It’s well known that spending time in green space connecting with nature is good for our mental health and wellbeing. Recent research by the Canal & River Trust confirms the combination of green and blue space with wildlife experienced by visitors to the inland waterways gives an extra wellbeing boost*.
Britain’s 3,000-mile network of inland waterways flow through some of our most beautiful and unspoilt countryside, including National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).
Here’s a guide to Drifters’ Top 8 wellbeing destinations for narrowboat holidays in Summer 2023:
1. Navigate the Peak Forest Canal to Whaley Bridge
On a week’s holiday from our narrowboat hire base at Stoke on Trent, you can travel along the Trent & Mersey and Macclesfield canals to connect to the Peak Forest Canal and Whaley Bridge. The Peak Forest Canal is said to be one of Britain’s most scenic waterways, running through beautiful countryside on the edge of the Peak District National Park. The journey to Whaley Bridge travels 39 miles, passes through the Harecastle Tunnel and 13 locks, and takes around 20 cruising hours.
2. Explore the Staffordshire countryside & Cannock Chase
On a short break from Kings Orchard on the Coventry Canal in Staffordshire, you can cruise to the beautiful waters at Tixall Wide and back, passing through the Cannock Chase AONB along the way. The journey there and back travels 32 miles, passes through 10 locks (five each way) and takes around 16 hours.
3. Drift through the prehistoric Vale of Pewsey to Hungerford
On a week away from our base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes, you can cruise to the historic town of Hungerford, passing through the Vale of Pewsey, in the North Wessex Downs AONB. The journey there and back takes around 40 hours, travelling 54 miles through 106 locks.
4. Glide around the Breacon Beacons
The beautiful Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park. Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, this peaceful waterway offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views. On a week’s break from our base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, you can cruise to Brecon and back. The journey takes you through Georgian Crickhowell, with its fascinating 13th century castle. And Talybont-on-Usk, with wonderful walks to the waterfalls at Blaen y Glyn. Brecon is home to a cathedral, theatre, cinema, castle ruins and stunning Georgian architecture. And you can enjoy some of the best views of the Brecon Beacons from Pen y Fan, the highest point in Southern Britain at 886 metres.
5. Cruise to the Aylesbury Vale
On a week’s break from Gayton Marina you can travel south to the Aylesbury Arm and into the Vale of Aylesbury, part of the Chilterns AONB. The journey to Aylesbury passes through a series of canalside towns and villages, including Stoke Bruerne with its Canal Museum. And Marsworth next to Tring Reservoirs, a nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The route travels 44 miles, passes through 41 locks and takes around 22 hours.
6. Float through the Dee Valley in North Wales
On a short break from Chirk on the Llangollen Canal, you can float through the Dee Valley AONB to the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen. You’ll pass over the UNESCO World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way. And you’ll cruise across the Chirk Aqueduct and through Whitehouses Tunnel. The journey to Llangollen and back takes around eight hours, travelling 14 miles, with no locks.
7. Take a Thames boating holiday to the edge of the Cotswolds
On a four-night mid-week break from Oxford, you can travel west along the River Thames to the pretty market town of Lechlade, in an AONG on the edge of the Cotswolds. The route passes through 22 miles of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire countryside. You’ll pass close-by to Kelmscott Manor, once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris. It takes around 17 hours to cruise there and back, passing through seven locks each way.
8. Travel through the Yorkshire Dales to Skipton
On a short break from Barnoldswick, you can head north-east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to historic Skipton. The journey travels 13 miles through the Yorkshire Dales, passing through 15 locks in around 10 hours. This breath-taking route winds along the contours of the side of Airedale, with extensive views of the Yorkshire Dales. You see sheep, farmhouses, barns, stone walls and the occasional village or town. Once in Skipton, you can moor up to visit shops and restaurants. And explore the 900-year old Skipton Castle, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.
*The Canal & River Trust’s research was carried out by King’s College London, Nomad Projects and J&L Gibbons using Urban Mind, a smartphone based app to collect thousands of real time audits about participants’ location and mental wellbeing. Proof that time by water helps boost your mood | Canal & River Trust (canalrivertrust.org.uk)