From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, canal boat holiday-makers can use their boat as a floating holiday home and base to explore.
Drifters Waterway Holidays (drifters.co.uk, tel 0844 984 0322) offers over 580 boats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales. 2017 hire prices start at £442 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £680 for a week.
Here are Drifters’ Top 10 canal boat holidays for 2017:
- Take the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ at Hatton…next Spring, a brand new eight-berth narrowboat will be joining the Drifters’ fleet on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston, in the heart of the canal network. The 69ft long ‘Blackdown’, which is being built in the hire boat base’s dry dock over the winter, will have three bedrooms (with either two single berths or a fixed double), plus two bathrooms and a saloon area with a dining area that can be made up into a double bed. On a week’s break, boaters can cruise the popular Warwickshire Ring, which takes 52 hours, passes through 93 locks and includes sections of the Coventry, Oxford, Grand Union and Birmingham & Fazeley Canals, plus the Hatton Flight of 21 locks, also known as ‘The Stairway to Heaven’. ****2017 prices on ‘Blackdown’ start at £812 for a short break, £1,160 for a week. Price includes diesel, gas, cancellation protection, car parking, tuition, bed linen, buoyancy aids and first pet. Second pet is charged at £25.
- Go shooting star-gazing in the Breacon Beacons…isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park. Stretching 35 miles from Brecon to Cwmbran, this peaceful waterway, with very few locks, offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views and some of the darkest night skies in Britain, perfect for star-gazing. Watch out for the Lyrids Meteor Shower predicted for 22-23 April, the Eta Aquarids 6-7 May, the Delta Aquarids 28-29 July, Perseids 12-13 August, Draconids 7 October and the Orionids 21-22 October. On a short break from Drifters’ base at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny, boaters can cruise lock-free to Llangynidr and back, passing through Georgian Crickhowell, with its fascinating 13th century castle, and the village of Govilon, with its popular Lion Inn. On a week’s holiday, continue on to the Georgian town of Brecon, passing through Talybont-on-Usk with walks to the waterfalls at Blaen y Glyn. ****2017 canal boat hire prices from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Goytre Wharf start at £589 for a short break on a boat for four people, £899 for a week. Prices include damage waiver, gas, parking, tuition, towels, bedding and first pet. Fuel is extra, circa £10-15 per day. A fuel deposit of £50 is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week’s hire.
- Celebrate 80 years of The Hobbit with a journey through Tolkein country…published 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim, the popularity of J R R Tolkein’s ‘The Hobbit’ endures, not least amongst the canal boat community where dozens of boats bear the names of Tolkein created characters. Tolkein spent much of his childhood exploring the village of Sarehole (now Hall Green), Moseley Bog, the Malvern Hills, and nearby Bromsgrove, Alcester and Alvechurch. From Drifters’ canal boat holiday base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Alvechurch, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through some of the landscapes that inspired Tolkein’s masterpiece. On a short break, travel lock-free to the village of Lapworth and back. On a week’s holiday, cruise the Stourport Ring, including a section of the River Severn and the cathedral City of Worcester. ****2017 short break prices on a boat for four start at £520, weekly hire from £800. Prices include damage waiver, gas, parking, tuition, towels, bedding and first pet. Fuel is extra, circa £10-15 per day. A fuel deposit of £50 is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week’s hire.
- Visit the land of castles & float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’…from Drifters’ base at Chirk on the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, the awesome World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct can be reached on a short break. Standing at over 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, this incredible structure consists of a cast iron trough supported on iron arched ribs, carried on 19 hollow pillars. Each span is 16-metres wide. With not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure the stunning views of the valley below, canal boaters literally feel like they are floating above the earth. From Chirk, home to the National Trust’s 900-year old Chirk Castle, canal boat holiday-makers can head west to travel across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and then on to the pretty town of Llangollen, with its fascinating Steam Railway and Horsehoe Falls. The journey covers eight miles with no locks, making it nice and easy for beginners. ****2017 short break prices from Chirk start at £669 on a boat for four people, £729 for a week. Price includes damage waiver, tuition, gas, bedlinen, towels and parking. Pets are extra, charged at £30 each. Cancellation Protection costs between £40 and £75, depending on the holiday cost. Diesel is charged on return based on amount used, circa £10-15 per day.
