Christmas on the Waterways

Created on 21/11/2014

Over Christmas families often look for fun and different things to do together that will keep everyone entertained; we all know this can be tricky! However, do not worry as the waterways may hold the answer for you this festive period. Below we’ve pulled together some of the highlights of seasonal activities taking place on the waterways across the country this November and December. There are the regular children’s Santa cruises; boat trips that will also appeal to the grown-ups with carols, mince pies and mulled wine; and a selection of waterside Christmas Markets for your last minute shopping spree! Some will fill a whole day others an afternoon but don’t forget to take a look at our Wild Over Waterways Explore Our Waterways Past activity sheet for children if you are heading out to one of the events with historic working boats this winter. So it’s over to you to have a browse through the events below that are sure to help you have a fun filled Christmas on the waterways this year!

Children meet Santa on the Chesterfield Canal

Santa Cruises, Cromford Canal | Various location in Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire | Various dates in November & December

Chesterfield Canal Trust is running a whole host of Santa cruises along the Chesterfield Canal. Every child receives a present and every adult a drink and mince pies. Locations to choose from are Tapton Lock – Chesterfield, Hollingwood Hub – Hollingwood, Hop Pole – Retford, Lock Keeper Pub – Worksop and Laura’s Coffee Shop – Shireoaks.

All tickets are £6, available dates depend on the location and can be found on Chesterfield Canal Trust’s website as can booking details.

Find Santa, Wilts & Berks Canal | Kingshill, Swindon | Various dates in November & December

Take a trip along the Wilts & Berks Canal in search of Santa. There will be presents for the children and mince pies and drinks for all. Booking is essential with many sessions already full. Tickets are £6 for adults and £9 for children with sailings at 10am, 11.30am, 1pm and 2.30pm. Check availability and book at, by calling 01793 627678 or visit Wilts & Berks Canal Trust’s website.

Father Christmas Boat Trips, Chichester Ship Canal | Chichester, West Sussex | 29th November-24th December

Take a trip down the Chichester Ship Canal to meet Father Christmas in his grotto where children receive a present from Santa and everyone can enjoy some festive refreshments. Trips take around 1 hour 15 minutes and tickets are £12, these can be booked online.

Christmas Craft Market, Standedge Tunnel & Visitor Centre | Marsden, West Yorkshire | 29th-30th November

Christmas on the canals isn’t all about boats. There are also plenty of markets and fairs to visit. One of these is the Festive Craft Market at Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, organised by Greenfusions at The Loft Space. Visitors are in for a treat with lovely stalls, a raffle, refreshments and flautist Melanie Pool playing seasonal music. More details are available at Greenfusions’ website.

Christmas Fair, Frogmore Paper Mill | Apsley, Hertfordshire | 30th November

Frogmore Paper Mill on the Grand Union Canal is hosting its annual Christmas Fair, which should be a fantastic family day out at £1 for adults and 50p for children. Visitors will be able to browse the craft stalls, go on a guided tour of the mill,  take a trip on canal boat Bryan Donkin, visit the café or try the barbecue. More information is available at Frogmore Paper Mills’ website

Santa Specials, Chichester Ship Canal | Chichester, West Sussex | 2nd-4th, 9th-11th & 16th-18th December

Most Santa cruises are for children but Chichester Ship Canal is offering one for the adults. Get into the spirit and enjoy a magical Christmas trip down the canal with a ploughman’s lunch, mince pie, wine and tea or coffee … plus a Christmas Surprise. Tickets are £18.50 and can be booked online.

Carols on the Canal, Grand Union Canal | Stoke Bruerne, Northamptonshire | 6th-7th December

Want a bit of everything that Christmas on the canal can offer, then head over to Stoke Bruerne where carols, illuminated boats & a Christmas Market will be lighting up the Grand Union Canal. Children of Stoke Bruerne, Whittlebury & Tiffield Primary will lead carollers around a Christmas Tree on Saturday evening whilst a procession of illuminated boats makes its way along the Grand Union Canal led initially by trip boat Charlie, which will then operate special cruises to nearby Blisworth Tunnel and back to see the lights. As well as seeing boats and joining in with the singing of carols, revellers can visit the colourful canalside Christmas Market at The Navigation pub, complete with floating traders on the water, which will be running all weekend.

More entertainment is planned this year and as well as seasonal gifts, mulled wine, hot turkey and cranberry baps our visitors can expect to see appearances from Santa Claus and the Boat Inn will also be operating special Santa Boat Trips aboard trip boat Indian Chief with a gift for every child. For further details and a full programme, visit Friends of the Canal Museum’s website.

Santa Cruises, Kennet & Avon Canal | Newbury, Berkshire | 6th-7th, 13th-14th & 20th-23rd December

Children can enjoy a Christmas story, singing and plenty of time with Santa during a boat trip along the Kennet & Avon Canal and are encouraged to wear their best Christmas hat! Tickets are £8 and include, for children, a present from Santa and for adults, the choice of mulled wine or hot drink and a mince pie. For more information visit the Visit Newbury website.

Santa Cruises, Gloucester Waterways Museum | Gloucester, Gloucestershire | 6th-7th, 13th-14th & 19th-24th December

At Gloucester Waterways Museum children will have the chance to visit  Father Christmas in his grotto aboard the Santa cruise boat. All the children are called up one-by-one to meet Santa and to receive their special gift, while the adults sit back and watch the proceedings as they enjoy a mince pie and a hot drink.

