Tag Archive for: River Severn

Chirk Castle close to the Llangollen Canal in Wales

National Trust properties to visit

There are dozens of National Trust properties within easy reach of our canals and rivers, making them great places to visit on a canal boat holiday.

Here’s a guide to our top 10 National Trust properties to visit, and our nearest bases:

1. The Rock Houses at Kinver Edge on the Staffs & Worcester Canal

Kinver’s famous Holy Austin Rock Houses near Stourbridge were inhabited until the 1950’s and give an atmospheric glimpse into a bygone age.  The woodland sandstone ridge out of which the houses are built, offers dramatic views across surrounding counties.  You can reach Kinver on a week’s holiday from Gailey or Autherley.

2. Knot Garden at Little Moreton Hall on the Macclesfield Canal

This iconic Tudor Manor House in Congleton offers an insight into life in the 1600’s. Little Morton Hall‘s manicured Knot Garden grows herbs and vegetables used by the Tudors for their cooking and medicines.  You can reach Congleton on a short break from Stoke on Trent on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

3. William Morris interiors at Wightwick Manor on the Staffs & Worcester Canal

Described as ‘the haven of a romantic industrialist’, this beautiful timber-framed house in Wolverhampton has stunning interiors. They are decorated with the designs of William Morris and his Arts & Crafts contemporaries.  You can reach Wolverhampton on a short break from Autherley or Gailey.

4. Timber-frames at Greyfriars House close to the River Severn

This late medieval merchant’s house and walled garden in Worcester city centre was rescued from demolition after the Second World War.  It has now been carefully restored and refurbished and you can visit it on a short break from Worcester on the River Severn.

5. 700 years of history at Chirk Castle on the Llangollen Canal

This magnificent medieval fortress at Chirk was completed in 1310, and is the last Welsh castle from the reign of Edward I still lived in today.  Features from its 700 years include the medieval tower and dungeon, 17th century Long Gallery, grand 18th century state apartments, servants’ hall and laundry.  It also boasts award-winning gardens and incredible views over the Cheshire and Salop plains.  You can reach Chirk from our bases at Chirk, Trevor and Blackwater Meadow on the Llangollen Canal.

6. Profumo Affair links at Cliveden on the River Thames at Maidenhead

W country retreat on a grand scale, Cliveden’s magnificent gardens and breath-taking views have been admired for centuries.  Once the glittering hub of society and visited by virtually every British Monarch since George I, Cliveden was renowned for hosting exclusive parties and political gatherings.  In the 1960’s, Cliveden became infamously associated with the Profumo Affair.  Today visitors can explore the stunning gardens, peaceful woodlands and Thames riverbank.  You can reach Cliveden on a week’s break from Aldermaston on The Kennet & Avon Canal.

7. Notable topiary at Packwood House on the Stratford Canal

Originally built in the 16th century, the interiors of this timber-framed Tudor house at Lapworth were restored between the wars by Graham Baron Ash.  The restoration created a fascinating 20th century evocation of domestic Tudor architecture.  Its gardens have fine herbaceous borders and a famous collection of yews.  You can reach Lapworth on a short break from Alvechurch on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal or Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal.

8. Exquisite embroideries at East Riddlesden Hall on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

This 17th century manor house at Keighley was a hive of farming activity for generations.  It has a cosy lived-in feel with exquisite embroideries and blackwork, plus oak furniture and pewter on show.  You can reach Keighley on a short break from Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

9. 18th century gardens at Hanbury Hall on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal

Built in 1701 by Thomas, Vernon, a lawyer and whig MP for Worcester, Hanbury Hall near Droitwich Spa is a beautiful country house.  It’s surrounded by 20 acres of recreated early 18th century gardens and 400 acres of parkland.  You can reach Hanbury Hall on a short break from Stoke Prior on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal or Worcester on the River Severn.

10. Holy Grail connections at Shugborough Hall on the Staffs & Worcester Canal

Beautiful Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire, once the home of Lord Lichfield, is set in 900 acres of stunning parkland and riverside gardens.  It’s a rare survival of a complete estate, with all major buildings including the fine Georgian Mansion House, servants’ quarters, model farm and walled garden. And it’s rumoured to have connections to the Holy Grail.  Our nearest base is just five minutes away at Great Haywood.

To check availability and book, go to https://www.drifters.co.uk/


Best canal boat holiday cruising rings

Best canal boat holiday cruising rings

Canal boat holiday cruising rings offer journeys along several different waterways, taking in a huge variety of urban and rural landscapes.

Some canal boat holiday rings are seriously challenging with steep flights of locks and long dark tunnels to negotiate.

Here’s a guide to our top 9 canal boat holiday rings and circuits:

1. The Droitwich Ring (21 miles, 33 locks, 16 hours)

Starting from Worcester or Stoke Prior, this canal boat holiday ring is the only one that can be completed on a short break. It re-opened in 2011 following the £13million restoration of the Droitwich Canals.  This reconnected the River Severn and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Worcester. Highlights include: the historic Spa town of Droitwich; the Hanbury flight of locks; and Worcester cathedral.

2. The Outer Pennine Ring (192 miles, 248 locks, 130 hours)

Not for the faint-hearted nor inexperienced, this epic three-week journey can be undertaken from Sowerby Bridge or Silsden. It crosses the Pennines twice and includes Britain’s longest canal tunnel. It takes in the Calder & Hebble Navigation, the Huddersfield Narrow, Ashton, Rochdale, Bridgewater, Leeds & Liverpool canals. And the Aire & Calder Navigation with electric locks. Highlights include: dramatic Pennine views; Tuel Lane Deep Lock; and Manchester City Centre. Also the three-and-a-quarter-mile long Standedge Tunnel which cuts through the Pennies to link Marsden and Diggle; Bingley Five Rise locks; Skipton with its medieval castle; Leeds City Centre and waterside Royal Armouries Museum.

3. The Stourport Ring (74 miles, 118 locks, 44 hours)

Starting from Autherley, Stoke Prior, Gailey or Alvechurch, this offers an exhilarating and hugely popular week. The route takes in the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, the upper section of the River Severn, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, Birmingham Canal Main Line and the Birmingham Canal Old Main Line. The Stourport Ring visits three cities: Wolverhampton; Birmingham; and the ancient City of Worcester. Highlights include: Wolverhampton 21 locks; Brindleyplace and Gas Street Basin in Birmingham; open countryside on the River Severn; Stourport Basins; Bratch Locks at Wombourne; the pretty village of Kinver with National Trust rock houses; the Black Country Living Museum; and Cadbury World.

4. The Cheshire Ring (97 miles, 92 locks, 55 hours)

Starting from Bunbury, Wrenbury, Whitchurch, Anderton or Acton Bridge, this superb canal boat holiday ring goes through the heart of Manchester and the Peak District via the Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals. Highlights include: Anderton Boat Lift (also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’); Preston Brook Tunnel; Dunham Massey Hall; Castlefield Basin; Manchester’s China Town; the Rochdale 9 locks; Buxworth Basin, Whaley Bridge and the glorious Top Lock at Marple on the Peak Forest Canal; the Cheshire Plain; and heavily locked ‘Heartbreak Hill’.

5. The Warwickshire Ring (101 miles, 94 locks, 48 hours)

Starting from Napton, Stockton, Springwood Haven, Kings Orchard or Braunston the Warwickshire Ring is easily navigated in 10 days or two weeks. It takes in the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals. Highlights include: the flight of 11 locks into Atherstone; Hillmorton locks (three pairs); the Knowle Flight of five locks; the canal village of Braunston; Napton Junction; Newbold and Shrewley tunnels; the awesome Hatton Flight of 21 locks; Warwick Castle; Leamington Spa; and Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin.

