Narrowboat holidays provide a floating holiday home. Cruising along at just four miles per hour, watching out for wildlife along the way, canal boat holiday-makers can take all the supplies they need for an adventure afloat.
Drifters offers over 550 boats for hire, operating from 45 bases across England, Scotland and Wales. Narrowboats range from 32ft to 70ft and can accommodate up to 12 people. All are equipped with essential home comforts, including central heating, hot water, TV, showers, flushing toilets, and many now have WiFi too. A licence isn’t required to steer a canal boat, and all Drifters operators provide hirers with boat steering tuition as part of their holiday packages.
To celebrate the two bank holidays in May, Drifters has listed its top seven short break narrowboat holidays:
Potter through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, it takes around 10 hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man. Along the way, boaters pass through just six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall. ***The 50ft ‘Sir Cador’ narrowboat for up to four people is currently available at Brewood 30 April to 3 May for £705. Price includes diesel, gas, damage waiver, bed linen, buoyancy aids, tuition on arrival, parking and pets.
Drift through the Calder Valley – on a short break from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the leafy Calder & Hebble Navigation through the Calder Valley to the old mill town of Hebden Bridge. Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, the journey to Hebden Bridge covers seven miles, passes through 10 locks and takes around five and a half hours. Once at Hebden, boaters can moor in the centre of town to enjoy a good choice of places to eat, as well as walks up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags. ***The 53ft ‘York 4’ narrowboat for up to four people is available from Sowerby Bridge 28-31 May for £1,015. Price includes damage waiver, pre-holiday information, comprehensive instruction, fuel, gas, parking, buoyancy aids and bed linen.
Complete the Droitwich Mini-Ring – the Droitwich Ring is the only canal boat holiday cruising circuit in Britain which can be completed on a short break. The 21-mile route, which can be accessed from Drifters’ Worcester base, takes boaters through the Worcestershire countryside along the River Severn, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and the Droitwich canals. There are 33 locks to pass through and it takes around 16 hours. ***The 47ft narrowboat for up to four people ‘Marbled Wren’ is currently available from Drifters’ Worcester base 30 April to 3 May for £765. Price includes boat hire, damage waiver, gas, car parking, tuition on arrival, buoyancy aids, bedding, towels and first pet. Fuel is extra – a £50 deposit is taken for short breaks (three or four nights), £90 for a week. Charge based on use, circa £10-15 per day. Second pet is charged at £30.
Forth & Clyde
Glide along the Forth & Clyde to visit Glasgow – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Falkirk, at the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals, it’s a peaceful nine-hour cruise along the Forth & Clyde Canal to the City of Glasgow. Along the way, boaters will travel 22 miles and will pass through five locks. This scenic route, which begins at the home of the magnificent Falkirk Wheel boat lift, passes through Auchinstarry, the River Kelvin Valley with magnificent views of the Campsie Fells above, and Kirkintillock. Once at Glasgow, there are moorings at Applecross Street Basin, close to Glasgow’s wealth of cultural centres, including the Hunterian Museum. ***The 58ft ‘Shakespeare’ narrowboat for up to four people is currently available 28-31 May 2021 for £1,099. Price includes boat hire, damage waiver, gas, car parking, tuition on arrival, buoyancy aids, bedding, towels and first pet. Fuel is extra – a £50 deposit is taken for short breaks (three or four nights), £90 for a week. Charge based on use, circa £10-15 per day. Second pet is charged at £30. From Falkirk an additional licence of £15 for three nights, or £25 for longer is payable by card or cash on arrival.
Heritage City of Bath
Visit the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath – on a short break from Drifters’ base at Devizes in Wiltshire, boaters can travel gently along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal to reach moorings at Sydney Wharf, on the edge of Bath City Centre. The journey travels 19 miles, passing through eight locks and takes around nine hours. Along the way, the route passes through the village of Seend with its canalside Barge Inn, the historic town of Bradford on Avon. The route also takes boaters over the beautiful Avoncliff and Dundas Bath stone aqueducts. Once at Sydney Wharf, boaters can moor up and take a 15-minute walk into Bath City Centre. ***The 50ft ‘Fennec Fox’ narrowboat for up to five people is currently available from Devizes 28 May to 1 June for £1,366. Price includes fuel, gas, damage waiver, parking, bedding, towels, life jackets and tuition. Pets are extra, charged at £30 each.
Cruise to Warwick Castle and back – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Stockton, on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, boaters can cruise to Warwick and back. The journey there and back takes around 14 hours, and passes through 40 locks (20 each way). Overnight moorings are available close to Warwick Castle on the banks of the River Avon, said to be Britain’s greatest medieval experience. The 57ft ‘Florence Edith’ narrowboat for up to six people is currently available from Stockton 28-31 May for £840. Price includes gas, car parking, tuition on arrival, diesel, damage waiver, bed linen and buoyancy aids. Pets are extra, charged at £25 each.
‘The Stream in the Sky’
Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Ellesmere and back – passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular navigations on the network. The journey from Drifters’ base at Trevor to Ellesmere and back takes boaters through four locks, and into the heart of the Shropshire Lake District, in around seven hours. The route includes the experience of travelling across the awesome UNESCO World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’, and Chirk Aqueduct. ***The 65ft ‘Anna’ narrowboat for up to four people is currently available 30 April to 3 May for £1,025. Price includes boat hire, gas, car parking, cancellation protection, tuition on arrival, buoyancy aids, bed linen, towels and first pet. There’s a £50 compulsory damage waiver and a £50 fuel deposit is taken for short breaks, with final charge based on use, circa £10-15 per day. Second pet is charged at £25 for a short break.