There has been a rise in recent years of families staying in the UK for their holiday (probably due to the present economy) and one of the most popular holidays has been the narrow boat holidays. This rise has been due to the fact that you can get the whole family involved and split the costs, other family members can join you for the day and you can take the holiday at you own pace and stop wherever you feel the need. With some careful planning there are some great sites for the kids to see and visit that are close to canal routes.
If you don’t have the kids along for this particular trip then why not consider some of the options in the middle section of this article..and if the whole family is coming along then skip right to the end for a little fun for everyone!
1. Cadbury World, Worcester and Birmingham Canal
Find out how your favourite chocolate is made in this interactive experience. There are games, interactive exhibits, a children’s playground and the chance to make your own chocolate. Best of all, there’s a huge shop devoted to Cadbury’s chocolate, including many treats you won’t find elsewhere! It’s also great fun for adults, especially those with a bit of a sweet tooth.
2. National Sea Life Centre, Birmingham Canal Main Line
Located at the junction of the Birmingham Canal Main Line and the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, this is an ideal day out if the weather happens to be a bit dreary! Kids can play in the interactive rock pool, where they can handle live crabs and starfish, see the only hammerhead sharks in the UK, Thora and Freda, and learn about how to protect the seas and the creatures that live in them.
3. Shiverpool Ghost Tour, River Mersey
Fantastic for slightly older children, this attraction, based at Liverpool’s Albert Dock, offers guided tours of some of the city’s most haunted places. With dramatic re-enactments and scary true stories, always delivered with a touch of humour, this is definitely something a little bit different and a good way of filling an evening.
… For canal enthusiasts
4. Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Llangollen Canal
Warning: not suitable for those with a fear of heights! This fully navigable aqueduct carries the Llangollen Canal over the River Dee in Wrexham, north east Wales. It was completed in 1805, and at 1007ft long and 126ft above the river, it is the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name, which is Welsh, means “Cysyllte Bridge”.
5. Caen Hill Locks, Kennet & Avon Canal
Like the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Caen Hill Locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal is one of the “Seven Wonders of the Waterways”. It makes up part of the 29 lock flight at Devizes in Wiltshire, but is impressive because it consists of 16 locks set closely together in a straight line. In a canal boat, it takes roughly 5-6 hours to navigate, but as with everything on a canal holiday, there’s no need to rush. There’s a cafe nearby, and plenty of wildlife to spot, including swans, water voles and bats.
6. Foxton Locks, Grand Union Leicester Line
A “staircase” of ten locks located on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal, these are a popular tourist attraction and a haven for wildlife. The locks are used to carry canal boats between the top and bottom of a steep hill, and have an unusual design using side ponds to fill the locks. With a museum, two pubs, a tea room, and a shop, there’s plenty to fill your time. You can also take a boat trip on a vintage motor launch, or take a walk along the canal to nearby Market Harborough.
… For everyone
7. Walking, cycling, picnics, fishing… anywhere
Britain’s canals pass through some of its most stunning countryside, and there is no shortage of things to do, whichever route you choose to take. Walking and cycling are very popular pastimes, and fun for the whole family to do. They can also be a wonderful way of discovering some hidden gems of the British countryside. Stop and have a picnic or bring your fishing tackle and try your luck at some of the fishing sites along the way. What is wonderful about canal holidays too, is that many operators allow dogs on board, so your beloved pets can have a fun holiday as well!
8. Shopping, eating, drinking, sightseeing… anywhere
Some of Britain’s most interesting cities, towns and villages are located on or near canals, such as Manchester, Coventry and Leicester. This means that there is plenty of opportunity for exploring some of the more famous British landmarks. If you want something a little quieter, many of the smaller villages and towns have lovely shops, tea rooms and places of historical interest. Finally, many of Britain’s finest pubs are located near to canals, so after a day’s boating you can relax and enjoy a nice cool pint of real ale, or some good hearty pub food.
As you can see there are options for everyone and canal holidays can suit everyone’s taste and everyone’s budget. With a little forward planning you can make sure that everyone is happy!