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A Narrowboat Holiday in Northamptonshire

Countryman editor Mark Whitley describes his latest canal boat holiday on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire

The Grand Union Canal celebrated its 90th anniversary this year, which is reason — if reason were needed —to enjoy its many delights by on a week’s narrowboat holiday.

So on a sunny Saturday, I and three friends (my crew for the week) met up at Napton Marina, where we are warmly welcomed by Howard & Ann Davies of Napton Narrowboats, part of the Drifters group of canal boat hire operators.

They introduced us to our home-from-home — ‘Caroline’, a Regency 4 class narrowboat, luxuriously fitted out with all the mod cons, including a rear deck folding table (perfect for alfresco dining). The boat yard staff give us an informative overview and tour of the boat. Then we were off, beginning with a short section of the Oxford Canal and a couple of hours later we reached the pretty canal village of Braunston for our first overnight stop.  We moored up alongside the Admiral Nelson pub, the perfect spot for a post-cruise drink or two on our first day.

The next day, after a leisurely breakfast, we were soon entering Braunston Tunnel. We kept a wary eye out for the Braunston boggart, the ghostly figure of a Victorian canal worker who is said to haunt the tunnel.

Six miles, seven locks and three hours peaceful cruising later, we moored up near Weedon Bec for the night. Jon, our resident chef for the week, rustled up a wonderful meal for us all to enjoy, while admiring the sunset with a glass of wine in hand.

Monday morning we cruised leisurely on and then through the 2800-metre long Blisworth Tunnel to moor up at Stoke Bruerne for lunch.  It’s a lovely spot to while away an hour or two. I enjoyed an ice cream while watching the canal traffic — it’s official, I’m a gongoozler!

In the afternoon we set off again, travelling through the flight of six locks at Stoke Bruerne, then on through the Northamptonshire countryside to Cosgrove, and across the Iron Trunk Aqueduct, an exhilarating experience.

Late afternoon, we moored up for the night near Wolverton. A couple of us headed off along the towpath to the local supermarket to replenish our supplies.

Tuesday, we turned around and headed back along the Grand Union Canal through Stoke Bruerne and Blisworth Tunnel and shortly after headed up the Northampton Arm, a lovely stretch of canal — though with 17 locks so we get plenty of lock practice!

Wednesday, we headed back re-join the mainline of the Grand Union again, and then cruised on overnight moorings at Bugbrooke, where the Wharf pub has a lovely beer garden overlooking the canal.

Thursday, we had another glorious day of boating and arrived back at Braunston by mid-afternoon. That left plenty of time to explore Braunston itself, where we found a couple of pubs, a village shop, a fish and chip take-away and a butcher’s.

Friday, we re-joined the Oxford Canal for the final leg of our journey, to overnight at Napton Bridge, the perfect spot to reflect back on a wonderful week exploring the Grand Union Canal.

Saturday, as we finally leave the boat, we’re already planning our next narrowboat adventure. We’ve got the boating bug, that’s for sure!

8 ways to reduce plastic waste on your narrowboat holiday

Programmes like Blue Planet II and Our Planet have highlighted the damage plastic is wreaking on our oceans and the animals that live there.  More recently, David Attenborough’s BBC ‘Extinction’ programme gave a stark warning that 1 million species face extinction, unless we take urgent action now to protect biodiversity.

Our beautiful inland waterways are also affected by plastic waste, posing a threat to our native biodiversity and, as a staggering 80 per cent of marine debris comes from inland sources, to ocean life too.

To help combat the blight of plastic pollution in our canals and rivers, we’ve put together a list of easy ways to reduce the plastic waste you might generate on a canal boat holiday, and to prevent plastic from entering our waterways:

