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. 

 

Top 7 Autumn Breaks Afloat

All aboard for Autumn Afloat

A canal boat holiday is a great way to enjoy the splendid colours of autumn in the hedgerows and trees that line our waterways, as they are dramatically mirrored in the water.

There’s plenty of wildlife to spot along the way during the autumn months, including flocks of fieldfare searching for hawthorn berries, and small mammals stocking up on food before the winter.

There are also foraging opportunities along the way, such as apples, blackberries, sweet chestnuts, rosehips, elderberries, damsons and sloes – perfect for fresh fruit crumbles and drinks on board.

To celebrate, here are our top nine destinations for this autumn:

  1. Amble along the Ashby to Snarestone and back – 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.  Here in 1485 the reign of Richard III ended and Henry Tudor became Henry VII, the first of the Tudor monarchs.
  2. Glide across The Stream in the Sky from our new canal boat rental base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, boaters can reach the pretty town of Llangollen in 12 hours with just two locks to pass through, perfect for a relaxing week afloat. Along the way, boaters travel through the historic market town of Ellesmere and over the magnificent Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (also known as the Stream in the Sky), which this year celebrates 10 years of World Heritage Status.  Once in Llangollen, canal boat holiday makers can enjoy visiting some of the town’s many local shops, restaurants and markets, including The Buttered Crust Café and Bailey’s Deli.
  3. Go blackberry picking on the Stratford Canal – from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, it’s a picturesque seven-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon, with plenty of hedgerow foraging opportunities along the way – perfect for a short break.  Once at the birthplace of the Bard, boaters can moor up in Bancroft Basin, just a stone’s throw from the Swan Theatre, to explore the town’s many independent shops, restaurants and museums, including Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Tudor World. 
  4. Float through the Brecon Beacons to Taylbont-on-Usk – the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal offers 35 miles of quiet countryside to explore with incredible views of the Brecon Beacons.  From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, on a short break (three or four nights) boaters can journey through the wooded Usk Valley to Talybont-on-Usk, visiting villages and historic market towns along the way, including the Georgian town of Crickhowell with its 13th century castle.  Once at Talybont-on-Usk, boaters can enjoy walking access to Blaen y Glyn waterfalls and a choice of pubs, including the Star Inn and the White Hart Inn.  The total journey there and back travels 36 miles, passing through 10 locks and takes around 18 hours.  
  5. Visit the old mill town of Hebden Bridge – on a short break (three or four nights) rom Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation through the Calder Valley 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
  6. Explore Georgian Bath afloat – on a short break from our Hilperton boat yard on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to the World Heritage Status City of Bath and back, enjoying beautiful views of the southern Cotswold Hills along the way.  The journey to Sydney Wharf takes just six hours, travelling across two magnificent aqueducts, passing through one lock and several canalside pubs, including the popular Cross Guns at Avoncliff.  Once in Bath, boaters can moor up and it’s a short walk to the City Centre to visit some of the City’s world class attractions, including the Roman Baths and Royal Crescent. 
  7. Complete the Stourport Ring – from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, on a week’s break narrowboat holiday-makers canal travel the popular Stourport Ring, travelling a total of 74 miles and passing through 118 locks, which takes around 44 hours).  The route takes in the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, upper section of the River Severn, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, Birmingham Canal Main Line and the Birmingham Canal Old Main Line.  The Stourport Ring visits three cities – Wolverhampton, Birmingham and the ancient City of Worcester.  Highlights include: Wolverhampton 21 locks; Brindleyplace and Gas Street Basin in Birmingham City Centre; open countryside on the River Severn; Stourport Basins; Bratch Locks at Wombourne; the pretty village of Kinver with access to the National Trust’s famous rock houses; the Black Country Living Museum; and Cadbury World.
  8. Cruise through the Scottish lowlands to Linlithgow and back – from our canal boat hire base at the Falkirk Wheel boat lift, it’s a peaceful five-hour cruise through the Scottish lowlands along the Union Canal to the historic town of Linlithgow – perfect for a short break (three or four nights).  The route begins passing over 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, and sample some of the town’s excellent eateries, including the award-winning Four Marys pub.   
  9. Potter through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, it takes around 10 hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man – perfect for a mid-week break afloat.  Along the way, boaters pass through 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.  Once at Market Drayton, boaters can enjoy picking up supplies at the Wednesday Cheshire market and admiring the town’s beautiful architecture.

 

Top 5 narrowboat holidays on the Trent & Mersey Canal

All Aboard for some August Bank Holiday Slow Time

Research shows people feel happier and more relaxed by Britain’s beautiful inland waterways* and with speed limits of just four miles per hour, canal boat holidays are often said to be ‘the fastest way to slow down’. 

So for anyone thinking of slowing right down over the August Bank Holiday, here’s a list of Drifters’ Top 7 August bank holiday boating breaks:

  1. Glide through the Peak District to Cheddleton and back – 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.  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.
  2. Go star gazing in the Brecon Beacons – isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park, said to have some of some of the highest quality dark skies in the UK, perfect for star gazing.  Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, this peaceful waterway, with very few locks, offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views and a series of villages with country pubs to enjoy along the way.   On a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, boaters can cruise lock-free to Talybont-on-Usk and back, with excellent walking trails and eateries, the Canalside Café and the Star Inn.  
  3. Watch out for wildlife on the Ashby Canal – on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Braunston, canal boat holiday-makers can 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, 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.  
  4. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey to Hungerford – from our 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 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. 
  5. Step back in time at the Black Country Museum – from Drifters’ Tardebigge canal boat hire base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s an eight-hour, three-lock journey to moorings right outside the fascinating 26-acre open-air Black Country Living Museum.  Here visitors can meet costumed characters explaining what it was like to live and work in one of the world’s most heavily industrialised landscapes, explore period shops and homes, have a drink in the ‘Bottle & Glass Inn’, test their times tables in a 1912 school lesson, sample the Museum’s famous traditionally cooked 1930’s-style fish and chips, take a ride on a vintage tram or bus or take a trip ‘into the thick’ to experience life in an 1850’s coal mine.  
  6. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Trevor on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which this year celebrates 10 years of World Heritage Status, is just a five minute cruise away.  Standing at over 125ft high above the Dee Valley, this incredible 1,000ft long structure consists of a cast iron trough supported on iron arched ribs, carried on 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.  After crossing the Aqueduct, boaters can cruise on to Ellesmere, also known as ‘The Shropshire Lake District’, with a choice of canalside pubs to enjoy along the way. 
  7. Cruise to Todmorden for some stunning Pennine scenery – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the Rochdale Canal to Todmorden, a journey which takes around eight hours, travelling 10 miles and passing through 17 locks.  This historic town offers visitors fine Victorian architecture, plenty of pubs and restaurants, and a busy market.  Along the way, boaters pass through the beautiful Calder Valley village of Mytholmroyd, the birthplace of Ted Hughes, and the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills, with a series of scenic waymarked walks and an amazing variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs. 

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Top 9 Summer Holidays Afloat

Top 9 Summer Holidays Afloat

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

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

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

Here are our Top 9 summer destinations for 2019:

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

 

Yorkshire Canals Celebrated at Chelsea

Yorkshire Canals Celebrated at Chelsea

Welcome to Yorkshire is marking its 10th birthday and 10th year at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (21-25 May 2019) with a garden which aims to capture the beauty of the county’s canals and celebrate the drama of Yorkshire’s rich industrial heritage. 

Designed by Mark Gregory, the highlight of the 2019 Welcome to Yorkshire show garden will be an authentically built canal with flowing water and genuine canal lock gates. The design also includes a towpath and a lock keeper’s lodge with a colourful garden and vegetable patch.

Lock gates recently removed from a canal in Yorkshire have been donated by Canal & River Trust for the garden.  The Trust has teamed up with the tourism organisation for this year’s prestigious flower show to celebrate the county’s rich industrial heritage and the hundreds of miles of stunning waterways which run across the county.

Drifters offers the choice of 550 boats from 45 bases across the country, including two in Yorkshire.  From week-long one-way trips across the Pennines to short breaks to Hebden Bridge, Todmorden, East Marton and Skipton, Yorkshire’s beautiful network of waterways offers a wide range of holidays afloat.

2019 prices from Drifters’ Yorkshire bases start at £460 for a short break (three or four nights), £710 for a week on a boat for two people.

To celebrate Welcome to Yorkshire’s canal themed RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden, Drifters has put together its Top 6 Yorkshire canal boat holidays:

  1. Travel one-way across the Pennines – starting from Drifters’ base at Barnoldswick on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Skipton, this week-long holiday is truly one of the great canal journeys, taking canal boat holiday-makers across the backbone of England.  The scenery varies from the timeless calm of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal summit to the hubbub of the Leeds City Centre waterfront, and includes the Bingley Five Rise locks (one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways), and the opportunity to visit Sir Titus Salt’s World Heritage Status model town at Saltaire.
  2. Visit Skipton and its medieval castle – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Barnoldswick, boaters can head east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Skipton and back (travelling a total of 26 miles, 30 locks, 20 hours).  This breath-taking route winds along the contours of the side of Airedale, with extensive views of sheep country – farmhouses, barns, stone walls and the occasional village or town.  Once in Skipton, boaters can moor in the centre of the town, visit shops and restaurants and explore the 900-year old Skipton Castle, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.
  3. Toddle 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 (20 miles, 34 locks, 16 hours).  This historic town offers visitors fine Victorian architecture, plenty of pubs and restaurants, and a busy market.  Along the way, boaters pass through the beautiful Calder Valley village of Mytholmroyd, the birthplace of Ted Hughes, and   the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills, with an amazing variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs and a series of scenic waymarked walks. 
  4. Navigate to East Marton and back – starting from our canal boat hire base at Reedley on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Lancashire, boaters 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 to cruise.
  5. Journey to the Hepworth Wakefield – on a mid-week break from our narrowboat hire base at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Wakefield and back to visit the fabulous Hepworth Wakefield Art Gallery (40 miles, 52 locks, 22 hours).  With canal boat moorings right outside, the Hepworth Wakefield is the largest purpose-built exhibition space outside London, offering visitors over 1,600 square metres of light-filled gallery spaces to explore.
  6. Navigate the South Pennine Ring – on a two-week break from our canal boat rental base at Sowerby Bridge, experienced boaters can cruise the epic South Pennine Ring circuit, travelling a total of 71 miles and passing through 197 locks in around 80 hours.  The route crosses the Pennines twice, and includes navigating through England’s longest and highest tunnel – the Standedge Tunnel which takes boaters through 3¼ miles of pitch dark.  This circuit takes boaters pass through Brighouse, Cooper Bridge, Huddersfield, Slaithwaite, Marsden, Stalybridge, Ashton, Manchester, Todmorden and Hebden Bridge.  It cruises parts of five canals – the Rochdale Canal, Calder & Hebble Navigation, Huddersfield Broad Canal, Huddersfield Narrow Canal and the Ashton Canal.

 

 

 

Top 10 short breaks

Top 10 Late May Bank Holiday Boating Breaks

With Britain’s inland waterways in better shape than ever and the health benefits of spending time by the water proven, narrowboat holidays are becoming increasingly popular.

So why not pack up and ship out for a family adventure afloat over the Whitsun May holiday?

You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat and all our operators provide boat steering tuition as part of their holiday packages.

Drifters offers over 550 boats for hire 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, microwaves, flushing toilets, and many now have WiFi too.

Prices over the late May bank holiday start at £715 for a short break (three of four nights) on a boat for four people, £1,020 for a week, though it’s always checking our availability online for offers.

Here’s a list of our Top 10 late May Bank Holiday boating breaks, all perfect for beginners:

  1. Cruise along the peaceful Oxford Canal to Rugby – from our canal boat hire base on the Oxford Canal at Napton in Warwickshire, it takes just over six hours, travelling 15 miles and passing through three locks, to reach the historic market town of Rugby.  The route takes boaters through quiet countryside, with farmland and woodlands bordering the canal most of the way.  There are canalside pubs to enjoy along the way at the villages of Hillmorton and Braunston and once at Rugby there’s a choice of pubs, restaurants and cafes to visit, as well as museums dedicated to the town’s history and history of the game of rugby.
  2. Enjoy the bright lights of Birmingham afloat – boasting more canals than Venice, Birmingham simply has to be visited by water.  With no locks between our 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, narrowboat holiday-makers 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. Love the Llangollen – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular canals on the network.  The journey to Chirk from our new narrowboat hire base on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal at Whixall in Shropshire offers a fantastic short break holiday for beginners.  It takes around eight hours, passing through just two locks to reach the village of Chirk, with a choice of canalside pubs to enjoy and nearby Chirk Castle to visit.
  4. Potter through the Peak District – our Peak District base, at the junction of the Caldon and Trent & Mersey canals near 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 12-hour cruise along the peaceful Caldon Canal to Froghall Basin is perfect for narrowboat holiday beginners on a short break.
  5. Visit Georgian Bath – from our 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 Cross Guns at Avoncliff.  Once in Bath, canal boat holiday makers can use their boat as a base to enjoy all that the City has to offer, including the Roman Baths, Jane Austen Museum and Royal Crescent.
  6. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh – from Drifters’ base at Falkirk,Edinburgh Quay is a sedate 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal.  The journey, perfect for beginners on a mid-week (four-night) 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 Mark King Close, frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.
  7. Steer gently through the countryside to Stone – from our 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.
  8. Navigate to the Yorkshire Dales – the journey from our narrowboat rental base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to the pretty North Yorkshire village of Gargrave and back takes 13 hours, passing through three locks each way.  The route takes boaters through the historic town of Skipton, with its striking medieval stone castle and extensive woodlands managed by the Woodland Trust.  Once at Gargrave, there are pubs to enjoy, including the popular Mason’s Arms, as well as easy access to the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Pennine Way.
  9. Boat to Brewood and back – the journey to Brewood and back from our canal boat rental base at Gailey on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal offers an excellent short break route for canal boat 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 attractive Georgian houses, visitors have a choice of pubs, restaurants and tea rooms to dine at, including the canalside Bridge Inn.
  10. Visit Shakespeare’s Stratford – from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it’s a delightful six-hour, 17-lock cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Bancroft Basin in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon.  From there, it’s a short walk to the town’s restaurants, shops, markets, museums and theatres, including the 1,040 seat Royal Shakespeare Theatre, home to the Royal Shakespeare Company. 

 

 

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Swap your car for a boat for a lower carbon holiday

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

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

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

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

 

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Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2019

From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, narrowboat holiday-makers can use their boat as a floating holiday home to explore hundreds of waterside destinations and enjoy taking refreshment at historic canalside pubs.

Here are Drifters’ Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2019:

1. Go star gazing on the Mon & Brec – isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park, said to have some of some of the highest quality dark skies, perfect for star gazing. Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, this peaceful waterway, with very few locks, offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain. On a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, you can cruise lock-free to Talybont-on-Usk and back, with excellent walking trails and eateries, the Canalside Café and the Star Inn.

2. Travel to Leicester and the new King Richard III Visitor Centre – from our canal boat hire base at Union Wharf on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal in Market Harborough, on a week’s narrowboat holiday you can travel to Leicester and back. The 13-hour cruise through the Leicestershire countryside, travels 23 miles, encountering 24 locks, and passing through a series of villages with friendly rural pubs to enjoy, including The Three Horseshoes at Wistow, and the canalside Navigation Inn at Kilby. Once in Leicester, moorings at Castle Gardens are the perfect base for exploring local attractions, including the new award-winning King Richard III Visitor Centre which chronicles the last Plantagenet King’s life and remarkable story of the discovery of his remains.

3. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey to Hungerford – from our 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 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.

4. Watch out for wildlife on the Ashby Canal – on a week’s holiday from Drifters canal boat hire base at Braunston, you 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 canal boat holiday-makers 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.

5. 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 World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the stunning hill surrounded 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 holding the canal across iron arched ribs and 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.

6. Cruise the Birmingham mini-ring – with more canals than Venice, travelling by boat is the best way to tour Britain’s vibrant second City. On a week’s holiday from Drifters’ Tardebigge boat yard on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, canal boat holiday-makers can travel the Birmingham Mini-Ring, cruising for 27 hours and passing through 49 locks. The route begins by passing through the remains of the Forest of Arden, with quiet villages and historic waterside pubs to enjoy along the way, and then heads right into the heart of Birmingham. Here boaters can moor up and explore some of the City’s top attractions, including the Thinktank Science Museum and Mailbox Shopping Centre. Travelling out of Birmingham on a different canal, the route connects with the Grand Union Canal and the journey becomes gradually more rural again as it loops back round through Lapworth and along part of the Stratford Canal.

7. Travel one-way across the Pennines – starting from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Sowerby Bridge or Ashton-under-Lyne, this week-long epic journey takes around 40 cruising hours, travelling 33 miles and passing through 97 locks. If beginning at Sowerby Bridge, the route first travels down the Calder & Hebble Navigation past Brighouse, then after a short river section the journey switches onto the Huddersfield Broad, taking boaters into Huddersfield City Centre. After that the canal goes up the Colne Valley into the hills and on to the villages of Slaithwaite, then Marsden, before reaching the summit over 644 feet above sea level and the entrance to the Standedge Tunnel. The passage of boats through the incredible three-and-a-quarter mile long tunnel is guided by Canal & River Trust staff and volunteers. After the tunnel, the canal descends quickly through the Diggle Flight and into the Saddleworth villages, before reaching the centre of Stalybridge, and finally Ashton.

8. Navigate the Droitwich Ring – setting off from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Worcester on the beautiful River Severn, canal boat holiday makers can navigate the Droitwich Ring, the only waterway cruising ring in Europe which can be completed on a short break (three or four nights). The restoration of the Droitwich Canals was completed in 2011, reconnecting them to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and the River Severn, and creating a 21-mile loop with 33 locks along the way, that can be completed in just less than 15 hours.

9. Potter through the Scottish lowlands to Linlithgow – 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. The route begins by passing over the 35-metre high Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first rotating boat lift and then passes through two tunnels and two aqueducts, and on through 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 sample some of the town’s excellent eateries.

10. Glide through the Peak District to Cheddleton and back – on a short break from Drifters’ Peak District narrowboat hire base at Etruria in Stoke on Trent, you 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, the Hollybush Inn is popular with boaters and at Consall Forge, the secluded Black Lion pub serves good food and real ales.

Visit the Montgomery Canal

Canal Boat Holiday Bucket List

The ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ was compiled over 60 years ago by Robert Aickman, co-founder of the Inland Waterways Association, and published in his book ‘Know Your Waterways’. Here at Drifters, we’ve added the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland (which opened in 2002) to make the perfect Canal Boat Holidays Bucket List:

1. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – carrying the Llangollen Canal 38 metres (126ft) high above the River Dee, the awesome World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the highest and longest aqueduct in Britain. Built between 1795 and 1805, it has 18 magnificent stone piers, supporting a 307-metre (1007ft) long trough for the canal to run through. With not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure the views of the breath-taking Dee Valley below, boaters literally feel like they are floating above the earth! Drifters has a canal boat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, just a five-minute cruise from the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

2. The Anderton Boat Lift – also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’ this extraordinary structure raises boats 15 metres (50ft) from the River Weaver to the Trent & Mersey Canal. Designed by Edwin Clark and opened in 1875, it consists of two caissons, each large enough to take a barge or pair of narrowboats. In 1983 problems with the mechanism caused the lift to close but after a Heritage Lottery Funded restoration, it reopened in 2002. Drifters has a narrowboat hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Anderton, right next to the Lift.

3. The Caen Hill Flight – with 16 of its 29 locks falling in a straight line, the Caen Hill flight of locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes in Wiltshire is visually the most impressive in the country. The locks were the final link in the Kennet & Avon Canal’s construction, opening in 1810. By 1950 they had become derelict but after a major restoration effort, they were reopened HM The Queen in 1990. Drifters’ Devizes canal boat hire base is at the base of the flight.

4. The Bingley Five-Rise Locks – completed in 1774, this spectacular staircase of locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal 17 miles from Leeds, raises (or lowers) boats 18 metres (60ft) in five cavernous chambers. The locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom gate of the next. Our nearest canal boat hire base is on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Silsden, a distance of six miles away. With five locks to pass through along the way, the journey to Bingley takes around four-and-a-half hours.

 

 

 

5. The Standedge Tunnel – tunnelling for over three miles beneath the Pennines, this incredible feat of 18 and 19th century engineering is the longest, highest and deepest tunnel on the canal system. Cutting through solid rock, it took the navvies 16 years to build, opening in 1811. In the 20th century, the Huddersfield Canal fell into disrepair, becoming un-navigable by 1948, but after a long restoration programme, both the canal and tunnel were reopened in 2001. Today narrowboat holiday-makers need to book their passage though with a Canal & River Trust, and there is also a trip boat operating from the Marsden end. Our nearest base is at Sowerby Bridge, on the junction of the Calder & Hebble Navigation and Rochdale Canal, 20 miles and 65 locks away. The journey to Standedge takes around 21 hours (three days).

6. Barton Swing Aqueduct – originally built in 1761 by James Brindley to take the Bridgewater Canal across the River Irwell, the Barton Aqueduct was considered a marvel at the time of its opening. But when the Manchester Ship Canal company decided to use the course of the Irwell at Barton as part of its navigation channel, Brindley’s Aqueduct was replaced by the Barton Swing Aqueduct in 1893. The 1,450 tonne, 100-metre long aqueduct swings open, full of water, to allow the passage of ships along the Manchester Ship Canal. Our nearest base is at Acton Bridge, on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Northwich in Cheshire. From there, it takes around nine hours, travelling 26 miles and through just one lock, to reach the Barton Swing Aqueduct.

7. The Burnley Embankment – also known as ‘The Straight Mile’, the mile-long Burnley Embankment carries the Leeds & Liverpool Canal over 18 metres (60ft) high across part of the town, offering boaters breath-taking panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Though costly and difficult to build, the Burnley Embankment, which spans the Calder Valley, avoided the need for a series of locks which would have slowed cargo-carrying boats down. Designed by Robert Whitworth, the embankment was built between 1796 and 1801 and involved the mammoth task of transporting (by horse and cart) around half a million tons of earth from the nearby canal cutting at Whittlefield and tunnel at Gannow. Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Barnoldswick is just 11 miles away from Burnley, which with seven locks to pass through, takes around five hours.

8. The Falkirk Wheel – built as part of the Millennium Link project to restore the canals linking the east and west coasts of Scotland, The Falkirk Wheel is the world’s first and only rotating boat lift. Standing at a height of 35 metres, it moves boats between the Union Canal and Forth & Clyde Canal, replacing a flight of 11 locks which had been dismantled in 1933. It can carry up to 600 tonnes (eight or more boats) and uses just 1.5KWh of energy to turn – the same amount it takes to boil eight kettles. Drifters offers canal boat rental at Falkirk, right next to the Wheel.