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Hire a canal boat for Father’s Day

‘Ratty’ from ‘Wind in the Willows’, famously pronounced ‘there is nothing half as much worth doing as simply messing about in boats’.

Day boat hire on the canals offers the chance to treat Dads with a fun day out on the water, nourished by a pint and a pub lunch along the way.

We offer day boat hire from 15 of our bases, from less than £10 per person.  Full tuition is included so those new to canal boating can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.

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

Here’s a list of Drifters’ day boat hire centres and prices for 2016:

  1. 1. A choice of historic pubs in the heart of the canal network – from Drifters’ base at Braunston on the North Oxford Canal in Northamptonshire, day boat hirers can enjoy lock-free boating and a choice of historic canalside pubs.  The quiet village of Hillmorton is a delightful seven-mile, two-hour cruise away, where boaters can stop for lunch at the canalside Old Royal Oak, or take a short stroll into the village to the Stag & Pheasant.  Alternatively, day-boat hirers can head south along the Oxford Canal to Napton on the Hill for lunch in the village at The Crown or King’s Head Inn, or canalside at the Bridge at Napton.  Again this journey is lock free and takes around two gentle hours.*****Weekday boat hire from Braunston on ‘Water Ouzel’, which can carry up to 12 people, is £130, £165 on weekends and bank holidays.
  2. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – from Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it’s a 20-minute cruise to the World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the wonders of the waterways, offering stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  Day boaters can reach the pretty mountain-side town of Llangollen in two hours.****Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £110 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  3. Catch a lift on the lowland canals in Scotland – from Falkirk at the junction of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in Scotland, day boat hirers can travel through the incredible Falkirk Wheel, the World’s first rotating boat lift and along the Union Canal to Polmont, where they can moor up and enjoy a short walk to The Claremont Inn.  Or continue on to the canalside Bridge 49 café bar and bistro, next to Causewayend Marina.****Day boat hire on the ‘Jaggy Thistle’ which can carry up to eight passengers, is £220, Friday to Sunday.
  4. Visit the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ – Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, is next to the historic Anderton Boat Lift.  This incredible edifice, also known as ‘the Cathedral of the canals’, looks like some giant three-storey-high iron spider and provides a 50-foot vertical link between two navigable waterways – the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal.  From Anderton, the canalside Leigh Arms at Little Leigh (bridge 209 for Black Price forge), offering home-cooked pub food and cask ales, is an easy day trip away.*****Day boat hire from Anderton starts at £150 for up to 12 people.
  5. Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, enjoy incredible mountain views on the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the popular Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62.*****Day hire from Goytre starts at £110 for up to 12 people.
  6. Explore Shakespeare’s country – from Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford Upon Avon, boaters can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote and back (2.5 hours each way), and enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn.  Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  7. Wend your way through Wiltshire – from Hilperton Marina near Trowbridge in Wiltshire on the beautiful Kennet & Avon, cruise east through unspoilt countryside to the waterside Barge Inn at Seend, or head west to historic Bradford on Avon, with its stunning medieval Tithe Barn and choice of pubs, cafes and restaurants.  Day boat hire from Hilperton starts at £105 for up to eight people, £130 on weekends and bank holidays.
  8. Experience the rural North Oxford Canal – from Stretton-under-Fosse near Rugby, cruise north through open farmland to the pretty village of Ansty with its pottery and Rose & Castle pub.  Or head south, travelling through quiet woodland to the village of Newbold, and enjoy home cooked food at the canalside Barley Mow pub.  Day boat hire from Rugby starts at £180 for a boat for 12 people, £220 on weekends and bank holidays, and weekdays in July and August.
  9. Chug along the Staffs & Worcs Canal – from Great Haywood on the Staffs & Worcs Canal near Stafford, cruise to the historic market town of Rugeley and back, through several locks, past Lord Lichfield’s beautiful Shugborough Hall and the delightful Wolseley Arms at Wolseley Bridge.  The journey there and back takes a total of six hours.  Day boat hire from Great Haywood starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  10. Sightseeing along ‘The Shroppie’ – from Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Crewe, cruise south past Barbridge and Nantwich to Baddington Bridge.  With no locks to negotiate and plenty of pubs en route, it’s a delightful way to spend the day afloat.  Day boat hire from Bunbury starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  11. Tunnel through rural Worcestershire – from Tardebigge on the Worcs & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, a pretty rural route with historic pubs along the way, including the family-friendly Hopwood House at Alvechurch.  The route is lock-free but there are three tunnels to pass through, including the 610-yard long Shortwood Tunnel and the 580-yard long Tardebigge Tunnel.  Day boat hire from Tardebigge starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.
  12. Discover the beauty of Berkshire – from Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in West Berkshire, day-boaters can travel east to Tyle Mill Lock in just over two hours, and take a ten-minute walk to The Spring Inn in the pretty village of Sulhamstead for lunch.  Up to eight people can enjoy a day out on Aldermaston’s day boat ‘Wyvern’.  Day hire prices at Aldermaston start at £125.
  13. Visit Foxton Locks – from Union Wharf in Market Harborough it’s a pleasant two-and-a-half hour cruise to the top of Foxton Locks, with stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, plenty of places to picnic and the historic Foxton Locks Inn.  Visitors can watch canal boats negotiate the famous Foxton Staircase flight of locks and find out about the intriguing Victorian Foxton Inclined Plane Boat Lift that once operated there at the tiny little museum dedicated to it.*****Day boat hire at Market Harborough starts at £150 during the week for up to 12 people, £200 at weekends and bank holidays.
  14. Enjoy a Shropshire rural idyll…from Whitchurch in rural Shropshire, day boaters can head west along the beautiful Llangollen Canal, reaching Whixall Mosses National Nature Reserve in two hours.  For a longer journey, continue on to Bettisfield Mosses, travelling through unspoilt countryside straddling the Welsh borders.  There are no locks, but there are four easily-operated lift bridges along the way.****Day boat hire at Whitchurch starts at £110 per day for 10 people.
  15. Perfect picnicking on the Llangollen Canal…from Blackwater Meadow on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, day boaters can head east to Whixall Moss, one of Shropshire’s truly remote wild places, and a mecca for a diversity of wildlife with plenty of lovely places to picnic.  Or head West, passing a series of farms, small villages and distant hills, to the Narrowboat Inn at Whittington, with Real Ale and a delightful canalside garden.****Day boat hire at Blackwater Meadow starts at £110 per day for 10 people. 

 

Try canal boating for free at Drifters National Open Day Event

Top 5 Bank Holiday Boating Breaks

May is a great time to take to the water, with the British countryside bursting into life and many of our waterside towns and cities putting on special events over the bank holiday weekend.

Our 2016 late May bank holiday (27-30 May) canal boat hire prices start at £625 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, £965 for a week.

Here’s our Top five narrowboat holiday breaks for the Whitsun Weekend:

1. Enjoy starry night skies afloat in the Brecon Beacons…from Drifters’ base on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal at Goytre Wharf, canal boat holiday makers can travel through the Brecon Beacons and enjoy some of the darkest night skies in Britain, perfect for star gazing. On a short break, narrowboat holiday-makers can reach Talybont-on-Usk and enjoy walking, cycling or canoeing from there.

2. Witness the Mighty Trebuchet Fireball at Warwick Castle…from Drifters’ base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal, canal boat holiday-makers can reach Warwick on a short break and use their canal boat as a base for exploring Warwick and its fascinating castle. Over the Whitsun May Bank Holiday Weekend, Warwick Castle will be offering jaw-dropping history, magic, myth and adventure, including the new Horrible Histories Maze, Castle Dungeon, birds of prey shows and spectacular trebuchet fireball demonstrations.

3. Glide across the Stream in the Sky to the Llangollen Speed Fest…At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the awesome UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, is an incredible feat of engineering, offering canal boat holiday-makers panoramic views of the stunning Dee Valley below. On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Chirk, boaters can travel across the aqueduct and reach the pretty town of Llangollen, with Steam Railway, Horseshoe Falls and the Llangollen Speed Fest (27-30 May), celebrating music and motor sport with exhibitors and acts from across the UK.

4. Cruise along the peaceful South Oxford Canal…on a short break from Drifters’ base at Napton in Warwickshire, boaters can travel along the South Oxford Canal to the pretty Oxfordshire village of Cropredy and back. The route passes through a flight of locks at Napton and is followed by four hours of gentle lock free cruising. Once at Cropredy, boaters can enjoy the Red Lion and Brasenose Arms pubs and stock up on provisions at the village grocery shop.

5. Travel through the North Wessex Downs…from Drifters’ base at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in West Berkshire, boaters on a week-long holiday can travel to Pewsey and back, travelling through the North Wessex Downs Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty, dotted with prehistoric features. The route passes through a series of pretty canalside villages and towns, including Kintbury, Newbury and Hungerford with its Antiques Market, before arriving at Pewsey. Newbury can be reached on a short break, with nearby Downton Abbey fame Highclere Castle hosting its Country Show, 29-30 May.

Top 7 ghostly going-ons on the waterways

Picture Perfect – Stan Cullimore’s Mon & Brec Diary

Someone once told me that the Monmouth & Brecon is the prettiest stretch of canal in the UK. Hmm. Can’t leave an extravagant claim like that untested. So, Mrs Cullimore and I decided to go and see for ourselves. Test the waters, if you will.

We arrived at Goytre Wharf one afternoon and I have to say, it was a picture perfect place to start. Before setting off, we strolled in the sunshine, took in the views and visited the cafe for a cup of tea and cake. No sense in rushing, is there? Slowing down, that’s what canal boat holidays are all about.

Onboard, Nathan showed us round our home for the week, ‘Red Poll Finch’ – a lovely boat with a fixed double bed, airy living area and galley at the back. We then set off for seven days of hard research, or, as my wife put it, “a delightfully relaxing week afloat”.

To help us decide if it really was the loveliest part of the canal system, I kept a diary. Question is, after reading it, do you think this week long holiday is the very best canal journey around? Or can you think of a better bit of British canal? If so, do please let me know. I’m always up for a bit of research. Especially if it involves time afloat.

Day 1 – Goytre Wharf to Govilon
Bridges – 24
Locks – 0
Miles – 7
Hours Cruising – 3.5
Scenery – you’re in the heart of the countryside. On one side, there are wooded banks sloping down towards the canal. On the other side some delicious views of the valley below. At times the landscape clears and you get gorgeous views of the Brecon Beacons up ahead. That’s where we’re going and I can’t wait.
Provisions – stopped at Govilon. Village stores are well stocked and very friendly. Picked up bacon, fruit and lots more besides.
Pubs – two to choose from. We went to the Lion Inn. Great beer, friendly landlord, food looked lovely, all in all, delightful.
Highlight – sleeping in a warm, cosy bed with sweet dreams all night long. Bliss. If only Mabel the dog hadn’t got there first.

Day 2 – Govilon to Llangattock
Bridges – 29
Locks – 0
Miles – 6
Hours Cruising – 3.5
Scenery – more glimpses of the beacons brooding over the hedgerows, cloaked in cloud, looking muscular, mean and moody. Bit like Clint Eastwood used to be, really. The weather pulled off the difficult trick of raining, even as the sun shone. Was strange but lovely.
Provisions – stopped at Llangattock and strolled into Crickhowell. It’s a sweet market town with a bit of something for everyone. My favorite was the Adventure shop, though my wife preferred Nicholls, the gift shop. Great place to pick up supplies.
Pubs – lots of them, spoilt for choice. Went to the Bridge End Inn and had our dinner in the beer garden overlooking the River Usk. Great beer, great food, fantastic views. Love it.
Highlight – strolling over the ancient stone bridge into town and seeing people swimming in the waters below. They waved and suggested I took a photo. So I did.

Day 3 – Llangattock to Talybont-on-Usk
Bridges – 25
Locks – 5
Miles – 7.5
Hours Cruising – 5
Scenery – closer to the mountains now. Looking bigger and better. Feels like a landscape out of a fairytale. Keep on expecting to see a knight in shining armor cantering along the towpath. But all we see are lots of kids getting into kayaks. They seem very happy, mind.
Provisions – Talybont has a good village stores right next to the canal with a cafe attached. Genius.
Pubs – we moored the boat between two pubs and went to the White Hart Inn. A good choice – excellent range of beers and the food was just what the doctor ordered.
Highlight – an early evening stroll past fields filled with swallows, flitting about at knee height in search of their supper. Explains the sign we’d seen, asking us to avoid disturbing their nests.

Day 4 – Talybont-on-Usk to Pencelli & back to Talybont
Bridges – 26
Locks – 0
Miles – 4.5
Hours Cruising – 3
Scenery – the canal glides through a corridor of lovely trees for most of the way. Meant we could take in the towpath traffic. Lots of walkers, bikers, joggers and hikers. Everyone on water or land was very friendly. As they have been all week.
Provisions – Back for another visit to the Talybont village stores for supplies. Mission accomplished.
Pubs – we moored the boat in the same place as before, between two pubs. Went to the Star Inn. Very lovely indeed with a few interesting local ales on tap.
Highlight – Did a short day on the boat so we could take the dog for a walk along the towpath. Went past one of the wooden benches that are dotted along the canal and I realised there is map of the waterway carved into them. Who’d have thought it? Furniture that is both comfy and informative.

Day 5 – Talybont-on-Usk back to Llangattock
Bridges – 27
Locks – 5
Miles – 8
Hours Cruising – 4.5
Scenery – obviously, we’re on our way back the same way we came earlier in the week. But somehow the scenery looks even more impressive this time around. It’s just lovely, basically.
Provisions – Really excited to go back to Crickhowell for our shopping needs and more besides. It’s a really friendly little town, complete with ruined castle.
Pubs – getting a bit sentimental we went back to the Bridge End Inn to sit in the beer garden and watch the river again. Good place to chill out and count the arches in the bridge. Different number on each side, apparently.
Highlight – Mabel the dog. She is in doggy heaven all day, every day on this holiday. On the towpath she meets lots of other dogs to play with. On the boat she spends every minute of cruising time quivering with excitement. Sitting at the back sniffing the air as if it is the sweetest treat imaginable.

Day 6 – Llangattock to Golivon
Bridges – 17
Locks – 0
Miles – 3
Hours Cruising – 2
Scenery – still on our way back and enjoying the scenery in reverse. Today, the mountains were mainly misty and magnificent. And the slow motion, salmon pink, sunset was just about perfect.
Provisions – Didn’t need anything today, though the village shop in Govilon was still there just in case.
Pubs – making a habit of returning to old haunts we went back to the Lion Inn at Govilon. Great beer, very friendly people so we ate there. Had the best fish and chips I’ve had for weeks. I defy anyone to eat an entire portion without needing a lie down afterwards.
Highlight – there have been lots of things to look at as we drift slowly along all week. Birds, squirrels, all sorts of wildlife. And trees, obviously. But today’s tip of the topmost, literally, was a Giant Redwood tree right next to the bank. It was both enormous and totally unexpected. Wanted to give it a hug but my arms just weren’t big enough.

Day 7 – Golivon to Llanover
Bridges – 18
Locks – 0
Miles – 5
Hours Cruising – 3
Scenery – scenery is idyllic as ever. Seriously, the whole week has been one long journey through paradise. No wonder this area is a national park.
Provisions – Didn’t find any shops or places to buy stuff today. But no worries, we had plenty onboard.
Pubs – No pubs either. Still, it gave us an excuse to cook some food on the boat and drink some of the local beers we found in Crickhowell. Cheers.
Highlight – driving the boat along under cute stone bridges, checking out the view and drinking a freshly brewed coffee that my lovely wife made. Just being here, basically. Another perfect week on a canal boat, the best way to de-stress, chill out and relax that I know. All at slower than walking speed. Perfect.