  1. Don’t use products with microbeads – much of the plastic polluting our waterways and oceans is microplastics which derive from bigger items breaking down, but also from consumer products like face wash and toothpaste. Avoid items with ‘polypropylene’ or ‘polyethylene’ on the ingredients list and go for natural biodegradable alternatives.
  2. Use eco-friendly cleaning products – make sure your washing up liquid and other cleaning products are eco-friendly, as the water you’ve used to clean and wash-up with will drain directly into the canal.
  3. Bring a refillable thermos and reusable plastic bottles – so if you stop off to buy a coffee somewhere on your narrowboat holiday you won’t need a disposable cup and you won’t have to buy bottled water. You can use boiled water from the boat’s tank to make a cup of tea or coffee, and we suggest bringing one large bottle or canteen to top up at water points for drinking water.
  4. Bring your own shopping bags – remember to pack your re-useable bags every time you shop and avoid products with excess packaging.
  5. Make use of recycling facilities – there are an increasing number of boaters’ recycling points available and the rubbish you put in the Canal & River Trust’s canalside Biffa bins will be sorted at the depot, with suitable waste sent for recycling.
  6. Bag all rubbish – make sure the bags are tied securely so they don’t spill open. Only dispose of your bagged domestic rubbish inside bins marked domestic waste and don’t forget to close the lid.  If the bins are full, keep your rubbish securely on board until the next available waste disposal point.
  7. Control your fenders – a frightening number of plastic boat fenders end up at the bottom of locks. Don’t leave them dangling when cruising – except bow and stern fenders.  And when your fenders are in use, make sure they are properly secured.
  8. Help clean up – take part in the Canal & River Trust’s Plastics Challenge campaign and pledge to pick up and safely dispose of at least one piece of canalside litter a day while on your narrowboat holiday. For more information, go to https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/news-and-views/features/plastic-and-litter-in-our-canals

 

Travel to Bath by Narrowboat

Clare Minall and her family travelled to Bath and back on their first narrowboat holiday.

Setting off from our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Hilperton, near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, they enjoy a weekend break afloat.

Clare describes their boat, saying it was “well appointed and had everything we needed for our stay, with boat towels and bed linen provided.”

She says they had a full induction prior to getting onto the boat, and although they were daunted by what lay ahead after pulling out of the boat yard, they did get the hang of navigating quite quickly and used a map from the boat yard to give them “prior warning of places to moor, bridges…locks and the all-important turning points.”

They travelled through Bradford on Avon lock and over Avoncliff and Dundas Aqueducts.  They stopped at the George Inn at Bathampton and enjoyed at cream tea at the Lock Café in Bradford on Avon, which Clare describes as “reminiscent of Bath but without the crowds.”

To read Clare’s full review, go to https://mudpiefridays.com/2020/09/15/our-first-stay-on-a-narrowboat/

Yorkshire Wonders reviews a canal boat holiday from our Barnoldswick base

Last August, Nikki Turner-Chaplin and her family set off on their first canal boat holiday, from our narrowboat hire base on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Barnoldswick, run by Drifters operator Shire Cruisers.

Nikki and her husband had enjoyed holidays afloat as children and wanted their two children to experience a canal boat holiday too.

They set off on the sunny August bank holiday weekend and journeyed east towards Skipton, travelling through the three locks at Greenberfield, under instruction from the Shire Cruisers team.

They moored for their first night at East Marton.  The following day they ‘headed further towards Skipton where the canal winds around and the scenery is stunning’.  They turned around before reaching Skipton and spent their second night at Foulridge, where they ate at the Cargo Café.  They spent their last night at Salterforth.

Nikki’s blog includes a video review of their boat ‘Rutland’ and lots of images of canal scenery and their boat.

To read the review, go to https://yorkshirewonders.co.uk/narrow-boating-on-the-leeds-liverpool-canal-in-yorkshire-review

Loveexploring reviews a holiday travelling round the Droitwich Ring

Jo Kessel, her husband and three teenage children set off for their first canal boat holiday from our Worcester base in July.

Travelling aboard the 69ft ‘Aquatic Warbler’ narrowboat for up to eight people, Jo and her family took a four night midweek break and completed the Droitwich Ring, also known as the Mid-Worcestershire Ring.

This journey took them on a 21-mile circular route – the only canal boat ring that can be completed comfortably on a short break.  They passed through 33 locks in around 16 hours.  They travelled along sections of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, the Droitwich Canals and the River Severn.

Jo says, ‘A holiday on a narrowboat ticks so many boxes: it’s different, it’s active, it’s adventurous and it’s more about the journey than the destination.’

