Holidays on the canals are becoming more popular - and with good reason. The canals are in the best condition they have ever been in their two hundred year history. And top quality boats like ours make it a pleasure to cruise on them. With such a wide choice of canals to cruise, there's something to suit everyone.
You can enjoy the peace of the countryside, the sightseeing in historic towns and cities, quaint country pubs, working the locks, seeing the industrial heritage, or just getting away from it all for a really relaxing and enjoyable break, taking everything at your own pace. Click here for photos
Step back in time and spend a relaxing week or two aboard a modern, purpose-built self-drive craft, designed to provide for your every need. Canal holidays allow you the freedom to cruise through the unspoilt heart of the British countryside enjoying life in the slow lane. Use this website to help you to unlock the secret world that is Britain's Inland Waterways and find the perfect location for your boating holiday.
First time afloat? - Everything you need to know.
Top 10 reasons to take canal boat holiday
What celebrities say about canal boat holidays
Drifters’ Top 10 reasons for taking a canal boat holiday
- It’s the fastest way to slow down – with speed limits of 4mph and hundreds of miles of tranquil unspoilt countryside to cruise through, stress levels are reduced and a whole new much steadier pace of life takes over.
- Freedom – the majority of our inland waterways offer boating holiday-makers free moorings, so boaters are free to choose where they stop for the night.
- Fitness – working the locks, exploring local footpaths, historic sites, towns and villages, cycling the towpaths and standing at the tiller enjoying the fresh air are all the ideal antidote to stuffy gyms and office blues.
- The greener way – a boating holiday is estimated to be some 20 times better for the planet than spending two hours flying for a holiday overseas and as soon as you swap your car for a boat, you’ll be using a third of the fuel and emitting a sixth of the pollution.
- Pubs galore – with hundreds of waterside pubs, a watering hole is never far away, many of them historic rural locals.
- History is all around - thousands of historic structures make up the waterway system, including: the soaring majesty of the World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the awesome three-mile long Standedge Tunnel cutting through the Pennines.
- Watch out for wildlife - waterways provide homes for large numbers of birds, plants and animals, including many protected species - the water vole, otter and kingfisher, so there’s always something special to look out for.
- Lap up the luxury - Today’s canals boats are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons: central heating, hot water, TVs, DVD-players, showers and flushing toilets. Many of Drifters’ boats now offer wifi too.
- Help keep the local economy afloat - £1½ billion is spent by visitors to the waterways each year on goods and services, supporting 54,000 jobs.
- Try something new – with around a fifth of hire boaters new to the market each year, it’s easy to learn how to steer a boat and navigate the waterways. You don’t need a licence and Drifters operators offer free tuition as part of their hire package.
Celebrities and canal boating
Over a quarter of a million people enjoy canal boating every year on Britain’s peaceful network of canal and rivers, including a number of celebrities:
- In February, former political journalist John Sargeant’s eight-part ITV1 series ‘Barging Around Britain’ started, tracking John’s tour of Britain’s iconic waterways in a narrowboat. In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph about the series, John said: “I love boats. Every summer I go sailing with my brother, so I was at home with this. It was such fun to make the series.”
- In March, veteran actors Timothy West CBE and Prunella Scales CBE, will front their second Channel 4 series of ‘Great Canal Journeys’. Tim and Pru have enjoyed many holidays on their own narrowboat throughout their 52 years of marriage. Pru said in a Daily Mail interview ahead of their first ‘Great Canal Journeys’, series televised last March: “We’re canal nuts, we’ve been pottering around on them all our married life. We’ve had some of our best times. Whenever we get a break we dash off to our boat.”
- In January, Julia Bradbury travelled across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct by canal boat for her hugely popular ITV series The Wonder of Britain, saying: “It was a thrill to be back at the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to marvel in the engineering might of Thomas Telford for ‘The Wonder of Britain’.”
- Broadchurch star Matthew Gravelle, who was at the centre of the biggest TV whodunnit since 'who shot JR?' took a canal boat holiday last summer, setting off with his wife, Hinterland star Mali Harries, and kids from our Trevor base. In an review for Wales View he said of crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct: “Telford thoughtfully built it in an arrow-straight line, and the cast iron walls are only just wide enough to pass through, so steering isn't an issue. Instead I can take in the exhilarating views as we float serenely in mid-air.”
- Actor and adventurer Brian Blessed backed the Canal & River Trust’s campaign to recruit volunteer lock keepers, saying: “Ever since I was a child I’ve loved our canals and rivers, going off exploring on my bike and looking for wildlife. They’re unique places and I think it’s important we all do what we can to help protect them for our next generations to enjoy.”
- Stan Cullimore, guitarist and singer with the 80s indie pop band The Housemartins, has taken several canal boat holidays in the last year. He says: “being on the canals is like going back to the 50s – everyone is just so nice to each other, and so helpful.”
- BBC1’s ‘The One Show’ presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff took a holiday with her family on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bradford on Avon last autumn. Of canal boats, she says: “the moment you set foot on them, your pulse seems to slow and you relax as the pace is snail-like and there is nothing you can do to hurry things along.”
- Veteran television presenter John Craven OBE, and Friend of the Canal & River Trust, says: “Over the years I have explored many canals. I grew up visiting the Five Rise flight of locks at Bingley on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and taking a narrowboat across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct left me lost for words.”
- Hollywood legend Harrison Ford, his wife Calista Flockhart and her son Liam, took a holiday on the Llangollen Canal in Wales in 2004. In a recent interview on the subject, Harrison said: “there’s nothing quite like it to slow your life down and I do it a lot.”
- In 2010 Kiera Knightley rented a canal boat on a canal in London’s East End to use as a romantic weekend hideaway with then boyfriend Rupert Friend. A neighbour interviewed by Marie Claire magazine said: “they like nothing better than strolling along the canal hand in hand and going to the chippy for a fish supper.”
- The Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey enjoyed a weekend canal boating on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Bradford on Avon in 2008. According to the Moonraker Narrowboat Company, “he had so much fun, he ended up skipping some appointments in London to stay longer.”
- David Suchet CBE, best-known for playing Poirot and a great supporter of the canals, lived on a narrowboat for five years when he was first married. He has taken regular holidays on the canals ever since and says: “I think it’s the independence that canal life affords you, the views of the countryside, the peace and the privacy.”
- Acclaimed British actor Timothy Spall OBE and his wife Shane bought a narrowboat in 1997 and explored the canal network for a number of years.