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Top 10 Summer Canal Boat Holidays for 2022

Travelling through the countryside 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 550 narrowboats for hire from 45 bases across England, Scotland and Wales.  Our summer holiday prices for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people start at £979, and at £1,530 for a week.

Tuition is included as part of all our holiday packages.

All our narrowboats 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 2022:

  1. Visit Skipton and its medieval castle

On a short break from our Barnoldswick boatyard, narrow boat holiday-makers can head east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Skipton and back.  The journey travels a total of 26 miles, passes through 30 locks (15 each way) and takes around 20 hours.  This breath-taking route winds along the contours of the side of Airedale, with extensive views of sheep country – farmhouses, barns, stone walls and the occasional village or town.  Once in Skipton, you can moor in the centre of the town, visit shops and restaurants and explore Skipton Castle, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.

  1. Glide through the Usk Valley to Brecon and back

From our base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, on a week’s break you can navigate through the wooded Usk Valley to the pretty market town of Brecon, in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park.  Brecon offers theatre, cinema, cafes and restaurants and east access to the National Park, with walking routes, cycle hire and pony trekking.  Along the way, you can stop off at Llanfoist to take the old tramway into the Black Mountains, visit the 13th century caste at Crickhowell and walk to the Blaen y Glyn waterfalls at Talybont-on-Usk.  The total journey there and back travels 51 miles, passing through 12 locks (six each way) and takes around 25 hours.

  1. Cruise along the River Thames to Oxford

On a short break from our canal boat hire base on the River Thames at Eynsham near Witney, you 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, you can moor up a short walk from the City Centre, and take time to explore some of the historic attractions.  Climb the Carfax Tower for views across the City of Dreaming Spires, visit the Bodleian Library with its stunning 17th century Schools Quadrangle, and explore the University of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology.

  1. Travel the Warwickshire Ring

On a two-week holiday from our Napton base on the Grand Union Canal, you can navigate the popular Warwickshire Ring.  The route follows 104 miles of urban and rural waterways, passes through 120 locks and takes around 54 cruising hours. Highlights include: the awesome Flight of 21 locks at Hatton; Warwick Castle; Cadbury World; and Birmingham’s Brindleyplace, home to the Sea Life Centre.

  1. Glide across the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular waterways on the network.  On a short break from our base at Chirk, you can travel to the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen and back.  Along the way, you’ll cruise the 11 miles of the Llangollen Canal that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, including the awesome Chirk and Pontcysyllte aqueducts.

  1. Travel along the peaceful Ashby Canal to Shakerstone

On a week’s holiday from our Braunston base on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, you can explore 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.  The journey to Shakerstone and back, travels 95 miles, passes through eight locks (four each way) and takes around 37 hours.

  1. Navigate through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh

From our base at Falkirk, Edinburgh Quay is an 11-hour, 32-mile journey along the Union Canal, perfect for a mid-week break.  The journey starts with a trip through the world’s first rotating boat lift, the Falkirk Wheel. You’ll then pass through two tunnels and soon after across the magnificent Avon Aqueduct.  Then it’s on 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 top attractions.

  1. Cruise to the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port

On a week’s holiday from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can reach the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port.  The museum brings together a unique fleet of historic boats, docks, warehouses, forge, stables and workers cottages, collections and archives, to tell the story of Britain’s canals.  It takes around 11 hours to cruise to the National Waterways Museum from our boat yard on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury.  The journey there and back travels 22 miles and passes through 32 locks (16 each way).

  1. Visit Georgian Bath afloat

On a short break from our canal boat hire base at Devizes, you can navigate to the beautiful World Heritage Status City of Bath.  The journey there and back travels 39 miles of the Kennet & Avon Canal, passes through 20 locks (10 each way) and takes around 19 cruising hours.  Along the way, you’ll pass a series of canalside pubs, and you’ll cross over the beautiful Bath stone Avoncliff and Dundas aqueducts.  There are moorings at Sydney Wharf, a 15-minute walk from Bath City centre.

  1. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton

On a four night break from our base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can reach the historic market town of Market Drayton.  Along the way, you’ll pass through a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.  And through tunnels of trees in the deep canal cuttings. The total journey there and back travels 42 miles, passes through 12 locks and takes around 19 hours.

Easter Days Out on the water

Day boat hire on Britain’s peaceful network of inland waterways is a great way to enjoy the countryside this spring, and offers a great family day out in the Easter holidays.

Drifters offers day boat hire from 14 boat yards across England and Wales, with prices starting from less than £10 per person.  Full tuition is included so if you are new to narrow boating, it’s a great opportunity to get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.

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

Here’s a guide to our Top 14 day boat destinations for Easter 2022:

1. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Oswestry

From Drifters’ day boat hire base at Blackwater Meadow Marina on the Llangollen Canal, near Ellesmere, you can cruise to Oswestry and back.  The route passes through farmland, glacial scenery and beautiful green countryside.  The journey there and back takes around five hours and there are no locks.

*Day boat ‘Lazy Days’ can carry up to 10 people. Prices start at £109.

2. Glide through the remains of the Forest of Arden

From our day boat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can cruise north through the remains of the Forest of Arden to Kings Norton Junction.  There’s a choice of pubs to moor at along the way, including the canalside Crown and Weighbridge pubs at Alvechurch.  The route is lock-free but there are two tunnels to pass through, including Wast Hill Tunnel, which is nearly 2.5km long.

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

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

From our day boat hire base at Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, boaters can enjoy incredible mountain views on the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the popular Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62.

*Day boats ‘Robin’ and Rooster’ can carry up to eight people each.  Prices start from £137.

4. Cruise to The Mary Arden Inn at Wilmcote in Warwickshire

From our narrow boat hire base Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford-Upon-Avon, boaters can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote to enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn.  The journey takes two-and-a-half hours each way, and crosses over the impressive Edstone Aqueduct with beautiful views across the Warwickshire countryside.

*Day boats ‘Dolly’ and ‘Charlie’ can carry up to 10 people each. Prices start at £99 weekdays, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

5. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

From our canal boat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes less than 20 minutes to reach the World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  Standing at over 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, this incredible structure offers boaters stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  After cruising over the Aqueduct, there are two tunnels and another aqueduct to cross, before reaching the The Bridge Inn at Chirk.

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

6. Boat to Avoncliff Aqueduct and the Cross Guns pub

From our narrow boat hire base at Hilperton Marina on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge, you can head west past the picturesque town of Bradford on Avon and its striking 14th century Tithe Barn and on to Avoncliff Aqueduct for lunch at the Cross Guns.  The return journey to Avoncliff takes around six hours and there’s just one lock to pass through each way.

*Day boat ‘Cheers’ can carry up to 10 people.  Prices start at £119.

7. Navigate through Cannock Chase to the Wolseley Arms

From our day boat hire base Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, you can cruise four miles, passing through two locks, to reach the historic market town of Rugeley.  The journey, which takes around two hours, passes the through the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the popular Wolseley Arms pub at Wolseley Bridge.

*Day boats ‘Daphne’ and ‘Abi’ can carry up to 10 people each.  Weekday hire starts at £99, £150 on weekends and bank holidays.

8. Cruise through the West Berkshire countryside to the Spring Inn

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

*Day boat ‘Heyday’ can carry up to 8 people.  Prices start from £129.

9. Boat along ‘The Shroppie’ to Nantwich Aqueduct

From our canal boat hire base at Bunbury Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal near Tarporley, day boaters can cruise south for six miles, and travel across the impressive Grade II* listed Nantwich Aqueduct, enjoying with panoramic views across the town.  With no locks along the way, the journey to Nantwich takes around two hours.

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

10. Day boat through the woodlands of Marbury Country Park to Middlewich

From our day boat hire centre at Anderton Marina, next to the incredible Anderton Boat Lift, boaters can travel to Middlewich and back.  The journey passes through Marbury Country Park and Marston Flash.  There’s a choice of pubs to stop at, including the Broken Cross at Rudheath.  The journey to Middlewich and back takes around six hours.  There are no locks.

*Day boat ‘Daydream’ can carry up to 12 people.  Prices start at £139.

11. Cruise to the picturesque village of Napton-on-the-Hill

From our day boat hire centre at Braunston on the Grand Union Canal, you can cruise to the historic village of Napton-on-the-Hill.  The journey, which takes around three hours, takes boaters through the Northamptonshire countryside and into Warwickshire.  Once at Napton, day boaters can moor up and walk into the village where there’s a choice of pubs, including the Kings Head.

*Day boat ‘Ouzel II’ can carry up to 12 people.  Weekday prices are £150, £195 for weekends and bank holidays.

12. Navigate through Blisworth Tunnel to Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum

From our canal boat hire base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal near Northampton, you can navigate to the pretty village of Stoke Bruerne, home of the Canal Museum and waterside cafe.  The route takes boaters through the Blisworth Tunnel, which at 3076 yards long is the third longest on the canal network.  It takes around one and half hours to cruise to Stoke Bruerne, including thirty minutes to cruise through the tunnel.

*Day boat ‘Day Lark’ can carry up to 12 people.  Prices start at £129.

13. Cruise through the Shropshire Lake District to Ellesmere

From our narrow boat hire centre at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal, day boaters travel to Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  The journey takes around two-and-a-half hours, cruising through eight miles of beautiful countryside, and Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park along the way.

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

14. Boat past Bittell Reservoirs to Hopwood

From Alvechurch on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can cruise to the Hopwood House Inn and back.  The return journey takes around four-and-a-half hours, passes through the 2,726 yard long Wast Hill Tunnel and past the Bittell Reservoirs, a haven for wildlife.

*Day boat ‘Away Day’ can carry up to 10 people.  Prices start at £137.

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

Top 6 short breaks for the Jubilee Weekend

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Weekend (3-5 June), offers the chance to explore Britain’s beautiful 3,000-mile network of inland waterways by canal boat.

Over the course of her reign, Her Majesty The Queen has made a number of visits to the waterways, and iconic waterside attractions.

Drifters Waterway Holidays (drifters.co.uk) offers over 550 boats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales.  2022 hire prices over the Jubilee Weekend and Half Term holiday start at £985 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £1,365 for a week.

To celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Drifters’ has listed its Top 6 short break canal boat holidays for the Jubilee Weekend:

1. Travel through the Falkirk Wheel and on to Edinburgh

From Drifters’ canal boat hire base at the Falkirk Wheel, officially opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth II in 2002, Edinburgh Quay is a sedate 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal.  The journey, perfect for four-night mid-week break, starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first and only rotating boat lift. Once through the Wheel, boaters continue navigating through the Scottish Lowlands, passing through the villages of Linlithgow, Broxburn and Ratho.  Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, a five-minute walk from Princes Street.

2. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath

On a short break from our narrow boat hire base at Devizes in Wiltshire, boaters can travel along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Sydney Wharf, on the edge of Bath City Centre.  Drifters’ Devizes canal boat hire base is at the bottom of the magnificent flight of locks at Caen Hill, officially reopened by The Queen in 1990.  One of the locks is named in her honour.  The journey to Bath travels 19 miles, passing through eight locks and takes around nine hours.

3. Cruise to the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port

From our boat yard at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, it takes 10 hours to reach Ellesmere Port.  In 1979, The Queen visited the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port, and boarded a historic working boat.  The journey to Ellesmere Port takes 10 hours, travelling 21 miles and passing through 12 locks.  The route takes boaters through the ancient City of Chester along the way.

4. Navigate to Stratford upon Avon’s Swan Theatre

From Drifters’ narrowboat rental base at on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen in Warwickshire, it’s a picturesque six-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Shakespeare’s Stratford. Once there, boaters can moor up in Bancroft Basin close the town’s famous Swan Theatre, visited by Queen Elizabeth II in 1986.

5. See the largest pair of equine statues on the planet – at 30-metres high, the magnificent Kelpies stand at the gateway to the new extension to the Forth & Clyde Canal, opened by The Queen in 2017. The Queen Elizabeth II Canal links the Forth & Clyde Canal with the Firth of Forth.  Based on the heavy horses that one plied the canal towpaths, the Kelpies form part of a new 350-hectare Helix park at the end of the canal extension at Grangemouth.  From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Falkirk, boaters can reach the Kelpies in around four hours, cruising four miles and passing through 14 locks.

6. Visit Coventry Cathedral by canal boat 

From our narrowboat hire base at Braunston, it takes 12 hours to reach moorings in Coventry Basin.  From there, it’s a short walk to Coventry Cathedral visited by The Queen in 1981, for a special re-dedication service to mark the Royal British Legion’s Diamond Jubilee. Travelling 28 miles and passing through just four locks, the journey to Coventry takes boaters through a series of canalside towns and villages, including Hillmorton and Rugby.

 

 

Top 9 canalside events in 2022

Britain’s canals and rivers host hundreds of exciting events each year, bringing people to the waterways and celebrating the things that make them special.

These events make great destinations for canal boat holiday-makers, so we’ve put together our top nine events for 2022, along with information on our nearest canal boat hire bases:

  1. Easter Boat Gathering, Friday 15 April to Monday 18 April

The annual Easter Boat Gathering at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port marks the official start of the cruising season.  Over the weekend, dozens of boats will moor up across the Museum’s seven-acre site and visitors can enjoy live music, children’s activities, workshop tours and historic boats.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire bases are at Bunbury and Anderton, both on the Shropshire Union Canal.

  1. IWA Canalway Cavalcade, Saturday 30 April to Monday 2 May

This annual event at Little Venice celebrates the best in life on the waterways in London.  The event includes live music, an illuminated boats procession and kids’ entertainment.  Drifters’ nearest base is at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

  1. St Richard’s Canal Festival, Friday 29 April to Monday 2 May

This annual event organised by the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Society takes place in Vines Park alongside the Droitwich Barge Canal.  Visitors can enjoy live music, boats, classic cars, art workshops, community stalls, a real ale bar and the annual ‘Great Droitwich Duck Race’ with over 1,000 plastic ducks competing.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat rental bases are Worcester and Stoke Prior.

  1. Rickmansworth Canal Festival, Saturday 21 May to Sunday 22 May

Celebrating canals, the community and the environment, the annual Rickmansworth Canal Festival attracts over 100 canal boats from across the country.  Occupying part of the Aquadrome and the Grand Union Canal towpath between Stockers Lock and Batchworth Lock, the event hosts a range of music, performing arts, displays, presentations, traders and catering.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston.

  1. Crick Boat Show, Friday 3 June to Sunday 5 June

Three hundred exhibitors will gather at Crick Marina on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal near Daventry, to showcase thousands of inland waterways products and services across the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Weekend.  Now Britain’s biggest inland waterways festival, Crick Boat Show offers visitors free boat trips, over 50 boats to look around, live music and a wide variety of food and drink stalls.  Drifters’ nearest narrow boat hire bases are at Gayton, Braunston and Market Harborough.

  1. Chester Dragon Boat Festival, Sunday 10 July

This annual and very colourful charity event on the River Dee in Chester sees over 20 dragon boat teams of up to 16 paddlers and a drummer battling to become the champions.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire rental centres are Bunbury, Anderton and Brewood.

  1. Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Thursday 7 July to Sunday 10 July

Every year thousands of people descend on the pretty town of Llangollen on the Llangollen Canal to celebrate dance, music, costume and culture.  The Llangollen Eisteddfod is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with four days of live music events, including Alec Jones and Russell Watson performing together to open the programme.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire bases are at Trevor, Chirk and Blackwater Meadow.

  1. Stone Food & Drink Festival, Friday July 15 to Sunday 17 July 2022

Staffordshire’s biggest celebration of all things gastronomic takes place at the Georgian market town of Stone on the Trent & Mersey Canal.  The festival will host cookery demonstrations and talks, licensed bars, street food, live music and family fun.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat rental bases are Great Haywood, Brewood and Peak District.

  1. Stratford upon Avon Food Festival, Saturday 17 September to Sunday 18 September

This two day annual event in Shakespeare’s Stratford offers cooking demonstrations, workshops, food stalls, live entertainment and competitions.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Stratford Canal at Wotton Wawen.

 

Celebrate 20 years since Anderton Boat Lift reopened

Next year, the Anderton Boat Lift in Cheshire will celebrate 20 years since the completion of its restoration in 2002.

Nicknamed ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’, and listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways, Anderton lifts barges 50 feet from the River Weaver Navigation to the Trent & Mersey Canal.

Boat lifts are faster and more water efficient than lock flights, and Anderton is the world’s oldest operational boat lift.  The Anderton Boat Lift was designed by canal engineer Edwin Clark and originally opened in 1875.  The imposing iron structure is 60 feet high, 85 feet long and 49 feet wide.  It lifts boats up and down between the two waterways in two giant tanks.  Each tanks weighs 252 tonnes when full of water and is big enough for two narrowboats or one barge.

The Lift operated until 1983, when serious deterioration of the structure was discovered.  By 2001, £7million had been raised to fund its restoration and in 2002 the lift reopened.

To celebrate 20 years since the restoration, we’ve listed our Top 5 narrow boat holidays which include the chance to take a passage through the Lift:

  1. Take a short break to the Lift from Bunbury

From our canal boat hire base at Bunbury in Cheshire, it takes nine hours, passing through 10 locks to reach Anderton Boat Lift.  The journey begins on the Shropshire Union Canal and transfers onto the Trent & Mersey Canal at Middlewich Junction.

