Tag Archive for: Calder & Hebble Navigation

Visit a bluebell wood on a canal boat holiday

Bluebell woods to explore on a canal boat holiday

Canals meander through some of Britain’s best loved countryside, and there are places where you can explore bluebell woods on a canal boat holiday.

The UK is home to almost half the world’s bluebells, and they are one of the nation’s favourite wildflowers.  Native bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) are an ancient woodland indicator.

The Woodland Trust says, “most flowering usually happens in April, so this is the best time to see that iconic carpet of blue.”

To celebrate, we’ve listed our top 7 beautiful bluebell woods to explore on a canal boat holiday:

1. Copley Woods on the Calder & Hebble in West Yorkshire

The bluebells are stunning in the woods alongside the Calder & Hebble Navigation at Copley.  From our narrowboat hire base at Sowerby Bridge, it takes just under 30 minutes by boat to reach Copley.

2. Coed Cefn at Crickhowell on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

This ancient woodland managed by the Woodland Trust has an iron age hill fort at its centre.  There’s a circular walk perfect for enjoying fantastic displays of bluebells in April and May.  From our base at Goytre in South Wales, it takes around five hours to reach Llangattock Wharf.  From there it’s a two-mile walk to Coed Cefn.

3. Chirk Castle Woods, close to the Llangollen Canal in Wrexham

Owned by the National Trust, the grounds of Chirk Castle include 480 acres of woodland and parkland.  There are carpets of bluebells, veteran trees and a section of the historic Offa’s Dyke trail to discover.  Setting out from our Chirk base on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes just 40 minutes to cruise to visitor moorings at Chirk Bank.  From there, it’s a 30-minute walk up to Chirk Castle to explore bluebell woods on a canal boat holiday.

4. Cliveden on the River Thames in Berkshire

Set high above the River Thames near Maidenhead, Cliveden has 375 acres of glorious gardens and woodlands to explore.  These include a magnificent carpet of bluebells alongside the beautiful tree-lined Green Drive.  From our canal boat hire base at Aldermaston, it’s a 14 hour journey to Cliveden Reach.

5. Packwood House near the Stratford Canal in Warwickshire

The National Trust’s magnificent Packwood House has 150 acres of parkland to explore, including an area of ancient woodland with bluebells.  From our base at Alvechurch, it takes around six hours to cruise to moorings on the Stratford Canal at Lapworth, close to Packwood House. From there you can walk to these bluebell woods to explore on a canal boat holiday.

6. Savernake Forest on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire

There are over 4,500 acres of woodlands to explore at Savernake Forest, and it’s a bluebell paradise in Spring. The Kennet & Avon Canal runs alongside the Savernake Forest, with bluebell woods to explore on a canal boat holiday. From our Devizes base, it takes around 10 hours to reach the village of Wootton Rivers, a great starting point for a variety of walks around the Forest.

7. Skipton Castle Woods on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire

Skipton Castle Woods is a rare ancient woodland habitat cared for by the Woodland Trust. These woods close to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal are reputed to be one of the best places to spot bluebells in Yorkshire.  From our base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just around four cruising hours to reach Skipton Castle.

Best canal boat holiday cruising rings

Best canal boat holiday cruising rings

Canal boat holiday cruising rings offer journeys along several different waterways, taking in a huge variety of urban and rural landscapes.

Some canal boat holiday rings are seriously challenging with steep flights of locks and long dark tunnels to negotiate.

Here’s a guide to our top 9 canal boat holiday rings and circuits:

1. The Droitwich Ring (21 miles, 33 locks, 16 hours)

Starting from Worcester or Stoke Prior, this canal boat holiday ring is the only one that can be completed on a short break. It re-opened in 2011 following the £13million restoration of the Droitwich Canals.  This reconnected the River Severn and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Worcester. Highlights include: the historic Spa town of Droitwich; the Hanbury flight of locks; and Worcester cathedral.

2. The Outer Pennine Ring (192 miles, 248 locks, 130 hours)

Not for the faint-hearted nor inexperienced, this epic three-week journey can be undertaken from Sowerby Bridge or Silsden. It crosses the Pennines twice and includes Britain’s longest canal tunnel. It takes in the Calder & Hebble Navigation, the Huddersfield Narrow, Ashton, Rochdale, Bridgewater, Leeds & Liverpool canals. And the Aire & Calder Navigation with electric locks. Highlights include: dramatic Pennine views; Tuel Lane Deep Lock; and Manchester City Centre. Also the three-and-a-quarter-mile long Standedge Tunnel which cuts through the Pennies to link Marsden and Diggle; Bingley Five Rise locks; Skipton with its medieval castle; Leeds City Centre and waterside Royal Armouries Museum.

