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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.

‘Top of the Locks’ for 2024 canal boat holidays

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

There’s no mystery to using locks – just a series of step-by-step tasks.

A lock is simply a chamber with gates at either end.  By emptying or filling the chamber with water, boats can move up or down onto a new section of waterway.

There are many different kinds of locks, but they all on work on a similar principle.

With the lock gates closed, boaters should open the sluices (paddles) to let the water in or out.  When the water level under the boat is the same as the level it’s moving to, the boat can move in or out of the lock.

Some locks are operated by boaters, others by lock keepers.

Tuition is included in all our canal boat holiday packages.

During your handover procedure, our boat yard staff will usually be able to take you through your first lock.

To celebrate these marvels of canal engineering, we’ve put together a guide to the Top 7 lock flight destinations for 2024 narrow boat holidays:

1. Hatton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire

The Hatton Flight was nicknamed ‘The Stairway to Heaven’ by the boaters who once carried cargos on the canals.  This impressive flight of 21 locks raises boats up 45 metres over two miles, and takes around four-and-a-half hours to travel through.  Just below the Top lock, you’ll find the popular Hatton Locks Café for welcome refreshment. Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is eight cruising hours away at Stockton.  The journey travels 11 miles and passes through 22 locks.

2. Caen Hill on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire

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

3. Wigan on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Lancashire

This epic flight of 21 locks is said to be one of the most fearsome on the waterways.  Descending 70 metres in less than two miles, it takes around five hours to pass through all the locks.  The flight travels through New Springs, a suburb of Wigan which was once an industrial hub with collieries and ironworks lining the canal.  Today it’s a post-industrial landscape of waste ground, modern housing and terraced streets.  From Drifters’ base at Barnoldswick, it takes around 19 cruising hours to reach Wigan Top Lock Junction, travelling 48 miles and passing through 20 locks.

4. Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal in Worcestershire

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

5. Bingley 5 Rise on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire

Another one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’, this spectacular staircase of five locks is near Bradford.  It raises (or lowers) boats 18 metres in five cavernous chambers.  The locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom of the next.  It takes around one-and-a-half hours to work through.  The size of the chambers can be intimidating even for experienced boaters, but friendly lock-keepers are on hand to help.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat rental base is 25 miles and 20 locks away at Barnoldswick. The journey takes around 14 and a half hours.

6. Foxton on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal in Leicestershire

Surrounded by stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, this set of 10 locks raises boats up 23 metres in just a quarter-of-a-mile.  Foxton Locks is the longest set of staircase locks in the UK, and is a Grade II Listed structure.  In staircases, the locks open directly one from another so that the top gate of one forms the bottom of the next.  It takes around 45 minutes to pass through. There are lock keepers on hand to help.  They offer key advice when it comes to opening the paddles: “Red before white, you’ll be alright. White before red, you’ll be dead.”  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat boat hire base is around 13 cruising hours away at Braunston.  The journey to Foxton Top Staircase travels 27 miles and passes through 13 locks.

7. Marple on the Peak Forest Canal in Cheshire

One of the steepest flights on the system, the 16 locks at Marple raise boats by 64 metres over just one mile.  The locks are built of local stone and are mostly tree-lined, giving the canal a lovely secluded feeling.  The Peak Forest Canals is said to be one of Britain’s most scenic waterways, running through beautiful countryside on the edge of the Peak District National Park.  Drifters’ Stoke on Trent canal boat hire base is around 19 cruising hours away from Marple Bottom Lock.  The journey there travels 32 miles and passes through 14 locks.

Why canal boat holidays are pet-friendly

As well as dogs, we’ve accommodated many other kinds of pets aboard our canal boats, including rabbits, iguanas, cats, hamsters, caged birds, goldfish and tortoises.

Top 5 reasons why canal boat holidays are great for pets

  1. Narrowboats are like floating holiday cottages, with space for pets too;
  2. Canal boat holidays are especially great for dogs, with plenty of towpath walks and dog-friendly canalside pubs;
  3. Many of our canal boat hire operators allow your first pet to travel free;
  4. No extra vaccinations or pet passports are needed; and
  5. Narrowboats with open cruiser-sterns at the back offer extra room ‘on deck’ for pets to enjoy the ever-changing view.