  1. Cruise to Barbridge via the Lift from Acton Bridge

On a four night break from our narrow boat hire base at Acton Bridge on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Northwich in Cheshire, boaters can reach Barbridge via the Anderton Boat Lift.  The journey there and back cruises 42 miles, passes through 16 locks and takes around 21 hours.

  1. Navigate to Nantwich from Anderton

On a four night mid-week break setting off from our boat yard at the bottom of the Anderton Boat Lift, canal boat holiday-makers can reach Nantwich.  The journey takes boaters down the Trent & Mersey Canal to Middlewich, and then on to the Shropshire Union Canal to Nantwich.  The journey there and back travels 46 miles, passes through 16 locks and takes around 21 cruising hours.

  1. Complete the Cheshire Ring

On a very active week, or a more relaxed 10-day or two-week break from Acton Bridge, boaters can complete the Cheshire Ring.  The route, which travels 97 miles, passes through 92 locks and takes around 56 cruising hours, takes boaters past the Anderton Boat Lift. The Cheshire Ring takes canal boat holiday-makers along sections of the Trent & Mersey, Bridgewater, Rochdale, Ashton and Peak Forest canals.

  1. Boat to Anderton from Whixall

Boaters can reach Anderton on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Whixall Marina on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal.  The route transfers onto the Shropshire Union Canal at Hurleston Junction and onto the Trent & Mersey Canal at Middlewich Junction.  The journey there and back, including going up and down the Lift, travels 82 miles, passes through 54 locks and takes around 48 cruising hours.

For more information about the Anderton Boat Lift, and to book your passage through the Lift, visit https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/places-to-visit/anderton-boat-lift-visitor-centre/boating-through-anderton-boat-lift or call 0303 0404 040.

Go canal boating for a haunting Halloween afloat

With spooky tunnels, misty towpaths and plenty of ghosts, Britain’s 200-year old canal network provides the perfect backdrop for a haunting Halloween.  Drifters’ narrow boat hire prices for boats for up to four people over Halloween start at £560 for a weekend break, £740 for a week.

Here’s a guide to our spookiest destinations for Halloween 2021:

  1. Prepare to be spooked at Blisworth Tunnel – on the Grand Union Canal at Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire, the Blisworth Tunnel has spooked a number of boaters over the years.  At 2,795 metres long, it’s one of the longest on the canal system.  When construction began in 1793, the tunnel was a major engineering challenge.  Teams of navvies worked with picks and shovels for three years until they hit quicksand and the tunnel collapsed, killing 14 men.  A new route for the tunnel was found and it finally opened on 25 March 1805.  Over the years, a number of boaters travelling through the tunnel have reported seeing lights and a second route emerging.  But the tunnel runs straight through the hill so people must have seen the flicker of candlelight at the spot where the first tunnel would have intersected with the main canal tunnel.  Perhaps the ghostly navvies are still working there…?  The Blisworth Tunnel is less than an hour away from Drifters’ base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire.  
  2. Watch out for an Aqueduct Apparition – the Llangollen Canal is haunted by an eerie figure that can sometimes be seen gliding along the towpath alongside the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. From Drifters’ base on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor, it’s a 10-minute cruise to the Aqueduct.  On a short break from Trevor, canal boat holiday-makers can travel across the Aqueduct and on to Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.
  3. Steel yourself for a visit from the Viscount – Once a 13th century monastery, The George Inn at Bathampton is said to be haunted by the ghost of Viscount John Baptiste Du Barre, who mortally wounded in the last legal duel fought in Britain. The Viscount was reputedly a decadent man who held lavish parties and enjoyed gambling.  Following an argument over a card game, a challenge was thrown down and on 18 November 1778, he and his opponent met on Claverton Down at dawn.  Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath is a 20-minute cruise from the George Inn.
  4. Hear echoes of a killing at Kidsgrove – the Trent & Mersey Canal’s Harecastle Tunnel at Kidsgrove is said to be home to a shrieking boggart – the ghost of Kit Crewbucket who was murdered and his headless corpse was dumped in the canal. Harecastle Tunnel is an hour away from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Stoke on Trent.
  5. Witness some ghostly goings-on at The Navigation Inn – the Navigation Inn on the Calder & Hebble Navigation at Sowerby Bridge dates back to the 15th century.  It served travellers along the old salt road from Chester to York long before the canal was built. According to the landlord, there’s plenty of supernatural activity in this ancient building, including noises in the cellar, clocks that mysteriously stop and spirits that appear in the kitchen.  The Navigation Inn is very close to Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge.
  6. Beware the blood stained steps at Brindley Bank – the Trent & Mersey Canal at Brindley Bank Aqueduct in Staffordshire, is said to be haunted by Christina Collins.  She was murdered there on 17 June 1839 and her body flung into the canal. Three boatmen were convicted of her killing; two were hanged, the third transported.  As Christina’s body was dragged from the water, her blood ran down a flight of sandstone steps leading from the canal.  It is said that the stain occasionally reappears on those stones.  Brindley Bank is just over an hour away from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal.
  7. Get the chills in Chester – visit the City’s old Northgate where the canal was dug into part of the town’s moat and a Roman centurion can sometimes be seen guarding the entrance to the City. Canal boat holiday-makers can hire a boat from Drifters’ base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, and reach Chester in seven hours, and passing through nine locks.
  8. Mind the Monkey Man at Norbury – the terrifying ‘Monkey Man’ haunts the Shropshire Union Canal at Bridge 39 near Norbury. This hideous black, shaggy coated being is believed to be the ghost of a boatman drowned there in the 19th century.  Narrowboat holiday-makers can head north from our base at Brewood near Stafford, reaching Bridge 39 in around four and a half hours.

