Top 6 Bank Holiday Boating Breaks for Beginners

 

With a thriving 3,000-mile network of navigable inland waterways, the health benefits of spending time by the water proven and the merits of a lower carbon staycation, UK narrowboat holidays offer the perfect bank holiday getaway.

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

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 are equipped with essential home comforts, including central heating, hot water, TV, showers, flushing toilets, and many now have WiFi too.

To celebrate the two May bank holidays, we’ve put together our top six short break narrowboat holidays for beginners:

  1. 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 (three or four nights).  When the restoration of the Droitwich Canals was completed in 2011, it reconnected the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and the River Severn, creating a 21-mile, 33-lock canal boat holiday circuit, which can be cruised in 16 hours from our narrowboat hire base on the River Severn at Worcester.  
  2. Glide along the Forth & Clyde to visit Glasgow – from our canal boat rental base at Falkirk, at the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals and home to the magnificent Falkirk Wheel boat lift, it’s a peaceful nine-hour cruise along the Forth & Clyde Canal to the City of Glasgow – perfect for a three or four-night short break.  Along the way, you will travel 22 miles and 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.  
  3. Visit Georgian Bath afloat – on a short break from our barge hire base at Devizes 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 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 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.  Once at Sydney Wharf, you can moor up and take a 15-minute walk into Bath City Centre to visit the Roman Baths, the Royal Crescent and other World class attractions. 
  4. 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 and regular street markets.  Along the way, you will 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. 
  5. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Ellesmere and back – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular navigations on the network.  The journey from our boat yard at Trevor near Llangollen in North Wales, to Ellesmere and back offers a fantastic short break holiday for beginners.  There are just four locks between Trevor and Ellesmere at the heart of the Shropshire Lake District, a journey which takes around seven hours.  And the route includes the experience of travelling across the awesome UNESCO World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’, with incredible views of the Dee Valley 30 metres below. 
  6. Cruise along the summit of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to enjoy remote beauty – from our canal boat hire base at Barnoldswick on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Lancashire, it takes around four hours to gently cruise 10 miles to Bank Newton, passing through just three locks at Greenberfield.  Along the way, the route takes you through the village of East Marton with its popular Cross Keys pub and then on through the remotest and most beautiful stretch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, with just sheep and birds in all directions! 

 

Top 8 Easter Holidays Afloat

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

Our narrowboats range from 32ft to 70ft and can accommodate up to 12 people.  All are equipped with essential home comforts, including central heating, hot water, TV, showers, kitchens, flushing toilets, and many now have WiFi too.

Here are our top eight destinations for Easter 2020:

  1. Join the annual Easter Boat Gathering at Ellesmere Port – over the Easter Weekend (10-13 April), the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire celebrates the start of the Summer boating season with a large boat gathering, live music, workshop tours, historic boats and museum activities.  From our canal boat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, it takes 10 hours to reach Ellesmere Port, travelling 21 miles through 12 locks, and passing through the ancient City of Chester along the way. 
  2. Travel round the Warwickshire Ring – On a week’s holiday from our narrowboat hire base on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston, you can travel round the popular Warwickshire Ring, cruising 101 miles, through 94 locks in around 54 hours through a mixture of urban and rural landscapes.  Highlights include: the awesome Fight of 21 locks at Hatton with stunning views of the Warwickshire countryside; 1,000 years of history at Warwick Castle on the banks of the River Avon; 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. 
  3. Visit the Edinburgh Science Festival – from our boat yard at Falkirk, at the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals, on a mid-week (four night) or week’s break, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh and back.  The journey starts with trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift, which tranfers boats 100ft from the Forth & Clyde Canal to the Union Canal above.  Once in Edinburgh, boaters can moor up in Edinburgh Quay to enjoy the City’s attractions, including the annual Edinburgh Science Festival (4-19 April 2020), featuring almost 270 events over the course of two weeks, including family days out, hands-on activities and talks. 
  4. Take in a show at the Egg theatre in Bath – on a four-night mid-week break from our base at Devizes in Wiltshire, you can travel gently along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal to reach moorings at Sydney Wharf, just a 15-minute walk from Bath City Centre.  The journey there and back travels 39 miles, takes around 19 hours and passes through 10 locks each way.  The route 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.  Once at Sydney Wharf, boaters can moor up and take a 15-minute walk into the centre of Bath to visit some of the City’s many attractions, including the Roman Baths, Royal Crescent and the Theatre Royal’s award-winning egg theatre. 
  5. Visit the World’s biggest Cadbury shop at Cadbury World – perfect for beginners, boaters can travel lock-free to Birmingham in just five hours from our canal boat rental base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, stopping off along the way to find handmade Easter eggs in the World’s biggest Cadbury shop at Cadbury World.  You can travel right into the heart of the City of Birmingham by canal boat, to over-night moorings in Gas Street Basin, close to Brindleyplace with 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. 
  6. Cruise along the summit of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to enjoy remote beauty – from our canal boat hire base at Barnoldswick on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Lancashire, it takes around four hours to gently cruise 10 miles to Bank Newton, passing through just three locks at Greenberfield.  Along the way, the route take boaters through the village of East Marton with its popular Cross Keys pub and then on through the remotest and most beautiful stretch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, with just sheep and birds in all directions! 
  7. Glide gently to Norbury and back – on a relaxing short break from our narrowboat rental base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Autherley Junction, you can travel north to the pretty village of Norbury.  This sedate journey takes around seven hours, passing through just two locks and travelling through 15 miles of peaceful countryside.  Along the way, the route takes narrowboat holiday-makers through the charming village of Brewood with its half-timbered cottages, attractive Georgian houses and choice of places to eat, including the canalside Bridge Inn.  The route also takes you past Belvide Reservoir near Brewood and Mottey Meadows Nature Reserve at Wheaton Ashton, both home to an abundance of wildlife.  Once at Norbury, you can moor up to enjoy a meal at the Old Wharf Tearoom or the Junction Inn. 
  8. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from our base at Chirk on the beautiful 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 way, you cross the awesome World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, taking them 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, with amazing views of the surrounding mountains and countryside.  On reaching Llangollen, you can enjoy visiting the town’s independent shops, pubs and restaurants, as well as its Steam Railway and Horseshoe Falls. 

Top 5 Narrowboat Holidays on the Shropshire Union Canal

Stretching from Ellesmere Port in Cheshire the North to Autherley Junction near Wolverhampton in the South, the 77-mile long largely rural Shropshire Union Canal is often simply called ‘The Shroppie’.

There are 47 locks along the main line, four along the Middlewich Branch and three on the River Dee Branch. With long stretches of pure countryside, the Shropshire Union Canal is great for getting close to nature – especially the canal’s deep mossy cuttings where the flashing blue of a kingfisher in flight can frequently be glimpsed.

The northern section, which runs through the gently rolling Cheshire landscape, is a wide waterway, while the arrow-straight southern section features fewer locks, long embankments, cuttings and grand bridges.

Here are Drifters’ Top 5 canal boat holidays on the Shropshire Union Canal for 2020:

  1. Cruise to the ancient City of Chester – On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury near Tarporley in Cheshire, canal boat holiday-makers can head north to the historic City of Chester.  This 12-mile journey through the rolling Cheshire countryside takes seven hours, passing through 18 locks. Places to stop along the way include English Heritage’s Beeston Castle & Woodland Park, the famous Cheshire Ice Cream farm at Tattenhall and Christleton with its popular ‘Ring ‘o’ Bells’ pub.  Once at Chester, boaters can enjoy exploring this fascinating Roman City, including its Amphitheatre, Museum, City Walls, Chester Rows, Cathedral, Castle, racecourse and award-winning zoo.
  2. Potter through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton – from our boat yard 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 – perfect for a mid-week afloat.  Along the way, boaters pass through 21 miles of beautiful Shropshire countryside, passing through 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.
  3. Navigate the Black Country Ring from our narrowboat rental base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal in Staffordshire, on a week’s break narrowboat holiday-makers can travel round the Black Country Ring, cruising 85 miles and passing through 81 locks in around 47 hours.  Highlights along the way include: Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin close to Brindleyplace; the 21 locks at Wolverhampton; the Black Country Living Museum; the waters at Tixhall Wide; the 11 locks at Ashton; and 13 locks at Farmer’s Bridge.  As well as cruising a south along the Shropshire Union Canal to connect with the Black Country Ring, the circuit takes in sections of the Birmingham & Fazeley, Birmingham Main Line, Coventry, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Trent & Mersey canals.
  4. Cruise to Norbury and back – on a relaxing short break from our narrowboat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Autherley Junction, boaters can travel north to the pretty village of Norbury.  This sedate journey takes around seven hours, passing through just two locks and travelling through 15 miles of peaceful countryside. Along the way, the route takes narrowboat holiday-makers through the charming village of Brewood with its half-timbered cottages, attractive Georgian houses and choice of places to eat, including the canalside Bridge Inn.  The route also takes boaters past Belvide Reservoir near Brewood and Mottey Meadows Nature Reserve at Wheaton Ashton, both home to an abundance of wildlife. Once at Norbury, boaters can enjoy a meal at the Old Wharf Tearoom or the Junction Inn.
  5. Travel the Four Counties Ring – on a 10-day or two-week holiday from our narrowboat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union in Cheshire, canal boat holiday-makers can tackle the Four Counties Ring.  From Bunbury, this popular circuit, which passes through Cheshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire and the West Midlands, travels 114 miles, through 96 locks and takes around 58 hours.  As well as a section of the Shroppie and its Middlewich Branch, it navigates parts of the Trent & Mersey Canal, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Wardle canals. Highlights include: the Harecastle Tunnel; the flight of 15 locks at Audlem; views of the rolling Cheshire Plains; Wedgewood Pottery in Stoke on Trent; the Roman town of Middlewich; the National Trust’s Shugborough Hall; and the Elizabethan Churche’s Mansion house. 

 

Take a Canal Boat Holiday this Halloween

Top 9 spooky destinations afloat

With ghosts galore, bats, toads, moths, spiders and frogs aplenty – as well as creepy tunnels, spooky locks and misty towpaths – Britain’s 2,000-mile, 200-year old canal network provides the perfect backdrop for a haunting Halloween.

Here’s a guide to Drifters’ spookiest destinations for Halloween 2019:

  1. Hear echoes of a killing at Kidsgrove – the Trent & Mersey Canal’s spooky 2,676-metre long Harecastle Tunnel at Kidsgrove is said to be home to a shrieking boggart – the ghost of Kit Crewbucket who was murdered and his headless corpse was dumped in the canal.  Harecastle Tunnel can be reached in around 12 hours (travelling 22 miles through 18 locks) from our canal boat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford. 
  2. Mind the Monkey Man at Norbury – the Shropshire Union Canal is said to be Britain’s most haunted canal with five ghosts along its length, including the terrifying ‘Monkey Man’ at Bridge 39 near Norbury.  This hideous black, shaggy coated being is believed to be the ghost of a boatman drowned there in the 19th century.  Narrowboat holiday-makers can head north from our base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal near Stafford, reaching Bridge 39 in around four and a half hours. 
  3. Prepare to be spooked at Blisworth Tunnel – on the Grand Union Canal at Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire, the Blisworth Tunnel has spooked a number of boaters over the years.  At 2,795 metres long, it’s one of the longest on the canal system.  When construction began in 1793, the tunnel was a major engineering challenge.  Teams of navvies worked with picks and shovels for three years until they hit quicksand and the tunnel collapsed, killing 14 men.  A new route for the tunnel was found and it finally opened on 25 March 1805.  Over the years, a number of boaters travelling through the tunnel have reported seeing lights and a second route emerging.  But the tunnel runs straight through the hill so people must have seen the flicker of candlelight at the spot where the first tunnel would have intersected with the main canal tunnel.  Perhaps the ghostly navvies are still working there…?  The Blisworth Tunnel is less than an our away from our narrowboat hire base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire. 
  4. Steel yourself for a visit from the Viscount – Once a 13th century monastery, The George Inn at Bathampton is said to be haunted by the ghost of Viscount John Baptiste Du Barre, who mortally wounded in the last legal duel fought in Britain.  The Viscount was reputedly a decadent man who held lavish parties and enjoyed gambling.  Following an argument over a card game, a challenge was thrown down and on 18 November 1778, he and his opponent met on Claverton Down at dawn.  Drifters’ narrowboat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath is a 20-minute cruise from the George Inn. 
  5. Witness some ghostly goings-on at The Navigation Inn – the Navigation Inn on the Calder & Hebble Navigation at Sowerby Bridge dates back to the 15th century, and served travellers along the old salt road from Chester to York long before the canal was built.  According to the landlord, there’s plenty of supernatural activity in this ancient building, including noises in the cellar, clocks that mysteriously stop and spirits that appear in the kitchen.  The Navigation Inn is very close to our canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge. 
  6. Beware the blood stained steps at Brindley Bank – the Trent & Mersey Canal at Brindley Bank Aqueduct in Staffordshire, is said to be haunted by Christina Collins, who was murdered there on 17 June 1839 and her body flung into the canal.  Three boatmen were convicted of her killing; two were hanged, the third transported.  As Christina’s body was dragged from the water, her blood ran down a flight of sandstone steps leading from the canal, and it is said that the stain occasionally reappears on those stones.  Brindley Bank is just over an hour away from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal.
  7. Get the chills in Chester – visit the City’s old Northgate where the canal was dug into part of the town’s moat and a Roman centurion can sometimes be seen guarding the entrance to the City.  Canal boat holiday-makers can hire a boat from our canal boat yard at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, and reach Chester in seven hours, and passing through nine locks. 
  8. Watch out for an Aqueduct Apparition – the Llangollen Canal in Wrexham is haunted by an eerie figure that can sometimes be seen on moonlit nights, gliding along the towpath by the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which carries canal boat holiday-makers 38 metres high in the air above the River Dee.  From narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, it’s a 10-minute cruise to the Aqueduct.  
  9. Look out for the ghost of the lusty farm hand – originally an 18th century farm house, The Blue Lias pub on the Grand Union Canal at the bottom of the Stockton flight in Warwickshire, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a red-haired farm labourer who was murdered when the vengeful farmer returned home from market one day to find the labourer in bed with his wife.  The Blue Lias pub is just under a mile and eight locks away from our canal boat rental base at Stockton. 
Common pipistrelle, pipistrellus pipistrellus

 

Top 8 October half term canal boat holidays

Top 8 October half term canal boat holidays

Canal boat holidays are fantastic for families, offering the chance to enjoy the autumn countryside, watch out for waterway wildlife, learn how to work the locks and speak the boating lingo.

This October Half Term, why not set sail together for a family adventure afloat, enjoying the splendid colours of autumn in the hedgerows and trees that line our waterways and stopping off at canalside destinations along the way.

Drifters’ 2019 October Half Term prices start at £582 for a short break (three or four nights), £795 for a week on a boat for four people.  Here are our top 8 destinations for families this October Half Term:

  1. Glide through the Usk Valley to Brecon and back – the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal offers 35 miles of quiet countryside to explore with incredible views of the Brecon Beacons.  From Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, on a week’s break boaters can journey through the wooded Usk Valley to the pretty market town of Brecon, home to a cathedral, theatre, cinema, castle ruins and great access to the National Park with walking routes, cycle hire and pony trekking.  Along the way, boaters can stop off at Llanfoist to take the old tramway into the Black Mountains, visit the 13th century caste at Crickhowell and walk to the Blaen y Glyn waterfalls at Talybont-on-Usk.  The total journey there and back travels 51 miles, passing through 12 locks and takes around 25 hours. 
  2. Travel through the Shropshire countryside to the home of the gingerbread man – 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 – perfect for a mid-week break afloat.  Along the way, boaters pass through 21 miles of beautiful Shropshire countryside, six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall. 
  3. Visit Georgian Bath afloat – on a mid-week (four-night) break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, canal boat holiday-makers can travel west to the beautiful World Heritage Status City of Bath, famous for its stunning Georgian architecture.  Along the way, boaters travel across two magnificent aqueducts crafted out of Bath stone and can enjoy stopping off at historic canalside pubs, including the Barge Inn at Seend, the Lock Inn at Bradford upon Avon and the Cross Guns at Avoncliff.  Arriving at Sydney Gardens just outside Bath City Centre, boaters can find quiet moorings just a 15-minute walk from Bath’s major attractions, including the Roman Baths.  The journey to Bath takes around nine hours, travelling 19 miles and passing through eight locks.
  4. Travel across the Stream in the Sky – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, boaters can travel seven peaceful miles to Ellesmere and back, with just two locks to pass through and the magnificent World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, with stunning views of the Dee Valley below to travel across.  Once at Ellesmere, boaters can explore the famous Mere with its historic castle, woodland paths and fascinating wildlife. 
  5. Cruise along the Ashby to the site of the Battle of Bosworth – on a week’s holiday from Drifters canal boat hire base at Braunston, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to the pretty village of Snarestone and back, travelling a total of 47 miles, passing through eight locks and taking 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, boaters can transfer onto the peaceful lock-free Ashbury Canal, which winds peacefully through countryside for almost the whole of its 22-mile length.  From Carlton Bridge to Snarestone, the canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  Along the way, boaters pass close to Market Bosworth and the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field, where in 1485 Richard III lost his crown to Henry Tudor.
  6. Visit the historic Yorkshire mill town of Hebden Bridge – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the leafy Rochdale Canal to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills.  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, boaters can moor in the centre of town to enjoy a good choice of pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops and markets as well as stunning walks up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags
  7. Explore Birmingham by boat – with more canals than Venice and incredible canalside regeneration areas like Brindleyplace, there’s no better way to explore Birmingham than by boat.  From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes just five hours to reach City Centre moorings at Gas Street Basin, the perfect base for exploring the many attractions of Britain’s vibrant Second City, including the fantastic Thinktank Science Museum.  With no locks along the way, it’s a great route for beginners to enjoy testing the waters.
  8. Cruise through the Scottish lowlands to Linlithgow Palace – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at the Falkirk Wheel boat lift, it’s a peaceful five-hour cruise along the Union Canal to the historic town of Linlithgow – perfect for a short break (three or four nights).  The route starts with a journey through the Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first rotating boat lift which replaced a flight of 11 locks – and then passes through two tunnels and two aqueducts, plus miles of peaceful countryside before reaching Linlithgow.  Once there, narrowboat holiday-makers can visit the beautifully preserved remains of Linlithgow Palace on the shores of Linlithgow Loch, the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, and visit some of the town’s excellent eateries, including the award-winning Four Marys pub.

 

TOP 10 NEW NARROWBOATS FOR 2020

Top 10 New Narrowboats for 2020

There are nearly 35,000 boats on Britain’s 2,000-mile canal network, more than at the time of the Industrial Revolution.

But unlike the working boats of the last two centuries, the canal boats available to hire today are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons – central heating, hot water, TV, Wifi, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets.  And some offer five star accommodation, with extras like wider beds, larger showers and solid-fuel stoves.

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 10 new boats for hire in 2020:

  1. The ‘Common Swift’ canal boat for four arrives at Alvechurch – the new 49ft ‘Common Swift’ narrowboat is available to hire from Alvechurch, offering flexible accommodation for up to four people with optional wider beds. The boat will have one cabin, which can be configured as a double or two singles.  The seating area in the saloon can be converted into a double bed in the evening.  On a short break from our narrowboat hire base at Alvechurch on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, narrowboat holiday-makers 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, passing through 118 locks (including the longest lock flight in the country at Tardebigge), and visiting three cities – Wolverhampton, Birmingham and the ancient City of Worcester.  ***2020 prices aboard ‘Common Swift’ start at £599 for a short break (three of four nights), £899 for a week. 
  2. The ‘Hawke’ narrowboat for four people gets going at Whixall – from 27 June 2020 the new luxury 65ft Admiral Class narrowboat ‘Hawke’, with accommodation for up to four people, will be available to hire from Drifters’ new narrowboat hire base at Whixall, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire.  ‘Hawke’ will offer canal boat holiday-makers two spacious bathrooms, full central heating, a well-equipped galley and flexible accommodation in two cabins, ranging from two doubles to four singles.  From Whixall it takes just 30 minutes to reach the main line of the Llangollen Canal, where on a short break, boaters can reach Chirk, with its magnificent aqueduct, 459-yard tunnel and choice of canalside pubs.  On a week’s holiday from Whixall, boaters can cruise on to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen, travelling across the World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  ***2020 prices for ‘Hawke‘ start at £795 for short break, £1,095 for a week. 
  3. The ‘Collingwood’ canal boat for two hits the water at Wootton Wawen – the new luxury 57ft Admiral Class narrowboat for two people ‘Collingwood’ is available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Wootton Wawen, on the Stratford Canal in Warwickshire.  ‘Collingwood’ will have a cabin with a double bed, a bathroom with shower, flushing toilet and basin, full radiator central heating, a multi-fuel stove, a fully equipped kitchen, WiFi and TV.  On a short break from Wootton Wawen, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel to Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon and back.  On a week’s holiday, boaters can reach historic Warwick or Birmingham City Centre.  ***2020 prices for ‘Collingwood‘ start at £605 for short break, £835 for a week. 
  4. The ‘Louisa’ narrowboat for up to eight people cruises into Stockton the new 70ft narrowboat for up to eight people ‘Louisa’ is available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat holiday base on the Grand Union Canal at Stockton in Warwickshire.  ‘Louisa’ offers either three fixed doubles (or two fixed doubles and two fixed singles), plus two singles in the lounge.  She has two bathrooms, full central heating and a well-equipped galley.  On a short break from Stockton, boaters can travel to Warwick and back, enjoying country pubs along the way.  On a week’s break, boaters can tackle the popular Warwickshire Ring, cruising sections of the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals, covering 104 miles and passing through 121 locks.  ***2020 prices for ‘Louisa’ start at £1,070 for a week, £670 for a short break. 
  5. The ‘Nelson’ canal boat for two arrives at Trevor – from next March, the new luxury 57ft Admiral Class narrowboat for two people ‘Nelson’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Trevor, on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales.  ‘Nelson’ will have a cabin with a double bed, bathroom with shower, flushing toilet and basin, full radiator central heating, a multi-fuel stove, fully equipped kitchen, WiFi and TV.  On a short break from Trevor, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel to Ellesmere and the Shropshire Lake District, passing over the World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way.  On a week’s holiday, boaters can continue on to the historic market town of Whitchurch.  ***2020 prices for ‘Nelson‘ start at £605 for short break, £835 for a week. 
  6. The ‘Wood Warbler’ canal boat for up to eight people glides into Gailey – the new 69ft ‘Wood Warbler’ narrowboat is available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal at Gailey.  Offering flexible accommodation for up to eight people with optional wider beds, 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 has a fixed double bed. On a short break from Gailey, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel gently through the countryside to the historic village of Brewood and back.  On a week’s break, boaters canal tackle the Black Country Ring, travelling 75 miles, and passing through 78 in locks in around 47 hours of cruising through the countryside and Birmingham City Centre.  ***2020 prices aboard ‘Wood Warbler’ start at £959 for a short break, £1,499 for a week. 
  7. The ‘Cunningham’ narrowboat for up to four arrives at Oxford – the new luxury 65ft Admiral Class narrowboat ‘Cunningham’, with accommodation for up to four people, is available to hire from Drifters’ new narrowboat hire base at Eysham, on the River Thames near Oxford.  ‘Cunningham’ will offer canal boat holiday-makers two spacious bathrooms, full central heating, a well-equipped galley and flexible accommodation in two cabins, ranging from two doubles to four singles.  From Eynsham, it takes four hours to reach moorings in the centre of Oxford, perfect for a short break.  On a week’s holiday, boaters can continue cruising along the River Thames to Henley, or transfer onto the Oxford Canal and travel to Banbury and back.  ***2020 prices for ‘Cunningham‘ start at £795 for short break, £1,095 for a week. 
  8. The Forest Wagtail’ narrowboat for up to 10 sets sail at Worcester – the spacious new 70ft narrowboat for up to ten people ‘Forest Wagtail’ is available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the River Severn at Worcester.  ‘Forest Wagtail’ has two flexible cabins which can be made up as doubles or singles, plus two seating areas which can be converted into a double or two singles.  There’s an optional high level single bed which can be added above a single bed in both cabins.  ‘Forest Wagtail’ features LED lighting throughout, optional wider beds, two TVs, two bathrooms with showers, a fully equipped kitchen and front deck table.  On a four night short break from Worcester, canal boat holiday-makers can tackle the Droitwich Ring, travelling 21 miles through the beautiful Worcestershire countryside, and passing through 33 locks in around 16 hours.  On a week’s break from Worcester, boaters can travel around the 79-mile long Stourport Ring, which takes in sections of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, the River Severn, Birmingham Canal Main Line and Stourbridge canals.  ***2020 prices aboard the ‘Forest Wagtail’ start at £959 for a short break (three or four nights), and £1,499 for a week. 
  9. The ‘Duchess’ narrowboat for up to four people arrives at Acton Bridge – a new 58ft long ‘Duchess 4’ narrowboat is operating out of Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Acton Bridge on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire.  Offering luxury canal boat hire accommodation for up to four people, the Duchess has two double cabins, one which can be configured either as a double or two singles.  Her impressive facilities include: full central heating with radiators and airing cupboard; flat screen TV with Freeview/DVD player; full size shower with bi-fold door; well equipped kitchen with electric fridge with freezer compartment and four-ring cooker with oven and grill; security safe; a 12v USB point; and WiFi.  On a short break (three or four nights) from Acton Bridge, boaters can travel through glorious Cheshire countryside to Barbridge and back, passing through the Anderton Boat Lift and historic market town of Middlewich.  On a week away, boaters can travel the Cheshire Ring, cruising 98 miles, passing through 92 locks, with highlights including: Barton Swing Aqueduct on the Bridgewater Canal; central Manchester; beautiful Peak Dristrict views and countryside on the Macclesfield and Peak Forest canals; and Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal. ***2020 Prices aboard the ‘Duchess 4’ start at £675 for a short break, £999 for a week. 
  10. The ‘Curlew Sandpiper’ narrowboat for six arrives at Whitchurch – the new 63ft ‘Curlew Sandpiper’ narrowboat is available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Whitchurch in Shropshire.  Offering flexible accommodation for up to six people with optional wider beds, the boat will have two cabins, which can be configured as one double or two singles.  The seating area in the saloon can be converted into a double bed in the evening. On a short break from Whitchurch, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel gently through the Shropshire Lake District to Ellesmere and back.  On a week’s break, they can cruise on to the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen, passing over the Chirk and Pontcysyllte Aqueducts along the way.  ***2020 prices aboard ‘Curlew Sandpiper’ start at £849 for a short break, £1,299 for a week. 

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.