Tag Archive for: Llangollen Canal

Best canal and riverside pubs

Best canal and riverside pubs

There are hundreds of lovely canal and riverside pubs to enjoy across Britain

It’s great to be by the water in the summer time. And there are plenty of canal and riverside pubs with waterside gardens perfect for watching the world go by.

To celebrate, we’ve listed our top 10 canal and riverside pubs for the summer, with our nearest canal boat hire bases:

1. The Bridge Inn, Chirk Bank in Shropshire

You can reach this popular watering hole on the Llangollen Canal on a short break from our bases at Chirk, Trevor and Blackwater Meadow.  Also known as ‘The Trap’, this historic inn enjoys views of the magnificent Chirk Aqueduct. And it’s on the 11-mile stretch of the Llangollen Canal designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

2. The Boat Inn, Gnosall in Staffordshire

This traditional family run pub on the banks of the Shropshire Union Canal can be reached on a short break from Brewood.  It has a patio area overlooking the canal and is renowned for its homemade pies and fish and chips.

3. The Cross Guns, Avoncliff in Somerset

This popular pub in the beautiful Bath Valley has extensive riverside gardens alongside the Kennet & Avon Canal and magnificent Avoncliff Aqueduct.  It can be reached on a short break from our bases at Bath, Monkton Combe, Bradford on Avon and Devizes.

4. The Leigh Arms, Little Leigh in Cheshire

On the banks of the River Weaver near Northwich, you can reach this charming riverside pub on a short break from our bases at Anderton and Acton Bridge.

5. The Fleur de Lys, Lowsonford in Warwickshire

Famous for its pies, this 17th century country pub has extensive gardens alongside the Stratford Canal. You can reach it on a short break from our base at Wootton Wawen.

6. The Plume of Feathers, Barlaston in Staffordshire

Co-owned by the actor Neil Morrissey, this popular pub on the Trent & Mersey Canal offers homemade food and locally brewed beers. You can reach it on a short break from our bases at Stoke-on-Trent and Great Haywood.

7. The Cutter Inn, Ely in Cambridgeshire

You can reach this popular riverside pub on the Great River Ouse on a short break from our Ely and March bases. It has an outdoor terrace for al fresco drinking and dining with excellent river views.

8. The Dundas Arms, Kintbury in Berkshire

This traditional country pub and hotel on the banks of the Kennet & Avon Canal can be reached on a short break from Aldermaston. It has a large beer garden, perfect for summertime al fresco drinking and dining.

9. The Trout Inn, Lechlade, Gloucestershire

With over 700 years of history, this Cotswold pub on the banks of the River Thames can be reached on a mid-week break from our Oxford base. It’s a traditional family-run inn, with riverside gardens perfect for watching the world go by.

10. The Bridge Inn, Ratho in Midlothian

This historic pub and hotel on the banks of the Union Canal near Edinburgh can be reached on a short break from Falkirk.  There’s a dining terrace overlooking the canal, and home-grown fruit and vegetables are served from the pub’s walled garden.

Summer holiday boating on the canals is great for families

Summer holiday boating

Take to the water for some summer holiday boating fun with Drifters Waterway Holidays and choose from over 550 boats and 45 locations.

From lazing on the Llangollen to bobbing through Bath, Britain’s 3,000 mile canal and river network offers the fastest way to slow down.

And there are plenty of exciting family attractions to visit along the way, including the Sea Life Centre in Birmingham and the magnificent Tithe Barn at Bradford on Avon.

Here’s a run-down of Drifters’ top 6 summer holiday boating destinations:

1. Bath and Bristol on the Kennet & Avon Canal

On a short break from our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Bath you can cruise to historic Bradford on Avon, with its stunning Tithe Barn.  On a week’s cruise you can cruise on to the base of the awesome Caen Hill flight of locks at Devizes.

2. Travel round the Droitwich Ring on a short break

On a short break from the City of Worcester, where the River Severn meets the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, you can travel round the 21-mile Droitwich Ring.  It takes around 16 hours to cruise the ring, negotiating 33 locks. Highlights along the way include: Hanbury Hall; the ancient village of Salwarpe; and Diglis Basin.

