There was lots to keep them entertained, here are our top tips for what to do with children on a family boat trip along the canal or a holiday in the area.
The market town of Llangollen is a fabulous day out for children.
When travelling by canal, the part between Trevor Bason and Llangollen town is narrow and not suited to beginners.
If you don’t attempt it, it’s still worth spending time in Llangollen before you collect your boat or after you have finished your canal cruise if you are nearby.
To enjoy the town centre, join families relaxing on the rocks next to the River Dee. There are lots of flat stones to walk acroos on the river and shallow pools in between. Families often pop down there to enjoy an ice cream or fish and chips with a view.
You reach the river stones via the Victorian promenade, which is a lovely walkway raised above the river. Next to it there is a large playground.
Children will also love the spectacular Horseshoe Falls, where the canal and river meet to form a weir, a couple of miles west of the town.
You can see kayakers flying down this part of the River Dee and there are pleasant walks.
There are three meres near to this stretch of canal. You can moor up to walk around Colemere, or stop at Blakemere to admire the view.
If you moor up overnight in Ellesmere there is a walk to the town’s lake through woodland off the towpath near Blackwater Marina.
Blakemere at Ellesmere
It is about a 10-minute walk through a lovely wood to the mere, then you can go to the visitor centre, or head clockwise around to the sculpture trail and wide-open playground.
The town itself is pleasant enough to stroll around with a few takeaways and Vermeulens Delicatessen famed for its pork pies. You can walk back to your boat along the canal next to a giant Tesco, which is handy if you need to stock up.
This wharf in Llangollen is part of a World Heritage site.
Welsh cream teas are served at the Wharf Tea Room, with views out over the town and canal.
You can try a horse drawn boat trip from here – they have been running from the wharf for more than 100 years. Trips are 45 minutes or two hours.
Horse drawn boats from Llangollen Wharf
Llangollen Steam railway
This heritage railway line starts at Llangollen Station and runs alongside the River Dee, travelling through the picturesque Dee Valley.
It has events for families throughout the year such as meeting Thomas the Tank Engine.
There is a small cafe and a couple of lovely walks to view the aqueduct. One walk heads along the Llangollen Canal a short distance, down the original Offa’s Dyke path, through some narrow, steep woodland and out onto a bridge with a great view.
Alternatively, you could head out of the marina towards the aqueduct but before you reach it, turn left onto a public footpath signed Ty Mawr Country Park. Walk along the path and then turn right and head down to the river. It is a lovely spot, with a muddy beach, rocks to climb on and even a paddle in the river on a hot day. You then walk back towards the aqueduct and end up underneath its huge towers. This gives children a chance to appreciate the scale of the 200-year-old structure.
Moor up and explore
The beauty of travellng by boat on the canal is that you can stop almost anywhere. We found lots of lovely country walks this way.
The towpath is usually flat and often gravelled so is fine to cycle or scoot in a lot of places.
If your children are older you can send them off the boat along the towpath and collect them when you catch up with them further ahead.
We share all the details of our 67 foot bond class Anglo Welsh barge
Boat hire company Anglo Welsh has more than 160 narrowboats at 11 bases across England and Wales.
We hired one from its Trevor Basin site in north Wales to take across the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal into Shropshire.
It was our first canal boat trip and we booked it through Drifters Waterway Holidays.
We had a great time (read our full review) Here we’ll look at the boat in more detail and explain how suitable it is for children.
We hired a 4-6 berth canal boat called Askrigg, a bond class narrowboat, which is one of the most luxurious that Anglo Welsh offers.
Bond class narrowboat, Askrigg
Let’s start with space and there was plenty of it. The length of the boat is 67 feet and it’s nearly 7 feet wide. It doesn’t even feel that narrow.
It’s quite dauntingly long when you take the helm for the first time but it is fabulous for the children to have so much room to move about and play.
Starting at the rear is a bedroom with two small single beds.
There are two small beds in one bedroom
A narrow corridor, which could be a squeeze for some, runs alongside the next three rooms.
There is a bathroom, a bedroom with a double bed followed by a second identical bathroom.
The other bedroom has a small double bed
It opens up into a galley area with kitchen and dining table with sofa-seating which converts into another bed if needed.
At the front of the boat are two leather chairs facing a TV and radio.
Inside the Anglo Welsh narrowboat Askrigg
It’s a great layout and worked well for us – having two bedrooms and two bathrooms is a real bonus.
There are places to sit outside at the front and rear of the boat.
Was it easy to helm?
It is straightforward, once you’ve grasped that turning the tiller right makes the boat go left and vice versa.
As you steer from the rear, take glasses if you need them!
It’s good fun, rewarding but never relaxing when you are at the helm. It’s definitely best to take it in turns if there are two of you, to give each of you a chance to fully enjoy the experience.
What about equipment?
The boat is very well equipped. We found plenty of crockery, pots and pans, cutlery and cooking utensils. It was all in an excellent condition, very clean, and most of it looked new.
There is a gas oven, grill and four-ring hob as well as a microwave (only use the microwave when the engine is running or it will sap all your power). A kettle to boil on the hob is provided as well as a fridge freezer.
Bedding and towels are provided, along with a hairdryer and a couple of folding chairs.
What about gadgets?
There is a small TV with signal dependent on your location – we didn’t get ours to work but it does take DVDs.
There is also a radio and CD player.
In the lounge area are two plug sockets and underneath the television is a cigarette lighter point.
Try to charge mobile phones and other devices while the boat is moving as electricity drops when the engine is turned off.
Is there space to shower?
The bathrooms are a fairly tight squeeze for an adult around the toilet and sink areas but the showers were large, powerful and warmed up instantly.
Don’t forget to pump out the shower using the button at the side of it where you are done. A new bar of soap is supplied in each bathroom.
The chemical toilets are flushed using a lever with your foot.
Canal boat toilets use a sealed holding tank on board which you empty at a pump-out point if and when you need to – we didn’t.
Is there enough water and can you drink it?
There is initially enough water onboard for at least a day.
You can stop at a water point (marked on the map and signposted) and access the tap using a key Anglo Welsh give you.
You connect one end of the boat’s hose pipe to the tap and insert the other end into the hole of the boat’s water tank.
It’s a really simple process once you’ve managed to moor up!
We were told that it’s best to fill up every day, but we were careful with our water usage and managed every other day.
You can apparently drink the water but we took bottled.
How does electricity work on an Anglo Welsh boat?
We never ran out of power. An inverter on the boat converts the power from the onboard batteries.
The amount of power available depends on how long the engine has been running so keep it running for a time when you are moored (but not after 8pm).
It’s recommended to charge mobiles and tablets etc when the engine is running so you don’t drain the batteries.
Was there heating on the boat?
All the company’s boats have gas central heating with radiators and ours was cosy and warm.
There’s also a multi-fuel stove, which we didn’t use.
Are there life jackets/buoyancy aids?
If you request them when you book, you can chose a life jacket to fit when you are at the boatyard before you depart. Both our children had one and were happy to wear them.
Are pets allowed?
Yes, up to two dogs are allowed, one is free to bring, a second costs £25 or £35 depending on the length of stay.
Are bikes allowed?
You can take one or two bikes but they have to be kept outside and you need to be careful when going under bridges or tunnels if you leave them on the roof.
Was it clean and Covid-compliant?
Canal boating is an excellent socially-distanced holiday option as you have self-contained accommodation and you are never too close to other people.
Our boat was very clean and had been thoroughly disinfected beforehand. Anti-bacterial spray and cleaning products were supplied on board.
Do they tell you how to use the boat?
Yes, the handover is very thorough. Ours took an hour as the Anglo Welsh staff member explained every aspect of the boat, how to helm it, all the safety precautions and more.
He also had plenty of time for questions and even headed out of the marina with us for the first few hundred yards of our journey to help with any teething problems and offer tips.
On arrival back, the staff turned our boat round for us and moored it.
We collected our boat from Trevor Basin in north Wales. There is free parking at the boatyard and we were able to park right next to the barge, which was great for loading and unloading.
A great space for children with everything you could need.
Our first boating holiday takes in the famous Pontyscyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal
I have been in charge of an 18-tonne canal boat the length of a lorry for roughly a minute.
Concentrating hard, I navigate on to the Pontyscyllte Aqueduct, the width of our craft Askrigg, trying to ignore the 40-metre sheer drop on one side into the River Dee.
The expert, who has just given us an hour’s worth of thorough instructions, steps off the barge and we are alone crossing the longest aqueduct in Britain and the highest in the world.
As introductions to canal life goes, there’s nothing like being thrown in at the deep end as our two children enjoy the ride and my husband helps direct from the front – almost 70 feet away.
We are on a Drifters waterways holiday and our Anglo Welsh boat has just left Trevor basin near Llangollen in north east Wales.
About to depart from Trevor basin
Our four-day route is along the Llangollen Canal with overnight stops at the border village of Chirk and the Shropshire town of Ellesmere.
I quickly discover that canal boating is simultaneously very relaxing and stressful. Once we cross the aqueduct with its amazing views, there are other boats to dodge, tight turns to master and long tunnels to chug through.
There’s even a swing bridge to lift and our six-year-old gets out, armed with the windlass (the tool to lift canal locks and bridges) and starts helping turn the gauge to raise it high above the canal and allow us to pass through.
At first, bridges and locks may be daunting but they quickly become part of the fun, giving the children some activity and making them feel part of the team.
Luckily, every boater seems friendly and happy to help if you get in a fix.
Helming takes some practice, the boat is steered from the rear with a tiller. You may find yourself gently bumping the sides, glancing off low bridges or getting stuck in shallow water.
Coming out from a tunnel
It is all part of the adventure and steering quickly becomes second nature, even if you can never entirely relax at the helm.
We take it in turns so one of us can be with the children, prepare food or even relax, lazing at the front, enjoying the scenery.