She describes the facilities on board the boat, their top stops (including Hanbury Hall and the village of Salwarpe) and how they worked as a team to navigate their route: ‘While the boat’s captain has to stay put, the crews’ jobs are unexpectedly physical. We winded paddles on lock gates back and forth; we hammered pegs into the ground; we pulled and tethered ropes; we pushed away swing bridges. And in between we walked the towpath, foraging for fruit. Blackberries, raspberries and greengages were ripe for the picking.’

Summing up, Jo says the holiday was ‘a perfect blend of physical activity and relaxation’, saying they slipped into a ‘new rhythm’ they ‘dubbed the slow life’.

To read the full review, go to https://www.loveexploring.com/news/98895/family-canal-boat-holiday-uk

To see Jo’s tour of their narrowboat, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mmx69LQSv0

The Family Holiday Guide reviews a canal boat holiday from Trevor

In July Victoria Pollitt and husband took their two children for a canal boat holiday aboard the 67ft barge Askrigg.

They set off from our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales.

It was their first narrowboat holiday and it included journeying across the famous World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

Victoria says: ‘I quickly discover that canal boating is simultaneously very relaxing and stressful. Once we cross the aqueduct with its amazing views, there are other boats to dodge, tight turns to master and long tunnels to chug through.

‘At first, bridges and locks may be daunting but they quickly become part of the fun, giving the children some activity and making them feel part of the team.  Luckily, every boater seems friendly and happy to help if you get in a fix.’

Their journey takes them to the Welsh border village of Chirk, and Ellesmere, in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.

Victoria says: ‘There’s something pretty awesome about travelling along in a floating home but I recommend mooring up as often as possible to explore the towpath and surroundings.  We love stopping where we want, discovering walks through the countryside with just cows for company. This slow pace of travel needs to be embraced.’

To read the full guide, including 10 top tips for taking children on a canal boat holiday, go to https://thefamilyholidayguide.co.uk/canal-boat-holiday/

Top 11 Canal Boat Holidays for 2021

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

Here are Drifters’ Top 11 canal boat holidays for 2021:

  1. Explore the Staffordshire countryside from Kings Orchard – in March 2021, Drifters will be opening a new narrowboat hire base at Kings Orchard Marina on the Coventry Canal near Lichfield in Staffordshire. On a short break from Kings Orchard, you can cruise to the beautiful wildlife rich Tixall Wide and back, passing through Fradley Junction, Rugeley, Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Great Haywood Junction along the way.  The journey there and back travels 32 miles, passes through 10 locks (five each way) and takes around 16 hours.  On a week away, boaters can continue on from Tixall Wide to complete the Birmingham Ring, taking them on a waterway odyssey with a mixture of urban and rural landscapes, including Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham and a series of canalside villages with historic canalside pubs.
  2. Look out for otters on the Montgomery Canal – this beautiful canal, which runs for 38 miles between England and Wales, is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on both sides of the border. The entire length in Wales is also recognised as a Special Area of Conservation, making it one of the most important sites for wildlife in Europe, providing habitats for many types of plants and animals, including otters.  Currently only around half the Montgomery Canal is navigable, including a seven-mile section from its junction with the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire at Frankton Locks to Gronwyn Wharf.  Work is underway to restore a further section, extending this navigable stretch to Crickheath, due to be completed in 2021.  On a short break from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base on the Llangollen Canal at Chirk, it takes around eight hours to cruise to Gronwyn Wharf on the Montgomery Canal, travelling 15 miles and passing through 10 locks.
  3. The Warwickshire Ring – from Drifters narrowboat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel round the popular Warwickshire Ring. The journey, which can be done in a week but is best savoured over 10 days or two weeks afloat, travels a total of 101 miles, passes through 94 locks and takes around 48 hours.  Passing through a mixture of urban and rural landscapes, the route takes boaters along sections of the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals.  Highlights include: the flight of 11 locks into Atherstone; the pretty canal village of Braunston; Newbold and Shrewley tunnels; the awesome Hatton Flight of 21 locks; Warwick Castle; and Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin.
  4. Cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Norbury – from Drifters narrowboat hire base at Autherley, on a short break canal boat holiday-makers can cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Autherley and back. The rural route takes boaters through 15 miles of peaceful countryside, passing through just two locks and a series of pretty villages with canalside pubs, including the Bridge Inn at Brewood and the Hartley Arms at Wheaton Ashton.
  5. Navigate through the Pennines to East Marton – starting from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Reedley in Lancashire, boaters can travel along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal into North Yorkshire, passing through Nelson and then Barrowford, with its fascinating Pendle Heritage Centre and popular village pub. The route then takes boaters through seven locks and the Foulridge Tunnel, then on to the market town of Barnoldswick, with plenty of places to eat.  After miles of peaceful countryside and the three locks at Greenberfield, the canal winds its way through hilly landscape into the village of East Marton, where there’s a choice of canalside pubs and the canal connects to the Pennine Way.  The journey there and back covers 28 miles, passes through 20 locks (10 each way) and takes around 12 hours.
  6. Float through the Brecon Beacons – isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park. Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, with very few locks, this peaceful waterway offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views, a series of villages with country pubs and a wealth of wildlife to watch out for along the way.   On a four night break from Drifters’ base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, boaters can cruise lock-free to Talybont-on-Usk and back, with excellent walking trails, the Canalside Café and the Star Inn.  The journey there and back covers a total of 38 miles, passes through 10 locks (five there and five back) and takes around 18 hours.
  7. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey to Hungerford – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, it takes around 20 hours, travelling 27 miles through 53 locks to reach the historic town of Hungerford, perfect for a week afloat. Along the way, boaters travel up the spectacular flight of 16 locks in a row at Caen Hill (one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways) and cruise through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, passing close to prehistoric Avebury and along the edge of the ancient Savernake Forest.  Once at Hungerford, narrowboat holiday-makers can enjoy dining at a choice of pubs and browsing in dozens of antique shops.
  8. Glide along the Forth & Clyde to visit Glasgow – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at the incredible Falkirk Wheel boat lift, it’s a peaceful nine-hour cruise along the Forth & Clyde Canal to the City of Glasgow – perfect for a short break. Along the way, boaters will travel 22 miles and will pass through five locks.  This scenic route passes through Auchinstarry, the River Kelvin Valley with magnificent views of the Campsie Fells above, and the town of Kirkintillock.  There are moorings at Applecross Street Basin, with access to Glasgow’s wealth of museums, galleries and cultural centres, including the Hunterian Museum, home to one of Scotland’s finest collections.
  9. Watch out for wildlife on the Ashby Canal – on a week’s holiday from Drifters canal boat hire base at Braunston, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to the pretty village of Snarestone and back, travelling a total of 47 miles, passing through just eight locks (four there and four back) in around 32 hours. This largely rural route takes boaters 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 peaceful 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), recognising the diversity of its plant, insect and animal life, including nine species of dragonfly, the water shrew, water vole and rare native white-clawed crayfish.
  10. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ into the Shropshire Lake District – from Drifters’ base at Trevor on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District, can be reached on a short break. Standing at over 125ft high above the Dee Valley, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is 1,000ft long, supporting a cast iron trough across 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, canal boaters literally feel like they are floating above the earth.
  11. Cruise to Todmorden and back for some stunning Pennine scenery – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Todmorden and back along the Rochdale Canal – a journey which travels a total of 20 miles, passing 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, boaters pass through the beautiful Calder Valley 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 and a series of scenic waymarked walks.

For information about visiting the canal network go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

Boating for beginners from Braunston

By Giselle Whiteaker

As soon as we board Selene at Drifters narrowboat hire base in Braunston, Northamptonshire, we fall in love. Despite being true to the name in narrowness, the narrowboat feels surprisingly spacious inside, with room to manoeuvre and clever touches, like a mobile folding table that can be used inside or outside. We find it hard to believe that we are being trusted to navigate the waterways with only a brief skippering lesson.

The first afternoon, we pass through one lock as practice then moor by the bank. We whip up a meal with the provisions we brought from home and have a leisurely evening, taking a stroll along the canal to the Admiral Nelson pub and enjoying the peace and quiet.

Come morning, I stroll down to The Boat Shop to fill in the gaps in our shopping list, picking up breakfast items and postcards of the area. A quick coffee and it is time to set off, with five locks immediately ahead. My boyfriend is stretching his memory to remember all of the steps to get us safely through the lock, but as it turns out, we have a little help. We pair up with another boat for this section, chatting over the decks as the water fills and empties, taking us up and away.

