Posts

Visit an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by canal boat

Britain’s 3,000-mile network of inland waterways flow through some of our most beautiful and unspoilt countryside.  This includes many Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).  So a canal boat holiday is a great way to explore the countryside.

From gliding through the Vale of Pewsey, to cruising through Cannock Chase, here’s our Top 6 AONB cruises:

  1. Explore the Staffordshire countryside & Cannock Chase

    On a short break from our new narrowboat hire base at Kings Orchard on the Coventry Canal, you can cruise to the wildlife rich Tixall Wide and back.  Along the way you’ll pass through Cannock Chase AONB. The journey there and back travels 32 miles, passes through 10 locks (five each way) and takes around 16 hours.

  2. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey to Hungerford

    From our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, on a week away, you can cruise to the historic town of Hungerford.  You’ll pass through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the North Wessex Downs AONB. The journey there and back takes around 40 hours, travelling 54 miles through 106 locks.

  3. Navigate along the Pennine Summit to Barrowford

    From our narrowboat hire base at Barnoldwick on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal you can travel Barrowford.  This is close to Pendle Hill and the Forest of Bowland AONB. The journey there and back covers 20 miles, passes through six locks and takes around eight hours.

  4. Cruise to the Aylesbury Vale

    On a week’s break from our canal boat hire base at Gayton Marina on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, you can travel south to the Aylesbury Arm. This will take you into the Vale of Aylesbury, part of the Chilterns AONB. The journey to Aylesbury, which passes through Stoke Bruerne, travels 44 miles, passes through 41 locks and takes around 22 hours.

  5. Float through the Dee Valley in North Wales

    From our canal boat rental base at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal, you can float through the Dee Valley AONB.  On a short break, you can reach the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen. Along the way the route passes over the UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The journey to Llangollen and back takes around eight hours, travelling 14 miles, with no locks.

  6. Take a Thames boating holiday to the edge of the Cotswolds

    On a four-night break from our narrowboat rental base on the River Thames at Oxford, you can reach the pretty market town of Lechlade. This is in an AONB on the edge of the Cotswolds. The route passes through 22 miles of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire countryside.  It takes you past Kelmscott Manor, once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris.  It passes through 14 locks (seven each way) , and takes around 17 hours.

 

 

Yorkshire Wonders reviews a canal boat holiday from our Barnoldswick base

Last August, Nikki Turner-Chaplin and her family set off on their first canal boat holiday.  They travelled from our narrowboat hire base on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Barnoldswick.  This is run by Drifters operator Shire Cruisers.

Nikki and her husband had enjoyed holidays afloat as children and wanted their two children to experience a canal boat holiday too.

They set off on the sunny August bank holiday weekend and journeyed east towards Skipton.  And then they travelled through the three locks at Greenberfield, under instruction from the Shire Cruisers team.

They moored for their first night at East Marton.  The following day they ‘headed further towards Skipton where the canal winds around and the scenery is stunning’.

Nikki and her family turned around before reaching Skipton and spent their second night at Foulridge. Here they ate at the Cargo Café and spent their last night at Salterforth.

Nikki’s blog includes a video review of their boat ‘Rutland’ and lots of images of canal scenery and their boat.

To read the review, go to https://yorkshirewonders.co.uk/narrow-boating-on-the-leeds-liverpool-canal-in-yorkshire-review

Escape into the countryside afloat

Our self-drive narrowboat holidays provide a floating holiday home to escape aboard into the countryside, watching out for wildlife and enjoying walks along towpaths and connecting footpaths.  You can take all the supplies you need and have the freedom to moor up for the night alongside rural towpaths.

From forest bathing in Shropshire to wildlife watching in the Brecon Beacons, we’ve put together our Top 7 countryside escapes afloat for 2020:

  1. Glide through the Peak District to Cheddleton and back – on a short break from our canal boat hire base at Stoke on Trent, canal boat holiday-makers can travel into the Peak District along the beautiful Caldon Canal, reaching Cheddleton Flint Mill in around eight hours, passing through 12 locks and travelling just over 11 miles. As the Caldon Canal leaves Stoke, it begins to pass through gently rolling hills and wooded areas, past old mills and then alongside the stunning River Churnet, home to a variety of wildlife including kingfishers, herons, woodpeckers and otters.
  2. Cruise along the summit of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to enjoy remote beauty – from our narrowboat hire base at Barnoldswick on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Lancashire, it takes around four hours to gently cruise 10 miles to Bank Newton, passing through just three locks at Greenberfield. Along the way, the route takes boaters through some of the remotest and most beautiful stretch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, with just sheep and birds in all directions.
  3. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ into the Shropshire Lake District – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular navigations on the network. The seven-hour journey from our narrowboat rental base at Trevor near Llangollen in North Wales, to Ellesmere takes canal boat holidays into the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  There are just four locks each way and the route includes the experience of travelling across the awesome UNESCO World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’, with incredible views of the Dee Valley 30 metres below.
  4. Forest bath on the Shropshire Union Canal – from our canal boat hire base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, it takes around 10 hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton. Along the way, boaters pass through six locks, miles of quiet countryside and long wooded sections of canal, perfect for forest bathing.
  5. Glide through the Brecon Beacons – isolated from the main canal network, the Monmouth & Brecon Canal follows the line of the beautiful Usk Valley through the Brecon Beacons National Park. Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, this peaceful waterway, with very few locks, offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views and plenty of wooded sections full of the sound of woodland birds.  There’s a huge variety of wildlife to watch out for along the way, including red kites, buzzards, herons, butterflies, bats and dragonflies.  On a short break from Drifters’ base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, boaters can cruise lock-free to Llangynidr and back and on a week’s break, boaters can travel on to Brecon, passing through Talybont-on-Usk, with walks to the waterfalls at Blaen y Glyn.
  6. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey to Hungerford – from our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, it takes around 20 hours, travelling 27 miles through 53 locks to reach the historic town of Hungerford, perfect for a week afloat. Along the way, boaters travel up the spectacular flight of 16 locks in a row at Caen Hill (one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways) and cruise through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, passing close to prehistoric Avebury and along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest.
  7. Cruise lock-free through the countryside to Lapworth – from our narrowboat hire base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Tardebigge, near Bromsgrove, it takes around seven hours cruising through the Worcestershire and Warwickshire countryside to reach the village of Lapworth. There are no locks to pass through along the way, but there are a couple of tunnels, including Wast Hills, which at 2,493 metres long is one of the longest in the country.

For more information about canals in Wales, go to https://www.drifters.co.uk/canals-of-wales/

Drifters boats star in ‘Celebrity Britain by Barge’

Canals are back on our screens with a new Channel 5 series ‘Celebrity Britain by Barge: Then & Now’. The series began on Friday 14 February, starring Bill Oddie, Anne Diamond, Jennie Bond and Pete Waterman aboard a number of Drifters’ narrowboats.

In the first episode, the celebrities travel along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal aboard ‘Worcester’ (shared by Jennie and Anne) and ‘Somerset’ (shared by Bill and Pete).

‘Worcester’, who normally operates out of Sowerby Bridge, is a 56ft narrowboat for up to five people. ‘Worcester’ has a variety of cabin configurations – two fixed doubles, or one fixed double and two fixed singles, or four fixed singles, plus a saloon convertible to one single. She has two toilets, a shower and a bath – which particularly impressed Anne and Jennie.

In the main boating season, the 56ft ‘Somerset’ operates out of Barnoldswick. She has fixed berths for up to four people, plus a saloon which can be converted to a double or two singles. The fixed berths can both be doubles, or they can all be singles, or a mixture. ‘Somerset’ has two toilets and a corner show cubicle.

Both boats have fully equipped kitchens, central heating, TV’s and DVD players.

The celebrities travel from Appleby Bridge to Skipton, stopping off along the way at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saltaire to visit Salts Mill, once one of the largest textile factories in the world and now an art gallery and high-tech production line.

Along the way, with the help of Canal & River Trust lock keepers, they travel up the famous Bingley Five Rise locks, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. Jennie and Anne also visit Skipton Castle, while Pete and Bill speak to Diane Rollin, an ecologist with the Canal & River Trust, to find out more about the wildlife that lives on the waterway.

In Episode 2, the celebrities continue their journey along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. They travel through the beautiful Yorkshire Dales and meet a sheep farmer, connect with the Pennine Way (Britain’s oldest national trail), talk to a Canal & River Trust lock keeper dealing with an emergency repair to a lock and they boat through Foulridge Tunnel.

For more information about Drifters’ holidays in the north east, go to https://www.drifters.co.uk/canals-of-north-east-england/

In Episode 3, to be broadcast this Friday (28 February) at 9pm, the action moves north to the Scottish Lowland Canals, and this time the celebrities are cruising aboard Drifters boats which are available to hire at our Falkirk canal boat hire base. The 62ft long ‘Princess 6’ narrowboat ‘Sarah’, sleeps up to six people, with flexible accommodation in two cabins, plus an optional extra double bed in the saloon. There are two shower rooms, a well-equipped galley, full central heating and a flat screen TV with Freeview and a DVD player.

In episode 3, the celebs travel along the Forth & Clyde Canal to visit the incredible Kelpies, the largest equine sculptures in the world, and learn about the role Clydesdale horses played on the waterway.

In episode 4 (to be broadcast Friday 6 March at 8.30pm), they travel through the incredible Falkirk Wheel Boat Lift and head east along the Union Canal towards Edinburgh. Along the way they pass through the Falkirk Tunnel and learn about the ghost of Irish navvy William Burke, and they travel across the longest aqueduct in Scotland.

For more information about Drifters’ holidays in Scotland go to https://www.drifters.co.uk/canals-of-scotland/

 

Visit the Montgomery Canal

Canal Boat Holiday Bucket List

The ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ was compiled over 60 years ago by Robert Aickman, co-founder of the Inland Waterways Association, and published in his book ‘Know Your Waterways’. Here at Drifters, we’ve added the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland (which opened in 2002) to make the perfect Canal Boat Holidays Bucket List:

1. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – carrying the Llangollen Canal 38 metres (126ft) high above the River Dee, the awesome World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the highest and longest aqueduct in Britain. Built between 1795 and 1805, it has 18 magnificent stone piers, supporting a 307-metre (1007ft) long trough for the canal to run through. With not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure the views of the breath-taking Dee Valley below, boaters literally feel like they are floating above the earth! Drifters has a canal boat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor in North Wales, just a five-minute cruise from the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

2. The Anderton Boat Lift – also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’ this extraordinary structure raises boats 15 metres (50ft) from the River Weaver to the Trent & Mersey Canal. Designed by Edwin Clark and opened in 1875, it consists of two caissons, each large enough to take a barge or pair of narrowboats. In 1983 problems with the mechanism caused the lift to close but after a Heritage Lottery Funded restoration, it reopened in 2002. Drifters has a narrowboat hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Anderton, right next to the Lift.

3. The Caen Hill Flight – with 16 of its 29 locks falling in a straight line, the Caen Hill flight of locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes in Wiltshire is visually the most impressive in the country. The locks were the final link in the Kennet & Avon Canal’s construction, opening in 1810. By 1950 they had become derelict but after a major restoration effort, they were reopened HM The Queen in 1990. Drifters’ Devizes canal boat hire base is at the base of the flight.

4. The Bingley Five-Rise Locks – completed in 1774, this spectacular staircase of locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal 17 miles from Leeds, raises (or lowers) boats 18 metres (60ft) in five cavernous chambers. The locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom gate of the next. Our nearest canal boat hire base is on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Silsden, a distance of six miles away. With five locks to pass through along the way, the journey to Bingley takes around four-and-a-half hours.

 

 

 

5. The Standedge Tunnel – tunnelling for over three miles beneath the Pennines, this incredible feat of 18 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, opening 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. Today narrowboat holiday-makers need to book their passage though with a Canal & River Trust, and there is also a trip boat operating from the Marsden end. Our nearest base is at Sowerby Bridge, on the junction of the Calder & Hebble Navigation and Rochdale Canal, 20 miles and 65 locks away. The journey to Standedge takes around 21 hours (three days).

6. Barton Swing Aqueduct – originally built in 1761 by James Brindley to take the Bridgewater Canal across the River Irwell, the Barton Aqueduct was considered a marvel at the time of its opening. But when the Manchester Ship Canal company decided to use the course of the Irwell at Barton as part of its navigation channel, Brindley’s Aqueduct was replaced by the Barton Swing Aqueduct in 1893. The 1,450 tonne, 100-metre long aqueduct swings open, full of water, to allow the passage of ships along the Manchester Ship Canal. Our nearest base is at Acton Bridge, on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Northwich in Cheshire. From there, it takes around nine hours, travelling 26 miles and through just one lock, to reach the Barton Swing Aqueduct.

