Thursday, 9 August 2012 1:17 PM
If you've never taken a canal boat holiday before, you might be wondering what makes this sort of getaway so popular. The answer is plenty - from unrivalled freedom and low prices to a fantastic range of destinations, there are many reasons thousands of Britons choose to holiday on the water. Read on for an introduction to boating.
What does a boating holiday entail?
A boating holiday is usually a period of time spent on a canal boat in a chosen destination. A getaway by boat can be anything from a few days to a few weeks in length, depending on how long you want your break to be and how much cash you have to splash.
Boats are specially equipped to cater for your needs while onboard, so you can expect to find a sleeping area, bathroom facilities and a kitchen fitted with a fridge and cooking appliances. You'll also usually have a TV, bedding and towels, so all you'd need to bring are your toiletries, groceries and dish washing paraphernalia. Often, you won't even need to shop for food supplies if you make use of an advance grocery ordering service that many canal boat hire firms offer.
Between two and 12 people can be accommodated on a canal boat, which will have a full tank of diesel for your journey. You won't need to refuel unless you plan to travel for longer than eight or nine nights. Boats also have a full tank of drinking water, which is used for showering and washing too. This will usually need refilling every few days.
The person chartering the boat must be at least 18 years old, or 21 in Ireland, and a minimum of two adults are required onboard, although you don't need a licence or any prior experience in most cases.
Where can I take a boating holiday?
Getaways by boat are a great option for a staycation, especially if you need to stick to a budget. Taking a break at home means you can avoid paying for costly flights overseas, and there is plenty to see in England in the cruising areas of the River Thames and the Norfolk Broads.
Alternatively, you could experience the rugged Highlands of Scotland as you travel down the Caledonian Canal, or take in the Emerald Isle on a river cruise down the Shannon or the Erne in Ireland.
If you do want to head further afield, there are many other destinations in Europe that are perfect for a boating holiday. Head to France and explore the Canal du Midi or the River Charente to take in vast vineyards, charming villages and mouth-watering cuisine, or enjoy a romantic break in beautiful Venice, admiring the world-renowned architecture of the Italian city.
Holland is another spot you can visit; cruise around cosmopolitan Amsterdam or drift down the rivers and canals of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg in Germany. Alternatively, make Belgium your destination of choice and take in beautiful Bruges.
What sort of activities will be available?
Depending on where you decide to book your boating holiday, you'll find a wealth of activities nearby. Whether you're a fan of fishing, enjoy the arts or want to take long hikes through glorious landscapes, you'll often be able to enjoy all three, and more besides.
Scotland is one of the best locations for walkers as a result of its natural beauty, while history fans will be happy in Belgium, admiring the medieval settlements and war memorials. Budding artists should head to Holland and wander round the Rijksmuseum, where you'll find works by Vermeer, Rembrandt and Ruisdael, and avid anglers will find excellent fishing facilities throughout Ireland, especially along the River Shannon.
Visiting museums, admiring breathtaking turreted castles, enjoying wine tastings and sampling local cuisine are all part and parcel of boating holidays, often regardless of where you decide to travel to. If you want to get active, you'll usually be able to find centres for water sports along your route, or designated green spaces and wildlife conservation areas where you can enjoy long walks while learning about the native flora and fauna. It's often possible to hire bicycles during your break, which are great for exploring the wider area as a family.