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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/

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 make your first canal boat holiday smoother, we’ve put together our Top 10 tips for beginners:

1. Do some advance prep

Boat steering tuition is provided as part of our holiday packages.  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.  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, re-useable plastic bottles and coffee cups to help limit the amount of plastic used on your holiday afloat.

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 of the Locks 2022

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, 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 2022 narrow boat holidays:

1. Caen Hill in Wiltshire

Caen Hill on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Devizes 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.

2. Wigan in Lancashire

This epic flight of 21 locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal 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.

3. Tardebigge in Worcestershire

With 30 locks spread out over two-and-a-quarter miles, this awesome flight of locks on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal 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.

4. Bingley 5 Rise in West Yorkshire

Another of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’, this spectacular staircase of five locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Bradford, 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.

5. Hatton in Warwickshire

The Hatton Flight on the Grand Union Canal 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.

6. Foxton in Leicestershire

Surrounded by stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, this set of 10 locks on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal 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 designated 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, providing 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 in Cheshire

One of the steepest flights on the system, the 16 locks on the Peak Forest Canal 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.

 

 

Top 5 Yorkshire Canal Boat Holidays for 2022

To celebrate Yorkshire Day (1 August), we’ve put together our Top 5 Yorkshire Canal Boat Holidays for 2022.

2022 prices from our Yorkshire bases start at £770 for a short break (three or four nights), £1,155 for a week on a boat for four people.

1. Visit Skipton and its medieval castle

On a short 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.  There are extensive views of sheep country – farmhouses, barns, stone walls and the occasional village or town.  Once in Skipton, you can moor in the centre of the town to visit shops and restaurants. And explore the 900-year old Skipton Castle, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.

2. Sail to the historic market town Selby

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

3. Toddle to Todmorden for some stunning Pennine scenery

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

4. Cruise to Rishton for a trip through industrial history

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

5. Journey to the Hepworth Wakefield

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

Enjoy a day afloat on the Jubilee bank holiday weekend

Day boat hire on Britain’s peaceful network of inland waterways is a great way to enjoy the countryside, and offers a great family day out over the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee long weekend, 2-5 June 2022.

Drifters’ offers day boat hire from 14 boat yards across England and Wales, with weekend and bank holiday prices starting from £15 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 8 day boat destinations for the Jubilee bank holiday weekend:

  1. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Oswestry

From Drifters’ day boat hire base at Blackwater Meadow Marina on the Llangollen Canal, near Ellesmere, you 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 £109.

  1. Glide 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.

  1. 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.

Day boats ‘Dolly’ and ‘Charlie’ can carry up to 10 people each. Prices start at £99 weekdays, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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

Top 10 Summer Canal Boat Holidays for 2022

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

You don’t need a licence and it’s easy to learn how to steer a narrowboat.

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 £979, and at £1,530 for a week.

Tuition is included as part of all our holiday packages.

All our narrowboats have heating, well-equipped kitchens, quality furnishings, flushing toilets, hot water, showers, TVs and DVD players, and many now have WiFi on board too.

Here are our top 10 summer destinations for 2022:

  1. Visit Skipton and its medieval castle

On a short break from our Barnoldswick boatyard, narrow boat holiday-makers can head east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Skipton and back.  The journey travels a total of 26 miles, passes through 30 locks (15 each way) and takes around 20 hours.  This breath-taking route winds along the contours of the side of Airedale, with extensive views of sheep country – farmhouses, barns, stone walls and the occasional village or town.  Once in Skipton, you can moor in the centre of the town, visit shops and restaurants and explore Skipton Castle, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.

  1. Glide through the Usk Valley to Brecon and back

From our base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, on a week’s break you can navigate through the wooded Usk Valley to the pretty market town of Brecon, in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park.  Brecon offers theatre, cinema, cafes and restaurants and east 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, visit the 13th century caste at Crickhowell and walk to the Blaen y Glyn waterfalls at Talybont-on-Usk.  The total journey there and back travels 51 miles, passing through 12 locks (six each way) and takes around 25 hours.