Waving farewell at the end of the section, we settle into a stretch of cruising, taking turns at the tiller as we glide through the greenery. Ducks frolic by the side of the banks and Weeping Willows dangle curtains towards the murky water. The sun does not come out to play, but the gentle chug of the engine, the light rustle of trees in the breeze, and the ripples cascading away from our passage more than make up for overcast skies.

Braunston Tunnel is one of the highlights of this route. It’s a little nerve wracking for novices – imagine coasting through cool, inky-blackness, a small section of wall illuminated by the boat’s light, heading for a small, light circle: the end of the tunnel, some 1.8 miles away. It’s mesmerising and there’s a thrill to reaching the end and popping back out into daylight.

A long stretch follows, where we simply enjoy being on the canal, waving merrily at other boaters as we pass. Canal-goers are an exceptionally friendly bunch.

Reaching the turn off to Leicester, we prepare for Buckby Locks, a flight of seven. There’s a brief wait as several boats queue to go through, but the joy of boating is that no-one is in a hurry. Again, we pair up with another boat, sharing the workload throughout the flight.

At the Bottom Lock, we moor for a celebratory, and very late, lunch. We haven’t decided where we will spend the night, so we scour the map, locating the winding holes, ready for turning back from whence we came tomorrow. We decide on Weedon Bec, a popular spot according to the neat line of boats by the bank. Too slow at decision-making, we continue past the epicentre, finding a quiet spot around a bend where we are the only boat.

We could probably walk along the towpath and find a charming riverside pub, but instead, we take a seat at Selene’s prow as the sun peeks out belatedly from behind a cloud. Glasses of wine in hand, we make a toast to doing it all again tomorrow, in reverse. We watch the ducks on the water, the birds flitting from tree to tree, and just occasionally, someone walking their dog. This is the life.

Act quickly if you want to enjoy a canal boat holiday

With the school holidays about to get underway, the Canal & River Trust, the charity that looks after 2,000 miles of waterways across England & Wales, is urging those looking to enjoy a holiday in the slow lane this summer to act quickly with bookings for canal boat holidays enjoying a huge resurgence as people look for the perfect family-friendly staycation.

Canal boat companies offering holidays are reporting very healthy bookings – with three of the largest, accounting for around half the canal boats available to hire, saying that bookings are up 240 per cent since government gave the go-ahead for holidays to resume.

Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal & River Trust, comments: “If you’re looking for a self-catering staycation this year, away from busy tourist areas, step aboard a canal boat. Canal boat holidays are a great opportunity to get back to what matters: spending time with family or friends, spotting wildlife and being as active as you like.”

Nigel Stevens, from Drifters, adds: “A canal boat holiday is the fastest way to slow down.  Families come together to operate locks and take turn to ‘captain’ the boat.  We’ve bases right across the country and boats that provide home-from-home luxury.  Anyone looking for a boat in the school holidays should get in quick, whilst those without school-age children can book now to secure their boat to benefit from canal cruising in the late summer sunshine in September and October.”

The data from Drifters, which looks at the three largest hire boat operators on the UK canal network, shows that since week commencing 21 June, when domestic holidays were given the go ahead to resume from 4 July, bookings have almost doubled over the equivalent period in 2019.  And during the two weeks after holidays were given the go ahead to resume, bookings increased by 240 per cent.

To check availability, go to www.drifters.co.uk or call us on 0344 984 0322.

Find out more about canals and rivers across the UK at www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

 

All aboard for Autumn afloat on the canals

A canal boat holiday is a great way to enjoy the splendid colours of autumn in the hedgerows and trees that line our waterways, as they are dramatically mirrored in the water.

There’s plenty of wildlife to spot along the way during the autumn months, including flocks of fieldfare and redwing searching for hawthorn berries, and small mammals such as wood mice and bank voles stocking up on food before the winter.

Narrowboat holiday-makers can take all the supplies they need and have the freedom to moor up for the night alongside rural towpaths and canalside pubs offering take-outs.

A licence isn’t required to steer a canal boat and all Drifters operators provide hirers with boat steering tuition as part of their holiday packages.

