Visit royal palaces on a Majestic Cruise along the Thames

Thursday, 15 March 2012 11:12 AM

If you want to delve into some of England's rich history during a getaway consider booking a Thames boating holiday. Breaks such as a Majestic Cruise allow you to visit royal palaces and antique stately homes as you traverse the waterway and travel back in time more than 900 years.

Begin your England narrow boat holiday in the attractive spot of Chertsey, where you'll find Britain's largest inland marina - Penton Hook, which is set in 80 acres of grounds. The stretch of river the marina is situated on is known as one of the loveliest along the entire waterway and is not far from Runnymede where King John signed the Magna Carta.

Once you've established yourself onboard, set off and make for Windsor, which is well worth exploring to discover the palace and other attractions here. Climb ashore and make your way to the palace, where you can watch the changing of the guard and absorb a little history. Windsor Castle is said to be among Queen Elizabeth's favourite residences, and when the monarch is not in situ you can take a tour of the building to admire the staterooms.

Afterwards, head into the grounds, which span more than 4,500 acres and are now better known as Windsor Great Park. Set in the park is the Savill Garden, which is an ornamental space popular with visitors and horticulturalists alike. Virginia Water is another tranquil spot to be found here and is also Britain's largest manmade body of water, while the Valley Gardens on the northern shores of the lake make for an enjoyable walk through flowering forests.

From the castle, you can take the Heritage Trail across the Thames to Eton College and witness more than 1,000 years of history. As you walk, you'll come across a variety of interesting old buildings, including the Tiger Garden Restaurant - formerly the Kings Head Pub where Shakespeare is believed to have written The Merry Wives of Windsor. Eton College itself dates back to 1440 and is one of the most exclusive schools in the world, while you'll also find the Tudor manor house of Dorney Court - also built in 1440 - in the vicinity.

If you're travelling with young family members and are looking for things to do on waterways that will interest little ones, don't miss a trip to Legoland Windsor, where children will be amazed by life-size interactive Lego models and thrilled by more than 50 fun rides.

Make your way to Richmond upon Thames next, where you can spot Hampton Court Palace situated at the water's edge. The stately home was built by Henry VIII in the early 1500s for Cardinal Wolsey and you can meet Tudor courtiers if you pay a visit. Admire the elaborate chapel, relax in the gardens and find your way out of the maze, while if you call in during the school holidays you might be able to take lessons in Tudor etiquette, watch a falconry display, try some traditional dancing or even have a go at beginners' jousting.

Back aboard your boat, journey on to Kew, which is also home to a beautiful old building. Kew Palace dates back to the 1600s and is the former home of George II and his queen Caroline of Ansbach. The property's botanical gardens are arguably as renowned as the main structure itself, being more than 250 years old, so if you pay a visit be sure to stroll among the landscaped areas and take a look at the greenhouses.

The house itself, which is the smallest royal palace in England, is lovely to tour, and retains some of its antique furniture, including the chair in which George III's wife queen Charlotte died in 1818. After you've taken in all the palace and gardens have to offer, make your way back to your boat and head for Kingston-upon-Thames, where you can indulge in a little retail therapy before it's time to return to Chertsey - the last stop on your UK short break along the Thames. The marina has all kinds of facilities, so you can sort through all your laundry or catch up on your emails before heading home.

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