Top 10 reasons to take a canal boat holiday

There are over 35,000 boats licenced for canal cruising in England and Wales, including over 1,000 hire boats.

With the current focus on domestic holidays, narrowboat holidays have never been more popular.  And many people are planning their first holiday on the canals this year.

You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat, and tuition is included in all our holiday packages.  There are over 3,000 miles of inland waterways to explore, with hundreds of waterside destinations.

Ten reasons to take a narrowboat holiday

 

  1. It’s like a floating safari 

    Our beautiful network of inland waterways provides homes for many types of birds, plants, animals and insects. Look out for herons, kingfishers, ducks, swans, moorhens, coots, butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, woodland birds and bats.  And if you are lucky, you might also see an otter or a water vole.

  1. You can moor up at a canalside pub

    There are hundreds of pubs to enjoy along our canals and rivers, many of them historic inns dating back over 200 years to the days of the working boats.

  1. We feel happier by the water

    Research carried out by the Canal & River Trust’s shows we feel happier and less stressed by our waterways.  And the longer we spend there, the more relaxed we become.

  1. It’s the fastest way to slow down

    With speed limits of just 4mph and hundreds of miles of tranquil unspoilt countryside to cruise through, a narrowboat holiday takes you back to a slower, more peaceful pace of life.

  1. You can take everything you need

    Our hire boats have everything you need to enjoy a self-catering holiday afloat.  This includes central heating, hot water, TV, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets.

  1. You don’t need a licence to steer a narrowboat

    Boat steering tuition is provided as part of all Drifters holiday packages, so it’s easy for newcomers to take to the water.

  1. It’s better for the planet

    As soon as you swap your car for a boat, you’ll be using a third of the fuel. So a waterway tour will reduce your holiday carbon footprint, especially if you opt for a departure base closer to home. 

  1. It’s a break from the screen

    Boating offers plenty of activities to keep all the family busy. From steering the boat, working the locks and planning the route, to exploring waterside attractions and watching out for wildlife.

  1. You can bring your pets

    We welcome dogs and many other types of pet on all our boats, so you don’t have to leave your furry friends behind.

  1. You can enjoy an outdoor workout

    Working the locks, as well as walking, running and cycling along the towpath, makes a narrowboat holiday great for keeping fit.

     

    ‘Top of the locks’ narrowboat holiday destinations for 2021

    There are over 1,800 locks on the 2,000 miles of navigable waterways in England and Wales.  Locks allow boats to travel up and down hills, and have been around for hundreds of years.

    With around 35,000 boats licenced to cruise the canals, there are approximately 3.85 million lockages (uses of a lock) each year.

    A lock is simply a chamber with gates at either end, and canal boat holiday-makers follow a series of step-by-step tasks to use them.  By emptying or filling the chamber with water, boats can move up or down onto a new section of waterway.

    There are many different kinds of locks

    From narrow and broad, to staircase and double, there are many different kinds of locks.  But they all on work on a similar principle.  With the lock gates closed, boaters should open the sluices (paddles) to let the water in or out.  When the water level under the boat is the same as the level it’s moving to, the boat can move in or out of the lock.

    Some locks are operated by boaters, others by lock-keepers.  Tuition is included in all Drifters’ canal boat holiday packages, and during the handover boat yard staff will usually guide hirers through their first lock.

    Top 8 flights of locks

    Here at Drifters’ we’ve put together our Top 8 flights of locks to celebrate these marvels of canal engineering:

    1. The Caen Hill Flight on the Kennet & Avon Canal

    One of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ and a Scheduled Ancient Monument, the locks at Caen Hill are one of the most iconic sites on the waterway network.  With 29 locks spread out over two miles, raising the canal by 72 metres, it takes around six hours to passage through.  The 16-lock section clustered together up the hill is truly a magnificent site.  Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Devizes is at the base of the Flight at Foxhangers Marina.

    1. Marple Locks on the Peak Forest Canal

    One of the steepest flights on the system, the 16 locks at Marple raise boats by 64 metres over just one mile.  The locks are built of local stone and are mostly tree-lined, giving the canal a lovely secluded feeling.  In fact the Peak Forest Canals is said to be one of Britain’s most scenic waterways.  It runs through beautiful countryside on the edge of the Peak District National Park.  Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Stoke on Trent is 32 miles and 14 locks away.

