A canal boat holiday is a great way to enjoy the splendid colours of autumn in the hedgerows and trees that line our waterways, as they are dramatically mirrored in the water.
There’s plenty of wildlife to spot along the way during the autumn months, including flocks of fieldfare and redwing searching for hawthorn berries, and small mammals such as wood mice and bank voles stocking up on food before the winter.
Narrowboat holiday-makers can take all the supplies they need and have the freedom to moor up for the night alongside rural towpaths and canalside pubs offering take-outs.
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.
Drifters narrowboats range from 32ft to 70ft and can accommodate between two and 12 people. All are equipped with essential home comforts, including central heating, hot water, TV, showers, microwaves, flushing toilets, and many now have WiFi too. 2020 hire prices start at £560 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people, £725 for a week.
Here are Drifters’ top nine canal boat holiday sdestinations for autumn 2020:
- Amble along the Ashby to Snarestone and back – on a week’s holiday from Drifters canal boat hire base at Braunston, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to the pretty village of Snarestone and back, travelling a total of 47 miles, passing through eight locks and taking around 32 hours. This largely rural route takes boaters up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby and on to Hawkesbury Junction to join the Coventry Canal. Five miles later, boaters can transfer onto the peaceful lock-free Ashbury Canal, which winds peacefully through countryside for almost the whole of its 22-mile length. From Carlton Bridge to Snarestone, the canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Along the way, boaters pass close to Market Bosworth and the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field.
- Float through the Brecon Beacons to Taylbont-on-Usk – the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal offers 35 miles of quiet countryside to explore with incredible views of the Brecon Beacons. From Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, on a short break (three or four nights) boaters can journey through the wooded Usk Valley to Talybont-on-Usk, visiting villages and historic market towns along the way, including the Georgian town of Crickhowell with its 13th century castle. Once at Talybont-on-Usk, boaters can enjoy walking access to Blaen y Glyn waterfalls and the Brecon Beacons. The total journey there and back travels 36 miles, passing through 10 locks and takes around 18 hours.
- Glide across The Stream in the Sky – from Drifters new canal boat rental base at Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, boaters can reach the pretty town of Llangollen in 12 hours with just two locks to pass through, perfect for a relaxing week afloat. Along the way, boaters travel through the Shropshire Lake District and over the magnificent World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, also known as the Stream in the Sky.
- Go blackberry picking on the Stratford Canal – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal, it’s a picturesque seven-hour cruise through the Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon, with plenty of hedgerow foraging opportunities along the way – perfect for a short break. Once at the birthplace of the Bard, boaters can moor up in Bancroft Basin, to explore the town’s many independent shops, restaurants and museums.
- Drift through the Calder Valley – on a short break (three or four nights) 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, nestled in a fork in the hills. Climbing through woods, fields and small stone towns, the journey to Hebden Bridge 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.
- Cruise through the Bath Valley – on a short break from Drifters’ Hilperton base on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Trowbridge in Wiltshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to the World Heritage Status City of Bath and back, enjoying beautiful views of the southern Cotswold Hills along the way. The journey to Sydney Wharf takes just six hours, travelling across two magnificent aqueducts, passing through one lock and several canalside pubs, including the popular Cross Guns at Avoncliff. Once in Bath, boaters can moor up a short walk away from the centre of Bath.
- Complete the Stourport Ring – from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, on a week’s break narrowboat holiday-makers canal travel the popular Stourport Ring, travelling a total of 74 miles and passing through 118 locks, which takes around 44 hours. The route takes in the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Navigation, upper section of the River Severn, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, Birmingham Canal Main Line and the Birmingham Canal Old Main Line. Highlights include: the Wolverhampton 21 locks; Gas Street Basin in Birmingham City Centre; open countryside on the River Severn; the Stourport Basins; Kinver Edge and the National Trust’s famous rock houses; and the Tardebigge Flight of 30 locks, the longest in the country.
- Cruise through the Scottish lowlands to Linlithgow – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at the Falkirk Wheel boat lift, it’s a peaceful five-hour cruise through the Scottish lowlands along the Union Canal to the historic town of Linlithgow – perfect for a short break (three or four nights). The route begins passing over the Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first rotating boat lift which replaced a flight of 11 locks and then passes through two tunnels and two aqueducts, plus miles of peaceful countryside before reaching Linlithgow. Once there, narrowboat holiday-makers can see the beautifully preserved remains of Linlithgow Palace on the shores of Linlithgow Loch.
- 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 – perfect for a mid-week break afloat. Along the way, boaters pass through miles of beautiful Shropshire countryside, six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.
For more information about Drifters boating holidays call 0344 984 0322 or visit www.drifters.co.uk.
For more information about visiting the canal network go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk
Drifters Waterway Holidays is made up of nine hire boat companies: ABC Boat Hire, Anglo Welsh, Black Prince, Countrywide Cruisers, Foxhangers, Kate Boats, Napton Narrowboats, Shire Cruisers and Union Canal Carriers. Between them they offer over 550 boats for hire, operating from 45 bases across England, Scotland and Wales. 2020 hire prices start at £560 for a short break, £725 for a week on a boat for up to four people. Narrowboats range from 32ft to 70ft and can accommodate up to 12 people. All Drifters operators provide hirers with life jackets and boat steering tuition. www.drifters.co.uk Tel 0344 984 0322.
Drifters’ response to the Coronavirus Pandemic
Following government guidance, Drifters has worked with its trade association (British Marine Inland Boating) and the Canal & River Trust to take practical, simple steps to make sure that social distancing can be maintained in its boat yards and boats will be well-cleaned between hires. Drifters operators will also accept holiday deferrals where customers have to change their booking due to coronavirus. Where deferrals due to coronavirus are not possible, vouchers or refunds will be given. www.drifters.co.uk #weregoodtogo