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Top 5 Yorkshire Canal Boat Holidays for 2022

To celebrate Yorkshire Day (1 August), we’ve put together our Top 5 Yorkshire Canal Boat Holidays for 2022.

2022 prices from our Yorkshire bases start at £770 for a short break (three or four nights), £1,155 for a week on a boat for four people.

1. Visit Skipton and its medieval castle

On a short break from our Barnoldswick base, you  can head east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Skipton.  The journey there and back travels 26 miles, passes through 30 locks (15 each way) and takes around 20 cruising hours.  This breath-taking route winds along the contours of the side of Airedale.  There are extensive views of sheep country – farmhouses, barns, stone walls and the occasional village or town.  Once in Skipton, you can moor in the centre of the town to visit shops and restaurants. And explore the 900-year old Skipton Castle, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.

2. Sail to the historic market town Selby

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

3. Toddle to Todmorden for some stunning Pennine scenery

On a short break from Sowerby Bridge, you can travel along the Rochdale Canal to Todmorden.  The journey there and back travels 20 miles, passes through 34 locks (17 each way) and takes around 16 hours.  This historic town offers visitors fine Victorian architecture, plenty of pubs and restaurants, and a busy market.  Along the way, you’ll pass through the 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.  There are also a series of scenic waymarked walks to enjoy.

4. Cruise to Rishton for a trip through industrial history

On a week’s holiday from Barnoldswick, you can travel west along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Rishton and back.  The journey there and back travels 53 miles, passes through 14 locks (seven each way) and takes around 20 hours.  The route begins on the summit before plunging into Foulridge Tunnel, then down to Barrowford Locks.  After 20 miles on one level, you’ll sail above Burnley’s rooftops on its famous embankment, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways.  The Weavers Triangle visitor centre at Burnley is a good place to visit. Then carry on through largely open scenery and the historic town of Rishton, the first place calico cloth was woven on an industrial scale.  The trip includes spectacular views of the Lancashire Calder Valley and Pendle Hill, famous for its witches.

5. Journey to the Hepworth Wakefield

On a mid-week break from Sowerby Bridge, you can travel to Wakefield and back to visit the fabulous Hepworth Wakefield Art Gallery.  The journey travels 40 miles, passes through 52 locks (26 each way) and takes around 22 cruising hours. There are narrow boat moorings right outside the Hepworth Wakefield.  The Gallery offers over 1,600 square metres of light-filled gallery spaces to explore. As well as works by the British artist and sculptor Barbara Hepworth, there are works on display by Henry Moore, Antony Gormley, David Hockney, Paul Nash, Bridget Riley and Anthony Caro.

Top 10 Summer Canal Boat Holidays for 2022

Travelling through the countryside at just four-miles-an-hour, canal boat holidays are the fastest way to slow down.

You don’t need a licence and it’s easy to learn how to steer a narrowboat.

Drifters offers 550 narrowboats for hire from 45 bases across England, Scotland and Wales.  Our summer holiday prices for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people start at £979, and at £1,530 for a week.

Tuition is included as part of all our holiday packages.

All our narrowboats have heating, well-equipped kitchens, quality furnishings, flushing toilets, hot water, showers, TVs and DVD players, and many now have WiFi on board too.

Here are our top 10 summer destinations for 2022:

  1. Visit Skipton and its medieval castle

On a short break from our Barnoldswick boatyard, narrow boat holiday-makers can head east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Skipton and back.  The journey travels a total of 26 miles, passes through 30 locks (15 each way) and takes around 20 hours.  This breath-taking route winds along the contours of the side of Airedale, with extensive views of sheep country – farmhouses, barns, stone walls and the occasional village or town.  Once in Skipton, you can moor in the centre of the town, visit shops and restaurants and explore Skipton Castle, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.

  1. Glide through the Usk Valley to Brecon and back

From our base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, on a week’s break you can navigate through the wooded Usk Valley to the pretty market town of Brecon, in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park.  Brecon offers theatre, cinema, cafes and restaurants and east access to the National Park, with walking routes, cycle hire and pony trekking.  Along the way, you can stop off at Llanfoist to take the old tramway into the Black Mountains, visit the 13th century caste at Crickhowell and walk to the Blaen y Glyn waterfalls at Talybont-on-Usk.  The total journey there and back travels 51 miles, passing through 12 locks (six each way) and takes around 25 hours.

  1. Cruise along the River Thames to Oxford

On a short break from our canal boat hire base on the River Thames at Eynsham near Witney, you can reach the beautiful City of Oxford in just three hours.  Most of the locks on the Thames are manned so it’s a nice easy journey for beginners.  Once in Oxford, you can moor up a short walk from the City Centre, and take time to explore some of the historic attractions.  Climb the Carfax Tower for views across the City of Dreaming Spires, visit the Bodleian Library with its stunning 17th century Schools Quadrangle, and explore the University of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology.

