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Top of the Rings

Top of the Rings

Cruising rings are popular with canal boat holiday-makers, offering journeys along several different waterways, taking in a huge variety of landscapes.

Some are seriously challenging with steep flights of locks and long dark tunnels to negotiate. While others, like the Droitwich Ring, are easier and more suitable for narrowboat holiday beginners.

Here are our Top 9 cruising rings:

1. The Droitwich Ring (21 miles, 33 locks, 16 hours): Starting from the Drifters’ narrowboat hire bases at Worcester or Stoke Prior, this cruising ring is the only one in Europe which can be completed on a short break. It re-opened five years ago following the £13million restoration of the Droitwich Canals, which 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 the beautiful City of Worcester with its stunning 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 Drifters’ bases at Sowerby Bridge or Barnoldswick. It crosses the Pennines twice and includes the passage of 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; Manchester City Centre; and the awesome 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 our canal boat hire bases at Autherley, Stoke Prior, Tardebigge, 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 (with central moorings in Gas Street Station, close to shops, restaurants and museums); 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 the Drifters’ base at Anderton, Acton Bridge, Autherley or Peak District, this superb route takes narrowboat holiday-makers 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 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 Drifters’ bases at Stoke Golding, Stoke Prior, Napton, Coventry, Warwick, Stockton, Stretton, Braunston or Rugby, with a mixture of urban and rural landscapes, the Warwickshire Ring is easily navigated in two weeks. It takes in the Grand Union, Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley canals. Highlights include: the flight of 11 locks into Atherstone, Hawkesbury Junction, one of the tightest turns on the system where the Oxford joins the Coventry; Hillmorton locks (three pairs); the Knowle Flight of five locks; the pretty 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 Drifters’ bases at Napton, Autherley, Stoke Prior, Tardebigge or Wootton Wawen, this World-famous journey includes 130 locks. Most people do this trip in a more leisurely 10 days or two weeks, but it is possible to do it in a week. 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 Wawickshire and the Cotswolds; historic Evesham and Tewskesbury; Worcester and its magnificent cathedral; Telford’s lofty Mythe Bridge; the tidal River Severn double river-lock at Diglis, the 30 lock Tardebigge Flight, the longest in the country; and the 2495 metre long Wast Hills Tunnel.

7. The Four Counties Ring (110 miles, 94 locks, 55 hours): Starting from our bases at Autherley, Acton Bridge, Coventry, Brewood, Great Haywood, Peak District or Gailey, this ring is achievable on a week-long holiday. The four counties are Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire and the route includes the Trent & Mersey, Staffs & Worcs and Shropshire Union canals. Predominantly rural, this ring’s highlights include: the World famous 2670-metre long Harecastle Tunnel; extravagant cuttings and embankments on the Shropshire Union; Market Drayton home of gingerbread; Wedgewood Pottery Visitor Centre; views of the rolling Cheshire Plains; the Roman town of Middlewich; the Ski Centre, China Gardens and Waterworld at Etruria; Shugborough Hall; Churches Mansion; the waters at Tixall Wide on the Staffs & Worcs; the narrow canal at Autherley Junction; and the flight of 15 locks at Audlem.

8. The Black Country Ring (125 miles, 79 locks, 60 hours): from Drifters’ bases at Autherley, Great Haywood, Coventry or Gailey this exhilarating 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 with access to city centre shops, restaurants and museums; 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 Ring (157 miles, 102 locks, 75 hours): from Drifters’ bases at Stoke Golding, Rugby, Napton, Coventry, Braunston, Stretton, Market Harborough or Gayton, this epic route 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: the Saddlington Tunnel, a roost for bats on the Leicester Line; the Foxton Staircase of Locks and Museum dedicated to the incredible Foxton Inclined Plane Boat Lift which once carried boats up and down the hill in two giant bath tubs; 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.

Top 5 Luxury Canal Boats for Hire

Top 5 Luxury Canal Boats for Hire

There are now over 30,000 canal boats on our inland waterways, more than at the time of the Industrial Revolution, and unprecedented numbers of people are visiting and holidaying on our canals.

The popularity of boating has been fuelled by the waterway renaissance which has swept across the UK, and by the standard of accommodation now available.

Today’s canal boats are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons – central heating, hot water, TV, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets. Some of the boats available for hire offer five star accommodation, with extras like baths, solid-fuel stoves and King-sized beds.

