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Christmas on the canals: what’s on this December

PUBLISHED: 13:37 01 December 2016 | UPDATED: 10:26 05 December 2016

Gloucester Quays Victorian Christmas Market 2014 | kennysarmy, Flickr CC2.0

Gloucester Quays Victorian Christmas Market 2014 | kennysarmy, Flickr CC2.0


The halls are getting decked, the bells will be jingled and Santa Claus is checking his list – the festive season is upon us. So hats, scarves, gloves and thick winter coats on, because it may not be a white Christmas but the UK’s waterways promise to make it wonderful

Here are just some of the events taking place on the canals this Christmas...

National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port

Festive cheer at the National Waterways Museum kicks off on Friday 2 December with ‘Carols by the Canal’, an evening of music and readings.

From Saturday 17 December until Christmas Eve, families can join Santa for a 30-minute cruise on the Shropshire Union, where the young ones can pick up an early present and the big kids can enjoy a mince pie.

And why not combine the cruise with a show? On Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 December (and a special performance at 2.30pm on Christmas Eve), Chalice Media present A Christmas Canal. Inspired by Dickens’ perennial favourite, a surly dock manager is shown the meaning of Christmas.

Limehouse Christmas Market, 10-11 December | @LimehousebasinLimehouse Christmas Market, 10-11 December | @Limehousebasin

Christmas markets

Bradford-on-Avon hosts its first Christmas floating market on the K&A this weekend, 3-4 December. Trade boats will sell handmade crafts, jewellery, gifts – and keep patrons going with mulled wine and roasted chestnuts – while singers, storytellers and Santa bring the wharf to life.

The Roving Canal Traders Association will be in central Birmingham from 10-18 December for its Christmas Floating Market, turning Brindleyplace on the Birmingham Canal Navigations into a feast for the senses.

The RCTA is returning to Birmingham for its popular Christmas Floating Market | Sandra Willis, PinterestThe RCTA is returning to Birmingham for its popular Christmas Floating Market | Sandra Willis, Pinterest

Standedge Tunnel, Huddersfield, and London’s Limehouse Marina will also offer delightful shopping experiences from 10-11 December.

Chesterfield Canal santa tripsChesterfield Canal santa trips

Santa Cruises

Jolly old Saint Nick is busy this time of year, but cruising the canals across the country is a breeze compared to delivering presents across the globe in one night.

Special Christmas cruises with Santa Claus are at, to name a few, Chichester Canal Basin, the Chesterfield, Anderton Boat Lift and Dudley Tunnel, which includes a special trip to Santa’s underground grotto! Booking is essential.

Dickensian Christmas at the Lion Salt Works - staff and volunteers dressed in Victorian costumes outside the original Manager’s OfficeDickensian Christmas at the Lion Salt Works - staff and volunteers dressed in Victorian costumes outside the original Manager’s Office

Festive Festivals

Lion Salt Works, next to the Trent & Mersey near Northwich, is going all Dickensian with its festive weekend on 10-11 December. Historic steam engines Lady Louise and Alexander, Morris dancing, carol singers, traditional crafts – such as bodging, weaving, spinning, felt making and crocheting – and story-telling with Victorian professor Josiah Mace and his ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ will all set a festive mood.

These boats have got in the festive mood! | Maria, Flickr CC2.0These boats have got in the festive mood! | Maria, Flickr CC2.0

Foxton Locks, on the Grand Union at Market Harborough, will be lit up on Saturday 17 December by the first ever Illuminated Boat Fest. The free festivities begin at 3pm with lantern making and boat trips and once it’s dark, there will be an illuminated boat parade and pyrotechnic show. There is a £250 voucher for the best dressed boat too!

The Falkirk Wheel lit up for Christmas | Sam Ross, Flickr CC2.0The Falkirk Wheel lit up for Christmas | Sam Ross, Flickr CC2.0

The extraordinary engineering feat that is the Falkirk Wheel is putting on a programme of events and activities throughout December. Visitors can try their hand at wreath making, sand art, chutney tasting (or beer tasting, if so inclined) and animal handling.

National Waterways Museum Gloucester

Gloucester Quays has been transformed season, with its ever-popular Victorian market and, for the first time, an ice rink. It will be festive fun for all, whether practicing triple salchows or just trying to stay upright.

The G&S will also be home to Santa’s floating grotto on 10-11 and 17-24 December. Departing from the National Waterways Museum, the boat King Arthur will take a 45-minute cruise.

Santa is giving his reindeer a breakSanta is giving his reindeer a break

Santa Splash

Canoeists are invited to Eldonian Village on Saturday 10 December and Eanam Wharf, Blackburn, on Sunday 11 December for a paddle along the canals – but only if they’re going to come dressed as Santa.

All abilities are welcome but those taking part must bring their own boats or book one to guarantee a spot.


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