6. Avon Ring (108 miles, 130 locks, 58 hours)

Starting from Napton, Autherley, Stoke Prior or Wootton Wawen, this canal boat holiday ring has 130 locks. Most people do this trip in 10 days or two weeks. The Avon Ring navigates sections of the Stratford Canal, River Avon, River Severn and Worcester & Birmingham Canal. Highlights include: Stratford-Upon-Avon and its famous Swan Theatre; the Lapworth flight of 25 locks; the Wilmcote flight of 11 locks; the River Avon and its panoramic views across the Cotswolds; historic Evesham and Tewskesbury; Worcester and its magnificent cathedral; the tidal River Severn double river-lock at Diglis, the 30 locks at Tardebigge; and the 2,495-metre long Wast Hills Tunnel.

7. The Four Counties Ring (110 miles, 94 locks, 55 hours)

Departing from Autherley, Acton Bridge, Brewood, Great Haywood, Stoke-on-Trent, Whitchurch, Wrenbury, Nantwich or Gailey, this canal boat holiday ring is best done on a 10-day or two-week holiday. The four counties are Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire. The route includes the Trent & Mersey, Staffs & Worcs and Shropshire Union canals. Predominantly rural, this ring’s highlights include: the 2,670-metre long Harecastle Tunnel; deep cuttings on the Shropshire Union; Market Drayton home of gingerbread; Wedgewood Pottery Visitor Centre; views of the rolling Cheshire Plains; the Roman town of Middlewich; Waterworld at Etruria; Shugborough Hall; the waters at Tixall Wide; and the flight of 15 locks at Audlem.

8. The Black Country Ring (125 miles, 79 locks, 60 hours)

From Autherley, Great Haywood, Kings Orchard or Gailey this exhilarating canal boat holiday ring is achievable in a week. The Ring takes in the Birmingham & Fazeley, Birmingham Main Line, Coventry, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Trent & Mersey canals. Highlights include: Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin; 21 locks at Wolverhampton; the Black Country Living Museum; Dudley Zoo & Castle; Drayton Manor Park at Fazeley; the Staffs & Worcs Roundhouses; the waters at Tixhall Wide; Fradley Pool Nature Reserve at Fradley Junction; 11 locks at Ashton; and 13 at Farmer’s Bridge.

9. The Leicester/East Midlands Ring (157 miles, 102 locks, 75 hours)

Departing from Napton, Braunston, Kings Orchard, Springwood Haven or Gayton this epic canal boat holiday ring is achievable in two weeks. The route cruises a mixture of non-tidal, broad and narrow canals, including the Birmingham & Fazeley, Coventry, Oxford, Trent & Mersey canals, the Grand Union Leicester Line and the rivers Soar and Trent. Highlights include: Saddlington Tunnel; the Foxton Staircase of Locks; the pretty canal village of Stoke Bruerne with its Canal Museum; Blisworth Tunnel; Braunston canal village; Hillmorton Locks; 11 locks at Atherstone; Coventry and views of its magnificent cathedral; and the 18th century canal village of Shardlow.

Best bank holiday canal boat city breaks

Best bank holiday canal boat city breaks

Britain’s beautiful 3,000-mile network of inland waterways weaves through the countryside into some of our best-loved towns and cities.

To celebrate the forthcoming May bank holidays, we’ve published a guide to our most popular city breaks you can do on a short break:


This beautiful Cathedral City on the River Severn is connected to the canal network at Diglis Junction.  Drifters offers canal boat holidays from Worcester Marina.  From there, you can complete the Droitwich Ring on a short break.  This 20-mile circuit takes you through Worcester along the River Severn, along the Droitwich Canals and a section of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.  There are 33 locks and it takes around 16 hours.


