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BRITAIN'S waterways are a fast track to relaxation so here are our best ways to drift off this spring.

Stratford Canal Best for: Culture

April marks 400 years since Shakespeare shuffled off this mortal coil and there are plenty of anniversary events at his birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon. By narrowboat from Rugby you'll get lots of lock practice (there are 84) and you can moor by the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, catch a show and go for a drink at the Dirty Duck, a fave drinking hole for actors. DEAL: A week's rental starts at PS575 for a narrowboat sleeping two to four people., 01788 832 449.

Norfolk Broads Best for: Back to nature

Around the River Bure are a series of tiny inlets - medieval canals - that are hidden from traffic. You can rent cruisers to explore the wider stretches of water or the Canoe Man - aka outdoors expert Mark Wilkinson - can help you navigate the tiniest and most hidden parts by paddling around them. Camp overnight on the longer trips or stay in B&Bs en route. DEAL: A one-night break costs PS175 per adult and PS125 per child, including canoe tuition, food and accommodation., 0845 4969 177.

Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal Best for: The quiet life

Most canal boats are diesel and putt-putt-putt their way through the water. On the Mon and Brec, as it's known, you can also hire electric narrowboats. There are charger points throughout the 33 miles of waterway that wind through the Brecon Beacons and Usk Valley. You can also pep up your trip with some adventure. The 21 mile circular Gap mountain bike trail covers a stretch of the canal.

DEAL: A week's trip starts at PS912 for a four-five berth trip on an electric narrowboat., 01873 830 001.

The Outer Pennine Ring Best for: Experts At three miles of pitch darkness, the Standedge Tunnel is the longest underground waterway in the UK. And it's one of the highlights of the Outer Pennine Ring, a 192 mile route that takes in Manchester and Leeds. All in all, it means this 21-day trip is high on an experienced barger's bucket list.

DEAL: A two-berth cruiser starts at PS2,850 for a three-week hire., 01422 832 712.

The Thames Best for: Armchair sailors Let someone else take the helm on a beautiful stretch of the Thames just outside Reading. The African Queen is a converted Dutch barge that sleeps 12 people. Owners Andy and Bonny cosset their guests brilliantly. They lived in South Africa. Bonny's Cape Malay food is delicious. Cruises include a five-day one that visits posh Henley-on-Thames, famous for its rowing regatta.

DEAL: A weekend cruise starts at PS190pp., 07774 917 389.

CB Caledonian Canal Best for: Luxury The mist-tipped hills and glens of Scotland are full of romance, and the Scottish Highlander floating hotel mines this with tartan, fine Scottish food and single malts. There are family, golf and honeymoon cruises available. Built between 1803 and 1822, the Caledonian Canal links Inverness on the east coast with Fort William on the west using man-made canals to tie up with Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy. DEAL: Six nights all-inclusive from PS2,590pp., 01753 598 555.

Th fu fl Sc go be lin Wti Dgo LB Lancaster Canal Best for: Total relaxation For some, dealing with locks is part of the fun. But if you want to drift through the landscape, BF Fo FB HIGHS: Falkirk Wheel lift bridges two canals head h single stretch head here - there isn't a single one on the 42 mile stretch. You will still see spectacular scenery, from the coastline near Morecambe Bay through the Forest of Bowland to the foothills of the Lake District and the wild landscape of Lancashire, interspersed with waterside pubs.

DEAL: Three-day breaks in a two-four berth boat start from PS574., 01995 671 712.

Scottish Lowlands Best for: Real highs Travelling from Edinburgh to Glasgow by canal takes around a week and the highlight is the Falkirk Wheel - the world's first (and only) - rotating boat lift that bridges two different canals. Don't miss the Kelpies, either, at Falkirk. Unveiled last year, they are the largest horse sculptures in the world at over 100ft. Even better, the Seagull Trust has a boat, the Marion Seagull, which has been specially built to allow wheelchair users and their families to experience boating holidays.

DEAL: The Marion Seagull sleeps up to six and starts at PS120 for the first night, PS80 for the rest., 07801 287 157.

n Stourport Ring Best for: Families It's testimony to Birmingham's past as a manufacturing powerhouse that it has even more canals than Venice. And today they're also lined with bars and cafes. Birmingham is part of the Stourport Ring, a classic canal journey that has BRUM: On the Stourport something for everyone, from Cadbury World, the cathedral city of Worcester and the Tardebigge Flight - a series of 30 locks that raises the water level 220ft.

DEAL: Prices from PS790 on a two-four berth boat., 01527 575 115.

Kennet and Avon Best for: Trendy types Barging's hipster side comes out in Topsy, a narrowboat moored just outside Bath. Inside there is a wood-burning stove, mid-century furniture, record player, stacks of vinyl and plenty of space - it sleeps up to five people. The Kennet and Avon is a gentle but popular boating route - make time g g narrowbo there i fu f rni pl p e pe pbu bf fo f ca ca caf DE DE D A la la la la lazyd for Bradford on Avon and the Lock Inn's cafe for its famous Boatman's breakfast. DEAL: A week's break starts at PS1,525., 07785 333 586.

MOOR DRINKS: Waterside pubs on Lancaster canal BARGE IN: Topsy narrowboat in Bath SPLASH OUT: Caledonian Canal in Inverness


TUNNEL VISION: At Standedge entrance

BRUM: On the Stourport Ring

OARSOME: Canoe Man on River Bure

FLOATING HOTEL: The African Queen

POWER THROUGH: On the Mon and Brec

HIGHS: Falkirk Wheel lift bridges two canals
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 6, 2016
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