Highly recommend a barge break if you’re seeking something restful, flexible and with a tiny element of adventure (this increases if, unlike us, you go through some locks or have non-swimmers in your group).
We loved: We all got something out of the weekend, even if it was just sitting by the stove reading a book or watching the world go by from the window.
Hints: Learn a little about your route before you go, and don’t go for a massive boat if you’re at all worried about driving it! (We avoided locks which made it all a lot simpler). Don’t think of a barge as a cheap option. My research suggests the opposite is usually the case.
Also, if you go for this section of the Kennet and Avon, Bath has PLENTY for families to do if you fancy a trip into town. More Georgian buildings than you can shake a stick at, some Roman baths, a children’s theatre and much more.
So we needed a K and time was running out. And then, through the magic of Facebook, a friend suggested the Kennet and Avon canal for a barge-based weekend. Hallelujah! Thank you Catharine!
One of the things we really like as a family is being able to get around without having to make any effort, hence our love of the camper van. A boat, it seemed, would offer a similar combo of forward momentum with the comfort of sofas, and, crucially, a wood-burning stove. We were fairly last-minute as usual, and our chosen weekend, the end of October half-term (and Halloween) was the very end of the canalboat season, but we did eventually manage to find Dorothy Beryl (aka Dottie B), moored in Bathampton near Bath. Right on our doorstep 🙂
First thing I should say is that canalboats are NOT a cheap accommodation option. I suppose it’s all the maintenance and the fact that they have to move around safely even when driven by idiots. A hotel would have been cheaper, but it was the boating aspect of the weekend that we wanted, and even though we weren’t planning an ambitious route (a lock-free route from Bathampton to Bath to Monkton Combe and back to Bathampton) the joy of the thing was the moving along, the ‘messing about in boats’ on the waterway beginning with K.
Day 1: Bathampton to Monkton Combe (lunch at the Angelfish) and back to Bath
The first morning, after a quick lesson in boatery, we chugged along very happily to Monkton Combe. We got the stove going, found the books and games, unpacked the kitchen and settled in.
We all had a key role to play: Garry did the driving (with sporadic help from the kids), the girls did the reading, Isaac did the playing with his Lego (and swinging the swing bridge) and me, well I was in charge of knot-tying. So Garry had to park the thing (tricky) and I had to make sure it didn’t then float away due to bad knot-tying (a big responsibility!)
Day 2: Bath to Bathampton (yes, this is a very short trip!)
This was a pretty lazy Sunday, starting with highly rock-n-roll Patience in PJs, a bit of dominoes (gold-glitter — fancy!) and some reading. Then we were off back to Bathampton.
There was some excitement on the way. A proper boat owner was having some trouble with his onboard motor so hitched a lift for a while with us tourists (see pic), but otherwise we chugged along peacefully and sedately.
In fact, this was such a chilled-out day that we ended up staying in Bathampton for a few hours before giving Dottie B back: we ate at The George, played on the rope swing, read by the fire and made films with Lego characters. Like I said, rock-n-roll.