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! 
Falkirk Wheel in Scotland

 

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. 

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

Top 6 waterways on screen destinations

Celebrity 5 Go Barging

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

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

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

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

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.
Watch out for Wildlife

Top 5 canal boat holidays for wildlife spotting

Britain’s 3,000-mile canal and river network provides great habitats for an abundance of wildlife species. Cruising gently through the countryside, canal boat holiday-makers can enjoy spotting anything from ducks, moorhens, swans and dragonflies, to kingfishers, otters, bats and water voles.  And even in city centres, waterways provide safe havens for a wide variety of plants and animals.

Drifters offers over 550 boats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales.  Here’s our guide to the best narrowboat holidays for wildlife spotting:

Spot Kingfishers on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Isolated from the main canal network, this beautiful waterway in South Wales meanders peacefully for 36 miles through the Brecon Beacons National Park, providing excellent habitat for many woodland and water birds, including kingfishers.

Usually glimpsed as a sudden flash of glistening blue, the ‘King of Fishers’ travels at lightning speeds catching several fish each day.  These colourful birds raise up to three broods every season and fiercely defend their territory at all times.  There are more than 80 species of kingfisher around the world, but only one is native to Britain. 

***On a short break (three or four nights), from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Goytre Wharf on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, boaters can cruise to Llangynidr and back, enjoying dramatic views of the Usk Valley.  On a week’s break, boaters can cruise as far as the historic market town of Brecon. 

Watch out for Bats on the Caldon Canal

The 17-mile long Caldon Canal runs into the Peak District from the Trent & Mersey Canal at Etruria in Stoke-on-Trent, to Froghall Wharf in the Staffordshire Moorlands.  Its stunning wooded sections, where it passes through the beautiful Churnet Valley, provide particularly rich habitat for bats.

There are 18 different kinds of bat in Britain, including Daubenton’s bats, also known as the ‘water bat’.  They use the canal and river network extensively for foraging and they can frequently be found roosting in hollowed out tree trunks and many of the 200 year old engineering structures, such as bridges and aqueducts, which were built alongside the canals themselves.

Bats can be spotted around dusk as they venture out to hunt their insect prey.  They use a highly sophisticated form of radar – high frequency squeak – which bounces off objects back to the bat. This tells it the size, location, velocity and even texture of whatever is in its path.

***On a short break from Drifters’ 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. 

Count Dragonflies on the Ashby Canal

A six-mile section of this peaceful waterway in Leicestershire is designated a Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI), recognising the diversity of its plant, insect and animal life, including nine species of dragonfly

These colourful insects, whose origins began 300 million years ago, are voracious hunters.  They use the reed fringes of our canals and rivers as breeding and hunting grounds.  They are insects in the sub-order ‘Anisoptera’ meaning “unequal winged” as their hind wings are usually shorter and broader than their forewings.

***On a week’s holiday from our narrowboat hire base on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston, boaters 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.

Look out for Otters on the Montgomery Canal

This historic waterway runs for 38 miles between England and Wales.  Designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on both sides of the border, and the entire length in Wales is also recognised as a Special Area of Conservation, making it one of the most important sites for wildlife in Europe. 

Currently only around half the Montgomery Canal is navigable, including a seven-mile section from its junction with the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire at Frankton Locks to Gronwyn Wharf.  Work is underway to restore a further section, extending this navigable stretch to Crickheath.  As part of this £4.2million project, which is expected to be completed next year, the Canal & River Trust, Shropshire Union Canal Society and other partners are constructing two nature reserves to ensure important local habitat is protected, including otters and water voles.  

Thanks to the work of conservationists, the UK’s population of otters is showing healthy signs of growth after its sad decline in the 1950’s.  Lakes, rivers and coastal areas are the otters’ natural habitats but these timid nocturnal creatures can also be seen hunting on quiet stretches of the canals.

***On a short break from our narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Chirk, it takes around eight hours to cruise to Gronwyn Wharf on the Montgomery Canal, travelling 15 miles and passing through 10 locks.

Listen for Reed Bunting on the Droitwich Canals

Many birds live and nest amongst the reeds that line sections of our inland waterways, including the moorhen, coot, sage warbler and the chirruping reed bunting.  One of the best waterways to see these lively little birds, perched up high on reed tops singing at the top of their voices, are the Droitwich Canals in Worcestershire. These historic waterways offer a linear mosaic of habitats, including substantial reedbeds.

Reed buntings are sparrow-sized but slim with long, deeply notched tails.  The male has a black head with a white collar in the summer.  The black head becomes a dull brown in the winter.  Females have a brown head, buff throat and buff-coloured lines above and below their eyes.  Reed buntings feed on seeds and insects and they nest in a cup of grass and moss built on the ground, usually amongst reeds or grasses in a wet or marshy place.

***The Droitwich Canals can be reached on a short break from Drifters’ canal boat holiday rental base at Worcester on the River Severn.  The Droitwich Ring, a 21-mile, 33-lock canal boat holiday circuit which takes around 16 hours to navigate, takes in sections of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and the River Severn, as well as the Droitwich Barge and Junction canals.

Drifters’ 2020 hire prices start at £554 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £791 for a week.  Tuition is included in all Drifters holiday packages.

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.

 

Magnificent cathedrals to visit

Magnificent cathedrals to visit on a canal boat holiday

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

 

Top 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.