TRAVEL: Rambling along the Rhine

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Long-time presenter of TV’s Wish You Were Here and BBC Holiday programmes, John Carter, relives some pleasurable experiences in the castles and vineyards of The Rhinelands.

For most people, a holiday in the Rhineland Palatinate means a cruise along the magnificent Rhine, whose finest stretch is, arguably, that between Koblenz and Mainz.

That was certainly my first experience - and my second and third - before I forsook the river and began to explore the countryside on either side of it. Until then, the Rhine dominated my visits, with its Wagnerian legends and lore, and bankside communities whose only reason for existence, it seemed, was to provide a “photo opportunity” for visitors.

A place called Boppard stands out in my recollections, because it was there we met a “Wine Queen” who came on board our vessel to tell us about the local labels and take us through the ceremonies of a wine-tasting evening. Unfortunately, the British passengers were inclined to drink rather than taste and, as it proceeded, the evening got somewhat out of hand.

But the Wine Queen did not seem to mind as her sparkling tiara came adrift, her hair tumbled down and her chums from Boppard joined enthusiastically in the celebrations, turning the affair into a sort of Anglo-German wine supping contest. It certainly broke the ice among the passengers who, until then, had been on their best behaviour.

I suppose I should hold that up as a warning to be on your guard when the Rhine wine flows. It is, as one of my companions commented, “a remarkably easy drink.”

One of the problems with a river cruise - with any holiday on the move, come to that - is that you never have time to explore thoroughly the places through which you pass. Just as you are deciding that you could cheerfully spend a few days in some port of call, it’s time to get aboard and get moving.

Boppard is a perfect example of this. It took me about five or six years to get back there, on a holiday which gave me time enough to appreciate the place.

The same goes for Rudesheim, a pretty town with, as I recall, masses of geraniums in hanging baskets and more roses on display than is good for a place of its size.

Each was, originally, a brief port of call. Each has, since, become a base for exploration of a beautiful region of Germany - so interesting historically as well as scenically, in fact, that it has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. The terrain is what enthusiastic walkers describe as “between moderate and energetic”, but as my ability declines with the passing years, I tend towards the moderate end of that scale.

For some time RWH has offered a “Rhine Castles and Vineyards” holiday which gives you a week in that very region, staying four nights in Boppard and three in Rudesheim. You walk on both banks of the mighty river, using part of the Rhine Castles Way and - from the Rudesheim base - through the vineyards for which the region is famous.

The week-long deal, including flights between London and Frankfurt, train and boat travel in Germany, and half-board accommodation in three-star hotels, costs from £699.

In keeping with their custom of adding an extra element to their holidays, RWH recently launched a walking and cycling combination to this very same region. A modest start - just two holidays in May and July - the one-week package is based on half-board accommodation in a three-star hotel in Rudesheim, with flights between London and Frankfurt. Incidentally, flights from Birmingham and Manchester are also available on this deal, as they are on the two-centre holiday I described above.

Cycle hire for three of the seven days is included in the price of the holiday. Costs from £769.

This walk and pedal combination has proved popular with RWH clients in other destinations. It should certainly do so in this magnificent Rhineland region.

For bookings and further information see www.ramblersholidays.co.uk