  1. Travel the Warwickshire Ring

On a two-week holiday from our Napton base on the Grand Union Canal, you can navigate the popular Warwickshire Ring.  The route follows 104 miles of urban and rural waterways, passes through 120 locks and takes around 54 cruising hours. Highlights include: the awesome Flight of 21 locks at Hatton; Warwick Castle; Cadbury World; and Birmingham’s Brindleyplace, home to the Sea Life Centre.

  1. Glide across the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular waterways on the network.  On a short break from our base at Chirk, you can travel to the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen and back.  Along the way, you’ll cruise the 11 miles of the Llangollen Canal that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, including the awesome Chirk and Pontcysyllte aqueducts.

  1. Travel along the peaceful Ashby Canal to Shakerstone

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

  1. Navigate through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh

From our base at Falkirk, Edinburgh Quay is an 11-hour, 32-mile journey along the Union Canal, perfect for a mid-week break.  The journey starts with a trip through the world’s first rotating boat lift, the Falkirk Wheel. You’ll then pass through two tunnels and soon after across the magnificent Avon Aqueduct.  Then it’s on through the lovely lowland villages of Linlithgow, Broxburn and Ratho.  Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street and many of the City’s top attractions.

  1. Cruise to the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port

On a week’s holiday from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can reach the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port.  The museum brings together a unique fleet of historic boats, docks, warehouses, forge, stables and workers cottages, collections and archives, to tell the story of Britain’s canals.  It takes around 11 hours to cruise to the National Waterways Museum from our boat yard on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury.  The journey there and back travels 22 miles and passes through 32 locks (16 each way).

  1. Visit Georgian Bath afloat

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

  1. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton

On a four night break from our base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can reach the historic market town of Market Drayton.  Along the way, you’ll pass through a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.  And through tunnels of trees in the deep canal cuttings. The total journey there and back travels 42 miles, passes through 12 locks and takes around 19 hours.

Narrowboat holidays are great pet-friendly staycations

Narrowboats provide a floating holiday home, so it’s possible to take all sorts of pets on the canals.

And as well as hundreds of dogs every year, here at Drifters we have accommodated many other kinds of pets aboard our canal boats.  From rabbits and hamsters to caged birds, goldfish and tortoises.

Here are our top six reasons why canal boat holidays are great for pets:

  1. The majority of canal boats for hire allow pets on board, so you don’t have to allocate holiday budget to pet care;
  2. No extra vaccinations or pet passports are needed for pets to cruise the canals;
  3. Many of our operators allow the first pet to travel free, while others charge a supplement of between £25 and £35;
  4. Canal boat holidays are especially great for dogs, with plenty of towpath walks and dog-friendly canalside pubs;
  5. Narrowboats with open cruiser-sterns at the back offer extra room ‘on deck’ for pets and the family to enjoy the ever-changing view; and
  6. Doggy life-jackets are available to buy in advance, with wide belly-straps and easy-to-grab handles for a quick retrieval when dogs accidently go swimming!

To check availability, click here http://www.drifters.co.uk

 

Top 5 Easter Canal Boat Holiday Breaks

Canal boat holidays are great for families, offering the chance to set off on an adventure together out in the open air, learning how to work the locks and speak the boating lingo, as well as spotting wildlife, exploring traffic-free towpaths and visiting waterside attractions along the way.

Drifters offers the choice of 550 boats from 45 bases across the country.  All our operators provide hirers with life jackets and boat steering tuition.  To celebrate the Spring and the start of the main boating season, we’ve published our top five destinations for Easter 2022:

1. Cruise through the beautiful Churnet Valley

From our narrow boat hire base at Stoke on Trent at the junction of the Caldon and Trent & Mersey canals in Staffordshire, on a short break canal boat holiday-makers can cruise along the Caldon Canal to Flint Mill and back.  Often described as ‘one of the finest canals in Britain’, the peaceful 17-mile long Caldon Canal runs from the Trent & Mersey Canal at Etruria in Stoke-on-Trent, to Froghall Wharf in the Staffordshire Moorlands.  The route to Flint Mill takes boaters through moorlands close to Denford, water meadows at Cheddleton and the beautiful wooded Churnet Valley.  There and back, the journey travels 23 miles, through 24 locks (12 each way) and takes around 15 cruising hours.

2. Visit the Tudors exhibition at The Holbourne Museum in Bath

On a short break from Drifters’ base at Hilperton in Wiltshire, boaters can travel gently along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal to reach moorings at Sydney Wharf on the edge of Bath City Centre.  The journey there and back travels 25 miles, passing through six locks (three each way) and takes around 13 cruising hours.  Along the way, the route passes through the historic town of Bradford on Avon with its fascinating 14th century Tithe Barn, and over the beautiful Avoncliff and Dundas Bath stone aqueducts.  Once at Sydney Wharf, boaters can moor up and take a 15-minute walk into Bath City Centre to visit a choice of attractions, including the The Holbourne Museum’s The Tudors exhibition.

3. Stop off at the World’s biggest Cadbury shop

Perfect for beginners, boaters can travel lock-free to Birmingham in just five hours from our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, stopping off along the way for handmade Easter eggs at Cadbury World.  With more canals than Venice, boaters can travel right into the heart of the City of Birmingham, where over-night moorings are available at Gas Street Basin, close to Brindleyplace.  There’s plenty for families to see and do, including penguin feeding at the National Sea Life Centre and star gazing in the Planetarium at Birmingham’s Science Museum Thinktank.

4. Navigate to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge

On a short break from our narrow boat rental base at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the Rochdale Canal to Hebden Bridge and back.  The journey there and back travels 14 miles, passes through 20 locks (10 each way) and takes around 11 hours.  The route takes boaters through Mytholmroyd, birthplace of Ted Hughes and Fallingroyd Tunnel.  Once at Hebden Bridge, visitors can choose from a series of scenic waymarked walks and a great variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs.

5. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

From our boat yard at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the pretty Eisteddford town of Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains can be reached on a short break.  Along the route, boaters cross the UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, towering 38 metres above the Dee Valley.  On reaching Llangollen, boaters can moor up and enjoy visiting the town’s independent shops, pubs and restaurants, as well as its Steam Railway and Horseshoe Falls.  On a week’s break, narrow boat holiday-makers can also travel east to Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.

Top 9 canalside events in 2022

Britain’s canals and rivers host hundreds of exciting events each year, bringing people to the waterways and celebrating the things that make them special.

These events make great destinations for canal boat holiday-makers, so we’ve put together our top nine events for 2022, along with information on our nearest canal boat hire bases:

  1. Easter Boat Gathering, Friday 15 April to Monday 18 April

The annual Easter Boat Gathering at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port marks the official start of the cruising season.  Over the weekend, dozens of boats will moor up across the Museum’s seven-acre site and visitors can enjoy live music, children’s activities, workshop tours and historic boats.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire bases are at Bunbury and Anderton, both on the Shropshire Union Canal.

  1. IWA Canalway Cavalcade, Saturday 30 April to Monday 2 May

This annual event at Little Venice celebrates the best in life on the waterways in London.  The event includes live music, an illuminated boats procession and kids’ entertainment.  Drifters’ nearest base is at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

  1. St Richard’s Canal Festival, Friday 29 April to Monday 2 May

This annual event organised by the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Society takes place in Vines Park alongside the Droitwich Barge Canal.  Visitors can enjoy live music, boats, classic cars, art workshops, community stalls, a real ale bar and the annual ‘Great Droitwich Duck Race’ with over 1,000 plastic ducks competing.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat rental bases are Worcester and Stoke Prior.

  1. Rickmansworth Canal Festival, Saturday 21 May to Sunday 22 May

Celebrating canals, the community and the environment, the annual Rickmansworth Canal Festival attracts over 100 canal boats from across the country.  Occupying part of the Aquadrome and the Grand Union Canal towpath between Stockers Lock and Batchworth Lock, the event hosts a range of music, performing arts, displays, presentations, traders and catering.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston.

  1. Crick Boat Show, Friday 3 June to Sunday 5 June

Three hundred exhibitors will gather at Crick Marina on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal near Daventry, to showcase thousands of inland waterways products and services across the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Weekend.  Now Britain’s biggest inland waterways festival, Crick Boat Show offers visitors free boat trips, over 50 boats to look around, live music and a wide variety of food and drink stalls.  Drifters’ nearest narrow boat hire bases are at Gayton, Braunston and Market Harborough.

  1. Chester Dragon Boat Festival, Sunday 10 July

This annual and very colourful charity event on the River Dee in Chester sees over 20 dragon boat teams of up to 16 paddlers and a drummer battling to become the champions.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire rental centres are Bunbury, Anderton and Brewood.

  1. Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Thursday 7 July to Sunday 10 July

Every year thousands of people descend on the pretty town of Llangollen on the Llangollen Canal to celebrate dance, music, costume and culture.  The Llangollen Eisteddfod is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with four days of live music events, including Alec Jones and Russell Watson performing together to open the programme.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire bases are at Trevor, Chirk and Blackwater Meadow.

  1. Stone Food & Drink Festival, Friday July 15 to Sunday 17 July 2022

Staffordshire’s biggest celebration of all things gastronomic takes place at the Georgian market town of Stone on the Trent & Mersey Canal.  The festival will host cookery demonstrations and talks, licensed bars, street food, live music and family fun.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat rental bases are Great Haywood, Brewood and Peak District.