3. The Stourport Ring (74 miles, 118 locks, 44 hours)

Starting from Autherley, Stoke Prior, Gailey or Alvechurch, this offers an exhilarating and hugely popular week. The route takes in the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, the 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; open countryside on the River Severn; Stourport Basins; Bratch Locks at Wombourne; the pretty village of Kinver with National Trust rock houses; the Black Country Living Museum; and Cadbury World.

4. The Cheshire Ring (97 miles, 92 locks, 55 hours)

Starting from Bunbury, Wrenbury, Whitchurch, Anderton or Acton Bridge, this superb canal boat holiday ring goes through the heart of Manchester and the Peak District via the Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals. Highlights include: Anderton Boat Lift (also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’); Preston Brook Tunnel; Dunham Massey Hall; Castlefield Basin; Manchester’s China Town; the Rochdale 9 locks; Buxworth Basin, Whaley Bridge and the glorious Top Lock at Marple on the Peak Forest Canal; the Cheshire Plain; and heavily locked ‘Heartbreak Hill’.

5. The Warwickshire Ring (101 miles, 94 locks, 48 hours)

Starting from Napton, Stockton, Springwood Haven, Kings Orchard or Braunston the Warwickshire Ring is easily navigated in 10 days or two weeks. It takes in the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals. Highlights include: the flight of 11 locks into Atherstone; Hillmorton locks (three pairs); the Knowle Flight of five locks; the canal village of Braunston; Napton Junction; Newbold and Shrewley tunnels; the awesome Hatton Flight of 21 locks; Warwick Castle; Leamington Spa; and Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin.

6. Avon Ring (108 miles, 130 locks, 58 hours)

Starting from Napton, Autherley, Stoke Prior or Wootton Wawen, this canal boat holiday ring has 130 locks. Most people do this trip in 10 days or two weeks. The Avon Ring navigates sections of the Stratford Canal, River Avon, River Severn and Worcester & Birmingham Canal. Highlights include: Stratford-Upon-Avon and its famous Swan Theatre; the Lapworth flight of 25 locks; the Wilmcote flight of 11 locks; the River Avon and its panoramic views across the Cotswolds; historic Evesham and Tewskesbury; Worcester and its magnificent cathedral; the tidal River Severn double river-lock at Diglis, the 30 locks at Tardebigge; and the 2,495-metre long Wast Hills Tunnel.

7. The Four Counties Ring (110 miles, 94 locks, 55 hours)

Departing from Autherley, Acton Bridge, Brewood, Great Haywood, Stoke-on-Trent, Whitchurch, Wrenbury, Nantwich or Gailey, this canal boat holiday ring is best done on a 10-day or two-week holiday. The four counties are Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire. The route includes the Trent & Mersey, Staffs & Worcs and Shropshire Union canals. Predominantly rural, this ring’s highlights include: the 2,670-metre long Harecastle Tunnel; deep cuttings on the Shropshire Union; Market Drayton home of gingerbread; Wedgewood Pottery Visitor Centre; views of the rolling Cheshire Plains; the Roman town of Middlewich; Waterworld at Etruria; Shugborough Hall; the waters at Tixall Wide; and the flight of 15 locks at Audlem.

8. The Black Country Ring (125 miles, 79 locks, 60 hours)

From Autherley, Great Haywood, Kings Orchard or Gailey this exhilarating canal boat holiday ring is achievable in a week. The Ring takes in the Birmingham & Fazeley, Birmingham Main Line, Coventry, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Trent & Mersey canals. Highlights include: Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin; 21 locks at Wolverhampton; the Black Country Living Museum; Dudley Zoo & Castle; Drayton Manor Park at Fazeley; the Staffs & Worcs Roundhouses; the waters at Tixhall Wide; Fradley Pool Nature Reserve at Fradley Junction; 11 locks at Ashton; and 13 at Farmer’s Bridge.

