Tag Archive for: Worcester & Birmingham Canal

Visit the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford upon Avon on a canal boat holiday

Culture on the canals

Enjoy culture on the canals on your next narrowboat holiday.

There are dozens of fantastic art and historic centres on or very close to Britain’s 3,000 mile canal and river network.

We’ve put together a list of our top seven cultural destinations:

1. The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford

From Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Henley-in-Arden, it’s a six-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Stratford-on-Avon. There you can moor up at Bancroft Basin, a stone’s throw from the world-famous Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

2. The David Hockney Gallery at Saltaire

You can reach UNESCO World Heritage Saltaire on a short break from Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Saltaire was founded on the banks of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Bradford in 1851 by Sir Titus Salt, a leading industrialist in the woollen industry.  Salts Mill has a number of galleries, including the David Hockney Gallery showing both permanent and temporary collections of the Bradford-born artist’s work.

3. The Theatre Royal in Bath

From Bradford on Avon it’s a six-hour cruise along the Kennet & Avon Canal to moorings at Sydney Wharf. From there, it’s a 15-minute walk to UNESCO World Heritage Bath city centre.  Over 200 years old, Bath’s beautiful Georgian Theatre Royal is one of the country’s best-loved.  And it’s one of the best places to enjoy culture on the canals.

4. The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford

From our Oxford base on the River Thames at Eynsham, it’s a three-hour cruise to moorings in Oxford City Centre, close to the Ashmolean Museum.  Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean was Britain’s first public museum and is home to the University of Oxford’s world-class collections of art and archaeology.  It has a series of permanent exhibition galleries, including a fascinating and significant collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts.

5. Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire

From Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford, it’s a short cruise or walk to the National Trust’s beautiful Shugborough Estate.  Set in 900 acres of stunning parkland and riverside gardens, it is a rare survival of a complete estate.  Major buildings include the Georgian Mansion House, servants’ quarters, model farm and walled garden. Visitors can explore the Mansion’s state rooms and private apartments of the Earls of Lichfield. And see costumed characters in the servant’s quarters and farmstead make cheese, beer and bread.

6. The Hepworth Wakefield Museum

On a week’s break from Sowerby Bridge, you can reach moorings alongside the Hepworth Wakefield museum. This modern gallery on the banks of the Calder & Hebble Navigation showcases the extraordinary work by the British sculptor Barbara Hepworth. There are also works on display by Henry Moore, Antony Gormley, David Hockney, Bridget Riley and Anthony Caro.

7. Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

On a short break from Alvechurch, you can cruise along the Worcester & Birmingham into Birmingham City Centre. From Alvechurch it takes about five hours to reach moorings in Gas Street Basin. From there you can walk to the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, housed in a stunning Grade II* listed landmark building. The Museum opened in 1885 and is home to one of the biggest collections of Pre-Raphaelite art in the world.

Summer holiday boating on the canals is great for families

Summer holiday boating

Take to the water for some summer holiday boating fun with Drifters Waterway Holidays and choose from over 550 boats and 45 locations.

From lazing on the Llangollen to bobbing through Bath, Britain’s 3,000 mile canal and river network offers the fastest way to slow down.

And there are plenty of exciting family attractions to visit along the way, including the Sea Life Centre in Birmingham and the magnificent Tithe Barn at Bradford on Avon.

Here’s a run-down of Drifters’ top 6 summer holiday boating destinations:

1. Bath and Bristol on the Kennet & Avon Canal

On a short break from our canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Bath you can cruise to historic Bradford on Avon, with its stunning Tithe Barn.  On a week’s cruise you can cruise on to the base of the awesome Caen Hill flight of locks at Devizes.

2. Travel round the Droitwich Ring on a short break

On a short break from the City of Worcester, where the River Severn meets the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, you can travel round the 21-mile Droitwich Ring.  It takes around 16 hours to cruise the ring, negotiating 33 locks. Highlights along the way include: Hanbury Hall; the ancient village of Salwarpe; and Diglis Basin.

3. Cruise the Four Counties Ring

From our Stoke-on-Trent base, the Four Counties Ring is one of the most popular journeys.  Predominantly rural, it travels stretches of the Trent & Mersey, Staffs & Worcs and Shropshire Union canals.  Highlights include: the world famous 2,670-metre-long Harecastle Tunnel; Market Drayton; the World of Wedgewood; stunning views of the rolling Cheshire Plains; the Roman town of Middlewich; the National Trust’s Shugborough Hall; Tixall Wide; and the flight of 15 locks at Audlem.  The Four Counties Ring is best travelled on a 10-day or two-week break.

4. Navigate to Happy Valley

On a short break from Sowerby Bridge you can cruise along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation to Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, navigating 20 miles and 32 locks.  At Hebden Bridge there are excellent shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants and walks in ‘Happy Valley’ and on the moors.  Todmorden boasts fine Victorian buildings, a lively market and offers many places to eat and drink.

5. Lock free cruising & the bright lights of Birmingham

On a short break from Alvechurch you can travel along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Birmingham and back.  The journey there and back takes less than ten hours and there are no locks.  Stop off at Cadbury World and the historic village of Bournville. Then travel on to moorings in Gas Street Basin, close to the Sea Life Centre at Brindleyplace, city centre museums and the Bullring and Mailbox shopping centres.

6. Glide across ‘The stream in the sky’

From Trevor on the Llangollen Canal you can experience one of the UK’s most stunning stretches of waterway.  You can glide across the awesome UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – an incredible feat of engineering standing 38 metres high above the Dee Valley.  You may be travelling at just four miles an hour, but with not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure your views, you feel like you are floating above the earth!

 

Chirk Castle close to the Llangollen Canal in Wales

National Trust properties to visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Notable topiary at Packwood House on the Stratford Canal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Enjoy a family day out boating on the canals

Best family days out boating on the canals

Drifters offers day boat hire from 20 places in England and Wales, offering the chance to enjoy a family day out boating on the canals.

Prices start at just £10 per person. Boats range in size and can accommodate between eight and 12 people. Full tuition is included so if you are new to narrow boating, you can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.

All Drifters’ 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 best family days out boating on the canals:

1. Staffordshire: Navigate through the countryside to Hopwas

From Kings Orchard Marina, on the Coventry Canal near Lichfield, you can enjoy a family day out boating on the canals.  You can cruise through the Staffordshire countryside to Bonehill Bridge and back.  The route takes you through the villages Huddlesford, Whittington and Hopwas.  At Hopwas there are two pubs to choose from – the Tame Otter and the Red Lion.  The journey to Bonehill and back takes five and a half hours and there are no locks.  *Day boats ‘Happy Days’ and electric boat ‘Perfect Day’ can take up to 10 people. 

2. Worcestershire: Glide through the remains of the Forest of Arden

From Alvechurch on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, you can enjoy a family day out boating on the canals.  You can cruise north through the remains of the Forest of Arden to Kings Norton Junction and back.  There’s a choice of pubs to moor at along the way, including the Hopwood House at Hopwood.  The route is lock-free but there are two tunnels to pass through, including the 2.5km long Wast Hill Tunnel.  *Day boat ‘Away Day’ can carry up to 10 people.  

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

From Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, you can enjoy a family day out boating on the canals with incredible mountain views.  It takes around two-and-a-half-hours to cruise to cruise along the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal to moorings close 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.  

4. Warwickshire: Cruise along the Stratford Canal to The Mary Arden Inn at Wilmcote

From Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford-Upon-Avon, you can head south to moorings close 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 views across the Warwickshire countryside. *Day boats ‘Dolly’ and ‘Charlie’ can carry up to 10 people each. 

5. Wrexham: Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

From Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes less than 20 minutes to reach the UNESCO World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  Standing at over 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, this incredible structure offers stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  After cruising over the Aqueduct, there are two tunnels and another aqueduct to cross, before reaching the Bridge Inn at Chirk.  *Day boats ‘Jacob’, ‘Daniel’ and ‘Lotty’ can carry up to 10 people each.  

6. Staffordshire: Navigate through Cannock Chase to the Wolseley Arms

You can enjoy a family day out boating on the canals from our day boat hire base Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Stafford.  From there, you can cruise four miles, passing through two locks, to the historic market town of Rugeley.  The journey, which takes around two hours, passes the through the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It also passes the popular Wolseley Arms pub at Wolseley Bridge.  *Day boats ‘Daphne’ and ‘Abi’ can carry up to 10 people each.  

7. Wiltshire: Boat to Avoncliff Aqueduct and the Cross Guns pub

From Hilperton Marina on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge, you can head west to the picturesque town of Bradford on Avon, home of the canalside Barge Inn. And on to Avoncliff Aqueduct for lunch at the Cross Guns.  The journey to Avoncliff and back takes around six hours and there’s just one lock to pass through each way. *Electric day boat ‘Great Day’ can carry up to 10 people.  

8. Cheshire: Cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Bunbury

From our day boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Nantwich, you can cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Bunbury and back.  The journey passes Hurleston Junction and Hurleston Reservoir, and later, the Barbridge Inn at Barbridge Junction. You can stop there for lunch, or continue on to Bunbury, home to the Dysart Arms and Nags Head pubs.  The journey to Bunbury and back takes six hours and there are no locks. *Day boat ‘Jus-Today’ can carry up to 8 people.  

9. Northamptonshire: 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 enjoy a family day out boating on the canals. You cruise to the historic village of Napton-on-the-Hill and back.  The journey, which takes around three hours, takes you through the Northamptonshire countryside and into Warwickshire.  Once at Napton, day you 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.  

10. Shropshire: Cruise through the Shropshire Lake District to Ellesmere

From Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal, you can reach the historic market town of Ellesmere.  The journey takes around two-and-a-half hours, cruising through eight miles of beautiful countryside.  You’ll pass Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park along the way.  *Day boat ‘Julia’ can carry up to 10 people.  

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

Best canal boat holiday cruising rings

Best canal boat holiday cruising rings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best bank holiday canal boat city breaks

Best bank holiday canal boat city breaks

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

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

Worcester

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

Bath

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

Edinburgh

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

Oxford

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

Cambridge

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

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

Top 11 new narrowboats for hire in 2024

Drifters Top 11 New Narrowboats for Hire in 2024

Every year we add dozens of new narrowboat to our fleet.

There are two main types of narrowboat available:

  • cruiser stern boats have an open back deck with room for a number of people to stand; and
  • semi-traditional boat have a smaller deck/steering area with a seating area that can be enclosed with doors.

Here’s a guide to our top 11 new boats to hire for a canal boat holiday in 2024:

1. ‘Natalie’ will be available at Napton, Oxford Canal

The 60ft ‘Natalie’ Discovery Class cruiser stern narrowboat for up to six people, will be available to hire from Napton in Warwickshire. She will have two double cabins (which can also be made up as twins), two bathrooms, and an extra outside table. She has a reverse layout, so the galley is at the back of the boat. The interior dining area can be converted into a double bed.

***2024 hire prices for ‘Natalie’ start at £895 for a short break, £1,290 for a week.*

2. A new ‘Duchess 6’ Signature will arrive at Stoke Prior, Worcester & Birmingham Canal

The 70ft ‘Duchess 6’ Signature Class cruiser stern canal boat for up to six people, will arrive at Stoke Prior in Worcestershire.  The boat will have two double cabins that can either be double or twin beds.  There will an option to convert the dining area into a double bed.  The kitchen areas are larger in the new Signature Class fleet, with more worktop space, a microwave, multiple USB charging points.  The boat will also have a shower and toilet room, black-out blinds, bespoke mattresses, wireless charging pads and a flat screen TV.

***2024 hire prices for the ‘Duchess 6’ Signature start at £1,099 for a short break, £1,675 for a week*.

3. ‘Foxhound’ will be available from Devizes, Kennet & Avon Canal

The 69ft ‘Foxhound’ semi-cruiser narrowboat for up to nine people will be available to hire from Devizes.  ‘Foxhound’ will have three permanent double sleeping cabins, two of which can also be made up as twins. A large saloon at the front will sleep an extra three if required. Galley extras include a full-size cooker, microwave and two fridge/freezers. Foxhound will have underfloor heating, multiple USB charging points, a TV in the saloon and gaming/TV area in one of the flexible sleeping cabins. ‘Foxhound’ will also have two showers, two toilets, black-out curtains and premium mattresses.

***2024 prices for ‘Foxhound’ start at £887 for a short break, £1,257 for a week*. 

4. The ‘Chiff Chaff Warbler’ will depart from Wrenbury, Llangollen Canal

The 69ft ‘Chiff Chaff Warbler’ semi-traditional narrowboat for up to eight people will arrive at Wrenbury in Shropshire.  The boat will have three cabins: one fixed as double; and two which can be configured as doubles or singles.  ‘Chiff Chaff Warbler’ will have LED lighting, a front deck table, optional wider beds, two shower/toilet rooms, WiFi and two TV’s.

***2024 hire prices aboard ‘Chiff Chaff Warbler’ currently start at £1,199 for a short break, £1,799 for a week*. 

5. ‘Rock Partridge’ will be available from Nantwich, Shropshire Union Canal

The 66ft ‘Rock Partridge’ semi-traditional narrowboat for up to six people will arrive at Nantwich in Cheshire.  ‘Rock Partridge’ will have two double cabins that can be made up as singles or doubles (with optional wider beds), and the seating/dining area can be converted into a double bed. She will have two shower/toilet rooms, a front deck table, LED lighting, two televisions and WiFi.

***2024 hire prices for ‘Rock Partridge’ currently start at £1,599 for a week*. 

6. ‘Masked Lark’ will arrive at Kings Orchard, Coventry Canal

The 66ft ‘Masked Lark’ semi-traditional narrowboat for up to six people will launch at Kings Orchard Marina in Staffordshire.  ‘Masked Lark’ will have two double cabins that can be made up as singles or doubles (with optional wider beds).  And the seating/dining area can be converted into a double bed. She will have two shower/toilet rooms, a front deck table, LED lighting, two televisions and WiFi.

***2024 prices for ‘Masked Lark’ currently start at £1,199 for short break, £1,599 for a week*.   

7. The ‘Tepui Swift’ will arrive at Aldermaston, Kennet & Avon Canal

The 49ft ‘Tepui Swift’ cruiser stern narrowboat for up to four people will be available to hire from Aldermaston in West Berkshire.  The ‘Tepui Swift’ will have one cabins, which can be configured either as a double or twins (with optional wider beds) And a seating/dining area which can be converted into a double bed.  She will have a shower/toilet room, a front deck table, LED lighting, two televisions and WiFi.

***2024 hire prices for ‘Tepui Swift’ currently start at £899 for short break, £1,199 for a week*.   

8. A new ‘Ocean’ Class boat will arrive at Great Haywood, Trent & Mersey Canal

A 69ft ‘Ocean’ Class cruiser stern narrowboat for up to 10 people will be available to hire from Great Haywood in Staffordshire.  The boat will feature two double cabins and three sleeping areas that can either be configured as a doubles or singles. She will have a toilet/shower room and an extra toilet.

***2024  ‘Ocean’ Class prices start at £1,060 for short break, £1,460 for a week*.   

9. A new ‘Ocean’ Class narrowboat will arrive at Oxford, River Thames

A 69ft ‘Ocean’ Class cruiser stern narrowboat for up to 10 people will be available to hire from our Oxford base.  The boat will feature two double cabins and three sleeping areas that can either be configured as a doubles or singles. She will have a toilet/shower room and an extra toilet.

***2024 ‘Ocean’ Class prices start at £1,060 for short break, £1,460 for a week*. 

10. A new ‘Duchess 8’ Signature will arrive at Stoke on Trent, Trent & Mersey Canal

The 70ft ‘Duchess 8’ Signature Class cruiser stern canal boat for up to eight people, will arrive at Stoke on Trent.  She will have three double cabins that can either be double or twin beds. And the option to convert the dining area into a double bed.  The kitchen areas are larger in the new Signature Class fleet, with more worktop space, a microwave, multiple USB charging points.  The boat will also have two shower/toilet rooms, black-out blinds, bespoke mattresses, wireless charging pads and a flat screen TV.

***2024 hire prices for the ‘Duchess 8’ Signature start at £1,199 for a short break, £1,799 for a week*.   

11. ‘Cumbria’ arrives at Sowerby Bridge

The new 48ft ‘Cumbria’ narrowboat for up to three people will be available to hire from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire.  The boat will feature: one double cabin; a saloon convertible to one single; and a toilet/shower room.  ‘Cumbria’ will also have USB sockets in all power points, a separate dining area, microwave and LED lighting. On a short break from Sowerby Bridge, boaters can travel to Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Brighouse or Wakefield. On a week’s holiday, they can reach Walsden, Stanley Ferry or Selby.

***2024 ‘Cumbria’ prices start at £755 for short break, £1,145 for a week*.  

*Please note, extras charged by individual Drifters operators vary.  For example some include fuel in their prices.

For more information about visiting the canals go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

 

Best canal boat holidays for beginners

Best canal boat holidays for beginners

With Britain’s inland waterways in better shape than ever and the health benefits of spending time by the water proven, narrowboat holidays are becoming increasingly popular.

You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat and all Drifters’ operators provide hirers with boat steering tuition as part of their canal boat holiday hire.

Today’s narrowboats are fully equipped with essential home comforts, including central heating, hot water, TV, showers, microwaves, flushing toilets, and many now have WiFi too.

So if you are planning to pack-up and ‘ship-out’ on an adventure afloat, take a look at our top 10 canal boat holidays for beginners to help you learn the ropes:

1. Cruise to the bright lights of Birmingham

Boasting more canals than Venice, Birmingham simply has to be visited by canal boat. And with no locks between our base at Tardebigge and Birmingham City Centre, it’s the perfect opportunity for novices to ‘dip their toe in the water’. Cruising along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, it takes just five hours to reach Birmingham.  The first half of the journey passes through fields, woodlands and sleepy villages, and a series of canal tunnels, before becoming increasingly urban. Once in the centre of Birmingham, you can find over-night moorings at Gas Street Basin, with easy access to Brindleyplace, the Mailbox and other city centre attractions.

2. Love the Llangollen

Passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular navigations on the network. The journey from our Trevor base to Ellesmere and back offers a fantastic short break holiday for beginners. There are just four locks between Trevor and the beautiful Meres, a journey which takes around seven hours. And the route includes the experience of travelling across the World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, with incredible views of the Dee Valley 30 metres below.

3. Potter through the Peak District

Our base at Stoke on Trent, at the junction of the Caldon and Trent & Mersey canals, offers a fantastic way to experience the Peak District. Starting at the Etruria, home of the industrial potteries, it’s a gentle 11-hour cruise along the peaceful Caldon Canal to Froghall Basin.  The route passes through 17 locks and travels 17 miles.  Pubs to enjoy along the way include the Black Lion at Consall Forge and The Boat Inn at Basford Bridge.

4. Glide through the Brecon Beacons

Isolated from the main canal network, the scenic Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park. This quiet waterway, with very few locks, offers incredible mountain views and is nice and easy for beginners. On a week’s holiday from our base Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, you can cruise to Brecon and back. Along the way, you’ll pass through Georgian Crickhowell, with its fascinating 13th century castle, and Talybont-on-Usk with walks to the waterfalls at Blaen y Glyn.

5. Visit Georgian Bath

From our base at Hilperton on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, moorings close to Bath City Centre are a six-hour cruise away. The route passes through seven locks and crosses two stunning Bath stone aqueducts.  You’ll also pass a series of popular historic canalside pubs, including The Cross Guns at Avoncliff and the Barge Inn at Seend. Once at Sydney Wharf on the edge of Bath City Centre, you can use your boat as a base to explore the City, including the Roman Baths and Royal Crescent.

6. Take a rural route to Braunston

From our base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal, the pretty canal village of Braunston is a peaceful three-hour cruise away. There are only three locks along the way so it’s an easy holiday for first time boaters on a short break. The journey meanders through the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire countryside. Pubs to enjoy include the Kings Head at Napton and the Admiral Nelson at Braunston.

7. Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh

From our base at Falkirk, Edinburgh Quay is a sedate 11-hour journey along the lock-free Union Canal. The journey, perfect for beginners on a mid-week or week-long break, starts with a trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first and only 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, with easy access to the City’s many attractions, including Edinburgh Castle and Mark King Close, frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.

8. Steer gently through the countryside to Stone

From our base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal it takes around five hours to reach the historic Shropshire market town of Stone. Stone is renowned as the food and drink capital of Staffordshire, with regular markets, a good choice of restaurants and the annual Food & Drink Festival in October. Along the way, there are four locks to pass through and plenty of pubs to enjoy, including The Saracen’s Head at Weston and The Holly Bush Inn at Salt.

9. Navigate to the Yorkshire Dales

The journey from Silsden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to the pretty North Yorkshire village of Gargrave and back takes around seven hours and passes through three locks. You’ll pass through Skipton with its striking medieval stone castle and extensive woodlands. Once at Gargrave, there are pubs to enjoy, including the popular Mason’s Arms. And it’s easy access to the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Pennine Way.