  1. Cruise along the River Thames to Oxford

On a short break from our canal boat hire base on the River Thames at Eynsham near Witney, you can reach the beautiful City of Oxford in just three hours.  Most of the locks on the Thames are manned so it’s a nice easy journey for beginners.  Once in Oxford, you can moor up a short walk from the City Centre, and take time to explore some of the historic attractions.  Climb the Carfax Tower for views across the City of Dreaming Spires, visit the Bodleian Library with its stunning 17th century Schools Quadrangle, and explore the University of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology.

  1. Travel the Warwickshire Ring

On a two-week holiday from our Napton base on the Grand Union Canal, you can navigate the popular Warwickshire Ring.  The route follows 104 miles of urban and rural waterways, passes through 120 locks and takes around 54 cruising hours. Highlights include: the awesome Flight of 21 locks at Hatton; Warwick Castle; Cadbury World; and Birmingham’s Brindleyplace, home to the Sea Life Centre.

  1. 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 our base at Chirk, you can travel to the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen and back.  Along the way, you’ll cruise the 11 miles of the Llangollen Canal that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, including the awesome Chirk and Pontcysyllte aqueducts.

  1. Travel along the peaceful Ashby Canal to Shakerstone

On a week’s holiday from our Braunston base on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, you can explore the beautiful Ashby Canal.  With no locks, and mile-upon-mile of countryside to enjoy, this peaceful 22-mile long waterway passes 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.

  1. Navigate through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh

From our base at Falkirk, Edinburgh Quay is an 11-hour, 32-mile journey along the Union Canal, perfect for a mid-week break.  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.  Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street and many of the City’s top attractions.

  1. Cruise to the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port

On a week’s holiday from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can reach the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port.  The museum brings together a unique fleet of historic boats, docks, warehouses, forge, stables and workers cottages, collections and archives, to tell the story of Britain’s canals.  It takes around 11 hours to cruise to the National Waterways Museum from our boat yard on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury.  The journey there and back travels 22 miles and passes through 32 locks (16 each way).

  1. Visit Georgian Bath afloat

On a short break from our canal boat hire base at Devizes, you can navigate to the beautiful World Heritage Status City of Bath.  The journey there and back travels 39 miles of the Kennet & Avon Canal, passes through 20 locks (10 each way) and takes around 19 cruising hours.  Along the way, you’ll pass a series of canalside pubs, and you’ll cross over the beautiful Bath stone Avoncliff and Dundas aqueducts.  There are moorings at Sydney Wharf, a 15-minute walk from Bath City centre.

  1. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton

On a four night break from our base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can reach the historic market town of Market Drayton.  Along the way, you’ll pass 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 the deep canal cuttings. The total journey there and back travels 42 miles, passes through 12 locks and takes around 19 hours.

Boris the lizard enjoys a canal boat holiday

Gareth Butterfield recently took a Drifters’ press trip on the Coventry Canal, setting off from our new canal boat hire base at Springwood Haven Marina.  Gareth was joined by this wife, their two dogs and Boris the Bearded Dragon.  Gareth describes their pet-friendly staycation afloat:

“And there was me thinking it was a cheeky request, “Can I take a lizard on board?” I sheepishly asked the nice people at Springwood Haven Marina, a few weeks before we were due to rent a narrowboat for a midweek.

“Yes, no problem,” was essentially the reply, as if it was a perfectly normal thing to ask.

“I’ve since learned Drifters canal boat hire operators, including ABC Boat Hire, have always been very open to the idea of pets joining their owners on board. And it’s a good job, because along with my wife’s six-year-old Bearded Dragon, we took our two dogs. And we all loved it. Even the lizard.

“Travelling with a lizard does bring a few complications.