9. The Leicester/East Midlands Ring (157 miles, 102 locks, 75 hours)

Departing from Napton, Braunston, Kings Orchard, Springwood Haven or Gayton this epic canal boat holiday ring is achievable in two weeks. The route cruises a mixture of non-tidal, broad and narrow canals, including the Birmingham & Fazeley, Coventry, Oxford, Trent & Mersey canals, the Grand Union Leicester Line and the rivers Soar and Trent. Highlights include: Saddlington Tunnel; the Foxton Staircase of Locks; the pretty canal village of Stoke Bruerne with its Canal Museum; Blisworth Tunnel; Braunston canal village; Hillmorton Locks; 11 locks at Atherstone; Coventry and views of its magnificent cathedral; and the 18th century canal village of Shardlow.

Canal boat holiday bucket list

Canal boat holiday ‘bucket list’ guide

The ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ was compiled by Robert Aickman, co-founder of the Inland Waterways Association, and published in his book ‘Know Your Waterways’ over 70 years ago.

Here at Drifters, we’ve added the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland (which opened in 2002) to make the perfect Canal Boat Holiday ‘Bucket List’ guide for 2024:

1. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – carrying the Llangollen Canal 38 metres (126ft) high above the River Dee, the awesome World Heritage 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 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 you need to book your passage though the tunnel with the https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/things-to-do/museums-and-attractions/standedge-tunnel-and-visitor-centre-yorkshire 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 and seven locks away from Burnley.

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.

Best Spring canal boat holidays

Best spring canal boating breaks

Britain’s beautiful inland waterways are a great place to visit in the Spring time, when the countryside is bursting into new life, with blossom on the hedges and waterside trees, birds busy rearing their young, spring lambs playing in the fields and bluebells in waterside woodlands.

To celebrate the beauty of Spring-time on the canals, here’s a guide to our top 8 Spring narrowboat holidays for 2024:

1. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey

From our 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, you’ll travel up the spectacular flight of 29 locks at Caen Hill and cruise through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey.  You’ll pass closeby to prehistoric Avebury and along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest, home to thousands of ‘Ancient’, ‘Veteran’ and ‘Notable’ trees and carpets of bluebells in the Spring.  Once at Hungerford, there’s a choice of places to eat and drink and antique shops to browse in.

2. Explore the ancient woods at Skipton Castle

On a short break from Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, you can travel to the historic town of Skipton, with its medieval fortress and ancient woods bursting with bluebells to explore.  Skipton’s 900-year old castle is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England and its extensive woodlands are home to at least 18 species of trees, and hundreds of flowering plants, including wild orchids and bluebells. The journey to Skipton and back takes around seven hours, travelling 13 miles with no locks.

3. Glide through the Brecon Beacons

Isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park and offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views, wooded sections full of the sound of woodland birds, and a series of historic village pubs to visit along the way.   On a short break from Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, you can cruise lock-free to Llangynidr and back, passing the Lion Inn at Govilon and the Bridge End Hotel at Llangattock.  On a week’s break, you can travel on to Brecon, passing through Talybont-on-Usk, with walks to the waterfalls at Blaen y Glyn and the popular Star Inn.

4. Boat to Brewood and back

From Gailey on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, it takes around five hours to reach the historic village of Brewood, with its half-timbered cottages and Georgian houses, perfect for a relaxing short break. The 13-mile journey, which passes through just one lock, takes you through beautiful stretches of Shropshire countryside, and passes the waterside Anchor Inn at Cross Green.  On reaching Brewood, there’s a choice of pubs, restaurants and tea rooms to dine at, including the canalside Bridge Inn.

5. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

From our base at Chirk on the 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, with the awesome World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to travel across along the way.  Standing at 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, this incredible 300-metre long structure consists of a cast iron trough supported by 18 enormous pillars and 19 arches.  On reaching Llangollen, you can moor up in Llangollen Basin and enjoy visiting the town’s independent shops, pubs and restaurants, as well as its Steam Railway and Horseshoe Falls. 

6. Visit the old mill town of Hebden Bridge

On a short break from our base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, you can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation through the Calder Valley to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge.  Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, the journey covers seven miles, passes through 10 locks and takes around five-and-a-half hours. Once at Hebden, you can enjoy an amazing variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs, as well as stunning countryside walks with woods, crags and the Calder running alongside.