    1. The Tardebigge Flight on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal

    With 30 locks spread out over two-and-a-quarter miles, this awesome flight of locks is the longest on the inland waterways system.  In total, the locks raise and lower boats 67 metres, and it takes around five-and-a-half hours to travel through them.  In recognition of the effort it takes, the Canal & River Trust issues certificates to boaters rising (or lowering) to the challenge.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is at the top of the flight at Tardebigge Wharf, near Bromsgrove.

    1. The Bingley 5 Rise on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

    This spectacular staircase of five locks near Bradford is another of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’.  The locks raise (or lower) boats 18 metres in five cavernous chambers.  The locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom of the next.  It takes around one-and-a-half hours to work through.  The size of the chambers can be intimidating even for experienced boaters, but friendly lock-keepers are on hand to help.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat rental base is 25 miles and 20 locks away at Barnoldswick.

    1. The Hatton Flight on the Grand Union Canal

    This impressive flight of 21 locks was nicknamed ‘The Stairway to Heaven’ by the boaters who once carried cargos on the canals.  The locks rise up 45 metres over two miles, and it takes boaters around four-and-a-half hours to travel through them.  Just below the Top lock, Hatton Locks Café provides welcome refreshment for narrowboat holiday-makers and the “gongoozlers” watching them!  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is at Warwick, just two miles and two locks from Hatton Bottom Lock.

    1. Foxton Locks on the Grand Union Canal Leicester Line

    With countryside views all around, this flight of 10 locks raises boats up 23 metres in just a quarter-of-a-mile.  Foxton Locks is the longest set of staircase locks in the UK and is designated a Grade II Listed structure.  Staircase locks open directly one from another, so that the top gate of one forms the bottom of the next.  It takes around 45 minutes to pass through the locks.  Lock keepers are on hand to help, providing key advice when it comes to opening the paddles.  Their mantra “Red before white, you’ll be alright. White before red, you’ll be dead” is helpful to keep in mind!  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat boat hire base is a 14 hour cruise away, on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston.


    1. Wolverhampton Locks on the Birmingham Main Line Canal

    This flight of 21 locks rises boats up by 40 metres over one-and-three-quarter miles.  Travelling through these historic locks is one of the highlights for narrowboat holiday-makers travelling round the popular Stourport Ring.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is just 12 minutes away at Autherley.


    1. ‘Heartbreak Hill’ on the Trent & Mersey Canal

    The Cheshire flight of 31 locks between Middlewich and Kidsgrove, raise the canal up 85 metres from the Cheshire Plains.  The locks have been renamed ‘Heartbreak Hill’ by generations of leisure boaters.  Because the locks are close enough for the crew to stay on the towpath, but far enough to require a lot of walking!  Drifters’ nearest canal boat rental base is three cruising hours away at Stoke on Trent.

    Top 7 May Bank Holiday canal boat breaks for beginners

    Narrowboat 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.

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

    A licence isn’t required to steer a canal boat, and all our operators provide boat steering tuition as part of their holiday packages.  To celebrate the two bank holidays in May, we’ve listed our top seven short break narrowboat holidays for beginners:

    1. Potter through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton – from our canal boat hire base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, it takes around 10 hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton.  Home of the gingerbread man, Market Drayton has a choice of places to eat and regular street markets. Along the way, you will pass through six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.
    2. Drift through the Calder Valley – on a weekend break from our canal boat rental base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, you can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation through the Calder Valley to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge. Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, the journey to Hebden Bridge covers seven miles, 10 locks and takes around five and a half hours.  Once at Hebden, you can moor in the centre of town to enjoy a good choice of places to eat, as well as stunning walks up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags.
    3. Complete the Droitwich Mini-Ring – the Droitwich Ring is the only canal boat holiday cruising circuit in Britain which can be completed on a short break. The 21-mile route takes boaters through the Worcestershire countryside along the River Severn, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and the Droitwich canals. There are 33 locks to pass through and it takes around 16 hours.
    4. Glide along the Forth & Clyde to visit Glasgow – from our canal boat hire base at Falkirk, at the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals, it’s a peaceful nine-hour cruise along the Forth & Clyde Canal to the City of Glasgow. Along the way, you will travel 22 miles and will pass through five locks.  This scenic route begins at the home of the magnificent Falkirk Wheel boat lift.  It then passes through Auchinstarry, the River Kelvin Valley with magnificent views of the Campsie Fells above, and the town of Kirkintillock.  Once at Glasgow, there are moorings at Applecross Street Basin, close to Glasgow’s wealth of cultural centres, including the Hunterian Museum.  
    5. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath – from our base at Devizes in Wiltshire, you can travel gently along the Kennet & Avon Canal to reach moorings at Sydney Wharf, close to Bath City Centre. The journey travels 19 miles, passing through eight locks and takes around nine hours.  Along the way, you’ll passes through the village of Seend with its popular canalside Barge Inn.  And the historic town of Bradford on Avon with its fascinating 14th century Tithe Barn.  You’ll also pass over the beautiful Avoncliff and Dundas Bath stone aqueducts.
    6. Cruise to Warwick Castle and back – from our canal boat hire base 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), perfect for a long weekend away.  Overnight moorings are available close to Warwick Castle on the banks of the River Avon, said to be Britain’s greatest medieval experience.
    7. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Ellesmere – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular navigations on the network. The journey from Drifters’ base at Trevor to Ellesmere and back takes boaters through four locks, and into the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. This journey takes around seven hours and includes the experience of travelling across the awesome UNESCO World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’.