“Bearded Dragons are cold-blooded, so they need to be kept warm. That’s easy when it’s sunny, but when they’re not able to bask in the sunshine they need to be under a heat lamp.

“Our portable vivarium was set up during the pandemic so we could take Boris with us in our motorhome, but it slotted in nicely on shelf in the boat’s bedroom. The boat’s batteries weren’t troubled even slightly by the 100w basking light.

“As a rule, Boris is very docile, and he happily sits and watches the world go by while we travel with him. He loves the motorhome, and he took to the boat like, er, a lizard to water.

“We had a nice, sunny start to the week. 

“Boris happily sat out on my wife’s chest while we cruised up the Ashby Canal. Then, when the weather turned colder, he quickly established his favourite spot inside was on the back of the sofa, cosying up to his hot-water bottle.

“Lizards like to climb, and Boris loves having a view out of the window so this was a perfect vantage point.

“The dogs were much happier to be outside on the stern with me while we were cruising, even when temperatures plummeted.

“They loved watching out for ducks, swans and geese, and there were plenty of opportunities to stop and give them a walk up and down the towpath.

“If you’re anything like me and my wife, you’ll know how nice it is to share your holiday experiences with your pets, and watching them adapt to a new environment like a boat is endlessly entertaining.

“We went to great lengths to ensure Boris could join us on motorhome trips, but bringing him on a boat felt like a leap into the unknown. But it was made very easy for us, and turned into a great experience.

“We can’t wait to do it again. And we’ll definitely bring Boris with us.”

Easter Days Out on the water

Day boat hire on Britain’s peaceful network of inland waterways is a great way to enjoy the countryside this spring, and offers a great family day out in the Easter holidays.

Drifters offers day boat hire from 14 boat yards across England and Wales, with prices starting from less than £10 per person.  Full tuition is included so if you are new to narrow boating, it’s a great opportunity 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 14 day boat destinations for Easter 2022:

1. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Oswestry

From Drifters’ day boat hire base at Blackwater Meadow Marina on the Llangollen Canal, near Ellesmere, you 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 £109.

2. Glide 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.

3. 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.

4. Cruise to The Mary Arden Inn at Wilmcote in Warwickshire

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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Cruise through the West Berkshire 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.

9. 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.

10. Day boat 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.

11. 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.

12. Navigate through Blisworth Tunnel to Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum

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.

13. 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.

14. Boat past Bittell Reservoirs to Hopwood

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, passes through the 2,726 yard long Wast Hill Tunnel and past the Bittell Reservoirs, a haven for wildlife.

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

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

Top 9 Canal Boat Holidays for 2022

From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, narrowboat holiday-makers can explore Britain’s beautiful 3,000-mile network of inland waterways.  And there’s a choice of hundreds of waterside destinations and historic canalside pubs to visit along the way.

Drifters offers over 550 boats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales.  2022 hire prices start at £550 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £760 for a week.  Tuition is included in all Drifters holiday packages.

Here are Drifters’ Top 9 canal boat holidays for 2022:

1. Cruise to historic Shardlow

In Spring 2022, Drifters will open a new narrowboat hire base at Springwood Haven Marina on the Coventry Canal in Nuneaton.  On a week’s break from Springwood Haven, you can travel to the historic inland port of Shardlow and back.  The journey passes through Atherstone, across the Tame Aqueduct, through Fradley Junction, Alrewas, Branston and Burton-on-Trent, home of the National Brewery Centre. At Shardlow there are over 50 listed buildings, including the Salt Warehouse, housing Shardlow Heritage Centre.  The journey there and back passes through 58 locks and takes around 49 cruising hours.

2. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath

On a short break from our base at Devizes in Wiltshire, you can travel along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Sydney Wharf, on the edge of Bath.  The journey travels 19 miles, passing through eight locks and takes around nine hours.  Along the way, the route passes through the village of Seend with its canalside Barge Inn.  And the historic town of Bradford on Avon, with a choice of independent shops and restaurants.  The route also takes boaters over the beautiful Avoncliff and Dundas Bath stone aqueducts.  Once at Sydney Wharf, boaters can moor up and take a 15-minute walk into Bath City Centre.