From Bradford on Avon on the Kennet & Avon Canal on the edge of the Cotswold Hills in Wiltshire, you can cruise to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath and back.  The six hour journey to Sydney Wharf on edge of the city centre travels nine miles through the Avon Valley, passing through three locks along the way.  You can moor up at Sydney Wharf and take a 15 minute into Bath City Centre to visit attractions including the Roman Baths and Royal Crescent.  You can also visit Bath on a short break from our bases at Devizes, Hilperton, Monkton Combe and Bath.


On a four-night break from Falkirk where the Scottish Lowland canals meet, you can cruise to Edinburgh Quay and back.  The route starts at the site of the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first rotating boat lift.  The journey along the Union Canal goes through the Falkirk Tunnel, across the magnificent Avon Aqueduct and through the villages of Linlithgow and Ratho.  Once in Edinburgh, you can moor up in Edinburgh Quay and walk into the City Centre to visit attractions including Holyrood Palace and Mary King Close.


From our base on the River Thames, you can reach Oxford in around three and a half hours, passing through four locks along the way. There are places to moor up near Hythe Bridge, a short walk into the city centre.  Places to visit include Oxford Castle, the Bodleian Library and Ashmolean Museum.


On a short break from our base on the River Ouse at Ely, you can cruise to the historic university city of Cambridge and back.  There are moorings just below Jesus Green Lock on the River Cam. From there, you can explore Cambridge, including King’s College Chapel and quaint streets filled with antique shops, museums, art galleries, restaurants and tearooms. The journey from Ely to Cambridge and Wicken Fen and back travels 38 miles, passes through six locks (three each way) and takes around 13 hours.

Click here to check availability and book, or call us on 0344 984 0322.

Top 9 canal boat holidays for 2023

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

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

Here are Drifters’ Top 9 narrowboat holidays for 2023:

1. Cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Wrenbury Mill

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

2. Navigate the Black Country Ring

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

3. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath

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

4. Explore the Llangollen Canal UNESCO World Heritage site

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

5. Complete the Stourport Ring

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

6. Cruise to Fenny Compton and back

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

7. Visit Skipton and its medieval castle

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

8. Travel slowly through the countryside to Hawkesbury Junction

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

9. Cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Market Drayton

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

Cruising the Avon Ring

The Avon Ring is one of a dozen or so popular circular routes for narrowboat holiday-makers.

It covers a distance of 108 miles, passes through 130 locks and takes around two weeks to complete.  Sections of the Stratford Canal, Worcester & Birmingham Canal, River Severn and River Avon make up the route.

Drifters has canal boat hire bases on the ring route at Tardebigge, Alvechurch, Stoke Prior and Worcester on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, as well as Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal.

Starting from Tardebigge and travelling anti-clockwise round the Avon Ring, from abbeys and canalside pubs, to theatres and Tudor mansions, here’s a guide to the highlights:

The Tardebigge Flight

With 30 locks in just 2¼ miles it’s the longest lock flight in the country.  There are fantastic views of the Worcestershire countryside to enjoy as boaters descend, with popular Queen’s Head pub to enjoy between locks 29 and 28.  Drifters’ Stoke Prior base is halfway down the flight.

Hanbury Wharf

The Eagle & Sun pub at Hanbury is a popular staging post for narrowboat holiday-makers.  It’s on the junction where the Droitwich Junction Canal meets the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.

Diglis Basin

Opened in the 19th century to allow transhipment of cargoes between the River Severn and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. Two broad locks take boaters down into the River, operated by lock keepers.

The River Severn

With the distant outline of the Malvern Hills in overlooking this magnificent river takes boaters through miles of peaceful countryside.  Upton on Severn is a good place to moor, with plenty of shops and pubs.


This historic market town with its 12-century abbey, half-timbered buildings and historic pubs is a great place to visit, and it’s here that the River Severn meets the River Avon.


One of the finest market towns in Worcestershire, Pershore offers lots of places to eat and shop, and a magnificent abbey to explore.


Site of another famous abbey and plenty of pubs and cafes too.