    Tips for taking a narrowboat holiday with kids

    Clare from the Mudpie Fridays blog enjoyed a Drifters narrowboat holiday on the Kennet & Avon Canal last year.

    She travelled with her husband and two boys, aged seven and three.

    On their weekend break, they began their journey at our canal boat hire base at Hilperton, near Trowbridge in Wiltshire.  They cruised west to visit the historic town of Bradford on Avon, passing through just one lock each way.

    From mooring up and locks, to route maps and canal etiquette, Clare offers 10 tips for your first narrowboat holiday with kids https://mudpiefridays.com/2020/10/14/10-tips-for-your-first-narrowboat-break-with-kids/

    Why narrowboat holidays are great for pets

    Narrowboats provide a floating holiday home, so it’s possible to take all sorts of pets on the canals.

    And as well as hundreds of dogs every year, here at Drifters we have accommodated many other kinds of pets aboard our canal boats.  From rabbits and hamsters to caged birds, goldfish and tortoises.

    Here are our top six reasons why canal boat holidays are great for pets:

    1. The majority of canal boats for hire allow pets on board, so you don’t have to allocate holiday budget to pet care;
    2. No extra vaccinations or pet passports are needed for pets to cruise the canals;
    3. Many of our operators allow the first pet to travel free, while others charge a supplement of between £25 and £35;
    4. Canal boat holidays are especially great for dogs, with plenty of towpath walks, dog-friendly canalside pubs and other dogs to meet along the way;
    5. Narrowboats with open cruiser-sterns at the back offer extra room ‘on deck’ for pets and the family to enjoy the ever-changing view; and
    6. Doggy life-jackets are available to buy in advance, with wide belly-straps and easy-to-grab handles for a quick retrieval when dogs accidently go swimming!

    To check availability, click here http://www.drifters.co.uk

     

    Top 9 Aqueducts to glide across on a narrowboat holiday

    Britain’s 3,000-mile canal network is made up of thousands of historic structures.  From impressive flights of locks to soaring aqueducts, these engineering marvels are exciting focal points for canal boat holiday-makers today.

    Aqueducts were originally invented by the Romans.  But the idea of a ‘canal in the sky’ was initially ridiculed by the canal builders.  They were concerned about the amount of masonry required to support the weight of the water above.  However, the engineers found a way and dozens of canal aqueducts went on to be constructed across the canal network.  They have survived to become some of the most iconic sights on our waterways.

    To help plan your 2021 adventure afloat, we’ve listed the top nine aqueducts to glide across:

    1. The Stream in the Sky in North Wales 

    Standing 33 metres high above the Dee Valley, the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales has UNESCO World Heritage Status.  Designed by Thomas Telford, its 305-metre long cast iron trough in which narrowboats float, is supported by 19 enormous hollow pillars.  Ox blood was added to the lime mortar used to bind the masonry together.  It was believed the blood of a strong animal would help strengthen the structure.  You can reach this aqueduct from our hire boat yards at Trevor, Chirk, Blackwater Meadow, Whitchurch, Wrenbury and Whixall.

    2. Avoncliff Aqueduct in Somerset

    Designed by canal engineer John Rennie, the beautiful Bath stone Avoncliff Aqueduct carries the Kennet & Avon Canal across the Avon Valley near Bath.  It is over 100 metres long and 18 metres wide.  You can reach this aqueduct on a canal boat holiday from our bases at Bath, Monkton Coombe, Bradford on Avon, Hilperton and Devizes.

    3. Chirk Aqueduct on the Welsh border

    Also part of the Llangollen Canal World Heritage site, the striking Chirk Aqueduct was completed in 1801.  It was designed by William Jessop and Thomas Telford.  It is 220 metres long and carries the Llangollen Canal 21 metres high above the River Ceiriog, using 10 circular masonry arches.  You can easily reach the Chirk Aqueduct from our bases at Trevor, Chirk, Blackwater Meadow, Whitchurch, Wrenbury and Whixall.

    4. The Iron Trunk Aqueduct in Buckinghamshire

    This magnificent engineering structure was the world’s first wide canal cast iron trough aqueduct.  It takes the Grand Union Canal 12 metres high across the River Great Ouse, close to the village of Cosgrove.  It was built in 1811 by canal engineer Benjamin Beavan, and is made up of two cast iron trough spans, with a single masonry pier.  Our nearest narrowboat hire base is a five hour cruise away at Gayton.

    5. Dundas Aqueduct in Somerset

    Another magnificent Bath stone aqueduct designed by John Rennie, this structure on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Bath was completed in 1810.  It’s designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument and connects the Kennet & Avon Canal to the Somerset Coal Canal.  You can easily be reach Dundas Aqueduct on a canal boat holiday from our bases at Bath, Monkton Coombe, Bradford on Avon, Hilperton and Devizes.

    6. Edstone Aqueduct in Warwickshire

    Carrying the Stratford Canal across three railway tracks, a minor road, a stream and a field, this 146 metre long structure is the longest cast iron aqueduct in England.  Completed in 1816, it was amongst the earliest prefabricated structures, made up of 35 separate sections bolted together.  Our nearest canal boat hire base is just under an hour away at Wootton Wawen.

    7. The Lune Aqueduct in Lancashire

    This Grade I listed iconic structure carries the Lancaster Canal 16 metres high above the River Lune.  It was designed by John Rennie and has five 21 metre high semi-circular arches.  The nearest Drifters’ base is a week’s cruise away at Acton Bridge on the River Weaver.

    8. Nantwich Aqueduct in Cheshire

    The Nantwich Aqueduct offers canal boat holiday-makers panoramic views across the historic market town of Nantwich.  This Grade II* listed historic structure carries the Shropshire Union Canal over the A534 Chester Road.  It was designed by the famous canal engineer Thomas Telford and completed 1826.  You can reach Nantwich Aqueduct in just two hours from our base at Bunbury.

    9. Barton Swing Aqueduct in Greater Manchester

    This Grade II* listed aqueduct carries the Bridgewater Canal across the Manchester Ship Canal.  It opened in 1893 and was the first and only swing aqueduct in the world.  Weighing 1,450 tonnes, the 100-metre long aqueduct swings open, full of water, to allow the passage of ships along the Manchester Ship Canal.  Our nearest base is a nine-hour cruise away at Acton Bridge.

    Top 11 Canal Boat Holidays for 2021

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

    Here are Drifters’ Top 11 canal boat holidays for 2021:

    1. Explore the Staffordshire countryside from Kings Orchard – in March 2021, Drifters will be opening a new narrowboat hire base at Kings Orchard Marina on the Coventry Canal near Lichfield in Staffordshire. On a short break from Kings Orchard, you can cruise to the beautiful wildlife rich Tixall Wide and back, passing through Fradley Junction, Rugeley, Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Great Haywood Junction along the way.  The journey there and back travels 32 miles, passes through 10 locks (five each way) and takes around 16 hours.  On a week away, boaters can continue on from Tixall Wide to complete the Birmingham Ring, taking them on a waterway odyssey with a mixture of urban and rural landscapes, including Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham and a series of canalside villages with historic canalside pubs.
    2. Look out for otters on the Montgomery Canal – this beautiful canal, which runs for 38 miles between England and Wales, is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on both sides of the border. The entire length in Wales is also recognised as a Special Area of Conservation, making it one of the most important sites for wildlife in Europe, providing habitats for many types of plants and animals, including otters.  Currently only around half the Montgomery Canal is navigable, including a seven-mile section from its junction with the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire at Frankton Locks to Gronwyn Wharf.  Work is underway to restore a further section, extending this navigable stretch to Crickheath, due to be completed in 2021.  On a short break from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Chirk, it takes around eight hours to cruise to Gronwyn Wharf on the Montgomery Canal, travelling 15 miles and passing through 10 locks.
    3. The Warwickshire Ring – from Drifters narrowboat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel round the popular Warwickshire Ring. The journey, which can be done in a week but is best savoured over 10 days or two weeks afloat, travels a total of 101 miles, passes through 94 locks and takes around 48 hours.  Passing through a mixture of urban and rural landscapes, the route takes boaters along sections of the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals.  Highlights include: the flight of 11 locks into Atherstone; the pretty canal village of Braunston; Newbold and Shrewley tunnels; the awesome Hatton Flight of 21 locks; Warwick Castle; and Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin.
    4. Cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Norbury – from Drifters narrowboat hire base at Autherley, on a short break canal boat holiday-makers can cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Autherley and back. The rural route takes boaters through 15 miles of peaceful countryside, passing through just two locks and a series of pretty villages with canalside pubs, including the Bridge Inn at Brewood and the Hartley Arms at Wheaton Ashton.
    5. Navigate through the Pennines to East Marton – starting from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Reedley in Lancashire, boaters can travel along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal into North Yorkshire, passing through Nelson and then Barrowford, with its fascinating Pendle Heritage Centre and popular village pub. The route then takes boaters through seven locks and the Foulridge Tunnel, then on to the market town of Barnoldswick, with plenty of places to eat.  After miles of peaceful countryside and the three locks at Greenberfield, the canal winds its way through hilly landscape into the village of East Marton, where there’s a choice of canalside pubs and the canal connects to the Pennine Way.  The journey there and back covers 28 miles, passes through 20 locks (10 each way) and takes around 12 hours.
    6. Float through the Brecon Beacons – isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park. Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, with very few locks, this peaceful waterway offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views, a series of villages with country pubs and a wealth of wildlife to watch out for along the way.   On a four night break from Drifters’ base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, boaters can cruise lock-free to Talybont-on-Usk and back, with excellent walking trails, the Canalside Café and the Star Inn.  The journey there and back covers a total of 38 miles, passes through 10 locks (five there and five back) and takes around 18 hours.
    7. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey to Hungerford – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, it takes around 20 hours, travelling 27 miles through 53 locks to reach the historic town of Hungerford, perfect for a week afloat. Along the way, boaters travel up the spectacular flight of 16 locks in a row at Caen Hill (one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways) and cruise through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, passing close to prehistoric Avebury and along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest.  Once at Hungerford, narrowboat holiday-makers can enjoy dining at a choice of pubs and browsing in dozens of antique shops.
    8. Glide along the Forth & Clyde to visit Glasgow – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at the incredible Falkirk Wheel boat lift, it’s a peaceful nine-hour cruise along the Forth & Clyde Canal to the City of Glasgow – perfect for a short break. Along the way, boaters will travel 22 miles and will pass through five locks.  This scenic route passes through Auchinstarry, the River Kelvin Valley with magnificent views of the Campsie Fells above, and the town of Kirkintillock.  There are moorings at Applecross Street Basin, with access to Glasgow’s wealth of museums, galleries and cultural centres, including the Hunterian Museum, home to one of Scotland’s finest collections.
    9. Watch out for wildlife on the Ashby Canal – on a week’s holiday from Drifters canal boat hire base at Braunston, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to the pretty village of Snarestone and back, travelling a total of 47 miles, passing through just eight locks (four there and four back) in around 32 hours. This largely rural route takes boaters up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby and on to Hawkesbury Junction to join the Coventry Canal.  Five miles later, the route transfers onto the peaceful lock-free Ashbury Canal, which winds gently through countryside for 22 miles.  From Carlton Bridge to Snarestone, the canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), recognising the diversity of its plant, insect and animal life, including nine species of dragonfly, the water shrew, water vole and rare native white-clawed crayfish.
    10. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ into the Shropshire Lake District – from Drifters’ base at Trevor on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District, can be reached on a short break. Standing at over 125ft high above the Dee Valley, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is 1,000ft long, supporting a cast iron trough across 19 enormous hollow pillars. With not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure the stunning views of the valley below, canal boaters literally feel like they are floating above the earth.
    11. Cruise to Todmorden and back for some stunning Pennine scenery – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Todmorden and back along the Rochdale Canal – a journey which travels a total of 20 miles, passing through 34 locks and takes around 16 hours. The historic town of Todmorden offers visitors fine Victorian architecture, plenty of pubs and restaurants, and a busy market. Along the way, boaters pass through the beautiful Calder Valley village of Mytholmroyd, the birthplace of Ted Hughes, and the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills, with an amazing variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs and a series of scenic waymarked walks.

    For information about visiting the canal network go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

    Forest bathing on the Shropshire Union Canal

    Kerstin Rogers took a Drifters canal boat holiday, travelling from our Brewood base on the Shropshire Union Canal.

    In her blog, ‘Slow food on a Staffordshire canal’, she describes the relaxing effect of the journey, which took her along beautiful tree-lined sections of waterway.

    As well as this ‘forest-bathing’ experience, she enjoyed the ‘digital detox’, with little or no mobile signal in the area.

    Kerstin describes the scenery and the food they enjoyed.

    Find out more by reading her blog here https://msmarmitelover.com/2019/06/slow-food-on-a-staffordshire-canal.html

     

    Go stargazing afloat

    The Brecon Beacons National Park is an International Dark Sky Reserve.

    On clear nights, stargazers can see the Milky Way, major constellations, star clusters, and even meteor showers.

    Running through the Brecon Beacons National Park, the Monmouthshire & Brecon offers the chance to take a stargazing holiday afloat.  Narrowboat holiday-makers can set off from our Goytre base, near Abergavenny.

    The canal stretches 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran.  As well as dark night skies, this peaceful waterway offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views, a series of villages with country pubs, and a wealth of wildlife to watch out for along the way.

    Route options

    On a four night break from our narrowboat hire base at Goytre Wharf, you can cruise to Talybont-on-Usk and back.  The journey there and back covers a total of 38 miles.  It passes through 10 locks, and takes around 18 hours.

    On a week away, you can continue on to Brecon, travelling a total of 51 miles, passing through 12 locks (six each way).  This takes around 24 cruising hours.

    There are a number of recommended stargazing locations close to the canal.  These include Sugar Loaf Mountain near Abergavenny and Llangors Lake near Brecon.  The best times to go stargazing are the days before, during and soon after each new moon.

    2021 celestial events to plan a stargazing holiday afloat

    • Lyrid Meteor Shower 22-23 April & International Dark Sky Week (19-25 April)
    • Eta Aquarid Meteors 6-7 May, made up of dust particles left by the Halley comet
    • Micro New Moon, 11 May
    • New Moon, 10 June
    • New Moon, 10 July
    • Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower, 28-29 July
    • New Moon, 8 August
    • New Moon, 7 September
    • New Moon, 6 October
    • Draconids Meteor Shower, 7 October
    • Orionids Meteor Shower, 21-22 October

    2021 prices from Goytre start at £649 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for up to four people, £999 for a week. Price includes boat hire, damage waiver, gas, parking, tuition, towels, bedding and first pet.  Fuel is extra, charged based on use, circa £10-15 per day.

    This Dark Sky Calendar helps pinpoint the best nights to go star gazing www.gostargazing.co.uk

    Celebrate Mother’s Day Afloat

    Day boat hire on Britain’s peaceful network of inland waterways is a great way to celebrate Mother’s Day.

    You can enjoy slow time together, watching out for Spring wildlife and blossom on the trees.  And you can pack a picnic or stop off for lunch at a canalside pub along the way.

    Drifters offers day boat hire from 17 boat yards across England and Wales.  Prices start from less than £10 per person.

    Full tuition is included, so it’s a great way to get the hang of navigating the canals.  All our day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle.  Most also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.

    Here’s a guide to our Top 11 day boat destinations for Mums in 2020:

    1. Cruise through the Staffordshire countryside for a pub lunch at Hopwas. From our new day boat hire centre at Kings Orchard, you can cruise through the countryside to Bonehill Bridge. The route takes you through the villages of Huddlesford, Whittington and Hopwas.  At Hopwas there are two pubs to choose from, the Tame Otter and the Red Lion.  The journey to Bonehill and back takes five and a half hours and there are no locks. 
      ***Day boat ‘Happy Days’ can take up to 10 people.  2021 prices start at £137.