- Explore 428 million years of history at Dudley Tunnel…from our Tardebigge base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it’s an eight-hour (three-lock) journey to the Black Country Living Museum, where there’s now a connecting bridge to the Dudley Canal Tunnel & Limestone Mines. Here visitors can explore the Dudley Canal & Tunnel Trust’s award-winning new visitor centre and board a trip boat to explore the spectacular limestone tunnels under Castle Hill, which date back 428 million years to the Silurian age. ****2017 short break prices on a boat for four from Tardebigge start at £455, or £685 for a week. Price includes boat hire, damage waiver, gas, car parking, tuition, buoyancy aids, bed linen, towels and first pet. Second pet is charged at £25 for a short break, £35 for a week. Fuel is extra – a £50 fuel deposit is payable for a short break, £90 for a week.
- Enjoy stunning Peak District views on the Macclesfield Canal…on a week’s break from our Peak District base on the Trent & Mersey Canal, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel along the beautiful Green Flag awarded Macclesfield Canal. Skirting the edge of the Peak District, and passing through the small towns of Congleton, Macclesfield and Marple, this 26-mile long waterway is dotted with Victorian mills and warehouses. Making Whaley Bridge the turning point, the journey, which travels 80 miles through 26 locks, can be done with around five hours cruising each day. ***2017 weekly breaks from Drifters’ Peak District base currently start at £1,099 on a boat for four people. Price includes damage waiver, tuition, gas, bedlinen, towels and parking. Pets are extra, charged at £30 each, and diesel used is charged for on return, circa £10-15 per day.
- Bumble along to Brighouse for Pennine Walks…on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Brighouse and Shepley Bridge and back along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation. Famous for its Brighouse and Rastick Brass Band, historic Brighouse offers glorious Pennines walks, food and craft markets, a variety of places to eat and independent shops. Travelling on to Shepley Bridge with its waterside Ship Inn, boaters pass through the village of Mirfield, with medieval stocks and ducking stool, plus Dumb Steeple, thought to have been a landmark to guide travellers on their way across the moor. The journey travels 22 miles through 32 locks and takes around 16 hours. ***2017 short break prices from Sowerby Bridge start at £415 for a boat for two people. Prices include damage waiver, pre-holiday information, comprehensive instruction, fuel, gas, parking, buoyancy aids, bed linen and first pet. Second pet is charged at £25.
- Visit beautiful Bath afloat…on a short break from Drifters’ base at Hilperton near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, boaters can travel along the scenic Kennet & Avon Canal, reaching Bath Top Lock in six hours, with just one lock to pass through – a journey perfect for narrowboat holiday beginners. Along the way, boaters pass through the historic town of Bradford on Avon, with its mesmerising medieval Tithe Barn and choice of independent shops and restaurants. From moorings at Syndey Wharf, just below Bath Top Lock, it’s a 15-minute walk into the centre of Bath, a World Heritage Status City famous for its stunning Georgian architecture and fascinating Roman Baths. ****2017 canal boat hire prices from Drifters’ Hilperton base start at £589 for a short break on a boat for four people. Prices include damage waiver, gas, parking, tuition, towels, bedding and first pet. Fuel is extra, circa £10-15 per day. A fuel deposit of £50 is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week’s hire.
- Go ghost hunting at the Palace of Linlithgow…From Drifters’ base at Falkirk, at the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals, on a short break (three or four nights) narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Linlithgow and back. The journey starts with trip through the iconic Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift, which uses the same power it takes to boil eight kettles to smoothly lift boats 100ft from the Forth & Clyde Canal to the Union Canal above. Once at Linlithgow, boaters can visit the 12th-century Palace of Linlithgow to hunt the ruins for the ghost of Mary Queen of Scots’ mother and enjoy a meal at the award-winning Four Marys pub. ****2017 short break prices from Drifters’ base at Falkirk start at £520 on a boat for four people. Prices include a £50 compulsory non-refundable damage waiver, tuition, linen, gas, car parking, buoyancy aids and VAT. Fuel is extra, circa £15 per day. A fuel deposit of £50 is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week’s hire.
- Potter along to the ‘chocolate box’ pretty village of Stoke Bruerne…on a week’s break from Drifters’ base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise gently through the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire countryside to the canalside village of Stoke Bruerne, taking in a number of delightful villages with traditional pubs along the way, and journeying through the 2,813-metre long Blisworth Tunnel, the third longest on the network. Once in Stoke Bruerne, visitors can enjoy a choice of canalside pubs and eateries, woodland walks and browsing the intriguing waterway history collections at the Canal Museum. The round-trip travels 60 miles, passing through 44 locks and takes around 38 hours. ****2017 prices from Stockton start at £860 for a week on a boat for four people. Price includes boat hire, damage waiver, gas, car parking, tuition, buoyancy aids, bed linen, towels and first pet. Second pet is £25 for a short break, £35 for a week. Fuel is extra – a £50 deposit is taken for a short break, £90 for a week.