Explore unusual locks
Cheshire is home to one of Britain’s largest canal networks, and many link up to form the Cheshire Circle, which you can cruise and enjoy aboard your very own narrowboat. The circle takes in the Trent & Mersey, Shropshire Union and Britain’s first canal, the Bridgewater. It’s a fantastic way to tour the countryside, from the foothills of the Peaks to the Cheshire Plains. Depending on your chosen route, you could navigate through the Anderton Boat Lift, a piece of Victorian engineering that lifts narrowboats 50ft into the air as it bridges two waterways. Stop at the Natural Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port and learn about life on the canals, explore the Lion Salt Work – the oldest inland salt works in the country – or simply take in the stunning views from the comfort of your river home.
• To sample the Cheshire Circle, take a four-night break on the self-catering Tana Fjord narrowboat, sleeping up to four people, departing May 2021, from £1,034, including damage waiver and fuel. Book at Andersenboats.com, 01606 833668
Sail through the heart of the Highlands and explore some of the best landscapes Scotland has to offer on a Caledonian Canal cruise. Navigate the canals and seas experiencing the rich culture and natural beauty, while being able to stop to enjoy the medieval castles and world heritage sites that are some of the highlights of cruising in Scotland. We love the Scottish Island and Lochs cruise, which starts off with a night in Edinburgh, before boarding the ship for a journey through the rugged coastline of the country’s west coast. Marvel at the unspoilt beauty of the Isle of Mull, float up Neptune’s Staircase – a stunning staircase of eight locks – into the Caledonian Canal and then across to Loch Ness. The trip also includes a whiskey distillery tour and tasting, plus an excursion on the West Highland Train Line.
• Price from £1,945 for a seven-day cruise, including one night’s accommodation in Edinburgh and five nights aboard the MV Lord of the Glens, departing 13 October 2021. Price includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as complimentary beers, wines and soft drinks, and an upgrade to a Middle Deck cabin. Book online at Greatrail.com or call 01904 527180
If you want to let someone else do the work, hire a skipper to navigate your luxury five-star narrowboat through Monmouthshire and Brecon Canals, affectionately known as Mon & Brec, in South Wales. Cruise through beautiful scenery and enjoy a different location every day. A great stop is Talybont-on-Usk – a quaint village where you can hire a mountain bike and explore the hills. Another place to moor is the market town of Abergavenny. Here you’ll find quirky places to eat, including The Sugarloaf Vineyard for fabulous wine and cheese platters. Skirrid Fawr, Blorenge and Sugarloaf mountains are nearby and all offer casual walking tours if you fancy a day on dry land.
• Prices start from £859 for a four-night break for four people. Book online at Beaconparkboats.com
Learn to sail
If you love the great outdoors and want to sail the seas, charter a yacht on the waterways of Milford Haven, which covers the Pembrokeshire National Park coastline. Your own Yachtmaster instructor will join you daily to take you where you want to go and teach you how to sail. During your holiday, there’s time for swimming stops at a host of award-winning beaches, from Barafundle to Watwick Bay. Try mackerel fishing from the stern, crabbing from pontoons, and visit the Nature Reserve Islands, which are abundant with seabirds and wildlife, or you can enjoy the excitement of sailing. Each night, sleep aboard your Jeanneau yacht, on which you can cook your own meals or moor at a local port to try the local restaurants.
• Five-day self-catering Family Sailing holiday for a family of four (maximum of five family members or friends per yacht), including skipper, from £2,300. Book online at Pembrokeshirecruises.co.uk
First-timers will love this stress-free route where you can look out for an abundance of wildlife on the pretty Ashby Canal while travelling on a traditional narrowboat. Journey to the pretty village of Snarestone, Leicestershire, and back, covering a total of 47 miles and passing through just eight locks (four there and four back). This rural route takes you up the North Oxford Canal to Rugby, then on to Hawkesbury Junction to join the Coventry Canal, where you’ll sail onto the peaceful lock-free Ashbury Canal, which winds gently through the countryside. The route passes near to the Battle of Bosworth Museum, which is worth a visit, or simply moor at one of the many riverside stops along the canal to enjoy a pub lunch and watch the world sail by.
• Hire the “Selene” 60ft narrowboat for up to four people departing from Braunston, Northamptonshire, for a week (13-20 August 2021) from £1,455. Price includes diesel, gas, damage waiver, cancellation protection, parking, tuition and first pet with Drifters Waterway Holidays. Book online at Drifters.co.uk or call 0344 984 0322
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