Top 7 summer canal boat holidays in 2023

Travelling through the countryside at just four-miles-an-hour, canal boat holidays are the fastest way to slow down this summer.

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 £835, and at £1,145 for a week.

We’ve published a guide to our Top 7 Summer Canal Boat Holidays for 2023:

1. Yorkshire: Toddle to Todmorden for some stunning Pennine scenery

On a short break from Sowerby Bridge, you can travel along the Rochdale Canal to Todmorden.  This historic town offers visitors fine Victorian architecture, plenty of pubs and restaurants, and a busy market.  Along the way, you’ll pass through the village of Mytholmroyd, the birthplace of Ted Hughes. And the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, where the BBC’s popular ‘Happy Valley’ drama is set.  The journey to Todmorden and back travels 20 miles, passes through 34 locks (17 each way) and takes around 16 hours.

2. South Wales: Glide through the Usk Valley to Brecon and back

On a week’s holiday from Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, you can navigate through the Usk Valley on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal.  You can reach the pretty market town of Brecon, in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park.  Brecon offers theatre, cinema, cafes and restaurants and 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.  You could visit the 13th century caste at Crickhowell or walk to the Blaen y Glyn waterfalls at Talybont-on-Usk.  The journey there and back travels 51 miles, passing through 12 locks (six each way) and takes around 25 hours.

3. Scotland: Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh

On a four-night mid-week break from Falkirk, you can cruise along the Union Canal to Edinburgh Quay.  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.  The journey to Edinburgh Quay and back travels 64 miles, passes through four locks (two each way) and takes around 22 hours.

4. Wiltshire: Visit Georgian Bath afloat

On a short break from Devizes you can navigate along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Georgian Bath.  Along the way, the route passes a series of canalside pubs and the historic market town of Bradford on Avon.  You’ll also travel across the beautiful Bath stone Avoncliff and Dundas aqueducts.  There are moorings at Sydney Wharf, a 15-minute walk from Bath City centre. The journey to Bath and back travels 39 miles, passes through 20 locks (10 each way) and takes around 19 cruising hours.

5. North Wales: 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 Chirk, you can travel to the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen and back.  The route cruises the 11 miles of the Llangollen Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site, including the awesome Chirk and Pontcysyllte aqueducts. The journey from Chirk to Llangollen Basin and back travels 14 miles and takes around four hours.

6. Northamptonshire: Travel along the peaceful Ashby Canal to Shakerstone

On a week’s holiday from Braunston base on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, you can explore the beautiful Ashby Canal.  There no locks along this peaceful 22-mile waterway.  Just mile-upon-mile of countryside to enjoy, as well as 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.

7. Shropshire: Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton

On a four night mid-week break from Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can reach the historic market town of Market Drayton.  The route passes 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 a series of deep canal cuttings. The total journey Market Drayton and back travels 42 miles, passes through 12 locks and takes around 19 hours.