Our top 3 dog-friendly canal boat holiday destinations in 2023:

1. Navigate to Wrenbury & the South Cheshire Way

From Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire it takes around six hours, passing through 11 locks, to reach Wrenbury Mill.  The journey takes you through the Cheshire countryside along 10 miles of canals.  The historic village of Wrenbury, on the South Cheshire Way, offers lots of countryside walks.  And there’s a choice of dog-friendly pubs to visit, including the canalside Dusty Miller.

2. Cruise to Cannock Chase for miles of walking trails

On a short break Great Haywood in Staffordshire, you can cruise along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Cannock Chase Forest.  Once a Royal Forest, Cannock Chase is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with over 6,800 hectares of landscapes and miles of walking trails to explore.  There are a number of visitor centres for Cannock Chase, including the Forestry England one close to the canal at Rugeley.  From Great Haywood, it takes around two-and-a-half hours to cruise to Rugeley.

3. Boat along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Savernake Forest

There are over 4,500 acres of woodlands to explore at Savernake Forest – doggy heaven.  From Devizes, it takes around 11 hours, passing through 30 locks, to reach the village of Wootton Rivers.  This is a great starting point for a variety of walks around the Forest and a great destination for a week-long holiday on the canals.

 

10 top tips for canal boat holiday beginners

You don’t need to be an expert to hire a canal boat, and each year around one fifth of narrowboat hirers are new to the waterways. 

With Britain’s 3,000-mile network of inland waterways in great shape, there’s never been a better time to try a narrow boat holiday.

To help you get the most out of your first canal boat holiday, we’ve listed 10 top tips for beginners:

1. Watch a boaters guide

Boat steering tuition is provided as part of our holiday hire.  But to get ahead of the game, take a look at the Canal & River Trust’s Boaters Handbook Video for some sound advice https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXn47JYXs44

2. Plan your route

The Canal & River Trust has interactive maps online to help you plan your narrowboat journey.  You can work out where to moor each night and canalside pubs to enjoy along the way.  It’s best not to be too ambitious so you can stay relaxed https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/boating/planning-your-boat-trip

3. Keep to the right

Unlike cars on our roads, canal boats travel on the right side of our canals and rivers, so when you meet another boat, keep to the right.

4. Watch out for the cill

When in a lock, make sure the boat is kept forward of the cill (step) inside the lock.  And check all paddles and gates are shut after you’ve used a lock, unless you see another boat approaching.

5. Sharing is caring

If possible, always share a lock with other boats to save water.  An extra boat in a broad lock can save the equivalent of 1,000 bathtubs of water. And it means you can share the lock operating work too.

6. Embrace the slower pace

There’s a 4mph speed limit on the canals, but you’re going too fast if you’re creating too much wash.  This disturbs wildlife, moored boats and anglers and it erodes the banks. So keep it slow and enjoy a more relaxed pace of life.

7. Practice good mooring etiquette

When mooring up at busy spots, make sure you don’t leave a big gap. And never moor opposite winding holes, on bends, near to bridges, on lock landings (unless waiting to lock through) or at water points (unless filling up).

8. Opt for a pet friendly stern

If you are bringing your dog, or you simply want a bit of extra outside space, opt for a cruiser stern narrowboat rather than a semi-traditional stern.

9. Be greener

Remember to pack your re-useable shopping bags, plastic bottles and coffee cups to help limit the amount of plastic used on your holiday afloat. And support the Canal & River Trust’s #PlasticsChallenge by picking up at least one piece of plastic litter each day.

10. Bring some on board entertainment

For cosy nights in, bring along some cards and board games, as well some DVD’s. TV reception isn’t always available on the canals and WiFi strength can vary too.

 

Top 7 summer canal boat holidays in 2023

Travelling through the countryside at just four-miles-an-hour, canal boat holidays are the fastest way to slow down this summer.

