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Visit an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by canal boat

Britain’s 3,000-mile network of inland waterways flow through some of our most beautiful and unspoilt countryside.  This includes many Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).  So a canal boat holiday is a great way to explore the countryside.

From gliding through the Vale of Pewsey, to cruising through Cannock Chase, here’s our Top 6 AONB cruises:

  1. Explore the Staffordshire countryside & Cannock Chase

    On a short break from our new narrowboat hire base at Kings Orchard on the Coventry Canal, you can cruise to the wildlife rich Tixall Wide and back.  Along the way you’ll pass through Cannock Chase AONB. The journey there and back travels 32 miles, passes through 10 locks (five each way) and takes around 16 hours.

  2. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey to Hungerford

    From our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, on a week away, you can cruise to the historic town of Hungerford.  You’ll pass through the beautiful Vale of Pewsey, part of the North Wessex Downs AONB. The journey there and back takes around 40 hours, travelling 54 miles through 106 locks.

  3. Navigate along the Pennine Summit to Barrowford

    From our narrowboat hire base at Barnoldwick on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal you can travel Barrowford.  This is close to Pendle Hill and the Forest of Bowland AONB. The journey there and back covers 20 miles, passes through six locks and takes around eight hours.

  4. Cruise to the Aylesbury Vale

    On a week’s break from our canal boat hire base at Gayton Marina on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, you can travel south to the Aylesbury Arm. This will take you into the Vale of Aylesbury, part of the Chilterns AONB. The journey to Aylesbury, which passes through Stoke Bruerne, travels 44 miles, passes through 41 locks and takes around 22 hours.

  5. Float through the Dee Valley in North Wales

    From our canal boat rental base at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal, you can float through the Dee Valley AONB.  On a short break, you can reach the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen. Along the way the route passes over the UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The journey to Llangollen and back takes around eight hours, travelling 14 miles, with no locks.

  6. Take a Thames boating holiday to the edge of the Cotswolds

    On a four-night break from our narrowboat rental base on the River Thames at Oxford, you can reach the pretty market town of Lechlade. This is in an AONB on the edge of the Cotswolds. The route passes through 22 miles of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire countryside.  It takes you past Kelmscott Manor, once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris.  It passes through 14 locks (seven each way) , and takes around 17 hours.

 

 

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’

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/cruises/river-cruises/best-canal-boat-holidays-uk-yorkshire-wales-norfolk-broads-scotland/

Ten good reasons to take a canal boat holiday.

Top 10 Museums to visit afloat

Britain’s beautiful 2,000-mile network of navigable canals and rivers passes through some of our most vibrant towns and cities, with exciting world-class Museums to visit along the way.

Here are our Top 10 museums to visit afloat in 2019:

1. Visit the Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker – from our canal boat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Nantwich, it takes around three-and-a-half hours, travelling nine miles and passing through just two locks, to reach Hack Green visitors moorings – just a short walk from the Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker Museum. Once one of the nation’s most secret defence sites, this fascinating blast-proof underground bunker would have been the centre of Regional Government had nuclear war broken out. Decommissioned in 1993, today it offers visitors the chance to see the government’s preparations for nuclear war as well as the largest public display of nuclear weapons in Europe.

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 boaters can travel to Leicester and back to visit the exciting new King Richard III Visitor Centre. The 13-hour cruise through the Leicestershire countryside, travels 23 miles, encounters 24 locks, and passes through a series of villages with friendly rural pubs to enjoy along the way. Once in Leicester, moorings at Castle Gardens are the perfect base for a foray to 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 under a Leicester car park five years ago.

3. See T-rex skeletons at the University of Oxford’s Natural History Museum – from Drifters’ narrowboat rental base on the River Thames at Eysnham near Witney, boaters can reach moorings in the centre of Oxford in just three hours, passing through four locks along the way. From there, the University of Oxford’s Natural History Museum is short walk away. Housed in a stunning Victorian neo-Gothic building, the Museum is home to an internationally significant collection of natural history specimens, including T-rex skeletons, the Oxford Dodo, whale skeletons, British bird displays, dinosaur fossils and the 4.5 billion-year-old Nantan meteorite.

4. Visit the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds – from our canal boat rental base at Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, it takes 17 hours, passing through 28 locks to reach the Royal Armouries Museum at Leeds Dock – perfect for a week afloat. Home to the national collection of arms and armour, there are thousands of objects from across the world to admire across nine galleries, including Henry VIII’s ‘Horned Helmet’, a long bow from the wreck of the Mary Rose and the ‘Swords of Middle Earth’ based on the prop weapons used in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Hobbit’ movies.

5. Head to the Roman Baths Museum in Bath – from our canal boat holiday base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Hilperton, it’s a four-hour journey, travelling 11 miles and passing through one lock to moorings at Sydney Gardens. From there, it takes just 15 minutes to walk into the centre of the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath, home to the Roman Baths, once one of the greatest religious spas of the ancient world. Here visitors can visit the Sacred Spring, Roman Temple and Roman Bath House and, with the help of costumed interpreters, learn about the people of Aquae Sulis (the Roman name for Bath) and their goddess Minerva.

6. Step back in time at the National Waterways Museum – from our boat yard on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury, on a week’s break, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through the Cheshire countryside and the ancient City of Chester to reach the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port. The journey takes around 11 hours, travels 21 miles and passes through 16 locks. Once at Ellesmere Port, boaters can moor up and take time to explore the Museum’s historic boat collection, docks, warehouses, forge, stables and workers cottages, which all bring the past vividly to life.

7. Marvel at the medieval splendour of Warwick Castle – cruising from our canal boat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, it takes just over seven hours to reach moorings close to Warwick Castle, perfect for a short break afloat. This incredible 1,000-year-old medieval castle on the banks of the River Avon offers a fantastic day out, with Flight of the Eagles displays, Horrible Histories Maze, Kingmaker exhibition, towers and ramparts to climb, the Castle Dungeon tour and Mighty Trebuchet firing spectacle among the fantastic choice of things to see and do.

8. Take a cultural cruise to Wakefield – on a mid-week or week-long break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Wakefield and back to visit the fabulous Hepworth Wakefield Museum. The journey travels 40 miles, through 52 locks and takes around 22 hours. The Gallery, which has moorings right outside, offers visitors over 1,600 square metres of light-filled gallery spaces. As well as showcasing the extraordinary work by the British sculptor Barbara Hepworth, visitors to the Hepworth Wakefield can see works by Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Naum Gabo, Antony Gormley, David Hockney, Paul Nash, John Nash, David Nash, Bridget Riley and Anthony Caro.

9. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Mary King Close in Edinburgh – from our narrowboat hire base at Falkirk, Edinburgh Quay is an 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal, perfect for a four night mid-week break. The cruise starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel (the world’s first rotating boat lift) and then passes through the lovely lowland villages of Linlithgow, Broxburn and Ratho. Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a short walk from the Royal Mile where the Mary King Close Museum takes visitors back in time to explore Edinburgh’s only preserved 17th century street and follow in the footsteps of its former residents.

10. Discover the Gothic elegance of Plas Newydd House Museum – from Drifters’ narrowboat rental base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in Wrexham, North Wales, it takes just two hours to reach the beautiful Eisteddfod town of Llangollen, home to the remarkable Plas Newydd House Museum & Gardens. In the late 18th century this fascinating stone built house was turned into gothic fantasy by Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby, known as “The Ladies of Llangollen”. Today visitors can enjoy exploring the property’s enchanting gardens and gazing at the fascinating stained glass and elaborately carved oak interiors.

Visit a National Park by Canal Boat

Top 10 Summer Canal Boat Holidays

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

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

Drifters offers 590 narrowboats for hire from 47 bases across England, Scotland and Wales. Our summer holiday prices for a short break on a boat for four people start at £715, and at £1,020 for a week.

Tuition is included in all our holiday packages and all our boats have heating, well-equipped kitchens, quality furnishings, flushing toilets, hot water, showers, TVs and DVD players, and many now have WiFi on board too.

