There are now over 30,000 canal boats on our inland waterways, more than at the time of the Industrial Revolution, and unprecedented numbers of people are visiting and holidaying on our canals – in 2015, 379,000 people went canal boating, up 45% in the last 10 years.
The popularity of boating has been fuelled by the waterway renaissance which has swept across the UK, with over 200 new miles of waterways recently re-opened, and by the standard of accommodation now available.
Today’s canal boats are fully equipped with all the essential mod cons – central heating, hot water, TV, Wifi, fully-equipped kitchens, showers and flushing toilets. Some of the boats available for hire offer five star accommodation, with extras like baths, solid-fuel stoves and King-sized beds.
Drifters Waterway Holidays offers the choice of over 580 boats from 45 bases across England, Wales and Scotland.
Here are our Top 5 luxury canal boats for hire:
1. Enjoy the stylish interior of ‘Aquila’ – the new four-berth Constellation Class ‘Aquila’ has arrived at Drifters’ Wootton Wawen base on the Stratford Canal near Stratford upon Avon. Boasting exacting standards of craftsmanship, comfort and finish, ‘Aquila’ has full-size showers, flexible and private berths, a solid fuel stove, large TV, WiFi, and spacious kitchen with stylish fittings and lighting. On a short break (three or four nights) narrowboat holiday-makers booking ‘Aquila’ travel through the beautiful Warwickshire countryside to Stratford upon Avon to join in the celebrations marking 400 years since the death of Shakespeare. On a week’s holiday, boaters can reach historic Warwick or Brindleyplace in Birmingham’s City Centre.
***Aquila’s hire prices start at £695* for short break, £995 for a week. Price includes boat hire, damage waiver, cancellation protection, gas, car parking, tuition on arrival, buoyancy aids, one pet, bed linen and towels. Diesel is extra – a £50 deposit is taken for short breaks (three or four nights), £90 for a week, second pet is £25 per short break, £35 per week.
2. Sleep on a King-sized bed on board ‘Alvechurch Sanderling’ – the eight-berth 60ft-long wide beam (double the width of a narrowboat) ‘Alvechurch Sanderling’ is available to hire from Drifters’ base at Falkirk, at the junction of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in the Scottish lowlands. This stunning boat has a King-sized bed cabin, two fixed double bunks and space in the dining area to create another double bed or two singles. It has two bathrooms, both with showers, and a fully equipped galley with a four-burner gas cooker, with grill and oven, refrigerator, sink and drainer, work surfaces and storage. Holiday-makers booking ‘Alvechurch Sanderling’ can travel to through the iconic Falkirk Wheel (the world’s first and only rotating boat lift) and on to the Union Canal, passing through a series of historic villages with a choice of waterside eateries, including Linlithgow and Ratho, 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 many attractions.
***Alvechurch Sanderling’s 2016 hire prices start at £1109 for a short break, £1299 for a week. Price includes boat hire, damage waiver, gas, parking, tuition on arrival, towels, bedding and first pet. Fuel is extra – a £50 fuel deposit is taken for short breaks.
3. Take a bath on the ‘Regency 4’ – from Drifters’ base at Napton Marina on the North Oxford Canal in Warwickshire, canal boat holiday-makers can pick a boat from the luxury ‘Regency’ range, including the six-berth ‘Regency 4’. This first class boat features: two bathrooms with baths; three double cabins (two with king-size beds and one with two extra-wide singles); a rear deck table for alfresco dining; TVs in all bedrooms; an extra-large TV in the saloon; mobile Wifi; 240v mains supply; 240v charging socket; a quality sound system; fully equipped kitchen with fridge, full sized cooker, microwave, toaster and coffee maker; quiet modern diesel engine; oak fittings; 6ft 4 head-room throughout; and a host of other extras.
A range of routes are available from Napton Marina, including the short break option to travel south down the Oxford Canal to the pretty village Cropredy, with Brasenose Arms and Red Lion pubs and a grocery shop. On a week’s holiday, canal boat holiday-makers can cruise to the rural Ashby Canal, and visit the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field.
***2016 Regency 4 hire prices start at £795 for a short break (three or four nights) and £1,195 for a week. Price includes four adults plus two children under 18, VAT, cancellation protection, gas & diesel, bedlinen (duvets), towels, car parking, life jackets and full boat inventory. A compulsory non-refundable £65 damage waiver is extra, pets are charged at £35, extra adults (up to two) are charged at £25 each (instead of the two children).
4. Feel like Royalty aboard the ‘Princess 6’ – this beautiful boat can be hired from a number of Drifters’ bases, including Chirk on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales. The Princess 6 sleeps up to six people with a flexible bed configuration, full central heating, airing cupboards, two full-sized showers with bi-fold doors, flat screen TV with Freeview, radio, CD and DVD player, fully-equipped kitchen, 12v/USB pint for charging, security safe and free mobile WiFi on request.
On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Chirk, boaters can travel across the incredible World Heritage Status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, truly one of the Wonders of the Waterways, and reach the pretty town of Llangollen, with Steam Railway, Horseshoe Falls and waterside eateries, including the popular Corn Mill. On a week’s break, boaters can also reach Ellesmere, Shropshire’s Lake District, teaming with wildlife, and the historic market town of Whitchurch, with a wealth of independent shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. The Princess 6 can also be hired from Drifters’ bases at Stoke Prior, Acton Bridge, Napton, Peak District, Falkirk and Bradford on Avon.
****2016 short break prices for the Princess 6 from Chirk start at £795, weekly hire from £1,180. Price includes boat hire, damage waiver, gas, car parking, tuition, buoyancy aids, bed linen and towels. Fuel is extra, charged at the end of the holiday and based on usage, it’s approximately £10-15 per day. Pets are charged at £30 each.
5. Enjoy 5 Star family luxury aboard the brand new ‘Charlotte’ – new for the 2016 season, the 70 foot, eight-berth ‘Charlotte’ is available to hire from late June onwards from Drifters’ base on the Grand Union Canal at Warwick. Delivering the finest example of quality boat building, ‘Charlotte’ has two fixed doubles, each with an en-suite bathroom offering full-sized showers with bi-fold doors, and electric toilets. Her third cabin provides twin beds, with bunks over, making her a fantastic boat for families. ‘Charlotte’ is fully equipped with 240 electric, radiator central heating, a well-equipped galley, TV, DVD player and has a cruiser stern open back deck with room for a number of people to stand together to watch the world go by. On a short break from Drifters’ base at Warwick, narrowboat holiday-makers can head for the pretty canal village of Braunston, with plenty of waterside pubs and villages to stop-off at along the way. On a week’s break, boaters could travel to Stratford upon Avon, moor-up in Bancroft Basin close to the town centre and use their boat to explore Shakespeare’s fascinating home town with waterside restaurants, Swan Theatre, shops and museums.
****Charlotte’s 2016 prices start at £1040 for a week, or £655 for a short break. Price includes diesel, gas, damage waiver, bed linen, car parking, buoyancy aids and tuition on arrival. Pets are charged at £25 each.
For more information about Drifters boating holidays call 0844 984 0322 or visit www.drifters.co.uk
For information about visiting the canal network, go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk
Source: British Marine Federation’s ‘Watersports Participation Report 2015’