3. Navigate to Manchester and back

On a week’s break from our canal boat hire base at Acton Bridge, you can cruise to Manchester and back.  The journey allows you to enjoy time in the countryside as well as well as the City.  The route, which travels a total of 68 miles of waterway (34 each way) passes through just one lock.  Places to stop off at include Stockton Heath, with a choice of shops and eateries, and the historic village of Lymm.  On arrival in Manchester, there are places to moor at Castlefield Basin, within easy reach of City Centre attractions.  To visit the Trafford Centre, boaters can return via Worsley on the Bridgewater Canal.

4. Visit Warwick Castle afloat

From our boat yard at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can cruise to Warwick and back.  The journey there and back takes around 14 hours, and passes through 40 locks (20 each way).  Overnight moorings are available close to Warwick Castle on the banks of the River Avon.

5. Potter through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton

From oure base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, it takes around 10 hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton.  Along the way, you’ll pass through just six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs.  These include the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.

6. Cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Norbury

From our base at Autherley, on a short break you can cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Autherley and back.  This rural route, which is perfect for beginners, takes boaters through 15 miles of peaceful countryside.  It passes through just two locks and a series of pretty villages with canalside pubs. These include the Bridge Inn at Brewood and the Hartley Arms at Wheaton Ashton.

7. Spot wildlife on the Ashby Canal

On a week’s holiday from our Braunston base, you can cruise to the pretty village of Snarestone and back.  You will travel a total of 47 miles, passing through just eight locks (four each way) in around 32 hours.  This largely rural route goes up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby and on to Hawkesbury Junction to join the Coventry Canal.  Five miles later, the route transfers onto the lock-free Ashbury Canal, which winds gently through countryside for 22 miles.  From Carlton Bridge to Snarestone, the canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  This recognises the diversity of the waterway’s plant, insect and animal life, including nine species of dragonfly, and rare native white-clawed crayfish.

8. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

Our base at Trevor on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, is next to the awesome UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  From there, you can reach historic Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District on a short break.  Standing 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct carries the canal in a cast iron trough, supported by 19 enormous hollow pillars.  With not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure the stunning views of the valley below, you feel like you are floating above the earth!

9. Cruise to Todmorden for stunning Pennine scenery

On a short break from our Sowerby Bridge base in West Yorkshire, you can travel to Todmorden and back along the Rochdale Canal. The journey, which travels a total of 20 miles, passes through 34 locks and takes around 16 hours.  The historic town of Todmorden offers visitors fine Victorian architecture, plenty of pubs and restaurants, and a busy market.  Along the way, you’ll pass through the beautiful Calder Valley village of Mytholmroyd, the birthplace of Ted Hughes. And the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, with a variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs and a series of scenic waymarked walks.

Top 10 places to spot wildlife on a canal boat holiday

One of the things that make our canals and rivers so special, is the wildlife that lives in and beside them.

You can spot anything from ducks, moorhens and dragonflies, to kingfishers, otters and water voles. Even in the heart of our towns and cities, you can get close to nature on a canal or river.

Many areas of the Canal & River Trust’s canals and rivers in England and Wales have been designated as important nature sites, including 63 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and over 1,000 wildlife conservation sites.

To celebrate, we’ve listed our Top 10 places to spot wildlife on a 2022 narrow boat holiday:

  1. Bittell Reservoir, Worcestershire

Built to supply water for the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, Bittell Reservoir at Barnt Green is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and home to over 200 species of water bird.  Boaters can reach the Bittell Arm in just 40 minutes from Drifters’ narrowboat boat hire base at Alvechurch, and in two hours from Tardebigge.

