Promotional feature: Debbie Walker, of Drifters Waterway Holidays, gives a run-down of the group’s most popular canal boat holidays.
Britain’s canals and rivers have undergone an incredible renaissance in the last 15 years, making narrowboat holidays more popular than ever.
Travelling at less than four miles an hour, taking a break on Britain’s beautiful inland waterway network is the fastest way to slow down. From rural retreats and wildlife to historic towns and exciting waterside cities, there are over 3,000 miles of canals and rivers to explore.
Some of the most popular routes:
1. Take a one-way trip across the Pennines
This epic canal journey takes boaters across the backbone of England and through the heart of West Riding, in scenery varying from the timeless calm of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal summit to the hubbub of Leeds waterfront. Start from Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire or Barnoldswick in Lancashire. The journey takes 45 hours, travelling 79 miles through 79 locks.
2. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’…
Towering 38 metres high above the Dee Valley, awesome 305-metre long World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales is also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’. 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 Trevor in Wrexham, the journey across the aqueduct and on to the pretty town of Llangollen takes two hours.
3. Explore the Georgian World Heritage City of Bath
From Bradford on Avon, the stunning World Heritage City of Bath is seven hours and seven locks away. Travel along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal, stopping off at historic canalside pubs along the way, including The George at Bathampton, once a 12th-century monastery.
4. Glide through the Brecon Beacons
Isolated from the main canal network, the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal offers 35 miles of quiet countryside to explore. It runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park from Brecon to Cwmbran with very few locks but incredible mountain views. Start from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Goytre near Abergavenny.
5. Discover Europe’s only short break canal circuit
Fifty years ago campaigning began to restore the Droitwich Canals and they finally reopened in 2011, creating the only cruising ring in Europe which can be completed on a short break. The Droitwich Ring takes 16 hours to cruise, covering 21 miles and 33 locks. Start from Drifters’ base at Worcester on the River Severn or Stoke Prior on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.
6. Cruise into the heart of Birmingham
Boasting more canals than Venice, Birmingham simply has to be visited by water. City centre moorings are available at Gas Street Basin with easy access to Brindley Place, the Mailbox and Bullring shopping centres, theatres, museums and restaurants. Travel lock-free in just five hours from Drifters’ bases at Tardebigge or Alvechurch, on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.
7. Experience the world’s first rotating boat lift
Built as part of the Millennium Link project to restore the canals linking the east and west coasts of Scotland, The Falkirk Wheel is the world’s first and only rotating boat lift. Standing at a height of 35 metres, it moves boats between the Union and Forth & Clyde canals, replacing a flight of 11 locks dismantled in 1933. From Falkirk, boaters can travel through the Wheel then along the peaceful Union Canal, reaching Edinburgh in a day and a half. Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street with easy access to the City’s museums, shops, restaurants.
8. Take a tour of Shakespeare’s home town
It’s a picturesque six-hour cruise, passing through 16 locks to Stratford upon Avon, from Drifters’ base at Wootton Wawen, in Warwickshire. Boaters can moor up in Stratford canal basin, just a stone’s throw from the Swan Theatre, Bancroft Gardens and the town’s shops, restaurants and museums. Along the way, the canal passes through the village of Wilmcote, where visitors can find Mary Arden’s Farm Museum, the house where Shakespeare’s mother grew up.
9. Visit London afloat
From Drifters’ West London base, canal boat holiday-makers can travel through the heart of London along the Grand Union and Regent’s canals, to the Docklands and Limehouse Basin. The journey passes through Little Venice, Regent’s Park, London Zoo, Camden Lock, Kings Cross, Islington and Victoria Park. There are plenty of safe places to moor and step back onto dry land to visit London’s top attractions, theatres, restaurants and shops.
10. Enjoy a short break on Wedgwood’s Caldon Canal
One of the quietest and most picturesque canals in Britain, the Caldon Canal is a branch of the Trent & Mersey Canal originally built to transport porcelain. The Caldon runs for 17 miles and uses 17 locks to travel through the beautiful Churnet Valley and reach Froghall Wharf. It’s an ideal journey for newcomers to canal boat holidays and can easily be done on a short break. Start at Drifters’ Peak District base near Stoke on Trent.
Top tips for boaters can be found here: http://canalrivertrust.org.uk/boating/navigating-the-waterways/boaters-handbook
Drifters offers over 500 self-drive canal boats for hire from 35 bases across England, Scotland and Wales.
Tel: 0844 984 0322.
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