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Drifters Waterways Holiday Review: Five Star experience is a must this Summer!

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Drifters Waterways Holiday Review: Five Star experience is a must this Summer!

Over the last year or so many of us have had the opportunity to look closer to home for our holidays and weekend breaks.   Without the luxury of cheap flights or package holidays, we’ve taken the time to really look into what is on offer within the UK – and we have been so pleasantly surprised.

It’s no wonder cottages, holiday homes, AirBnBs and hotels are thriving at the moment, with so many fantastic areas of the country to explore and enjoy together.

As lockdown begins to ease, we’re in no rush to jet off to other territories, now that we’re in the know about the many hidden gems that lie within our own shores.

Recently, we undertook a family holiday via Drifters, the narrowboat and canal boating holiday company, and it’s fair to say it has changed our perception both in terms of boating and holiday destinations, forever.

Drifters narrowboat and canal boating holidays offers over 550 canal boats for hire from 45 bases in England, Wales and Scotland.  They offer you a one stop shop, from just finding out about canal boating holidays to online booking.

We used Drifters to find Union Canal Carriers, a fantastic company located in the beautiful area of Braunston, in the heart of Northamptonshire.   Union Canal Carriers could not have been more helpful, as we researched and agreed on a boat that would be appropriate for our two young children, ourselves and the grandparents.   Luckily, the Grandad in our family had boated before, so after a quick tuition we were on our way. If you’ve never done it before, they’ll show you everything you need to know before you set off, ensuring you can’t go wrong.

Our boat was a fantastic, 69 foot long beauty.  Two double bedrooms, bunk beds for the kids, a fully equipped kitchen, lounge, and plenty of space to sit on deck, this was going to be the ultimate weekend cruise, with us kicking back and relaxing along the way – right?

Well, that’s kind of half true.  In actual fact, boating isn’t just about sitting and drinking tea on deck as you meandre through the countryside.  I mean, it can be that, but not if you take the route we took, which included seven sets of locks as soon as we left our marina in Braunston.
Before we move on the locks, we should tell you that Braunston is a lovely little village with some brilliant pubs and a very, very good chip shop! There’s also a shop right on the canal, a gallery, and plenty of good walks.

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OK so back to the locks.  Working the locks were THE BEST fun we have had in a long time.  Some real physicality required to open them (who knew), a bit of brain power to understand what you’re doing and bosh! It is so rewarding!  There were plenty of other people around to show us the ropes and we found ourselves chatting and making new friends each time we stopped to do this.   Don’t get me wrong, it’s not OVERLY physical, but it is fun and as we say on this route, there were seven locks to open straight away, so there was a bit of running down the toe path and a bit of muscle required.   We literally had no idea there was any of this kind of stuff involved, it was so rewarding to be able to muck in and enable our boat to carry on down the canal.

Along the way we used the facilities on the boat to make ourselves coffees and snacks and intermittently there are cafes, tearooms and pubs to stop off at. Given we were on such a long boat, our plan was to carry on down for several hours to give us an opportunity to turn around.   This was an experience, but another boater helped us out from the towpath with a bit of advice and soon we were back facing the other way.  After several hours, we were ready to start heading back.

We had the boat for a few nights so there was time to enjoy a bit of scenery. Despite the bad weather (yeah, we missed this beautiful heatwave by a week or so!), a friendly local pub let us wipe down their wet outdoor tables and sit outside with just enough shelter to keep us all dry.   We were hungry and tired but very happy to be there, so the burgers and pints we enjoyed went down an absolute treat!

Feeling most satisfied, we headed off back to the boat.  Our dreams of savouring cheese, biscuits and bubbly were not to be though – we were too exhausted for any of that and wanted to be up early the next morning.  So, off we went to our beds.

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The beds on these boats are so comfortable.  Forget any thoughts of dingy camp beds, these were great quality, really comfy and we slept like logs! There’s loads of room on the boat with tonnes of storage space, excellent bathrooms with plenty of hot water… so any misconceptions you have about not being able to swing a cat on a boat need to be left at home.

After a great night’s sleep, we were up early to do it all again.  On the route we took, we had a two mile tunnel to get through – which the kids absolutely loved!  Who ever knew you could barge in the dark?

On the other side of a tunnel was a little tea room selling ice cream, and the wind and rain from the night before had now cleared into lovely sunshine so this was the most relaxing time we had on the boat, a stretch of about an hour with an ice cream in hand.

Later, we were back in Braunston where we headed to one of the pubs for dinner and some time to reflect on our experience.

It’s difficult to get across how much we enjoyed this trip and I can only sum it up by saying it is a trip that has EVERYTHING.  Boating as a group means probably three of you can get stuck in doing all the physical stuff, whilst others can unwind and just soak it all up.  There’s nothing overly physical, and you can take it in turns to do the tasks. Hey, we even steered the boat, which we never thought we’d be capable of but it was so satisfying learning new skills and putting them into practice.   Our two children loved it. Seeing their faces as the boat rose in the water, or in the dark tunnel gave us memories we’ll never forget, and they won’t either.   The joy of cruising along at slow pace, taking in the (stunning) sights, stopping off for pubs… this was just the trip we all needed after the year we’ve just been through.

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Boating as a group is fantastic value and the people at Drifters and Union Canal Carriers couldn’t be more helpful.

This really was a five star experience.  We can’t wait to get back on the water for another trip away.  

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Drifters: Narrowboat and canal boating holidays

All Drifters operators uphold certain industry standards of excellence, ensuring we are among the best in the business and all our customers can expect professional care and attention.

Drifters Waterway Holidays offers 550 canal boats for hire from 45 bases across England, Scotland and Wales.

There are over 3,000 miles of waterways for you to discover, all at your own pace and you don’t need to be an expert. Tuition is included as part of Drifters’ holiday packages.

2021 hire prices start at £560 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £775 for a week.

Narrowboats range from 32ft to 70ft and can accommodate from two up to 12 people.

For more information visit or call 0344 984 0322 @Drifters6

For more information about visiting the canal network @CanalRiverTrust #LifesBetterByWater

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