7. Cruise through Shakespeare country

From Wootton Wawen, on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it takes around six hours, travelling through 17 locks to reach Stratford-upon-Avon, perfect for a short break.  Travelling through the pretty Warwickshire countryside, you can stop off along the way to visit Mary Arden’s Tudor Farm in the canalside village of Wilmcote where Shakespeare’s mother grew up.  Once in Shakespeare’s Stratford, you can moor up in Bancroft Basin, just a stone’s throw from the Swan Theatre and the town’s shops, restaurants and museums. 

8. Navigate the Cheshire Ring

Starting from Anderton, this epic cruising ring takes you on a 97-mile tour through some of the most beautiful Cheshire countryside.  The route passes through 92 locks and takes around 55 hours, taking you through the heart of Manchester and the Peak District via the Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals.  Highlights include the spectacular vertical Anderton Boat Lift, also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’, Dunham Massey Hall and its working Elizabethan Mill alongside the Bridgewater Canal, Manchester’s China Town, the Top Lock at Marple on the Peak Forest Canal with fantastic views of the Peak District, and the Cheshire Plain with its heavily locked ‘Heartbreak Hill’. The Cheshire Ring can be done on a week’s break from Anderton, but a 10-day or two-week breaks gives more time to visit destinations along the route.

Canal boat holidays in Yorkshire

Explore ‘Happy Valley’ country by canal boat

Simon from The Version Humax recently reviewed his multi-generation family boating holiday in Yorkshire.

They set off from our canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge and travelled along the Calder & Hebble Navigation to Hebden Bridge.

Simon says, “The route allowed us to explore the idyllic surroundings at a leisurely pace, making it perfect for families looking to unwind and reconnect with nature.”

Once they reached Hebden Bridge, he said they enjoyed spotting well known locations from BBC’s Happy Valley series.  And visiting the town’s independent shops, cafes and market.

They also ‘embarked on a family hike through the woodlands, marveling at the cascading waterfalls and verdant landscapes’ at nearby Hardcastle Crags.

To read Simon’s review, go to https://icymi.co.uk/2023/09/18/tie-world/tie-travel/2023-9-18-review-shire-cruisers-yorkshire/

To find out more about canals in the North East of England, go to https://www.drifters.co.uk/canals-of-north-east-england/

Top 6 family canal boat holiday destinations October Half Term 2023

Top 6 October Half Term narrowboat holidays

There are dozens of great destinations to choose from on a family canal boat holiday this October Half Term.

Narrowboats are like floating holiday cottages, with everything you need on board for a self-catering adventure afloat.

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

Prices for canal boat holidays this October Half Term start at £655 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, £1,060 for a week.

Here’s a guide to our top six canal boat holiday destinations for October Half Term 2023:

1. Travel along the peaceful Ashby Canal to Shakerstone

On a week’s holiday from Braunston on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, you can explore the beautiful Ashby Canal.  With no locks, and mile-upon-mile of countryside to enjoy, this peaceful canal stretches for 22 miles. It passes the pretty town of Market Bosworth, close to the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field and the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre.  The journey to Shakerstone and back, travels 95 miles, passes through eight locks (four each way) and takes around 37 hours.

2. Drift through the Calder Valley to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge

On a weekend break from Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, you can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation through the Calder Valley to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge.  Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, the journey to Hebden Bridge, covers seven miles, passes through 10 locks and takes around five-and-a-half hours.  Once at Hebden, you can moor in the centre of town to enjoy a good choice of places to eat, as well as walks up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags.

3. Glide through the Usk Valley to Brecon and back

On a week’s break from Goytre on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal you can navigate through the wooded Usk Valley to Brecon, in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park.  Along the way, you can stop off at Llanfoist to take the old tramway into the Black Mountains.  You can visit the 13th century castle 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 (six each way) and takes around 25 hours.

4. Cruise along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Georgian Bath afloat

On a four-night mid-week break from Devizes you can cruise to the World Heritage Status City of Bath and back.  The journey takes around 10 hours, travelling across two magnificent aqueducts and passing through 10 locks.  There’s a choice of canalside pubs, to stop-off at along the way, including the Barge Inn at Seend and the Cross Guns at Avoncliff.  Once in Bath, you can moor up at Sydney Gardens, a short walk away from the centre of Bath.

