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Tips for narrowboat holiday-makers, come rain or shine

Nigel and Kathryn Crawford of MrandMrs50Plus.com recently enjoyed a Drifters narrowboat holiday, setting off from our canal boat hire base at Worcester.

The UK weather is a fickle thing.  A May weekend on the canals can throw just about everything at you in just three days.  On our recent Drifters narrowboat holiday we bounced from blazing hot sunshine to driving rain and hail within hours.

A canal holiday, however, is beautifully versatile.  All Drifters narrowboats have central heating, little sun decks at the bow, and many are equipped with umbrellas and waterproof clothing.  Despite everything the weather threw at us, it didn’t in any way spoil what was a thoroughly enjoyable few days.

Narrowboats are homely and well-equipped

There’s even something quite tranquil and relaxing about pottering along the canal in the pouring rain.  It’s a totally different take on the waterway environment. It’s important to remember to close the cabin door when it’s like that though, to make sure your duvet doesn’t get wet on the bed below!  Notwithstanding the meteorological challenges, the boats are comfy, homely and well-equipped.

Planning ahead

As experienced boaters we had planned our little trip before arriving at the Worcester Marina base. We bore in mind the location of public moorings, water points, winding points (turning areas) and how many locks we’d encounter on our route.  In our earliest narrowboat escapades, I think in retrospect we were a little over-eager in our planning. On more than one occasion we ended up having to cover unnecessarily long distances to get back to base on time.  Nowadays, we’re far more conservative, focusing just as much on the moored-up time as on the canal transit.

The Importance of Maps

We can’t stress how important having a good detailed canal map can be.  It really helps you to plan ahead and avoids stressful twilight searches for suitable mooring places or watering points.  We always buy and download digital pdf maps that we can view on pretty much any device.  We particularly like those from waterwayroutes.co.uk. They’re an invaluable part of any waterways holiday nowadays.

Make space for chill time

We found a lovely mooring near The Bridge pub at Tibberton and found lots to see and do up around Droitwich Spa.  One possibility that we had considered was doing the ‘Droitwich Ring’ but we decided that it was an optimistic challenge for a weekend hire.  We decided instead to re-trace our steps back down the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to give us more ‘chill time’. It was a short, but memorable weekend to keep the narrowboating flame burning.

Find out more about Kathryn and Nigel’s adventures afloat here https://mrandmrs50plus.com/narrowboating-with-drifters/

Visit Coventry on a canal boat holiday

This year’s City of Culture – Coventry – is a key destination on the midlands canal network, so it’s a great place to visit on a canal boat holiday.

The city, which led the way in the cloth and textiles trade, has its own canal.  The Coventry Canal runs 38 miles from Coventry Basin, up to the Trent & Mersey Canal at Fradley.  The first five and a half miles of the Coventry Canal between Coventry Basin and Hawkesbury Junction was designated a conservation area in 2012.

Special City of Culture events include a three-day music festival in July and the BBC spoken word festival in September.  The City’s many permanent attractions, include its famous Cathedral, St Mary’s Guildhall and Coventry Transport Museum.

To celebrate this year’s UK City of Culture, we’ve listed our Top 4 narrowboat holidays to Coventry:

1. Cruise the Coventry Canal from Kings Orchard in Staffordshire

From our new canal boat hire base at Kings Orchard it takes 16 hours to reach Coventry Basin.  The journey travels 34 miles of the Coventry Canal and passes through 13 locks.  The route takes you through the Staffordshire countryside.  And it passes a series of canalside pubs, including The Greyhound Inn at Hawkesbury Junction.

2. Navigate the Oxford Canal from Braunston in Northamptonshire

From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Braunston, it takes 12 hours to reach Coventry Basin.  You’ll cruise 28 miles of waterway and pass through just four locks.  You’ll journey through the Northamptonshire countryside and past a series of canalside towns and villages, including Hillmorton and Rugby.

3. Travel to Coventry from Napton in Warwickshire

From our boat yard at Napton on the Oxford Canal, it takes 14 hours to reach Coventry Basin.  The route navigates 33 miles of canals and passes through four locks.  You’ll travel through the countryside and past a series of canalside pubs, including the Royal Oak at Hillmorton.

4. Cruise to Coventry from Stockton in Warwickshire

From Stockton on the Grand Union Canal it takes 15 hours to reach Coventry.  You’ll travel along 36 miles of waterway, and pass through seven locks.  The route transfers onto the Oxford Canal at Napton Junction, and takes you through the countryside to Coventry.

For more information about Coventry UK City of Culture events, go to https://coventry2021.co.uk/

To book a mooring space in Coventry Basin, go to https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/boating/planning-your-boat-trip/booking-your-passage-online or call The Canal & River Trust on 0303 040 4040.

Top 6 Summer 2021 Narrowboat Holidays

Canal boat holidays offer a great self-catering holiday option for families, with the chance to set off together on an outdoor adventure afloat.

There are over 3,000 miles of inland waterways to explore, with hundreds of waterside destinations.  From pubs, cafes and shops, to museums and nature reserves, there’s always something special to plan at stop at.

Drifters offers 550 self-drive narrowboats for hire from 45 locations across England, Wales and Scotland.  Summer holiday prices start at £965 for a short break (three or four nights) and £1,335 for a week on a boat for four people.

Drifters’ director Nigel Stevens explains: “Today’s narrowboats for hire offer all the mod cons of home.  This includes central heating, hot water, TV, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets.  Some also offer extras, like wider beds, larger showers, solid-fuel stoves and Wifi.

“You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat, and tuition is included in all our holiday packages.

“Around 350,000 people enjoy narrowboating each year.  With the current focus on domestic holidays, we are looking forward to welcoming more people to the waterways this year.”

  1. Cruise to Manchester & back

On a week’s break from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Acton Bridge, narrowboat holiday-makers can cruise to Manchester and back, enjoying time in the countryside as well as well as the City.  The route, which travels a total of 68 miles of waterway (34 each way) passes through just one lock.  Places to stop off at along the way, include Stockton Heath, with a choice of shops, boutiques, restaurants and pubs, as well as the historic village of Lymm.  On arrival in Manchester, there are places to moor at Castlefield Basin, within easy reach of City Centre attractions. And to visit the Trafford Centre, boaters can return via Worsley on the Bridgewater Canal closeby.

  1. Navigate the Kennet & Avon Canal to Bath

On a short break from Drifters canal boat hire base at Hilperton, boaters can travel to Bath and back.  The route travels a total of 25 miles, passes through 6 locks and takes around 13 hours.  Along the way, the canal takes holiday-makers past a series of canalside pubs, including The Barge in at Seend, The Boat House at Bradford on Avon, the Cross Guns at Avoncliff and the George at Bathampton.  There are overnight moorings close to Sydney Gardens, a short walk from Bath City Centre.

  1. Travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation to Brighouse

On a short break from Drifters’ boat yard at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Brighouse and back. This historic town, famous for its Brighouse and Rastick Brass Band, offers glorious Pennines walks, as well as great places to eat and shop. Along the way, boaters 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.

  1. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

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 (three or four nights).

  1. Cruise through the countryside to Banbury & back

On a week’s holiday from Drifters narrowboat hire base at Stockton canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the peaceful Oxford Canal to Banbury and back.  The journey there and back cruises 50 miles, passes through 50 locks and takes around 29 hours.  It passes through a series of villages with pubs, including the Folly Inn at Napton, the Wharf Inn at Fenny Compton and the Red Lion at Cropredy.

  1. Boat to the ancient City of Chester

On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury near Tarporley in Cheshire, canal boat holiday-makers can head north to the historic City of Chester.  This 12-mile journey through the rolling Cheshire countryside takes seven hours, passing through 18 locks.  Once in Chester, canal boat holiday-makers can enjoy some of this ancient city’s best loved attractions, including Britain’s most complete Roman and medieval walls, the Tudor open-air galleries, and Chester Zoo which celebrates its 90th birthday this year.

For more information about Drifters boating holidays call 0344 984 0322 or visit https://www.drifters.co.uk/.

For information about visiting the canal network go to https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/

Drifters prepares for a record narrowboat holiday season

Following confirmation that domestic holidays can resume on 12 April for single households, Drifters operators are preparing for a record number of canal boat holidays to be taken in Britain.

Drifters’ director Nigel Stevens explains:

“With the current focus on domestic holidays, narrowboat holidays have never been more popular, and many people are planning their first holiday on the canals this year.

“Drifters offers 550 boats from 45 locations across England, Wales and Scotland.  The peak spring and summer months are already booking up well.  But we still have availability, especially for single households from 12 April.  And two households or the ‘rule of six’ from 17 May.

“You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat, and tuition is included in all our holiday packages.  Around 350,000 people enjoy narrowboating each year, and we are looking forward to welcoming more people to the waterways this year.

“Our narrowboats are equipped with everything you need on board for a self-catering holiday afloat.  There are over 3,000 miles of inland waterways to explore, with hundreds of waterside destinations.  From pubs and cafes, to museums and nature reserves, there’s always something special to plan at stop at.”

To celebrate, here are Drifters’ top six 2021 narrowboat holiday destinations:

Drift through the Calder Valley

On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, boaters can travel along the leafy Rochdale Canal to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge.  The route travels through the leafy Calder Valley.  It climbs 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 in the centre of town to enjoy a good choice of places to eat.  There are also stunning walks up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags.

Travel round the Birmingham Ring

Drifters is opening a new narrowboat hire base at Kings Orchard Marina on the Coventry Canal in Staffordshire.  On a week’s break from Kings Orchard, canal boat holiday-makers can complete the Birmingham Ring.  This takes boaters on a waterway odyssey with a mixture of urban and rural landscapes.  These range from Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham to Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Staffordshire.

Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

On a short break from Drifters’ base at Trevor on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, boaters can travel across the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  Then on to Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  On a week’s break, boaters can continue on to the historic market town of Whitchurch.

Cruise to the ancient City of Chester

Drifters has a canal boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury near Tarporley in Cheshire.  On a short break from there, canal boat holiday-makers can head north to the historic City of Chester.  This 12-mile journey through the rolling Cheshire countryside takes seven hours, passing through 18 locks.

Travel round the Droitwich Ring

From Drifters’ base at Worcester, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise round the Droitwich mini-ring.  The route takes canal boat holiday-makers on a 20-mile circuit of the Worcestershire countryside, passing through the historic spa town of Droitwich and the cathedral city of Worcester.  There are 33 locks and it takes around 16 hours, so it’s perfect for a short break.

Watch out for wildlife on the Ashby Canal

On a week’s holiday from Drifters canal boat hire base at Braunston, boaters can cruise to the pretty village of Snarestone and back.  The route travels 47 miles, passing through eight locks (four there and four back) in around 32 hours.  It takes boaters up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby, and on to Hawkesbury Junction to join the Coventry Canal.  Five miles later, the journey 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).  This recognises the diversity of its plant, insect and animal life.  Wildlife on the Ashby includes nine species of dragonfly, the water shrew, water vole and rare native white-clawed crayfish.

     

    Sculpture on the canals

    There are many engaging pieces of sculpture and public art to look out for along our waterways. Many of them celebrate their historic past and the wildlife that lives on the canals today.

    Some of the most famous sculptures that have appeared on our waterways have been temporary installations.  For example, Antony Gormley’s striking cast-iron cube figure that watched over Ned’s Lock on the Stratford Canal at Lowsonford in 2015.

    Here we’ve gathered together a list of sculptures permanently at home on Britain’s canal network, to watch out for on your next canal boat holiday:

    Jack o’ the Locks, Sowerby Bridge Wharf in West Yorkshire

    Sculpted by artist Richard Burnett in 2009, these two bronze life-size figures celebrate the industrial heritage of Sowerby Bridge, once the centre of the textile industry boom.  One of the figures is Richard Tiffany, the town’s lock keeper for many years.  By his side, helping him to push a lock gate is a young boy, modelled on Tiffany’s great grandson.

    Drifters has a narrowboat hire base at Sowerby Bridge wharf, which lies at the junction of the Rochdale Canal and Calder & Hebble Navigation.

    The Kelpies on the Forth & Clyde Canal in Scotland

    Standing at 30-metres high, the magnificent Kelpies are the largest pair of equine statues in the world.  Based on the heavy horses that once plied the canal towpaths, these mythical water horses stand at the gateway to the new extension to the Forth & Clyde Canal, taking it to Grangemouth.

    Narrowboat holiday-makers can reach the Kelpies in around four hours from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Falkirk.

    Opening the Lock Gate, City Road Basin in London

    Sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley has been commissioned to create three bronze sculptures for the 250 City Road development, next to London’s Regent’s Canal.  Rank-Broadley is famous for his effigy of the Queen, which has appeared on all Commonwealth coins since 1998.  The first installation at City Road, which depicts two canal workers opening a lock gate, was unveiled at the entrance to the central plaza in March 2020.  It will be followed by a barge lady this summer, and a boat horse and his handler in 2023.

    Drifters nearest canal boat rental base is on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Aldermaston, around 37 cruising hours away.

    James Brindley, Coventry Basin

    Often referred to as the ‘father of English canals’, canal engineer James Brindley is commemorated at Coventry Basin with a 7ft bronze statue.  Created by renowned sculptor James Butler, the sculpture portrays Brindley dressed in 18th century clothing, poring over canal plans at a desk.  The statue is one of 39 artworks by local artists along the Canal Art Trail, which runs for 5.5 miles from Coventry Basin to Hawkesbury Junction.

    The nearest Drifters canal boat hire yard is on the North Oxford Canal at Rugby, around seven cruising hours away.

    The Dragonfly at Hatton in Warwickshire

    This eye-catching stainless steel sculpture of a dragonfly has landed on a side pond above Lock 42, on the Hatton Flight of the Grand Union Canal.  The sculpture, which measures 6ft across, was created by the Welsh sculptor Gideon Peterson.  Early in his career, Peterson worked for Sir Anthony Caro.  The sculpture, which was commissioned by British Waterways in 2006, celebrates the wildlife of the waterways.

    Canal boat holiday-makers can reach Lock 42 from Drifters narrowboat rental base at Warwick in around three and a half cruising hours.

    The ‘Hawk/Creation’ at Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire

    Sculpted by the artist Kenny Hunter in 2013, a cast iron hawk can be seen next to the Rochdale Canal at Mytholmroyd.  The work was inspired by the poem ‘Hawk Roosting’ by the former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes.  Born in Mytholmroyd, Hughes spent his childhood years wandering the local fields and woods.

    The nearest Drifters base is at Sowerby Bridge, around three cruising hours away.

    Enjoy a day out boating this Spring

    Day boat hire on your local canal is a great way to enjoy the countryside this Spring.

    We offer day boat hire from 17 boat yards across England and Wales, with prices starting from less than £10 per person.

    Full tuition is included so if you are new to canal boating, you can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.

    Drifters day boats are available to hire to single households from 29 March. From 17 May, the rule of six or two households is likely to apply. And from 21 June, there will hopefully be no social distancing restrictions.

    Our day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle, perfect for a picnic afloat.  Most of our day boats also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.  And when pubs reopen, you can plan a stop for refreshment at a canalside pub.

    Top 7 day boat destinations for Spring 2021

    Glide through the Brecon Beacons

    From Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, boaters can enjoy incredible mountain views.  It takes two-and-a-half-hours to reach the popular Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62. ***‘Rooster’ can carry up to eight people, prices start from £137.

    Explore Shakespeare’s country afloat

    From Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford Upon Avon, boaters can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote.  Here you can enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn or the Masons Arms.  The journey takes two-and-a-half hours each way.  Along the way you’ll cross over the impressive Edstone Aqueduct with beautiful views across the Warwickshire countryside.

    Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

    From Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes less than 20 minutes to reach the World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  Standing at 38m above the Dee Valley, this incredible structure offers stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  After cruising over the Aqueduct, there’s another aqueduct and two tunnels to pass through, before reaching the Poacher’s Pocket pub at Glendrid.

    Boat to beautiful Bradford on Avon

    From Hilperton Marina near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, day boaters can cruise west along the Kennet & Avon Canal to the picturesque town of Bradford on Avon.  Here, there’s a striking 14th century Tithe Barn and choice of pubs and restaurants, including the canalside Barge Inn.

    Tunnel through rural Worcestershire

    From Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can cruise to Kings Norton Junction.  There’s a choice of pubs to moor at along the way, including The Crown at Alvechurch.  The route is lock-free but there are two tunnels to pass through, including Wast Hill Tunnel, which is nearly 2.5km long.

    Cruise to Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District

    From Whixall Marina on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, day boaters can head to the historic town of Ellesmere and back.  The journey takes around two-and-a-half hours, passing Bettisfield Windmill, Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park along the way.  Once at Ellesmere, you can moor up and explore the famous Mere with its historic castle, woodland paths and fascinating wildlife.

    Travel through the Staffordshire countryside to Rugeley

    From Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, day boaters can cruise to Rugeley and back.  The journey travels four miles and passes through two locks.  It takes around two hours, passing the through Cannock Chase along the way.  And the popular Wolseley Arms pub at Wolseley Bridge.

    Our holidays and the #RoadMapOutOfLockdown

    Following the Government’s announcement last night (22 February), sadly all our holidays booked to depart prior to 12 April have to be cancelled.

    We will contact everyone affected.  We will offer to either move or refund your holiday.  Please bear with us as this will take a little time.

    If you have an urgent query, please do email the Drifters operator you have booked with.

    Our holidays can resume from 12 April

    In line with current government guidance, we are now accepting bookings for holidays departing from Monday 12 April onwards.

    The current government guidelines allow only single households to travel together from 12 April.

    From 17 May, the rule of six or two households is likely to apply indoors.

    From 21 June all restrictions on social contact will hopefully be relaxed.

    Please note, all these dates are subject to change in line with government guidance.

    Top 10 reasons to take a canal boat holiday

    There are over 35,000 boats licenced for canal cruising in England and Wales, including over 1,000 hire boats.

    With the current focus on domestic holidays, narrowboat holidays have never been more popular.  And many people are planning their first holiday on the canals this year.

    You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat, and tuition is included in all our holiday packages.  There are over 3,000 miles of inland waterways to explore, with hundreds of waterside destinations.

    Ten reasons to take a narrowboat holiday

     

    1. It’s like a floating safari 

      Our beautiful network of inland waterways provides homes for many types of birds, plants, animals and insects. Look out for herons, kingfishers, ducks, swans, moorhens, coots, butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, woodland birds and bats.  And if you are lucky, you might also see an otter or a water vole.

    1. You can moor up at a canalside pub

      There are hundreds of pubs to enjoy along our canals and rivers, many of them historic inns dating back over 200 years to the days of the working boats.

    1. We feel happier by the water

      Research carried out by the Canal & River Trust’s shows we feel happier and less stressed by our waterways.  And the longer we spend there, the more relaxed we become.

    1. It’s the fastest way to slow down

      With speed limits of just 4mph and hundreds of miles of tranquil unspoilt countryside to cruise through, a narrowboat holiday takes you back to a slower, more peaceful pace of life.

    1. You can take everything you need

      Our hire boats have everything you need to enjoy a self-catering holiday afloat.  This includes central heating, hot water, TV, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets.

    1. You don’t need a licence to steer a narrowboat

      Boat steering tuition is provided as part of all Drifters holiday packages, so it’s easy for newcomers to take to the water.

    1. It’s better for the planet

      As soon as you swap your car for a boat, you’ll be using a third of the fuel. So a waterway tour will reduce your holiday carbon footprint, especially if you opt for a departure base closer to home. 

