reach moorings at Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham.
  6. Navigate the Shropshire Union Canal to Chester – from our base at Bunbury near Tarporley, it’s a seven-hour cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Chester.
  7. Travel along the Llangollen Canal to Llangollen – from our base at Trevor in North Wales, it takes around two hours to cruise to Llangollen. There boaters can moor up in Llangollen Basin and enjoy visiting this beautiful Eisteddfod town.
  8. Cruise along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Bradford on Avon – from our canal boat hire base at Sydney Wharf, you can cruise to the historic market town of Bradford on Avon in just four hours.