  1. Llangattock, Powys

The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal follows the line of the Usk Valley through the Brecon Beacons National Park, and is home to an abundance of wildlife.  For example, along the length passing through the village of Llangattock, there are kingfishers, butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies to look out for, as well as bats at dusk.  Boaters can reach Llangattock Wharf in around four-and-a-half hours from our’ canal boat rental base at Goytre.

  1. Fradley Pool Nature Reserve, Staffordshire

At Fradley Junction, where the Coventry Canal meets the Trent & Mersey Canal, Fradley Pool Nature Reserve is home to a variety of wildlife, including ducks, swans and bats.  There are sculpture trails, places to picnic, and a choice of places to eat and drink.  It takes around one-and-a-half hours to reach Fradley from Drifters’ base at Kings Orchard Marina, or six hours (passing through five locks) from Great Haywood.

  1. Sutton Cheney, Leicestershire

This tranquil SSSI stretch of the Ashby Canal offers the chance to spot freshwater mussels, rare native white-clawed crayfish, water shrew, dragonflies, damselflies, and a variety of water birds. Boaters can reach Sutton Cheney visitor moorings in around six hours from Drifters’ base at Kings Orchard Marina, and in around 16 hours (passing through four locks) from Braunston.

  1. Caen Hill, Wiltshire

The Caen Hill flight of locks at Devizes, is not only one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways, it’s also an important place for wildlife.  The Jubilee Woodland is providing more habitat for woodland birds, and the side ponds provide habitat for fish, water birds, water voles, otters and the rare chaser dragonfly.  Drifters’ Devizes canal boat hire base is at the bottom of the Caen Hill Flight, and our base at Hilperton is four-and-a-half hours away, with seven locks to pass through.

  1. Gronwyn Wharf, Montgomery Canal

The Montgomery Canal runs for 38 miles between England and Wales, and is one of the most important canals in country for nature.  Much of it is designated a SSSI, and the Welsh section is of international significance with a Special Area of Conservation designation for its aquatic plants.  Otters and water voles have been spotted there, and several nature reserves border the canal.  Boaters can cruise to Gronwyn Wharf from a number of Drifters bases, including Blackwater Meadow (six hours, eight locks away) and Whixall (10 hours, eight locks away).

  1. Consall Forge, Staffordshire

The 17-mile long Caldon Canal runs from Etruria in Stoke-on-Trent to the edge of the Peak District at Froghall Wharf.  Travelling alongside the River Churnet through woodlands and moorlands, boaters can look out for kingfishers, herons, jays and woodpeckers, as well as otters which have recently returned to the area.  From Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Stoke on Trent, boaters can reach Consall Forge, next to Consall Nature Park in around nine hours, passing through 16 locks.

  1. Marple Locks, Derbyshire

The flight of 16 locks at Marple on the Peak Forest Canal are one of the steepest in Britain, and from there boaters can enjoy magnificent views of the Peak District.  Surrounded by beautiful countryside, including stretches of ancient woodland, there are many types of woodland bird to look out for, as well as bats.  From Drifters’ base at Stoke on Trent it takes around 16 hours, passing through 13 locks, to reach Marple Junction.  And from Bunbury it takes around 29 hours, passing through 48 locks.

  1. Ellesmere, Shropshire

The Mere at Ellesmere is packed with wildlife, including kingfishers, yellow hammers, tree sparrows, lapwing, sand martins, ringed plovers, curlews, greenshanks and herons. There are woodland walks, places to eat, drink and picnic, a sculpture trail and adventure playground.  Drifters’ narrow boat hire base at Blackwater Meadow Marina is on the edge of Ellesmere, and Chirk is just four hours and two locks away.

  1. Bingley, West Yorkshire

The fields either side of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Bingley, close to the Bingley Five Rise Lock Staircase, are full of wild flowers.  There are walking trails and places to eat, drink and picnic.  From Drifters’ base at Barnoldswick on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, it takes around 14 hours to reach Bingley, passing through 15 locks.