3. Cruise the Four Counties Ring

From our Stoke-on-Trent base, the Four Counties Ring is one of the most popular journeys.  Predominantly rural, it travels stretches of the Trent & Mersey, Staffs & Worcs and Shropshire Union canals.  Highlights include: the world famous 2,670-metre-long Harecastle Tunnel; Market Drayton; the World of Wedgewood; stunning views of the rolling Cheshire Plains; the Roman town of Middlewich; the National Trust’s Shugborough Hall; Tixall Wide; and the flight of 15 locks at Audlem.  The Four Counties Ring is best travelled on a 10-day or two-week break.

4. Navigate to Happy Valley

On a short break from Sowerby Bridge you can cruise along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation to Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, navigating 20 miles and 32 locks.  At Hebden Bridge there are excellent shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants and walks in ‘Happy Valley’ and on the moors.  Todmorden boasts fine Victorian buildings, a lively market and offers many places to eat and drink.

5. Lock free cruising & the bright lights of Birmingham

On a short break from Alvechurch you can travel along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Birmingham and back.  The journey there and back takes less than ten hours and there are no locks.  Stop off at Cadbury World and the historic village of Bournville. Then travel on to moorings in Gas Street Basin, close to the Sea Life Centre at Brindleyplace, city centre museums and the Bullring and Mailbox shopping centres.

6. Glide across ‘The stream in the sky’

From Trevor on the Llangollen Canal you can experience one of the UK’s most stunning stretches of waterway.  You can glide across the awesome UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – an incredible feat of engineering standing 38 metres high above the Dee Valley.  You may be travelling at just four miles an hour, but with not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure your views, you feel like you are floating above the earth!

 

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/

 

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.

Best canal boat holidays for wildlife spotting

Best narrowboat holidays for wildlife spotting

Britain’s canals and rivers are full of biodiversity. To celebrate #EarthDay2024 we’ve published a guide to the best narrowboat holidays for wildlife spotting.

Cruising gently through the countryside, you can enjoy spotting anything from ducks, moorhens, swans and dragonflies, to kingfishers, otters, bats and water voles.  Even in city centres, waterways provide safe havens for a wide variety of plants and animals.

1. Spot Kingfishers on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, South Wales

Isolated from the main canal network, this beautiful waterway meanders peacefully for 36 miles through the Brecon Beacons National Park. The Montmoutshire & Brecon Canal in Wales provides excellent habitat for many woodland and water birds, including kingfishers. Usually glimpsed as a sudden flash of glistening blue, the ‘King of Fishers’ travels at lightning speeds catching several fish each day.

We have a narrowboat hire base on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal at Gotyre Wharf.

2. Watch out for Bats on the Caldon Canal, Derbyshire

The 17-mile long Caldon Canal in Staffordshire has stunning wooded sections, providing rich habitat for bats. There are 18 different kinds of bat in Britain, including Daubenton’s bats, also known as the ‘water bat’.  They use the canal and river network extensively for foraging and they can frequently be found roosting in hollowed out tree trunks and many of the 200 year old engineering structures, such as bridges and aqueducts, which were built alongside the canals themselves.

We have a canal boat hire base at Stoke on Trent, where the Caldon Canal meets the Trent & Mersey Canal.

3. Count Dragonflies on the Ashby Canal, Leicestershire

A six-mile section of the Ashby Canal is designated a Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI), recognising the diversity of its plant, insect and animal life, including nine species of dragonfly. These colourful insects, whose origins began 300 million years ago, are voracious hunters.  They use the reed fringes of our canals and rivers as breeding and hunting grounds.

You can reach the Ashby Canal on a week-long canal boat holiday from our bases at Braunston, Napton and Stockton.

4. Look out for Otters on the Montgomery Canal, Shropshire & Wales

This beautiful canal runs for 38 miles between England and Wales.  Designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on both sides of the border, and the entire length in Wales is also recognised as a Special Area of Conservation, making it one of the most important sites for wildlife in Europe.  Thanks to the work of conservationists, the UK’s population of otters is showing healthy signs of growth after its sad decline in the 1950’s.  Lakes, rivers and coastal areas are the otters’ natural habitats but these timid nocturnal creatures can also be seen hunting on quiet stretches of the canals.

You can reach the Montgomery Canal on a short break or week away from our narrowboat rental bases at Blackwater Meadow, Chirk, Trevor and Whixall.

5. Listen for Reed Bunting on the Droitwich Canals, Worcestershire

Many birds live and nest amongst the reeds that line sections of our inland waterways, including the chirruping reed bunting.  One of the best waterways to see these lively little birds, perched up high on reed tops singing at the top of their voices, are the Droitwich Canals in Worcestershire, which offer a linear mosaic of habitats, including substantial reedbeds. Reed buntings are sparrow-sized but slim with long, deeply notched tails.  The male has a black head with a white collar in the summer.  The black head becomes a dull brown in the winter.  Females have a brown head, buff throat and buff-coloured lines above and below their eyes.

You can cruise the Droitwich Canals on a short break or week away from our Stoke Prior and Worcester bases.

Enjoy a family day out boating on the canals

Best family days out boating on the canals

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

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

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

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

1. Staffordshire: Navigate through the countryside to Hopwas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes less than 20 minutes to reach the UNESCO World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  Standing at over 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, this incredible structure offers stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  After cruising over the Aqueduct, there are two tunnels and another aqueduct to cross, before reaching the Bridge Inn at Chirk.  *Day boats ‘Jacob’, ‘Daniel’ and ‘Lotty’ can carry up to 10 people each.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Visit Stratford-upon-Avon on a canal boat holiday

Popular canal boat holiday destinations for overseas visitors

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

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

Shakespeare’s Stratford, England

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

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

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

Warwick Castle, England

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

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

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

Bath, England

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

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

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

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

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, North Wales

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

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

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

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

Edinburgh, Scotland

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

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

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

Oxford, England

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

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

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

Cambridge, England

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

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

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

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

Top 11 new narrowboats for hire in 2024

Drifters Top 11 New Narrowboats for Hire in 2024

Every year we add dozens of new narrowboat to our fleet.

There are two main types of narrowboat available:

  • cruiser stern boats have an open back deck with room for a number of people to stand; and
  • semi-traditional boat have a smaller deck/steering area with a seating area that can be enclosed with doors.

Here’s a guide to our top 11 new boats to hire for a canal boat holiday in 2024:

1. ‘Natalie’ will be available at Napton, Oxford Canal

The 60ft ‘Natalie’ Discovery Class cruiser stern narrowboat for up to six people, will be available to hire from Napton in Warwickshire. She will have two double cabins (which can also be made up as twins), two bathrooms, and an extra outside table. She has a reverse layout, so the galley is at the back of the boat. The interior dining area can be converted into a double bed.

***2024 hire prices for ‘Natalie’ start at £895 for a short break, £1,290 for a week.*

2. A new ‘Duchess 6’ Signature will arrive at Stoke Prior, Worcester & Birmingham Canal

The 70ft ‘Duchess 6’ Signature Class cruiser stern canal boat for up to six people, will arrive at Stoke Prior in Worcestershire.  The boat will have two double cabins that can either be double or twin beds.  There will an option to convert the dining area into a double bed.  The kitchen areas are larger in the new Signature Class fleet, with more worktop space, a microwave, multiple USB charging points.  The boat will also have a shower and toilet room, black-out blinds, bespoke mattresses, wireless charging pads and a flat screen TV.

***2024 hire prices for the ‘Duchess 6’ Signature start at £1,099 for a short break, £1,675 for a week*.

3. ‘Foxhound’ will be available from Devizes, Kennet & Avon Canal

The 69ft ‘Foxhound’ semi-cruiser narrowboat for up to nine people will be available to hire from Devizes.  ‘Foxhound’ will have three permanent double sleeping cabins, two of which can also be made up as twins. A large saloon at the front will sleep an extra three if required. Galley extras include a full-size cooker, microwave and two fridge/freezers. Foxhound will have underfloor heating, multiple USB charging points, a TV in the saloon and gaming/TV area in one of the flexible sleeping cabins. ‘Foxhound’ will also have two showers, two toilets, black-out curtains and premium mattresses.

***2024 prices for ‘Foxhound’ start at £887 for a short break, £1,257 for a week*. 

4. The ‘Chiff Chaff Warbler’ will depart from Wrenbury, Llangollen Canal

The 69ft ‘Chiff Chaff Warbler’ semi-traditional narrowboat for up to eight people will arrive at Wrenbury in Shropshire.  The boat will have three cabins: one fixed as double; and two which can be configured as doubles or singles.  ‘Chiff Chaff Warbler’ will have LED lighting, a front deck table, optional wider beds, two shower/toilet rooms, WiFi and two TV’s.

***2024 hire prices aboard ‘Chiff Chaff Warbler’ currently start at £1,199 for a short break, £1,799 for a week*. 

5. ‘Rock Partridge’ will be available from Nantwich, Shropshire Union Canal

The 66ft ‘Rock Partridge’ semi-traditional narrowboat for up to six people will arrive at Nantwich in Cheshire.  ‘Rock Partridge’ will have two double cabins that can be made up as singles or doubles (with optional wider beds), and the seating/dining area can be converted into a double bed. She will have two shower/toilet rooms, a front deck table, LED lighting, two televisions and WiFi.

***2024 hire prices for ‘Rock Partridge’ currently start at £1,599 for a week*. 

6. ‘Masked Lark’ will arrive at Kings Orchard, Coventry Canal

The 66ft ‘Masked Lark’ semi-traditional narrowboat for up to six people will launch at Kings Orchard Marina in Staffordshire.  ‘Masked Lark’ will have two double cabins that can be made up as singles or doubles (with optional wider beds).  And the seating/dining area can be converted into a double bed. She will have two shower/toilet rooms, a front deck table, LED lighting, two televisions and WiFi.

***2024 prices for ‘Masked Lark’ currently start at £1,199 for short break, £1,599 for a week*.   

7. The ‘Tepui Swift’ will arrive at Aldermaston, Kennet & Avon Canal

The 49ft ‘Tepui Swift’ cruiser stern narrowboat for up to four people will be available to hire from Aldermaston in West Berkshire.  The ‘Tepui Swift’ will have one cabins, which can be configured either as a double or twins (with optional wider beds) And a seating/dining area which can be converted into a double bed.  She will have a shower/toilet room, a front deck table, LED lighting, two televisions and WiFi.

***2024 hire prices for ‘Tepui Swift’ currently start at £899 for short break, £1,199 for a week*.   

8. A new ‘Ocean’ Class boat will arrive at Great Haywood, Trent & Mersey Canal

A 69ft ‘Ocean’ Class cruiser stern narrowboat for up to 10 people will be available to hire from Great Haywood in Staffordshire.  The boat will feature two double cabins and three sleeping areas that can either be configured as a doubles or singles. She will have a toilet/shower room and an extra toilet.

***2024  ‘Ocean’ Class prices start at £1,060 for short break, £1,460 for a week*.   

9. A new ‘Ocean’ Class narrowboat will arrive at Oxford, River Thames

A 69ft ‘Ocean’ Class cruiser stern narrowboat for up to 10 people will be available to hire from our Oxford base.  The boat will feature two double cabins and three sleeping areas that can either be configured as a doubles or singles. She will have a toilet/shower room and an extra toilet.

***2024 ‘Ocean’ Class prices start at £1,060 for short break, £1,460 for a week*. 

10. A new ‘Duchess 8’ Signature will arrive at Stoke on Trent, Trent & Mersey Canal

The 70ft ‘Duchess 8’ Signature Class cruiser stern canal boat for up to eight people, will arrive at Stoke on Trent.  She will have three double cabins that can either be double or twin beds. And the option to convert the dining area into a double bed.  The kitchen areas are larger in the new Signature Class fleet, with more worktop space, a microwave, multiple USB charging points.  The boat will also have two shower/toilet rooms, black-out blinds, bespoke mattresses, wireless charging pads and a flat screen TV.

***2024 hire prices for the ‘Duchess 8’ Signature start at £1,199 for a short break, £1,799 for a week*.   

11. ‘Cumbria’ arrives at Sowerby Bridge

The new 48ft ‘Cumbria’ narrowboat for up to three people will be available to hire from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire.  The boat will feature: one double cabin; a saloon convertible to one single; and a toilet/shower room.  ‘Cumbria’ will also have USB sockets in all power points, a separate dining area, microwave and LED lighting. On a short break from Sowerby Bridge, boaters can travel to Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Brighouse or Wakefield. On a week’s holiday, they can reach Walsden, Stanley Ferry or Selby.

***2024 ‘Cumbria’ prices start at £755 for short break, £1,145 for a week*.  

*Please note, extras charged by individual Drifters operators vary.  For example some include fuel in their prices.

For more information about visiting the canals go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk