Tag Archive for: Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

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.

Day boat hire on the canals in Spring 2024

Best days out boating on the canals this spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best canal boat holidays for beginners

Best canal boat holidays for beginners

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

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

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

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

1. Cruise to the bright lights of Birmingham

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

2. Love the Llangollen

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

3. Potter through the Peak District

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

4. Glide through the Brecon Beacons

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

5. Visit Georgian Bath

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

6. Take a rural route to Braunston

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

7. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh

From our base at Falkirk, Edinburgh Quay is a sedate 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal. The journey, perfect for beginners on a mid-week or week-long break, starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first and only rotating boat lift – and then passes through the lovely lowland villages of Linlithgow, Broxburn and Ratho. Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street, with easy access to the City’s many attractions, including Edinburgh Castle and Mark King Close, frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.

8. Steer gently through the countryside to Stone

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

9. Navigate to the Yorkshire Dales

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

10. Boat to historic Brewood and back

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

Top 8 Easter canal boat holidays

Top 8 Easter canal boat holidays

Canal boat holidays are fantastic for families – offering the chance to set off on an adventure together, learning how to work the locks and speak the boating lingo, as well as spotting wildlife, exploring traffic-free towpaths and visiting waterside attractions along the way.

Drifters’ prices this Easter start at £710 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, £1,010 for a week.

Here are our top eight destinations for Easter 2024:

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

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

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

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

3. Visit the Bath Comedy Festival

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

4. See the ancient Rock Houses at Kinver Edge

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

5. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

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

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

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

7. Witness the Trebuchet being fired at Warwick Castle

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

8. Star gaze in the Brecon Beacons

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

Best Spring canal boat holidays

Best spring canal boating breaks

Britain’s beautiful inland waterways are a great place to visit in the Spring time, when the countryside is bursting into new life, with blossom on the hedges and waterside trees, birds busy rearing their young, spring lambs playing in the fields and bluebells in waterside woodlands.

To celebrate the beauty of Spring-time on the canals, here’s a guide to our top 8 Spring narrowboat holidays for 2024:

1. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey

From our 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, you’ll travel up the spectacular flight of 29 locks at Caen Hill and cruise through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey.  You’ll pass closeby to prehistoric Avebury and along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest, home to thousands of ‘Ancient’, ‘Veteran’ and ‘Notable’ trees and carpets of bluebells in the Spring.  Once at Hungerford, there’s a choice of places to eat and drink and antique shops to browse in.

2. Explore the ancient woods at Skipton Castle

On a short break from Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, you can travel to the historic town of Skipton, with its medieval fortress and ancient woods bursting with bluebells to explore.  Skipton’s 900-year old castle is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England and its extensive woodlands are home to at least 18 species of trees, and hundreds of flowering plants, including wild orchids and bluebells. The journey to Skipton and back takes around seven hours, travelling 13 miles with no locks.

3. Glide through the Brecon Beacons

Isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park and offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views, wooded sections full of the sound of woodland birds, and a series of historic village pubs to visit along the way.   On a short break from Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, you can cruise lock-free to Llangynidr and back, passing the Lion Inn at Govilon and the Bridge End Hotel at Llangattock.  On a week’s break, you can travel on to Brecon, passing through Talybont-on-Usk, with walks to the waterfalls at Blaen y Glyn and the popular Star Inn.

4. Boat to Brewood and back

From Gailey on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, it takes around five hours to reach the historic village of Brewood, with its half-timbered cottages and Georgian houses, perfect for a relaxing short break. The 13-mile journey, which passes through just one lock, takes you through beautiful stretches of Shropshire countryside, and passes the waterside Anchor Inn at Cross Green.  On reaching Brewood, there’s a choice of pubs, restaurants and tea rooms to dine at, including the canalside Bridge Inn.

5. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

From our base at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the pretty Eisteddford town of Llangollen on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains can be reached on a short break, with the awesome World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to travel across along the way.  Standing at 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, this incredible 300-metre long structure consists of a cast iron trough supported by 18 enormous pillars and 19 arches.  On reaching Llangollen, you can moor up in Llangollen Basin and enjoy visiting the town’s independent shops, pubs and restaurants, as well as its Steam Railway and Horseshoe Falls. 

6. Visit the old mill town of Hebden Bridge

On a short break from our base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, you can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation through the Calder Valley to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge.  Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, the journey covers seven miles, passes through 10 locks and takes around five-and-a-half hours. Once at Hebden, you can enjoy an amazing variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs, as well as stunning countryside walks with woods, crags and the Calder running alongside.

7. Cruise through Shakespeare country

From Wootton Wawen, on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it takes around six hours, travelling through 17 locks to reach Stratford-upon-Avon, perfect for a short break.  Travelling through the pretty Warwickshire countryside, you can stop off along the way to visit Mary Arden’s Tudor Farm in the canalside village of Wilmcote where Shakespeare’s mother grew up.  Once in Shakespeare’s Stratford, you can moor up in Bancroft Basin, just a stone’s throw from the Swan Theatre and the town’s shops, restaurants and museums. 

8. Navigate the Cheshire Ring

Starting from Anderton, this epic cruising ring takes you on a 97-mile tour through some of the most beautiful Cheshire countryside.  The route passes through 92 locks and takes around 55 hours, taking you through the heart of Manchester and the Peak District via the Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals.  Highlights include the spectacular vertical Anderton Boat Lift, also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’, Dunham Massey Hall and its working Elizabethan Mill alongside the Bridgewater Canal, Manchester’s China Town, the Top Lock at Marple on the Peak Forest Canal with fantastic views of the Peak District, and the Cheshire Plain with its heavily locked ‘Heartbreak Hill’. The Cheshire Ring can be done on a week’s break from Anderton, but a 10-day or two-week breaks gives more time to visit destinations along the route.

Canal boat holidays in England, Wales and Scotland

Best canal boat holidays in 2024

From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, narrowboat holiday-makers can explore Britain’s peaceful 3,000-mile network of inland waterways.  There are hundreds of waterside destinations to choose from including dozens of historic canalside pubs.

We’ve published a guide to our Top 8 canal boat holidays for 2024:

1. Cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Middlewich

On a three-night weekend break from our new canal boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Nantwich, you can cruise to Middlewich and back.  The route takes you past a series of pubs, including the Barbridge Inn at Barbridge Junction and the Badger Inn at Church Minshull.  The journey to Middlewich and back travels 27 miles, passing through 14 locks (seven each way).  And takes around 13 cruising hours.

2. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh

On a four-night break from Falkirk, you can cruise along the Union Canal to Edinburgh and back.  The trip starts with a passage through the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first rotating boat lift.  Pubs to visit along the way include The Bridge Inn at Linlithgow and The Bridge Inn at Ratho.  Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street.  The journey to Edinburgh Quay and back travels 64 miles, passes through six locks (three each way) and takes around 22 hours.

3. Navigate to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath

On a four-night break from Devizes in Wiltshire, you can travel along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Sydney Wharf, on the edge of Bath.  On the way, the route passes through the village of Seend with its popular canalside Barge Inn.  And the historic town of Bradford on Avon, with a choice of independent shops and restaurants.  Once at Sydney Wharf, you can moor up and take a 15-minute walk into Bath City Centre.  The journey to Sydney Wharf and back travels 38 miles, passes through 16 locks (eight each way) and takes around 18 hours.

4. Glide through the Calder Valley to Hebden Bridge

On a short break from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Hebden Bridge and back.  There’s a great choice of independent shops and places to eat and drink at Hebden, as well as woodland walks at the National Trust’s Hardcastle Crags. Pubs to visit include the Dusty Miller at Mytholmroyd and the Fox & Goose at Hebden Bridge. The journey to Hebden Bridge and back travels 14 miles, passes through 20 locks (10 each way) and takes around 11 hours.

5. Travel round the Black Country Ring

On a week’s holiday from Kings Orchard in Staffordshire, you can complete the Black Country Ring. The journey takes in a mixture of urban and rural scenery.  It travels sections of the Coventry, Trent & Mersey, Staffordshire & Worcestershire, New Birmingham Main Line and Birmingham & Fazeley canals.  Pubs to enjoy along the way include The Red Lion at Hopwas, The Swan at Fradley Junction and All Bar One at Brindleyplace in Birmingham City Centre. Travelling 75 miles, and passing through 79 locks, the route takes around 43 cruising hours.

6. Cruise across The Stream in the Sky to Whitchurch

On a week’s break from Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, you can cruise to the historic town of Whitchurch and back.  You’ll cross over the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way.  Pubs to visit include The Bridge Inn at Chirk, The Boathouse at Ellesmere and The Black Bear at Whitchurch.  The journey to Whitchurch and back travels 52 miles, passes through four locks (two each way) and takes around 25 hours.

7. Boat through the Staffordshire countryside to Market Drayton

On a week’s break from Autherley, you can cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to the historic town of Market Drayton.  Pubs to visit include the Bridge Inn at Brewood and the Hartley Arms at Wheaton Ashton.  The journey to Market Drayton and back travels 53 miles, passes through 14 locks (seven each way) and takes around 24 hours.

8. Chug through the Brecon Beacons by boat

On a week’s holiday from Goytre near Abergavenny, you can cruise along the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal to the historic market town of Brecon.  Pubs to visit include The Bluebell Country Inn at Crickhowell, The Horseshoe Inn at Llangattock and The Star Inn at Talybont-on-Usk.  The journey to Brecon and back travels 51 miles, passes through 12 locks (six each way) and takes around 25 hours.

Best Autumn canal boat holidays in England and Wales

Top 5 leafy canals to cruise this Autumn

Britain’s 3,000-mile network of inland waterways meanders through some of our best-loved countryside, including woodlands and forest remains.

To celebrate the beautiful Autumn colours in our trees and hedgerows, we’ve listed our top five leafy canals to cruise along:

1. The Calder & Hebble in West Yorkshire

The 21-mile long leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation links Wakefield with Sowerby Bridge.  On a short break from our base at Sowerby Bridge, you can cruise along the part-canal, part-river Calder & Hebble to Shipley. The route will take you through wooded valleys and the towns of Elland and Brighouse along the way.  The journey there and back travels 22 miles, passes through 32 locks and takes around 16 hours.

2. The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal in South Wales

This 35-mile long peaceful waterway follows the line of the wooded Usk Valley through the Brecon Beacons National Park.  On a short break from our base at Goytre, you can cruise to Talybont-on-Usk and back, passing the villages and hamlets of Llaellen, Llanfoist, Govilon, Llangattock and Llangynidr along the way.  The journey there and back travels 39 miles, passes through 10 locks and takes around 18 hours.

3. The Macclesfield Canal in Cheshire

This 26-mile long tree-lined canal runs from Marple in Cheshire to Hall Green, on the Trent & Mersey Canal.  On a week’s break from our base at Stoke on Trent, you can connect to the Macclesfield Canal and cruise to Macclesfield and back.  You’ll pass through the 1.5 mile long Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal before transferring onto the Macclesfield Canal.  Then you’ll meander through the countryside to enjoy a series of wooded sections, as well as views of the distant hills.  The journey to Macclesfield and back travels 42 miles, passes through 26 locks and takes around 21 hours.

4. The Stratford Canal in Warwickshire

This 25.5-mile long narrow canal connects Stratford-upon-Avon with the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Kings Norton Junction.  The middle section is surrounded by trees where it passes through the remains of the Forest of Arden.  On a short break from our base at Wootton Wawen, you can cruise through quiet countryside to Hatton and back.  You’ll pass through the village of Lowsonford with its popular Fleur de Lys canalside pub, and Lapworth where you transfer onto the Grand Union Canal. The journey to Hatton and back cruises 21 miles, passes through 34 locks and takes around 14 hours.

5. The Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire

The 87-mile long Kennet & Avon Canal links the Bristol Avon near Bath, with the River Thames at Reading. On a week’s break from our base at Devizes, at the foot of the famous Caen Hill flight of locks, you can cruise to Hungerford and back passing through the Vale of Pewsey, part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  There are a series of wooded sections to enjoy, including an area of the Savernake Forest.  The journey to Hungerford and back travels 54 miles, passes through 106 locks and takes around 40 hours.

Day boat hire on the canals in Spring 2024

Top 8 summer days out boating on the canals

Drifters hires out day boats from 18 narrowboat hire bases in England and Wales, offering the chance to enjoy a family day afloat on the canals this Summer.

Full tuition is included, so if you are new to canal boating, you can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.

All our day boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle, and most also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.

So you can plan a picnic afloat or stop-off for lunch at a canalside pub along the way.

Boats range in size and can accommodate between eight and 12 people.

Day boat prices start at £99 on weekdays, and £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

To help you plan your family day out afloat, we’ve listed our top 8 destinations for day boat hire this Summer:

1. Navigate through the Staffordshire countryside to Hopwas

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

2. Glide along the leafy Worcester & Birmingham Canal

On a day out from Tardebigge near Bromsgrove, you can cruise north through the remains of the Forest of Arden to Kings Norton Junction.  There’s a choice of pubs to visit along the way, including the canalside Crown and Weighbridge pubs at Alvechurch.  The route is lock-free but there are three tunnels to pass through, including Wast Hill Tunnel, which is nearly 2.5km long.  *Day boat ‘Emma’ at Tardebigge can carry up to 10 people. 

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

Heading out for a day afloat from Goytre Wharf, day boaters can travel along the beautiful Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, enjoying incredible mountain views.  It takes around two-and-a-half-hours to cruise to moorings close to the popular Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62.  *Day boats ‘Robin’ and Rooster’ at Goytre can carry up to eight people each. 

4. Cruise along the Grand Union Canal to Napton-on-the-Hill

From our day boat hire centre at Braunston in heart of the canal network, you can cruise to the historic village of Napton-on-the-Hill.  The journey, which takes around three hours, takes you through the Northamptonshire countryside and into Warwickshire.  Once at Napton, you can moor up and walk into the village where there’s a choice of pubs, including the popular Kings Head.  *Day boat ‘Ouzel II’ at Braunston can carry up to 12 people. 

5. Boat along the Shropshire Union Canal to Nantwich

From our canal boat hire base at Bunbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, you can cruise south for six miles to Nantwich.  There you can travel across the impressive Grade II* listed Nantwich Aqueduct, enjoying panoramic views across the town.  You’ll pass the Barbridge Inn along the way, and there’s a choice of places to eat and drink in Nantwich.  The journey to Nantwich takes around two-and-a-hafl hours. *Day boat ‘Bella’ at Bunbury can carry up to 10 people. 

6. Cruise through Shakespeare country to Wilmcote

From Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, you can cruise to the pretty village of Wilmcote, home of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Mary Arden Farm.  The journey takes two-and-a-half hours, and crosses over the Edstone Aqueduct with amazing views across the Warwickshire countryside.  From moorings at the top of the Wilmcote lock flight, it’s a short walk into Wilmcote and the Mary Arden Inn.  *Day boats ‘Dolly’ and ‘Charlie’ at Wootton Wawen can carry up to 10 people each.

7. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ in North Wales

From Trevor on the Llangollen Canal, day boaters can cruise across 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. It takes around two-and-a-hours to reach Chirk. *Day boats ‘Jacob’, ‘Daniel’ and ‘Lotty’ at Trevor can carry up to 10 people each. 

8. Boat along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Avoncliff Aqueduct

From Hilperton Marina, near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, you can head west to the picturesque town of Bradford on Avon.  You pass through one lock and then on to the impressive Bath stone Avoncliff Aqueduct for lunch at the Cross Guns.  The journey to Avoncliff takes around three hours. *Day boat ‘Cheers’ at Hilperton can carry up to 10 people. 

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

Top 8 canal boat holidays for wellbeing this summer

It’s well known that spending time in green space connecting with nature is good for our mental health and wellbeing. Recent research by the Canal & River Trust confirms the combination of green and blue space with wildlife experienced by visitors to the inland waterways gives an extra wellbeing boost*.

Britain’s 3,000-mile network of inland waterways flow through some of our most beautiful and unspoilt countryside, including National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

Here’s a guide to Drifters’ Top 8 wellbeing destinations for narrowboat holidays in Summer 2023:

1. Navigate the Peak Forest Canal to Whaley Bridge

On a week’s holiday from our narrowboat hire base at Stoke on Trent, you can travel along the Trent & Mersey and Macclesfield canals to connect to the Peak Forest Canal and Whaley Bridge.  The Peak Forest Canal is said to be one of Britain’s most scenic waterways, running through beautiful countryside on the edge of the Peak District National Park.  The journey to Whaley Bridge travels 39 miles, passes through the Harecastle Tunnel and 13 locks, and takes around 20 cruising hours.

2. Explore the Staffordshire countryside & Cannock Chase

On a short break from Kings Orchard on the Coventry Canal in Staffordshire, you can cruise to the beautiful waters at Tixall Wide and back, passing through the Cannock Chase AONB along the way.  The journey there and back travels 32 miles, passes through 10 locks (five each way) and takes around 16 hours.

3. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey to Hungerford

On a week away from our base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, you can cruise to the historic town of Hungerford, passing through the Vale of Pewsey, in the North Wessex Downs AONB.  The journey there and back takes around 40 hours, travelling 54 miles through 106 locks.

4. Glide around the Breacon Beacons

The beautiful Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park.  Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, this peaceful waterway offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views.  On a week’s break from our base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, you can cruise to Brecon and back.  The journey takes you through Georgian Crickhowell, with its fascinating 13th century castle. And Talybont-on-Usk, with wonderful walks to the waterfalls at Blaen y Glyn.  Brecon is home to a cathedral, theatre, cinema, castle ruins and stunning Georgian architecture. And you can enjoy some of the best views of the Brecon Beacons from Pen y Fan, the highest point in Southern Britain at 886 metres.

5. Cruise to the Aylesbury Vale

On a week’s break from Gayton Marina you can travel south to the Aylesbury Arm and into the Vale of Aylesbury, part of the Chilterns AONB.  The journey to Aylesbury passes through a series of canalside towns and villages, including Stoke Bruerne with its Canal Museum. And Marsworth next to Tring Reservoirs, a nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  The route travels 44 miles, passes through 41 locks and takes around 22 hours.

6. Float through the Dee Valley in North Wales

On a short break from Chirk on the Llangollen Canal, you can float through the Dee Valley AONB to the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen. You’ll pass over the UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way.  And you’ll cruise across the Chirk Aqueduct and through Whitehouses Tunnel. The journey to Llangollen and back takes around eight hours, travelling 14 miles, with no locks.

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

On a four-night mid-week break from Oxford, you can travel west along the River Thames to the pretty market town of Lechlade, in an AONG on the edge of the Cotswolds.  The route passes through 22 miles of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire countryside. You’ll pass close-by to Kelmscott Manor, once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris.  It takes around 17 hours to cruise there and back, passing through seven locks each way.

8. Travel through the Yorkshire Dales to Skipton

On a short break from Barnoldswick, you can head north-east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to historic Skipton. The journey travels 13 miles through the Yorkshire Dales, passing through 15 locks in around 10 hours.  This breath-taking route winds along the contours of the side of Airedale, with extensive views of the Yorkshire Dales.  You see sheep, farmhouses, barns, stone walls and the occasional village or town.  Once in Skipton, you can moor up 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.

*The Canal & River Trust’s research was carried out by King’s College London, Nomad Projects and J&L Gibbons using Urban Mind, a smartphone based app to collect thousands of real time audits about participants’ location and mental wellbeing. Proof that time by water helps boost your mood | Canal & River Trust (canalrivertrust.org.uk)