Tag Archive for: canal boat holiday

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.

Castles to visit on a narrowboat holiday in England and Wales

Castles to visit on a narrowboat holiday

There’s a great choice of castle to visit on a narrowboat holiday.

From prison cells and dungeon tours, to ramparts and banqueting halls, Britain’s beautiful castles bring history to life.

Here are our top five castles to visit on a narrow boat holiday:

1. Explore the 18th century prison cells at Oxford Castle & Prison

Cruising from our base at Oxford on the River Thames, it’s a tranquil three-hour cruise to moorings at Hythe Bridge, close to Oxford Castle.  The journey travels six miles and passes through three locks.  Oxford Castle was founded by the Norman baron Robert D’Oilly the elder in 1071, but most of the fortress was destroyed in the English Civil War. By the 18th century, the remaining buildings had become Oxford’s local prison.  Today, as well as exploring the castle’s tower, crypt and mound, visitors can take a guided tour of the prison and learn about the lives of the people who were held there.

2. See the Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle

You can visit Windsor Castle on a narrowboat holiday departing from Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Berkshire. It takes two days to reach Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world.  The journey travels 39 miles and passes through 22 locks.  With 1,000 years of Royal history to discover, including Charles II’s magnificent State Apartments, Windsor Castle is packed with treasures from the Royal Collection.  The Changing of the Guard ceremony, which takes place on Thursdays and Saturdays at 11am, is a colour spectacle of British pageantry, with a continuing military purpose.

3. Climb the ramparts at Warwick Castle

From our Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, it’s a seven-hour journey, passing through 20 locks, to reach Warwick Castle on the banks of the River Avon. This is an amazing castle to visit on a narrowboat holiday! Dating back to William the Conqueror, Warwick Castle has ramparts to climb, the spooky Castle Dungeon tour to experience, the Great Hall and Staterooms to explore, and the sights, sounds and smells of the medieval period to witness in the Kingmaker exhibition.  There are also soaring birds of prey and trebuchet firing displays to watch, landscaped gardens wonder through and regular special live action performances.

4. Find out about the siege at Skipton Castle

Cruising from Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes around 3.5 hours to reach Skipton Castle.  This 900-year old fortress is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England. And it’s very close to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal so it’s a great castle to visit on a narrowboat holiday. Skipton Castle withstood a three-year siege during the English Civil War.  Today, visitors can climb from the depths of the Dungeon up to the top of the Watch Tower, and explore the magnificent Banqueting Hall, Kitchen, Bedchamber and Privy in between.

5. Discover murder holes at Chirk Castle

From Chirk on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes just 40 minutes to cruise to Chirk Bank visitor moorings.  From there, it takes around 30 minutes to walk up to Chirk Castle.  Owned by the National Trust, Chirk Castle is one of several medieval marcher fortresses built on the Welsh-English border to keep the Welsh under English rule.  Started in 1295, Chirk Castle had the most up-to-date defences of the time. These include round ‘drum’ towers that allowed archers a wide firing field, and created a ‘killing zone’ where the fields of fire overlapped.  Today, visitors can explore the Castle’s lavishly furnished rooms and Adam Tower, complete with two-level dungeons, medieval toilets and murder holes.  There are also 480 acres of parkland with walking trails to enjoy, and a glorious gardens to stroll through.

Longest tunnels to navigate on a canal boat holiday

6 longest tunnels to navigate on a canal boat holiday

There are well over 50 tunnels on the canal network, ranging in length from 25 yards (23 metres) to over three miles (5,210 metres).

The construction of tunnels was one of the most difficult tasks faced by the early canal engineers, and the dangerous and difficult work led to the death of many navvies, including 14 when a section of the Blisworth Tunnel collapsed in 1896.