    2. Boat through the Berkshire countryside to The Spring Inn. From our day boat hire base at Aldermaston, you can cruise to Tyle Mill Lock and back. The journey travels two miles and passes through three locks. It takes around one and a half hours.  From there, it’s a short walk to the popular Spring Inn gastropub in Sulhamstead.
      ***‘Hey Day’ can carry up to 10 people.  2021 prices start at £129 per day.

    3. Explore Shakespeare’s country. From Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, you can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote. Here you can enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn or visit the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Mary Arden’s Farm.  The journey takes two-and-a-half hours each way.  It takes you across the impressive Edstone Aqueduct, with beautiful views of the Warwickshire countryside. ***Day boats ‘Dolly’ and ‘Charlie’ take up to 10 people each.  2021 prices per boat are £99 weekdays, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

    4. Cruise through the countryside to Hillmorton.  From our day boat hire base at Braunston, it takes three hours to reach the canalside village of Hillmorton. The journey travels seven miles of the North Oxford Canal.  There are lovely views of the countryside to enjoy along the way.  At Hillmorton there’s a choice of pubs – the canalside Old Royal Oak or the Stag & Pheasant in the village. 
      ***Day boat ‘Ouzel II’ can carry up to 12 people.  Weekday hire is £140, and £175 on weekends and bank holidays.

    5. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ in North Wales. From our base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal, it takes 20 minutes to reach the World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Standing at over 38 metres high, this incredible structure offers boaters stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  After cruising over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, there are two tunnels to pass through.  Plus another magnificent aqueduct at Chirk.  In total, it takes around two-and-a-half hours to reach the Poacher’s Pocket pub at Glendrid. 
      ***Day boats ‘Jacob’, ‘Daniel’ and ‘Lotty’ take up to 10 people each.  2021 prices per boat are £120 weekdays, £180 on weekends and bank holidays.

    6. Cruise along the Grand Union Canal to Stoke Bruerne. From our day boat centre at Gayton near Northampton, it takes an hour to reach the pretty village of Stoke Bruerne. Along the way, you’ll pass through the 2,795-metre long Blisworth Tunnel.  Stoke Bruerne is home to Canal Museum, where stories, films and collections provide a fascinating look at the history of our canals.  And there are plenty of places to eat, including the Boat Inn, Navigation Inn and the Museum’s Waterside Café.
      ***‘Daylark’ can carry up to 12 people.  2021 prices start at £129.

    7. Glide through the Brecon Beacons. Cruise from Goytre Wharf on the Monmouth & Brecon Canal to enjoy incredible mountain views. From there, it takes two-and-a-half-hours to reach the village of Mamhillad.  You’ll find the popular Star pub a short walk from bridge 62.
      ***‘Rooster’ can carry up to eight people. 2021 day boat hire prices start at £139.

    8. Travel along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Bradford on Avon. From Hilperton Marina near Trowbridge, you can head west to the picturesque town of Bradford on Avon. This historic town on the edge of the Cotswolds has a great choice of pubs, independent cafes and restaurants, including the canalside Barge Inn.
      ***‘Cheers’ can carry up to 10 people.  2021 day hire starts at £122.

    9. Travel through leafy rural Worcestershire. From Tardebigge near Bromsgrove, you can cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, passing through the remains of the Forest of Arden. Historic pubs along the way include the family-friendly Hopwood House at Hopwood.  There are no locks, but there are two tunnels to pass through, including the 2493-metre long Wast Hill Tunnel.
      ***Day boat ‘Emma’ can carry up to 10 people.  2021 weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays are £150.

    10. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Whitchurch. On a day afloat from our day boat hire base at Whixall in Shropshire, you can reach the historic market town of Whitchurch. The lock-free journey, which takes just under two hours, travels six miles of the Llangollen Canal. Once at Whitchurch, you can moor up to explore the town.  Here there are independent shops, way-marked circular walks and a choice of places to eat. 
      ***Day boat ‘Julia’ can take up to 10 people.  2021 prices are £99 on a weekday, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

    11. Travel along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Rugeley. From Drifters’ boat yard at Great Haywood near Stafford, you can cruise to the market town of Rugeley. This four mile journey passes through two locks, and takes around two hours. Along the way, you’ll pass the National Trust’s Shugborough Estate.  Plus the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wolseley Centre and Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 
      ***Day boats ‘Daphne’ and ‘Abi’ can carry up to 10 people each.  Weekday hire from Great Haywood is £99, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.