Inside wine producer Maison Brillet
For those who appreciate fine dining and excellent wines Nicols recommends a canal barge holiday in the Charente. No previous boating experience or licence is needed.
As the itinerary below shows, a short break of a few nights cruising the River Charente – once described by King Francois 1st as “the most beautiful river in the kingdom” – provides a number of stop-off points to visit (and try!) some of the best food and wine in the region.
Our suggested canal barge holiday – a short break of 4-nights on board
This short break suggestion would require four nights to hire a canal barge – collecting the Nicols boat on the Monday (from 2pm) and returning it on the Friday (between 8am and 9am).
Other canal barge hire itineraries are also available, from long weekend breaks to one and two week canal barge holidays.
1st day: 2h30 navigation and 5 locks
Boarding your Nicols boat ©S.Laval
Arrive on the Monday at the Nicols base at Sireuil.
Get settled on your boat and let our base team introduce you to the boat and show you how to handle it on the water, including a demonstration on passing through the first lock. Allow a couple of hours.
After this introduction navigate to Châteauneuf-sur-Charente – 2h30 navigation and 5 locks.
Navigation from Sireuil
We recommend mooring at the pontoons of ‘îles de la Fuie’ and enjoying your first meal and overnight stop. Here you are just a few hundred metres from the village where you can visit in the morning, explore the market and shops and pick up supplies for your trip.
2nd day: 4h navigation and 5 locks
The Maison Brillet,
producer of Cognac
After exploring the village and some breakfast it’s time to set off along the river to Graves St Amant where you’ll come across the family distillery the Maison Brillet – 2h navigation and 2 locks.
Here you will discover the history of and how to make Pineau and Cognac, from harvesting right through distillation. You will also have the chance to taste the products produced at Maison Brillet including the exclusive ‘La Belle de Brillet’ – a delicious and flavoured brandy made with Willliams pears.
When leaving Maison Brillet, and on the way back to the boat, don’t miss the beautiful small parish church of Saint Martin built in the twelfth and fifteenth centuries.
Once back on board load up any supplies you might have stocked up on and when ready head further along the river to Jarnac – 2h navigation and 3 locks.
François Mitterrand who was the French President from 1981 – 1995 was born in Jarnac. Visit his grave and the museum celebrating his life and achievements.
Courvoisier Cognac producer
Jarnac is also in a region that holds a ‘Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée’ (a French certification of fine products) for Cognac and has a mix of large and famous trading houses and smaller local producers of Cognac, Pineau des Charentes and Pays Charentais wine all made within the city and its surroundings.
A must see trip is a visit to the home of Courvoisier Cognac where you can do tours and tastings plus make purchases for the rest of your trip or to take home with you!
Why not head to Le restaurant du Château where you’ll find a menu influenced by local produce and flavours in addition to special menus based around the flavours and aromas of Cognac.
3rd day: 3h navigation and 3 locks
It’s time to head to Cognac, a pretty walled city and the birthplace of King François 1st - 3h navigation and 3 locks.
The city is perhaps most famous for giving its name to the internationally renowned spirit Cognac. To bear the prestigious title of Le Cognac (an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) the drink must be produced from grapes grown on land within the Cognac region and with established production techniques and standards.
If that’s still not enough Cognac then why not visit the Cognac Arts Museum or enjoy the city tour!.
Cognac : Gates to Saint Jacques Tower ©Charente Tourisme
Cognac : Maison de la Lieutenance ©Charente Tourisme
4th day: 7h30 navigation and 13 locks
Abbey St Etienne in Bassac, Charente
©LAVAL Sébastien/Charente Tourisme
It’s time to begin the return journey, fitting in a stop off at Bassac – 4h navigation and 6 locks.
After enjoying a morning cruise along the beautiful river head to Bassac and the restaurant ‘L’Essille’ for a delightful meal. The restaurant holds a Logis classification of ‘three pots’ ensures culinary art and only the use of high quality products.
Before leaving the village of Bassac, make sure you visit the Abbey St Etienne, a Benedictine abbey dating back to the 11th century. Like many historic buildings in the Charente region the building has Roman influences.
After a visit to Bassac start heading back to Sireuil. If time, a quick stop off at the ancient village of St Simon is well worth it - 3h30 navigation and 7 locks.
On arrival at our Sireuil base, you can either spend the rest of your last day onboard – having dinner onboard your Nicols boat, or alternatively head by car to Châteauneuf sur Charente (approx 5km) and enjoy an excellent menu of locally themed dishes at the ‘La Tonnellerie’ restaurant.
Enjoy appetisers on arrival, special offers (of up to 25% per table) and menus created with fresh and local produce.
5th day: you’ve reached the end of your canal barge holiday in Charente
The Nicols base at Sireuil in Charente
Unfortunately as the saying goes – all good things come to an end!
We ask that you return your boat to the Nicols base at Sireuil between 8am and 9am.
We hope you enjoy the suggested itinerary for your canal barge holiday in Charente. Remember, no previous boat experience or a licence is needed to hire a canal barge from Nicols.
The best bits of a canal barge holiday in Charente :
- Manual (yet easy to operate!) locks which mean no navigation time constraints.
- Visit the cellars and distilleries of the famous Pineau des Charentes and Cognac.
- An abundance of excellent restaurants for discovering local dishes and delicacies.
- An influence of Roman art, history and heritage.
- Good swimming and bathing opportunities.
- Ideal for fisherman: trout, carp, pike, perch and eels.
Did you enjoy this article?
If so, then you might also be interested to read:
- Our article exploring nature in the Charente region.
- Our article exploring the liqueurs and spirits produced in the Charente region.
- Our article on family friendly boating holidays on the river Charente.