Drifters offers 550 narrowboats for hire from 45 bases across England, Scotland and Wales.  Our summer holiday prices for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people start at £835, and at £1,145 for a week.

We’ve published a guide to our Top 7 Summer Canal Boat Holidays for 2023:

1. Yorkshire: Toddle to Todmorden for some stunning Pennine scenery

On a short break from Sowerby Bridge, you can travel along the Rochdale Canal to Todmorden.  This historic town offers visitors fine Victorian architecture, plenty of pubs and restaurants, and a busy market.  Along the way, you’ll pass through the village of Mytholmroyd, the birthplace of Ted Hughes. And the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, where the BBC’s popular ‘Happy Valley’ drama is set.  The journey to Todmorden and back travels 20 miles, passes through 34 locks (17 each way) and takes around 16 hours.

2. South Wales: Glide through the Usk Valley to Brecon and back

On a week’s holiday from Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, you can navigate through the Usk Valley on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal.  You can reach the pretty market town of Brecon, in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park.  Brecon offers theatre, cinema, cafes and restaurants and access to the National Park, with walking routes, cycle hire and pony trekking.  Along the way, you can stop off at Llanfoist to take the old tramway into the Black Mountains.  You could visit the 13th century caste at Crickhowell or walk to the Blaen y Glyn waterfalls at Talybont-on-Usk.  The journey there and back travels 51 miles, passing through 12 locks (six each way) and takes around 25 hours.

3. Scotland: Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh

On a four-night mid-week break from Falkirk, you can cruise along the Union Canal to Edinburgh Quay.  The journey starts with a trip through the world’s first rotating boat lift, the Falkirk Wheel.  You’ll then pass through two tunnels and soon after across the magnificent Avon Aqueduct.  Then it’s on through the lovely lowland villages of Linlithgow, Broxburn and Ratho.  The journey to Edinburgh Quay and back travels 64 miles, passes through four locks (two each way) and takes around 22 hours.

4. Wiltshire: Visit Georgian Bath afloat

On a short break from Devizes you can navigate along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Georgian Bath.  Along the way, the route passes a series of canalside pubs and the historic market town of Bradford on Avon.  You’ll also travel across the beautiful Bath stone Avoncliff and Dundas aqueducts.  There are moorings at Sydney Wharf, a 15-minute walk from Bath City centre. The journey to Bath and back travels 39 miles, passes through 20 locks (10 each way) and takes around 19 cruising hours.

5. North Wales: Glide across the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular waterways on the network.  On a short break from Chirk, you can travel to the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen and back.  The route cruises the 11 miles of the Llangollen Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site, including the awesome Chirk and Pontcysyllte aqueducts. The journey from Chirk to Llangollen Basin and back travels 14 miles and takes around four hours.

6. Northamptonshire: Travel along the peaceful Ashby Canal to Shakerstone

On a week’s holiday from Braunston base on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, you can explore the beautiful Ashby Canal.  There no locks along this peaceful 22-mile waterway.  Just mile-upon-mile of countryside to enjoy, as well as the pretty town of Market Bosworth and the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field.  The journey to Shakerstone and back, travels 95 miles, passes through eight locks (four each way) and takes around 37 hours.

7. Shropshire: Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton

On a four night mid-week break from Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can reach the historic market town of Market Drayton.  The route passes through a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.  And through tunnels of trees in a series of deep canal cuttings. The total journey Market Drayton and back travels 42 miles, passes through 12 locks and takes around 19 hours.

Top 9 canal boat holidays for 2023

From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, narrowboat holiday-makers can use their boat as a floating holiday home to explore Britain’s beautiful 3,000-mile network of inland waterways.  There’s a choice of hundreds of waterside destinations and historic canalside pubs to stop-off at along the way.

Drifters offers over 550 boats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales.  2023 hire prices start at £590 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £815 for a week.  Tuition is included in the price of all our holiday hires, and many of our operators are currently offering early-bird booking discounts.

Here are Drifters’ Top 9 narrowboat holidays for 2023:

1. Cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Wrenbury Mill

From our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal, it’s a peaceful 10-mile cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Wrenbury Mill.  The route, which passes through 11 locks and takes around six hours, starts on the Shropshire Union Canal and transfers onto the Llangollen Canal at Hurleston Junction.  At Wrenbury Mill, you can moor up for country walks and a choice of pubs, including the popular Dusty Miller.

2. Navigate the Black Country Ring

On a week’s holiday from our base at Kings Orchard in Staffordshire, you can navigate the Black Country Ring. The journey takes in a mixture of urban and rural scenery, and travels sections of the Coventry, Trent & Mersey, Staffordshire & Worcestershire, New Birmingham Main Line and Birmingham & Fazeley canals.  Travelling 75 miles, and passing through 79 locks, the route takes around 43 cruising hours.  Highlights include: the quiet waters at Tixall Wide; Gas Street Basin in the centre of Birmingham; and Fradley Pool Nature Reserve at Fradley Junction.

3. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath

On a mid-week break from our base at Devizes in Wiltshire, you can travel along the Kennet & Avon Canal to reach moorings at Sydney Wharf, on the edge of Bath City Centre.  The journey travels 19 miles, passes through eight locks and takes around nine hours.  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.

4. Explore the Llangollen Canal UNESCO World Heritage site

Setting off on a week’s holiday from our base at Whitchurch in Shropshire, you can travel to Llangollen and back, navigating along the 11-mile section of the Llangollen Canal designated a World Heritage site.  Beginning at Gledrid, the World Heritage Site comprises a series of embankments, tunnels, viaducts and aqueducts, including the stunning Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  The whole length, described by UNESCO as ‘a masterpiece of creative genius’, has also been designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument of National Importance, and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The journey from Whitchurch to Llangollen and back travels 61 miles, passes through four locks and takes around 27 hours.

5. Complete the Stourport Ring

On a week’s break from our base at Stoke Prior in Worcestershire, you can complete the Stourport Ring.  The route includes sections of the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal, River Severn and the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.  It travels 84 miles, passes through 117 locks and takes around 51 cruising hours. Highlights include: the Tardebigge Flight of 30 locks; Gas Street Basin in the centre of Birmingham; and the Cathedral City of Worcester.

6. Cruise to Fenny Compton and back

Departing on a weekend break from our base at Stockton in Warwickshire, you can cruise to the pretty village of Fenny Compton.  The journey begins on the Grand Union Canal, transferring onto the Oxford Canal at Napton Junction.  Winding gently through 15 miles of countryside, the route passes through 12 locks, and takes around eight hours. Pubs to stop-off at along the way include the King’s Arms at Napton-on-the-Hill, and The Wharf Inn at Fenny Compton.

7. Visit Skipton and its medieval castle

Enjoying a weekend break from our Barnoldswick base, you can head east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Skipton.  The journey there and back travels 26 miles, passes through 30 locks (15 each way) and takes around 20 cruising hours.  This breath-taking route winds along the contours of the side of Airedale, with extensive views of sheep country.  Once in Skipton, you can moor in the centre of the town, visit shops and restaurants and explore the 900-year old Skipton Castle.

8. Travel slowly through the countryside to Hawkesbury Junction

On a weekend break from our base at Braunston, you can cruise slowly through the Northamptonshire countryside to Hawkesbury Junction. The route begins on the Grand Union Canal, transferring onto the North Oxford Canal at the Braunston Turn.  Travelling 23 miles to Hawkesbury, passing through four locks and Newbold Tunnel along the way, the journey takes around seven hours.  Pubs to stop off at include: the Bell Inn at Hillmorton; the Barley Mow at Newbold; and the Greyhound at Hawkesbury Junction.

9. Cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Market Drayton

From our base at Autherley in Staffordshire, on a mid-week break you can cruise to the historic town of Market Drayton and back.  This rural route, perfect for beginners, takes you along the Shropshire Union Canal through over 26 miles of peaceful countryside.  It passes through seven locks and a series of pretty villages with canalside pubs, including the Bridge Inn at Brewood and the Hartley Arms at Wheaton Ashton.

Top 6 winter canal boat holiday destinations

We offer winter cruising from eight of our canal boat hire bases, with boats ranging from snug narrowboats for two, to larger boats for up to 12 people.

It’s free to moor almost anywhere on the network, so a narrowboat provides a base for a floating self-catering holiday, with the choice of dozens of historic canalside pubs with roaring log fires to stop off at along the way.

All our boats have central heating, hot water, televisions and DVD players.  Some also have multi-fuel stoves and WiFi.  So, whatever the weather, it’s always nice and cosy on board.  Drifters’ also offers narrowboats for hire over Christmas and New Year.

Our winter 2022 to 2023 narrow boat hire prices start at £645 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £1,023 for a week.

Here are our top 6 winter cruising destinations this winter*:

1. Wend your way to Warwick Castle

On a mid-week break from our base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can cruise to Warwick to explore its stunning medieval castle on the banks of the River Avon.  Canalside pubs to enjoy along the way include: the Blue Lias pub at the bottom of the Stockton Flight; and the Cuttle Inn at Long Itchington.

2. Visit Georgian Bath afloat

Enjoying a four-night mid-week break from our base on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire, you can travel to the World Heritage Status City of Bath.  The journey takes around 10 hours, travelling across two magnificent aqueducts and passing through 10 locks.  There’s a choice of canalside pubs, including: the Barge Inn at Seend; and the Cross Guns at Avoncliff.  Once at Bath, you can moor up below Sydney Wharf, a short walk away from the centre of Bath.

3. Travel across the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to Llangollen

Taking a short break from our base on the Llangollen Canal at Blackwater Meadow, you can cruise to Llangollen and back, travelling across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way.  The journey to Llangollen and back travels 37 miles, passes through four locks (two each way) and takes around 16 hours.  On arrival in Llangollen, you can moor up in Llangollen Basin and enjoy visiting this beautiful town nestled in the Berwyn Mountains.

4. Visit Birmingham for festive fun afloat

From our base at Alvechurch on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes around five hours to cruise into the centre of Birmingham.  Once there, you can moor up in Gas Street Basin, close to Brindleyplace to enjoy visiting city centre attractions, including the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, home to one of the largest pre-Raphaelite collections in the world.

5. Cruise gently through the countryside to Fradley Pool Nature Reserve

From our base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, you can reach Fradley Junction and Fradley Pool Nature Reserve in around five hours.  The journey passes through 12 peaceful miles of countryside and five locks.  Canalside pubs to enjoy along the way include: the Wolseley Arms at Wolseley Bridge; Mossley Tavern in Rugeley; and the Swan Inn at Fradley.

6. Moor up in Stratford upon Avon

It’s a picturesque six-hour cruise to Shakespeare’s Stratford from our boat yard on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen in Warwickshire.  The route crosses over the Edstone Aqueduct, with lovely views of the surrounding Warwickshire countryside, and passes through 17 locks. Once in Stratford, you can moor up in Bancroft Basin to enjoy exploring the town’s theatres, museums, shops, markets and restaurants.

*Please note the Canal & River Trust’s winter maintenance programme will affect some of our routes for part of the winter

Top 8 Halloween canal boat holiday destinations

With spooky tunnels, misty towpaths, bats, toads, spiders and ghosts galore, Britain’s 200-year old canal network provides the perfect backdrop for a haunting Halloween.

Drifters’ prices for boats for up to four people for a week over Halloween start at £775.

Here’s a guide to our spookiest destinations for Halloween 2022:

1. Beware the Monkey Man at Norbury

The Shropshire Union Canal is said to be Britain’s most haunted canal with five ghosts along its length, including the terrifying ‘Monkey Man’ at Bridge 39 near Norbury.  This hideous black, shaggy coated being is believed to be the ghost of a boatman drowned there in the 19th century.  Narrowboat holiday-makers can reach Norbury from our narrowboat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Brewood in around four and a half hours.  The journey travels 10 miles and passes through one lock.

2. Get spooked at Blisworth Tunnel

On the Grand Union Canal at Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire, the Blisworth Tunnel has spooked a number of boaters over the years.  At 2,795 metres long, it’s one of the longest on the canal system.  When construction began in 1793, teams of navvies worked with picks and shovels for three years until they hit quicksand and the tunnel collapsed, killing 14 men.  A new route for the tunnel was found, and it finally opened on 25 March 1805.  Over the years, a number of boaters travelling through the tunnel have reported seeing lights and a second route emerging.  But the tunnel runs straight through the hill so people must have seen the spot where the first tunnel would have intersected with the main canal tunnel.  Perhaps the ghostly navvies are still working there…?  The Blisworth Tunnel is less than an hour away from our base at Braunston on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, it takes around eight hours to reach the Blisworth Tunnel.  The route travels 18 miles and passes through 13 locks.

3. Look out for an eerie figure Aqueduct Apparition

The Llangollen Canal in Wrexham is haunted by an eerie figure that can sometimes be seen on moonlit nights, gliding along the towpath on the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  From our base at Whitchurch on the Llangollen Canal it takes around 14 cruising hours, travelling 25 miles and passing through four locks to reach the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in time for Halloween.

4. Prepare for a visit from the Viscount – the canalside George Inn at Bathampton is said to be haunted by the ghost of Viscount John Baptiste Du Barre, who was mortally wounded in the last legal duel fought in Britain. From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, it takes around nine hours to reach the George Inn at Bathampton, cruising 17 miles of the Kennet & Avon Canal and passing through eight locks.

5. Watch out for a shrieking boggart at Harecastle Tunnel

The Trent & Mersey Canal’s Harecastle Tunnel at Kidsgrove is said to be home to a shrieking boggart – the ghost of Kit Crewbucket who was murdered and his headless corpse was dumped in the canal.  Harecastle Tunnel is a 12-hour cruise away from Drifters’ base at Stoke on Trent. The journey travels 22 miles of the Trent & Mersey Canal, and passes through 18 locks.

6. Witness some ghostly goings-on at The Navigation Inn

The Navigation Inn on the Calder & Hebble Navigation at Sowerby Bridge dates back to the 15th century, and served travellers along the old salt road from Chester to York long before the canal was built.  According to the landlord, there’s plenty of supernatural activity in this ancient building, including noises in the cellar, clocks that mysteriously stop and spirits that appear in the kitchen.  The Navigation Inn is very close to our canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge.

7. Beware the blood stained steps at Brindley Bank

The Trent & Mersey Canal at Brindley Bank Aqueduct in Staffordshire, is said to be haunted by Christina Collins. Christina was murdered there on 17 June 1839 and her body was flung into the canal.  Three boatmen were convicted of her killing; two were hanged, and the third was transported.  As Christina’s body was dragged from the water, her blood ran down a flight of sandstone steps leading from the canal, and it is said that the stain occasionally reappears on those stones.  From our base at Springwood Haven on the Coventry Canal, it takes around 16 hours to reach Brindley Bank.  The route travels 33 miles and passes through 16 locks.

8. Look out for the ghost of a Roman Centurian in Chester

At the City’s old Northgate, where the canal was dug into part of the town’s moat, a Roman centurion can sometimes be seen guarding the entrance to the City.  From our base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Brewood, it takes around 26 hours to cruise to Northgate Staircase Locks in Chester.  The journey travels 52 miles and passes through 39 locks.

Enjoy a day out on the canals this summer

Day boat hire on Britain’s peaceful network of inland waterways is a great way to enjoy a family day out this summer.

Drifters offers day boat hire from 15 canal boat yards across England and Wales, with prices starting from £10 per person. Full tuition is included so if you are new to narrow boating, it’s a great way to 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.

Here’s a guide to our Top 15 day boat destinations for the 2022 summer holidays:

1. Worcestershire: Cruise through the remains of the Forest of Arden

From our day boat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal 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 moor at along the way, including the canalside Crown and Weighbridge pubs at Alvechurch. The route is lock-free but there are two tunnels to pass through, including Wast Hill Tunnel, which is nearly 2.5km long.

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

2. South Wales: Navigate to The Star Inn at Mamhillad in the Brecon Beacons

From our day boat hire base at Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, boaters can 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 boats ‘Robin’ and Rooster’ can carry up to eight people each.  Prices start from £137.

