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:
- 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.
- 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’.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.