  1. Stratford upon Avon Food Festival, Saturday 17 September to Sunday 18 September

This two day annual event in Shakespeare’s Stratford offers cooking demonstrations, workshops, food stalls, live entertainment and competitions.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Stratford Canal at Wotton Wawen.

 

We’re opening a new canal boat hire base on the Coventry Canal

In March 2022, Drifters will open a new narrow boat hire base at Springwood Haven Marina on the Coventry Canal at Nuneaton.

Haley Hadley, marketing & sales director for Drifters’ operator ABC Boat Hire, explains:

“Along with many other domestic holiday options, we’ve seen an increase in popularity of our holidays over the last two years.

“From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, narrow boat holiday-makers can use their boat as a floating holiday home to explore Britain’s beautiful 3,000-mile network of inland waterways.  Boaters have the freedom to moor their boats up where they choose, and can enjoy visiting waterside destinations along the way, including historic canalside pubs.

“In 2021 we opened a new base on the Coventry Canal at Kings Orchard Marina close to Lichfield, taking boaters deep into the Staffordshire countryside.

“With bookings for 2022 already up by around seven per cent compared to January 2020, this year we are opening a new base on the Coventry Canal at Springwood Haven, offering a choice of rural and urban destinations.”

Route options from Springwood Haven

Canal boat holiday-makers can choose from a range of short break and longer holidays from Sprinwood Haven.  For example, on a short break, boaters can travel to Coventry Basin, in the centre of 2021’s City of Culture. The journey travels 12 miles and takes around five hours.  With no locks along the way, it’s perfect for beginners.

Or on a week’s break, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the Ashby Canal to Snarestone and back.  A six-mile section of this peaceful waterway in Leicestershire is designated a Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI), recognising the diversity of its plant, insect and animal life, including nine species of dragonfly.  The route also takes boaters past the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field, where Here in 1485 the reign of Richard III ended and Henry Tudor became Henry VII.  The journey to Snarestone and back takes around 20 hours.

Other week-long destinations from Springwood Haven include: Tixall Wide on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal; Market Harborough on the Market Harborough Arm of the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal; Banbury on the Oxford Canal; Stoke Bruerne on the Grand Union Canal; and Shardlow on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

On a 10-day or two-week break, boaters can complete the Warwickshire or the East Midlands (Leicester) Ring.

Narrow boats available at Springwood Haven

Eleven narrow boats will be available to hire from Springwood Haven, ranging from boats for two people, to bigger boats with accommodation for up to 10.

Narrow boat hire prices for 2022 from Springwood Haven start at £849 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for up to four people, £1,189 for a week.

Drifters’ Top 12 New Narrowboats for 2022

There are over 35,000 boats on Britain’s 3,000 mile canal network, and around 1,000 of these are holiday hire narrowboats.

Today’s narrowboats for hire are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons, including central heating, hot water, televisions, DVD players, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets.  And some offer extras like wider beds, drinks fridges, larger showers, baths, deck tables, solid-fuel stoves, underfloor heating and WiFi.

Drifters offers the choice of over 550 boats from 45 bases across England, Wales and Scotland.  Each year dozens of new boats are added to our fleet.  Here’s a run-down of our Top 12 new boats for hire in 2022:

  1. ‘Einstein’s Fox’ takes to the water at Devizes

From next March, the 65ft ‘Einstein’s Fox’ for up to seven people will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Devizes on the Kennet & Avon Canal. This luxury boat is perfect for two couples or small families.  It has a central saloon and open plan galley, with the two permanent sleeping cabins privately positioned at either end of the boat. The rear double can be converted from a standard double into a king size bed, and the forward cabin has a range of flexible sleeping configurations. ‘Einstein’s Fox’ has full underfloor heating, a 240v electrical system, fully equipped galley including a microwave and extra drinks fridge.  There is a TV in the saloon, the master double and secondary cabin.  ROUTES: on a short break from Devizes, canal boat holiday-makers can travel west to the World Heritage Status City of Bath.  On a week away, boaters can head east to the Vale of Pewsey, travelling up the Caen Hill flight of locks. ***2022 prices for ‘Einstein’s Fox’ start at £1,583 for a week*.

  1. ‘Hemplow’ will navigate from Braunston

The new 69ft narrowboat for up to eight people ‘Hemplow’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Braunston on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire from May 2022.  ‘Hemplow’ will have three double bedrooms (which can also be made up as twins), two toilets, two bathrooms and a large saloon area where the dining area can be converted into an extra double bed.  She will have a Semi Trad rear deck with seating.  ROUTES: Braunston is in the heart of the canal network where the Grand Union Canal meets the Oxford Canal, providing a variety of route options.  For example, on a short break from Braunston, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby and back.  On a week’s break, they can travel on the beautiful Ashby Canal, a haven for wildlife.  ***2022 prices for ‘Hemplow’ start at £907 for a short break (three or four nights), £1,295 for a week*.