Drifters narrowboats range from 32ft to 70ft and can accommodate between two and 12 people.  All are equipped with essential home comforts, including central heating, hot water, TV, showers, microwaves, flushing toilets, and many now have WiFi too.  2020 hire prices start at £560 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, £725 for a week.

Here’s a run down of our top nine canal boat holiday destinations for autumn 2020:

  1. Amble along the Ashby to Snarestone and back – on a week’s holiday from Drifters canal boat hire base at Braunston, you can travel to the pretty village of Snarestone and back, travelling a total of 47 miles, passing through eight locks and taking around 32 hours. This largely rural route takes boaters up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby and on to Hawkesbury Junction to join the Coventry Canal.  Five miles later, you can transfer onto the peaceful lock-free Ashbury Canal, which winds peacefully through countryside for almost the whole of its 22-mile length.  From Carlton Bridge to Snarestone, the canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  Along the way, boaters pass close to Market Bosworth and the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field.
  2. Float through the Brecon Beacons to Taylbont-on-Usk – the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal offers 35 miles of quiet countryside to explore with incredible views of the Brecon Beacons. From our base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, on a short break you can journey through the wooded Usk Valley to Talybont-on-Usk, visiting villages and historic market towns along the way, including the Georgian town of Crickhowell with its 13th century castle.  Once at Talybont-on-Usk, you can enjoy walking access to Blaen y Glyn waterfalls and the Brecon Beacons.  The total journey there and back travels 36 miles, passing through 10 locks and takes around 18 hours.
  3. Glide across The Stream in the Sky from our canal boat rental base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, you can reach the pretty town of Llangollen in 12 hours with just two locks to pass through, perfect for a relaxing week afloat. Along the way, boaters travel through the Shropshire Lake District and over the magnificent World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, also known as the Stream in the Sky.
  4. Go blackberry picking on the Stratford Canal – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, it’s a picturesque seven-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon, with plenty of hedgerow foraging opportunities along the way – perfect for a short break. Once at the birthplace of the Bard, you can moor up in Bancroft Basin, to explore the town’s many independent shops, restaurants and museums.
  5. Drift through the Calder Valley – on a short break from our canal boat rental base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, you can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation through the Calder Valley to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills. Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, the journey to Hebden Bridge covers seven miles, 10 locks and takes around five and a half hours.  Once at Hebden, you can moor in the centre of town to enjoy a good choice of places to eat, as well as stunning walks up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags
  6. Cruise through the Bath Valley – on a short break from our Hilperton base on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, you can travel to the World Heritage Status City of Bath and back, enjoying beautiful views of the southern Cotswold Hills along the way. The journey to Sydney Wharf takes just six hours, travelling across two magnificent aqueducts, passing through one lock and several canalside pubs, including the popular Cross Guns at Avoncliff.  Once in Bath, you can moor up a short walk away from the centre of Bath.
  7. Complete the Stourport Ring – from our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, on a week’s break you can travel the popular Stourport Ring, travelling a total of 74 miles and passing through 118 locks, which takes around 44 hours. The route takes in the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, upper section of the River Severn, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, Birmingham Canal Main Line and the Birmingham Canal Old Main Line.  Highlights include: the Wolverhampton 21 locks; Gas Street Basin in Birmingham City Centre; open countryside on the River Severn; the Stourport Basins; Kinver Edge and the National Trust’s famous rock houses; and the Tardebigge Flight of 30 locks, the longest in the country.
  8. Cruise through the Scottish lowlands to Linlithgow – from our base at the Falkirk Wheel boat lift, it’s a peaceful five-hour cruise through the Scottish lowlands along the Union Canal to the historic town of Linlithgow – perfect for a short break. The route begins passing over the Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first rotating boat lift which replaced a flight of 11 locks and then passes through two tunnels and two aqueducts, plus miles of peaceful countryside before reaching Linlithgow.  Once there, you can see the beautifully preserved remains of Linlithgow Palace on the shores of Linlithgow Loch.
  9. Potter through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton – from our base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, it takes around 10 hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man – perfect for a mid-week break afloat. Along the way, you will pass through miles of beautiful Shropshire countryside, a series of cuttings, six locks and a several villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.