Tag Archive for: Leeds & Liverpool Canal

Visit the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford upon Avon on a canal boat holiday

Culture on the canals

Enjoy culture on the canals on your next narrowboat holiday.

There are dozens of fantastic art and historic centres on or very close to Britain’s 3,000 mile canal and river network.

We’ve put together a list of our top seven cultural destinations:

1. The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford

From Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it’s a six-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Stratford-on-Avon. There you can moor up at Bancroft Basin, a stone’s throw from the world-famous Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

2. The David Hockney Gallery at Saltaire

You can reach UNESCO World Heritage Saltaire on a short break from Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Saltaire was founded on the banks of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Bradford in 1851 by Sir Titus Salt, a leading industrialist in the woollen industry.  Salts Mill has a number of galleries, including the David Hockney Gallery showing both permanent and temporary collections of the Bradford-born artist’s work.

3. The Theatre Royal in Bath

From Bradford on Avon it’s a six-hour cruise along the Kennet & Avon Canal to moorings at Sydney Wharf. From there, it’s a 15-minute walk to UNESCO World Heritage Bath city centre.  Over 200 years old, Bath’s beautiful Georgian Theatre Royal is one of the country’s best-loved.  And it’s one of the best places to enjoy culture on the canals.

4. The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford

From our Oxford base on the River Thames at Eynsham, it’s a three-hour cruise to moorings in Oxford City Centre, close to the Ashmolean Museum.  Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean was Britain’s first public museum and is home to the University of Oxford’s world-class collections of art and archaeology.  It has a series of permanent exhibition galleries, including a fascinating and significant collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts.

5. Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire

From Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, it’s a short cruise or walk to the National Trust’s beautiful Shugborough Estate.  Set in 900 acres of stunning parkland and riverside gardens, it is a rare survival of a complete estate.  Major buildings include the Georgian Mansion House, servants’ quarters, model farm and walled garden. Visitors can explore the Mansion’s state rooms and private apartments of the Earls of Lichfield. And see costumed characters in the servant’s quarters and farmstead make cheese, beer and bread.

6. The Hepworth Wakefield Museum

On a week’s break from Sowerby Bridge, you can reach moorings alongside the Hepworth Wakefield museum. This modern gallery on the banks of the Calder & Hebble Navigation showcases the extraordinary work by the British sculptor Barbara Hepworth. There are also works on display by Henry Moore, Antony Gormley, David Hockney, Bridget Riley and Anthony Caro.

7. Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

On a short break from Alvechurch, you can cruise along the Worcester & Birmingham into Birmingham City Centre. From Alvechurch it takes about five hours to reach moorings in Gas Street Basin. From there you can walk to the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, housed in a stunning Grade II* listed landmark building. The Museum opened in 1885 and is home to one of the biggest collections of Pre-Raphaelite art in the world.

One-way canal boat holidays across the Pennines

Pennine one-way trips

We offer one-way narrowboat holidays across the Pennines for experienced boaters

Explore Yorkshire’s inland waterways and cross the Pennines on a one-way canal boat holiday adventure with Drifters.

You’ll encounter some of the Wonders of the Waterways, including the Bingley Five Rise Locks at Bradford. And you’ll enjoy incredible views of the Pennines, Yorkshire Dales and Calder Valley.

We offer the choice of two Pennine one-way trips for crews with experience of locks. They are available for 10 or 11 day holiday hire, starting on a Friday or a Monday. Minibus transfers are included in the boat hire price.

1. One-way trips across the Pennines via Leeds (79 miles, 79 locks, 45 hours)

This epic canal journey starts either on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Barnoldswick or the Calder & Hebble Navigation at Sowerby Bridge.  You’ll travel stretches of the Calder & Hebble Navigation, the Aire & Calder Navigation and the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

Highlights along the way include: the Hepworth Wakefield gallery; Leeds Dock and Royal Armouries Museum; UNESCO World Heritage Saltaire; the Bingley Five Rise Locks; Skipton with its medieval castle; and incredible views of the Yorkshire Dales.

2. One-way trips across the Pennines via Wigan (103 miles, 136 locks, 65 hours)

This challenging narrowboat adventure appeals to very serious boaters committed to long days with lots of locks. You’ll travel sections of the Rochdale Canal, Bridgewater Canal and Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

Highlights along the way include: the historic market towns of Hebden Bridge and Todmorden; the exhilarating Pennine Summit stretch and Summit Inn; Picadilly Village, Manchester City Centre and Castlefield Basin; the Trafford Centre on the Bridgewater Canal; the Barton Swing Aqueduct; spectacular views from the top of the Wigan Flight; views of the Lancashire Calder Valley; historic Blackburn; the Burnley Mile; the deep locks at Barrowford; and Foulridge Tunnel.

There’s information about the boats available for these one-way trips here

Chirk Castle close to the Llangollen Canal in Wales

National Trust properties to visit

There are dozens of National Trust properties within easy reach of our canals and rivers, making them great places to visit on a canal boat holiday.

Here’s a guide to our top 10 National Trust properties to visit, and our nearest bases:

1. The Rock Houses at Kinver Edge on the Staffs & Worcester Canal

Kinver’s famous Holy Austin Rock Houses near Stourbridge were inhabited until the 1950’s and give an atmospheric glimpse into a bygone age.  The woodland sandstone ridge out of which the houses are built, offers dramatic views across surrounding counties.  You can reach Kinver on a week’s holiday from Gailey or Autherley.

2. Knot Garden at Little Moreton Hall on the Macclesfield Canal

This iconic Tudor Manor House in Congleton offers an insight into life in the 1600’s. Little Morton Hall‘s manicured Knot Garden grows herbs and vegetables used by the Tudors for their cooking and medicines.  You can reach Congleton on a short break from Stoke on Trent on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

3. William Morris interiors at Wightwick Manor on the Staffs & Worcester Canal

Described as ‘the haven of a romantic industrialist’, this beautiful timber-framed house in Wolverhampton has stunning interiors. They are decorated with the designs of William Morris and his Arts & Crafts contemporaries.  You can reach Wolverhampton on a short break from Autherley or Gailey.

4. Timber-frames at Greyfriars House close to the River Severn

This late medieval merchant’s house and walled garden in Worcester city centre was rescued from demolition after the Second World War.  It has now been carefully restored and refurbished and you can visit it on a short break from Worcester on the River Severn.

5. 700 years of history at Chirk Castle on the Llangollen Canal

This magnificent medieval fortress at Chirk was completed in 1310, and is the last Welsh castle from the reign of Edward I still lived in today.  Features from its 700 years include the medieval tower and dungeon, 17th century Long Gallery, grand 18th century state apartments, servants’ hall and laundry.  It also boasts award-winning gardens and incredible views over the Cheshire and Salop plains.  You can reach Chirk from our bases at Chirk, Trevor and Blackwater Meadow on the Llangollen Canal.

6. Profumo Affair links at Cliveden on the River Thames at Maidenhead

W country retreat on a grand scale, Cliveden’s magnificent gardens and breath-taking views have been admired for centuries.  Once the glittering hub of society and visited by virtually every British Monarch since George I, Cliveden was renowned for hosting exclusive parties and political gatherings.  In the 1960’s, Cliveden became infamously associated with the Profumo Affair.  Today visitors can explore the stunning gardens, peaceful woodlands and Thames riverbank.  You can reach Cliveden on a week’s break from Aldermaston on The Kennet & Avon Canal.

7. Notable topiary at Packwood House on the Stratford Canal

Originally built in the 16th century, the interiors of this timber-framed Tudor house at Lapworth were restored between the wars by Graham Baron Ash.  The restoration created a fascinating 20th century evocation of domestic Tudor architecture.  Its gardens have fine herbaceous borders and a famous collection of yews.  You can reach Lapworth on a short break from Alvechurch on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal or Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal.

8. Exquisite embroideries at East Riddlesden Hall on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

This 17th century manor house at Keighley was a hive of farming activity for generations.  It has a cosy lived-in feel with exquisite embroideries and blackwork, plus oak furniture and pewter on show.  You can reach Keighley on a short break from Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

9. 18th century gardens at Hanbury Hall on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal

Built in 1701 by Thomas, Vernon, a lawyer and whig MP for Worcester, Hanbury Hall near Droitwich Spa is a beautiful country house.  It’s surrounded by 20 acres of recreated early 18th century gardens and 400 acres of parkland.  You can reach Hanbury Hall on a short break from Stoke Prior on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal or Worcester on the River Severn.

10. Holy Grail connections at Shugborough Hall on the Staffs & Worcester Canal

Beautiful Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire, once the home of Lord Lichfield, is set in 900 acres of stunning parkland and riverside gardens.  It’s a rare survival of a complete estate, with all major buildings including the fine Georgian Mansion House, servants’ quarters, model farm and walled garden. And it’s rumoured to have connections to the Holy Grail.  Our nearest base is just five minutes away at Great Haywood.

To check availability and book, go to https://www.drifters.co.uk/


Top 5 Yorkshire canal boat holidays

Top 5 Yorkshire canal boat holidays

Yorkshire is home to some of the most picturesque canals in the UK, including the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and the Calder & Hebble Navigation. These waterways wind their way through diverse landscapes, from rolling countryside to bustling cities, offering breathtaking views at every turn.

To celebrate the beautiful waterways of Yorkshire, we’ve put together our Top 5 Yorkshire canal boat holidays:

1. Visit Skipton and its medieval castle

On a short break from Silsden, you can cruise along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Skipton.  The journey there and back travels 12 miles and takes around seven hours. There are no locks but there are a series of swing bridges to operate along the way.  You’ll cruise along the beautiful River Aire Valley, passing through the village of Kildwick with its 17th century coaching inn, The White Lion.  Once in Skipton, you can moor in the centre of the town to visit shops and restaurants. And explore the 900-year old Skipton Castle, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.

2. Sail to the historic market town Selby

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

3. Toddle to Todmorden for some stunning Pennine scenery

On a short break from Sowerby Bridge you can travel along the Rochdale Canal to Todmorden.  The journey there and back travels 20 miles, passes through 34 locks (17 each way) and takes around 16 hours.  This historic town offers visitors fine Victorian architecture, plenty of pubs and restaurants, and a busy market.  Along the way, you’ll pass through the village of Mytholmroyd, the birthplace of Ted Hughes. And the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills, with an amazing variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs.  There are also a series of scenic waymarked walks to enjoy.

4. Cruise to Rishton for a trip through industrial history

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

5. Journey to the Hepworth Wakefield

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

To find out more about the canals of North East England, go to https://www.drifters.co.uk/canals-of-north-east-england/

Head to one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways on your next canal boat holiday

Head to one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways

Why not head to one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways on your next canal boat holiday.

The list of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ was compiled nearly 70 years ago by Robert Aickman.  He was the co-founder of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA).  These amazing structures are still functioning today and make great destinations.

If you’d like to head to one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways on your next canal boat holiday, here’s a guide to our nearest bases:

1. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Carrying the Llangollen Canal 38 metres high above the River Dee, the World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the highest and longest aqueduct in Britain.  It was built between 1795 and 1805.  It has 18 magnificent stone piers, supporting a 307-metre long trough for the canal to run through.  Our base at Trevor is right next to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

2. The Anderton Boat Lift

Also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’, this extraordinary structure raises boats 15 metres from the River Weaver to the Trent & Mersey Canal.  It was designed by Edwin Clark and opened in 1875. The Anderton Boat Lift 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 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 at Devizes is visually the most impressive in the country.  The locks were the final link in the Kennet & Avon Canal’s construction, opening in 1810.  Sadly by 1950 they had become derelict, but after a major restoration effort, they were reopened HM The Queen in 1990.  Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Devizes is at the base of the flight.

4. The Bingley Five-Rise Locks

This spectacular staircase of locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal was completed in 1774. The locks raise (or lower) boats 18 metres in five cavernous chambers.  They open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom gate of the next.  You can head to this wonder of the waterways from our base at Silsden, just six miles away.  It takes around 3.5 hours to reach the top of the Bingley staircase from Silsden.

5. The Standedge Tunnel

The Standedge Tunnel runs for over three miles beneath the Pennines.  This incredible feat of engineering is the longest, highest and deepest tunnel on the canal system.  Cutting through solid rock, it took the navvies 16 years to build.  It opened in 1811, but sadly in the 20th century, the Huddersfield Canal fell into disrepair, becoming un-navigable by 1948.  After a long restoration programme, both the canal and tunnel were reopened in 2001.  Today narrow boat holiday-makers need to book their passage through with a Canal & River Trust chaperone.  There’s also a trip boat operating from the Marsden end.  Drifters’ nearest base is at Sowerby Bridge, 20 miles and 65 locks away. The journey to Standedge takes around 21 hours (three days).

6. Barton Swing Aqueduct

The 100-metre long Barton Aqueduct was built in 1761 by James Brindley to take the Bridgewater Canal across the River Irwell.  It was considered a marvel at the time of its opening.  In 1863 the Manchester Ship Canal company decided to use the course of the Irwell at Barton as part of its navigation channel. So Brindley’s Aqueduct was replaced by the Barton Swing Aqueduct.  The 1,450 tonne aqueduct swings open, full of water, to allow the passage of ships along the Manchester Ship Canal.  Drifters’ 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

The mile-long Burnley Embankment carries the Leeds & Liverpool Canal over 18 metres high across part of the town.  It’s also known as ‘The Straight Mile’. It offers boaters breath-taking panoramic views of the Calder Valley and surrounding countryside.  The Burnley Embankment spans the Calder Valley.  Though costly and difficult to build,it avoided the need for a series of locks. Designed by Robert Whitworth, the embankment was built between 1796 and 1801.  It 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.  There are seven locks to pass through and it takes around five hours.

Visit a bluebell wood on a canal boat holiday

Bluebell woods to explore on a canal boat holiday

Canals meander through some of Britain’s best loved countryside, and there are places where you can explore bluebell woods on a canal boat holiday.

The UK is home to almost half the world’s bluebells, and they are one of the nation’s favourite wildflowers.  Native bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) are an ancient woodland indicator.

The Woodland Trust says, “most flowering usually happens in April, so this is the best time to see that iconic carpet of blue.”

To celebrate, we’ve listed our top 7 beautiful bluebell woods to explore on a canal boat holiday:

1. Copley Woods on the Calder & Hebble in West Yorkshire

The bluebells are stunning in the woods alongside the Calder & Hebble Navigation at Copley.  From our narrowboat hire base at Sowerby Bridge, it takes just under 30 minutes by boat to reach Copley.

2. Coed Cefn at Crickhowell on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

This ancient woodland managed by the Woodland Trust has an iron age hill fort at its centre.  There’s a circular walk perfect for enjoying fantastic displays of bluebells in April and May.  From our base at Goytre in South Wales, it takes around five hours to reach Llangattock Wharf.  From there it’s a two-mile walk to Coed Cefn.

3. Chirk Castle Woods, close to the Llangollen Canal in Wrexham

Owned by the National Trust, the grounds of Chirk Castle include 480 acres of woodland and parkland.  There are carpets of bluebells, veteran trees and a section of the historic Offa’s Dyke trail to discover.  Setting out from our Chirk base on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes just 40 minutes to cruise to visitor moorings at Chirk Bank.  From there, it’s a 30-minute walk up to Chirk Castle to explore bluebell woods on a canal boat holiday.

4. Cliveden on the River Thames in Berkshire

Set high above the River Thames near Maidenhead, Cliveden has 375 acres of glorious gardens and woodlands to explore.  These include a magnificent carpet of bluebells alongside the beautiful tree-lined Green Drive.  From our canal boat hire base at Aldermaston, it’s a 14 hour journey to Cliveden Reach.

5. Packwood House near the Stratford Canal in Warwickshire

The National Trust’s magnificent Packwood House has 150 acres of parkland to explore, including an area of ancient woodland with bluebells.  From our base at Alvechurch, it takes around six hours to cruise to moorings on the Stratford Canal at Lapworth, close to Packwood House. From there you can walk to these bluebell woods to explore on a canal boat holiday.

6. Savernake Forest on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire

There are over 4,500 acres of woodlands to explore at Savernake Forest, and it’s a bluebell paradise in Spring. The Kennet & Avon Canal runs alongside the Savernake Forest, with bluebell woods to explore on a canal boat holiday. From our Devizes base, it takes around 10 hours to reach the village of Wootton Rivers, a great starting point for a variety of walks around the Forest.

7. Skipton Castle Woods on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire

Skipton Castle Woods is a rare ancient woodland habitat cared for by the Woodland Trust. These woods close to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal are reputed to be one of the best places to spot bluebells in Yorkshire.  From our base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just around four cruising hours to reach Skipton Castle.

Castles to visit on a narrowboat holiday in England and Wales

Castles to visit on a narrowboat holiday

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

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

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

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

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

2. See the Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle

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

3. Climb the ramparts at Warwick Castle

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

4. Find out about the siege at Skipton Castle

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

5. Discover murder holes at Chirk Castle

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

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.

Travel through the Bingley Five Rise locks on a canal boat holiday

Bingley Five Rise Locks celebrate 250th anniversary

This year, the Bingley Five Rise Locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Bradford in West Yorkshire will be 250 years old!

One of the greatest feats of canal engineering of its day, the Grade I listed Bingley Five Rise Locks opened on 21 March 1774. On that day, 30,000 people turned out to cheer their opening, and the local militia fired their field guns in salute.

The Canal & River Trust is holding a Bingley Five Rise Locks 250-year celebration on Saturday 23 March 2024, from 10am to 3pm.  The free family-friendly day will including lock keeper demonstations and talks by volunteers, boat trips along the canal, heritage talks and walks, a floating market, paddle sports sessions and Let’s Fish! taster sessions.

Drifters member Anglo Welsh will be exhibiting one of its widebeam boats from Silsden. Helen’s Drum will be moored alongside the Leeds & Liverpool Canal towpath at the top of the locks. Visitors will be able to tour the boat to see the facilities on board.

There’s more information about the Canal & River Trust’s Bingley Five Locks 250-year celebrations here

A wonder of the waterways

Considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways, the five cavernous chambers raise (or lower) boats by 18 metres.  They open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom of the next. It takes boats around 45 minutes to go up the locks and 30 minutes to go down. Canal & River Trust lock keepers are on hand to help.

Five facts about Bingley Five Rise Locks and the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

  1. At 127 miles, the Leeds & Liverpool Canal is the longest single canal in the country, crossing the Pennines and linking the wide waterways of Yorkshire with those of Lancashire and the River Mersey.
  2. Bingley Five Rise Lock staircase is the steepest lock staircase in Britain and is the most spectacular feature of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.
  3. The locks are Grade I listed, meaning they are of exceptional interest both on an architectural and historical scale.
  4. The lock gates at Bingley are some of the tallest in the country. Each gate is unique and made using the same traditional methods as 250 years ago.
  5. At the top of the locks there’s a viewing area where you can take in the stunning views across the Aire Valley and the Five Rise Locks Café.

Canal boat holidays from Silsden

Drifters offers canal boat hire from Silsden, just six miles along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal from Bingley.  It takes around three and a half hours to cruise to the Five Rise Locks from Silsden, so it’s perfect for a relaxing short break.  On the way to Bingley from Silsden, you’ll pass through Stockbridge and Riddlesden, with the National Trust’s East Riddlesden Hall not far from the canal.  A few miles after Bingley, you’ll reach the UNESCO World Heritage town Saltaire, near Shipley.

On a week’s holiday from Silsden, you can continue to follow the Aire Valley to Leeds.  There you can moor up in Leeds Dock and visit the waterside Royal Armouries Museum and other city centre attractions.

For more information about visiting Bingley Five Rise Locks, go to Bingley | Places to visit | Canal & River Trust (canalrivertrust.org.uk)

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.