  1. The ‘Sooty Swift’ arrives at Whitchurch

The new 49ft narrowboat for up to four people ‘Sooty Swift’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Whitchurch in Shropshire from mid-March 2022.  ‘Sooty Swift’ will have one flexible cabin which can be made up as a double or two singles, plus a seating area which can be converted into a double.  She will have a TV in the bedroom and saloon, LED lighting, shower with a bi-fold door, front deck table and wider beds.  ROUTES: On a short break from Whitchurch, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through the Shropshire Lake District to Ellesmere and back.  On a week’s break, they can cruise on to the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen, passing over the Chirk and Pontcysyllte aqueducts along the way.  ***2022 prices aboard ‘Sooty Swift’ start at £799 for a short break, £1,099 for a week*. 

  1. ‘Curzon’ arrives at Great Haywood

From 11 March 2022, the new 65ft Admiral Class narrowboat for four people ‘Curzon’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Great Haywood, on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire.  ‘Curzon’ will have two shower/toilet rooms, full central heating, a well-equipped galley and flexible accommodation in two cabins, ranging from two doubles to four singles.  On a short break from Great Haywood, boaters can travel to Fradley and back, passing alongside Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  On a week’s holiday, boaters can travel round the Four Counties Ring.  ***2022 prices start at £875 for short break, £1,210 for a week*. 

  1. The ‘American Black Swift’ launches at Blackwater Meadow

From mid-March, the new 49ft narrowboat for up to four people ‘American Black Swift’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ base at Blackwater Meadow on the Llangollen Canal.  ‘American Black Swift’ will have one flexible cabin which can be made up as a double or two singles, plus a seating area which can be converted into a double.  She will have a TV in the bedroom and saloon, LED lighting, a shower with a bi-fold door, front deck table and wider beds.  ROUTES: On a short break from Blackwater Meadow, boaters travel to Llangollen and back, passing over the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  On a week’s holiday they can travel to Chester or Ellesmere Port.  ***2022 prices aboard ‘American Black Swift’ start at £799 for a short break, £1,099 for a week*.

  1. The ‘Magnolia Warbler’ will depart from Wrenbury Mill

The new 69ft ‘Magnolia Warbler’ narrowboat for up to eight people will be available to hire from Drifters’ base at Wrenbury on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire from mid-March.  The boat will have three cabins, two of which can be configured as one double or two singles.  The mid cabin next to the second bathroom will have a fixed double bed. She will have LED lighting, a front deck table, optional wider beds, two shower/toilet rooms, WiFi and two TV’s.  ROUTES: on a short break from Wrenbury, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel gently through the countryside to Ellesmere and back.  On a week’s break, they can travel on to Llangollen, passing over the World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. ***2022 prices aboard ‘Magnolia Warbler’ start at £1,199 for a short break, £1,799 for a week*.

  1. The ‘Knot Sandpiper’ will cruise from Alvechurch

The new 66ft ‘Knot Sandpiper’ narrowboat for up to six people will be available to hire from Alvechurch, on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove from next April.  ‘Knot Sandpiper’ will offer flexible accommodation for up to six people with optional wider beds. The boat will have two cabins, which can be configured either as doubles or twins, and a seating/dining area in the saloon which can be converted into a double bed.  She will have two shower/toilet rooms, a front deck table, LED lighting, two televisions and WiFi.  ROUTES: on a short break from Alvechurch, boaters can travel into central Birmingham in just five hours.  On a week’s break, boaters canal tackle the popular Stourport Ring, cruising a total of 74 miles and passing through 118 locks.  ***2022 prices aboard ‘Knot Sandpiper’ start at £1,399 for a short break, £1,899 for a week*. 

  1. ‘Duncan’ arrives at Wootton Wawen

From 12 March 2022, the new 65ft Admiral Class narrowboat for four people ‘Duncan’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Wootton Wawen, on the Stratford Canal in Warwickshire.  ‘Duncan’ will have two shower/toilet rooms, full central heating, a well-equipped galley and flexible accommodation in two cabins, ranging from two doubles to four singles.  On a short break from Wootton Wawen, boaters can travel to Stratford upon Avon and back.  On a week’s holiday, boaters can complete the Birmingham Mini Ring.  ***2022 prices start at £875 for short break, £1,210 for a week*. 

  1. The ‘Obbia Lark’ will navigate from Gayton

From the beginning of May 2022, the 66ft ‘Obbia Lark’ for up to six people will be available to hire from Drifters’ narrow boat hire base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal near Northampton.  ‘Obbia Lark’ will offer flexible accommodation for up to six people with optional wider beds.  She will have two cabins, which can be configured either as doubles or twins, and a seating/dining area in the saloon which can be converted into a double bed.  She will have two shower/toilet rooms, a front deck table, LED lighting, two televisions and WiFi. ROUTES: on a short break from Gayton, boaters can travel to Braunston and back.  On a week’s holiday they can reach Warwick, Coventry, Snarestone or Market Harborough. ***2022 prices start at £1,299 for short break, £1,999 for a week*.

  1. The ‘Eurasian Wren’ will depart from Hilperton

From the beginning of May, the new 49ft ‘Eurasian Wren’ narrow boat for up to four people will be available to hire from Drifters’ base at Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire.  The boat will have one flexible cabin which can be made up as a double or two singles, plus a seating area which can be converted into a double.  There will be a TV in the bedroom and saloon, LED lighting, a shower with a bi-fold door, front deck table and wider beds.  ROUTES: on a short break from Hilperton, boaters can travel to Bath and back, and on a week’s break they can reach Hungerford.  ***2022 prices start at £999 for a short break, £1,399 for a week*. 

  1. The ‘Great Dusky Swift’ launches at Springwood Haven

From mid-March, the new 49ft narrowboat for up to four people ‘Great Dusky Swift’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ new canal boat hire base at Springwood Haven on the Coventry Canal in Warwickshire.  ‘Great Dusky Swift’ will have one flexible cabin which can be made up as a double or two singles, plus a seating area which can be converted into a double.  She will have LED lighting, a TV in the bedroom and saloon, a shower with a bi-fold door, a front deck table and wider beds.  ROUTES: On a short break from Springwood Haven, boaters travel to Snarestone and back.  On a week’s holiday they can reach Banbury, Market Harborough or Stoke Bruerne.  ***2022 prices aboard ‘Great Dusky Swift’ start at £799 for a short break, £1,099 for a week*.

  1. ‘Codrington’ cruises from Bath

From 16 April 2022, the new 65ft Admiral Class narrowboat for four people ‘Codrington’ will be available to hire from Drifters’ canal boat rental base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath.  ‘Codrington’ will have two shower/toilet rooms, full central heating, a well-equipped galley and flexible accommodation in two cabins, ranging from two doubles to four singles.  ROUTES: On a short break from Bath, boaters can travel to Fox Hanger Wharf at back at the base of the Caen Hill Flight.  On a week’s break they can continue on to Pewsey Wharf.  ***2022 prices start at £875 for short break, £1,210 for a week*. 

*NB Drifters individual operator charges for fuel and extras vary.

Visit the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Afloat

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will take place 28 July to 8 August 2022.  With more canals than Venice, Birmingham is a fantastic city to visit by canal boat, and many of games venues are very close to a canal.  These include:

  • Birmingham Arena next to the Birmingham Canal Old Line;
  • Alexander Stadium next to the Tame Valley Canal at Perry Barr.
  • Sandwell Aquatics Centre close to the Tame Valley Canal;
  • Edgbaston Stadium close to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal;
  • Coventry Stadium and Arena close to the Coventry Canal;
  • Cannock Chase Forest alongside the Trent & Mersey Canal at Rugeley;
  • St Nicholas Park in Warwick close to the Grand Union Canal;
  • Victoria Park in Leamington Spa close to the Grand Union Canal; and
  • Smithfield on the Digbeth Branch of the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal.

Drifters has a great choice of canal boat hire bases in the West Midlands.  To celebrate, we’ve listed out Top 5 Commonwealth Games narrow boat holidays for 2022:

  1. Travel the Birmingham Ring from Tardebigge – this ring takes boaters into the heart of Birmingham, travelling sections of the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, Birmingham Canal Old Main Line, Tame Valley Canal and Wyrley & Essington Canal. The ring itself covers 45 miles and 49 locks, but from Drifters base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, the total miles travelled will be 74 and it will take around 37 cruising hours.
  2. Navigate the Warwickshire Ring from Stockton – this popular circuit travels a total of 101 miles, passes through 94 locks and takes around 48 hours. It take boaters along sections of the Grand Union Canal (passing through Leamington Spa and Warwick), the Coventry Canal and Birmingham & Fazeley Canal.
  3. Boat to Coventry Basin from Braunston – from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Braunston, it takes 12 hours to reach Coventry Basin, travelling 28 miles and passing through just four locks. The journey takes boaters up the North Oxford Canal, before joining the Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury Junction.  It pass through a series of towns and villages, including Hillmorton and Rugby.
  4. Cruise to Cannock Chase from Great Haywood – from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, Rugeley and Cannock Chase are less than two hours cruise away. The journey navigates five miles of the Trent & Mersey Canal and passes through two locks.
  5. Reach Perry Barr from Alvechurch – it takes around 11 hours, travelling 25 miles and passing through eight locks to reach Perry Barr First Flight Top Lock No 1 from Drifters base at Alvechurch. The journey begins on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, transferring onto the Birmingham Canal Navigations at Worcester Bar.

For more information about visiting the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, go to https://www.birmingham2022.com/

Go canal boating for a haunting Halloween afloat

With spooky tunnels, misty towpaths and plenty of ghosts, Britain’s 200-year old canal network provides the perfect backdrop for a haunting Halloween.  Drifters’ narrow boat hire prices for boats for up to four people over Halloween start at £560 for a weekend break, £740 for a week.

Here’s a guide to our spookiest destinations for Halloween 2021:

  1. 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.  
  2. Watch out for an Aqueduct Apparition – the Llangollen Canal is haunted by an eerie figure that can sometimes be seen gliding along the towpath alongside the 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.  It 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.
  6. 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.  She 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.  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.
  7. 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.
  8. Mind the Monkey Man at Norbury – the terrifying ‘Monkey Man’ haunts the Shropshire Union Canal 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 century.  Narrowboat holiday-makers can head north from our base at Brewood near Stafford, reaching Bridge 39 in around four and a half hours.

Multi-generational Narrow Boat Holiday Diary

Towpath Talk editor Janet Richardson recently enjoyed a four-night family break on a Drifters boat, hired from our Stockton base.  Here’s what Janet had to say about her ‘Far from the madding crowd’ multi-generational narrowboat holiday:

Day 1 – from Stockton to Napton Junction (3 miles, 3 locks)

In these days of staycations, families have taken to the British countryside for all sorts of different experiences.

We decided to take a three-generation narrowboat break – myself, my son-in-law and two grandsons.

So on August Bank Holiday Monday 2021, we arrived at Drifters operator Kate Boats’ Stockton base in Warwickshire.  Instructions had been emailed to us prior to arrival, so we knew what sort of procedures to expect.

There were already three cars ahead of us on the roadway down to the boatyard, but we were soon greeted by Mandy and shown where to park.

We quickly shipped all our luggage onto our floating home for the next four days – the 58ft Caroline Mary. Then we let the boys – Oliver 13 and Lewis 10 – explore inside, while Neil and I did the boat handover and tuition with Andrew from Kate Boats.

After a brief introduction, he gave us a checklist of everything to be aware of, such as location of the gas bottles, mooring pins, windlasses and electrical equipment.  He then gave us time to find everything and prepare any questions.

Andrew then showed us the daily checks and how to access the weed hatch if necessary.  He checked we had previous experience of going through locks before winding the boat for us so we were facing in the right direction.  He then accompanied us through the first bridge, where we dropped him off on the towpath.

We were then on our own with 58ft of narrowboat to steer – being sure to remain on tick-over when passing moored boats.

As we went through the three locks at Calcutt, I was very grateful to two female crew members from Eliana who reminded me how to operate the paddles.

We followed Eliana down to Napton Junction where they turned right to head south down the Oxford Canal, while we went left towards Braunston.

After a cheery wave goodbye, we started to look for a suitable spot to moor along the towpath, and soon found an ideal spot about 50 yards below a moored widebeam.

Preparing for our first night afloat, we soon became aware of what we had forgotten to bring! Neil and boys hadn’t got any towels, but I had bought a bath towel and a hand towel – something we were going to have to share! We also didn’t have much food as we had been anticipating eating at a pub, so we ended up with a scratch meal of sausage rolls and pot noodles. At least I had brought a bottle of wine to wash it down!

Having had a pleasant evening playing a board game, and then watching a movie we prepared to settle down for the night. Neil and Lewis occupied the two single bunks in the fore-end, Oliver the converted dinette in the middle and I slept on a single bunk in the saloon.

Away from any street lighting, it seemed very dark but very quiet – a restful end to a busy first day.

Day 2 – Napton Junction to Braunston Marina (5 miles, 0 locks)

It was lovely waking up in compete quiet – no traffic noise or the usual buzz from people going about their daily business.

Our first ‘visitors’ were a family of swans – cob, pen and four cygnets almost as big as their parents, but still with most of their ‘ugly duckling’ plumage. The boys wanted to give them some bread but I explained it wasn’t good for them, and we could try to pick up some duck feed somewhere along the route.

With no time constraints and just a leisurely cruise up to Braunston ahead, we enjoyed a breakfast which Neil conjured up from the contents of the fridge – bacon, egg, beans, tomatoes and bread – almost a full English!  Then we got underway.

The first point to show us exactly where we were on the map in the Nicholson’s ‘Birmingham & Heart of England’ guide, was the fairly sharp right-hand bend under Nimrod Bridge No 108, followed by a left-hander.

We were cruising through some lovely countryside, with cattle and sheep grazing and the only traffic we were aware of was going under the A475 at Bridge No 107. We passed the village of Lower Shuckburgh on the right, and then cruised along a straighter stretch of canal towards Flecknoe.

Some of the older oncoming boats we passed had the great ‘chug chug’ noise. We discovered later there had been a Russell Newbery Register gathering at Braunston over the Bank Holiday weekend.