5. Glide across the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

On a short break from Trevor in North Wales, you can reach the historic Shropshire town of Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  The route takes you along the Llangollen Canal and across the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, 38 metres high above the Dee Valley.  In Ellesmere, you can moor up and spend time exploring the Mere with its Victorian gardens, woodland paths and historic castle.  The journey to Ellesmere and back takes around 14 hours and passes through four locks (two each way).

6. Navigate to Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man

On a week’s break from Gailey you can travel along the Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Shropshire Union canals to the historic market town of Market Drayton and back.  The route passes through the historic village of Brewood with its choice of pubs, past Belvide Reservoir and through a series of deep wooded cuttings.  At Market Drayton there’s a Wednesday market and a great choice of places to eat and drink, many offering the town’s famous gingerbread.  The journey to Market Drayton and back cruises 68 miles, passes through 14 locks and takes around 30 hours.

Best Autumn canal boat holidays in England and Wales

Top 5 leafy canals to cruise this Autumn

Britain’s 3,000-mile network of inland waterways meanders through some of our best-loved countryside, including woodlands and forest remains.

To celebrate the beautiful Autumn colours in our trees and hedgerows, we’ve listed our top five leafy canals to cruise along:

1. The Calder & Hebble in West Yorkshire

The 21-mile long leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation links Wakefield with Sowerby Bridge.  On a short break from our base at Sowerby Bridge, you can cruise along the part-canal, part-river Calder & Hebble to Shipley. The route will take you through wooded valleys and the towns of Elland and Brighouse along the way.  The journey there and back travels 22 miles, passes through 32 locks and takes around 16 hours.

2. The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal in South Wales

This 35-mile long peaceful waterway follows the line of the wooded Usk Valley through the Brecon Beacons National Park.  On a short break from our base at Goytre, you can cruise to Talybont-on-Usk and back, passing the villages and hamlets of Llaellen, Llanfoist, Govilon, Llangattock and Llangynidr along the way.  The journey there and back travels 39 miles, passes through 10 locks and takes around 18 hours.

3. The Macclesfield Canal in Cheshire

This 26-mile long tree-lined canal runs from Marple in Cheshire to Hall Green, on the Trent & Mersey Canal.  On a week’s break from our base at Stoke on Trent, you can connect to the Macclesfield Canal and cruise to Macclesfield and back.  You’ll pass through the 1.5 mile long Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal before transferring onto the Macclesfield Canal.  Then you’ll meander through the countryside to enjoy a series of wooded sections, as well as views of the distant hills.  The journey to Macclesfield and back travels 42 miles, passes through 26 locks and takes around 21 hours.

4. The Stratford Canal in Warwickshire

This 25.5-mile long narrow canal connects Stratford-upon-Avon with the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Kings Norton Junction.  The middle section is surrounded by trees where it passes through the remains of the Forest of Arden.  On a short break from our base at Wootton Wawen, you can cruise through quiet countryside to Hatton and back.  You’ll pass through the village of Lowsonford with its popular Fleur de Lys canalside pub, and Lapworth where you transfer onto the Grand Union Canal. The journey to Hatton and back cruises 21 miles, passes through 34 locks and takes around 14 hours.

5. The Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire

The 87-mile long Kennet & Avon Canal links the Bristol Avon near Bath, with the River Thames at Reading. On a week’s break from our base at Devizes, at the foot of the famous Caen Hill flight of locks, you can cruise to Hungerford and back passing through the Vale of Pewsey, part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  There are a series of wooded sections to enjoy, including an area of the Savernake Forest.  The journey to Hungerford and back travels 54 miles, passes through 106 locks and takes around 40 hours.

Take to the water this August Bank Holiday

There are over 3,000 miles of beautiful inland waterways to explore by canal boat in Britain, and hundreds of waterside destinations to choose from.

We still have plenty of narrowboats available to hire in August, many at a discounted rate.

To celebrate the forthcoming August bank holiday, we’ve here’s our guide to our Top 8 weekend breaks afloat:

1. Cruise the Kennet & Avon to Georgian Bath

On a short break from our canal boat hire base at Devizes, you can cruise the Kennet & Avon Canal to the World Heritage City of Bath.  The route passes a series of canalside pubs and the historic market town of Bradford on Avon.  You’ll also cross over the beautiful Bath stone Avoncliff and Dundas aqueducts.  There are over-night moorings at Sydney Wharf, a 15-minute walk from Bath City centre. The journey to Bath and back travels 39 miles, passes through 20 locks (10 each way) and takes around 19 cruising hours.

2. Take the Coventry and Trent & Mersey canals to Tixall Wide

On a weekend break from Kings Orchard on the Coventry Canal, you can cruise to the beautiful waters of Tixall Wide and back.  Along the way you’ll pass through the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).  The journey to Tixall takes you through 16 miles of peaceful Staffordshire countryside and five locks.  And takes around cruising eight hours.

3. Float along the Llangollen Canal to Llangollen

From our base at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal, you can float through the Dee Valley AONB to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen in North Wales.  Along the way you’ll pass over the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Chirk Aqueduct.  The journey to Llangollen takes around four hours, travelling seven miles, with no locks.

4. Experience a Thames boating holiday to Oxford

From our Oxford base on the River Thames at Eynsham, it takes just over three hours to reach Oxford City centre.  The route takes you through four locks and the village of Wolvercote, home of the popular riverside Trout Inn.  Once in Oxford, you can moor up to explore the city sites, including the Oxford Colleges and Natural History Museum.  

5. Cruise the Grand Union and Oxford canals to Hillmorton

From our base on the Grand Union Canal at Stockton, it takes around seven hours to reach the historic canal village of Hillmorton.  The route takes you through a series of villages with historic pubs.  These include the Kings Head at Napton and the Admiral Nelson at Braunston.  There are six locks to pass through, including the three at Hillmorton where volunteer lock keepers help you through.  There’s a choice of pubs at Hillmorton, including the Stag & Pheasant.

6. Navigate the Shropshire Union to historic Chester

From our base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury, it’s a seven-hour, nine-lock journey to the ancient city of Chester.  The route passes through miles of beautiful Cheshire countryside and a series of villages with country pubs, including The Ring O’Bells at Christleton and The Shady Oak at Bates Mill Bridge.  In Chester, you can take time to explore the city’s attractions, including its Roman city walls and Chester Rows shops.

7. Drift along the Calder & Hebble to Hebden Bridge

On a weekend break from Sowerby Bridge, you can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge.  Climbing through the Calder Valley, the route to Hebden Bridge covers seven miles.  There are 10 locks to pass through and the journey takes around five-and-a-half hours.  Once at Hebden, you can moor up to enjoy a good choice of places to eat, and walks up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags.

8. Glide along the Forth & Clyde to Glasgow

From our base at Falkirk, it’s a peaceful nine-hour cruise along the Forth & Clyde Canal to the City of Glasgow.  The route, which travels 22 miles and passes through five locks, begins at the site of the Falkirk Wheel boat lift.  You’ll pass through Auchinstarry, the River Kelvin Valley with magnificent views of the Campsie Fells above.  And the historic town of Kirkintillock.  Once at Glasgow, there are moorings at Applecross Street Basin, close to Glasgow’s cultural sites.  These include the Hunterian Museum. 

Bank holiday boating rural retreats Llangollen Canal

Enjoy May bank holiday boating on the canals

The bank holidays in May offers the perfect excuse to plan a long weekend boating break on Britain’s peaceful inland waterways.  Prices start at £1,005 for a three night break on a boat for up to four people.

To celebrate the forthcoming bank holidays in May, including the Whitsun May bank holiday weekend (27-29 May), we’ve listed our Top 6 weekend breaks afloat:

1. Potter through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton

From our canal boat hire base at Brewood it takes around 10 hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man.  Cruising along the Shropshire Union Canal, you’ll pass through six locks and a series of deep cuttings full of trees and the sound of birdsong. There’s a choice of canalside pubs along the way, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.

2. Drift through the Calder Valley to Hebden Bridge

On a weekend break from Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, you can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge.  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, you can moor up to enjoy a choice of places to eat, as well as walks up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags.

3. Glide along the Forth & Clyde to visit Glasgow

From Falkirk, it’s a peaceful nine-hour cruise along the Forth & Clyde Canal to the City of Glasgow.  The journey travels 22 miles and passes through five locks.  Beginning at the home of the magnificent Falkirk Wheel boat lift, the route passes through Auchinstarry. Then on through the River Kelvin Valley with magnificent views of the Campsie Fells above. And past the historic town of Kirkintillock.  Once at Glasgow, there are moorings at Applecross Street Basin, close to Glasgow’s many cultural centres, including the Hunterian Museum. 

4. Navigate to Bradford on Avon

From our narrowboat hire base at Devizes in Wiltshire, you can travel gently along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal to the historic town of Bradford on Avon.  There you’ll find a choice of independent shops, restaurants and cafes, and the fascinating 14th century Tithe Barn.  The journey travels 10 miles, passing through seven locks and takes around five-and-a-half hours.

5. Cruise to Warwick Castle and back

From Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can cruise to Warwick and back.  The journey there and back takes around 14 hours, and passes through 40 locks (20 each way), perfect for a long weekend away.  Overnight moorings are available close to Warwick Castle on the banks of the River Avon.

6. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Ellesmere

Passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular navigations on the network.  The journey from our base at Trevor to Ellesmere takes around seven hours.  There are two locks and two tunnels to pass through, and two magnificent aqueducts to cross.  One of the aqueducts is the awesome UNESCO World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’. As you cross, you’ll experience incredible views of the Dee Valley 30 metres below.

Experience an October Half Term canal boat holiday

Narrowboats are like floating holiday cottages, with everything you need on board for a self-catering adventure afloat.  All our boats equipped with essential home comforts, including central heating, hot water, TV, showers, flushing toilets, and most now have WiFi too.

October Half Term narrowboat hire prices start at £642 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, £1,010 for a week.

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

Here are Drifters’ top six canal boat holiday destinations for October Half Term 2022:

1. Explore the ancient abbey at Selby

On a week’s holiday from our base at Sowerby Bridge, narrow boat holiday-makers can cruise to along the Calder & Hebble and the Aire & Calder navigations to Selby.  The journey there and back travels 96 miles, passes through 68 locks (34 each way) and takes around 40 hours.  The route passes through Wakefield, Stanley Ferry, Castleford and Knottingley.  Scenery ranges from leafy cuttings on the Calder & Hebble and farmland along the Aire, to industrial hinterland on the Aire & Calder.  At Selby, you can moor up to explore the ancient Abbey and market.  Selby also has a good choice of pubs and restaurants.

2. Boat along the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal to Brecon

From our base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, on a week’s break you can navigate through the wooded Usk Valley to Brecon.  Situated in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park, Brecon offers theatre, cinema, cafes and restaurants.  This historic town also offers easy 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.  Or visit the 13th century castle at Crickhowell.  The journey there and back travels 51 miles, passing through 12 locks (six each way) and takes around 25 hours.

3. Glide along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Georgian Bath

On a mid-week break from our Devizes base in Wiltshire, you can travel to the World Heritage Status City of Bath and back.  The journey to overnight moorings at Sydney Wharf travels nearly 20 miles along the Kennet & Avon Canal, and takes around 10 hours.  From there, it’s a 15 minute walk to the centre of Bath.  Along the way, you’ll travel across two magnificent aqueducts and pass through 10 locks.  There’s a choice of canalside pubs to visit, including the Barge Inn at Seend and the Cross Guns at Avoncliff.

4. Cruise to Coventry to visit the Cathedral

From our narrowboat hire base at Braunston, it takes 12 hours to reach Coventry Basin, The route travels along 28 miles of mostly rural waterways and passes through just four locks.  The journey takes boaters along sections of the North Oxford and Coventry canals.  It passes a series of towns and villages with canalside pubs, including the Royal Oak at Hillmorton and the Greyhound Inn at Hawkesbury Junction.

5. Glide across the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

On a short break from our base at Trevor in North Wales, you can cruise along the Llangollen Canal to the beautiful Shropshire town of Ellesmere.  Along the way, you’ll travel across the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  This enormous structure carries the canal 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, supported by 19 vast stone pillars.  Once in Ellesmere, you can moor up and spend time exploring the Mere with its Victorian gardens, woodland paths and historic castle.  The journey to Ellesmere and back takes around 14 hours and passes through four locks (two each way).

6. Navigate to Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man

On a week’s break from our base on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal at Gailey, you can travel to the historic market town of Market Drayton.  The route takes you through the pretty village of Brewood with a choice of pubs.  It also passes Belvide Reservoir and through a series of deep wooded cuttings.  At Market Drayton there’s a Wednesday market and choice of places to eat, many offering the town’s famous gingerbread.  References to people making gingerbread in Market Drayton date back to the late 1700’s.  The journey to Market Drayton and back cruises 68 miles, passes through 14 locks and takes around 30 hours.