Families Magazine - July 07

Short Break or long weekend - how about a canal boat holiday?

by Kelly Rose-Bradford

For many of us folks in the UK, a weekend away or a traditional ‘day out' is often synonymous with wind-and-rain swept beaches, soggy fish and chips and a row in the car on the way home! Throw a few screaming, hungry and miserable children into the mix, and it's enough to put you right off trips and breaks completely! But it doesn't have to be that way; with a bit of forward planning, and some tried-and-tested recommendations, family get-aways do not have to leave you a red eyed, quivering wreck! ‘Families' has road-tested some of the ‘best of British', from theme parks to canal holidays, and of course, the perennial favourite - the seaside break! So sit back and start planning your next family trip...

If the thought of lazy days pootling along some of Britain's 3,000 miles of navigable waterways floats your boat, then your first port of call should definitely be www.drifters.co.uk , who operate nearly 500 hireable narrow-boats in 30 different locations around the UK. You choose your departure point and your ultimate destinations from the miles upon miles of tranquil canal, river and backwater routes around the country.

You can restrict your trip to quiet, rural canals, with stop offs and over night stays in picturesque villages, or explore the urban waterways of the towns and cities. The beauty of a canal boat holiday is that its itinerary is truly up to you; travel as much or as little as you please, and rest and relax wherever you fancy, stopping at night on towpaths on the canal network, or in designated mooring facilities on the riverside.

Canal boat holidays are particularly good for families - while mum tops up her tan on the roof, the children can help dad with the lock manoeuvres or take a turn at steering! Whilst canal boats are suitable for young children, those with very inquisitive toddlers might want to wait until their little one has passed the ‘boisterous' stage - for both safety's sake and parental sanity!

Drifters narrow boats can accommodate up to twelve people and come fully equipped with galley kitchens, central heating, flushing toilets and showers, plus all household ‘essentials like bedding, cooking utensils and crockery. Families South West editor, Pascale Gravell recently took a three day break with Drifters and highly recommends the experience, citing the ability to stop wherever you want, sight see and picnic as a particular draw. And keeping the kids' entertained on the waterways really couldn't be easier...

Our children absolutely loved watching the wildlife, ” says Pascale, “ There were baby ducks and cygnets and my daughter Lily insists she saw a water fairy!

And if the only thing putting you off a waterways holiday is the thought of managing the boat or working the locks, then relax! The whole process is part of the fun of the holiday and your hirer will brief you comprehensively before you take your first tentative moves downstream!