Every hotel barge cruise includes daily excursions to some fascinating local places of interest – châteaux, Cathar hilltop villages, markets, renowned wine cellars, as well as other hidden gems that you would struggle to find on your own. Many of the visits are just a sunny stroll away from your hotel barge or, if further, the ever present air conditioned fleet of chauffeured Mercedes are at your disposal.
Each excursion, conducted in English, is usually led by a crew member: the Captain or Deckhand/Tour Guide who will no doubt have some interesting facts and amusing stories to recount about the places you visit.
…have something for everyone; cultural experiences, historical sites, film locations, castles and stately homes and, of course, local producers of wines, spirits and regional produce. Some visits will be to well-known destinations such as the medieval city of Carcassonne or the world famous Delft porcelain factory, whilst others will take you off the beaten track to find interesting people and places that we have come to know over more than 30 years of inland waterways cruising.
Our passengers are usually very well-travelled and have seen many of Europe’s more famous sights, but on each hotel barge cruise we aim to show you something new as part of a unique insight and immersive experience through one of Europe’s heritage-rich regions. Then, of course, after every outing, you return to relax on your nearby private floating hotel.
Vineyards and Wine Tasting
Whether you are a connoisseur or simply know what you like, our cruises have something to offer when it comes to discovering the wines and vineyards of a region. You will be taken on private tours of long-established domaines to find out more about the art of great wine-making – and of course get to taste the wonderful results. These visits may be to a producer of fine Burgundies such as Bouchard Père et Fils in Beaune, a renowned grand cru domaine in St Emilion, or a smaller, family-run vineyard like Château de Villemagnes in Corbières.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
During your cruise, to help you appreciate the history and heritage of a particular region, there may be a visit to a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These places of special historical interest include in France, Carcassonne, Reims Cathedral, the hilltop town of Vezelay, even the whole of the Canal du Midi itself. On the Italy itinerary, there is, of course, Venice, as well as other sites such as the
cities of Mantua and Ferrara.
Off the Beaten Track
We visit many places that are little-known or overlooked by other companies, such as Peter Freebody’s traditional boatyard on the River Thames, the Aalsmeer flower auction in Holland, or the Troglodyte cave dwellings in the Loire Valley.
Private Stately Homes
We arrange visits to a number of privately-owned stately homes, castles and other residences, each with fascinating histories. At some of them, such as haunted Leap Castle in Ireland, the Tudor manor house of Dorney Court near the Royal River Thames, L’Abbaye de Fontenay in Burgundy, or the Villa Ca’Zen in Italy, you may even be given a tour by the owners themselves.
Artisan Food Products
One of the real pleasures of a hotel barge cruise is being served some wonderful, locally-sourced produce on board, so we include excursions to see some of the skilled artisans at work and, of course, sample their products! It may be a visit to an ancient olive oil press in the Midi, or a family-run bakery in Alsace.
Some of our cruises include tours of historic battlefields – Culloden Moor and Glencoe in Scotland; the World War Two battleground at Wingen-sur- Moder in Alsace; even Alesia in Burgundy, where the last battle between the Gauls and Romans took place in 52 B.C.
Castles and Châteaux
For architecture and history lovers we visit some of Europe’s finest castles & châteaux including Château de Fontainebleau near Paris, Cawdor Castle in Scotland, Château de Bazoches in Burgundy, or in Italy, Mantua’s magnificent Ducal Palace.
Art and Craft
On many cruises, you may also visit some renowned art and craft locations – perhaps the René Lalique Collection in Alsace, the Stanley Spencer Gallery at Cookham, or the Faience pottery in Gien.
Famous Film Locations
For film buffs, we also visit some famous film locations, such as the village of Flavigny sur Ozerain in Burgundy (‘Chocolat’); Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland (‘Highlander’ and James Bond’s ‘The World Is Not Enough’); Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte in Champagne (‘The Man in the Iron Mask’); Highclere Castle (‘Downton Abbey’) in England.
On canals such as the Canal du Nivernais and the Canal du Midi, our hotel barges cruise past many charming waterside villages and towns. And to really appreciate the local history and culture, we also visit places such as the Cathar hilltop pilgrimage halt of Minerve, the Royal Regatta town of Henley-on-Thames and the picturesque village of Vezelay in Burgundy.
Distilleries and Breweries
There are visits to local drinks producers, such as the Glen Ord whisky distillery in Scotland, the Meteor Brewery in Alsace, the Kilbeggan whiskey distillery in Ireland, Armagnac producer Domaine de Lapeyrade and the Noilly Prat vermouth distillery in France.