From rural retreats to vibrant city centres, narrowboat holiday-makers can explore Britain’s peaceful 3,000-mile network of inland waterways. They offer a choice of hundreds of waterside destinations and historic canalside pubs to visit along the way.
Drifters Waterway Holidays offers over 550 boats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales. Tuition is included in all Drifters’ holiday packages.
Drifters Waterway Holidays is made up of nine hire boat companies. They are: ABC Boat Hire, Anglo Welsh, Black Prince, Countrywide Cruisers, Kate Boats, Foxhangers, 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.
2024 hire prices start at £620 for a short break on a boat for up to four people. Or £860 for a week. Narrowboats range from 32ft to 70ft and can accommodate up to 12 people.
Here are Drifters’ Top 8 canal boat holidays for 2024:
Cruise through the Cheshire countryside to Middlewich
On a three-night weekend break on the Shropshire Union Canal at Nantwich, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to Middlewich and back. The route takes boaters past a series of pubs, including the Barbridge Inn at Barbridge Junction and the Badger Inn at Church Minshull. The journey to Middlewich and back travels 27 miles, passing through 14 locks (seven each way). It takes around 13 cruising hours. The 48ft narrowboat Rufous Wren carries up to four people. Price includes a non-refundable damage waiver, bed linen, towels, car parking, two pets, buoyancy aids and tuition. A fuel deposit of £60 for a short break is payable with the balance of hire. Fuel costs are approx. £15 per day.
Travel through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh
On a four-night break holiday-makers can cruise along the Union Canal to Edinburgh and back. The trip starts with a passage through the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first rotating boat lift. Pubs to visit along the way include The Bridge Inn at Linlithgow and The Bridge Inn at Ratho. Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street. The journey to Edinburgh Quay and back travels 64 miles, passes through six locks (three each way). It takes around 22 hours.
The 52ft narrowboat Princess Signature carries up to six people is available 19-22 June 2024 for £1575. Price includes boat hire, damage waiver, gas, car parking, tuition, buoyancy aids, bed linen and towels. Diesel is extra, charged based on use on return, circa £15 per day. An additional licence is required to cruise from Falkirk, priced at £15 for three days, or £25 for longer.
Navigate to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath
On a four-night break from Drifters’ base at Devizes in Wiltshire, boaters can travel along the Kennet & Avon Canal. And end up in Sydney Wharf, on the edge of Bath City Centre. On the way, the route passes through the village of Seend with its popular canalside Barge Inn. And the historic town of Bradford on Avon, with a choice of independent shops and restaurants. Once at Sydney Wharf, boaters can moor up and take a 15-minute walk into Bath City Centre. The journey to Sydney Wharf and back travels 38 miles, passes through 16 locks (eight each way). It takes around 18 hours.
The 62ft narrowboat Foxglacier carries up to seven people. Price includes diesel, gas, damage waiver, bed linen, towels, canal map, life jackets, parking and tuition. Pets are extra, charged at £30 each.
Cruise through the Calder Valley to Hebden Bridge
On a short break from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge, canal boat holiday-makers can travel to Hebden Bridge and back. There’s a great choice of independent shops and places to eat and drink at Hebden, as well as woodland walks at the National Trust’s Hardcastle Crags. Pubs to visit include the Dusty Miller at Mytholmroyd and the Fox & Goose at Hebden Bridge. The journey to Hebden Bridge and back travels 14 miles, passes through 20 locks (10 each way) and takes around 11 hours.
The 56ft narrowboat Huntingdon 4 carries up to four people is currently available for a mid-week break from Sowerby Bridge 13-17 May 2024 for £1,200. Price includes damage waiver, pre-holiday information, comprehensive instruction, fuel, gas, parking, buoyancy aids and bed linen.
Navigate the Black Country Ring
On a week’s holiday from Drifters’ base at Kings Orchard in Staffordshire, canal boat holiday-makers can complete the Black Country Ring. The journey takes in a mixture of urban and rural scenery, and travels sections of the Coventry, Trent & Mersey, Staffordshire & Worcestershire, New Birmingham Main Line and Birmingham & Fazeley canals. Pubs to enjoy along the way include The Red Lion at Hopwas, The Swan at Fradley Junction and All Bar One at Brindleyplace in Birmingham City Centre. Travelling 75 miles, and passing through 79 locks, the route takes around 43 cruising hours.
The 67ft narrowboat Flappet Lark carries up to six people. Price includes a non-refundable damage waiver, bed linen, towels, car parking, two pets, buoyancy aids and tuition. A fuel deposit of £110 for a week is payable with the balance of hire. Fuel costs are approx. £15 per day.
Cruise across The Stream in the Sky to Whitchurch
On a week’s break from Drifters narrowboat hire base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, boaters can cruise to the historic town of Whitchurch and back, crossing the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Pubs to enjoy along the way include The Bridge Inn at Chirk, The Boathouse at Ellesmere and The Black Bear at Whitchurch. The journey to Whitchurch and back travels 52 miles, passes through four locks (two each way) and takes around 25 hours.
The 67ft narrowboat Blore carries up to six people. Price includes boat hire, gas, car parking, tuition on arrival, buoyancy aids, bed linen towels and first pet. There’s a compulsory non-refundable £50 damage waiver and diesel is extra – a £70 deposit is taken for short breaks (three or four nights), £110 for a week. Charge based on use, circa £15 per day.
Boat through the Staffordshire countryside to Market Drayton
On a week’s break from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base at Autherley, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to the historic town of Market Drayton. Pubs to visit along the way include the Bridge Inn at Brewood and the Hartley Arms at Wheaton Ashton. The journey to Market Drayton and back travels 53 miles, passes through 14 locks (seven each way) and takes around 24 hours.
The 60ft narrowboat Grace carries up to six people is available for a week 2-9 August 2024 for £2,295. Price includes VAT, cancellation protection, gas, diesel, bedlinen, car parking, life jackets and boat inventory. Pets are extra, charged at £35 each.
Travel through the Brecon Beacons by boat
On a week’s holiday from Drifters’ base at Goytre near Abergavenny, boaters can cruise along the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal to the historic market town of Brecon. Pubs to visit along the way include The Bluebell Country Inn at Crickhowell, The Horseshoe Inn at Llangattock and The Star Inn at Talybont-on-Usk. The journey to Brecon and back travels 51 miles, passes through 12 locks (six each way) and takes around 25 hours.
The 56ft narrowboat Red Sea Swallow carries up to four people. Price includes a non-refundable damage waiver, bed linen, towels, car parking, two pets, buoyancy aids and tuition. A fuel deposit of £110 for a week is payable with the balance of hire. Fuel costs are approx. £15 per day.