There was another sequence of bends before the canal straightened up again after Bridge No 100. We knew then that we were approaching ‘civilisation’ as there were more moored boats, and the landmark spire of All Saints’ Church showed us we were nearing the historic canal village of Braunston.

I had been invited by Tim Coghlan to moor for the night at Braunston Marina so we could catch up on the latest news and features for Towpath Talk.  As we turned in under its famous Horseley Iron Bridge, we were met by Tim and directed to a pontoon.

Neil and the boys walked up into the village to visit the butcher’s and supermarket to stock up on supplies.  We then enjoyed a relaxing afternoon – taking the opportunity to pop into Tradline Ropes and Fenders and we also saw the bags of coal ready for loading on to Raymond and Sculptor for the annual Narrow Boat Trust Coal Run.

It was soon time to walk along the towpath up to Lock 3 of the Braunston flight as I had booked a table at the Admiral Nelson. We enjoyed a very tasty evening meal and walked back to our boat as dusk fell on the second day of our trip.

Day 3 – Braunston to the village of Napton on the Hill (6 miles, 0 locks)

After a leisurely breakfast, the boys went up the hill into the village for more supplies, while we prepared to head off on the next leg of our cruise.

After some manoeuvring between the moored boats along the pontoon, we were under the bridge and on our way to the Braunston Turn.

We decided not to try and push on further north up the Oxford Canal, which would put us under pressure when it was time to turn back.  So we turned left back the way we had come, and headed back towards Napton Junction.

We had been following another boat most of the way and they pulled in for a stop along a beautiful stretch of countryside just after Bridge 103. The boys were getting hungry so we decided to do likewise a little further along.

It was beautiful; all you could see was the rolling countryside to the east with fields of grazing sheep and cattle. Apart from the occasional boat coming past, there was no sound or sign of human life!

Much to Oliver’s delight, having bought a bag of duck feed from the dispenser at the lock beside the Admiral Nelson the previous evening, the family of three swans we had passed preening their feathers on the towpath swam into view.

The parents and well-grown cygnet stopped for a snack before heading on their way.  Then the boys and I went for a walk along the towpath, while our skipper had a power nap!

We were soon under way again and instead of turning right at Napton Junction, carried on up the Oxford Canal, aiming to wind before the Napton Flight and find a mooring for the night.

Having spotted some space along the moorings before Bridge 111, we decided to take advantage of the winding hole there.  It proved quite a challenge with our 58ft boat getting its fore-end stuck in the silt, and the stern almost jammed up against the towpath.  Neil had to use the boat pole to push us back.

Luckily a lovely couple from a moored narrowboat we had just passed came to our rescue with instructions from the bank.  This enabled us to complete the manoeuvre while a couple of boats behind us pulled in to wait.

They then helped us to moor just in front of their narrowboat Moondancer. The next morning they went on their way before we had chance to thank them again for their friendliness and help.

Opposite our mooring was a large stubble field with lots of ducks and geese feeding. We also watched what we thought was either a kestrel or a sparrowhawk hovering over the field, and swooping down for its prey several times.

As darkness fell we could see the lights from the village across the field and car headlights on the road leading up to it.

Day 4 – Napton on the Hill back to Stockton (4 miles, 3 locks)

As we prepared to set off on our return journey, another Kate Boats narrowboat Kate Elizabeth came past.  I asked them if they were heading towards Stockton and asked if we could share the locks.

We turned left back onto the Grand Union Canal at Napton junction.  Then cruised up to the Calcutt Locks where the Kate Elizabeth was waiting for a boat coming up the top lock.  We pulled in behind. The occupants were also three generations of a family – grandparents, parents and two children from Gloucester.  They had decided on a week’s holiday boating after a planned trip to Florida had been cancelled.

We stopped at lunchtime and took a walk, then decided to head back to Kate Boat’s base for our last night, so we were handy for the check-in the following morning.

We were lucky to get a space at the front of the moorings, and as the sun showed itself for the first time during the week we went across to the pub for a welcome drink in the garden and booked a table for an evening meal.

Day 5 – back home

It was early to rise ready to return the boat by 9.30am.  We had the bedding stripped and placed in the laundry bag provided and all our bags packed by 7am.  So we pulled over to a vacant space and transported all our luggage to the car.

It wasn’t too long before Mandy arrived and said they were expecting 14 boats in with 11 to go out – so a busy day ahead.

We said our goodbyes and headed home reflecting on what had been a most enjoyable break. Lewis said he liked stopping in a different place every night, while Oliver also said the travelling was the best bit. They had both also enjoyed seeing the wildlife – especially the ducks and swans.

The best part for Neil was steering the narrowboat, although he said he could do with a bit more practice at reversing. And me – the friendliness of everyone we came across, whether seasoned boaters or fellow holidaymakers, and the feeling of being far from the madding crowd.