Here are our top 10 summer destinations for 2018:

1. Journey One-way across the Pennines – starting from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Skipton, this week-long holiday travelling across the backbone of England is truly one of the great canal journeys. The scenery varies from the timeless calm of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal summit to the hubbub of the Leeds City Centre waterfront, and includes the Bingley Five Rise locks, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways, and the chance to visit Sir Titus Salt’s World Heritage Status model town at Saltaire.

2. Cruise along the River Thames to Oxford – on a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the River Thames at Eynsham near Witney, boaters can reach the beautiful City of Oxford in just three hours. Most of the locks on the Thames are manned so it’s a nice easy journey for beginners. Once in Oxford, canal boat holiday-makers can moor up just a short walk from the City Centre and take time to explore some of the its historic attractions, including the Bodleian Library with its stunning 17th century Schools Quadrangle.

3. Travel the Warwickshire Ring – On a week’s holiday from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston, boaters can travel the popular Warwickshire Ring, travelling 101 miles, through 94 locks in around 54 hours through a mixture of urban and rural landscapes, with highlights including the awesome Hatton Flight of 21 locks and Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin.

4. Glide across the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular on the network. On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Chirk, boaters can travel to the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen and back, with just four locks to go through and the magnificent World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to glide across.

5. Travel along the peaceful Ashby Canal to Snarestone – on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Stretton-under-Fosse on the North Oxford Canal near Rugby, boaters can travel up the North Oxford Canal to connect with the beautiful Ashby Canal. With no locks and mile-upon-mile of countryside to enjoy, this peaceful 22-mile long waterway passes the pretty town of Market Bosworth and the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field, where King Richard lost his crown to Henry Tudor. The journey there and back, travels 63 miles and with just one lock to pass through each way, it offers around 26 hours of tranquil countryside cruising.

6. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh – from Drifters’ base at Falkirk, Edinburgh Quay is a sedate 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal, perfect for a four night mid-week break. The journey starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel (the world’s first rotating boat lift) and then passes through the lovely lowland villages of Linlithgow, Broxburn and Ratho. Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street and many of the City’s attractions, including Mary King Close, frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.

7. Take the Grand Union Canal to Warwick Castle – on a short break from Drifters’ base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, boaters can reach the historic centre of Warwick in just six hours. Here canal boat holiday-makers can take time to explore this beautiful market town in the heart of England and its magnificent castle on the banks of the River Avon, said to be ‘Britain’s greatest medieval experience’.

8. Visit Georgian Bath afloat – on a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, next to the spectacular Caen Hill flight of locks, canal boat holiday-makers can travel west to the beautiful World Heritage Status City of Bath, famous for its stunning Georgian architecture and fascinating Roman Baths.

9. Complete the Birmingham Mini-Ring – on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ narrowboat rental base on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen, narrowboat holiday-makers can complete the Birmingham Mini-Ring, travelling through 83 locks in around 35 hours. The route takes boaters through the Warwickshire countryside and right into the heart of the City, where moorings at Gas Street Basin are close to Brindleyplace, the Mailbox Shopping Centre and other City Centre attractions

10. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal in Shropshire, it takes around ten hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man – perfect for a short break. Along the way, boaters pass through a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.

Drifters' Top 10 Waterside Pubs

Drifters’ Top 10 Waterside Pubs

Hundreds of pubs can be found alongside Britain’s inland waterways, many of them historic rural locals offering the perfect place to eat, drink and relax on a canal boat holiday.

With names like the Lock, the Navigation, the Narrowboat and Bridge, canalside pubs often date back to the construction of the canals over 200 years ago, when they provided a place for navvies and canal builders to live, and later for the boatmen running cargoes.
To celebrate the lovely Spring weather, here at Drifters we’ve put together our Top 10 waterside pubs for 2018:

1. Watch out for dinosaurs at The Blue Lias – this historic pub on the Grand Union Canal near Stockton in Warwickshire, was named after the limestone and clay that is quarried locally and is derived from material laid down in the early Jurassic seas, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The Blue Lias is eight locks and less than a mile away from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Stockton Top Lock.

2. Try a pie at the Fleur De Lys – this pretty 17th century country pub in the Warwickshire village of Lowsonford has a lovely beer garden on the banks of the Stratford Canal and offers 11 different types of pie, all served with seasonal vegetables, chunky chips and gravy. The Fleur De Lys can be reached in just over three hours from our canal boat hire base at on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen, near Henley-in-Arden.

3. Enjoy the riverside gardens at The Nag’s Head – this award-winning pub on the River Thames in Abingdon offers drinkers and diners a peaceful retreat in its riverside gardens, with classic British food locally sourced. It takes around five hours, passing through six locks and travelling 15 miles, to reach Abingdon from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base on the River Thames near Oxford.

4. Take in the view at The Telford Inn – looking out across the World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the historic Telford Inn on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor makes the most of it waterside position and views with plenty of outdoor seating. Food is served daily and all dishes are freshly prepared, including their choice of six kinds of burger and tasty Little Dragons children’s menu. The Telford Inn can be reached in less than two hours from our boat yard on the Llangollen Canal at Chirk.

5. Visit Neil Morrissey’s Plume of Feathers – this popular pub on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Barlastan in Staffordshire is part owned by ‘Men Behaving Badly’ star, Neil Morrissey. Visitors can sample some of Neil’s own beers and ales choose from a menu of homemade dishes made from fresh local ingredients. It takes just over three hours to reach Barlastan from our Peak District canal boat hire base at Etruria in Stoke on Trent.

6. See the Cotswolds from The Cross Guns at Avoncliffe – this 17th century Wiltshire inn has idyllic riverside pub gardens offering panoramic views of the foothills of the Cotswolds and the Kennet & Avon Canal crossing the river via the beautiful Avoncliffe Aqueduct. The Cross Guns serves a selection of British pub favourite food, local ales and cider and craft beer. It takes around an hour and a half, travelling four miles and passing through just one lock, to reach Avoncliffe from our narrowboat hire base at Hilperton, on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge.

7. Enjoy home cooked food at The Stubbing Wharf – as well as a canalside beer garden and an excellent choice of real ales, the Stubbing Wharf on the Rochdale Canal at Hebden Bridge offers diners home cooked food, including traditional Sunday lunch roasts. Built soon after the completion of the Rochdale Canal in 1789 to serve the needs of travellers on both the canal and the turnpike road, its curious name derives from the ancient settlement of Stubbing, an Anglo-Saxon word for clearing where the tree stumps have been left. From our canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge, it takes around five hours to reach Hebden Bridge, travelling seven miles and passing through 10 locks.

8. Sample locally brewed ales at The Olde Barbridge Inn – this historic pub on the Shropshire Union Canal near Nantwich sells a selection of local ales brewed at its own local brewery, and serves classic British food made with local produce. The Olde Barbridge Inn is an hour’s cruise from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury in Cheshire.

9. Walk in the footsteps of Harrison Ford at The Narrow Boat – with its tranquil canalside location and beer garden, the family owned Narrow Boat on the Llangollen Canal at Whittington offers hearty pub food and real ale. Visit here and you’ll be following in the foot-steps of Hollywood legend Harrison Ford, who enjoyed a meal and a pint or two of Wells Bombardier here as part of his canal boat holiday with Calista Flockhart in 2004. The Narrow Boat can be reached from our narrowboat hire base at Blackwater Meadow in just over an hour.

10. The George Inn at Bathampton – dating back to the 12th-century when it was part of a monastery for the Prior of Bath, the picturesque Grade II listed George Inn on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bathampton is packed with character. Its delightful waterside and rural setting make it a popular destination for canal boat holiday-makers. The George is just over a mile from our narrowboat rental base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath.

Top 7 ghostly going-ons on the waterways

Stan Cullimore’s River Thames Diary – it’s a lovely way to live

There’s a lot to be said for messing about in boats. Living life beyond the river banks. It’s a wonderful way to slow down and unwind. Which is why Mrs Cullimore and I recently decided to spend a week slowly chugging up and down the River Thames to Wallingford and back.

Setting off from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Eynsham near Witney, our home for the duration was the four-berth, 58ft narrowboat ‘Knighton’. With a solid double bed at one end, a delightful living room at the other and a bijou galley in the middle, it was perfect for seven days of relaxing adventures.

Here’s my Captain’s Log from what seemed like a Galaxy far, far away…

Day 1 – Eynsham to Godstow Abbey

Locks – 2
Miles – 4
Cruising hours – 2
Scenery – We’re in the heart of the country. Gently rolling away as far as the eye can see. Up ahead are glimpses of those dreaming spires of Oxford.
Pubs – The Trout. Great beer, friendly staff, lots of WiFi, all in all, delightful.
Highlight – After mooring up for the night and going for a stroll, we found a sign; “Be Your Beautiful Best” and decided to make it our motto for the week ahead.

Day 2 – Godstow Abbey to Oxford

Locks – 1
Miles – 2
Cruising hours – 1
Scenery – Wide open meadows give way to spiky castles on the skyline. If Willy Wonka did architecture, this is what he’d make. It’s fabulous.
Pubs – So many, it’s hard to choose. We ended up at The Punter, mainly because it was only a hop and a skip from where we moored for the night.
Highlight – Strolling into Oxford to explore, stopping for a coffee and finding a string quartet busking right next to us. Most excellent.

Day 3 – Oxford to Abingdon

Locks – 4
Miles – 8.5
Cruising hours – 3.5
Scenery – The countryside in this part of the world is very pretty. Gently folding hills, patchwork fields of yellow and green swaying in the breeze. Approaching Abingdon by river was like watching a picture postcard come to life.
Pubs – We moored just round the corner from The Broad Face. A lovely old pub built on the edge of the river, reached by a delightful stroll along the Thames Path.
Highlight – Making our way downstream from Oxford we found ourselves caught up among a crowd of rowers. Short boats, long ones and everything in between. They splashed and twirled their way round each other, like crazy boat-borne ballerinas.

Day 4 – Abingdon to Wallingford

Locks – 4
Miles – 13
Cruising hours – 4
Scenery – Another day, another lovely slice of countryside gliding past our windows. But the real stars of today’s journey were the houses dotted along the riverbank. We’ve left suburbia far behind. Some of the riverside mansions have boat sheds bigger than our house.
Pubs – We moored near the bridge opposite a road filled with friendly looking pubs, including the Old Post Office. Thought it would be rude to be this close and not drop in for a pint or two.
Highlight – We’ve seen lots of wildlife all week. Great to watch the Red Kites that have taken over the skies of Oxfordshire. When one of them swooped down to land beside the boat and take a drink from the river this afternoon, it was so exciting I forgot to take a picture.

Day 5 – back up to Abingdon

Locks – 4
Miles – 13
Cruising hours – 4.5
Scenery – We’re on our way back up river, however today, we’re feeling more relaxed, so made time to chat with some of the friendly lock keepers.
Pubs – Getting a bit sentimental we went back to the Broad Face.
Highlight – Chinooks. We saw loads of those enormous double ended military helicopters. Apparently, they’ve got a base somewhere down this way and to reach it from London, they follow the Thames to help them navigate.

Day 6 – Abingdon to Oxford

Locks – 4
Miles – 8.5
Cruising hours – 4
Scenery – Still on our way back and still enjoying the scenery in reverse.
Pubs – Went for a short stroll into Oxford and found The Jam Factory, a really nice place full of students who all wanted to make a fuss of our dog Mabel.
Highlight – The beautiful bridges of Oxford county. Whether they are built for trains, cars, people or bikes, made of stone, steel or wood, there’s something lovely about all of them.

Day 7 – Oxford to Eynsham

Locks – 3
Miles – 5
Cruising hours – 3
Scenery – The sun shone, the birds sang, everything in the waterside meadows looked green and pleasant.
Pubs – Stopped just short of the narrowboat hire base for our last night. Meant we didn’t have to travel far the next morning and we were very close to, The Talbot Inn where we headed for a last night pint. Very nice.
Highlight – One thing you notice when you’re on a boat, is how friendly everyone is. Doesn’t matter if they’re riding along on a boat, passing by on the towpath or just enjoying the view – everyone waves and says hello. It’s a lovely way to live.

Top 7 canal boat holidays for beginners

Drifters Top 5 Summer Canal Boat Holidays

Narrowboat holidays are great for families – giving the chance to set off together on a micro-adventure afloat, learning how to work the locks and speak the boating lingo, as well as spot wildlife and explore waterside attractions along the way.

It’s easy to learn how to steer a narrowboat and you don’t need a licence.  Tuition is included as part of all our holiday packages.

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

Our short break summer holiday prices on a boat for four people start at £625, £965 for a week.

Here are our top five summer holidays afloat for 2017:

  1. Glide across the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular on the network. From our canal boat hire base at Chirk, the journey to the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen and back offers a fantastic short break holiday for families, with four locks to go through and the magnificent World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to pass over, offering incredible views of the Dee Valley 30 metres below.
  2. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh – from Drifters’ base at Falkirk, Edinburgh Quay is a sedate 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal, perfect for a gentle week away. The journey starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel (the world’s first rotating boat lift) and then passes through the lovely lowland villages of Linlithgow, Broxburn and Ratho.  Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street and many of the City’s, Mary King Close, frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.
  3. Cruise along the River Thames to Oxford – from our narrowboat hire base on the River Thames at Eynsham near Witney, it’s a peaceful three-hour journey to the beautiful City of Oxford. Most of the locks on the Thames are manned so it’s a nice easy journey for beginners.  Once in Oxford, moor up close to the City Centre and take time to explore some of the its historic attractions, including Oxford Castle, an 11th century motte-and-bailey castle and the Bodleian Library with its stunning 17th century Schools Quadrangle.  On a week’s holiday, canal boat holiday makers can continue travelling east along the Thames to Henley, passing through Abingdon and Wallingford along the way.
  4. Journey One-way across the Pennines – starting from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Skipton, this week-long holiday is truly one of the great canal journeys, taking boaters across the backbone of England. The scenery varies from the timeless calm of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal summit to the hubbub of the Leeds City Centre waterfront, and includes the Bingley Five Rise locks, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways, and the opportunity to visit Sir Titus Salt’s World Heritage Status model town at Saltaire.
  5. Take the Grand Union Canal to Warwick Castle – from our boat yard at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, it takes just one day to cruise to the historic centre of Warwick. Here canal boat holiday-makers can take time to explore the magnificent Warwick Castle on the banks of the River Avon, said to be ‘Britain’s greatest medieval experience’.  On a week’s holiday, boaters can cruise the Warwickshire Ring, travelling 101 miles, through 94 locks in around 54 hours through a mixture of urban and rural landscapes, with highlights including the pretty canal village of Braunston, the awesome flight of 21 locks at Hatton and Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin.

 

Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2016

Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2016

With boats travelling at a maximum speed of 4mph and over 3,000 miles of navigable peaceful inland waterways to explore across Britain, canal boat holidays really are the fastest way to slow down.

From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, narrowboat holiday-makers can use their boat as a floating holiday home and base to explore.

Here are our top 10 holidays for 2016:

1. Celebrate the Leeds & Liverpool Canal’s Bicentenary…in 2016 it will be 200 years since the magnificent Leeds & Liverpool Canal was completed. Linking the cities of Liverpool and Leeds, at 127 miles long the Leeds & Liverpool Canal is the longest canal in Britain built as a single waterway. Leaving Liverpool, the canal passes through East Lancashire then crosses the Pennine countryside and picturesque villages on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, before reaching Leeds. Along the way, boaters pass Sir Titus Salt’s World Heritage Status model town at Saltaire and the spectacular Bingley 5-Rise locks, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. Canal boat holiday-makers can take a one-way trip across the Pennines starting at our base at Sowerby Bridge and ending at Barnoldswick. The week-long journey travels 79 miles, through 79 locks and takes about 45 hours.