3. Warwickshire: Travel to The Mary Arden Inn at Wilmcote

From our narrow boat hire base Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford upon Avon, boaters can head south 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 beautiful 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.

4. North Wales: Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

From our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes less than 20 minutes to reach the World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  Standing at over 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, this incredible structure offers boaters stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  After cruising over the Aqueduct, there are two tunnels and another aqueduct to cross, before reaching the 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.

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

From our narrow boat hire base at Hilperton Marina on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge, you can head west past the picturesque town of Bradford on Avon and its striking 14th century Tithe Barn and on to Avoncliff Aqueduct for lunch at the Cross Guns.  The return journey to Avoncliff takes around six hours and there’s just one lock to pass through each way.

*Day boat ‘Cheers’ can carry up to 10 people.  Prices start at £119.

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

From our day boat hire base Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, you can cruise four miles, passing through two locks, to reach the historic market town of Rugeley.  The journey, which takes around two hours, passes the through the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the popular Wolseley Arms pub at Wolseley Bridge.

*Day boats ‘Daphne’ and ‘Abi’ can carry up to 10 people each.  Weekday hire starts at £99, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

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

From our day boat hire centre at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Reading, you can cruise to Theale and back, stopping 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.  Prices start from £129.

8. Cheshire: Boat along ‘The Shroppie’ to Nantwich Aqueduct

From our canal boat hire base at Bunbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, day boaters can cruise south for six miles, and travel across the impressive Grade II* listed Nantwich Aqueduct, enjoying with panoramic views across the town.  With no locks along the way, the journey to Nantwich takes around two hours.

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

9. Cheshire: Cruise to through the woodlands of Marbury Country Park to Middlewich

From our day boat hire centre at Anderton Marina, next to the incredible Anderton Boat Lift, boaters can travel 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.

*Day boat ‘Daydream’ can carry up to 12 people.  Prices start at £139.

10. Warwickshire/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 cruise to the historic village of Napton-on-the-Hill.  The journey, which takes around three hours, takes boaters through the Northamptonshire countryside and into Warwickshire.  Once at Napton, day boaters 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.  Weekday prices are £150, £195 for weekends and bank holidays.

11. Northamptonshire: Navigate to Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum & Cafe

From our canal boat hire base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal near Northampton, you can navigate to the pretty village of Stoke Bruerne, home of the Canal Museum and waterside cafe.  The route takes boaters through the Blisworth Tunnel, which at 3076 yards long is the third longest on the canal network.  It takes around one and half hours to cruise to Stoke Bruerne, including thirty minutes to cruise through the tunnel.

*Day boat ‘Day Lark’ can carry up to 12 people.  Prices start at £129.

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

From our narrow boat hire centre at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal, day boaters travel to Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  The journey takes around two-and-a-half hours, cruising through eight miles of beautiful countryside, and 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.

13. Worcestershire: Cruise past the Bittell Reservoirs to Hopwood

On a day boat from Alvechurch on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can cruise to the Hopwood House Inn and back. The return journey takes around four and a half hours and passes through the 2,726 yard long Wast Hill Tunnel and past the Bittell Reservoirs, a haven for wildlife.  There are no locks on this route.

*Day boat ‘Away Day’ can carry up to 10 people.  Prices start at £137.

14. Shropshire: Cruise through quiet countryside to Oswestry.

From Blackwater Meadow Marina on the Llangollen Canal, near Ellesmere, day boaters can cruise to Oswestry and back. The route passes through farmland, glacial scenery and beautiful green countryside.  The journey there and back takes around five hours and there are no locks.

*Day boat ‘Lazy Days’ can carry up to 10 people. Prices start at £119.

15. Staffordshire: Cruise through the countryside for a pub lunch at Hopwas

From Kings Orchard, on the Coventry Canal near Lichfield, you can cruise through the Staffordshire countryside to Bonehill Bridge and back. The route takes you through the villages of 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 boat ‘Happy Days’ can take up to 10 people. Prices start at £139.

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