7. The Burnley Embankment – also known as ‘The Straight Mile’, the mile-long Burnley Embankment carries the Leeds & Liverpool Canal over 18 metres (60ft) high across part of the town, offering boaters breath-taking panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Though costly and difficult to build, the Burnley Embankment, which spans the Calder Valley, avoided the need for a series of locks which would have slowed cargo-carrying boats down. Designed by Robert Whitworth, the embankment was built between 1796 and 1801 and involved the mammoth task of transporting (by horse and cart) around half a million tons of earth from the nearby canal cutting at Whittlefield and tunnel at Gannow. Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Barnoldswick is just 11 miles away from Burnley, which with seven locks to pass through, takes around five hours.

8. The Falkirk Wheel – built as part of the Millennium Link project to restore the canals linking the east and west coasts of Scotland, The Falkirk Wheel is the world’s first and only rotating boat lift. Standing at a height of 35 metres, it moves boats between the Union Canal and Forth & Clyde Canal, replacing a flight of 11 locks which had been dismantled in 1933. It can carry up to 600 tonnes (eight or more boats) and uses just 1.5KWh of energy to turn – the same amount it takes to boil eight kettles. Drifters offers canal boat rental at Falkirk, right next to the Wheel.

Ten good reasons to take a canal boat holiday.

Top 10 Museums to visit afloat

Britain’s beautiful 2,000-mile network of navigable canals and rivers passes through some of our most vibrant towns and cities, with exciting world-class Museums to visit along the way.

Here are our Top 10 museums to visit afloat in 2019:

1. Visit the Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker – from our canal boat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Nantwich, it takes around three-and-a-half hours, travelling nine miles and passing through just two locks, to reach Hack Green visitors moorings – just a short walk from the Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker Museum. Once one of the nation’s most secret defence sites, this fascinating blast-proof underground bunker would have been the centre of Regional Government had nuclear war broken out. Decommissioned in 1993, today it offers visitors the chance to see the government’s preparations for nuclear war as well as the largest public display of nuclear weapons in Europe.

2. Travel to Leicester and the new King Richard III Visitor Centre – from our canal boat hire base at Union Wharf on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal in Market Harborough, on a week’s narrowboat holiday boaters can travel to Leicester and back to visit the exciting new King Richard III Visitor Centre. The 13-hour cruise through the Leicestershire countryside, travels 23 miles, encounters 24 locks, and passes through a series of villages with friendly rural pubs to enjoy along the way. Once in Leicester, moorings at Castle Gardens are the perfect base for a foray to the new award-winning King Richard III Visitor Centre, which chronicles the last Plantagenet King’s life and remarkable story of the discovery of his remains under a Leicester car park five years ago.

3. See T-rex skeletons at the University of Oxford’s Natural History Museum – from Drifters’ narrowboat rental base on the River Thames at Eysnham near Witney, boaters can reach moorings in the centre of Oxford in just three hours, passing through four locks along the way. From there, the University of Oxford’s Natural History Museum is short walk away. Housed in a stunning Victorian neo-Gothic building, the Museum is home to an internationally significant collection of natural history specimens, including T-rex skeletons, the Oxford Dodo, whale skeletons, British bird displays, dinosaur fossils and the 4.5 billion-year-old Nantan meteorite.

4. Visit the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds – from our canal boat rental base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, it takes 17 hours, passing through 28 locks to reach the Royal Armouries Museum at Leeds Dock – perfect for a week afloat. Home to the national collection of arms and armour, there are thousands of objects from across the world to admire across nine galleries, including Henry VIII’s ‘Horned Helmet’, a long bow from the wreck of the Mary Rose and the ‘Swords of Middle Earth’ based on the prop weapons used in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Hobbit’ movies.

5. Head to the Roman Baths Museum in Bath – from our canal boat holiday base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Hilperton, it’s a four-hour journey, travelling 11 miles and passing through one lock to moorings at Sydney Gardens. From there, it takes just 15 minutes to walk into the centre of the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath, home to the Roman Baths, once one of the greatest religious spas of the ancient world. Here visitors can visit the Sacred Spring, Roman Temple and Roman Bath House and, with the help of costumed interpreters, learn about the people of Aquae Sulis (the Roman name for Bath) and their goddess Minerva.

6. Step back in time at the National Waterways Museum – from our boat yard on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury, on a week’s break, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through the Cheshire countryside and the ancient City of Chester to reach the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port. The journey takes around 11 hours, travels 21 miles and passes through 16 locks. Once at Ellesmere Port, boaters can moor up and take time to explore the Museum’s historic boat collection, docks, warehouses, forge, stables and workers cottages, which all bring the past vividly to life.

7. Marvel at the medieval splendour of Warwick Castle – cruising from our canal boat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, it takes just over seven hours to reach moorings close to Warwick Castle, perfect for a short break afloat. This incredible 1,000-year-old medieval castle on the banks of the River Avon offers a fantastic day out, with Flight of the Eagles displays, Horrible Histories Maze, Kingmaker exhibition, towers and ramparts to climb, the Castle Dungeon tour and Mighty Trebuchet firing spectacle among the fantastic choice of things to see and do.

8. Take a cultural cruise to Wakefield – on a mid-week or week-long break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Wakefield and back to visit the fabulous Hepworth Wakefield Museum. The journey travels 40 miles, through 52 locks and takes around 22 hours. The Gallery, which has moorings right outside, offers visitors over 1,600 square metres of light-filled gallery spaces. As well as showcasing the extraordinary work by the British sculptor Barbara Hepworth, visitors to the Hepworth Wakefield can see works by Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Naum Gabo, Antony Gormley, David Hockney, Paul Nash, John Nash, David Nash, Bridget Riley and Anthony Caro.

9. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Mary King Close in Edinburgh – from our narrowboat hire base at Falkirk, Edinburgh Quay is an 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal, perfect for a four night mid-week break. The cruise starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel (the world’s first 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 short walk from the Royal Mile where the Mary King Close Museum takes visitors back in time to explore Edinburgh’s only preserved 17th century street and follow in the footsteps of its former residents.

10. Discover the Gothic elegance of Plas Newydd House Museum – from Drifters’ narrowboat rental base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in Wrexham, North Wales, it takes just two hours to reach the beautiful Eisteddfod town of Llangollen, home to the remarkable Plas Newydd House Museum & Gardens. In the late 18th century this fascinating stone built house was turned into gothic fantasy by Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby, known as “The Ladies of Llangollen”. Today visitors can enjoy exploring the property’s enchanting gardens and gazing at the fascinating stained glass and elaborately carved oak interiors.

Top 10 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 holiday packages.

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 water. And with no locks between our base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove and Birmingham City Centre, it’s the perfect opportunity for novice canal boat holiday-makers to ‘dip their toe in the water’. It takes just five hours to reach Birmingham, with the first half of the journey passing through fields, woodlands and sleepy villages. Once in the centre of Birmingham, narrowboat holiday-makers can find over-night moorings at Gas Street Basin, with easy access to Brindleyplace, the Mailbox, Sea Life Centre 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 Drifters’ base at Trevor near Llangollen 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 awesome World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, with incredible views of the Dee Valley 30 metres below.

3. Potter through the Peak District – our Peak District base, at the junction of the Caldon and Trent & Mersey canals near Stoke on Trent, offers a fantastic way to experience this beautiful National Park in the heart of England. Starting at the Etruria, home of the industrial potteries, the gentle 12-hour cruise along the peaceful Caldon Canal to Froghall Basin is perfect for narrowboat holiday beginners on a short break.

4. Glide through the Breacon 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 canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views and is nice and easy for beginners. On a week’s holiday from our base Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, narrowboaters can cruise to Brecon and back, passing 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, the World Heritage Status City of Bath is a delightful six-hour cruise away. The route passes through seven locks, over two stunning Bath stone aqueducts and past a series of popular historic canalside pubs, including The Cross Guns at Avoncliff. Once in Bath, canal boat holiday makers can use their boat as a base to enjoy all that the City has to offer, including the Roman Baths, Jane Austen Museum and Royal Crescent.

6. Take a rural route to Braunston – from our base at Stretton-under-Fosse on the North Oxford Canal near Rugby, the pretty canal village of Braunston is a peaceful 15-mile 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 pretty wooded countryside and a series of sleepy villages with rural waterside pubs, including Newbold and Hillmorton.

7. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh – from Drifters’ 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 it takes just five hours of gentle cruising along the Trent & Mersey Canal 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 just four locks to pass through and plenty of pubs to enjoy, including The Woolpack at Weston and The Holly Bush Inn at Salt.

9. Navigate to the Yorkshire Dales – the journey from our narrowboat rental base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to the pretty North Yorkshire village of Gargrave and back takes 13 hours and passes through three locks each way. The route takes boaters through the historic town of Skipton, with its striking medieval stone castle and extensive woodlands managed by the Woodland Trust. Once at Gargrave, there are pubs to enjoy, including the popular Mason’s Arms, easy access to the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Pennine Way.

10. Boat to Brewood and back – the journey to Brewood and back from our canal boat rental base at Gailey on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal offers an excellent short break route for canal boat holiday beginners. Travelling a total of 25 miles, and passing through just two locks (one on the way, one on the way back), 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, with its half-timbered houses cottages and attractive Georgian houses, visitors have a choice of pubs, restaurants and tea rooms to dine at, including the canalside Bridge Inn.

Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2018

Top of the locks

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

These structures have been around for hundreds of years but can be daunting for canal boat holiday newcomers, especially when there are lots of them in quick succession.

Fortunately there’s no mystery to using locks – just a series of step-by-step tasks. A lock is simply a chamber with gates at either end. By emptying or filling the chamber with water, boats can move up or down onto a new section of waterway.

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

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

Here at Drifters’ we’ve put together our Top 6 flights of locks to celebrate these marvels of canal engineering:

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

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

3. Bingley 5 Rise – another of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’, this spectacular staircase of five locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Bradford, raises (or lowers) boats 18 metres in five cavernous chambers. The locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom of the next, and it takes around one-and-a-half hours to work through. The size of the chambers can be intimidating even for experienced boaters, but friendly lock-keepers are on hand to help. Drifters’ nearest canal boat rental base is 25 miles and 20 locks away at Barnoldswick.

4. Hatton – nicknamed ‘The Stairway to Heaven’ by the boaters who once carried cargos on the canals, this impressive flight of 21 locks on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire raises boats up 45 metres over two miles, and takes around four-and-a-half hours to travel through. Just below the Top lock, boaters will find the popular Hatton Locks Café for welcome refreshment and usually plenty of “gongoozlers” watching boats passing through the locks too! Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is at Warwick, just two miles and two locks from Hattton Bottom Lock.

5. Foxton – surrounded by stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, this set of 10 locks on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal raises boats up 23 metres in just a quarter-of-a-mile. Foxton Locks is the longest set of staircase locks in the UK – where the locks open directly one from another so that the top gate of one forms the bottom of the next – and they are designated a Grade II Listed structure. It takes around 45 minutes to pass through and there are lock keepers on hand to help, providing key advice when it comes to opening the paddles – “Red before white, you’ll be alright. White before red, you’ll be dead.” Drifters’ nearest narrowboat boat hire base is just two and a half hours away at Market Harborough.

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

Visit a National Park by Canal Boat

Top 10 Summer Canal Boat Holidays

Travelling through the countryside and waterside towns and villages 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 590 narrowboats for hire from 47 bases across England, Scotland and Wales. Our summer holiday prices for a short break on a boat for four people start at £715, and at £1,020 for a week.

Tuition is included in all our holiday packages and all our boats 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 2018:

1. Journey One-way across the Pennines – starting from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Skipton, this week-long holiday travelling across the backbone of England is truly one of the great canal journeys. The scenery varies from the timeless calm of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal summit to the hubbub of the Leeds City Centre waterfront, and includes the Bingley Five Rise locks, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways, and the chance to visit Sir Titus Salt’s World Heritage Status model town at Saltaire.

2. Cruise along the River Thames to Oxford – on a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the River Thames at Eynsham near Witney, boaters 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, canal boat holiday-makers can moor up just a short walk from the City Centre and take time to explore some of the its historic attractions, including the Bodleian Library with its stunning 17th century Schools Quadrangle.

3. Travel the Warwickshire Ring – On a week’s holiday from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston, boaters can travel the popular Warwickshire Ring, travelling 101 miles, through 94 locks in around 54 hours through a mixture of urban and rural landscapes, with highlights including the awesome Hatton Flight of 21 locks and Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin.

4. Glide across the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular on the network. On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Chirk, boaters can travel to the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen and back, with just four locks to go through and the magnificent World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to glide across.

5. Travel along the peaceful Ashby Canal to Snarestone – on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Stretton-under-Fosse on the North Oxford Canal near Rugby, boaters can travel up the North Oxford Canal to connect with 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, where King Richard lost his crown to Henry Tudor. The journey there and back, travels 63 miles and with just one lock to pass through each way, it offers around 26 hours of tranquil countryside cruising.

6. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh – from Drifters’ base at Falkirk, Edinburgh Quay is a sedate 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal, perfect for a four night mid-week break. The journey starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel (the world’s first 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 and many of the City’s attractions, including Mary King Close, frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.

7. Take the Grand Union Canal to Warwick Castle – on a short break from Drifters’ base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, boaters can reach the historic centre of Warwick in just six hours. Here canal boat holiday-makers can take time to explore this beautiful market town in the heart of England and its magnificent castle on the banks of the River Avon, said to be ‘Britain’s greatest medieval experience’.

8. Visit Georgian Bath afloat – on a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, next to the spectacular Caen Hill flight of locks, canal boat holiday-makers can travel west to the beautiful World Heritage Status City of Bath, famous for its stunning Georgian architecture and fascinating Roman Baths.

9. Complete the Birmingham Mini-Ring – on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ narrowboat rental base on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen, narrowboat holiday-makers can complete the Birmingham Mini-Ring, travelling through 83 locks in around 35 hours. The route takes boaters through the Warwickshire countryside and right into the heart of the City, where moorings at Gas Street Basin are close to Brindleyplace, the Mailbox Shopping Centre and other City Centre attractions

10. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal in Shropshire, it takes around ten hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man – perfect for a short break. Along the way, boaters pass through a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.

Top 5 Yorkshire Canal Boat Holidays

Top 5 Yorkshire Canal Boat Holidays

To celebrate Yorkshire Day (1 August), we’ve put together our Top 5 Yorkshire Canal Boat Holidays for 2017.

Prices from our Yorkshire bases start at £405 for a short break (three or four nights), £620 for a week on a boat for two people.

  1. 1. Travel one-way across the Pennines…Starting from Drifters’ base at Barnoldswick on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Skipton, this week-long holiday is truly one of the great canal journeys, taking canal boat holiday-makers across the backbone of England. The scenery varies from the timeless calm of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal summit to the hubbub of the Leeds City Centre waterfront, and includes the Bingley Five Rise locks (one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways), and the opportunity to visit Sir Titus Salt’s World Heritage Status model town at Saltaire.

 

  1. Visit Skipton and its medieval castle…on a short break (three or four nights) from our Barnoldswick boatyard, boaters can head east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Skipton and back (travelling a total of 26 miles, 30 locks, 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, boaters can moor in the centre of the town, visit shops and restaurants and explore the 900-year old Skipton Castle, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.

 

  1. Toddle to Todmorden and back for some stunning Pennine scenery…on a short break (three or four nights) from our canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel to Todmorden and back along the Rochdale Canal (20 miles, 34 locks, 16 hours). This historic town offers visitors fine Victorian architecture, plenty of pubs and restaurants, and a busy market.  Along the way, boaters pass through the beautiful Calder Valley 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 and a series of scenic waymarked walks.

 

  1. Cruise to Rishton and back for a trip through industrial history…on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ Barnoldswick base, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel west along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Rishton and back (53 miles, 14 locks, 20 hours). The journey begins on the summit before plunging into Foulridge Tunnel, then down to Barrowford Locks.  After 20 miles on one level, boaters 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 before carrying 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.

 

  1. Journey to the Hepworth Wakefield…on a mid-week break from our Sowerby Bridge yard, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Wakefield and back to visit the fabulous Hepworth Wakefield Art Gallery (40 miles, 52 locks, 22 hours). With moorings right outside, the Hepworth Wakefield is the largest purpose-built exhibition space outside London, offering visitors over 1,600 square metres of light-filled gallery spaces to explore. As well as works by Barbara Hepworth, visitors can enjoy seeing works from Tim Sayer’s extensive collection of modern and contemporary British art, amassed over the last 50 years, including works by Henry Moore, Naum Gabo, Antony Gormley, David Hockney, Paul Nash, Bridget Riley and Anthony Caro.