WIN a luxury private cruise on the River Thames, worth £2150: Competition now closed

There are few more relaxing ways to spend some long idle days than gently floating along a river. Leave the cars or train far behind and set sail for a truly stress-free holiday on the River Thames. Why not enter our competition to win a private luxury cruise?

The New Venture on the Thames

THERE ARE FEW more relaxing ways to spend some long idle days than gently floating along a river. Leave the cars or train far behind and set sail for a truly stress-free holiday on the River Thames. All along this beautiful and tranquil stretch of water there are luxury hire boats waiting to drift you away. There are several hire boat companies along the 135-mile rural stretch of the River Thames, from the Cotswolds to Teddington Lock on the outskirts of London, and many different types of boating experience to be had.

Here’s your chance to try out a luxury private charter. The River Thames Alliance and Henley Sales and Charter is offering a prize of a two-night cruise on the New Venture, worth £2,150. A personal skipper/chef will navigate the byways of the river for you, cook fabulous meals, then leave you alone to enjoy your comfortable accommodation on the New Venture while moored in a quiet spot overnight. See how to enter the competition below.

Cruising on the Thames

The New Venture is a classic Bates Star Craft, newly refitted, and based at the Beetle & Wedge in Moulsford, Oxfordshire. Originally launched in 1960, she conjures up the refinement of a forgotten era, echoes of parties at Cliveden or convivial family holidays. There are four berths, and you will be transported back to a tranquil world of elegance to enjoy the hidden delights of the River Thames. The Bates Star Craft were the luxury river cruisers of their day, with high quality fittings and classic design. The New Venture is 40 feet long and restored in mahogany, chrome and leather, with 21st century facilities such as WiFi, flat screen TV, iPod and a good shower!

There are many beautiful and interesting places to visit between Moulsford and Henley, for example: Beale Park Animal Park and Gardens, the National Trust’s Basildon House, Mapledurham House, Sonning (a pretty village with hostelries aplenty!) and the River and Rowing Museum in Henley.

COMPETITION NOW CLOSED

If you aren’t lucky enough to win the prize, why not plan your own cruise on the Thames? Choose from boating through rolling countryside, spotting wildlife and chatting to lock keepers, or visiting bustling riverside towns such as Henley and Windsor steeped in history and boasting some of the country’s most captivating attractions. Stop off at a museum, enjoy a picnic on the riverbank or kick back at a waterside pub. When night falls you can moor up and let the river drift you to sleep.

Breakfast on board the New Venture

If you haven’t skippered a boat or used a lock before, never fear. Driving a boat is far simpler than it looks and hire boat operators will provide you with full instruction. The Thames is the only river in the UK to have lock keepers at each of its 45 locks, and they will happily help you out as well as recommending the best place to get a pint!

As a general guide to costs, a four-berth boat for a short break in July would be £995, dropping to £895 in May. In low season, that works out to about £56 per person per night, to which you add the cost of food and fuel. Allowing time for locks and sightseeing, you could travel the stretch from Reading to Oxford and back – about 100 miles – in a week. Over 10 days you could cover the stretch from Pangbourne to Hampton Court, about 120 miles.

If the romance of a traditional narrowboat captures your imagination explore the Upper Reaches of the River Thames with Oxfordshire Narrowboats – tel: (01869) 340348; www.oxfordshire-narrowboats.co.uk. Or if a slick cruiser is more your style take a look at Kris Cruisers – tel: (01753) 543930; www.kriscruisers.co.uk for easy access to Windsor, Henley and Oxford. If you prefer to sleep on solid ground after a day messing about on the river, hire a classic river cruiser from Fringilla – tel: 07977 448117; www.fringilla.co.uk. This small fleet of luxury day hire boats cater for two to 12 people and allow you all the fun and freedom without the need to sleep on board.

For details of other hire boat operators, types of boats and what to see and do on the River Thames see www.visitthames.co.uk/boatingholidays.

For information on what to visit along the Thames, take a look at our feature. Or check out our feature on suggested Places to Stay along the Thames.

Images: Julian Bricco

Click here to enter the competition

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