Known as ‘the best kept secret of the waterways’, hotel boating combines hotel luxury with the joys of drifting along a canal or river.
We Brits have an affinity with water. We’ve mastered sailing, punting, rowing – some of us are even adept at wriggling about in a coracle made of cowhide. This is because we’re never more than 70 miles away from the coast, and our landscape is carved by countless rivers, streams and lakes. As if we can’t get enough –we’ve also got over 2,000 miles of canals to explore.
It’s drifting down these waterways on a romantic old boat, at a pace of three miles an hour, with a glass of chilled something in hand and the sun on our backs that proves to be the antidote to the fast pace of 21st century life. Boarding a boat and investigating its nooks and crannies is as exciting as it is for a child exploring a dollhouse.
Understandably for some, manoeuvring and mooring a 70ft narrowboat on a daily basis is a daunting prospect, especially if you’ve never done it before. This is where hotel boating comes in. Hotel boating started in the 1950s, and the vessels were originally converted working boats. They were very basic – some were under canvas top and were called camping boats.
Nowadays hotel boats are mainly purpose built to make them larger and more comfortable with all the mod cons, such as hot showers, home-cooked food and cosy beds. The idea is to combine the luxury and relaxation of staying in a hotel with the uniqueness and romance of life on a narrowboat. You get to wake up to a different view each morning, explore the little known corners of Britain, eat, drink and play, and not have to worry one jot about navigating the next aqueduct or mooring up at the next market town. You’re just going. The crew get to do the worrying and thinking.
That said, guests are invited to muck in with the day-to-day tasks of narrowboating as much as they wish. They can lend a hand with the locks and swing bridges, or they can just sit back and watch the crew do all the work. They can indulge in a longshelved favourite hobby, like photography, painting or bird watching. They can keep up their exercise routine by walking or jogging on the towpath alongside the boat.
Hotel boat holidays are suited to singles, couples, small groups, the nimble and the not-so-nimble. Solo travellers can feel at ease, dine with fellow travellers, chat over a glass of wine or simply have some alone time with a good book. It’s all up to you. Guest capacity varies from boat to boat, as do cruise lengths, itineraries and guided tours.