Tickets are £9.50 for children and adults, which includes the boat trip, arts & crafts activities and a museum visit, a good option if you’re looking for a full family day out. Boats depart from the museum at Gloucester Docks at 12 noon, 1.30pm and 3pm. Pre-booking is essential by telephoning 01452 318200. Visit Canal & River Trust’s website for more information.

A Song for Christmas, Foxton Canal Museum | Foxton, Leicestershire | 7th December

Fancy something folky this Christmas? Foxton Inclined Plane Trust is holding a musical afternoon to celebrate the festive period. Various performers from the local Foxton Folk Club will be there to entertain visitors with both Folk pieces and more seasonal numbers. More information is available at the Foxton Inclined Plane Trust’s website.

Christmas Cruises, Cromford Canal | Cromford, Derbyshire | 7th, 14th & 21st December

Join Friends of the Cromford Canal this Christmas onboard historic narrow boat Birdswood. Santa will be there with a present for every child and festive refreshments for everyone. Tickets are £8 unless you’re under 5, then they’re £5. Trips depart at 11am, 12.30pm and 2pm and have to be booked in advance by calling 07552 055 455. Further details are available at Friends of Cromford Canal’s website.

Santa Cruises, Wey & Arun Canal | Loxwood, West Sussex | 7th, 13th-14th & 20th-23rd December

Santa will be back on the Wey & Arun Canal again this year. The Wey & Arun Canal Trust are giving children the chance to meet Santa and receive an early Christmas gift. Festive refreshments will also be available on board.

Boats sail at 11am, 12pm and 2pm with trips last 45 minutes. All tickets are £9 and should be booked early to avoid disappointment on 01403 752403 or at Visit Wey & Arun Canal Trust’s website for more information.

Festive Fayre, Gloucester Quays | Gloucester, Gloucestershire | 12th-14th December

If you want yuletide gifts, delicious hot food and warming mulled wine and cider take a trip the Festive Fayre at Gloucester Quays where you can wander beneath twinkling lights and enjoy live music and street entertainment. There may also be the chance to buy some traditional canalware! More information available at Gloucester Quay’s website.

Santa Boat Trips, Stourbridge Canal | Stourbridge, West Midlands | 13th-14th & 20th-21st December

Enjoy a boat trip into an illuminated Winter Wonderland as you journey along the Stourbridge Canal to see Santa in his Grotto in the Bonded Warehouse. Here children will get a present from Santa whilst adults can relax with a hot drink and mince pie. Tickets are £7.50 with several sailings throughout the day. Take a look at The Bonded Warehouse website for more information.

Santa’s Floating Grotto, Regent’s Canal | King’s Cross, London | 13th-14th and 19th-23rd December

Santa’s Floating Grotto is returning to the Regent’s Canal this Christmas. Hidden Depths will be offering a fun, festive celebration with mince pies, presents for the kids, Carol singing and hundreds of fairy lights aboard its trip boat Lapwing.

The one hour return boat trip departs from King's Cross, Granary Square Steps, on the hour from 11am to 5pm. Tickets are £10 for adults and £8 for children (under 15s) and seniors, under 3s go free.Booking in advance highly recommended by email,, or phone, 07456 084 584. Visit Hidden Depth’s website for more information.

Santa Cruises, National Waterways Museum | Ellsmere Port, Cheshire | 13th-14th & 20th-24th December

The National Waterways Museum’s Santa cruises give families the chance to take a boat trip on the canal with Santa and visit him in his grotto for stories and presents. If this isn’t enough the event is finished with refreshments and all at a price of £10 for children and £8 for adults. There are three trips a day at 11am, 12.45pm and 2.30pm, book in person at the Museum reception or call 0151 355 501. More information is available at The National Waterway Museum’s website.

Carols in the Cavern, Dudley Canal | Dudley, West Midlands | 14th & 21st December

It might not be obvious but Christmas boat trips aren’t just for the kids! Join Dudley Canal Trust as it plays host to a festive treat that will appeal to adults and children alike - a Christmas choral trip around the caverns and limestone mines of the Dudley Canal, guaranteed to inspire the seasonal spirit. Visitors will hear the tunnels come alive to festive favourites as the onboard choir perform live whilst travelling through the tunnel network.

Boats depart for the concert at 6.00pm on Sunday 14th and 21st December. Tickets are £10.80, which includes travel around the caverns in one of Dudley Canal Trust’s boats, a hot drink and a mince pie. Refreshments will also be on sale on the towpath before the show. Visit Dudley Canal Trust’s website for more information and to book tickets.

Boxing Day & New Year’s Day Cruise, Wey & Arun Canal Trust | Loxwood, West Sussex | 26th December & 1st January

The festive period isn’t just about Christmas Day and once the big event has been and gone there’s often a need to relax and unwind. Wey & Arun Canal Trust are offering visitors the chance to do just this on a gentle canal boat trip along the Wey & Arun Canal with mulled wine, juice and mince pies.

Boats sail at 11am, 12pm and 2pm with trips last 45 minutes. Tickets cost £5 for adults and £2.50 for children and should be booked early to avoid disappointment on 01403 752403 or at Visit Wey & Arun Canal Trust’s website for more information.

Days out are a Christmas must for many but don't forget the other essentials! Why not start with Christmas cards and support IWA at the same time by choosing yours from the range available at IWAShop.

Tags: For Kids, Things to Do