10. Boat to historic Brewood and back

The journey to Brewood and back from our base at Gailey on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal offers an excellent short break route for beginners. Travelling a total of 25 miles, and passing through just two locks (one each way), this gentle journey through the Shropshire countryside passes the waterside Anchor Inn at Cross Green.  And transfers boaters onto the Shropshire Union Canal at Autherley Junction. On reaching the historic village of Brewood, there’s a choice of places to eat, including the canalside Bridge Inn.

Top 8 Easter canal boat holidays

Top 8 Easter canal boat holidays

Canal boat holidays are fantastic for families – offering the chance to set off on an adventure together, learning how to work the locks and speak the boating lingo, as well as spotting wildlife, exploring traffic-free towpaths and visiting waterside attractions along the way.

Drifters’ prices this Easter start at £710 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, £1,010 for a week.

Here are our top eight destinations for Easter 2024:

1. Visit the World’s biggest Cadbury shop at Cadbury World

Perfect for beginners, you can travel lock-free to Birmingham in just five hours from Drifters’ base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, stopping off along the way to find handmade Easter eggs in the World’s biggest Cadbury shop at Cadbury World. With more canals than Venice, boaters can travel right into the heart of the City where over-night moorings are available at Gas Street Basin, close to Brindleyplace with plenty for families to see and do, including visiting the Planetarium at Birmingham’s Science Museum Thinktank.

2. Join the Easter Boat Gathering at the National Waterways Museum

Over the Easter Weekend (29 March to 1 April 2024), the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire celebrates the start of the summer boating season with a large boat gathering and music and activities for the whole family. From our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire, it’s a 10-hour journey to Ellesmere Port, travelling 21 miles through 12 locks and passing through the historic City of Chester along the way, perfect for a week away.

3. Visit the Bath Comedy Festival

On a short break from Drifters’ base at Hilperton near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, you can travel along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal and reach Bath Top Lock in seven hours, with just one lock to pass through. From there, it’s a short walk to Georgian Bath’s City Centre attractions, including the Roman Baths and the Bath Comedy Festival, on from 1-21 April 2024.

4. See the ancient Rock Houses at Kinver Edge

From our narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s a 20-hour, 37-mile, 32-lock journey to Kinver on the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal. Kinver Edge offers visitors miles of wildlife-rich health land and woods to explore, and the National Trust’s ancient Rock Houses to visit. Kinver is on the route of the Stourport Ring, which can be navigated on a week’s holiday from Tardebigge, travelling a total of 76 miles via Birmingham, Kidderminster, Stourport and Worcester.

5. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’

From our base at Chirk on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen can be reached on a short break.  The incredible 1,000ft-long Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’ stands over 125ft high above the Dee Valley.  With not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure the stunning views of the valley below, crossing the aqueduct by boat you literally feel like you’re floating above the earth. On a week’s holiday, you can also head east along the Llangollen Canal to Ellesmere and the historic town of Whitchurch.

6. Step back in time in Mary King Close in Edinburgh

From our boat yard at Falkirk, at the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals, on a mid-week (four night) break you can travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh and back. The journey starts with trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift, which lifts boats 100ft from the Forth & Clyde Canal to the Union Canal above. Once in Edinburgh, you can moor up in Edinburgh Quay to enjoy the City’s attractions, including a tour of Mary King Close frozen in time beneath the Royal Mile.

7. Witness the Trebuchet being fired at Warwick Castle

Said to be Britain’s greatest medieval experience, you can travel to Warwick and back on a short break from our Stockton base on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire. Once there, you can moor up to explore the Castle and enjoy some of the daily shows over the Easter holidays, including the Legend of the Trebuchet where this deadly instrument of medieval warfare is demonstrated, and the Falconer’s Quest bird of prey show.  The journey to Warwick and back travels 23 miles, passes through 44 locks (22 each way) and takes around 17 hours.

8. Star gaze in the Brecon Beacons

Isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal runs through Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park, now officially an International Dark Sky Reserve. Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, this peaceful waterway, with very few locks, offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views, a series of historic village pubs to visit along the way and dark skies perfect for star-gazing on clear nights. On a short break from our base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, you can cruise lock-free to Llangynidr and back, passing the Lion Inn at Govilon and the Bridge End Inn at Llangattock. On a week’s break, you can travel on to Brecon, passing through Talybont-on-Usk with its popular Star Inn.

