A vacation at the & # 39; cut & # 39; – as regulars call the channel network – is about quiet rest: slowing down to a pace at which all the time in the world is just enough to absorb your rural environment.
Boatees compete to let others go through a lock for themselves; catching a look that asks & # 39; Why not? & # 39; is the conviction that someone needs to moor in a pub on the canal.
Admittedly, there are challenges with locks – mainly winding the lock blades open and closed with a heavy metal anchor winch. But driving a 60ft narrowboat is easier than most first-timers expect. Here is a selection of narrowboat vacations on canals in Great Britain.
CITY AND COUNTRY
The extraordinary Anderton boat lift in Anderton, Cheshire, which picks up vessels from the River Weaver to the Trent and Mersey Canal
The Cheshire Ring is a beautiful and varied circular route that starts and ends at Anderton in Cheshire, where the extraordinary Anderton boat lift picks up vessels from the River Weaver to the Trent and Mersey Canal. The route runs over six different waterways that pass through 92 locks.
Sleepy Peak District villages contrast sharply with a day weaving mill in the heart of Manchester, past the Old Trafford football stadium.
From £ 799 for a week on a five-person boat with ABC Boat Hire (0330 333 0590, abcboathire.com).
The Oxford Canal is Britain's most popular leisure channel and a great place to spot charming villages, herons, big cities and attractive pubs.
The Oxford Canal is the most popular leisure channel in Britain and it is not hard to see why it winds its Wind In The Willows-like way through the countryside, past charming villages, herons, big cities and attractive pubs.
Take a four-day pootle from the yard in Napton in Warwickshire to Cropredy near Banbury in Oxfordshire and back.
From £ 859 for a three-night weekend aboard a six-bed & # 39; Regency Class & # 39; boat with king size beds and WiFi with Napton Narrowboats (01926 813644, napton-marina.co.uk).
The only British channel where electric (instead of diesel) narrowboats can be rented is the 33-mile-long Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal – the & # 39; Mon & Brec & # 39 ;, pictured
The only channel in the UK where electric (instead of diesel) narrowboats can be rented is the 33-mile-long Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal – the & # 39; Mon & Brec & # 39; – between Brecon and Pontypool, which is not connected to the rest of the channel network.
You prefer to run rather than through the Brecon Beacons National Park to a mountainous background.
Narrowboats Castle (01873 830001, castlenarrowboats.co.uk) offer a three-night cruise on an electric boat with four beds from £ 672.
A boat passes Caen Hill Flight – 16 locks packed together in a steep, straight line – in the town of Devizes in Wiltshire
Even the unwillingness of water to take off on a 250-foot hill was no problem for those diligent early 19th-century canal engineers who were determined to connect Bristol via the Avon to the Thames tributary, the Kennet.
The Caen Hill Flight – 16 locks packed together in a steep, straight line – starts in the small town of Devizes in Wiltshire. Afterwards the lake is a nasty walk through the enchanting Vale of Pewsey and along the edge of the mythical Saverne Forest, drifting to Hungerford and back.
Foxhangers (01380 827808, foxhangers.co.uk) offers a week aboard the luxurious Darwin & # 39; s Fox with seven sleeping places from £ 1,057.60.
VENICE OF NORTH
The Birmingham Canal winds along Broad Street in the center of Birmingham. Birmingham has more miles of canals than Venice
Birmingham has more miles of canals than Venice – a often repeated fact. So what about seeing Brum strolling through the 35-kilometer waterway?
Start at Tardebigge near Bromsgrove and then cruise into the heart of the English Channel Canal while admiring Victorian iron and wooden slot machines.
Anglo Welsh (0117 304 1122, anglowelsh.co.uk) charges £ 280 for a one-night weekend on a canal boat with accommodation for two.
STREAM IN THE SKY
The Pontcysyllte aqueduct, completed in 1805, was designed by Thomas Telford. There are no side barriers on the Llangollen canal
There are no side barriers on the Llangollen channel, only a short metal lip between them and a 126ft lead.
Thomas Telford & # 39; s 18-curved Pontcysyllte aqueduct, completed in 1805, carries the Llangollen over the River Dee – perhaps Britain's most spectacular canal function.
Black Prince (01527 575115, black-prince.com) offers four days on a four-lane narrowboat from £ 699.
There are 97 locks for negotiation and a 645ft climb on the Huddersfield Narrow, pictured
Stand up for a War of the Roses challenge on this epic one-way traverse of the backbone of England between Greater Manchester's Ashton-under-Lyne and Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire.
There are 97 locks for negotiation and a 645ft climb on the Huddersfield Narrow, the highest channel in Britain.
This is a one-week trip with a wow factor that requires an active, experienced crew. From £ 1,105 on board a four-person boat for a week with Shire Cruisers (01422 832712, shirecruisers.co.uk).
BRIDGES OF SIGHS
The Forth & Clyde and Union Canals connect Glasgow with Edinburgh and flow through Falkirk, home to the famous horse sculpture of Kelpies
Further information about Drifters canal holidays (0344 984 0322, drifters.co.uk) and the Canal and River Trust (canalrivertrust.org.uk).
Potter through the Scottish Lowlands on the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals, connecting Glasgow with Edinburgh.