The seven arched medieval bridge at Bidford dates from 1482.  Look out for signage, as only one of the arches is suitable for boats to pass through.

Stratford upon Avon

Shakespeare’s home town has a great choice of shops, pubs, cafes, museums and theatres.  Bancroft Basin right opposite the Royal Shakespeare Theatre is the perfect place to moor up and explore the town.  The Basin connects the River Avon with the Stratford Canal.

Wilmcote Locks

The Stratford Canal is a narrow canal and the flight of 11 locks at Wilmcote take boaters up to the village of Wilmcote.  This historic village is home to Mary Arden’s Farm, one of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s museums and where Shakespeare’s mother grew up.

Edstone Aqueduct

The longest cast iron structure in England, the impressive Edstone Aqueduct offers great views of the surrounding Warwickshire countryside.

Wootton Wawen

There’s another smaller aqueduct here, a Drifters canal boat hire base here and the Yew Tree Farm farm shop and Cowshed Cafe.


One of a series of quiet villages through which the Stratford Canal passes, Lowsonford is famous for its Fleur de Lys pub.

Lapworth Flight

Fifteen locks at Lapworth take boaters up hill to Hockley Heath, passing close to the National Trust’s Tudor mansion, Packwood House.  There’s a good choice of places to eat and drink at Hockley Heath, including a Chinese takeaway and the canalside Wharf pub.

King’s Norton Junction

After passing through Brandwood Tunnel and the stop lock with its guillotine-like gate hanging overhead, boaters reach the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at King’s Norton Junction.

Wast Hill Tunnel

Turning left at King’s Norton Junction, boaters soon encounter the 2,726 yard long Wast Hill Tunnel.  The journey through the tunnel, which is wide enough for two boats to pass, takes around 30 minutes.


There’s a choice of canalside pubs here.  The Crown and the Weighbridge at Alvechurch marina, one of Drifters’ narrowboat hire bases.

Just under an hour later, boaters will be back at Tardebigge.

Top 7 May Bank Holiday canal boat breaks for beginners

Narrowboat holidays provide a floating holiday home.  Cruising along at just four miles per hour, watching out for wildlife along the way, you can take all the supplies you need for an adventure afloat.

Drifters offers over 550 boats for hire, operating from 45 bases across England, Scotland and Wales.  Narrowboats range from 32ft to 70ft and can accommodate up to 12 people.  All our boats are equipped with essential home comforts, including central heating, hot water, TV, showers and flushing toilets.  Many now have WiFi too.

A licence isn’t required to steer a canal boat, and all our operators provide boat steering tuition as part of their holiday packages.  To celebrate the two bank holidays in May, we’ve listed our top seven short break narrowboat holidays for beginners:

  1. 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, Market Drayton has a choice of places to eat and regular street markets. Along the way, you will pass through six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.
  2. Drift through the Calder Valley – on a weekend 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. 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.
  3. Complete the Droitwich Mini-Ring – the Droitwich Ring is the only canal boat holiday cruising circuit in Britain which can be completed on a short break. The 21-mile route takes boaters through the Worcestershire countryside along the River Severn, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and the Droitwich canals. There are 33 locks to pass through and it takes around 16 hours.
  4. Glide along the Forth & Clyde to visit Glasgow – from our canal boat hire base at Falkirk, at the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals, it’s a peaceful nine-hour cruise along the Forth & Clyde Canal to the City of Glasgow. Along the way, you will travel 22 miles and will pass through five locks.  This scenic route begins at the home of the magnificent Falkirk Wheel boat lift.  It then passes through Auchinstarry, the River Kelvin Valley with magnificent views of the Campsie Fells above, and the town of Kirkintillock.  Once at Glasgow, there are moorings at Applecross Street Basin, close to Glasgow’s wealth of cultural centres, including the Hunterian Museum.  
  5. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath – from our base at Devizes in Wiltshire, you can travel gently along the Kennet & Avon Canal to reach moorings at Sydney Wharf, close to Bath City Centre. The journey travels 19 miles, passing through eight locks and takes around nine hours.  Along the way, you’ll passes through the village of Seend with its popular canalside Barge Inn.  And the historic town of Bradford on Avon with its fascinating 14th century Tithe Barn.  You’ll also pass over the beautiful Avoncliff and Dundas Bath stone aqueducts.
  6. Cruise to Warwick Castle and back – from our canal boat hire base 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), perfect for a long weekend away.  Overnight moorings are available close to Warwick Castle on the banks of the River Avon, said to be Britain’s greatest medieval experience.
  7. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Ellesmere – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular navigations on the network. The journey from Drifters’ base at Trevor to Ellesmere and back takes boaters through four locks, and into the heart of the Shropshire Lake District. This journey takes around seven hours and includes the experience of travelling across the awesome UNESCO World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’.

Travel round the Droitwich Ring on a narrowboat

The Droitwich Ring is one of a small number of mini-rings on Britain’s canal network.

It re-opened in 2011 when the restoration of the Droitwich Canals was completed.

The route takes canal boat holiday-makers on a 20 mile circuit, passing through 33 locks along the way.  You’ll need around 16 hours to cruise this ring, perfect for a short break.

To complete the circuit you can set off from our narrowboat hire base at Worcester Marina.  The marina is on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.

Travelling anti-clockwise the journey begins climbing up out of the Severn Valley.  A series of locks take you out of the City, reaching open countryside at Tolladine.

The pretty hamlet of Oddingley with an ancient half-timbered manor house is worth a visit.

Another good place to stop is at the country pub close to the south entrance of Dunhampstead Tunnel.

At Hanbury Junction, you need to transfer onto the Droitwich Junction Canal.  Consider at stop at the popular Eagle & Sun pub close to the turn.

The Droitwich Junction Canal is just two miles long with seven locks.  It joins the Droitwich Barge Canal at Barge Lock.

Soon after you’ll reach picturesque Vines Park in the ancient salt town of Droitwich.  You can moor up and take time to explore its half-timbered buildings, shops, restaurants and tea rooms.

Continuing along you’ll soon leave the suburbs of Droitwich and be back out into the countryside.  The waterway is lined with reed beds here, so look out for little reed bunting birds.

The ancient village of Salwarpe is another good place to stop and explore.

From there the route starts heading downhill again to the Severn Valley, including five locks at Ladywood and two at Hawford.

At Hawford Junction, you turn left onto the River Severn for the final leg of the journey.

Soon after Bevere Lock you’ll start to travel through the outskirts of Worcester, with views of the magnificent Cathedral.

Turn at Diglis Junction to get back onto the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and return to Worcester Marina.

You can also complete the Droitwich Ring departing from our base at Stoke Prior.  But you’ll need to allow an extra hour-and-a-half each way to connect with the ring at Hanbury Junction.

Daily Telegraph online, 28 October 2020

Emma Cooke and Paul Miles explore ‘Canal boat holidays: the best UK routes, from the Avon Ring to Welsh waterways’


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


Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2019

From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, narrowboat holiday-makers can use their boat as a floating holiday home to explore hundreds of waterside destinations and enjoy taking refreshment at historic canalside pubs.

Here are Drifters’ Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2019:

1. Go star gazing on the Mon & Brec – isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park, said to have some of some of the highest quality dark skies, perfect for star gazing. Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, this peaceful waterway, with very few locks, offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain. On a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, you can cruise lock-free to Talybont-on-Usk and back, with excellent walking trails and eateries, the Canalside Café and the Star Inn.

2. Travel to Leicester and the new King Richard III Visitor Centre – from our canal boat hire base at Union Wharf on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal in Market Harborough, on a week’s narrowboat holiday you can travel to Leicester and back. The 13-hour cruise through the Leicestershire countryside, travels 23 miles, encountering 24 locks, and passing through a series of villages with friendly rural pubs to enjoy, including The Three Horseshoes at Wistow, and the canalside Navigation Inn at Kilby. Once in Leicester, moorings at Castle Gardens are the perfect base for exploring local attractions, including the new award-winning King Richard III Visitor Centre which chronicles the last Plantagenet King’s life and remarkable story of the discovery of his remains.

3. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey to Hungerford – from our 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 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.

4. Watch out for wildlife on the Ashby Canal – 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 canal boat holiday-makers 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.

5. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Llangollen and back – from Drifters’ base at Chirk on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the stunning hill surrounded town of Llangollen, 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 holding the canal across iron arched ribs and 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.

6. Cruise the Birmingham mini-ring – with more canals than Venice, travelling by boat is the best way to tour Britain’s vibrant second City. On a week’s holiday from Drifters’ Tardebigge boat yard on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, canal boat holiday-makers can travel the Birmingham Mini-Ring, cruising for 27 hours and passing through 49 locks. The route begins by passing through the remains of the Forest of Arden, with quiet villages and historic waterside pubs to enjoy along the way, and then heads right into the heart of Birmingham. Here boaters can moor up and explore some of the City’s top attractions, including the Thinktank Science Museum and Mailbox Shopping Centre. Travelling out of Birmingham on a different canal, the route connects with the Grand Union Canal and the journey becomes gradually more rural again as it loops back round through Lapworth and along part of the Stratford Canal.

7. Travel one-way across the Pennines – starting from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Sowerby Bridge or Ashton-under-Lyne, this week-long epic journey takes around 40 cruising hours, travelling 33 miles and passing through 97 locks. If beginning at Sowerby Bridge, the route first travels down the Calder & Hebble Navigation past Brighouse, then after a short river section the journey switches onto the Huddersfield Broad, taking boaters into Huddersfield City Centre. After that the canal goes up the Colne Valley into the hills and on to the villages of Slaithwaite, then Marsden, before reaching the summit over 644 feet above sea level and the entrance to the Standedge Tunnel. The passage of boats through the incredible three-and-a-quarter mile long tunnel is guided by Canal & River Trust staff and volunteers. After the tunnel, the canal descends quickly through the Diggle Flight and into the Saddleworth villages, before reaching the centre of Stalybridge, and finally Ashton.

8. Navigate the Droitwich Ring – setting off from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Worcester on the beautiful River Severn, canal boat holiday makers can navigate the Droitwich Ring, the only waterway cruising ring in Europe which can be completed on a short break (three or four nights). The restoration of the Droitwich Canals was completed in 2011, reconnecting them to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and the River Severn, and creating a 21-mile loop with 33 locks along the way, that can be completed in just less than 15 hours.

9. Potter through the Scottish lowlands to Linlithgow – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at the Falkirk Wheel boat lift, it’s a peaceful five-hour cruise along the Union Canal to the historic town of Linlithgow – perfect for a short break. The route begins by passing over the 35-metre high Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first rotating boat lift and then passes through two tunnels and two aqueducts, and on through miles of peaceful countryside before reaching Linlithgow. Once there, narrowboat holiday-makers can visit the beautifully preserved remains of Linlithgow Palace on the shores of Linlithgow Loch, the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, and sample some of the town’s excellent eateries.

10. Glide through the Peak District to Cheddleton and back – on a short break from Drifters’ Peak District narrowboat hire base at Etruria in Stoke on Trent, you can travel into the Peak District along the beautiful Caldon Canal, reaching Cheddleton Flint Mill in around eight hours, passing through 12 locks and travelling just over 11 miles. As the Caldon Canal leaves Stoke, it begins to pass through gently rolling hills and wooded areas, past old mills and then alongside the stunning River Churnet. At Denford, the Hollybush Inn is popular with boaters and at Consall Forge, the secluded Black Lion pub serves good food and real ales.