If you’ve always fancied the freedom taking a boat holiday affords, why not book a break on the water in France? Travel past fairytale chateaux and rustic landscapes, visit historic settlements and of course sample the wonderful local wines.
Connoisseurs might want to head to the Nievre department of France for a canal boat holiday, as the region is well-known for its wine production. Here you’ll be able to drift along the Canal du Nivernais and the neighbouring rivers through what is arguably one of the country’s prettiest areas.
Opting for a boating break can be a great way of relaxing and enjoying a more leisurely pace of life – a far cry from busy airports and rushing to make check-in or out times at noisy hotels. Onboard a boat, you can rest assured you’ll always have a tranquil place for a good night’s sleep and can come and go as you please.
The Canal du Nivernais runs for 110 miles from the village of Saint-Leger-des-Vignes to Auxerre on the River Yonne. As you wind your way along, you’re sure to notice the beautiful landscapes that inspired Impressionist painters, along with ancient churches and magnificent chateaux.
Construction of the waterway began in 1784 to help move timber from the Morvan national park to Paris. It aided the region’s development for many years until the railways were introduced in the 19th century.
The canal is now used for recreational purposes among holidaymakers looking for a getaway alongside rolling meadows, forests, hillside vineyards and rocky outcrops. And it’s an ideal location if you enjoy stopping off at charming villages, busy cities and various other points of interest along the riverbanks.
Begin your journey at the picturesque town of Decize, where you can explore ancient fortifications. Poke around the ruins of the Chateau of the Comtes de Nevers and admire the intricate clock tower before calling in at the market to pick up fresh food or crafted goods.
Next, make your way to Chatillon-en Bazois – the largest town between Decize and Tannay. You might want to moor up for a while and view the impressive 12th century Chateau de Chatillon with its perfectly manicured peaceful gardens. Close by is the Metiers du Monde – a small museum of rural life that also houses a pottery.
Baye is another stop you might want to make to absorb the beauty of the countryside here and the native wildlife. If you want to climb ashore and stretch your legs, there’s no better place to get active as Baye has a water sports centre where you can hire canoes or even windsurf on the L’etang de Baye if you enjoy exhilarating activities. It’s also here that you’ll find an impressive staircase made up of 16 locks -Voutes de la Collancelle.
As you travel, be sure not to miss the historic city of Auxerre during your France boating holidays along the Canal du Nivernais. This beautiful settlement is full of interesting attractions, from the Cathedral of St Etienne and the colombage houses to the pretty clocktower, which dates back to the 14th century.
Explore the old town at the top of the hill and stop off at the Abbey St Germain to marvel at artifacts from the Bronze Age and Roman era, as well as a Carolingian crypt and ninth century frescoes. To broaden your knowledge of the region, head to the Museum of Natural History before you make your way to your next port of call.
This could well be Tannay, and if you’re a wine buff it’s likely this is the destination you most want to visit.
A village situated in the very heart of the wine-growing region, Tannay is renowned for producing excellent dry white varieties that you are sure to want to try. There are plenty of vineyards around here and if you visit the local wine-producing cooperative – Cave de la Cooperative – you’ll be able to sample a selection of the beverages made throughout the locale.
There’s also an exhibition at the tourist office dedicated to the wine-making process in the region, so be sure to call in to find out more about the art.
While you’re in Tannay you might enjoy having a poke around the small Sunday market opposite the town hall while taking in the sight of the antique buildings here, many of which date back to the 15th and 16th centuries and are completed with square or round towers.
Before you leave to make your way home, invest in some bottles of the area’s most famous export to keep you going until your next France boat holiday.. Willamette Valley tours