Top 5 narrow boat holidays for the August Bank Holiday

Narrow boat 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.

A licence isn’t required to steer a canal boat, and all our narrow boat hire operators provide boat steering tuition as part of their holiday packages.

To celebrate the approaching August bank holiday, we’ve listed our top five short break narrow boat holidays:

1. Enjoy the remote countryside of Airedale afloat

On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Barnoldswick in Lancashire, you can cruise to Gargrave and back.  There’s stunning wild and remote scenery to enjoy along the way, as well as village pubs.  The journey there and back travels 16 miles, passes through 26 locks and takes around 12 hours.

2. Cruise through the Shropshire Lake District

On a mid-week break from our canal boat hire at Wrenbury Mill on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, you can cruise to Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  The journey there and back travels 39 miles, passes through 20 locks and takes around 22 hours.

3. Navigate to Chester and back for some Roman history

On a short break from our narrow boat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, you can travel to the ancient City of Chester.  The route takes you through beautiful unspoilt countryside.  You’ll pass by the ruins of Beeston Castle and the village of Christleton along the way.  The journey there and back travels 24 miles, passes through 18 locks and takes around 14 hours.

4. Explore Birmingham by canal

From our canal boat hire base at Alvechurch on the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can cruise into the centre of Birmingham.  The route begins through open countryside, passing a series of rural canalside pubs.  Gradually the scenery becomes more urban as you travel right into the heart of Birmingham City Centre.  Moorings for visiting narrow boats are available in Gas Street Basin, close to Brindleyplace.  The journey there and back travels 22 miles, and takes around 10 hours.  There are no locks so it’s good route for beginners.

5. Drift through the Calder Valley

From our boat yard at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, you can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge.  The journey to Hebden Bridge covers seven miles, passes through 10 locks and takes around five and a half hours.  Once at Hebden, you can moor up in the centre of town to enjoy a good choice of places to eat, and hikes up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags

Top 9 Canal Boat Holidays for Autumn 2021

A canal boat holiday is a great way to enjoy the splendid colours of autumn in the hedgerows and trees that line our waterways.  And there’s plenty of wildlife to spot along the way during the autumn months, including flocks of fieldfare and redwing searching for hawthorn berries.

Here are Drifters’ top nine narrowboat holiday destinations for autumn 2021:

1. Visit Coventry UK City of Culture afloat

From Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Braunston, it takes 12 hours to reach Coventry Basin, travelling 28 miles and passing through just four locks.  The journey takes boaters up the North Oxford Canal, transferring on to the Coventry Canal at Hawksbury Junction.  Along the way, boaters travel through the Northamptonshire countryside, passing a series of canalside pubs, including the popular Greyhound Inn at Hawkesbury Junction.

2. Go blackberry picking on the Stratford Canal

From our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, it’s a seven-hour cruise to Stratford upon Avon.  The route, which is perfect for a short break, passes through the Warwickshire countryside, with plenty of hedgerow foraging opportunities along the way.  Once at the birthplace of the Bard, boaters can moor up in Bancroft Basin and use it as a base to explore the town’s many independent shops, restaurants and museums.

3. Complete the Stourport Ring

On a week’s break from our base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, boaters can travel the popular Stourport Ring.  This circuit travels 74 miles and passes through 118 locks in around 44 cruising hours.  Highlights include: Gas Street Basin in Birmingham City Centre; open countryside on the River Severn; and the Tardebigge Flight of 30 locks.

4. Glide across The Stream in the Sky

On a week’s break from our base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, boaters can reach the pretty town of Llangollen.  The journey takes 12 hours, passes through two locks, two tunnel and crosses over the magnificent World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  From there, boaters can enjoy amazing views across the Dee Valley and the Welsh Mountains.

5. Cruise to Manchester & back

On a week’s break from Acton Bridge, canal boaters can cruise to Manchester and back.  The route, which passes through a mixture of urban and rural landscapes, travels 68 miles of waterway (34 each way) and passes through just one lock.  Places to stop off at along the way, include Stockton Heath, with a choice of shops, boutiques, restaurants and pubs, and the historic village of Lymm.  On arrival in Manchester, there are places to moor at Castlefield Basin, within easy reach of City Centre attractions. And to visit the Trafford Centre, boaters can return via Worsley on the Bridgewater Canal.

6. Drift through the Calder Valley

On a short break from Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, boaters can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge.  Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, the journey to Hebden Bridge covers seven miles, passes through 10 locks and takes around five and a half hours.  Once at Hebden, boaters can moor in the centre of town to enjoy a good choice of places to eat, as well as hikes up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags.

7. Cruise through the Scottish lowlands to Linlithgow

On a short break from Falkirk, boaters can experience a peaceful five-hour cruise through the Scottish lowlands to the historic town of Linlithgow.  The route passes over the Falkirk Wheel (the world’s first rotating boat lift), goes through two tunnels and crosses two aqueducts on the Union Canal.

8. Potter through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton

From Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, it takes around 10 hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton.  Along the way, boaters pass through miles of beautiful Shropshire countryside, six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs.  Pubs include the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.

9. Cruise through the Bath Valley

On a short break from Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, boaters can travel to the World Heritage Status City of Bath and back.  The journey to Sydney Wharf takes just six hours, travelling across two magnificent aqueducts and passing through one lock.  There’s a choice of canalside pubs, including the Barge Inn at Seend and the Cross Guns at Avoncliff.  Once in Bath, boaters can moor up a short walk away from the centre of Bath.

Top 6 Summer 2021 Narrowboat Holidays

Canal boat holidays offer a great self-catering holiday option for families, with the chance to set off together on an outdoor adventure afloat.

There are over 3,000 miles of inland waterways to explore, with hundreds of waterside destinations.  From pubs, cafes and shops, to museums and nature reserves, there’s always something special to plan at stop at.

Drifters offers 550 self-drive narrowboats for hire from 45 locations across England, Wales and Scotland.  Summer holiday prices start at £965 for a short break (three or four nights) and £1,335 for a week on a boat for four people.

Drifters’ director Nigel Stevens explains: “Today’s narrowboats for hire offer all the mod cons of home.  This includes central heating, hot water, TV, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets.  Some also offer extras, like wider beds, larger showers, solid-fuel stoves and Wifi.

“You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat, and tuition is included in all our holiday packages.

“Around 350,000 people enjoy narrowboating each year.  With the current focus on domestic holidays, we are looking forward to welcoming more people to the waterways this year.”

  1. Cruise to Manchester & back

On a week’s break from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Acton Bridge, narrowboat holiday-makers can cruise to Manchester and back, enjoying time in the countryside as well as well as the City.  The route, which travels a total of 68 miles of waterway (34 each way) passes through just one lock.  Places to stop off at along the way, include Stockton Heath, with a choice of shops, boutiques, restaurants and pubs, as well as the historic village of Lymm.  On arrival in Manchester, there are places to moor at Castlefield Basin, within easy reach of City Centre attractions. And to visit the Trafford Centre, boaters can return via Worsley on the Bridgewater Canal closeby.

  1. Navigate the Kennet & Avon Canal to Bath

On a short break from Drifters canal boat hire base at Hilperton, boaters can travel to Bath and back.  The route travels a total of 25 miles, passes through 6 locks and takes around 13 hours.  Along the way, the canal takes holiday-makers past a series of canalside pubs, including The Barge in at Seend, The Boat House at Bradford on Avon, the Cross Guns at Avoncliff and the George at Bathampton.  There are overnight moorings close to Sydney Gardens, a short walk from Bath City Centre.

  1. Travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation to Brighouse

On a short break from Drifters’ boat yard at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Brighouse and back. This historic town, famous for its Brighouse and Rastick Brass Band, offers glorious Pennines walks, as well as great places to eat and shop. Along the way, boaters 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.

  1. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

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 (three or four nights).

  1. Cruise through the countryside to Banbury & back

On a week’s holiday from Drifters narrowboat hire base at Stockton canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the peaceful Oxford Canal to Banbury and back.  The journey there and back cruises 50 miles, passes through 50 locks and takes around 29 hours.  It passes through a series of villages with pubs, including the Folly Inn at Napton, the Wharf Inn at Fenny Compton and the Red Lion at Cropredy.

  1. Boat to the ancient City of Chester

On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury near Tarporley in Cheshire, canal boat holiday-makers can head north to the historic City of Chester.  This 12-mile journey through the rolling Cheshire countryside takes seven hours, passing through 18 locks.  Once in Chester, canal boat holiday-makers can enjoy some of this ancient city’s best loved attractions, including Britain’s most complete Roman and medieval walls, the Tudor open-air galleries, and Chester Zoo which celebrates its 90th birthday this year.

For more information about Drifters boating holidays call 0344 984 0322 or visit https://www.drifters.co.uk/.

For information about visiting the canal network go to https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/

Drifters prepares for a record narrowboat holiday season

Following confirmation that domestic holidays can resume on 12 April for single households, Drifters operators are preparing for a record number of canal boat holidays to be taken in Britain.

Drifters’ director Nigel Stevens explains:

“With the current focus on domestic holidays, narrowboat holidays have never been more popular, and many people are planning their first holiday on the canals this year.

“Drifters offers 550 boats from 45 locations across England, Wales and Scotland.  The peak spring and summer months are already booking up well.  But we still have availability, especially for single households from 12 April.  And two households or the ‘rule of six’ from 17 May.

“You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat, and tuition is included in all our holiday packages.  Around 350,000 people enjoy narrowboating each year, and we are looking forward to welcoming more people to the waterways this year.

“Our narrowboats are equipped with everything you need on board for a self-catering holiday afloat.  There are over 3,000 miles of inland waterways to explore, with hundreds of waterside destinations.  From pubs and cafes, to museums and nature reserves, there’s always something special to plan at stop at.”

To celebrate, here are Drifters’ top six 2021 narrowboat holiday destinations:

Drift through the Calder Valley

On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, boaters can travel along the leafy Rochdale Canal to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge.  The route travels through the leafy Calder Valley.  It climbs 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.  There are also stunning walks up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags.

Travel round the Birmingham Ring

Drifters is opening a new narrowboat hire base at Kings Orchard Marina on the Coventry Canal in Staffordshire.  On a week’s break from Kings Orchard, canal boat holiday-makers can complete the Birmingham Ring.  This takes boaters on a waterway odyssey with a mixture of urban and rural landscapes.  These range from Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham to Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Staffordshire.

Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

On a short break from Drifters’ base at Trevor on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, boaters can travel across the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  Then on to Ellesmere in the heart of the Shropshire Lake District.  On a week’s break, boaters can continue on to the historic market town of Whitchurch.

Cruise to the ancient City of Chester

Drifters has a canal boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury near Tarporley in Cheshire.  On a short break from there, canal boat holiday-makers can head north to the historic City of Chester.  This 12-mile journey through the rolling Cheshire countryside takes seven hours, passing through 18 locks.

Travel round the Droitwich Ring

From Drifters’ base at Worcester, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise round the Droitwich mini-ring.  The route takes canal boat holiday-makers on a 20-mile circuit of the Worcestershire countryside, passing through the historic spa town of Droitwich and the cathedral city of Worcester.  There are 33 locks and it takes around 16 hours, so it’s perfect for a short break.

Watch out for wildlife on the Ashby Canal

On a week’s holiday from Drifters canal boat hire base at Braunston, boaters can cruise to the pretty village of Snarestone and back.  The route travels 47 miles, passing through eight locks (four there and four back) in around 32 hours.  It takes boaters up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby, and on to Hawkesbury Junction to join the Coventry Canal.  Five miles later, the journey 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).  This recognises the diversity of its plant, insect and animal life.  Wildlife on the Ashby includes nine species of dragonfly, the water shrew, water vole and rare native white-clawed crayfish.