Sarah Baxter & Paul Bloomfield explore ‘Travel in a Brave New World’ in their ‘Travel Bubbles’ article. This includes ‘Hope floats’ domestic holidays on the canals.
Emma Cooke and Paul Miles explore ‘Canal boat holidays: the best UK routes, from the Avon Ring to Welsh waterways’
‘Ghostly goings on’ lists the spookiest places along the canals
Drifters offers winter cruising on the canals from a number of its bases. Boats range from snug narrowboats for two, to family vessels for 12.
It’s free to moor almost anywhere on the network, so a narrowboat could provide the perfect base for a rural retreat. You can stop off along the way at historic waterside pubs with roaring log fires.
Or visit exciting waterside destinations like Birmingham, Warwick and Stratford upon Avon.
All our boats have central heating, hot water, televisions and DVD players. Some also have multi-fuel stoves and Wifi. So, whatever the weather, it’s always nice and cosy on board.
Some of our narrowboat hire yards also offer boats for hire over Christmas and New Year.
Cheryl Howes, owner of Drifters operator Kate Boats, explains:
“Cruising is different in the winter. People cover much less distance and it’s more about just enjoying being away from home. And being completely isolated in the little bubble that is the boat. It’s more about reading books, than going through lots of locks.
“The winter months are when the Canal & River Trust does most of its maintenance work. This means some routes aren’t available, but there are always alternatives to choose from.
“Because boat hire is cheaper off season, people will often take a larger boat to give themselves a bit more space. All our boats are centrally heated, so it’s always nice and cosy on board. But you do need to wrap up warm when you are underway. And the person at the tiller needs a supply of hot drinks to keep them going!
“Our boats have plenty of storage on board so you can bring lots of warm clothes. You just need to accept that with limited day length you aren’t going to get as far. And some towpaths do get muddy.”
Drifters’ winter cruising prices start at £535 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £740 for a week. Here are our Top 5 winter cruising destinations for 2020-21:
- Take a winter cruise through the Warwickshire countryside – from our base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, you can cruise to Warwick and back. There you can explore the town’s stunning medieval castle on the banks of the River Avon. Along the way, you will pass through the village of Long Itchington with a choice of pubs. Also the town of Leamington Spa. The journey to Warwick travels 12 miles of waterway. It passes through 22 locks and takes around eight hours. Alternatively, you can head to the pretty canal village of Braunston, where there’s a choice of pubs. Along the way, you’ll pass through Braunston Tunnel, six locks and miles of peaceful countryside.
- Travel along the Oxford Canal to Napton – on a short break from our narrowboat hire centre on the North Oxford Canal at Rugby, you can travel through the countryside to Napton. You will travel along the Oxford Canal. The journey passes through just six locks (three each way). It goes through the villages of Hillmorton and Braunston, with a choice of pubs.
- Cruise through the Shropshire Lake District – from our narrowboat hire base at Blackwater Meadow on the Llangollen Canal you can travel to Whitchurch and back. It’s perfect for a short break in the Shropshire countryside. You will pass Blake Mere and Whixall Moss along the way. The journey travels 12 miles. There are no locks but there are four moveable bridges and one tunnel to negotiate. Once at Whitchurch, you can moor up and take time to explore this historic town. It has a choice of independent shops and restaurants and way-marked circular walks. There’s also the Brown Moss nature reserve and the award-winning Black Bear pub to visit.
- Glide gently through the Staffordshire countryside to Fradley – from our canal boat holiday hire base at Great Haywood you can cruise along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Fradley. This takes you through the Staffordshire countryside, reaching Fradley Junction in five hours. The journey travels 12 peaceful miles, with just five locks to negotiate along the way. It goes past the Wolseley Centre run by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust. It also passes the Wolseley Arms and the village of Rugeley with its canalside Mossley Tavern. At Fradley, you can enjoy refreshments at the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn. You can also explore the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
- Visit historic Chester afloat – from our base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury near Tarporley you can reach Chester in seven hours. The cruise takes you through 12 miles of Cheshire countryside and through nine locks. You can moor up at Northgate visitor moorings in the ancient city of Chester. From there you explore the city and its Roman Walls, Cathedral and Chester Rows.
Caroline Hendrie suggests winter cruising on the canals in ‘Cast off for a tranquil potter along England’s waterways’
‘Popular haunts – brave ghosts, ghouls and walking spirits on our canals – if you dare’
The Southsea Wander published a list of ‘5 Winter Canal Cruises’.
Liz Kavanagh reviews her first narrowboat holiday, travelling along the Union Canal in Scotland in her article ‘Who needs wheels! Boats for beginners’.
Helen Ochyra picks the ’25 best autumn breaks in the UK’ including ‘Canal cruising in Warwickshire’
Canal boat holidays are great for families – offering the chance to ship out together on an adventure afloat, learning how to navigate the canals, work the locks and watch out for waterway wildlife along the way.
A licence isn’t required to steer a canal boat and all our operators provide hirers with boat steering tuition as part of their holiday packages.
Here are Drifters’ top five canal boat holiday destinations for this October Half Term:
1. Cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Packwood House – from our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s a peaceful seven-hour cruise through the countryside to the village of Lapworth. With locks along the way, it’s a great short break for beginners. Once moored up in Lapworth, you can take a short walk to the National Trust’s Packwood House, with magnificent gardens, and enjoy the Packwood Welly Walk for families, or the longer Packwood House to Baddesley Clinton walk through the Arden countryside.
2. Navigate the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation to Brighouse – on a short break from our boat yard at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Brighouse and back along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation. This historic town, famous for its Brighouse and Rastick Brass Band, offers glorious Pennines walks, places to eat and shops. Along the way, you’ll pass through the historic market town of Elland and the village of Mirfield, with medieval stocks and ducking stool. The journey there and back travels 12 miles, passes through 20 locks (10 each way) and takes around eight hours.
3. Glide across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Whitchurch – on a week’s holiday from our narrowboat hire centre at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, you can travel to Whitchurch and back. The journey there and back takes around 44 hours, passing through just four locks (two each way). Along the way, you’ll travel across the incredible UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which carries the canal 38 metres high above the Dee Valley. The journey continues on through Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. Before reaching historic Whitchurch, where there are plenty of places to moor and explore the town with independent shops, pubs, restaurants and way-marked walks.
4. Potter through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton – from our canal boat hire 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’ll pass through miles of beautiful Shropshire countryside, six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs.
5. Wind your way to Castle Quay in Manchester – from our canal boat hire base at Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, it takes around 10½ hours to reach Castle Quay, cruising along 31 miles of inland waterways and passing through just one lock. This route, which begins at the site of the incredible Anderton Boat Life, AKA ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’, is perfect for a four-night mid-week break afloat. It includes three tunnels, miles of quiet countryside, the pretty village of Lymm and an urban section passing the Manchester United football ground, Salford Quays and the Old Trafford Crick Ground, before reaching moorings at Castle Quay.
To check availability, go to www.drifters.co.uk.
For more information about visiting the canal network go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk
We are in at No.7 'Go Slow in Warwickshire' in @itsjamesstewart @thetimes round-up of the top 25 best boating holidays in Europe #lifesbetterbywater #staycation #canalboat thetimes.co.uk/article/25-of-…
Day boat hire on the canals offers a great family day out on the water. Prices start at £99 per day for a boat for up to 10 people #daysout #lifesbetterbywater drifters.co.uk/enjoy-a-day-ou… pic.twitter.com/bGZ3qsfngM
RT @CRTBoating Boaters have a really important role in helping us to save water by making sure that all the gates and paddles are closed after use, sharing a lock if possible, and waiting for oncoming boats where appropriate. Thanks in advance for your help with this. pic.twitter.com/YgDbquVdGm