Tag Archive for: Grand Union Canal

A canal boat holiday from Braunston in Northamptonshire

A canal boat holiday from Braunston

Stephanie Spencer from Yours.co.uk has reviewed her recent Drifters press trip.

She set out with her husband and two friends from our Braunston base, on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire.

Stephanie describes the boat and the facilities on board, tuition, journey and pubs they visited.  And says it’s ‘a fantastic holiday whether for a couple, a group or a family.’

You can read Stephanie’s full review here https://www.yours.co.uk/leisure/travel/drifters-waterway-holidays-barge-trip-review/

Enjoy a family day out boating on the canals

Best family days out boating on the canals

Drifters offers day boat hire from 20 places in England and Wales, offering the chance to enjoy a family day out boating on the canals.

Prices start at just £10 per person. Boats range in size and can accommodate between eight and 12 people. Full tuition is included so if you are new to narrow boating, you can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.

All Drifters’ day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle, and most also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.  So you can plan a picnic afloat or stop off for lunch at a canalside pub along the way.

Here’s a guide to our best family days out boating on the canals:

1. Staffordshire: Navigate through the countryside to Hopwas

From Kings Orchard Marina, on the Coventry Canal near Lichfield, you can enjoy a family day out boating on the canals.  You can cruise through the Staffordshire countryside to Bonehill Bridge and back.  The route takes you through the villages Huddlesford, Whittington and Hopwas.  At Hopwas there are two pubs to choose from – the Tame Otter and the Red Lion.  The journey to Bonehill and back takes five and a half hours and there are no locks.  *Day boats ‘Happy Days’ and electric boat ‘Perfect Day’ can take up to 10 people. 

2. Worcestershire: Glide through the remains of the Forest of Arden

From Alvechurch on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can enjoy a family day out boating on the canals.  You can cruise north through the remains of the Forest of Arden to Kings Norton Junction and back.  There’s a choice of pubs to moor at along the way, including the Hopwood House at Hopwood.  The route is lock-free but there are two tunnels to pass through, including the 2.5km long Wast Hill Tunnel.  *Day boat ‘Away Day’ can carry up to 10 people.  

3. Monmouthshire: Navigate to The Star Inn at Mamhillad in the Brecon Beacons

From Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, you can enjoy a family day out boating on the canals with incredible mountain views.  It takes around two-and-a-half-hours to cruise to cruise along the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal to moorings close to the popular Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62.  *Day boats ‘Robin’ and Rooster’ can carry up to eight people each.  

4. Warwickshire: Cruise along the Stratford Canal to The Mary Arden Inn at Wilmcote

From Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford-Upon-Avon, you can head south to moorings close to the pretty village of Wilmcote to enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn.  The journey takes two-and-a-half hours each way, and crosses over the impressive Edstone Aqueduct with views across the Warwickshire countryside. *Day boats ‘Dolly’ and ‘Charlie’ can carry up to 10 people each. 

5. Wrexham: 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 UNESCO World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  Standing at over 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, this incredible structure offers stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  After cruising over the Aqueduct, there are two tunnels and another aqueduct to cross, before reaching the Bridge Inn at Chirk.  *Day boats ‘Jacob’, ‘Daniel’ and ‘Lotty’ can carry up to 10 people each.  

6. Staffordshire: Navigate through Cannock Chase to the Wolseley Arms

You can enjoy a family day out boating on the canals from our day boat hire base Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford.  From there, you can cruise four miles, passing through two locks, to the historic market town of Rugeley.  The journey, which takes around two hours, passes the through the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It also passes the popular Wolseley Arms pub at Wolseley Bridge.  *Day boats ‘Daphne’ and ‘Abi’ can carry up to 10 people each.  

7. Wiltshire: Boat to Avoncliff Aqueduct and the Cross Guns pub

From Hilperton Marina on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge, you can head west to the picturesque town of Bradford on Avon, home of the canalside Barge Inn. And on to Avoncliff Aqueduct for lunch at the Cross Guns.  The journey to Avoncliff and back takes around six hours and there’s just one lock to pass through each way. *Electric day boat ‘Great Day’ can carry up to 10 people.  

