The Whitsun bank holiday weekend (27-29 May) offers the perfect excuse to plan a boating break on Britain’s peaceful inland waterways.
Drifters (drifters.co.uk) 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 hire.
To celebrate the late bank holiday, Drifters has published its Top 6 weekend breaks afloat:
- 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 six locks and a series of deep cuttings full of trees and the sound of birdsong. There’s a choice of canalside pubs along the way, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall. ***The 55ft ‘Sir Ulfius’ narrowboat for up to four people is currently available 26-29 May for £1,045. Price includes diesel, gas, damage waiver, bed linen, buoyancy aids, tuition on arrival, parking and pets.
- Drift through the Calder Valley to Hebden Bridge – on a weekend 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, featured in the hit BBC series ‘Happy Valley’, covers seven miles, 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 stunning walks up to Heptonstall or Hardcastle Crags. ***The 56ft ‘Huntingdon 4’ narrowboat for up to four people is available 26-29 May for £1,235. Price includes damage waiver, pre-holiday information, comprehensive instruction, fuel, gas, parking, buoyancy aids and bed linen.
- Glide along the Forth & Clyde to visit Glasgow – from Drifters canal boat hire base at Falkirk, 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 the historic town of Kirkintillock. Once at Glasgow, there are moorings at Applecross Street Basin, close to Glasgow’s wealth of cultural centres, including the Hunterian Museum. ***The 52ft ‘Princess’ narrowboat for up to six people is currently available 27-30 May 2021 for £1,549. Price includes boat hire, damage waiver, gas, car parking, tuition on arrival, buoyancy aids, bed linen and towels. Fuel is extra. Charge based on use, circa £15 per day. From Falkirk an additional licence of £15 for three nights is payable by card or cash on arrival.
- Navigate to Bradford on Avon – on a short break from Drifters’ base at Devizes in Wiltshire, boaters can travel gently along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal to reach the historic town of Bradford on Avon, with its choice of independent shops, restaurants and cafes, and fascinating 14th century Tithe Barn. The journey travels 10 miles, passing through seven locks and takes around five-and-a-half hours. Along the way, the route passes through the village of Seend with its popular canalside Barge Inn. ***The 50ft ‘Foxtail’ narrowboat for up to five people is currently available 26-30 May for £1,030, saving £411. 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), perfect for a long weekend away. Overnight moorings are available close to Warwick Castle on the banks of the River Avon. The 57ft ‘Lucy May’ narrowboat for up to six people is currently available 26-29 May for £1,560. Price includes gas, car parking, tuition on arrival, diesel, damage waiver, bed linen and buoyancy aids. Pets are extra, charged at £25 each.
- Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Ellesmere – 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. And the route includes the experience of travelling across the awesome UNESCO World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, also known as ‘The Stream in the Sky’, with incredible views of the Dee Valley 30 metres below. ***The 65ft ‘Anna’ narrowboat for up to four people is currently available 26-29 May for £1,435. 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 £70 fuel deposit is taken for short breaks, with final charge based on use, circa £15 per day. Second pet is charged at £25 for a short break.
For more information about Drifters boating holidays call 0344 984 0322 or visit www.drifters.co.uk
For more information about visiting the canals go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk