Drifters offers winter cruising on the canals from a number of its bases, with boats ranging from snug narrowboats for two, to family vessels for twelve.
It’s free to moor almost anywhere on the network, so a narrowboat could provide the perfect base for a rural retreat, with stops at historic waterside pubs with roaring log fires, or to visit exciting waterside destinations like Birmingham, Warwick and Stratford upon Avon.
All our boats have central heating, hot water, televisions and DVD players. Some also have multi-fuel stoves and Wifi. So, whatever the weather, it’s always nice and cosy on board.
Some of our narrowboat hire yards also offer boats for hire over Christmas and New Year, offering the chance for peaceful break afloat in the countryside.
Cheryl Howes, owner of Drifters operator Kate Boats, explains:
“Cruising is different in the winter. People cover much less distance and it’s more about just enjoying being aboard, making the most of being away from home and being completely isolated in the little bubble that is the boat. It’s more about reading books, than going through lots of locks.
“The winter months are when the Canal & River Trust does most of its maintenance work, which means some routes aren’t available, but there are always alternatives to choose from.
“Because boat hire is cheaper off season, people will often take a slightly larger boat to give themselves a bit more space. All our boats are centrally heated, so it’s always nice and cosy on board. But you do need to wrap up warm when you are underway, and the person at the tiller needs a supply of hot drinks to keep them going!
“Our boats have plenty of storage on board so you can bring lots of warm clothes. You just need to accept that with limited day length you aren’t going to get as far, and some towpaths do get muddy.”
Drifters’ winter cruising prices start at £535 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £740 for a week. Here are our Top 5 winter cruising destinations for 2020-21:
- Take a winter cruise through the Warwickshire countryside – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to Warwick and back to explore its stunning medieval castle on the banks of the River Avon. Along the way, boaters pass through the village of Long Itchington with a choice of pubs and Leamington Spa. The journey to Warwick travels 12 miles of waterway, passes through 22 locks and takes around eight hours. Alternatively, winter cruisers can head to the pretty canal village of Braunston, where there’s a choice of pubs. Along the way, boaters pass through the Braunston Tunnel and through six locks, as well as miles of peaceful countryside.
- Travel along the Oxford Canal to Napton – on a short break from Drifter’s narrowboat hire centre on the North Oxford Canal at Rugby, canal boat holiday-makers can travel through the countryside along the Oxford Canal to the pretty canal village of Napton. The journey passes through just six locks (three each way) and the canal village of Braunston, with a choice of pubs.
- Cruise through the Shropshire Lake District – from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Blackwater Meadow on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, on a short break canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to Whitchurch and back, passing Blake Mere and Whixall Moss along the way. The journey travels through 12 miles of beautiful Shropshire countryside. There are no locks but there are four moveable bridges and one tunnel to negotiate. Once at Whitchurch, boaters can moor up and take time to explore this historic town with a choice of independent shops and restaurants, way-marked circular walks, Brown Moss nature reserve and the award-winning Black Bear pub.
- Glide gently through the Staffordshire countryside to Fradley – from Drifters’ canal boat holiday hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can head south, reaching Fradley Junction in five hours. The journey passes through 12 peaceful miles of countryside, with just five locks to negotiate along the way. Highlights along the way include The Wolseley Centre run by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the Wolseley Arms and the village of Rugeley with its canalside Mossley Tavern. At Fradley, boaters can enjoy refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn and explore the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
- Visit historic Chester afloat – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury near Tarporley in Cheshire, it’s a seven-hour cruise through the Cheshire countryside to reach the ancient city of Chester. Along the way, boaters will cruise through 12 miles of countryside and pass through nine locks. Once moored up at Northgate visitor moorings, narrowboat holiday-makers explore the city and its Roman Walls, Cathedral, Chester Rows and choice of places to eat.