2. Navigate the Cheshire Ring…starting from the Drifters’ base at Anderton, this superb cruising ring, which in 2016 celebrates 40 years since its restoration, travels 97 miles, through 92 locks and takes around 55 hours to cruise. The journey takes boaters through the heart of Manchester and the Peak District via the Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals. Highlights include: the spectacular vertical Anderton Boat Lift, also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’; Preston Brook Tunnel; Dunham Massey Hall and its working Elizabethan Mill alongside the Bridgewater Canal; Castlefield Basin; Manchester’s China Town; the Rochdale 9 locks; Buxworth Basin, Whaley Bridge and the glorious Top Lock at Marple; and the Cheshire Plain and its heavily locked ‘Heartbreak Hill’.

3. Cruise through Shakespeare country…in 2016 it will be 400 years since the death of the Bard. Mark this anniversary with a cruise through Shakespeare country, starting with a picturesque six-hour journey to Stratford upon Avon from Drifters’ base at Wootton Wawen, near Henley in Arden in Warwickshire – perfect for a short break. Boaters can stop off along the way to visit Mary Arden’s Tudor Farm in the canalside village of Wilmcote where Shakespeare’s mother grew up, and once in Stratford, moor up in Bancroft Basin, just a stone’s throw from the Swan Theatre and the town’s shops, restaurants and museums.

4. Explore the River Thames & visit Oxford afloat…Drifters’ Oxford base is a tranquil three-hour cruise along the River Thames from the City centre, where canal boat holiday-makers can moor-up close to Hythe Bridge and use their boat as a base to the explore ‘the city of dreaming spires’. New for 2016, the luxurious 12-berth ‘Andromede’ has extra room to relax outside and more space to chill out inside, plus Wifi and a large TV – perfect for extended family holidays or a city break afloat for groups of girls or boys.

5. Travel Brindley’s Trent & Mersey…2016 will mark the 300th anniversary since birth of James Brindley, one of the most notable engineers of the 18th century. Brindley worked on the construction of a number of canals, including the Trent & Mersey Canal, the country’s first long distance canal stretching 94 miles from the River Trent at Derwent Mouth in Derbyshire to the River Mersey via the Bridgewater Canal at Preston Brook in Cheshire. Canal boat holiday-makers can celebrate Brindley’s birth with a journey on the Trent & Mersey, starting at our base at Acton Bridge in Cheshire. On a short break, boaters can head south to Middlewich, travelling through glorious Cheshire countryside or on a week’s break continue on to the medieval City of Chester, one of the best preserved walled cities in Britain.

6. See the largest pair of equine statues on the planet…at 30-metres high, the magnificent Kelpies stand at the gateway to the Forth & Clyde Canal in Glasgow. Based on the heavy horses that one plied the canal towpaths, these mythical water horses are an extraordinary site and form part of a new 350-hectare park at the end of the Forth & Clyde Canal near Grangemouth. From Drifters’ base at Falkirk, narrowboat holiday-makers can reach the Kelpies on a short break, and also enjoy a turn through the iconic Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift.

7. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ and visit the Eisteddfod…the Llangollen Canal’s incredible World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales stands at over 38 metres high above the Dee Valley. It consists of a cast iron trough supported on iron arched ribs, carried on 19 hollow pillars. Each span is 16-metres wide. 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. From Drifters’ base at Chirk, canal boat holiday-makers can travel across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and on to the pretty town of Llangollen to visit the famous Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod 5-10 July 2016, where each year around 4,000 performers and 50,000 visitors converge to sing and dance.

8. Float along to the Roman Baths in Bath…on a short break from Drifters’ base at Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, boaters can travel along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal and reach the centre of the World Heritage City of Bath in seven hours, with just seven locks to negotiate along the way. As well as stunning Georgian architecture, great shopping, museums and restaurants, Bath is home to the award winning Roman Baths, site of one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world and the perfect place to find out exactly what the Romans did for us.

9. Head to the historic heart of the canal network…from our canal boat hire base at Stretton under Fosse, on a short break boaters can cruise along the North Oxford Canal through delightful Northamptonshire countryside to historic Braunston. This pretty village on a hill, which lies at junction of the Grand Union and Oxford canals, thrived for over 150 years as an important stop-off point for canal traders carrying goods from the Midlands to London. Today Braunston is a popular place to visit with a good choice of canalside pubs and the UK’s largest annual historic narrowboat rally, 24-25 June 2016.

10. Glide through the Breacon 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, this peaceful waterway, with very few locks, offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views. From Drifters’ base Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, on a week’s break, boaters can cruise to Brecon and back, passing through Georgian Crickhowell, with its fascinating 13th century castle, and Talybont-on-Usk with walks to the waterfalls at Blaen y Glyn. Brecon itself is home to a cathedral, theatre, cinema, castle ruins and stunning Georgian architecture, as well as some of the best views of the Brecon Beacons from Pen y Fan, the highest point in Southern Britain at 886m.

Get the family afloat this summer

Top 5 Easter canal boat holidays

Canal boat holidays are fantastic for families, offering the chance to set off on an adventure together – learn how to work the locks, navigate tunnels, speak the boating lingo, spot wildlife, explore traffic-free towpaths and visit waterside attractions along the way.

Easter prices start at £495 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £685 for a week.  Here are our top 5 destinations this Easter:

1. Boat to Birmingham & enjoy Cadbury World’s Easter Eggstravaganza…Perfect for beginners, boaters can travel lock-free to Birmingham in just five hours from our canal boat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, stopping off along the way to celebrate an eggstra-special Easter at the canalside Cadbury World. With more canals than Venice, there’s no better way to travel into Birmingham City Centre where over-night moorings are available at Gas Street Basin, close to Brindley Place. There’s plenty for families to see and do in Britain’s second city, including penguin feeding at the National Sea Life Centre or watch the West End smash hit show ‘Evita’, starring Wet Wet Wet singer Marti Pellow, at the Hippodrome.

2. Visit Georgian Bath and its Award-winning Egg theatre…on a short break narrowboat holiday from our  base at Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, boaters can travel along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal and reach the centre of the World Heritage City of Bath in seven hours, with just seven locks to negotiate along the way. As well as stunning architecture, great shopping and restaurants, Bath has many fantastic family attractions, including the Roman Baths and the Theatre Royal’s award-winning egg theatre, especially for children, young people and their families.

3. Enjoy an Easter Egg hunt at the Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum…close to J15a of the M1, Drifters’ base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire is easy to get to and offers a great variety of routes. On a short break, boaters can travel south to Fenny Stratford and back, cruising through delightful countryside and the picturesque village of Stoke Bruerne, with its friendly waterside pubs and fascinating Canal Museum, offering Easter Egg Hunts 4-12 March. On a week’s cruise, canal boat holiday-makers can head to the historic town of Market Harborough via the Foxton staircase of locks, with wonderful views of the Leicestershire countryside and the chance to find out about the intriguing Foxton Inclined Plane boat lift which once operated there.

4. Take part in an Eggstraordinary Eggventure Trail at Oxford’s Museum of Natural History…our Oxford base at Eynsham on the River Thames is a three-hour cruise from Oxford, where boaters can find moorings within walking distance of city centre attractions. This Easter, visitors to the University of Oxford’s Museum of Natural History can Eggsplore the Museum with an eggciting egg-hunter’s trail. Other family-friendly attractions in Oxford include: climbing the 14th century Carfax Tower to take in a view of Oxford’s ‘dreaming spires’; seeing the witch in the bottle and shrunken heads at the Pitt Rivers Museum; touring the incredible Ashmolean Museum, with collections from the Neolithic era to the present day; discovering the real Harry Potter Hogwarts Hall at Christ Church College; and stocking-up on goodies in the Covered Market.

5. See Barbara Hepworth’s egg-like forms at the Hepworth Wakefield…Travelling gently along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation from our’ base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, it takes 12 hours to reach Wakefield, with moorings right outside The Hepworth Wakefield. This Easter visitors can enjoy the Museum’s free ‘Making a Modern Collection’ exhibition, featuring works by Barbara Hepworth, L S Lowry, Henry Moore and Ben Nicholson, as well as some special Easter family activities. Along the way, boaters can stop off at: the historic market town of Elland and enjoy at meal the Barge & Barrel gastro pub; historic Brighouse with markets, shops and places to eat; and Mirfield with medieval stocks and ducking stool.