    1. It’s a break from the screen

      Boating offers plenty of activities to keep all the family busy. From steering the boat, working the locks and planning the route, to exploring waterside attractions and watching out for wildlife.

    1. You can bring your pets

      We welcome dogs and many other types of pet on all our boats, so you don’t have to leave your furry friends behind.

    1. You can enjoy an outdoor workout

      Working the locks, as well as walking, running and cycling along the towpath, makes a narrowboat holiday great for keeping fit.

       

      ‘Top of the locks’ narrowboat holiday destinations for 2021

      There are over 1,800 locks on the 2,000 miles of navigable waterways in England and Wales.  Locks allow boats to travel up and down hills, and have been around for hundreds of years.

      With around 35,000 boats licenced to cruise the canals, there are approximately 3.85 million lockages (uses of a lock) each year.

      A lock is simply a chamber with gates at either end, and canal boat holiday-makers follow a series of step-by-step tasks to use them.  By emptying or filling the chamber with water, boats can move up or down onto a new section of waterway.

      There are many different kinds of locks

      From narrow and broad, to staircase and double, there are many different kinds of locks.  But they all on work on a similar principle.  With the lock gates closed, boaters should open the sluices (paddles) to let the water in or out.  When the water level under the boat is the same as the level it’s moving to, the boat can move in or out of the lock.

      Some locks are operated by boaters, others by lock-keepers.  Tuition is included in all Drifters’ canal boat holiday packages, and during the handover boat yard staff will usually guide hirers through their first lock.

      Top 8 flights of locks

      Here at Drifters’ we’ve put together our Top 8 flights of locks to celebrate these marvels of canal engineering:

      1. The Caen Hill Flight on the Kennet & Avon Canal

      One of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ and a Scheduled Ancient Monument, the locks at Caen Hill are one of the most iconic sites on the waterway network.  With 29 locks spread out over two miles, raising the canal by 72 metres, it takes around six hours to passage through.  The 16-lock section clustered together up the hill is truly a magnificent site.  Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Devizes is at the base of the Flight at Foxhangers Marina.

      1. Marple Locks on the Peak Forest Canal

      One of the steepest flights on the system, the 16 locks at Marple raise boats by 64 metres over just one mile.  The locks are built of local stone and are mostly tree-lined, giving the canal a lovely secluded feeling.  In fact the Peak Forest Canals is said to be one of Britain’s most scenic waterways.  It runs through beautiful countryside on the edge of the Peak District National Park.  Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Stoke on Trent is 32 miles and 14 locks away.

      1. The Tardebigge Flight on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal

      With 30 locks spread out over two-and-a-quarter miles, this awesome flight of locks is the longest on the inland waterways system.  In total, the locks raise and lower boats 67 metres, and it takes around five-and-a-half hours to travel through them.  In recognition of the effort it takes, the Canal & River Trust issues certificates to boaters rising (or lowering) to the challenge.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is at the top of the flight at Tardebigge Wharf, near Bromsgrove.

      1. The Bingley 5 Rise on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

      This spectacular staircase of five locks near Bradford is another of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’.  The locks raise (or lower) boats 18 metres in five cavernous chambers.  The locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom of the next.  It takes around one-and-a-half hours to work through.  The size of the chambers can be intimidating even for experienced boaters, but friendly lock-keepers are on hand to help.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat rental base is 25 miles and 20 locks away at Barnoldswick.

      1. The Hatton Flight on the Grand Union Canal

      This impressive flight of 21 locks was nicknamed ‘The Stairway to Heaven’ by the boaters who once carried cargos on the canals.  The locks rise up 45 metres over two miles, and it takes boaters around four-and-a-half hours to travel through them.  Just below the Top lock, Hatton Locks Café provides welcome refreshment for narrowboat holiday-makers and the “gongoozlers” watching them!  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is at Warwick, just two miles and two locks from Hatton Bottom Lock.

      1. Foxton Locks on the Grand Union Canal Leicester Line

      With countryside views all around, this flight of 10 locks raises boats up 23 metres in just a quarter-of-a-mile.  Foxton Locks is the longest set of staircase locks in the UK and is designated a Grade II Listed structure.  Staircase locks open directly one from another, so that the top gate of one forms the bottom of the next.  It takes around 45 minutes to pass through the locks.  Lock keepers are on hand to help, providing key advice when it comes to opening the paddles.  Their mantra “Red before white, you’ll be alright. White before red, you’ll be dead” is helpful to keep in mind!  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat boat hire base is a 14 hour cruise away, on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston.


      1. Wolverhampton Locks on the Birmingham Main Line Canal

      This flight of 21 locks rises boats up by 40 metres over one-and-three-quarter miles.  Travelling through these historic locks is one of the highlights for narrowboat holiday-makers travelling round the popular Stourport Ring.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is just 12 minutes away at Autherley.


      1. ‘Heartbreak Hill’ on the Trent & Mersey Canal

      The Cheshire flight of 31 locks between Middlewich and Kidsgrove, raise the canal up 85 metres from the Cheshire Plains.  The locks have been renamed ‘Heartbreak Hill’ by generations of leisure boaters.  Because the locks are close enough for the crew to stay on the towpath, but far enough to require a lot of walking!  Drifters’ nearest canal boat rental base is three cruising hours away at Stoke on Trent.

      Top 7 May Bank Holiday canal boat breaks for beginners

      Narrowboat holidays provide a floating holiday home.  Cruising along at just four miles per hour, watching out for wildlife along the way, you can take all the supplies you need for an adventure afloat.

      Drifters offers over 550 boats for hire, operating from 45 bases across England, Scotland and Wales.  Narrowboats range from 32ft to 70ft and can accommodate up to 12 people.  All our boats are equipped with essential home comforts, including central heating, hot water, TV, showers and flushing toilets.  Many now have WiFi too.

      A licence isn’t required to steer a canal boat, and all our operators provide boat steering tuition as part of their holiday packages.  To celebrate the two bank holidays in May, we’ve listed our top seven short break narrowboat holidays for beginners:

      1. 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, Market Drayton has a choice of places to eat and regular street markets. Along the way, you will pass through six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.
      2. Drift through the Calder Valley – on a weekend break from our canal boat rental 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 to Hebden Bridge covers seven miles, 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 stunning walks up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags.
      3. Complete the Droitwich Mini-Ring – the Droitwich Ring is the only canal boat holiday cruising circuit in Britain which can be completed on a short break. The 21-mile route takes boaters through the Worcestershire countryside along the River Severn, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and the Droitwich canals. There are 33 locks to pass through and it takes around 16 hours.
      4. Glide along the Forth & Clyde to visit Glasgow – from our canal boat hire base at Falkirk, at the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals, it’s a peaceful nine-hour cruise along the Forth & Clyde Canal to the City of Glasgow. Along the way, you will travel 22 miles and will pass through five locks.  This scenic route begins at the home of the magnificent Falkirk Wheel boat lift.  It then passes through Auchinstarry, the River Kelvin Valley with magnificent views of the Campsie Fells above, and the town of Kirkintillock.  Once at Glasgow, there are moorings at Applecross Street Basin, close to Glasgow’s wealth of cultural centres, including the Hunterian Museum.  
      5. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath – from our base at Devizes in Wiltshire, you can travel gently along the Kennet & Avon Canal to reach moorings at Sydney Wharf, close to Bath City Centre. The journey travels 19 miles, passing through eight locks and takes around nine hours.  Along the way, you’ll passes through the village of Seend with its popular canalside Barge Inn.  And the historic town of Bradford on Avon with its fascinating 14th century Tithe Barn.  You’ll also pass over the beautiful Avoncliff and Dundas Bath stone aqueducts.
      6. Cruise to Warwick Castle and back – from our canal boat hire base at 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, said to be Britain’s greatest medieval experience.
      7. 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 Drifters’ base at Trevor to Ellesmere and back takes boaters through four locks, and into the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. This journey takes around seven hours and includes the experience of travelling across the awesome UNESCO World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’.