Here are our Top 5 luxury canal boats for hire:

1. Enjoy the stylish interior of ‘Aquila’ – the new four-berth Constellation Class ‘Aquila’ has arrived at Drifters’ Wootton Wawen base on the Stratford Canal near Stratford upon Avon. Boasting exacting standards of craftsmanship, comfort and finish, ‘Aquila’ has full-size showers, flexible and private berths, a solid fuel stove, large TV, WiFi, and spacious kitchen with stylish fittings and lighting. On a short break (three or four nights) narrowboat holiday-makers booking ‘Aquila’ travel through the beautiful Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon to join in the celebrations marking 400 years since the death of Shakespeare. On a week’s holiday, boaters can reach historic Warwick or Brindleyplace in Birmingham’s City Centre.

****Aquila’s hire prices start at £695 for short break, £995 for a week.

2. Sleep on a King-sized bed on board ‘Alvechurch Sanderling’ – the eight-berth 60ft-long wide beam (double the width of a narrowboat) ‘Alvechurch Sanderling’ is available to hire from our base at Falkirk, at the junction of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in the Scottish lowlands. This stunning boat has a King-sized bed cabin, two fixed double bunks and space in the dining area to create another double bed or two singles. It has two bathrooms, both with showers, and a fully equipped galley with a four-burner gas cooker, with grill and oven, refrigerator, sink and drainer, work surfaces and storage. Holiday-makers booking ‘Alvechurch Sanderling’ can travel to through the iconic Falkirk Wheel (the world’s first and only rotating boat lift) and on to the Union Canal, passing through a series of historic villages with a choice of waterside eateries, including Linlithgow and Ratho, reaching Edinburgh in a day and a half. Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street, with easy access to the City’s many attractions.

****Alvechurch Sanderling’s 2016 hire prices start at £1109 for a short break, £1299 for a week.

3. Take a bath on the ‘Regency 4’ – from Napton Marina on the North Oxford Canal in Warwickshire, canal boat holiday-makers can pick a boat from the luxury ‘Regency’ range, including the six-berth ‘Regency 4’. This first class boat features: two bathrooms with baths; three double cabins (two with king-size beds and one with two extra-wide singles); a rear deck table for alfresco dining; TVs in all bedrooms; an extra-large TV in the saloon; mobile Wifi; 240v mains supply; 240v charging socket; a quality sound system; fully equipped kitchen with fridge, full sized cooker, microwave, toaster and coffee maker; quiet modern diesel engine; oak fittings; 6ft 4 head-room throughout; and a host of other extras. A range of routes are available from Napton Marina, including the short break option to travel south down the Oxford Canal to the pretty village Cropredy, with Brasenose Arms and Red Lion pubs and a grocery shop. On a week’s holiday, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to the rural Ashby Canal, and visit the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field.

****2016 Regency 4 hire prices start at £795 for a short break (three or four nights) and £1,195 for a week.

4. Feel like Royalty aboard the ‘Princess 6’ – this beautiful boat can be hired from a number of our bases, including Chirk on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales. The Princess 6 sleeps up to six people with a flexible bed configuration, full central heating, airing cupboards, two full-sized showers with bi-fold doors, flat screen TV with Freeview, radio, CD and DVD player, fully-equipped kitchen, 12v/USB pint for charging, security safe and free mobile WiFi on request. On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Chirk, boaters can travel across the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, truly one of the Wonders of the Waterways, and reach the pretty town of Llangollen, with Steam Railway, Horseshoe Falls and waterside eateries, including the popular Corn Mill. On a week’s break, boaters can also reach Ellesmere, Shropshire’s Lake District, teaming with wildlife, and the historic market town of Whitchurch, with a wealth of independent shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. The Princess 6 can also be hired from Stoke Prior, Acton Bridge, Napton, Peak District, Falkirk and Bradford on Avon.

****2016 short break prices for the Princess 6 from Chirk start at £795, weekly hire from £1,180.

5. Find 5 Star family luxury aboard the brand new ‘Charlotte’ – new for the 2016 season, the 70 foot, eight-berth ‘Charlotte’ is available to hire from late June onwards from Drifters’ base on the Grand Union Canal at Warwick. Delivering the finest example of quality boat building, ‘Charlotte’ has two fixed doubles, each with an en-suite bathroom offering full-sized showers with bi-fold doors, and electric toilets. Her third cabin provides twin beds, with bunks over, making her a fantastic boat for families. ‘Charlotte’ is fully equipped with 240 electric, radiator central heating, a well-equipped galley, TV, DVD player and has a cruiser stern open back deck with room for a number of people to stand together to watch the world go by. On a short break from Warwick, narrowboat holiday-makers can head for the pretty canal village of Braunston, with plenty of waterside pubs and villages to stop-off at along the way. On a week’s break, boaters could travel to Stratford upon Avon, moor-up in Bancroft Basin close to the town centre and use their boat to explore Shakespeare’s fascinating home town with waterside restaurants, Swan Theatre, shops and museums.

****Charlotte’s 2016 prices start at £1040 for a week, or £655 for a short break.

Hire a canal boat for Mother's Day

Hire a canal boat for Mother’s Day

Day boat hire on the canals offers the chance to spoil hard-working Mums with a relaxing day afloat, nourished by a posh picnic afloat or a pub lunch along the way.

We offer day boat hire from 11 of our bases, with prices starting at less than £10 per person.

Full tuition is included so it’s a great way to dip your toe in the water and have a go at steering, mooring-up and working the locks.

Boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle and most day boats also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.

Here’s a list of our day boat hire centres open for Mother’s Day in 2016:

1. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – Drifters’ base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales is a 20-minutes cruise from the World Heritage site Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the wonders of the waterways, offering stunning views of the Dee Valley below. Day boaters can reach the pretty mountain-side town of Llangollen in two hours. ***Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £120 for up to 10 people weekdays, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.

2. Visit the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ – our base at Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, is next to the historic Anderton Boat Lift. This incredible edifice, also known as ‘the Cathedral of the canals’, looks like some giant three-storey-high iron spider and provides a 50-foot vertical link between two navigable waterways – the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal. From Anderton, the Leigh Arms at Little Leigh (bridge 209 for Black Price forge) is an easy day trip away. This friendly, canalside pub offers home-cooked pub food and cask ales. ***Day boat hire from Anderton starts at £150 for up to 12 people weekdays, £180 on weekends and bank holidays.

3. Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from our base at Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, enjoy incredible mountain views on the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62. ***Day hire from Goytre starts at £110 for up to 12 people weekdays, £130 on weekends and bank holidays.

4. Explore Shakespeare’s country – from Drifters’ base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford Upon Avon, boaters can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote and back (2.5 hours each way), and enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn. ***Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people weekdays, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

5. Wend your way through Wiltshire – from our base at Hilperton Marina in Wiltshire on the Kennet & Avon, cruise east through unspoilt countryside to waterside The Barge Inn at Seend, or head west to historic Bradford on Avon, with its stunning Tithe Barn and plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants to choose from. ***Day boat hire from Hilperton starts at £105 for up to eight people, weekdays, £130 on weekends and bank holidays.

6. Staffordshire delights – from our base at Great Haywood on the Staffs & Worcs Canal near Stafford, cruise to the historic market town of Rugeley and back, through several locks, past Lord Lichfield’s beautiful Shugborough Hall and the delightful Wolseley Arms in Wolseley Bridge. The return journey takes six hours. ***Day boat hire from Great Haywood starts at £99 for up to 10 people weekdays, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

7. Sightseeing along ‘The Shroppie’ – from Drifters’ base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union near Crewe, cruise south past Barbridge and Nantwich to Baddington Bridge. With no locks to negotiate and plenty of pubs en route, it’s a delightful way to spend the day afloat. ***Day boat hire from Bunbury starts at £99 for up to 10 people weekdays, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

8. Tunnel through rural Worcestershire – from our base at Tardebigge on the Worcs & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, a pretty rural route with historic pubs along the way, including the family-friendly Hopwood House at Alvechurch. The route is lock-free but there are two tunnels to pass through. ***Day boat hire from Tardebigge starts at £99 for up to 10 people weekdays, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

9. Visit Foxton Locks – from our base at Union Wharf in Market Harborough it takes a pleasant two-and-a-half hours to cruise to the top of Foxton Locks, with stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, plenty of places to picnic and the Foxton Locks Inn. Visitors can watch canal boats negotiate the famous Foxton Staircase flight of locks and find out about the intriguing Foxton Inclined Plane Boat Lift that once operated there at the tiny little museum dedicated to it. ***Day boat hire at Market Harborough starts at £150 during the week for up to 12 people, £200 at weekends and bank holidays.

Top 10 canal & river events in 2015

Top 8 canal events in 2016

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

Here’s our pick of the best events in 2016:

1. Crick Boat Show, 28-30 May 2016…over 200 exhibitors will gather at Crick Marina on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal near Daventry, showcasing thousands of inland waterways products and services. The event will offer an exciting programme of family entertainment, including boat trips, live music, food and drink stalls, plus special talks and displays celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of canal engineer James Brindley. Our nearest bases are at Gayton, North Kilworth and Market Harborough.

2. Saltaire World Heritage Day, 16-17 April 2016…ride the historic Shipley Glen Tramway, enjoy guided trails, Saltaire Stories, exhibitions celebrating the bicentenary of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and family activities at Sir Titus Salt’s fascinating World Heritage Status town at Saltaire on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, near Bradford. Our nearest bases are at Barnoldswick and Sowerby Bridge.

3. St Richards Boat & Car Festival, 30 April–2 May 2016…this annual event takes place in Vines Park alongside the Droitwich Barge Canal and offers family entertainment, live music, boats, classic cars, markets, duck races and a real ale bar. Our nearest bases are Worcester, Stoke Prior and Tardebigge.

4. IWA Canalway Cavalcade, 30 April-2 May 2016…the Inland Waterway Association’s Canalway Cavalcade takes place at Little Venice in London. This community festival offers fun for all the family with a pageant of boats, trade stalls, live music, kids’ activities, competitions, Morris Dancers, a real ale bar and variety of food stalls. Our nearest bases are at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal and Oxford on the River Thames.

5. Stratford River Festival, 2-3 July 2016…the Stratford & Warwick Waterways Trust put on a free family event in Stratford-upon-Avon each year, with music, craft and food stalls, family zone, charity stalls, an illuminated boat parade and spectacular fireworks display. Our nearest base is on the Stratford Canal at Wotton Wawen.

6. Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, 5-10 July 2016…thousands of people from around the world descend on the pretty town of Llangollen on the Llangollen Canal each year to celebrate dance, music, costume and culture. With six days of world-class competitions and concerts with performers from around the globe, the Llangollen Eisteddfod is one of the world’s great music and culture events. Our nearest bases are Trevor, Chirk and Blackwater Meadow.

7. The Great British Food Festival, 9-10 July 2016…head to this event to find over 80 top local producers, stunning hot food, real ale and wine bars, craft and gift stalls, activities and rides for the kids, live music and top chef demos including Great British Bake Off finalist Luis Troyano, all in the stunning surrounds of the National Trust’s Shugborough Hall, on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford. Our nearest bases are at Great Haywood, Brewood and Peak District.

8. Rickmansworth Canal Festival, 21-22 May 2016…this community and environment event attracts a spectacular array of canal boats from across the country. Occupying part of the Aquadrome and the Grand Union Canal, visitors can enjoy music, performing arts, displays, presentations, traders and catering. Our nearest base is at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire.

Cruise the canals over Christmas

Celebrate Christmas Afloat

With frosty towpaths, cosy fires and traditional pubs, a holiday on Britain’s peaceful canal network can offer a great antidote to the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

Eight of our canal boat hire bases offer winter cruising, giving canal boat holiday-makers the chance to enjoy cosy evenings afloat, visit waterside pubs with roaring log fires, and wake-up to frosty towpaths and crisp clean air.

Whether it’s a snug boat for two or a family affair for six, celebrating Christmas or New Year afloat offers a great getaway. It’s free to moor almost anywhere on the network, so a narrowboat could provide the perfect base for a rural retreat or to enjoy new year celebrations in waterside towns and cities like Bath, Birmingham, Warwick and Stratford upon Avon.

All our boats have central heating, hot water, televisions and DVD players. Some also have multi-fuel stoves and Wifi. So, whatever the weather, it’s always nice and cosy on board.

Our prices over Christmas and New Year start at start at £550 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, weekly hire from £785.

Here’s a list of our bases offering winter cruising:

1. Chug through rural Warwickshire…on a short break from Stretton-under-Fosse near Rugby, boaters can head south along the beautiful Oxford Canal to Braunston, winding through classic scenery, much of which hasn’t changed for centuries. On a week’s holiday, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel on to Leamington Spa and Warwick.

2. Visit the ‘chocolate box pretty’ canalside village of Stoke Bruerne…from Rugby on the North Oxford Canal, canal boat holiday-makers can choose from a number of routes, including a trip through rural Northamptonshire to the idyllic village of Stoke Bruerne. With two popular historic village pubs, a curry house, tranquil countryside walks and the Canal Museum – packed with canal artefacts, stories and films – there’s plenty of hospitality and tranquillity to enjoy.

3. Navigate ‘The Stream in the Sky’…from our Trevor hire base in the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome 300-metre long World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which carries the canal 40 metres above the rushing waters of the River Dee, is just a few minutes away. On a short break, boaters can cruise west to the Eistedfodd town of Llangollen and east to Ellesmere, also known as the Shropshire Lake District.

4. Moor-up in Stratford upon Avon…it’s a picturesque six-hour cruise to Stratford upon Avon from our base at Wootton Wawen, near Henley in Arden in Warwickshire. Boaters can moor up in Stratford canal basin, a stone’s throw from the Swan Theatre and the town’s shops, restaurants and museums.

5. Take a lock free journey to Birmingham…Birmingham is just a five-hour cruise away from our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal – with no locks to negotiate. City centre moorings are available at Gas Street Basin, close to the bars, restaurants, shops and museums at Brindley Place and the Mailbox and Bullring shopping centres.

6. Travel to Georgian Bath along the Kennet & Avon Canal…our base in the historic town of Bradford on Avon on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire offers the chance to cruise to the World Heritage Status City of Bath and back. Cosy country pubs to enjoy along the way include the George Inn at Bathampton, once a 12th-century monastery, and the Cross Guns at Avoncliffe, with panoramic views of the foothills of the Cotswolds.

7. Explore the Potteries in Staffordshire…from Great Haywood, at the junction of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Trent & Mersey canals in Staffordshire, a variety of routes are available. On a week’s cruise, canal boat holiday-makers can head up the Trent & Mersey Canal to the Caldon Canal, and travel through the beautiful Churnet Valley. Those on a short break can head to the town of Fazeley, via the pretty canal village of Fradley on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

8. Cruise through the beautiful Leicestershire countryside…on a short break from the historic market town of Market Harborough on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal, narrowboat holiday-makers can potter through rural Leicestershire and Northamptonshire to the pretty villages of Crick or Welford. On a week’s break, they can continue on to Stoke Bruerne.

Top 6 Autumn Breaks Afloat

Top 6 Autumn Breaks Afloat

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 are plenty of foraging opportunities along the way – narrowboat holiday-makers can look out for apples, blackberries, elderberries, damsons and sloes and make freshly-picked fruit crumbles on board.

Our top six destinations for this autumn are:

1. Go blackberry picking on the Stratford Canal…from our canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, it’s a picturesque six-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon, with plenty of hedgerow foraging opportunities along the way. Once at the birthplace of the Bard, boaters can moor up in Bancroft Basin, just a stone’s throw from the Swan Theatre and town’s shops, restaurants and museums.

2. Explore the Pennines by canal boat…from our base at Sowerby Bridge at the junction of the Rochdale Canal and Calder & Hebble Navigation, a trip to the historic market town Todmorden is the perfect short break destination. Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, narrowboat holiday-makers pass through the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills. The journey there and back covers 20 miles, 32 locks and takes around 16 hours.

3. Enjoy stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside…Foxton Locks, on the Grand Union Canal Leicester Line, celebrated its 200th anniversary this year. The Foxton flight can be reached in five hours from our base at North Kilworth. From the top of the Foxton staircase of locks, boaters can enjoy panoramic views of the Leicestershire countryside and check out the tiny Museum dedicated to the Foxton Inclined Plane boat lift, an extraordinary feet of Victorian engineering which once operated there.

4. Wend your way through Wiltshire…the historic town of Bradford on Avon can be reached on a short break from our Hilperton base on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge, with beautiful views of the Wiltshire countryside to enjoy along the way. Bradford on Avon is an architectural treasure chest, with gems including the magnificent 14th century Tithe Barn and striking Town Bridge over the River Avon.

5. Cruise through the Scottish lowlands…from our base at the Falkirk Wheel boat lift, it’s a peaceful five-hour cruise through the Scottish lowlands along the Union Canal to the historic town of Linlithgow. Here, narrowboat holiday-makers can visit the beautifully preserved remains of Linlithgow Palace on the shores of Linlithgow Loch, and sample some of the town’s excellent eateries, including the award-winning Four Marys pub.

6. Explore the Brecon Beacons afloat…the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal offers 35 miles of quiet countryside to explore with incredible mountain views. From our base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, boaters can journey through the Brecon Beacons National Park from Brecon to Cwmbran, visiting the Georgian town of Crickhowell with its 13th century castle and picturesque Talybont-on-Usk, with walking access to Blaen y Glyn waterfalls.

Hire a canal boat for Father's Day

Hire a canal boat for Father’s Day

Ratty’ from ‘Wind in the Willows’, famously pronounced ‘there is nothing half as much worth doing as simply messing about in boats’.

Day boat hire on the canals offers the chance to treat Dads with a fun day out on the water, nourished by a pint and a pub lunch along the way.

Drifters offers boat hire from 11 of its bases, from less than £12 per person. Full tuition is included so those new to canal boating can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.

Boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle and most day boats also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.

Here’s a list of our day boat hire centres and prices for 2015:

1. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – our base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales is a 20-minute cruise from the World Heritage site Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the wonders of the waterways, offering stunning views of the Dee Valley below. Day boaters can reach the pretty mountain-side town of Llangollen in two hours. *** Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £110 for up to 10 people. £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

2. Visit the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ – our base at Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire is next to the historic Anderton Boat Lift. This incredible edifice, also known as ‘the Cathedral of the canals’, looks like a giant three-storey-high iron spider and provides a 50-foot vertical link between two navigable waterways – the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal. From Anderton, the Leigh Arms at Little Leigh (bridge 209 for Black Price forge) is an easy day trip away. This friendly, canalside pub offers home-cooked pub food and cask ales. ***Day boat hire from Anderton starts at £150 for up to 12 people.

3. Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from our base at Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, enjoy incredible mountain views on the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62. *** Day hire from Goytre starts at £90 for up to 12 people. £105 on weekends and bank holidays.

4. Explore Shakespeare’s country – from our base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford Upon Avon, boaters can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote and back (2.5 hours each way), and enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn. *** Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people. £120 on weekends and bank holidays.

5. Wend your way through Wiltshire – from our base at Hilperton Marina in Wiltshire on the Kennet & Avon, cruise east through unspoilt countryside to the waterside Barge Inn at Seend, or head west to historic Bradford on Avon, with its stunning Tithe Barn and plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants to choose from. *** Day boat hire from Hilperton starts at £105 for up to eight people. £130 on weekends and bank holidays.

6. Experience the rural North Oxford Canal – from our base at Stretton-under-Fosse near Rugby, cruise north along the North Oxford Canal through open farmland to the pretty village of Ansty with its pottery and Rose & Castle pub. Or head south, travelling through quiet woodland to the village of Newbold, and enjoy home cooked food at the canalside Barley Mow pub. *** Day boat hire from Rugby starts at £150 for a boat for 12 people. £190 on weekends and bank holidays.

7. Staffordshire delights – from our base at Great Haywood on the Staffs & Worcs Canal near Stafford, cruise to the historic market town of Rugeley and back, through several locks, past Lord Lichfield’s beautiful Shugborough Hall and the delightful Wolseley Arms in Wolseley Bridge. The whole journey takes six hours. *** Day boat hire from Great Haywood starts at £99 for up to 10 people. £120 on weekends and bank holidays.

8. Sightseeing along ‘The Shroppie’ – from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union near Crewe, cruise south past Barbridge and Nantwich to Baddington Bridge. With no locks to negotiate and plenty of pubs en route, it’s a delightful way to spend the day afloat. *** Day boat hire from Bunbury starts at £99 for up to 10 people. £120 on weekends and bank holidays.

9. Tunnel through rural Worcestershire – from our base at Tardebigge on the Worcs & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, a pretty rural route with historic pubs along the way, including the family-friendly Weighbridge pub at Alvechurch. The route is lock-free but there are three tunnels to pass through. *** Day boat hire from Tardebigge starts at £99 for up to 10 people. £120 on weekends and bank holidays.

10. Discover the beauty of Berkshire – our base at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in West Berkshire is now offering day boat hire. Boaters can travel east to Tyle Mill Lock in just over two hours, and take a ten-minute walk to The Spring Inn in the pretty village of Sulhamstead for lunch. Up to eight people can enjoy a day out on Aldermaston’s day boat ‘Wyvern’. *** Day hire prices start at £105 for a weekday, £130 for weekends and bank holidays.

11. Visit Foxton Locks – from our base at Union Wharf in Market Harborough it takes a pleasant two-and-a-half hours to cruise to the top of Foxton Locks, with stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, plenty of places to picnic and the Foxton Locks Inn. Visitors can watch canal boats negotiate the famous Foxton Staircase flight of locks and find out about the intriguing Foxton Inclined Plane Boat Lift that once operated there at the tiny little museum dedicated to it. *** Day boat hire at Market Harborough starts at £140 during the week for up to 12 people, £180 at weekends and bank holidays.