Alternative things to do on a weekend: Canal Boat trips

If you have a bad day or week stuck in the office with deadlines moved forward, new tasks piling up and just a general ‘mare’ you will want to...
Wandering Duck Weekend Boat Trip - UK Travel Room Magazine

If you have a bad day or week stuck in the office with deadlines moved forward, new tasks piling up and just a general ‘mare’ you will want to make something of your weekend to blow that stress away.

There are loads of things to do on a weekend in the UK but I had the chance to try something new.

A canal boat experience.

And it was epic!

What is Wandering Duck?

I met Mark at one of the Travel Massive Manchester events I organise.

Alongside his wife Ruth, they built a business with the sole purpose of showing the great British countryside to the world.

A different weekend experience - Canal Boat Trip - UKTR blog post

The Wandering Duck Canal Boat

“Ruth and I love to travel.  Seeing the world has been a real passion of ours.  Whilst in New Zealand we managed a backpackers hostel and we loved it.  It was great to meet all sorts of people from all over the world.  When we came back to the UK we wanted to find a way to continue meeting travellers whilst also showing off what the UK has to offer.  We’ve always preferred real life authentic experiences rather than doing the usual tourist stuff, so the canals appealed to us they show people a very different side to our country.” – Mark, Wandering Duck

So they got a barge and now are on their way exploring Britain one canal at a time, with everyone that is looking for an alternative weekend in or around the North of England.

Row, row, row the boat…

At one of the events I was telling Mark about this horrible week above mentioned.

Mia: Had a horrible week basically managing crisis after crisis, meetings, deadlines brought forward and simply need to do something good this weekend.

Mark: Why not come along to one of our tours?

Mia: Me? On a boat? Hmm

Mark: You’ll love it, promise.

Mia: Can I steer the boat?

Mark: Sure!

Mia: OK, I’m in.

Not sure he made the best decision letting me steer the boat, but he definitely kept up his end of the deal.

I loved it.

A different weekend experience - Canal Boat Trip - UKTR blog post

I did it! Steered the boat in one very narrow lock

I wanted to try something different to do that will still allow me to travel but on a smaller budget in the UK when I have no holidays left.

And that’s what the canal boat tour did.

The Escape Weekender from Congleton to Marple

The experience takes only a weekend which means I didn’t need to book holidays off work. WIN!

From Friday night to Sunday afternoon you can enjoy the trip in all its glory. Food and refreshments are included in the price (£145) and you only really need to spend money if you want to have a cheeky pint or two…or ten depending on how bad your week was J

Trip started on Friday at 6pm from Congleton train station (the barge is a 5 min walk from there). Once you get to the boat, Mark and Ruth explain all the safety procedures, show you around the boat and then off you go whilst Ruth starts cooking dinner.

A different weekend experience - canal boat tours - UKTR blog

Ruth preparing a lovely fish pie. It was my first as well. Next one has high standards to live up to

They’re both super knowledgeable about the canals, the routes and the British countryside. It’s a pleasure listening to their stories whilst cruising and having a nice pint of British ale.

“The canals are a way of life for many people.  There are around 15,000 people who live full-time on the canals.  We love the fact that this hidden away world is so unknown by most people” – Mark, Wandering Duck

Different things to do in a weekend - Canal Boat Experience - UKTR Blog Post

Poured my own beer! Knew the certificate from the Guinness Factory will come in handy

Even though the weather was a bit crappy Friday night with thunderstorm and lightning, we got lucky on Saturday.

Sunny and warm, even got a bit of a tan going on now.

Saturday is when you do most of your cruising and work: 12 locks to open!

“There’s also the heritage link to it; the canals were an important cargo carrying network 200 years ago, and it’s amazing that we get to work the locks just like the original boatmen did.  I think people don’t expect it to be such a hands on experience; I love the look on a guests face when I help them steer perfectly in to a lock that’s only 2 or 3 inches wider than our 70ft boat!” – Mark, Wandering Duck

Got to steer the boat in one of the locks, through tunnels and simply down the canal.

Can safely say I can change careers to experienced boat steerer at any point if this doesn’t work out 🙂

Here’s the experience in photos

A different weekend experience - canal boat tours - UKTR blog

Mark teaching me how to steer the boat and telling stories about the history of Britain

A different weekend experience - canal boat tours - UKTR blog

Making friends along the way

A different weekend experience - canal boat tours - UKTR blog

Cheeky pint on top of the boat

A different weekend experience - canal boat tours - UKTR blog

So many people live on the canal and they’re all friends. It’s a very strong and switched on community – they have a Facebook group as well 🙂

A different weekend experience - Canal Boat Trip - UKTR blog post

Working the locks…Mad skills

A different weekend experience - Canal Boat Trip - UKTR blog post

Amazing views on the canal… The British countryside is genuinely stunning

A different weekend experience - Canal Boat Trip - UKTR blog post

Ruth instructing me on how to steer the boat in the locks

A different weekend experience - Canal Boat Trip - UKTR blog post

Fingers crossed….

A different weekend experience - Canal Boat Trip - UKTR blog post

Easy as pie 🙂

A different weekend experience - Canal Boat Trip - UKTR blog post

Most interesting conversations about politics, culture and people

After so much work we were bound to get hungry so we went to the local pub for a delish pie (not as good as the Snake Pass inn one have to say, but still yummy).

Well-deserved pie and a good pint makes a great ending for a Saturday.

A different weekend experience - Canal Boat Trip - UKTR blog post

Chicken and white sauce pie with mushy pees

Sunday is really the last day which means you get more chilled out time if you want it. I didn’t really. The Wandering Duck have activities planned so you’re free to join if you want to which is brilliant.

We went for a hike to Lyme park where I honestly think I found Downton Abbey.

A different weekend experience - Canal Boat Trip - UKTR blog post

Could have defo been the Downton Abbey location shoot – Lyme Park mansion

Then went back to the boat to enjoy the last leg to Marple.

Was supposed to go canoeing as well but the bloody weather got in the way with the stupid storm.

Damn you British weather, damn you!

The weekend was really amazing and you do have options in terms of the type of experience you can have on the boat trip.

A different weekend experience - Canal Boat Trip - UKTR blog post

Well deserved stop at the pub

A different weekend experience - Canal Boat Trip - UKTR blog post

A different weekend experience - Canal Boat Trip - UKTR blog post

I chose a chill out one but it turned out to be a bit too chilled.

This partly had to do with the other people on the boat. Super nice people and inspiring – a retired Australian couple who went back to university to study archaeology being engineers, and are now travelling the world taking photos of ancient sites and being paid for it. That’s what I call living the dream.

Amazing people really, but due to their age it meant they went to bed at 10:30 pm, listened to no music and I was the only one asking for pints of beer.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. It was exactly what I needed.

I did really need this type of experience after the week I had it was just perfect to lay low, relax, not sit in front of a computer working all day.

Food for thought

It’s worth keeping in mind that 90% of the time the peeps around you make your experience. So if you’re tempted to book a canal boat experience try doing it with a group of friends so you can have a smashing time.

They also do trips where you stop at Oliver’s Chocolate Party with waiters serving prosecco naked. Can’t really argue with that.

For all the different experiences they offer you can visit their site, give them a shout on Facebook or a tweet. They’re genuinely lovely people and always available to answer all your questions.

Did you ever go on a canal boat and would you do it again? Share your story in the comments below.

 

Rodica M Lazar
I have a great job, great friends, travel the world and enjoy my lifestyle (and still have time to organise local networking events). I believe it's all worthwhile and you can do it too. If you want to see how I juggle a career and still explore the world, follow my adventures on The UK Travel Room
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