The high seas in Devon and Cornwall
Put the wind back in your sails on a skippered sail around the topaz-coloured coast of Devon and Cornwall. Bessie Ellen and Agnes are two historic sailing vessels, the former a 100ft classic tall ship featured on the National Historic Ships Register sleeping 12, the latter a recreation of an original Isles of Scilly wooden pilot cutter, sleeping eight. Both are available skippered for family bubbles and will trace the south-west coastline from Fowey or Falmouth, stopping for swimming, hiking and history lessons.
From 130pp per night full-board, venturesailholidays.com
What could be more appealing than mooring a narrowboat for the night then sitting out to enjoy a Dark Sky Reserve? In the Brecon Beacons, you can cruise the tree-lined Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal by day, stopping at market towns such as Brecon, Abergavenny and Crickhowell and enjoy the stars by night amid the green hills of the National Park.
One weekfrom 1,405 for two, beaconparkboats.com
Onderneming is an 1899 Dutch sailing barge that stretches to almost 100ft on the River Alde in Snape, just outside Aldeburgh. She is permanently moored, offering a static boat holiday that requires no navigational skills and a tranquil base for country and coastal walks. The boat is also dog-friendly, with space for up to six guests in three bedrooms, a childrens den and free use of bikes.
Four nights from 968 with breakfast, woodfarmbarges.com
Board a narrowboat and ascend 146ft up Hatton Locks in just over two miles on the Grand Union Canal. From the Black Prince base at Napton, you can explore Shakespeare country or Warwick Castle, or just wait for quiet moments to spot ducks, swans, sparrows, wagtails, grass snakes and the occasional badger. Peel off the Grand Union Canal for the peaceful Ashby Canal or visit the Stoke Bruern Canal Village. The narrowboats sleep between two and eight and many are pet-friendly.
Four-nights from 1,259 for eight, black-prince.com
The Pennines are hallowed stomping ground, but it is possible to soak up their brooding grandeur from a narrowboat too. From Sowerby Bridge, drift along the Rochdale Canal through the Calder Valley and stop at Ted Hughess birthplace Mytholmroyd, as well as Hebden Bridge, with its independent shops and pubs and nearby waymarked trails. The system is steep, with plenty of locks, but that means plenty of interest too.
Four nights from 915 for four, waterwaysholidays.com
This is a classic boating holiday and one that requires no prior experience as you navigate the gentle, inland waters of the National Park. The shallow lakes dug for peat in medieval times now provide a haven for bird and wildlife including more than a quarter of the UKs rarest species, such as the swallowtail butterfly and Norfolk hawker dragonfly, as well as otters. Modern boats dominate, but there are also wooden vessels for experienced helmspeople, including a fleet of 30s engineless sailing craft in the village of Ludham. Hoist the sails and glide quietly through the water.
One week from 795 for two, huntersyard.co.uk
You will need a head for heights to navigate the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, designed by Thomas Telford and Williams Jessop almost 130ft above the River Dee in North Wales. This part of the Llangollen Canal is a Unesco World Heritage Site, as it is elevated through the Vale of Llangollen, and is the worlds highest canal aqueduct. It is easy to access from the Andersen Boats narrowboat base at Middlewich in Cheshire, from where you can pootle west to cross the border from England to Wales.
Three nights from 668 for two, andersenboats.com
The 60-mile Caledonian Canal, which cuts through the Great Glen from the east to the west coast via four lochs, is now open to boat transits again. Cruise west to Banavie for views of Ben Nevis, then turn around for the return journey through Loch Ness, which can be completed in a week. It is also possible to moor up and explore the Great Glen Way by bike or on foot.
One week from 1,615 for four, caleycruisers.com
Cruise the bigger of the two connected lakes that form Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh, exploring the many islands, coves and inlets on the tranquil water, including the island town of Enniskillen. Vestiges of history can be found on many islands, including relics from ancient Celts, Christian monks and Vikings. Get closer to the water on a canoe, hike the trails that pulse through the countryside, or go trout or salmon fishing nearby.
One week from 852 for four,hoseasons.co.uk
One of the most popular boating holidays in France is along this 17th-century World Heritage canal, which runs for 360km from Toulouse past the vineyards of the Languedoc to the flamingo-speckled tang de Thau right beside the Mediterranean sea. Glide through arboreal tunnels of plane trees and moor outside villages for a coffee and croissant or to stock up at markets, admiring the majesty of Carcasonnes mighty ramparts along the way.
One week from 1,589 for two, leboat.co.uk
Just east of the Canal du Midi lies the Camargue, a patchwork of saltwater lagoons where you might see its resident white horses and pink flamingos. Cruisers ply the Canal du Rhne Ste, which connects the tang de Thau lagoon with the Rhne river at Beaucaire. There are beaches, birdlife, wildlife and Roman history to explore in Arles and Nimes.
One week from 1,099pp, french-waterways.com
Big cruise liners have made unwelcome news in Venice in recent years, but it is possible to explore the lagoon on a much smaller scale. Setting off from the western end of the lagoon or the river Sile, you can commandeer small cruiser to explore the islands including Murano and the Lido as well as the beaches of Jesolo, then enjoy La Serenissima with the mass cruise crowds absent.
One week from 2,270 for four, cruiseinitaly.com
From Loosdrecht lake, the Netherlands emblematic canals and the River Vecht course north to Amsterdam and south to Gouda and Amsterdam in miniature Utrecht. There is a marina in the heart of Amsterdam, meaning you can moor and explore, and a cheese market in Woerden as well as several historic castles near Loosdrecht. Utrecht is a historic university city with an independent and creative spirit and plenty of canal-side restaurants and breweries.
One week from 1,474 (1,325) for five, locaboat.com
The land of 1,000 lakes adorns the north of Germany, the largest lakeland in Europe, which offers no shortage of opportunities for outdoor activity on a holiday afloat forest bike and hiking trails, fishing, history and heritage. Setting off from Lbz, an easterly route delivers Germanys northernmost vineyards, or head west to discover the fairytale Schwerin castle, former home of the dukes of Mecklenburg, on an island in the citys lake.
One week from 1,529 (1,375) for two, boat-renting-nicols.co.uk
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