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A Narrowboat Holiday in Northamptonshire

Countryman editor Mark Whitley describes his latest canal boat holiday on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire

The Grand Union Canal celebrated its 90th anniversary this year, which is reason — if reason were needed —to enjoy its many delights by on a week’s narrowboat holiday.

So on a sunny Saturday, I and three friends (my crew for the week) met up at Napton Marina, where we are warmly welcomed by Howard & Ann Davies of Napton Narrowboats, part of the Drifters group of canal boat hire operators.

They introduced us to our home-from-home — ‘Caroline’, a Regency 4 class narrowboat, luxuriously fitted out with all the mod cons, including a rear deck folding table (perfect for alfresco dining). The boat yard staff give us an informative overview and tour of the boat. Then we were off, beginning with a short section of the Oxford Canal and a couple of hours later we reached the pretty canal village of Braunston for our first overnight stop.  We moored up alongside the Admiral Nelson pub, the perfect spot for a post-cruise drink or two on our first day.

The next day, after a leisurely breakfast, we were soon entering Braunston Tunnel. We kept a wary eye out for the Braunston boggart, the ghostly figure of a Victorian canal worker who is said to haunt the tunnel.

Six miles, seven locks and three hours peaceful cruising later, we moored up near Weedon Bec for the night. Jon, our resident chef for the week, rustled up a wonderful meal for us all to enjoy, while admiring the sunset with a glass of wine in hand.

Monday morning we cruised leisurely on and then through the 2800-metre long Blisworth Tunnel to moor up at Stoke Bruerne for lunch.  It’s a lovely spot to while away an hour or two. I enjoyed an ice cream while watching the canal traffic — it’s official, I’m a gongoozler!

In the afternoon we set off again, travelling through the flight of six locks at Stoke Bruerne, then on through the Northamptonshire countryside to Cosgrove, and across the Iron Trunk Aqueduct, an exhilarating experience.

Late afternoon, we moored up for the night near Wolverton. A couple of us headed off along the towpath to the local supermarket to replenish our supplies.

Tuesday, we turned around and headed back along the Grand Union Canal through Stoke Bruerne and Blisworth Tunnel and shortly after headed up the Northampton Arm, a lovely stretch of canal — though with 17 locks so we get plenty of lock practice!

Wednesday, we headed back re-join the mainline of the Grand Union again, and then cruised on overnight moorings at Bugbrooke, where the Wharf pub has a lovely beer garden overlooking the canal.

Thursday, we had another glorious day of boating and arrived back at Braunston by mid-afternoon. That left plenty of time to explore Braunston itself, where we found a couple of pubs, a village shop, a fish and chip take-away and a butcher’s.

Friday, we re-joined the Oxford Canal for the final leg of our journey, to overnight at Napton Bridge, the perfect spot to reflect back on a wonderful week exploring the Grand Union Canal.

Saturday, as we finally leave the boat, we’re already planning our next narrowboat adventure. We’ve got the boating bug, that’s for sure!

8 ways to reduce plastic waste on your narrowboat holiday

Programmes like Blue Planet II and Our Planet have highlighted the damage plastic is wreaking on our oceans and the animals that live there.  More recently, David Attenborough’s BBC ‘Extinction’ programme gave a stark warning that 1 million species face extinction, unless we take urgent action now to protect biodiversity.

Our beautiful inland waterways are also affected by plastic waste, posing a threat to our native biodiversity and, as a staggering 80 per cent of marine debris comes from inland sources, to ocean life too.

To help combat the blight of plastic pollution in our canals and rivers, we’ve put together a list of easy ways to reduce the plastic waste you might generate on a canal boat holiday, and to prevent plastic from entering our waterways:

  1. Don’t use products with microbeads – much of the plastic polluting our waterways and oceans is microplastics which derive from bigger items breaking down, but also from consumer products like face wash and toothpaste. Avoid items with ‘polypropylene’ or ‘polyethylene’ on the ingredients list and go for natural biodegradable alternatives.
  2. Use eco-friendly cleaning products – make sure your washing up liquid and other cleaning products are eco-friendly, as the water you’ve used to clean and wash-up with will drain directly into the canal.
  3. Bring a refillable thermos and reusable plastic bottles – so if you stop off to buy a coffee somewhere on your narrowboat holiday you won’t need a disposable cup and you won’t have to buy bottled water. You can use boiled water from the boat’s tank to make a cup of tea or coffee, and we suggest bringing one large bottle or canteen to top up at water points for drinking water.
  4. Bring your own shopping bags – remember to pack your re-useable bags every time you shop and avoid products with excess packaging.
  5. Make use of recycling facilities – there are an increasing number of boaters’ recycling points available and the rubbish you put in the Canal & River Trust’s canalside Biffa bins will be sorted at the depot, with suitable waste sent for recycling.
  6. Bag all rubbish – make sure the bags are tied securely so they don’t spill open. Only dispose of your bagged domestic rubbish inside bins marked domestic waste and don’t forget to close the lid.  If the bins are full, keep your rubbish securely on board until the next available waste disposal point.
  7. Control your fenders – a frightening number of plastic boat fenders end up at the bottom of locks. Don’t leave them dangling when cruising – except bow and stern fenders.  And when your fenders are in use, make sure they are properly secured.
  8. Help clean up – take part in the Canal & River Trust’s Plastics Challenge campaign and pledge to pick up and safely dispose of at least one piece of canalside litter a day while on your narrowboat holiday. For more information, go to https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/news-and-views/features/plastic-and-litter-in-our-canals

 

Travel to Bath by Narrowboat

Clare Minall and her family travelled to Bath and back on their first narrowboat holiday.

Setting off from our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Hilperton, near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, they enjoy a weekend break afloat.

Clare describes their boat, saying it was “well appointed and had everything we needed for our stay, with boat towels and bed linen provided.”

She says they had a full induction prior to getting onto the boat, and although they were daunted by what lay ahead after pulling out of the boat yard, they did get the hang of navigating quite quickly and used a map from the boat yard to give them “prior warning of places to moor, bridges…locks and the all-important turning points.”

They travelled through Bradford on Avon lock and over Avoncliff and Dundas Aqueducts.  They stopped at the George Inn at Bathampton and enjoyed at cream tea at the Lock Café in Bradford on Avon, which Clare describes as “reminiscent of Bath but without the crowds.”

To read Clare’s full review, go to https://mudpiefridays.com/2020/09/15/our-first-stay-on-a-narrowboat/

Top 8 Spooky Canal Destinations

With spooky tunnels, misty towpaths, bats, toads, spiders and plenty of ghosts, Britain’s 200-year old canal network provides the perfect backdrop for a haunting Halloween.

Drifters’ narrowboat hire prices for boats for up to four people over Halloween start at £535 for a short break (three or four nights) and £740 for a week.  Day boat prices start at £99 per day.

Here’s a guide to our spookiest destinations for Halloween 2020:

  1. Watch out for an Aqueduct Apparition – the Llangollen Canal in Wrexham is haunted by an eerie figure that can sometimes be seen on moonlit nights, gliding along the towpath alongside the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. From Drifters’ base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, it’s a 10-minute cruise to the Aqueduct.  On a short break from Trevor, canal boat holiday-makers can travel across the Aqueduct and on to Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  Day boat hire is also available from Trevor, starting at £120 per day.
  2. Steel yourself for a visit from the Viscount – Once a 13th century monastery, The George Inn at Bathampton is said to be haunted by the ghost of Viscount John Baptiste Du Barre, who mortally wounded in the last legal duel fought in Britain. The Viscount was reputedly a decadent man who held lavish parties and enjoyed gambling.  Following an argument over a card game, a challenge was thrown down and on 18 November 1778, he and his opponent met on Claverton Down at dawn.  Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath is a 20-minute cruise from the George Inn.
  3. Hear echoes of a killing at Kidsgrove – the Trent & Mersey Canal’s Harecastle Tunnel at Kidsgrove is said to be home to a shrieking boggart – the ghost of Kit Crewbucket who was murdered and his headless corpse was dumped in the canal. Harecastle Tunnel is an hour away from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Stoke on Trent.
  4. Witness some ghostly goings-on at The Navigation Inn – the Navigation Inn on the Calder & Hebble Navigation at Sowerby Bridge dates back to the 15th century, and served travellers along the old salt road from Chester to York long before the canal was built. According to the landlord, there’s plenty of supernatural activity in this ancient building, including noises in the cellar, clocks that mysteriously stop and spirits that appear in the kitchen.  The Navigation Inn is very close to Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge.
  5. Beware the blood stained steps at Brindley Bank – the Trent & Mersey Canal at Brindley Bank Aqueduct in Staffordshire, is said to be haunted by Christina Collins, who was murdered there on 17 June 1839 and her body flung into the canal. Three boatmen were convicted of her killing; two were hanged, the third transported.  As Christina’s body was dragged from the water, her blood ran down a flight of sandstone steps leading from the canal, and it is said that the stain occasionally reappears on those stones.  Brindley Bank is just over an hour away from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal.
  6. Get the chills in Chester – visit the City’s old Northgate where the canal was dug into part of the town’s moat and a Roman centurion can sometimes be seen guarding the entrance to the City. Canal boat holiday-makers can hire a boat from Drifters’ base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, and reach Chester in seven hours, and passing through nine locks.
  7. Mind the Monkey Man at Norbury – the Shropshire Union Canal is said to be Britain’s most haunted canal with five ghosts along its length, including the terrifying ‘Monkey Man’ at Bridge 39 near Norbury. This hideous black, shaggy coated being is believed to be the ghost of a boatman drowned there in the 19th  Narrowboat holiday-makers can head north from Drifters’ base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal near Stafford, reaching Bridge 39 in around four and a half hours.
  8. Prepare to be spooked at Blisworth Tunnel – on the Grand Union Canal at Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire, the Blisworth Tunnel has spooked a number of boaters over the years.  At 2,795 metres long, it’s one of the longest on the canal system.  When construction began in 1793, the tunnel was a major engineering challenge.  Teams of navvies worked with picks and shovels for three years until they hit quicksand and the tunnel collapsed, killing 14 men.  A new route for the tunnel was found and it finally opened on 25 March 1805.  Over the years, a number of boaters travelling through the tunnel have reported seeing lights and a second route emerging.  But the tunnel runs straight through the hill so people must have seen the flicker of candlelight at the spot where the first tunnel would have intersected with the main canal tunnel.  Perhaps the ghostly navvies are still working there…?  The Blisworth Tunnel is less than an hour away from Drifters’ base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire.  Day boat hire is also available from Gayton, starting at £129 per day.

     

    A family holiday on the Kennet & Avon Canal

    Nichola from Globalmouse Travels and her family took a Drifters canal boat holiday on the Kennet & Avon Canal, travelling from our Bath base.

    They enjoyed watching ‘the beautiful Georgian architecture of Bath’ as they set off on their family adventure afloat.  Nichola says ‘the children immediately loved it’, watching the ducks and swans from the bow of the boat.

    They travelled over Dundas Aqueduct, enjoying ‘wonderful countryside views’.  They stopped at Bradford on Avon and enjoyed Sunday lunch at The Boat House pub alongside the canal.

    Nichola says, ‘The canal is at its most beautiful in the quiet of the morning’ and said they loved listening to the sounds of the wildlife around them.

    They found steering the boat ‘tricky’ at first but were impressed with the help and support they received from the boating community, when mooring up and going through Bradford on Avon Lock.

    Summing up, Nichola says ‘there’s something very special about time on the waterways’ and she describes canals as a ‘beautiful, peaceful escape’.

    To find out more, visit https://www.globalmousetravels.com/summer-days-drifting-along-the-kennet-avon-canal-from-bath-to-bradford-on-avon/

    Cruise through the countryside this October Half Term

    Canal boat holidays are great for families – offering the chance to ship out together on an adventure afloat, learning how to navigate the canals, work the locks and watch out for waterway wildlife along the way.

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

    Here are Drifters’ top five canal boat holiday destinations for this October Half Term:

    1. Cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Packwood House – from our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s a peaceful seven-hour cruise through the countryside to the village of Lapworth. With locks along the way, it’s a great short break for beginners. Once moored up in Lapworth, you can take a short walk to the National Trust’s Packwood House, with magnificent gardens, and enjoy the Packwood Welly Walk for families, or the longer Packwood House to Baddesley Clinton walk through the Arden countryside.

    2. Navigate the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation to Brighouse – on a short break from our boat yard at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Brighouse and back along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation. This historic town, famous for its Brighouse and Rastick Brass Band, offers glorious Pennines walks, places to eat and shops. Along the way, you’ll pass through the historic market town of Elland and the village of Mirfield, with medieval stocks and ducking stool. The journey there and back travels 12 miles, passes through 20 locks (10 each way) and takes around eight hours.

    3. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Whitchurch – on a week’s holiday from our narrowboat hire centre at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, you can travel to Whitchurch and back. The journey there and back takes around 44 hours, passing through just four locks (two each way). Along the way, you’ll travel across the incredible UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which carries the canal 38 metres high above the Dee Valley. The journey continues on through Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. Before reaching historic Whitchurch, where there are plenty of places to moor and explore the town with independent shops, pubs, restaurants and way-marked walks.

    4. Potter through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton – from our canal boat hire base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, it takes around 10 hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man – perfect for a mid-week break afloat. Along the way, you’ll pass through miles of beautiful Shropshire countryside, six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs.

    5. Wind your way to Castle Quay in Manchester – from our canal boat hire base at Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, it takes around 10½ hours to reach Castle Quay, cruising along 31 miles of inland waterways and passing through just one lock. This route, which begins at the site of the incredible Anderton Boat Life, AKA ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’, is perfect for a four-night mid-week break afloat. It includes three tunnels, miles of quiet countryside, the pretty village of Lymm and an urban section passing the Manchester United football ground, Salford Quays and the Old Trafford Crick Ground, before reaching moorings at Castle Quay.

    To check availability, go to www.drifters.co.uk.

    For more information about visiting the canal network go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

    Yorkshire Wonders reviews a canal boat holiday from our Barnoldswick base

    Last August, Nikki Turner-Chaplin and her family set off on their first canal boat holiday, from our narrowboat hire base on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Barnoldswick, run by Drifters operator Shire Cruisers.

    Nikki and her husband had enjoyed holidays afloat as children and wanted their two children to experience a canal boat holiday too.

    They set off on the sunny August bank holiday weekend and journeyed east towards Skipton, travelling through the three locks at Greenberfield, under instruction from the Shire Cruisers team.

    They moored for their first night at East Marton.  The following day they ‘headed further towards Skipton where the canal winds around and the scenery is stunning’.  They turned around before reaching Skipton and spent their second night at Foulridge, where they ate at the Cargo Café.  They spent their last night at Salterforth.

    Nikki’s blog includes a video review of their boat ‘Rutland’ and lots of images of canal scenery and their boat.

    To read the review, go to https://yorkshirewonders.co.uk/narrow-boating-on-the-leeds-liverpool-canal-in-yorkshire-review

    Loveexploring reviews a holiday travelling round the Droitwich Ring

    Jo Kessel, her husband and three teenage children set off for their first canal boat holiday from our Worcester base in July.

    Travelling aboard the 69ft ‘Aquatic Warbler’ narrowboat for up to eight people, Jo and her family took a four night midweek break and completed the Droitwich Ring, also known as the Mid-Worcestershire Ring.

    This journey took them on a 21-mile circular route – the only canal boat ring that can be completed comfortably on a short break.  They passed through 33 locks in around 16 hours.  They travelled along sections of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, the Droitwich Canals and the River Severn.

    Jo says, ‘A holiday on a narrowboat ticks so many boxes: it’s different, it’s active, it’s adventurous and it’s more about the journey than the destination.’

    She describes the facilities on board the boat, their top stops (including Hanbury Hall and the village of Salwarpe) and how they worked as a team to navigate their route: ‘While the boat’s captain has to stay put, the crews’ jobs are unexpectedly physical. We winded paddles on lock gates back and forth; we hammered pegs into the ground; we pulled and tethered ropes; we pushed away swing bridges. And in between we walked the towpath, foraging for fruit. Blackberries, raspberries and greengages were ripe for the picking.’

    Summing up, Jo says the holiday was ‘a perfect blend of physical activity and relaxation’, saying they slipped into a ‘new rhythm’ they ‘dubbed the slow life’.

    To read the full review, go to https://www.loveexploring.com/news/98895/family-canal-boat-holiday-uk

    To see Jo’s tour of their narrowboat, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mmx69LQSv0

    The Family Holiday Guide reviews a canal boat holiday from Trevor

    In July Victoria Pollitt and husband took their two children for a canal boat holiday aboard the 67ft barge Askrigg.

    They set off from our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales.

    It was their first narrowboat holiday and it included journeying across the famous World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

    Victoria says: ‘I quickly discover that canal boating is simultaneously very relaxing and stressful. Once we cross the aqueduct with its amazing views, there are other boats to dodge, tight turns to master and long tunnels to chug through.

    ‘At first, bridges and locks may be daunting but they quickly become part of the fun, giving the children some activity and making them feel part of the team.  Luckily, every boater seems friendly and happy to help if you get in a fix.’

    Their journey takes them to the Welsh border village of Chirk, and Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.

    Victoria says: ‘There’s something pretty awesome about travelling along in a floating home but I recommend mooring up as often as possible to explore the towpath and surroundings.  We love stopping where we want, discovering walks through the countryside with just cows for company. This slow pace of travel needs to be embraced.’

    To read the full guide, including 10 top tips for taking children on a canal boat holiday, go to https://thefamilyholidayguide.co.uk/canal-boat-holiday/

    Top 11 Canal Boat Holidays for 2021

    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 visit along the way.

    Here are Drifters’ Top 11 canal boat holidays for 2021:

    1. Explore the Staffordshire countryside from Kings Orchard – in March 2021, Drifters will be opening a new narrowboat hire base at Kings Orchard Marina on the Coventry Canal near Lichfield in Staffordshire. On a short break from Kings Orchard, you can cruise to the beautiful wildlife rich Tixall Wide and back, passing through Fradley Junction, Rugeley, Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Great Haywood Junction along the way.  The journey there and back travels 32 miles, passes through 10 locks (five each way) and takes around 16 hours.  On a week away, boaters can continue on from Tixall Wide to complete the Birmingham Ring, taking them on a waterway odyssey with a mixture of urban and rural landscapes, including Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham and a series of canalside villages with historic canalside pubs.
    2. Look out for otters on the Montgomery Canal – this beautiful canal, which runs for 38 miles between England and Wales, is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on both sides of the border. The entire length in Wales is also recognised as a Special Area of Conservation, making it one of the most important sites for wildlife in Europe, providing habitats for many types of plants and animals, including otters.  Currently only around half the Montgomery Canal is navigable, including a seven-mile section from its junction with the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire at Frankton Locks to Gronwyn Wharf.  Work is underway to restore a further section, extending this navigable stretch to Crickheath, due to be completed in 2021.  On a short break from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Chirk, it takes around eight hours to cruise to Gronwyn Wharf on the Montgomery Canal, travelling 15 miles and passing through 10 locks.
    3. The Warwickshire Ring – from Drifters narrowboat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel round the popular Warwickshire Ring. The journey, which can be done in a week but is best savoured over 10 days or two weeks afloat, travels a total of 101 miles, passes through 94 locks and takes around 48 hours.  Passing through a mixture of urban and rural landscapes, the route takes boaters along sections of the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals.  Highlights include: the flight of 11 locks into Atherstone; the pretty canal village of Braunston; Newbold and Shrewley tunnels; the awesome Hatton Flight of 21 locks; Warwick Castle; and Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin.
    4. Cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Norbury – from Drifters narrowboat hire base at Autherley, on a short break canal boat holiday-makers can cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Autherley and back. The rural route takes boaters through 15 miles of peaceful countryside, passing through just two locks and a series of pretty villages with canalside pubs, including the Bridge Inn at Brewood and the Hartley Arms at Wheaton Ashton.
    5. Navigate through the Pennines to East Marton – starting from Drifters’ 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.
    6. 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 Drifters’ 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.
    7. 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.
    8. Glide along the Forth & Clyde to visit Glasgow – from Drifters’ canal boat 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.
    9. 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 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.
    10. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ into the Shropshire Lake District – from Drifters’ base at Trevor on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District, 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.
    11. 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.

    For information about visiting the canal network go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk