Celebrate Mother’s Day with a relaxing day afloat

Day boat hire on Britain’s peaceful network of inland waterways is a great way to celebrate Mother’s Day, enjoying slow time together watching out for Spring wildlife, blossom on the trees and lambs in the fields, and stopping off for lunch at a canalside pub along the way.

Drifters offers day boat hire from 18 boat yards across England, Scotland and Wales, with prices starting from less than £10 per person. 

Full tuition is included so if you are new to canal boating, it’s a great way to get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.  All our day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle and most also have a toilet, cooker and fridge. 

Here’s a list of our Top 10 day boat destinations for Mums in 2020:

  1. Explore Shakespeare’s country – from Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford Upon Avon, boaters can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote to enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn and a visit to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Mary Arden’s Farm, the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother.  The journey takes two-and-a-half hours each way, and crosses over the impressive Edstone Aqueduct with beautiful views across the Warwickshire countryside. ***Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  2. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from our day boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes less than 20 minutes to reach the World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  Standing at over 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, this incredible structure offers boaters stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  After cruising over the Aqueduct, there are two tunnels to pass through – Whitehouses and Chirk, as well as Chirk Aqueduct with a viaduct running alongside it.  It takes around two-and-a-half hours to reach Chirk and the Poacher’s Pocket pub at Glendrid.  ***Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £120 for up to 10 people, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.
  3. Cruise to the Canal Museum in Stoke Bruerne – from Drifters’ day boat hire base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, it takes around an hour to chug gently along to the pretty canalside village of Stoke Bruerne, passing through the 2,795-metre long Blisworth Tunnel along the way.  Once there, day-boaters can moor up and visit the intriguing Canal Museum, whose stories, films and collections give visitors a fascinating look at the history of Britain’s canals.  And there are plenty of places to eat in Stoke Bruerne, including the Boat Inn, Navigation Inn and the Museum’s Waterside Café. ***Day boat hire aboard ‘Daylark’ which can carry up to 12 people, starts at £140 on a weekday, £175 on weekends and bank holidays.
  4. Catch a lift on the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland – from Falkirk at the junction of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in Scotland, day boat hirers can travel through the incredible Falkirk Wheel, the World’s first rotating boat lift and along the Union Canal to Polmont, where they can moor up and enjoy a short walk to The Claremont Inn.  Or continue on to the canalside Bridge 49 café bar and bistro, next to Causewayend Marina. ***Day boat hire on the ‘Jaggy Thistle’ which can carry up to eight passengers, is £250, Friday to Sunday.
  5. Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, boaters can enjoy incredible mountain views on the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the popular Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62. ***‘Rooster’ can carry up to eight people, prices start at £137.
  6. Boat to beautiful Bradford on Avon – from Hilperton Marina near Trowbridge in Wiltshire on the beautiful Kennet & Avon, day boaters can head west to the picturesque historic town of Bradford on Avon, with its stunning medieval Tithe Barn and choice of pubs, independent cafes and restaurants, including the canalside Barge Inn. ***‘Cheers’ can carry up to 10 people, weekday hire starts at £122, weekends & bank holidays £159.
  7. Tunnel through rural Worcestershire to Hopwood – from Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, a pretty rural route with historic pubs along the way, including the family-friendly Hopwood House at Hopwood.  The route is lock-free but there are two tunnels to pass through, including the 2493-metre long Wast Hill Tunnel. ***‘Emma’ can carry up to 10 people each, weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays £140.
  8. Cruise to Whitchurch for lunch at The Black Bear – from Drifters’ day boat hire base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, boaters can head to the historic market town of Whitchurch.  The lock-free journey, which takes just under two hours, travels through six peaceful miles of countryside.  Once at Whitchurch, day boaters can moor up to explore the town with its half-timbered buildings, independent shops, way-marked circular walks, Brown Moss nature reserve and award-winning ‘Black Bear’ pub.  ***Day boat hire from Whixall aboard ‘Julia’ is priced at £99 for up to 10 people on a weekday, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  9. Cruise through the Leicestershire countryside to Foxton Locks – from Union Wharf in Market Harborough it’s a pleasant two-and-a-half hour cruise along the Grand Union Canal Leicester Line to the top of Foxton Locks, where day boaters can enjoy stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, and lunch at the historic waterside Foxton Locks Inn.  Once at Foxton, day boaters can also walk along to the famous Foxton Staircase flight of locks to watch canal boats pass through and visit the Foxton Inclined Boat Lift Museum to find out about the intriguing Victorian structure that once operated there. ***‘Moorhen’ can carry up to 12 people, weekday hire starts at £160, weekends & bank holidays from £210.
  10. Travel through the Staffordshire countryside to Rugeley – from Drifters’ boat yard at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, day boaters can cruise four miles, passing through two locks to reach the historic market town of Rugeley.  The journey, which takes around two hours, passes the National Trust’s stunning Shugborough Estate, the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wolseley Centre and the popular Wolseley Arms pub at Wolseley Bridge.  ***Day boats ‘Daphne’ and ‘Abi’ can carry up to 10 people each.  Weekday hire from Great Haywood starts at £99, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
Gliding across Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales

Celebrate a Canal Anniversary in 2020

Britain’s historic canal network was built to transport goods and materials, enabling Britain to become the first industrial power in the World.  The 18th century saw a surge in canal building, with 44 Acts for new canals passed between 1791 and 1795 alone, and by 1850, approximately 4,800 miles of inland waterway had been constructed.

Today, our beautiful network of navigable waterways is mostly used for leisure, and has become a haven for wildlife.  There are now 35,000 boats on our canal network, more than at the time of the Industrial Revolution.  But unlike the original working boats, 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 King sized bed, baths and solid-fuel stoves.

Drifters offers the choice of over 550 boats from 45 bases across England, Wales and Scotland.  Each year, canal anniversary celebrations remind us of the history of our waterways.  Here’s our guide to the Top 5 canal anniversary celebrations for 2020:

  1. Celebrate 250 years since the Leeds & Liverpool Canal was authorised with a cruise into the Pennines – on the 19 May 1770, an act was passed which authorised the construction of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.  At 127 miles long – linking the wide waterways of Yorkshire with those of Lancashire and the River Mersey – the Leeds & Liverpool Canal is the longest single canal in the country.  To celebrate, canal boat holiday-makers can take a short break (three or four nights) starting from our narrowboat hire base at Reedley on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Lancashire, and travel north east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal into North Yorkshire.  Along the way, the route passes through the villages of Nelson, Barrowford, Salterforth, Barnoldswick and Greenber Field.  Once at East Marton, there’s a choice of canalside pubs and the canal connects to the Pennine Way just south of the village.  The journey there and back covers 47 miles, passes through 10 locks (five each way) and takes around 17½ hours.
  2. Celebrate 250 years since the first section of the Trent & Mersey Canal opened with a journey through the Staffordshire countryside– the Trent & Mersey Canal, which begins close to the River Mersey near Runcorn and finishes at its junction with the River Trent in Derbyshire, was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1766.  In 1770 the first sections of the Trent & Mersey Canal opened up – including Derwent Mouth to Shugborough in June, and Great Heywood to Weston in September.  On a short break from our canal boat hire base at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, narrowboat holiday-makers cruise along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Fradley Junction.  The journey takes around five hours, travelling 12 peaceful miles of Staffordshire countryside and passing through just five locks.   
  3. Celebrate the bicentenary of the opening of the Regent’s Canal with a Capital cruise – on 1 August 1820 the Regent’s Canal opened between Camden and the Regent’s Canal Dock at Limehouse Basin.  The Regent’s Canal was built to link the Grand Junction Canal’s Paddington Arm (which opened in 1801), with the Thames at Limehouse.  Today, stretching close to nine miles with 12 locks, this quiet waterway offers visitors an oasis of calm in the Capital.  From Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Berkshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel to Limehouse and back on a two week break.  The journey, which travels a total of 192 miles, passes through 114 locks and takes around 80 cruising hours.
  4. Celebrate 300 years of River Weaver Navigation history – on 23 March 1720, the River Weaver Navigation Trustees were appointed by an Act to make the River navigable, initially for the transport of salt.  Today the River Navigation stretches for 20 miles from Winsford in Cheshire to the Manchester Ship Canal at Runcorn, with five locks on its route.  It connects to the Trent & Mersey Canal via the impressive Anderton Boat Lift, which lifts boats 50ft between the two waterways in two giant caissons.  Salt mining subsidence has left lakes, known as flashes, where salty water is now home to coastal plants and a rich array of wildlife.  On a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Anderton, narrowboat holiday-makers can cruise along the River Weaver to Runcorn and back, travelling a total of 30 miles and passing through 10 locks (five each way). 
  5. Celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Grand Union Canal with a journey round the Warwickshire Ring – in 2020, the Grand Union Canal will celebrate 90 years since its formation, when eight independent waterways were merged.  Stretching 137 miles through 166 locks, the Grand Union Canal was built to transport goods between London and Birmingham.  From our narrowboat rental base at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, boaters can access the Warwickshire Ring.  Travelling sections of the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals, this popular circuit covers 104 miles, passes through 120 locks and takes around 60 hours to navigate.  It can be done in a week, but a 10-day or two-week break gives more time for sight-seeing.  Destination highlights along the way include: the pretty canal village of Braunston; the awesome flight of 21 locks at Hatton; Warwick Castle, said to be Britain’s ‘Greatest medieval experience’; and Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin and Brindleyplace. 