The Cross Guns pub at Avoncliff on the Kennet & Avon Canal

Top 10 canalside pubs to visit on a canal boat holiday

Canalside pubs are popular destinations for canal boat holiday-makers, and there are hundreds to choose from.

They often have names like The Lock Inn, The Navigation Inn, The Narrowboat, The Tunnel and The Bridge.  And many date back to the days when canals were the transport infrastructure of the industrial revolution.  Canalside inns provided refreshment for working boat families and their horses, as well as professional leggers who propelled boats through tunnels.

We’ve published a guide to our top 10 canalside pubs to visit on a canal boat holiday in 2024:

1. The Cross Guns at Avoncliff in Wiltshire

Located alongside the Kennet & Avon Canal, this 17th century inn has idyllic riverside pub gardens.  It has panoramic views of the foothills of the Cotswolds and the beautiful Avoncliff Aqueduct.  The Cross Guns serves a selection of British pub favourite food, local ales, cider and craft beer.  It’s close to our bases at Bath, Monkton Combe, Hilperton and Bradford on Avon.

2. The Holly Bush Inn at Denford in Staffordshire

Housed in an old flour mill on the Caldon Canal, the Holly Bush Inn is surrounded by Staffordshire Moorlands.  The pub offers award winning ales and delicious homemade food.  It has a large canalside beer garden and is both family and dog friendly.  From our narrowboat hire base at Stoke on Trent, it takes around seven hours to reach The Holly Bush.

3. The Stubbing Wharf at Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire

The Stubbing Wharf on the Rochdale Canal offers home cooked food, including Sunday lunch roasts. It has a choice of real ales and a canalside beer garden. The pub was built soon after the completion of the Rochdale Canal in 1789.  It served 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 Drifters canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge, it takes around five-and-a-half hours to reach Hebden Bridge.

4. The Swan at Fradley Junction in Derbyshire

At the junction of the Trent & Mersey and Coventry canals at Alrewas, the historic Swan pub is known locally as the ‘Mucky Duck’.  The pub offers traditional home cooked meals and a choice of cask ales.  The Swan’s bar area is decorated with Roses & Castles narrowboat art. Drifters’ base at Great Haywood is a six-hour cruise away, and Kings Orchard is just one-and-a-half hours away.

5. The Blue Lias Inn at Stockton in Warwickshire

Located on the Grand Union Canal, this historic rural pub was named after the limestone and clay that is quarried locally.  The clay is derived from material laid down in the early Jurassic seas, when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  The Blue Lias is around two-and-a-half hours by boat from our Stockton base.

6. The Plume of Feathers at Barlaston in Staffordshire

This popular pub on the Trent & Mersey Canal is part owned by the actor Neil Morrissey.  Visitors can sample some of Neil’s own beers and ales, and choose from a menu of homemade dishes made from fresh local ingredients.  It takes just over three hours to reach Barlastan from Drifters’ base at Stoke on Trent, and it’s seven cruising hours from Great Haywood.

7. The Crown Inn at Alvechurch in Worcestershire

This historic country pub next to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal has a rustic charm, a good selection of ales and lagers and great value food.  Our nearest bases are at Alvechurch and Tardebigge.

8. The Olde Barbridge Inn at Nantwich in Cheshire

This historic pub on the Shropshire Union Canal near Nantwich sells a selection of local ales brewed at its own local brewery. The pub serves classic British food made with local produce.  Our nearest bases are at Nantwich and Bunbury.

9. The Poacher’s Pocket at Chirk in Shropshire

With its tranquil canalside location and beer garden, the Poacher’s Pocket on the Llangollen Canal offers authentic pub food, including curries, steaks, burgers and salads.  Our nearest bases are at Chirk, Trevor and Blackwater Meadow.

10. The Fleur De Lys at Lowsonford in Warwickshire

This pretty 17th century country pub on the banks of the Stratford Canal has a lovely beer garden.  The Fleur De Lys has been famous for its pies since the 1950’s, all served with seasonal vegetables, chunky chips and gravy.  Drifters nearest narrowboat hire base is just three cruising hours away at Wootton Wawen.