8. Cheshire: Cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Bunbury

From our day boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Nantwich, you can cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Bunbury and back.  The journey passes Hurleston Junction and Hurleston Reservoir, and later, the Barbridge Inn at Barbridge Junction. You can stop there for lunch, or continue on to Bunbury, home to the Dysart Arms and Nags Head pubs.  The journey to Bunbury and back takes six hours and there are no locks. *Day boat ‘Jus-Today’ can carry up to 8 people.  

9. Northamptonshire: Cruise to the picturesque village of Napton-on-the-Hill

From our day boat hire centre at Braunston on the Grand Union Canal, you can enjoy a family day out boating on the canals. You cruise to the historic village of Napton-on-the-Hill and back.  The journey, which takes around three hours, takes you through the Northamptonshire countryside and into Warwickshire.  Once at Napton, day you can moor up and walk into the village where there’s a choice of pubs, including the Kings Head.  *Day boat ‘Ouzel II’ can carry up to 12 people.  

10. Shropshire: Cruise through the Shropshire Lake District to Ellesmere

From Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal, you can reach the historic market town of Ellesmere.  The journey takes around two-and-a-half hours, cruising through eight miles of beautiful countryside.  You’ll pass Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park along the way.  *Day boat ‘Julia’ can carry up to 10 people.  

For more information about Drifters’ day boats go to https://www.drifters.co.uk/day-boats/

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.

Best canal boat holiday cruising rings

Best canal boat holiday cruising rings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starting from Autherley, Stoke Prior, Gailey or Alvechurch, this offers an exhilarating and hugely popular week. The route takes in the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, the upper section of the River Severn, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, Birmingham Canal Main Line and the Birmingham Canal Old Main Line. The Stourport Ring visits three cities: Wolverhampton; Birmingham; and the ancient City of Worcester. Highlights include: Wolverhampton 21 locks; Brindleyplace and Gas Street Basin in Birmingham; open countryside on the River Severn; Stourport Basins; Bratch Locks at Wombourne; the pretty village of Kinver with National Trust rock houses; the Black Country Living Museum; and Cadbury World.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Stratford-upon-Avon on a canal boat holiday

Popular canal boat holiday destinations for overseas visitors

We’re proud to welcome many overseas visitors to experience a canal boat holiday on Britain’s historic network of inland waterways.  Most of our overseas visitors come from America, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany and The Netherlands.

Our overseas visitors often want to visit some of Britain’s best-known historic towns and cities by canal boat.  We’ve published a guide to our most popular destinations with overseas visitors.

Shakespeare’s Stratford, England

From our canal boat rental base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, you can cruise to Stratford-upon-Avon and back.  This historic town is home to Shakespeare’s Birthplace and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.  It takes around six hours to cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Stratford-upon-Avon.  Along the way you’ll go through 17 locks.

Historic pubs to enjoy include Mary Arden Inn at Wilmcote and The One Elm in Stratford-upon-Avon.

  • Wootton Wawen is a 25 min (17 miles) drive or taxi ride from Birmingham Airport.
  • It’s a 1hour 40min (93 miles) drive from London Heathrow Airport.

Warwick Castle, England

Said to be Britain’s greatest medieval experience, on a short break from our canal boat rental place at Stockton, you reach the historic town of Warwick and its castle on the River Avon in around seven hours, passing through 20 locks.  Along the way, you’ll pass through the historic village of Long Itchington and Royal Leamington Spa.

Historic pubs to visit include The Duck on the Pond at Long Itchington, The Newbold Comyn Arms at Leamington Spa and The Roebuck Inn in Warwick.

  • Stockton is a 35 minute (24 mile) drive or taxi ride from Birmingham Airport.
  • It’s a 1hour 30min (83 miles) drive from London Heathrow Airport.

Bath, England

From Bradford on Avon on the Kennet & Avon Canal on the edge of the Cotswold Hills in Wiltshire, you can cruise to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath and back, with its breath-taking Georgian architecture.  The journey to Bath travels nine miles through the beautiful Avon Valley, passing through three locks along the way.  The Journey to Bath and back takes around 11 hours.  You can moor up close to Sydney Wharf and take short walk into Bath City centre to explore the Roman Baths, Victorian Pump Rooms, Jane Austen Museum, Bath Abbey and breath-taking Royal Crescent.

Historic pubs to visit include ‘The Cross Guns at Avoncliff, The George at Bathampton and The Saracens Head in Bath.

  • Bradford on Avon is a 2hour 26min train journey or 1hour 40min (97 miles) drive from London Heathrow Airport
  • It’s a 1hour 9min train ride or a 46 min (26 miles) drive/taxi ride from Bristol Airport

We also offer canal vacations on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath, Monkton Combe, Hilperton, Devizes and Aldermaston.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, North Wales

Also known as The Stream in the Sky’, the incredible Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales is part of an 11-mile section of Llangollen Canal designated UNESCO World Heritage status in 2009.  On a short break from our canal boat rental base at Blackwater Meadow Marina, at Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District, you can cruise the whole World Heritage section.  Your journey will include passing through Chirk, with medieval Castle upon the hill.  You’ll cruise across the magnificent Chirk Aqueduct with the railway viaduct alongside.  You’ll go through Chirk Tunnel, then Whitehouses Tunnel before reaching the Poncysyllte Aqueduct.  This incredible structure carries the canal 38 metres high above the River Dee on 19 massive stone pillars.  After the aqueduct, you can continue on to the beautiful town of Llangollen, nestled in the Berwyn Mountains.  Here you can moor up in Llangollen Basin and visit some of the town’s historic sites, including the Horseshoe Falls, Plas Newydd House, Dinas Bran Castle ruins and the Llangollen Steam Railway.  The journey from Blackwater Meadow to Llangollen and back travels 37 miles, passes through four locks (two each way) and takes around 16 hours.

Historic pubs to visit include the Bridge Inn at Chirk and The Sun Inn at Llangollen.

  • Ellesmere is a 1hour 4min (53 miles) drive/taxi ride from Manchester Airport
  • Or a 2hour 53min train ride or 1hour (51 miles) drive/taxi ride from Liverpool Airport

Drifters also offers canal vacations on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, Chirk, Whitchurch, Whixall and Wrenbury.

Edinburgh, Scotland

From our canal boat rental location at Falkirk where the Scottish Lowland canals meet, you can cruise to Edinburgh Quay and back on a four-night trip.  The route starts at the site of the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first rotating boat lift officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2002.  The journey to Edinburgh will take you along the Union Canal, through the Falkirk Tunnel, across the magnificent Avon Aqueduct and through the villages of Linlithgow with its Palace, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and the conservation village of Ratho.  Once in Edinburgh, you can moor up in Edinburgh Quay and walk into the City Centre to visit Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and Mary King Close frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.

Historic pubs to visit include The Four Marys in Linlithgow, The Bridge Inn at Linlithgow and Deacon Brodie’s Tavern in Edinburgh.

  • The Falkirk Wheel is a 1hour 34min train ride or a 30min (22 miles) drive/taxi ride from Edinburgh Airport

Oxford, England

The historic City of Oxford, also known as the City of Dreaming Spires, is famous for its University colleges, Bodleian Library, Carfax Tower, Ashmolean Museum, Natural History Museum and Oxford Castle.  From our canal boat rental place on the River Thames near Oxford, it takes around three-and-a-half hours to cruise through the Oxfordshire countryside to moorings on the edge of the city centre.  You’ll pass through four locks along the way.

Historic pubs to visit include The Trout Inn at Wolvercote and The Turf Tavern in Oxford.

  • Our Oxford canal boat rental base at Eynsham near Witney is a 56 min (52 mile) drive from London Heathrow Airport.
  • Or you can get a train from the Airport to Oxford (1hr 30min) and then it’s a 12 minute taxi ride to the boat yard.

Cambridge, England

From our canal boat rental location on the River Ouse at Ely, you can cruise to the world famous historic city of Cambridge and back.  On a short break, you can also reach the Wicken Fen wetland nature reserve.  In Cambridge, you can moor up just below Jesus Green Lock on the River Cam and explore Cambridge, including King’s College Chapel and quaint streets filled with antique shops, museums, art galleries, restaurants and tearooms. The journey from Ely to Cambridge and Wicken Fen and back travels 38 miles, passes through six locks (three each way) and takes around 13 hours.

Historic pubs to visit include The Eagle in Cambridge and The Prince Albert in Ely.

  • Ely is a 2hour 2min train journey from London Heathrow Airport or a 1 hour 37min (89 miles) drive
  • Or a 47 min train journey or 51 min (48 miles) drive/taxi ride from London Stansted Airport

To see our canal boat holiday guide for overseas visitors, answering frequently asked questions, go to https://www.drifters.co.uk/everything-americans-need-to-know-about-canal-boat-vacations-in-britain/

Day boat hire on the canals in Spring 2024

Best days out boating on the canals this spring

Drifters offers day boat hire from 20 locations in England and Wales.  With prices starting from just £10 per person, it’s a great way to get the family together for a memorable day out cruising through the countryside this spring.

Boats range in size and can accommodate between eight and 12 people. Full tuition is included so if you are new to narrow boating, you can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.

All our day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle, and most also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.  So you can plan a picnic afloat or stop off for lunch at a canalside pub along the way.

To help you plan your family day out afloat this spring, we’ve listed our top 10 destinations for day boat hire:

1. Staffordshire: Navigate through the countryside for a pub lunch at Hopwas

From Kings Orchard Marina, on the Coventry Canal near Lichfield, you can cruise through the Staffordshire countryside to Bonehill Bridge and back.  The route takes boaters through the villages Huddlesford, Whittington and Hopwas.  At Hopwas there are two pubs to choose from – the Tame Otter and the Red Lion.  The journey to Bonehill and back takes five and a half hours and there are no locks.

*Electric day boat ‘Perfect Day’ can take up to 10 people.  2024 prices start at £99.

2. Derbyshire: Cruise to Whaley Bridge in the Peak District

On a day out from New Mills Marina on the Peak Forest Canal in Derbyshire, you can cruise to Whaley Bridge in the Peak District.  You’ll experience spectacular views across the Goyt Valley and Kinder Scout, the highest plateau in England.  You’ll pass close by to the Crossings pub along the way and there’s a choice of places to eat in Whaley Bridge.

*Electric boat ‘Field Day’ can carry up to 10 people.  2024 prices start at £99 .

3. Monmouthshire: Navigate to The Star Inn at Mamhillad in the Brecon Beacons

From Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, you can enjoy incredible mountain views.  It takes around two-and-a-half-hours to cruise to moorings close to the popular Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62.

*Day boats ‘Robin’ and Rooster’ can carry up to eight people each.  2024 prices start from £109.

4. Warwickshire: Cruise along the Stratford Canal to The Mary Arden Inn at Wilmcote

From Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford-Upon-Avon, you can head south to moorings close to the historic village of Wilmcot. There you enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn and visit Mary Arden’s Farm, the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother.  The journey takes two-and-a-half hours each way, and crosses over the impressive Edstone Aqueduct with views across the Warwickshire countryside. *Day boats ‘Dolly’ and ‘Charlie’ can carry up to 10 people each. Prices start at £99 weekdays, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

5. Wrexham: Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

From Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes just 10 minutes to reach the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  Standing at over 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, this incredible structure offers stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  After cruising over the Aqueduct, there are two tunnels and another aqueduct to cross, before reaching the Bridge Inn at Chirk.

*Day boats ‘Jacob’, ‘Daniel’ and ‘Lotty’ can carry up to 10 people each.  Weekday hire starts at £120, £180 on weekends and bank holidays.

6. Wiltshire: Boat to Avoncliff Aqueduct and the Cross Guns pub

From Hilperton Marina on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge, you can head west to the historic town of Bradford on Avon. You can travel on through the Avon Valley on to Avoncliff Aqueduct for lunch at the Cross Guns.  The journey to Avoncliff and back takes around six hours and there’s just one lock to pass through each way.

*Electric day boat ‘Great Day’ can carry up to 10 people.  2024 prices start at £119.

7. Berkshire: Cruise through the countryside to the Spring Inn

From Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Reading, you can cruise to Theale and back.  Along the way, you can stop-off to enjoy lunch at the Spring Inn, a 10-minute walk from the canal.  The total journey takes just over four hours and passes through two locks each way.

*Day boat ‘Heyday’ can carry up to 8 people.  2024 prices start from £109.

8. Cheshire: Boat through the woodlands of Marbury Country Park to Middlewich

From Anderton Marina, next to the incredible Anderton Boat Lift, you can cruise to Middlewich and back.  The journey passes through Marbury Country Park and Marston Flash.  There’s a choice of pubs to stop at, including the Broken Cross at Rudheath.  The journey to Middlewich and back takes around six hours.  There are no locks on this route.

*Day boat ‘Daydream’ can carry up to 12 people.  2024 prices start at £115.

9. Northamptonshire: Navigate through Blisworth Tunnel to Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum

From Gayton on the Grand Union Canal near Northampton, you can navigate to the pretty canal village of Stoke Bruerne.  The village is home to the intriguing Canal Museum and waterside café, and a choice of canalside pubs.  The route travels through the Blisworth Tunnel, which at 3,076 yards long is the third longest on the canal network.  It takes around one and half hours to reach Stoke Bruerne, including 30 minutes to cruise through the tunnel.

*Day boat ‘Day Lark’ can carry up to 12 people.  2024 prices start at £109.

10. Shropshire: Cruise through the Shropshire Lake District to Ellesmere

From Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal, you can reach the historic market town of Ellesmere.  The journey takes around two-and-a-half hours, cruising through eight miles of beautiful countryside.  You’ll pass Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park along the way.

*Day boat ‘Julia’ can carry up to 10 people.  Weekday hire is £99, weekends & bank holidays £150.

For more information about Drifters’ day boat hire go to https://www.drifters.co.uk/day-boats/

Top canalside events to visit on a canal boat holiday in 2024

Top 9 canalside events to visit on a canal boat holiday

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.

Here’s our pick of the best canalside events to head to on a canal boat holiday in 2024:

1. Easter Boat Gathering, Friday 29 March to 1 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 base is at Bunbury.

2. Crick Boat Show, Northamptonshire, 25-27 May

Over 300 exhibitors will gather at Crick Marina on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal near Daventry for the Crick Boat Show.  The event, which is organised by Waterways World and the Canal & River Trust, will showcase thousands of inland waterways products and services. And there’ll be an exciting programme of entertainment, including boat trips, live music, boating seminars and a wide variety of food and drink stalls. Our nearest bases are at Gayton and Braunston.

3. St Richards Canal Festival, Worcestershire, 3-6 May

This annual event organised by the Worcester-Birmingham and Droitwich Canals Society takes place in Vines Park alongside the Droitwich Barge Canal. The event offers family entertainment, live music, boats, classic cars, markets, duck races and a real ale bar. Our nearest bases are at Worcester, Stoke Prior and Tardebigge.

4. IWA Canalway Cavalcade, London, 4 May

The Inland Waterway Association’s annual Canalway Cavalcade takes place at Little Venice in London. This unique waterways and community festival offers fun for all the family with a boaters’ gathering, pageant of boats, trade stalls, live music, kids’ activities, competitions, Morris Dancers, a real ale bar and variety of food stalls. Our nearest base is on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Aldermaston.

5. Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Wales, 2-7 July

Thousands of people from around the world descend on the pretty town of Llangollen on the Llangollen Canal each year to celebrate dance, music, costume and culture. The Llangollen Eisteddfod is one of the world’s great music and culture events with six days of world-class competitions and concerts featuring an array of international performers. Our nearest bases are Trevor, Chirk and Blackwater Meadow.

6. Stone Food & Drink Festival, Staffordshire, 5-7 July

Staffordshire’s biggest celebration of all things gastronomic takes place at the Georgian market town of Stone on the Trent & Mersey Canal. As well as a range of themed food marquees, the festival hosts demonstrations by top chefs, a beer festival, live music, gourmet dining, street food and a farmers’ market. Our nearest bases are Great Haywood, Brewood and Stoke on Trent.

7. Rickmansworth Canal Festival, Hertfordshire, 18-19 May

Celebrating canals, the community and the environment, the Rickmansworth Canal Festival attracts a spectacular array of 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. Our nearest base is on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston.

8. Fairport Convention at Cropredy, Oxfordshire, 8-10 August

This annual festival of folk and rock music is held in the village of Cropredy, next to the Oxford Canal. The event is run by the Fairport Convention, often credited with being the first English electric folk band.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire base is at Napton.

9. Edinburgh Canal Festival, Scotland, 17 June

Organised by the Fountainbridge Canalside Community Trust, this annual event takes place at Lochrin Basin, at the Edinburgh end of the Union Canal.  The event includes free boat trips, canoe taster-sessions, children’s entertainment, music, dance and food. Our nearest base is at Falkirk.

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.

Best canal boat holidays for beginners

Best canal boat holidays for beginners

With Britain’s inland waterways in better shape than ever and the health benefits of spending time by the water proven, narrowboat holidays are becoming increasingly popular.

You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat and all Drifters’ operators provide hirers with boat steering tuition as part of their canal boat holiday hire.

Today’s narrowboats are fully equipped with essential home comforts, including central heating, hot water, TV, showers, microwaves, flushing toilets, and many now have WiFi too.

So if you are planning to pack-up and ‘ship-out’ on an adventure afloat, take a look at our top 10 canal boat holidays for beginners to help you learn the ropes:

1. Cruise to the bright lights of Birmingham

Boasting more canals than Venice, Birmingham simply has to be visited by canal boat. And with no locks between our base at Tardebigge and Birmingham City Centre, it’s the perfect opportunity for novices to ‘dip their toe in the water’. Cruising along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, it takes just five hours to reach Birmingham.  The first half of the journey passes through fields, woodlands and sleepy villages, and a series of canal tunnels, before becoming increasingly urban. Once in the centre of Birmingham, you can find over-night moorings at Gas Street Basin, with easy access to Brindleyplace, the Mailbox and other city centre attractions.

2. Love the Llangollen

Passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular navigations on the network. The journey from our Trevor base to Ellesmere and back offers a fantastic short break holiday for beginners. There are just four locks between Trevor and the beautiful Meres, a journey which takes around seven hours. And the route includes the experience of travelling across the World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, with incredible views of the Dee Valley 30 metres below.

3. Potter through the Peak District

Our base at Stoke on Trent, at the junction of the Caldon and Trent & Mersey canals, offers a fantastic way to experience the Peak District. Starting at the Etruria, home of the industrial potteries, it’s a gentle 11-hour cruise along the peaceful Caldon Canal to Froghall Basin.  The route passes through 17 locks and travels 17 miles.  Pubs to enjoy along the way include the Black Lion at Consall Forge and The Boat Inn at Basford Bridge.

4. Glide through the Brecon Beacons

Isolated from the main canal network, the scenic Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park. This quiet waterway, with very few locks, offers incredible mountain views and is nice and easy for beginners. On a week’s holiday from our base Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, you can cruise to Brecon and back. Along the way, you’ll pass through Georgian Crickhowell, with its fascinating 13th century castle, and Talybont-on-Usk with walks to the waterfalls at Blaen y Glyn.

5. Visit Georgian Bath

From our base at Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, moorings close to Bath City Centre are a six-hour cruise away. The route passes through seven locks and crosses two stunning Bath stone aqueducts.  You’ll also pass a series of popular historic canalside pubs, including The Cross Guns at Avoncliff and the Barge Inn at Seend. Once at Sydney Wharf on the edge of Bath City Centre, you can use your boat as a base to explore the City, including the Roman Baths and Royal Crescent.

6. Take a rural route to Braunston

From our base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal, the pretty canal village of Braunston is a peaceful three-hour cruise away. There are only three locks along the way so it’s an easy holiday for first time boaters on a short break. The journey meanders through the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire countryside. Pubs to enjoy include the Kings Head at Napton and the Admiral Nelson at Braunston.

7. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh

From our base at Falkirk, Edinburgh Quay is a sedate 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal. The journey, perfect for beginners on a mid-week or week-long break, starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first and only rotating boat lift – and then passes 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, with easy access to the City’s many attractions, including Edinburgh Castle and Mark King Close, frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.

8. Steer gently through the countryside to Stone

From our base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal it takes around five hours to reach the historic Shropshire market town of Stone. Stone is renowned as the food and drink capital of Staffordshire, with regular markets, a good choice of restaurants and the annual Food & Drink Festival in October. Along the way, there are four locks to pass through and plenty of pubs to enjoy, including The Saracen’s Head at Weston and The Holly Bush Inn at Salt.

9. Navigate to the Yorkshire Dales

The journey from Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to the pretty North Yorkshire village of Gargrave and back takes around seven hours and passes through three locks. You’ll pass through Skipton with its striking medieval stone castle and extensive woodlands. Once at Gargrave, there are pubs to enjoy, including the popular Mason’s Arms. And it’s easy access to the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Pennine Way.

10. Boat to historic Brewood and back

The journey to Brewood and back from our base at Gailey on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal offers an excellent short break route for beginners. Travelling a total of 25 miles, and passing through just two locks (one each way), this gentle journey through the Shropshire countryside passes the waterside Anchor Inn at Cross Green.  And transfers boaters onto the Shropshire Union Canal at Autherley Junction. On reaching the historic village of Brewood, there’s a choice of places to eat, including the canalside Bridge Inn.

Top 8 Easter canal boat holidays

Top 8 Easter canal boat holidays

Canal boat holidays are fantastic for families – offering the chance to set off on an adventure together, 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’ prices this Easter start at £710 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, £1,010 for a week.

Here are our top eight destinations for Easter 2024:

1. Visit the World’s biggest Cadbury shop at Cadbury World

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

2. Join the Easter Boat Gathering at the National Waterways Museum

Over the Easter Weekend (29 March to 1 April 2024), the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire celebrates the start of the summer boating season with a large boat gathering and music and activities for the whole family. From our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, it’s a 10-hour journey to Ellesmere Port, travelling 21 miles through 12 locks and passing through the historic City of Chester along the way, perfect for a week away.

3. Visit the Bath Comedy Festival

On a short break from Drifters’ base at Hilperton near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, you can travel along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal and reach Bath Top Lock in seven hours, with just one lock to pass through. From there, it’s a short walk to Georgian Bath’s City Centre attractions, including the Roman Baths and the Bath Comedy Festival, on from 1-21 April 2024.

4. See the ancient Rock Houses at Kinver Edge

From our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s a 20-hour, 37-mile, 32-lock journey to Kinver on the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal. Kinver Edge offers visitors miles of wildlife-rich health land and woods to explore, and the National Trust’s ancient Rock Houses to visit. Kinver is on the route of the Stourport Ring, which can be navigated on a week’s holiday from Tardebigge, travelling a total of 76 miles via Birmingham, Kidderminster, Stourport and Worcester.

5. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

From our base at Chirk on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen can be reached on a short break.  The incredible 1,000ft-long Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’ stands over 125ft high above the Dee Valley.  With not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure the stunning views of the valley below, crossing the aqueduct by boat you literally feel like you’re floating above the earth. On a week’s holiday, you can also head east along the Llangollen Canal to Ellesmere and the historic town of Whitchurch.

6. Step back in time in Mary King Close in Edinburgh

From our boat yard at Falkirk, at the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals, on a mid-week (four night) break you can travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh and back. The journey starts with trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift, which lifts boats 100ft from the Forth & Clyde Canal to the Union Canal above. Once in Edinburgh, you can moor up in Edinburgh Quay to enjoy the City’s attractions, including a tour of Mary King Close frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.

7. Witness the Trebuchet being fired at Warwick Castle

Said to be Britain’s greatest medieval experience, you can travel to Warwick and back on a short break from our Stockton base on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire. Once there, you can moor up to explore the Castle and enjoy some of the daily shows over the Easter holidays, including the Legend of the Trebuchet where this deadly instrument of medieval warfare is demonstrated, and the Falconer’s Quest bird of prey show.  The journey to Warwick and back travels 23 miles, passes through 44 locks (22 each way) and takes around 17 hours.

8. Star gaze in the Brecon Beacons

Isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal runs through Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park, now officially an International Dark Sky Reserve. Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, this peaceful waterway, with very few locks, offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views, a series of historic village pubs to visit along the way and dark skies perfect for star-gazing on clear nights. On a short break from our base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, you can cruise lock-free to Llangynidr and back, passing the Lion Inn at Govilon and the Bridge End Inn at Llangattock. On a week’s break, you can travel on to Brecon, passing through Talybont-on-Usk with its popular Star Inn.