Caledonian cruising: a boating break in scenic Scotland

A novice sailor finds herself at the helm of a 43ft motor launch cruising up the Caledonian Canal to Loch Ness, fuelled by single malts, mountain views and hearty meals

Smoke on the water: a boating holiday adventure in France

On a family break along the Canal du Rhône au Rhin, Emma Cook and Co are out of their comfort zone, especially when their new boat breaks down. Still, there’s always Strasbourg to savour

Navigating Norfolk’s hidden creeks and salt marshes – in a 1950s whelk boat

With an ex-Marine at the helm, a new sailing adventure in north Norfolk offers the chance to enter a watery wilderness and get up close to seals and birdlife

SS Great Britain

Once on board I took a moment to look along the length of the vessel and the first impressions I had were of strength, solidity, and safety. The ship is dressed with flags and is ready for departure. SS Great Britain was originally provided with one square-rigged and five schooner-rigged iron masts. They were fastened to the spar deck with iron joints and most were hinged to allow lowering during strong headwinds. On this main deck pigs and chickens were kept to provide fresh meat and fresh eggs.

SS Great Britain had four decks, a crew of 120, and was initially fitted to accommodate a total of 360 passengers, along with 1,200 tons of cargo and 1,200 tons of coal. She was used for special trips, for example to take soldiers and horses to The Crimean War and this situation is faithfully reproduced on the bottom deck of the ship. The steerage accommodation shows how close people lived to each for months at a time on voyages to Australia and the claustrophobia was almost tangible. The first-class passengers had their own beautifully laid out state dining room with candelabras, china plates, and waiters. Other areas show surgery being performed, the cramped kitchen quarters where the meals were produced, and the officer’s quarters.

Top 10 boat-hotels in Europe

As the boutique boatel (boat-hotel) Bert’s Barges opens on London’s Regent’s Canal, it’s time to consider other places to stay on the water. Here we pick 10 around the UK and Europe that’ll float your boat