Top 10 canal events in 2020

Crick Boat Show in Northamptonshire

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

These events make great destinations for canal boat holiday-makers, so we’ve put together our Top 10 events for 2020, along with information on our nearest canal boat hire bases:          

  1. Easter Boat Gathering, 10-13 April – the annual Easter Boat Gathering at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port, now in its 43rd year, marks the official start of the boating season.  Over the weekend, dozens of boats will moor up across the Museum’s seven-acre site and visitors can enjoy live music, workshop tours, historic boats and museum activities.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire bases are at Bunbury and Anderton, both on the Shropshire Union Canal and
  2. St Richard’s Canal Festival, 7-10 May – this annual event, which takes place in Vines Park alongside the Droitwich Barge Canal, is organised by the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Society.  The event offers family entertainment, live music, boats, classic cars, art workshops, community stalls, a real ale bar and the annual ‘Great Droitwich Duck Race’ with over 1,000 plastic ducks competing.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat rental bases are Worcester and Stoke Prior.
  3. Rickmansworth Canal Festival, 16-17 May – celebrating canals, the community and the environment, the annual Rickmansworth Canal Festival attracts over 100 canal boats from across the country.  Occupying part of the Aquadrome and the Grand Union Canal towpath between Stockers Lock and Batchworth Lock, the event hosts a range of music, performing arts, displays, presentations, traders and catering.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston.
  4. Scottish Boat Rally, 23-24 May – Scottish Canals will host a Scottish Boat Rally on the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in the Scottish Lowlands as part of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020.  Drifters nearest canal boat hire base is at Falkirk, where the two canals meet.
  5. Crick Boat Show, 23-25 May – 300 exhibitors will gather at Crick Marina on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal near Daventry to celebrate the canals and showcase thousands of inland waterways products and services.  Now Britain’s biggest inland waterways festival, the event offers visitors a fantastic day out by the water, with free boat trips, over 50 boats to look around, live music, children’s activities and a wide variety of food and drink stalls.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire bases are at Gayton, Braunston and Market Harborough.
  6. Chester Dragon Boat Festival, 7 June – this annual and very colourful charity event on the River Dee in Chester sees over 20 dragon boat teams of up to 16 paddlers and a drummer battling to become the champions.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire rental centres are Bunbury, Anderton and Brewood.
  7. Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, 7-12 July – every yearthousands of people descend on the pretty town of Llangollen on the Llangollen Canal to celebrate dance, music, costume and culture.  The Llangollen Eisteddfod is one of the world’s great musical and culture events with six days of world-class competitions and concerts featuring an array of international performers.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire bases are at Trevor, Chirk and Blackwater Meadow.
  8. Stratford River Festival, 6-7 July – this two-day free annual event offers visitors waterside family fun in Stratford-upon-Avon with music, a gathering of boats, craft and food stalls, family zone, charity stalls, illuminated boat parade and spectacular fireworks.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Stratford Canal at Wotton Wawen.
  9. Stoke Bruerne Village at War, 12-13 September – organised by the Friends of the Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum, the annual vintage themed Village at War event takes people back to the 40’s with live music, tea dances, vintage fashion shows, a Black Market, tanks and other military vehicles, re-enactments and displays.  Historic boats are on show, including the Museum’s own restored narrowboat ‘Sculptor’, which saw action in London as a fire boat during the Blitz.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire bases are Gayton, Braunston and Rugby.
  10. Stone Food & Drink Festival, 19-20 September – Staffordshire’s biggest celebration of all things gastronomic takes place at the Georgian market town of Stone on the Trent & Mersey Canal.  As well as a range of themed food marquees, the festival hosts demonstrations by top chefs, a beer festival, live music, gourmet dining in the pop up restaurant, street food and a farmers’ market.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat rental bases are Great Haywood, Brewood and Peak District.
The Union Canal in Scotland

Top 10 canal boat holidays 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 a great holiday experience.

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

If you’re planning to pack up and ship out to learn the ropes of a narrowboat holiday adventure in 2020, here’s a list of our top 10 canal boat holidays for beginners:

  1. Glide through the Breacon Beacons – isolated from the main canal network, the scenic Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park.  This quiet waterway, which with very few locks is nice and easy for beginners, offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views, dark night skies for star gazing, plenty of wildlife to watch out for and a series of village pubs to enjoy along the way.  On a week’s holiday from our base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, you can cruise to Brecon and back, passing through Georgian Crickhowell, with its fascinating 13th century castle, and Talybont-on-Usk with walks to the waterfalls at Blaen y Glyn. 
  2. Cruise to the bright lights of Birmingham – boasting more canals than Venice, Birmingham simply has to be visited by water.  And with no locks between our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove and Birmingham City Centre, it’s the perfect opportunity for novice canal boat holiday-makers to ‘dip their toe in the water’.  It takes just five hours to reach Birmingham, with the first half of the journey passing through fields, woodlands and sleepy villages.  Once in the centre of Birmingham, you can find over-night moorings at Gas Street Basin, with easy access to Brindleyplace, the Mailbox, Sea Life Centre and other city centre attractions. 
  3. Boat into the Pennines – starting from our base at Reedley on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Lancashire, you can travel north east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal into North Yorkshire, passing through Nelson, Barrowford, Salterforth, Barnoldswick and Greenber Field along the way.  Once at East Marton, there’s a choice of canalside pubs and the canal connects to the Pennine Way just south of the village.  The journey there and back covers 47 miles, passes through 10 locks (five each way) and takes around 17½ hours.
  4. Float gently along to Fradley – on a short break from our canal boat hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, you can head south to Fradley Junction, where the Coventry Canal meets the Trent & Mersey.  The journey takes around five hours, travelling through 12 peaceful miles of Staffordshire countryside and passing through just five locks.  At Fradley, you can moor up to visit the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn, and take a wander around the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
  5. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular navigations on the network.  The journey from our narrowboat hire base at Trevor near Llangollen 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 World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’, with incredible views of the Dee Valley 30 metres below.
  6. Potter through the Peak District – Drifters’ Peak District base, at the junction of the Caldon and Trent & Mersey canals in Stoke on Trent, offers a fantastic way to experience this beautiful National Park in the heart of England.  Starting at the Etruria, home of the industrial potteries, the gentle eight-hour cruise along the peaceful Caldon Canal to Cheddleton Flint Mill is perfect for beginners on a short break.  The route, which passes through 12 locks, takes you out into open countryside, through Denford with its popular Hollybush Inn and on to Cheddleton with its Flint Mill Museum, Black Lion pub and Old School Tearooms.
  7. Visit Georgian Bath – from our canal boat hire base at Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, the World Heritage Status City of Bath is a delightful six-hour cruise away.  The route passes through seven locks, over two stunning Bath stone aqueducts and past a series of popular historic canalside pubs, including the Barge Inn at Bradford on Avon and the Cross Guns at Avoncliff.  Once in Bath, you can use your canal boat as a base to enjoy all that the City has to offer, including the Roman Baths, Jane Austen Museum and Royal Crescent.
  8. Watch out for wildlife on the Ashby Canal – on a week’s holiday from our canal boat hire base at Braunston, you 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 follows a section of the North Oxford Canal to Rugby and then joins the Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury Junction.  Five miles later, the route transfers onto the peaceful lock-free Ashby Canal, which winds gently through countryside for 22 miles.  A six mile section of this rural waterway is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), recognising the importance of its wildlife, including nine species of dragonfly, the water shrew, water vole and rare native white-clawed crayfish. 
  9. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh – from our boat yard at Falkirk,Edinburgh Quay is a sedate 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal.  The journey, perfect for beginners on a mid-week or week-long break, starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first and only 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, with easy access to the City’s many attractions, including Edinburgh Castle and Mary King Close, frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.
  10. Boat to Brewood and back – the journey to Brewood and back from our narrowboat rental base at Gailey on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal offers an excellent short break route for narrowboat holiday beginners.  Travelling a total of 25 miles, and passing through just two locks (one on the way, one on the way back), this gentle journey through the Shropshire countryside passes the waterside Anchor Inn at Cross Green and transfers boaters onto the Shropshire Union Canal at Autherley Junction.  On reaching the historic village of Brewood, with its half-timbered houses cottages and Georgian houses, visitors have a good choice of places to eat, including the canalside Bridge Inn.
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 – from March 2020, the new 49ft ‘Common Swift’ narrowboat will be 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 – from next March, the new luxury 57ft Admiral Class narrowboat for two people ‘Collingwood’ will be 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 from next March, the new 70ft narrowboat for up to eight people ‘Louisa’ will be 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 – from March 2020, the new 69ft ‘Wood Warbler’ narrowboat will be 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 – from 25 April 2020 the new luxury 65ft Admiral Class narrowboat ‘Cunningham’, with accommodation for up to four people, will be 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 – from next Spring, the spacious new 70ft narrowboat for up to ten people ‘Forest Wagtail’ will be 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 – from next Spring, a new 58ft long ‘Duchess 4’ narrowboat will be 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 – from March 2020, the new 63ft ‘Curlew Sandpiper’ narrowboat will be 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. 

 

Celebrate Christmas on the Canals

Enjoy Christmas on the Canals

With quiet canals, frosty towpaths, historic waterside pubs and festive waterside destinations to enjoy, a holiday on Britain’s peaceful canal network is a great way to get away this Christmas. 

Drifters offers winter cruising* from a number of its bases, with boats ranging from snug narrowboats for two to family vessels for twelve.

It’s free to moor almost anywhere on the network, so a narrowboat could provide the perfect base for a rural retreat or to enjoy Christmas and New Year celebrations in exciting waterside destinations like Birmingham, Warwick and Stratford upon Avon.

All our boats have central heating, hot water, televisions and DVD players.  Some also have multi-fuel stoves and Wifi.  So, whatever the weather, it’s always nice and cosy on board.  Prices over Christmas and New Year start at start at £495 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, weekly hire from £705.

Here are our Top 6 Christmas and New Year breaks afloat for 2019:

  1. Wend your way to Warwick for Christmas at the Castle – on a week’s break from Drifters’ base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to Warwick and back to explore its stunning medieval castle on the banks of the River Avon.  Over Christmas, visitors the castle will find a 20-foot high Christmas tree in the Great Hall, ‘Stories with Santa’ in the Library, ‘A Winter Wedding’ in the Princess Tower and a spectacular Winter Birds of Prey show.  Canalside pubs to enjoy along the way include the Blue Lias pub at the bottom of the Stockton Flight and the Cuttle Inn at Long Itchington.
  2. Soar across the Stream in the Sky to the Shropshire Lake District – from our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel to Ellesmere and back, passing over the awesome World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  This magnificent feat of Victorian engineering carries the canal 30 metres above the Dee Valley, with incredible views to enjoy.  Top mooring sites along the way include The Poacher’s Pocket pub at Gledrid and the Aqueduct Inn at Froncysyllte.  Once at Ellesmere, at the centre of the Shropshire Lake District, boaters can moor up to visit the town’s eateries, and the Mere with its Motte & Bailey Castle and Cremorne Gardens.
  3. Cruise gently through the countryside to Fradley – from our narrowboat holiday hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can head south, reaching Fradley Junction in five hours.  The journey passes through 12 peaceful miles of countryside, with just five locks to negotiate along the way.  Highlights along the way include The Wolseley Centre run by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the Wolseley Arms and the village of Rugeley with its canalside Mossley Tavern.  At Fradley, boaters can enjoy refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn and explore the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve. 
  4. Cruise to Stratford for festive celebrations in the home of the Bard –  it’s a picturesque six-hour cruise to Shakespeare’s Stratford from our narrowboat hire base on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen in Warwickshire.  Once there, boaters can moor up in Bancroft Basin in the centre of Stratford to enjoy festive fun in the home of Bard, including stunning Christmas lights, fantastic markets, atmospheric carol singers and performances of Shakespeare’s ‘King John’ at the Swan Theatre. 
  5. Travel into Birmingham for festive fun afloat – from our canal boat hire rental base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes just five hours to cruise into the centre of Birmingham.  Once there, boaters can moor up in Gas Street Basin, close to Brindleyplace to enjoy Christmas in Birmingham, including ‘Snow White’ at the Hippodrome, The Big Wheel and Ice Rink at Centenary Square and the Frankfurt Christmas Market at Victoria Square (until 23 Dec).  
  6. Travel through the countryside to Coventry and back – from Drifter’s narrowboat hire centre on the North Oxford Canal at Rugby, canal boat holiday-makers can travel through the countryside along the North Oxford and Coventry canals to Coventry and back, passing through a series of canalside villages with traditional country pubs along the way. The journey there and back travels a total of 35 miles, passing through just two locks (one each way) and takes around 15 hours.  Once in Coventry, boaters can moor up in Coventry Basin to explore the City, including Christmas Carols at the magnificent Coventry Cathedral and ‘Puss in Boots’ panto fun at the Belgrade Theatre.

*NB some of our routes will be affected by winter maintenance work on the canal network.

 

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 5 narrowboat holidays on the Trent & Mersey Canal

Top 5 narrowboat holidays on the Trent & Mersey Canal

The 93-mile long Trent & Mersey Canal begins close to the River Mersey near Runcorn and finishes at its junction with the River Trent in Derbyshire.  It has 73 locks and several feats of canal engineering, including the magnificent Anderton Boat Lift, which raises or lowers boats 15 metres between the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal, and the 2,647-metre long Harecastle Tunnel.

The Trent & Mersey Canal evolved as a direct result of the development of the pottery industry in North Staffordshire.  In 1765 Josiah Wedgewood, the top producer of pottery, put forward the idea of building a canal to link the Potteries with the River Mersey. His vision was made possible by the genius of canal engineer James Brindley.

Opening in 1777, it was the country’s first long distance canal and its effect was instant and phenomenal – transport costs were quartered and the whole area expanded.  As well as pottery, other industries prospered from it including the brewing industry at Burton on Trent, salt at Middlewich, Northwich and Sandbach, and coal mining in North Staffordshire.

Today the canal takes narrowboat holiday-makers through some of the best countryside and scenery that our waterways have to offer.  To celebrate, here are Drifters’ Top 5 canal boat holidays on the Trent & Mersey Canal for 2020:

