Tag Archive for: narrowboat hire

Enjoy a family day out boating on the canals

Best family days out boating on the canals

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

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

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

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

1. Staffordshire: Navigate through the countryside to Hopwas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit a bluebell wood on a canal boat holiday

Bluebell woods to explore on a canal boat holiday

Canals meander through some of Britain’s best loved countryside, and there are places where you can explore bluebell woods on a canal boat holiday.

The UK is home to almost half the world’s bluebells, and they are one of the nation’s favourite wildflowers.  Native bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) are an ancient woodland indicator.

The Woodland Trust says, “most flowering usually happens in April, so this is the best time to see that iconic carpet of blue.”

To celebrate, we’ve listed our top 7 beautiful bluebell woods to explore on a canal boat holiday:

1. Copley Woods on the Calder & Hebble in West Yorkshire

The bluebells are stunning in the woods alongside the Calder & Hebble Navigation at Copley.  From our narrowboat hire base at Sowerby Bridge, it takes just under 30 minutes by boat to reach Copley.

2. Coed Cefn at Crickhowell on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

This ancient woodland managed by the Woodland Trust has an iron age hill fort at its centre.  There’s a circular walk perfect for enjoying fantastic displays of bluebells in April and May.  From our base at Goytre in South Wales, it takes around five hours to reach Llangattock Wharf.  From there it’s a two-mile walk to Coed Cefn.

3. Chirk Castle Woods, close to the Llangollen Canal in Wrexham

Owned by the National Trust, the grounds of Chirk Castle include 480 acres of woodland and parkland.  There are carpets of bluebells, veteran trees and a section of the historic Offa’s Dyke trail to discover.  Setting out from our Chirk base on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes just 40 minutes to cruise to visitor moorings at Chirk Bank.  From there, it’s a 30-minute walk up to Chirk Castle to explore bluebell woods on a canal boat holiday.

4. Cliveden on the River Thames in Berkshire

Set high above the River Thames near Maidenhead, Cliveden has 375 acres of glorious gardens and woodlands to explore.  These include a magnificent carpet of bluebells alongside the beautiful tree-lined Green Drive.  From our canal boat hire base at Aldermaston, it’s a 14 hour journey to Cliveden Reach.

5. Packwood House near the Stratford Canal in Warwickshire

The National Trust’s magnificent Packwood House has 150 acres of parkland to explore, including an area of ancient woodland with bluebells.  From our base at Alvechurch, it takes around six hours to cruise to moorings on the Stratford Canal at Lapworth, close to Packwood House. From there you can walk to these bluebell woods to explore on a canal boat holiday.

6. Savernake Forest on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire

There are over 4,500 acres of woodlands to explore at Savernake Forest, and it’s a bluebell paradise in Spring. The Kennet & Avon Canal runs alongside the Savernake Forest, with bluebell woods to explore on a canal boat holiday. From our Devizes base, it takes around 10 hours to reach the village of Wootton Rivers, a great starting point for a variety of walks around the Forest.

7. Skipton Castle Woods on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire

Skipton Castle Woods is a rare ancient woodland habitat cared for by the Woodland Trust. These woods close to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal are reputed to be one of the best places to spot bluebells in Yorkshire.  From our base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just around four cruising hours to reach Skipton Castle.

Top 11 new narrowboats for hire in 2024

Drifters Top 11 New Narrowboats for Hire in 2024

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

There are two main types of narrowboat available:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11. ‘Cumbria’ arrives at Sowerby Bridge

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

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

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

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

 

Day boat hire on the canals in Spring 2024

Best days out boating on the canals this spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Longest tunnels to navigate on a canal boat holiday

6 longest tunnels to navigate on a canal boat holiday

There are well over 50 tunnels on the canal network, ranging in length from 25 yards (23 metres) to over three miles (5,210 metres).

The construction of tunnels was one of the most difficult tasks faced by the early canal engineers, and the dangerous and difficult work led to the death of many navvies, including 14 when a section of the Blisworth Tunnel collapsed in 1896.

