Travel Scribbles - Jan 07

Cruising Beautiful Britain
by Bob Barton

Cruising Britain's 3,000 mile network of navigable inland waterways is another option. The most popular way of doing this is by renting a self-drive narrow-boat and these are fully equipped as comfortable, floating holiday homes. This is not as daunting as it may sound: the controls are straightforward, the cruising speed is just three miles-per-hour and full instruction is given at the departure point.

Drifters, a consortium of holiday boat companies, offers only quality tourist board-inspected vessels and its website shows their availability on-line. The latest boating base is Black Prince's smart marina at Napton in the Heart of England which offers three directions in which to sail, including Shakespeare's Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick Castle and big-city Birmingham or south towards Oxford.

With distinctive humpback bridges, lock-side cottages and wooden lift-bridges, it is easy to imagine yourself back in 1790 when this canal opened, yet the boats are recently built and fitted with all mod-cons including comfortable berths, a bathroom with shower and plenty of hot water and a kitchen and lounge area with television. Meals and drinks are served at friendly waterside pubs. Do not expect to cover large distances this way: the adventure is in the journey and there is some physical work involved in operating locks and boat handling.