David McDonnell

Barge holidays for groups in the UK and Europe

If staying close to home appeals, there are six-night cruises on the Shannon in Ireland, the Caledonian Canal in Scotland and on the River Thames in England. The latter are on the eight-passenger Magna Carta between Hampton Court and Henley-on-Thames with tours to Hampton Court Palace, Windsor Castle and Cliveden. From 2,790 per person departing on March 27. This sailing also visits Highclere House, where Downtown Abbey was filmed.

“Cruises on the Canal du Centre and River Sa ne in Southern Burgundy visit chateaux, wineries and cathedrals.”

On the continent, the same company cruises the Dutch and Belgian waterways and the Bianco Canal in Italy, but the biggest choice is in France. Cruise the Canal de la Marne in Alsace and Lorraine on the 12-passenger Panache and you ride on a boat elevator built to replace 17 locks. Choose the eight-passenger Anjodi on the Canal du Midi in the South of France to climb a staircase of seven locks and visit wineries, markets and cathedrals.

The world’s most beautiful river cruise ports2

New this year, cruises on the Canal du Centre and River Sa ne in Southern Burgundy visit chateaux, wineries and cathedrals. They are on Finesse, a new eight-passenger barge. From 4,550 per person for six nights departing on May 8.

Afloat in France (belmond.com3) has five barges in France and also includes all meals, drinks and excursions in the price. The four-passenger Belmond Alouette is available for charter only. From 4,166 per person for six nights sailing from Avignon to B ziers departing on April 10. Other options include the eight-passenger Belmond Hirondelle in Franche-Comt and the 12-passenger Belmond Napol on, which sails the Rh ne River between Tain and Arles. From 3,478 per person departing on April 10 or 24.

Ask the experts

Our Q&A service allows you can pick the brains of our experts at home and abroad. Email your query to


Follow @telegraphtravel7 How we moderate8


  1. ^ gobarging.com (gobarging.com)
  2. ^ The world’s most beautiful river cruise ports (www.discountholidays.info)
  3. ^ belmond.com (www.belmond.com)
  4. ^

‘Relaxing the rules on term time holidays isn’t the answer

I know how important family holidays are, and how much they cost. For many, the price hikes during the school holidays make the family holiday1 unaffordable. That’s why I know from my own postbag that lots of families will welcome the magistrates’ decision to allow parents to take their kids out of school in term time.

However, it’s not good news for schools and heads who will now be faced with uncertainty about the rules – which will cause chaos. It’s also not good news for children either.

'Relaxing The Rules On Term Time Holidays Isn't The Answer Disney-World-Holiday

However much sympathy I have for parents desperate for a family holiday, the answer isn’t to relax the rules on children attending school. All the evidence shows that high attendance at school leads to better results.

That s why I m clear that the best place for kids during term time is in school2 , at their desks learning and getting the discipline that aiming for 100% attendance can instill for the rest of their lives. Any time out of the classroom puts progress at risk. Research has also shown that poor attendance can have a particularly damaging effect on poorer and disadvantaged kids.

Best place: Children need to be in the classroom in term time

And while I hear the argument that responsible parents shouldn’t be punished for those who don’t take their kids schooling as seriously, it’s not fair on teachers or heads to be making decisions all the time about allowing long holidays. As politicians, we should be making it clear that we expect kids in school every day unless they’re unwell. The new regulations, introduced last year by David Cameron3 , mean head teachers may not grant a leave of absence during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances .

Deciding what might constitute exceptional circumstances has been left to the discretion of schools, putting teachers in a difficult position because guidelines aren t clear enough.

Learning: It’s too important for children to be missing school

The government should work with schools to ensure that they have the clarity they need to exercise fair judgement on authorised absences. Not leave it to magistrates to make education policy4 . This decision drives a coach and horses through the government s attendance policy.

They need to act quickly before the whole system goes out of the window. Parents want their children to do well and play by the rules, yet irresponsible Discount Holidays © holiday companies that hike up prices should be ashamed of themselves for putting some parents in an impossible position. That should be the focus of our fire – not relaxing rules for term-time holidays.


  1. ^ family holiday (www.mirror.co.uk)
  2. ^ in school (www.mirror.co.uk)
  3. ^ David Cameron (www.mirror.co.uk)
  4. ^ education policy (www.mirror.co.uk)

Wayne Rooney not with Manchester United squad at hotel sparking fears he could …

Wayne Rooney1 was missing from Manchester United’s2 team bus last night sparking fears he may miss today’s game with Liverpool.

Rooney was not part of the squad that disembarked the coach at Manchester’s Lowry Hotel, United’s overnight base for home matches. The United squad arrived at the Lowry at 7.40pm but skipper Rooney was not among the group of players who climbed the hotel steps to go inside. Rooney, who overtook Sir Bobby Charlton’s England scoring record with his 50 international goal on Tuesday,3 was the most high-profile absentee among United’s squad.

Reuters Wayne Rooney Not With Manchester United Squad At Hotel Sparking Fears He Could ... Top man: Rooney notched his 50th England goal vs Switzerland on Tuesday night

Louis van Gaal gave no indication that Rooney had suffered an injury when he spoke at his media conference ahead of the Liverpool game earlier on Friday.45

United’s players had a final training session at the club’s Aon Training Complex after van Gaal’s 2.30pm press conference. Intriguingly, Getty Images, official photographers for United, did not publish a picture of Rooney from today’s training session among the 44 on their website, suggesting the forward may not even have been involved.

In pictures – United train on Friday:

6 Wayne Rooney Not With Manchester United Squad At Hotel Sparking Fears He Could ...

Yet a United spokesman was unable to explain why Rooney was not on the team bus along with the rest of the playing squad. Van Gaal insists on his squad travelling together the night before games, which is what makes Rooney’s absence from the group all the more puzzling.

The players leave their cars at Old Trafford the night before home games, then take the team bus to Lowry, where they spend the night, travelling to Old Trafford on match-day. If Rooney does miss today’s game at Old Trafford, it could mean a baptism of fire debut for new 36million signing Anthony Martial.7

NurPhoto/REX Wayne Rooney Not With Manchester United Squad At Hotel Sparking Fears He Could ... Debut chance: Martial could be thrown in against Liverpool

Martial, 19,8 became football’s most expensive teenager when he completed his move to United from Monaco on transfer deadline day. Van Gaal said he would ease Martial into life at United and in the Premier League, but if he is without Rooney, he may have no choice but to start him.

Rooney and Martial are now United’s only recognised strikers, after van Gaal let Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao and Javier Hernandez leave this summer, with young forward James Wilson going out on loan.

Poll loading


  1. ^ Wayne Rooney (www.mirror.co.uk)
  2. ^ Manchester United’s (www.mirror.co.uk)
  3. ^ overtook Sir Bobby Charlton’s England scoring record with his 50 international goal on Tuesday, (www.mirror.co.uk)
  4. ^ Louis van Gaal (www.mirror.co.uk)
  5. ^ at his media conference ahead of the Liverpool game earlier on Friday. (www.mirror.co.uk)
  6. ^