To celebrate these engineering marvels, we’ve published a guide to the six longest canal tunnels in England and Wales:

  1. The Standedge Tunnel (5,210 metres/5,698 yards)

Tunnelling for 3.24 miles beneath the Pennines, this incredible feat of 18th and 19th century engineering is the longest, highest and deepest tunnel on the canal system.  Cutting through solid rock, it took the navvies 16 years to build and opened in 1811.  In the 20th century, the Huddersfield Canal fell into disrepair, becoming un-navigable by 1948, but after a long restoration programme, both the canal and tunnel were reopened in 2001.  It takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes to navigate through Standedge Tunnel.  Narrow boat holiday-makers need to book their passage though with a Canal & River Trust chaperone.  Drifters’ nearest base is at Sowerby Bridge, on the junction of the Calder & Hebble Navigation and Rochdale Canal, is 20 miles and 65 locks away. The journey to Standedge takes around 21 hours (three days).

  1. Blisworth Tunnel (2,794 metres/3,056 yards)

At 1.74 miles long, Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Canal at Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire is the second longest navigable tunnel on the canal system.  Construction began in 1793, and it was opened in 1805.  It’s wide enough to accommodate two narrowboats, so it’s not necessary to book a passage through it.  From Drifters’ base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, it takes around 38 minutes to reach the northern entrance of the Blisworth Tunnel.

  1. Netherton Tunnel (2,768 metres/3,027 yards)

Tunnelling for 1.72 miles, Netherton Tunnel is on the Birmingham Canal Navigations Netherton Branch in Birmingham.  It was the last tunnel constructed during the canal age, and was built with towpaths on both sides.  From Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Alvechurch, it takes around eight hours to reach Netherton Tunnel, cruising 19 miles of waterway.

  1. Harecastle Tunnel (2,676 metres/2,926 yards)

Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal is 1.65 miles long and it takes around 30 minutes to navigate through.  Designed by Thomas Telford, it was completed in 1827. Passage through the tunnel is in a single direction at a time, because only one of the two original Harecastle Tunnels is in operation. Access is controlled by the Canal & River Trust’s Tunnel keeper team, allowing groups of boats to pass through in convoy, before reversing the flow of traffic.  From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Stoke on Trent it takes around one and a half hours to reach the southern entrance of Harecastle Tunnel.

  1. Wast Hills Tunnel (2,493 metres/2,726 yards)

At 1.55 miles long, it takes around 37 minutes to navigate through Wast Hills Tunnel, on the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal.  Designed by Thomas Cartwright and completed in 1796, Wast Hills is wide enough to accommodate two narrowboats, so it’s not necessary to book a passage through it.  From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge, it takes about two-and-a-half hours to cruise to the southern entrance of Wast Hills Tunnel.

  1. Braunston Tunnel (1,867 metres/2,042 yards)

Braunston Tunnel on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire is 1.17 miles long and was completed in 1796.  It takes around 20 minutes to navigate and it’s wide enough to accommodate passing narrowboats, so there’s no need to book a passage.  With six locks to pass through before reaching the western entrance, Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Braunston is about an hour-and-a-half away.

Visit Edinburgh on a canal boat holiday

Visit Edinburgh on a canal boat holiday

From Drifters canal boat hire base at Falkirk, you can cruise to Edinburgh and back on four-night or week-long canal boat holiday.

The journey takes you along the Union Canal, from the Falkirk Wheel to Edinburgh Quay, travelling 32 miles in around 11 hours.

The route passes through the Falkirk Wheel, through two locks, two tunnels and five major aqueducts. And takes you through the lovely lowland villages of Linlithgow, Broxburn and Ratho.

Canal history

The Union Canal opened in 1842 and was built to bring coal and other minerals to Edinburgh. It is linked to the Forth & Clyde Canal at Falkirk by the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first rotating boat lift.

Both canals were closed in the 1960’s until their Lottery-funded restoration was completed in 2001.  The Falkirk Wheel opened a year later.

Replacing a flight of 11 locks, the lift is like a giant ferris-wheel, moving boats between the two canals in two massive gondolas, raising or lowering them 35 metres.

Moor up close to the City Centre at Edinburgh Quay

Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street in Edinburgh City Centre.

From there, it’s easy to reach the City’s many attractions, including Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyrood, Mary King Close and the Royal Mile.