  1. Float gently along to Fradley – on a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can head south to Fradley Junction, where the Coventry Canal meets the Trent & Mersey.  The journey takes around five hours, travelling 12 peaceful miles of Staffordshire countryside and passing through just five locks.  At Fradley, boaters can moor up to visit the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn, and take a wander around the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
  2. Travel the Four Counties Ring – on a 10-day or two-week holiday from our narrowboat hire base at Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, canal boat holiday-makers can tackle the Four Counties Ring.  This popular circuit, which passes through Cheshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire and the West Midlands, travels 110 miles, through 94 locks and takes around 55 hours.  As well as a section of the Trent & Mersey Canal, it also travels stretches of the Shropshire Union, 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. 
  3. Cruise to Congleton & back – from our Peak District canal boat hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Stoke-on-Trent, boaters can cruise to Congleton and back on a short break, travelling a total of 22 miles, passing through two locks (one each way) and taking around 10 hours.  Travelling north along the Trent & Mersey, boaters soon reach the extraordinary one-and-a-half-mile long Harecastle Tunnel, which takes around 45 minutes to travel through.  Then at Hardings Wood Junction, boaters can transfer on to the Macclesfield Canal, enjoying lovely open countryside with beautiful hillside views.  Along the way, from Bridge 86 it’s a short walk to the National Trust’s fascinating Tudor Little Moreton Hall, and once at the historic market town of Congleton, there are plenty of pubs and restaurants to choose from, including the Lion & Swan 16th century coaching inn.
  4. Steer gently through the countryside to Stone – from Drifters’ canal boat yard at Great Haywood it takes just five hours of gentle cruising along the Trent & Mersey Canal to reach the historic Shropshire market town of Stone.  Stone is renowned as the food and drink capital of Staffordshire, with regular markets, a good choice of restaurants and the annual Food & Drink Festival in October.  Along the way, there are just four locks to pass through and plenty of pubs to enjoy, including The Woolpack at Weston and The Holly Bush Inn at Salt.
  5. Tour the mighty Cheshire Ring – on a week or 10-day long holiday from our narrowboat hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Acton Bridge, near Northwich in Cheshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel round the Cheshire Ring.  This epic journey cruises a total of 97 miles, passes through 92 locks and takes around 56 hours. The Cheshire Ring takes boaters past the Anderton Boat Lift, through four tunnels and over two aqueducts.  It travels through the centre of Manchester and the Peak District via the Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals. Highlights include: the flight of 26 locks on the Trent & Mersey Canal between Middlewich and Kidsgrove known at ‘Heartbreak Hill’; and stunning views from the Top Lock at Marple on the Peak Forest Canal.
Anderton Boat Lift

 

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 canal boat holidays for 2020

Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2020

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 enjoy visiting along the way. 

Drifters offers over 550 boats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales.  Tuition is included in all our holiday packages.

Here are Drifters’ Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2020:

  1. Celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Grand Union Canal with a cruise to Warwick Castle – in 2020, the Grand Union Canal will celebrate 90 years since its formation, when eight independent waterways were merged.  On a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Grand Union Canal at Stockton in Warwickshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can reach the historic centre of Warwick 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 journey to moorings close to the Castle cruises 11 miles, passes through 22 locks and takes around nine hours.
  2. Wend your way to East Marton and back – starting from our 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.
  3. 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 our canal boat rental 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.
  4. Cruise the epic Stourport Ring – on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ Tardebigge boat yard on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, canal boat holiday-makers can travel the popular Stourport Ring, mixing long sections of countryside cruising with key waterside destinations.  Cruising 84 miles in around 44 hours, this circuit takes boaters through 118 locks, including the longest lock flight in Britain (the 30 locks at Tardebigge) and along sections of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal, the River Severn, Birmingham Canal Main Line and Stourbridge canals.  Along the way, narrowboat holidays pass through central Birmingham, the Stourport Basins, Kinver with its National Trust rock houses and the City of Worcester with its magnificent cathedral.
  5. 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. 
  6. Glide along the Forth & Clyde to visit Glasgow – from our narrowboat 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.
  7. Watch out for wildlife on the Ashby Canal – on a week’s holiday from our 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. 
  8. Glide through the Peak District to Cheddleton and back – on a short break from our Peak District narrowboat hire base at Etruria in Stoke on Trent, canal boat holiday-makers can travel into the Peak District along the beautiful Caldon Canal, reaching Cheddleton Flint Mill in around eight hours, passing through 12 locks and travelling just over 11 miles.  As the Caldon Canal leaves Stoke, it begins to pass through gently rolling hills and wooded areas, past old mills and then alongside the stunning River Churnet.  At Denford, boaters can take refreshment at the popular Hollybush Inn and at Consall Forge, the secluded Black Lion pub serves good food and real ales.
  9. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Llangollen and back – from Drifters’ base at Chirk on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen, 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. Once in Llangollen, boaters can moor up to enjoy exploring this pretty town nestled on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains, including its regular markets packed with local produce, choice of independent shops and restaurants and famous Horseshoe Falls.
  10. 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.