The landscape is dotted with historic monuments such as Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. You pass two tunnels and you cross three beautiful aqueducts. A technical highlight is the amazing Falkirk Wheel, which opened in 2002. This is & # 39; the world's first and only rotating boat lift that raises 80-foot vessels and connects the two canals. Falkirk is also the home of the famous Kelpies horse sculpture.
ABC boat rental (0330 333 0590, abcboathire.com) £ 1,399 for a week on board the wide, eight-sleeping Alvechurch Sanderling, including a king-size bed.
The slow boat to heaven … or why there is no better way to drink in the glory of the Loire than on a luxury canal cruise
The Briare canal, dug by 12,000 workers between 1604 and 1640 to connect the Haute Loire valley and the Seine, is the oldest in France.
Once an important trade and transport artery, the Briare now runs in the middle of the bucolic nowhere.
As soon as the lush ship Renaissance de Loire had crossed the beautiful ornate aqueduct of M. Eiffel and headed north into the enchanting countryside, none of us passengers knew where we were.
An inland navigation vessel paves its way along the Briare Canal, which was dug between 1604 and 1640 by 12,000 workers to connect the Haute Loire Valley and the Seine
Salut! Jeremy Clarke toasts life aboard a boat on the Briare Canal
According to the map that was placed in my opulent suite, we were crossed by about an inch at the end of the week, which was about the same distance as I should have left the belt of my jeans. I was also spoiled within an inch of my life. The 128 ft long Renaissance was converted in 1960 from a working ship to a kind of Royal Barge and upgraded in 2016 (WiFi was excellent).
Four (up to eight) passengers took care of five crew members: a young captain with a beard, a comforter with a cherub-colored face, an infallible modest and wonderful cook, an English rose hostess and a French housekeeper straight from & # 39; Allo & # 39; & # 39; allo! Mimi called. They treated us like minor princes, with Mimi actually bowing to us.
Along the 35 miles of the Briare, which took us a week, we passed another ship about once every two days. Otherwise it was just us. Occasionally the pointed, graceful roof of a castle could be seen by the beeches, plane trees and plane trees along the towpath.
The muffled thump of the 250-horsepower diesel engine that propelled us through the water was inaudible if you didn't listen to it. Bird singing was much louder. Hidden among the unfolding leaves and creamy blossoms, blackbirds, thrushes and nightingales celebrated the green wave of early summer, while egrets and herons roamed the shallow water or stayed around as if they were on fentanyl.
Hawks made hay. Loving mother-wild ducks and their chicks had to accelerate and change course to avoid the mighty but slow-moving bow of the Renaissance.
Every evening we stopped in, or near, a picturesque dying village with an ineffable name. At one of these, a stunningly excellent jazz duo had driven from Paris for three hours to perform for us during cocktail hour.
Once, when everyone else had gone to bed, I stood on the moonlit deck and listened to the singing of a nightingale, clarified by the reflective surface of a lake.
The Renaissance has four air-conditioned suites below the deck. Ours was & # 39; Moliere & # 39; (French author of Tartuffe, or the Imposter), a light and spacious 265 square-footed feet with four large portholes just above the waterline.
Only one of the other three suites was occupied. Mary and Bert were from San Francisco. All in all, we shared six ruminative breakfasts, 11 four-course haute cuisine meals and countless bottles of the most prestigious wines of France with this delightful American couple. (After we agreed to keep President Trump from the conversation, everything was fine.)
Along the 35-mile distance of the Briare, Jeremy says they only passed another ship once every other day
Bert was a wine and rock fanatic. At the first dinner together, he set up a CD. & # 39; Tina Turner good for you? & # 39; He asked when we were hiding in the starter. Fortunately it was. Unfortunately, Bert disliked goat cheese.
& # 39; In the morning we walked our expanding waistlines along the towpath. Bicycles were available for the agile. Bert tried one, but was very critical about the transmission ratios afterwards.
& # 39; In the afternoon we climbed aboard the Mercedes for a trip. Monday was a wine tasting in Sancerre led by none other than the old M. Bourgeois, the winemaker himself. M. Bourgeois: & # 39; Do you have any questions? & # 39; Bert: & # 39; Will you marry me? & # 39; Tuesday was a tour of the famous Gien pottery factory.
Thursday visited the colossal, water castle Chateau de la Bussiere. The old countess was on her knees in the walled vegetable garden, digging her horny hands into the ground.
Who did we think were the prettiest French girls or English girls, she wondered? Bert argued vigorously for French girls. The Anglophile countess even assessed the competition.
Friday afternoon was spent on tour through the immense royal palace of Fontainebleau. Russians lined up in the courtyard to get married. After a week in the Renaissance it felt strange to be in such a royal setting without anyone asking us every five minutes if we wanted something.
We had become so spoiled, we were overjoyed to return to that delightful watery place (we didn't know where exactly) where the Renaissance was waiting for us, and dear Mimi, at the top of the gangway with a silver tray with an appetizer Cosmopolitan and a wound reverence.
By Jeremy Clarke
A six-night cruise aboard Hotel Barge Renaissance starts at £ 4,750 pp, including all meals, wines, an open bar for the duration of the cruise, daily guided excursions, and private transfers.
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