Journey highlights include:

  • Outstanding views of the surrounding countryside from the top of the Falkirk Wheel
  • Rough Castle Tunnel with its psychedelic lighting
  • The Falkirk Tunnel with dripping water, stalactites and rock hewn sections
  • The Avon Aqueduct, the longest and tallest in Scotland, carrying the Union Canal 26 metres above the Avon valley
  • Seeing many types of birds, including herons, swans, ducks, moorhens and gulls
  • The historic town of Linlithgow, with Linlithgow Palace, where Mary Queen of Scots was born and St Michael’s Church with its unique Crown of Thorns spire
  • The Four Marys pub in Linlithgow, named after the four ladies in waiting to Mary Queen of Scots
  • The canalside Bridge Inn at Ratho, serving food made with fresh Scottish produce from local suppliers

For more information about canal boat holidays on the Scottish Lowland Canals, go to Canals of Scotland. Interactive map of the Scottish Lowland Canals (drifters.co.uk)

Canal boat holidays in Cheshire

New canal boat holidays from Nantwich in Cheshire

From the middle of March 2024, we will be offering canal boat holidays from Nantwich Marina on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire.

We’ll have three different sized narrowboats for hire, offering accommodation for between four and eight people.

There’s a great choice of short breaks, week-long holidays and two-week routes from Nantwich.

Here’s a guide to our Top 5 narrowboat holidays from Nantwich:

1. Cruise to ancient Middlewich where three rivers meet

This short break route is great for beginners.  You’ll cruise through the countryside passing the canalside Barbridge Inn at Barbridge Junction, where you transfer onto the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. A good place to stop is the village of Church Minshull with its popular Badger Inn.  Once in Middlewich, you can moor up to explore this ancient town where the rivers Dan, Croco and Wheelock meet.  The town’s history dates back to Roman times and a medieval market later rose up around the salt industries established there.

The journey to Middlewich and back travels 27 miles, passes through 14 locks (seven each way) and takes around 13 hours.

2. Navigate to the ancient City of Chester to walk the Roman walls

Perfect for a four-night break, the journey to Chester takes you through beautiful unspoilt countryside and a series of villages.  Places to visit along the way include Beeston Castle, and the Ring O’ Bells pub at Christleton.  Once in Chester, you can shop at the famous Chester Rows galleries, walk the Roman City Walls and visit Chester Zoo.

The journey to Chester and back travels 36 miles, passes through 22 locks (11 each way) and takes around 17 hours.

3. Boat to Lymm to see a dinosaur footprint

This is a popular week-long route for beginners.  You’ll cruise first to Barbridge Junction, and onto the Middlewich Branch to Middlewich.  From there you’ll transfer onto the Trent & Mersey Canal and cruise on through the Cheshire countryside to Northwich. At Northwich there’s a choice of places to shop and eat, including the Kingfisher pub.  Another good place to stop is the Salt Barge pub at Marston.  Soon after you’ll reach the Anderton Boat Lift, also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’. After passing through three tunnels, you’ll switch to the Bridgewater Canal.  Then you’ll pass through Stockton Heath with views of the Pennine Hills in the distance.  There’s a choice of places to shop, eat and drink at Lymm, including the Spread Eagle pub in the heart of the village.  And you can see the 240 million years old dinosaur footprint at the Lymm Heritage Centre.

The journey to Lymm and back travels 81 miles, passes through 18 locks and takes around 35 hours.

4. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Llangollen

This week long journey travels the entire length of the Llangollen Canal.  You’ll start off in Cheshire and then you’ll transfer onto the Llangollen Canal at Hurleston Junction.  The route will take you through the Shropshire Lake District and the historic market town of Ellesmere.  Soon after you’ll reach Chirk and then the beginning of the 11-mile UNESCO World Heritage section of the Llangollen Canal.  This will take you through stunning scenery and across the Chirk and Pontcysyllte aqueducts.  Also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct carries the Llangollen Canal 38 metre’s high above the Dee Valley.  In Llangollen, you can moor up in the basin and visit the town’s independent shops and restaurants, including the Three Eagles bar and grill.

The journey to Llangollen and back travels 92 miles, passes through 42 locks (21 each way) and takes around 48 hours.

5. Complete the Four Counties Ring

On a two-week break from Nantwich you can travel round the Four Counties Ring.  This canal boat holiday odyssey takes you through the counties of Staffordshire, Cheshire, Shropshire and the West Midlands.  You’ll pass through a series of historic towns and villages with canalside pubs.  These include the Gingerbread Man in Market Drayton and the Littleton Arms at Penkridge.  You’ll pass through Macclesfield and Marple Junction.  You’ll cross a series of aqueducts, including the Marple Aqueduct on the Peak Forest Canal with incredible Peak District views. You’ll travel through parts of Manchester and then on to the village of Lymm.  You’ll also pass through Preston Brook Tunnel and past the Anderton Boat Lift.

The Four Counties Ring from Nantwich travels 110 miles, passes through 94 locks and takes around 60 hours.

 

Canal boat holidays in England, Wales and Scotland

Best canal boat holidays in 2024

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

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

1. Cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Middlewich

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

2. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh

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

3. Navigate to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath

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

4. Glide through the Calder Valley to Hebden Bridge

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

5. Travel round the Black Country Ring

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

6. Cruise across The Stream in the Sky to Whitchurch

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

7. Boat through the Staffordshire countryside to Market Drayton

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

8. Chug through the Brecon Beacons by boat

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

Electric day canal boat hire on the Peak Forest Canal

New electric day canal boat for hire on the Peak Forest Canal

Drifters member ABC Boat Hire has launched a new electric day boat at New Mills Marina on the Peak Forest Canal in Derbyshire.

Boating on the Peak Forest Canal

The 15-mile long Peak Forest Canal is one of Britain’s most scenic waterways, running along the edge of the Peak District and alongside the River Goyt.

The 36ft ‘Field Day’ narrowboat is the third electric day boat added to the Drifters fleet.

‘Field Day’ has space for up to ten people and 2023 day hire prices start at £99.

Days out from New Mills

The boat has a toilet, indoor and outdoor seating and a kitchen area with induction hob, sink and microwave.

So you can pack a picnic afloat, or stop off at a canalside pub for lunch.

Travel to Whaley Bridge and back

When you hire a day boat from New Mills you can head to Whaley Bridge and back.

You’ll experience spectacular views across Goyt Valley and Kinder Scout, the highest plateau in England.

You’ll pass close by to the Crossings pub along the way, and there’s a choice of places to eat and drink at Whaley Bridge.

Cruise to Marple Junction and back

Alternatively, you can cruise along the Peak Forest Canal in the other direction to Marple Junction and back.

You’ll enjoy fantastic views of the rolling countryside along the way.

At Marple Junction, you can visit the Hatters Arms. And walk up along the Marple Lock flight, to see boats passing through one of the steepest lock flights in Britain.

Other day boat hire locations

Drifters offers day boat hire at 19 locations across England and Wales.

As well as New Mills, Drifters offers electric day boats at Springwood Haven Marina on the Coventry Canal at Nuneaton in Warwickshire.  And at Kings Orchard Marina on the Coventry Canal near Lichfield in Staffordshire.

For more information about Drifters day boat hire, go to Day Boats. Canal boat day hire. Rent a boat for a day (drifters.co.uk)

Canal boat holidays in Yorkshire

Explore ‘Happy Valley’ country by canal boat

Simon from The Version Humax recently reviewed his multi-generation family boating holiday in Yorkshire.

They set off from our canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge and travelled along the Calder & Hebble Navigation to Hebden Bridge.

Simon says, “The route allowed us to explore the idyllic surroundings at a leisurely pace, making it perfect for families looking to unwind and reconnect with nature.”

Once they reached Hebden Bridge, he said they enjoyed spotting well known locations from BBC’s Happy Valley series.  And visiting the town’s independent shops, cafes and market.

They also ‘embarked on a family hike through the woodlands, marveling at the cascading waterfalls and verdant landscapes’ at nearby Hardcastle Crags.

To read Simon’s review, go to https://icymi.co.uk/2023/09/18/tie-world/tie-travel/2023-9-18-review-shire-cruisers-yorkshire/

To find out more about canals in the North East of England, go to https://www.drifters.co.uk/canals-of-north-east-england/