To celebrate these engineering marvels, we’ve published a guide to the six longest canal tunnels in England and Wales:

  1. The Standedge Tunnel (5,210 metres/5,698 yards)

Tunnelling for 3.24 miles beneath the Pennines, this incredible feat of 18th 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 and opened 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.  It takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes to navigate through Standedge Tunnel.  Narrow boat holiday-makers need to book their passage though with a Canal & River Trust chaperone.  Drifters’ nearest base is at Sowerby Bridge, on the junction of the Calder & Hebble Navigation and Rochdale Canal, is 20 miles and 65 locks away. The journey to Standedge takes around 21 hours (three days).

  1. Blisworth Tunnel (2,794 metres/3,056 yards)

At 1.74 miles long, Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Canal at Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire is the second longest navigable tunnel on the canal system.  Construction began in 1793, and it was opened in 1805.  It’s wide enough to accommodate two narrowboats, so it’s not necessary to book a passage through it.  From Drifters’ base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, it takes around 38 minutes to reach the northern entrance of the Blisworth Tunnel.

  1. Netherton Tunnel (2,768 metres/3,027 yards)

Tunnelling for 1.72 miles, Netherton Tunnel is on the Birmingham Canal Navigations Netherton Branch in Birmingham.  It was the last tunnel constructed during the canal age, and was built with towpaths on both sides.  From Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Alvechurch, it takes around eight hours to reach Netherton Tunnel, cruising 19 miles of waterway.

  1. Harecastle Tunnel (2,676 metres/2,926 yards)

Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal is 1.65 miles long and it takes around 30 minutes to navigate through.  Designed by Thomas Telford, it was completed in 1827. Passage through the tunnel is in a single direction at a time, because only one of the two original Harecastle Tunnels is in operation. Access is controlled by the Canal & River Trust’s Tunnel keeper team, allowing groups of boats to pass through in convoy, before reversing the flow of traffic.  From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Stoke on Trent it takes around one and a half hours to reach the southern entrance of Harecastle Tunnel.

  1. Wast Hills Tunnel (2,493 metres/2,726 yards)

At 1.55 miles long, it takes around 37 minutes to navigate through Wast Hills Tunnel, on the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal.  Designed by Thomas Cartwright and completed in 1796, Wast Hills is wide enough to accommodate two narrowboats, so it’s not necessary to book a passage through it.  From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge, it takes about two-and-a-half hours to cruise to the southern entrance of Wast Hills Tunnel.

  1. Braunston Tunnel (1,867 metres/2,042 yards)

Braunston Tunnel on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire is 1.17 miles long and was completed in 1796.  It takes around 20 minutes to navigate and it’s wide enough to accommodate passing narrowboats, so there’s no need to book a passage.  With six locks to pass through before reaching the western entrance, Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Braunston is about an hour-and-a-half away.

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 of the Locks’ for 2024 canal boat holidays

There are over 1,800 locks on the 2,000 miles of navigable waterways in England and Wales, all enabling boats to travel up and down hills.

There’s no mystery to using locks – just a series of step-by-step tasks.

A lock is simply a chamber with gates at either end.  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, 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 our canal boat holiday packages.

During your handover procedure, our boat yard staff will usually be able to take you through your first lock.

To celebrate these marvels of canal engineering, we’ve put together a guide to the Top 7 lock flight destinations for 2024 narrow boat holidays:

1. Hatton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire

The Hatton Flight was nicknamed ‘The Stairway to Heaven’ by the boaters who once carried cargos on the canals.  This impressive flight of 21 locks raises boats up 45 metres over two miles, and takes around four-and-a-half hours to travel through.  Just below the Top lock, you’ll find the popular Hatton Locks Café for welcome refreshment. Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is eight cruising hours away at Stockton.  The journey travels 11 miles and passes through 22 locks.

2. Caen Hill on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire

Caen Hill at Devizes in Wiltshire is one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.  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, and one of the most iconic on the waterway network.  Drifters’ Devizes narrowboat hire base is at the base of the Flight at Foxhangers Marina.

3. Wigan on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Lancashire

This epic flight of 21 locks is said to be one of the most fearsome on the waterways.  Descending 70 metres in less than two miles, it takes around five hours to pass through all the locks.  The flight travels through New Springs, a suburb of Wigan which was once an industrial hub with collieries and ironworks lining the canal.  Today it’s a post-industrial landscape of waste ground, modern housing and terraced streets.  From Drifters’ base at Barnoldswick, it takes around 19 cruising hours to reach Wigan Top Lock Junction, travelling 48 miles and passing through 20 locks.

4. Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal in Worcestershire

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.

5. Bingley 5 Rise on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire

Another one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’, this spectacular staircase of five locks is near Bradford.  It raises (or lowers) 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. The journey takes around 14 and a half hours.

6. Foxton on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal in Leicestershire

Surrounded by stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, this set 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 a Grade II Listed structure.  In staircases, the 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. There are lock keepers on hand to help.  They offer key advice when it comes to opening the paddles: “Red before white, you’ll be alright. White before red, you’ll be dead.”  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat boat hire base is around 13 cruising hours away at Braunston.  The journey to Foxton Top Staircase travels 27 miles and passes through 13 locks.

7. Marple on the Peak Forest Canal in Cheshire

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.  The Peak Forest Canals is said to be one of Britain’s most scenic waterways, running through beautiful countryside on the edge of the Peak District National Park.  Drifters’ Stoke on Trent canal boat hire base is around 19 cruising hours away from Marple Bottom Lock.  The journey there travels 32 miles and passes through 14 locks.

Crossing the Avoncliff Aqueduct on a canal boat holiday

Top 10 aqueducts to cruise across on a canal boat holiday

Britain’s 3,000-mile canal network is made up of thousands of historic structures, including dozens of aqueducts.

Aqueducts were originally invented by the Romans.

The idea of a ‘canal in the sky’ was initially ridiculed by the canal builders.  They were concerned about the amount of masonry required to support the weight of the water above.

However, the engineers found a way and built dozens of canal aqueducts across the canal network.

They have survived to become some of the most iconic sights on our waterways.

To help plan your next adventure afloat, we’ve listed the top 10 aqueducts to glide across:

1. The Stream in the Sky in North Wales 

Standing 33 metres high above the Dee Valley, the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales has UNESCO World Heritage Status.  Designed by Thomas Telford, its 305-metre long cast iron trough in which narrowboats float, is supported by 19 enormous hollow pillars.  Ox blood was added to the lime mortar used to bind the masonry together.  It was believed the blood of a strong animal would help strengthen the structure.  You can reach this aqueduct from our hire boat yards at Trevor, Chirk, Blackwater Meadow, Whitchurch, Wrenbury and Whixall.

2. Avoncliff Aqueduct in Somerset

Designed by canal engineer John Rennie, the beautiful Bath stone Avoncliff Aqueduct carries the Kennet & Avon Canal across the Avon Valley near Bath.  It is over 100 metres long and 18 metres wide.  You can reach this aqueduct on a canal boat holiday from our bases at Bath, Monkton Coombe, Bradford on Avon, Hilperton and Devizes.

3. Chirk Aqueduct on the Welsh border

Also part of the Llangollen Canal World Heritage site, the striking Chirk Aqueduct was completed in 1801.  It was designed by William Jessop and Thomas Telford.  It is 220 metres long and carries the Llangollen Canal 21 metres high above the River Ceiriog, using 10 circular masonry arches.  You can easily reach the Chirk Aqueduct from our bases at Trevor, Chirk, Blackwater Meadow, Whitchurch, Wrenbury and Whixall.

4. The Iron Trunk Aqueduct in Buckinghamshire

This magnificent engineering structure was the world’s first wide canal cast iron trough aqueduct.  It takes the Grand Union Canal 12 metres high across the River Great Ouse, close to the village of Cosgrove.  It was built in 1811 by canal engineer Benjamin Beavan, and is made up of two cast iron trough spans, with a single masonry pier.  Our nearest narrowboat hire base is a five hour cruise away at Gayton.

5. Dundas Aqueduct in Somerset

Another magnificent Bath stone aqueduct designed by John Rennie, this structure on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Bath was completed in 1810.  It’s designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument and connects the Kennet & Avon Canal to the Somerset Coal Canal.  You can easily be reach Dundas Aqueduct on a canal boat holiday from our bases at Bath, Monkton Coombe, Bradford on Avon, Hilperton and Devizes.

6. Edstone Aqueduct in Warwickshire

Carrying the Stratford Canal across three railway tracks, a minor road, a stream and a field, this 146 metre long structure is the longest cast iron aqueduct in England.  Completed in 1816, it was amongst the earliest prefabricated structures, made up of 35 separate sections bolted together.  Our nearest canal boat hire base is just under an hour away at Wootton Wawen.

7. The Lune Aqueduct in Lancashire

This Grade I listed iconic structure carries the Lancaster Canal 16 metres high above the River Lune.  It was designed by John Rennie and has five 21 metre high semi-circular arches.  The nearest Drifters’ base is a week’s cruise away at Acton Bridge on the River Weaver.

8. Nantwich Aqueduct in Cheshire

The Nantwich Aqueduct offers canal boat holiday-makers panoramic views across the historic market town of Nantwich.  This Grade II* listed historic structure carries the Shropshire Union Canal over the A534 Chester Road.  It was designed by the famous canal engineer Thomas Telford and completed 1826.  You can reach Nantwich Aqueduct in just two hours from our base at Bunbury.

9. Barton Swing Aqueduct in Greater Manchester

This Grade II* listed aqueduct carries the Bridgewater Canal across the Manchester Ship Canal.  It opened in 1893 and was the first and only swing aqueduct in the world.  Weighing 1,450 tonnes, the 100-metre long aqueduct swings open, full of water, to allow the passage of ships along the Manchester Ship Canal.  Our nearest base is a nine-hour cruise away at Acton Bridge.

10. Avon Aqueduct in Scotland

At 247 metres long, the impressive Avon Aqueduct in Scotland is the second longest aqueduct in Britain.  It carries the Union Canal 29.5 metres high above the River Avon near Linlithgow.  Designed by Hugh Baird, with advice from Thomas Telford, the aqueduct was constructed between 1819 and 1821.  Our nearest canal boat hire base is around three cruising hours away at Falkirk.

To find out more about visiting the canals in England and Wales, go to https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/

You can visit a Christmas market on a canal boat holiday

Best Christmas markets to visit on a canal boat holiday

Winter cruising on the canals offers the chance to visit a Christmas market on a canal boat holiday.

Our canal boats for hire range from snug narrowboats for two, to larger boats for seven, and prices start at £635 for a short break (three or four nights), £875 for a week.

All Drifters’ boats have central heating and hot water, and some also have multi-fuel stoves. So, whatever the weather, it’s always nice and cosy on board.

Here’s a guide to the top four Christmas markets to visit on a barge holiday in 2023:

1. Boat to the Bath Christmas market

From Thursday 23 November to Sunday 10 December, Bath Christmas market will return to the historic City of Bath. You can explore dozens of chalets nestled amongst iconic monuments, with a wide range of crafts, gifts, food and drink. From our canal barge base at Bath, it takes around two hours to cruise to City Centre moorings, passing through six locks.

2. Navigate to the World of Wedgewood Christmas Artisan Markets

On the weekends of 25 and 26 November, 9 and 10 December and 16 and 17 December 2023, Josiah & Co will host Christmas artisan markets at the World of Wedgewood. From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, boaters can reach Middleport Pottery in Stoke on Trent in around eight hours, passing through 12 locks along the way.

3. Visit Stratford-upon-Avon’s Victorian Christmas Market

This award-winning event taking place 7-10 December 2023 features hundreds of stalls selling seasonal products, with traders decked out in Victorian costumes. From Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen, it’s a six-hour cruise to moorings in Bancroft Basin in the centre of Stratford upon Avon, passing through 17 locks along the way.

4. Experience the Warwick Castle Christmas Market

From Drifters’ base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to Warwick and back to experience ‘Christmas at the Castle’ (25 November 2023 to 7 January 2024), including an open-air ice rink and Christmas Market. The journey from Stockton to Warwick takes around seven hours, passing through 20 locks.

5. Cruise to the famous Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham

From 2 November to 24 December 2023, Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market will fill New Street and Victoria Square, with stalls offering a variety of food and drink, traditional toys, ornaments and gifts. From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, it takes around five hours to reach moorings in Gas Street Basin in Birmingham city centre.

*NB some of our routes will be affected by winter maintenance work on the canal network.

What to pack for a canal boat holiday

What to pack for your canal boat holiday

Today’s canal boats are like floating holiday cottages, so you’ll find many home comforts already on board.

Our galley kitchens are equipped with a fridge and everything you need to cook with, including gas cookers with hob, oven and grill, cooking utensils, saucepans, plates, bowls, mugs, knives, forks, spoons, etc.

There are shower rooms and flushing toilets on board.  Our operators include bedding and many also include towels.

To help you prepare for your canal boat holiday, we’ve put together a list of useful items to pack:

1. Wet & warm weather clothes

If it’s wet you’ll need a waterproof jacket and a large golfing umbrella for the skipper.  If it’s sunny, you’ll need a sun hat, sun glasses and sun cream.  Gloves are also useful for working the locks and steering when it’s cold.

2. Shoes & slippers

Trainers or rubber soled shoes are best for boating and lock working.  And it’s a good idea to bring slippers or warm socks to wear on board.

3. Shopping bags

Bring re-useable shopping bags as well as re-useable plastic bottles and coffee cups to help limit the amount of plastic you acquire on your holiday afloat.

4. DVD’s, cards & games

For cosy nights in, bring along some cards and board games, as well some DVD’s as a good TV reception isn’t always available on the canals.

5. A torch

If you do venture out to the pub for the evening, it’s best to take a torch as country moorings can be incredibly dark at night.

6. Toilet rolls

Some will be supplied but do bring some extra lightweight toilet rolls – not quilted as this could block the loo.

7. Washing-up liquid & tea towel

Pack an eco-friendly washing-up liquid and hand soap, and make sure your shampoos and face washes are micro-bead free, as the water you use to wash-up and shower with will empty straight into the canal.

8. Binoculars

Great for spotting wildlife.

9. A canal map

Buy a canal map online or at the boat yard when you arrive to pick-up your boat.  You can also plan your canal boat holiday online using the mapping tools on the Canal & River Trust’s website Canal route planner | Canal & River Trust (canalrivertrust.org.uk)

10. Drinks

The water on board is ok to use to make hot drinks and cook with, but it’s worth bringing a large bottle of drinking water to top-up with.  And wine boxes are great space savers and safer to transport than bottles.

11. Condiments

Pack some extra flavourings as well as the main ingredients, including salt & pepper, tomato sauce, herbs and spices.

12. Phone chargers

Narrowboats have 240 volt 3-pin sockets powered by the on board batteries so you can charge your phones and tablets on board.  But only do this when the engine is running to avoid draining the batteries. Blenders, cool boxes and hair straighteners can also be plugged in, but nothing above 1,000 watts is permitted – so no kettles, irons, hairdryers or heaters.

13. Your dog’s bed

Pets are welcome on board most hire boats, but remember to bring your pet’s blanket or basket as they aren’t allowed on the beds or chairs. Remember to bring poo bags too!

14. First aid kit

For any cuts, scrapes or grazes.

Step off the grid for a mindfulness break on Britain’s peaceful inland waterways

Research by the Canal & River Trust, the charity that cares for the nation’s 2,000 miles of canals and rivers, shows spending time by the waterways can lower levels of anxiety and make you happier*.

Waterways are described as ‘great places to relax and de-stress’ and canal boat holidays are often said to be ‘the fastest way to slow down’.

Pottering along at just four-miles-an-hour opens up space and time for mindfulness.  Getting close to nature is widely recognised to benefit our mental and physical health and wellbeing and with over 1,000 wildlife conservation sites on the Canal & River Trust’s network, Britain’s canals and rivers have become an important place for biodiversity.

Here are some insights into the relaxing effect of a narrowboat holiday, described by journalists who have enjoyed the experience:

The perfect antidote

Dan Sanderson described his recent family holiday on the Shropshire Union Canal as ‘the perfect antidote to the stresses of modern city life’ and said ‘chugging along at an average speed of just 2mph…time and distance become an obscure concept and you are left with little option than to sit back and enjoy the view’.

The Mailonline, ‘Ready, steady…slow!’, 8 July 2023

A Wiltshire retreat

Paul Miles, while on the Kennet & Avon Canal, explained: “Life in the slow lane is the norm on the canals. It heightens my sense of observation.’

The Telegraph, ‘I’ve been in happy self-isolation for the last 10 years’, 20 March 2020

Northamptonshire slow zone

Fiona Whitty enjoyed a narrowboat holiday on the Grand Union Canal and said: “As an antidote to fast living, travel is all about going slow nowadays – and you don’t get much slower than a canal boat with a speed of 4mph.”

Sunday Mirror, ‘Slow-go zone’, 27 March 2022

A Shropshire escape

In his review of a Drifters’ canal boat holiday on the Shropshire Union Canal, Dixe Wills says: “The sedateness of our progress up to Shropshire, coupled with an almost complete absence of intrusions from the modern world, created a bubble that we were reluctant to burst.”

The Guardian, ‘The ripple effect: a leisurely boating break in Shropshire’, 29 July 2020

Putting the brakes on in Leicestershire

Gareth Butterfield reviewed a holiday on the Ashby Canal saying: “there’s something incredibly cathartic about slowing yourself down to canal pace…a week at walking pace is just the tonic for people who need to put the brakes on from time to time.”

Manchester Evening News, ‘I raise eyebrows taking a big lizard on a narrowboat trip along the Ashby canal’, 17 April 2022

Meandering into North Wales

Mary Novakovich, who took a narrowboat holiday on the Llangollen Canal, setting out from Chirk, said “Meandering along at a languid 3mph – slower than my walking pace – we had plenty of time to absorb our surroundings as we spotted herons and steered under pretty arched bridges.”

The Independent, ‘Knot Too Shabby’, 16 May 2021

A break from modern life in Yorkshire

Jaymi McCann enjoyed a holiday on the Leeds & Liverpool and said: “The canal remains unchanged over its two centuries but its purpose has been transformed: coal barges have given way to leisure boaters. Its engineers could have little envisaged its current use but the languid pace is what makes it such a break from modern life.”

Sunday Express, ‘A Slow Boat To Yorkshire’ 22 May 2016

Bucolic scenes in Warwickshire

Lyn Hughes describes her journey along the Grand Union Canal from Napton, observing “bucolic scenes of gently rolling farmland, dotted with grazing cows and sheep. The bank was thick with overhanging willows, bulrushes, rosebay willowherb and purple loosestrife. Dragonflies buzzed past, and clouds of butterflies danced over the wildflowers.”

Wanderlust, ‘Tales from the Riverbank’, November 2020

A balming power

Richard Morrison says: “I do believe that today the canals have a mysterious, balming power that is without equal in Britain – not just because they trundle holidaymakers through glorious landscapes at a maximum of 4mph, but also because they stealthily, almost secretly, carry the peace of rural England into the heart of frenetic cities.”

The Times, ‘Canals – a calming, beautiful antidote to modern life’, 5 February 2007

*’Assessing the wellbeing impacts of waterways usage in England and Wales’, 2018

 

Mail on Sunday, 9 July 2023

‘My narrow escape (at 4mph)’

Caroline Hendrie reviewed her Drifters canal boat holiday on the Oxford Canal