Top 9 canal boat holidays for 2023

From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, narrowboat holiday-makers can use their boat as a floating holiday home to explore Britain’s beautiful 3,000-mile network of inland waterways.  There’s a choice of hundreds of waterside destinations and historic canalside pubs to stop-off at along the way.

Drifters offers over 550 boats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales.  2023 hire prices start at £590 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £815 for a week.  Tuition is included in the price of all our holiday hires, and many of our operators are currently offering early-bird booking discounts.

Here are Drifters’ Top 9 narrowboat holidays for 2023:

1. Cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Wrenbury Mill

From our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal, it’s a peaceful 10-mile cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Wrenbury Mill.  The route, which passes through 11 locks and takes around six hours, starts on the Shropshire Union Canal and transfers onto the Llangollen Canal at Hurleston Junction.  At Wrenbury Mill, you can moor up for country walks and a choice of pubs, including the popular Dusty Miller.

2. Navigate the Black Country Ring

On a week’s holiday from our base at Kings Orchard in Staffordshire, you can navigate the Black Country Ring. The journey takes in a mixture of urban and rural scenery, and travels sections of the Coventry, Trent & Mersey, Staffordshire & Worcestershire, New Birmingham Main Line and Birmingham & Fazeley canals.  Travelling 75 miles, and passing through 79 locks, the route takes around 43 cruising hours.  Highlights include: the quiet waters at Tixall Wide; Gas Street Basin in the centre of Birmingham; and Fradley Pool Nature Reserve at Fradley Junction.

3. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath

On a mid-week break from our base at Devizes in Wiltshire, you can travel along the Kennet & Avon Canal to reach moorings at Sydney Wharf, on the edge of Bath City Centre.  The journey travels 19 miles, passes through eight locks and takes around nine hours.  On the way, the route passes through the village of Seend with its popular canalside Barge Inn, and the historic town of Bradford on Avon, with a choice of independent shops and restaurants.  Once at Sydney Wharf, you can moor up and take a 15-minute walk into Bath City Centre.

4. Explore the Llangollen Canal UNESCO World Heritage site

Setting off on a week’s holiday from our base at Whitchurch in Shropshire, you can travel to Llangollen and back, navigating along the 11-mile section of the Llangollen Canal designated a World Heritage site.  Beginning at Gledrid, the World Heritage Site comprises a series of embankments, tunnels, viaducts and aqueducts, including the stunning Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  The whole length, described by UNESCO as ‘a masterpiece of creative genius’, has also been designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument of National Importance, and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The journey from Whitchurch to Llangollen and back travels 61 miles, passes through four locks and takes around 27 hours.

5. Complete the Stourport Ring

On a week’s break from our base at Stoke Prior in Worcestershire, you can complete the Stourport Ring.  The route includes sections of the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal, River Severn and the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.  It travels 84 miles, passes through 117 locks and takes around 51 cruising hours. Highlights include: the Tardebigge Flight of 30 locks; Gas Street Basin in the centre of Birmingham; and the Cathedral City of Worcester.

6. Cruise to Fenny Compton and back

Departing on a weekend break from our base at Stockton in Warwickshire, you can cruise to the pretty village of Fenny Compton.  The journey begins on the Grand Union Canal, transferring onto the Oxford Canal at Napton Junction.  Winding gently through 15 miles of countryside, the route passes through 12 locks, and takes around eight hours. Pubs to stop-off at along the way include the King’s Arms at Napton-on-the-Hill, and The Wharf Inn at Fenny Compton.

7. Visit Skipton and its medieval castle

Enjoying a weekend break from our Barnoldswick base, you can head east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Skipton.  The journey there and back travels 26 miles, passes through 30 locks (15 each way) and takes around 20 cruising hours.  This breath-taking route winds along the contours of the side of Airedale, with extensive views of sheep country.  Once in Skipton, you can moor in the centre of the town, visit shops and restaurants and explore the 900-year old Skipton Castle.

8. Travel slowly through the countryside to Hawkesbury Junction

On a weekend break from our base at Braunston, you can cruise slowly through the Northamptonshire countryside to Hawkesbury Junction. The route begins on the Grand Union Canal, transferring onto the North Oxford Canal at the Braunston Turn.  Travelling 23 miles to Hawkesbury, passing through four locks and Newbold Tunnel along the way, the journey takes around seven hours.  Pubs to stop off at include: the Bell Inn at Hillmorton; the Barley Mow at Newbold; and the Greyhound at Hawkesbury Junction.

9. Cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Market Drayton

From our base at Autherley in Staffordshire, on a mid-week break you can cruise to the historic town of Market Drayton and back.  This rural route, perfect for beginners, takes you along the Shropshire Union Canal through over 26 miles of peaceful countryside.  It passes through seven locks and a series of pretty villages with canalside pubs, including the Bridge Inn at Brewood and the Hartley Arms at Wheaton Ashton.