Top 6 waterways on screen destinations

Celebrity 5 Go Barging

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

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

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

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

Magnificent cathedrals to visit on a canal boat holiday

There are over 3,000 miles of navigable rivers and canals to explore in Britain, and hundreds of cultural and historic destinations to visit while on a narrowboat holiday, including some of England’s most magnificent cathedrals. Here’s our guide to the top six cathedrals to visit on a canal boat holiday:
  1. Climb the Octagon Tower at Ely Cathedral – dating back to 1083, architecturally Ely Cathedral is outstanding due to its beauty, scale and famous central Octagon Tower with a lantern.  It is the only UK building to be listed as one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Medieval World’, and visible for miles around, the Cathedral is often referred to as ‘The Ship of the Fens’.  When visiting the Cathedral you can climb the world famous Octagon Tower and the West Tower, visit the Lady Chapel and enjoy afternoon tea in the 11th century Undercroft.  On a four-night or week-long break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at March on the Fenland Waterways in Cambridgeshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can reach Ely in around nine hours, travelling 30 miles and passing through just three locks along the way. 
  2. Visit the Crypt at Worcester Cathedral – this ancient building rising majestically above the River Severn dates back nearly 1,000 years and is a major tourist attraction.  In the Cathedral’s Crypt, visitors can find an exhibition telling the story of the Cathedral and a display of The Worcester Pilgrim artefacts.  The Tower, with its 235 steps and spectacular views over the city, is usually open to climb on weekends and during school holidays.  Worcester and its Cathedral can be visited as part of the Stourport and Droitwich Ring canal boat holiday circuits, easily accessed from Drifters’ canal boat holiday hire bases at Worcester, Stoke Prior, Alvechurch and Tardebigge. 
  3. See the medieval choir stalls at Chester Cathedral – construction of this wonderful example of a medieval monastery began in 1092.  Within its walls lie treasures of national significance, including the finest medieval choir stalls in existence and the best Pre-Raphaelite mosaics in the country.  As well as services, the Cathedral hosts many special events each year, including talks, exhibitions and concerts.  There are Tower Tours offering the chance to climb the 216 steps of the 125ft high tower and enjoy panoramic views of Chester.  Setting off from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, narrowboat holiday-makers can reach Chester in around seven hours, passing through nine locks along the way.
  4. Listen to the bells ringing at Birmingham Cathedral – consecrated as the parish church of St Philip’s in 1715, this Grade I listed building is a rare and very fine example of English Baroque architecture.  The Cathedral houses a peal of 12 bells which are rung every Sunday and most Mondays by the St Martin’s Guild of Church Bell Ringers.  Birmingham Cathedral is home to a remarkable set of stained-glass windows designed by Birmingham born Pre-Raphaelite artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones and manufactured by the firm of William Morris & Co.  From Drifters’ narrowboat rental base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes just five hours to reach mooring in Birmingham City Centre.  From Drifters’ base nearby at Alvechurch, it takes around four hours.
  5. Admire one of the World’s largest tapestries at Coventry Cathedral – the Cathedral Church of St Michael was designed by Basil Spence and was consecrated in 1962.  Close by, the remains of the ‘old Cathedral’, destroyed by enemy air attack in the Second World War, have been preserved as a reminder of the folly and waste of war. Rather than a purely Church of England sacred space, Coventry’s new cathedral was intended as a space where people of all faiths could gather together.  The new Cathedral is home to some amazing works of art, including Graham Sutherland’s enormous ‘Christ in Glory’ tapestry and stunning stained glass windows by John Piper and John Hutton.  From Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the North Oxford Canal at Rugby, it takes around eight hours to reach Coventry Basin.
  6. Look up at the remarkable vaulted ceiling in the Chancel of Oxford Cathedral – Christ Church Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in Oxford and one of the smallest cathedrals in the Church of England.  Unusually for a cathedral, its centre stalls face inwards in the ‘collegiate’ style.  Standing on the site of an ancient Saxon Church, the present Cathedral building was constructed 900 years ago as the monastery church for a community of Augustinian Canons.  Since 1546 it has held a dual function as both College Chapel and Cathedral.  It has beautiful stained glass windows, including the Jonah Window painted in the 1630s by the Dutch artist Abraham van Linge and the Becket Window dating back to 1320. Created in 1500, the Cathedral’s Chancel has a remarkable stone vaulted ceiling.  From Drifters narrowboat hire base at close to Oxford on the River Thames at Eynsham, it takes just under four hours to cruise to moorings close to Oxford City Centre.

 

Top 9 Summer Holidays Afloat

Top 9 Summer Holidays Afloat

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

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

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

Here are our Top 9 summer destinations for 2019:

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

 

drifters

Swap your car for a boat for a lower carbon holiday

Canals were the transport arteries of the industrial revolution, but today they offer the opportunity to take a lower carbon emission holiday.

When you swap your car for a boat, you’ll be using a third of the fuel and emitting a sixth of the pollution, and enjoying a holiday that has a 20 times smaller carbon footprint than a two-hour flight*. And once afloat, you can further reduce your carbon footprint by shopping locally and buying local produce.

Here’s a list of our Top 9 Summer Holidays afloat, with ideas of places to buy and eat locally sourced produce:

  1. Potter through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, it takes around 10 hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man and regular street markets.  Along the way, you’ll pass through just six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.  Once at Market Drayton, you can enjoy picking up local supplies at the regular Wednesday and Saturday markets.  
  2. Cruise through the countryside to Coventry to see the World’s largest tapestry – on a week’s holiday from our canal boat hire base at Napton on the Oxford Canal in Warwickshire, boaters can travel north up the Oxford Canal to connect with the Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury Junction.  The journey to Coventry takes around 14 hours, travelling 33 miles and passing through just four locks.  Along the way, the route passes through the pretty canal village of Braunston with a choice of pubs, including the Admiral Nelson family run canalside pub serving traditional home cooked food using locally sourced ingredients.  Once at Coventry Basin, you can moor up to visit the Cathedral, home to the World’s largest tapestry, Graham Sutherland’s ‘Christ in Glory’. 
  3. Toddle to Todmorden for some stunning Pennine scenery – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge, you can cruise along the Rochdale Canal to Todmorden, a journey which takes around eight hours, travelling 10 miles and passing through 17 locks.  This historic town offers visitors fine Victorian architecture, plenty of pubs and restaurants, and a busy market selling a wide range of locally grown and made products.  Along the way, the route takes you through the beautiful Calder Valley village of Mytholmroyd, the birthplace of Ted Hughes, and the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills, with a series of scenic waymarked walks and an amazing variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs. 
  4. Travel the Warwickshire Ring – On a week’s holiday from our canal boat hire base on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston, you can travel the popular Warwickshire Ring, travelling 101 miles, through 94 locks in around 54 hours through a mixture of urban and rural landscapes.  Highlights along the way include the awesome Fight of 21 locks at Hatton, Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin in the heart of Britain’s second city, the flight of 11 locks at Atherstone and the pretty canal village of Braunston. 
  5. Visit Georgian Bath afloat – on a mid-week (four night) break from our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, next to the spectacular Caen Hill flight of locks, you can travel west to the beautiful World Heritage Status City of Bath, famous for its stunning Georgian architecture and fascinating Roman Baths.  The 20-mile journey to Bath passes through 10 locks and takes around 10 hours.  Along the way, the route passes through the village of Seend with its popular canalside Barge Inn, the historic town of Bradford on Avon with lots of independent shops and a regular farmers market.
  6. Glide across the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular on the network.  On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Chirk, you can reach the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen, passing through four locks and over the magnificent Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which this year celebrates 10 years of World Heritage Status.  Built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop between 1796 and 1805 to enable slate and limestone to be moved from quarries in North Wales to the Midlands and beyond, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct measures a record-breaking 307 metres long, and at its highest point it is 38.4 metres above the River Dee. Llangollen prides itself on its fresh local produce available in its shops, markets and delis, including the Country Market held each Friday morning in the town hall.
  7. Cruise along the River Thames into the Cotswolds -from our narrowboat hire base on the River Thames at Oxford base, it’s a tranquil nine-hour, seven-lock cruise west to the pretty market town of Lechlade on the edge of the Cotswolds, perfect for a midweek break.  Along the way, you’ll cruise through miles of peaceful Oxfordshire countryside, past the village of Radcot with its Swan Hotel and Civil War Garrison Earthworks, and Kelmscott with its popular Plough Inn and Grade I listed Kelmscott Manor, once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris.  Lechlade offers a great choice of pubs and restaurants, plus Cutler & Bayliss a traditional family butcher and greengrocer, selling produce from local suppliers.
  8. Cruise to Linlithgow and back – from our canal boat hire base at Falkirk, at the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals, on a short break you can travel along the Union Canal to Linlithgow.  The five-hour journey starts with trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift, which lifts boats 100ft from the Forth & Clyde Canal to the Union Canal above.  Next the route passes through two tunnels and two aqueducts, then miles of peaceful countryside follow.  Once at Linlithgow, you can moor up and visit the beautifully preserved remains of Linlithgow Palace on the shores of Linlithgow Loch, and visit some of the town’s shops and eateries.  Look out for the Narrowboat Farm market garden alongside the canal two miles east of Linlithgow.
  9. Take the Grand Union Canal to Warwick Castle – on a short break from our boat yard at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can reach the historic centre of Warwick in just six hours and moor up to explore the town’s magnificent castle on the banks of the River Avon.  Said to be ‘Britain’s greatest medieval experience’, the castle offers visitors a fantastic day out with Flight of the Eagles displays, the Kingmaker Exhibition, Horrible Histories Maze, The Castle Dungeon tour, the Mighty Trebuchet in action and costumed interpreters bringing history to life.  Along the way, you’ll pass the village of Long Itchington, which has no less than six pubs, including the Duck on the Pond, which uses ingredients for its dishes sourced from local suppliers.