There’s something pretty awesome about travelling along in a floating home but I recommend mooring up as often as possible to explore the towpath and surroundings.
We love stopping where we want, discovering walks through the countryside with just cows for company. This slow pace of travel needs to be embraced.
We also make planned stops at Chirk near to the famous castle, Ellesmere with its mere, playground, sculpture trail and quaint town centre, the small village of St Martin’s and also the base at Trevor, from where you can cross the famous aqueduct, a world heritage site, on foot.
As your confidence dealing with the boat increases, so does your speed carrying out its regular checks, filling with water and tying the ropes.
And the quality of our craft Askrigg really helps make the holiday (read our detailed review of the boat). It is one of Anglo Welsh’s Bond class boats and sleeps up to six (read our full review of it here).
Inside our boat Askrigg
There is lots of space inside, two bedrooms, two bathrooms with showers, a well-equipped kitchen, lounge/dining area, television, radio, central heating and WiFi. It is also extremely clean and Covid compliant.
By the end of our mini-break it has become a home from home so as we head back over the aqueduct four days later, the view was just as stunning but any novice nerves about taking a canal boat holiday have disappeared.
We take our children on the Ffestiniog Railway which runs through Snowdonia National Park
What is it?
The Ffestiniog Railway is a vintage railway which has been running for nearly 200 years through the beautiful Snowdonia National Park.
Where is it?
It runs between Porthmadog’s harbourside and the former slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog – 13 and a half miles away.
What did we think?
This is one of the country’s best preserved vintage railways with wonderful scenery and child-friendly stops en route.
*The steam engine. Harry Potter fans can imagine they are on the Hogwarts Express as the train starts off. The noise, smell and sensation of a steam engine is unique for children.
*Its history. The Ffestiniog Railway is the world’s oldest narrow gauge railway. This line was originally built to take slate from Snowdonia’s quarries to the harbour at Porthmadog from where it was shipped around the world.
*The carriages are original but despite their age are fairly comfortable and reasonably spacious.
*Table service. Attentive staff regularly come round offering drinks, snacks or guide books. They serve homemade cakes and a selection of alcoholic and soft drinks.
*The views. The journey starts along the water at Porthmadog harbour before chugging up into the mountains. It is a narrow route with some houses right by the railway. As you climb, the railway goes past rocky walls and woodland but it barely goes a few minutes without a great view of Snowdonia’s mountains, streams and valleys.
*Tan-y-Blwch walk. Getting off at Tan-y-Blwch is the best option with children. You have over an hour before the train comes back for the return journey. That is enough time to walk the 1/4 mile down through woodland to Llyn Mair and wander around the lake, possibly with a picnic, before heading back to the station.
*Tan-y-Blwch station. The station has a small but fun playground, cafe and hut showing some of the railway’s history. There is also a bridge over the railway where you can get a good view of the steam trains arriving and departing.
Our top tips
*Sit on the right hand side of the train on the way out of Porthmadog and the left on the way back for the best views.
*The toilet is in the middle of the train so if you have little ones who might need to pay a visit, sit near that carriage.
*With younger children, consider riding to Tan-y-Bwlch rather than all the way to Blaenau Ffestiniog. The journey is 45 minutes each way instead of 1 hour 15 minutes. There is a playground and walk at Tan-y-Bwlch.
Ffestiniog Railway information
Food: Drinks and snacks menu served on-board. Cafes at Porthmadog and Tan-y-Blwch stations on the route serving cakes, ice creams and cooked meals.
Opening hours: For most of the season there are four trains per day. The first train leaves Porthmadog at 10.05am. Other departures are 11.25am, 1.35pm and 3.50pm with the last one getting back at 6.30pm. In the summer holidays there is also an 8.50am departure.
Cost: Adult all-day ticket £25.60, half way return to or from Tan-y-Blwch £16.50. One child free with every paying adult. All under-threes travel free.
Best for: Ages three upwards
Time needed: three hours
Access and restrictions: There are accessible toilets and baby changing facilities at all the main stations. The train itself has a toilet but it is small.
We take our children to review GreenWood Forest Park near Caernarfon in North Wales
What is it?
GreenWood Forest Park is a family adventure park which has been voted the best family day out in North Wales for seven years.
Where is it?
It is between Caernarfon and Bangor near Snowdonia National Park.
What did we think?
It’s a fantastic family day out for younger children, especially those aged three to 10.
We visited on a grey, drizzly day and still had a wonderful time. The wet weather meant it wasn’t busy, plus, although it was our school holidays, local children were back at school.
Great Green Run
An exhilarating 70-metre sledge run loved by our three and seven-year-old children and we parents alike. It is the longest sledge run in Wales.
The Great Green Run
And little ones don’t need to miss out on the fun. Next to it is the Little Green Run for toddlers to enjoy.
The Little Green Run
Green Dragon Roller Coaster
This is the world’s only people-powered roller coaster.
The Green Dragon Roller coaster
You walk up a hill, get into a people carrier which travels down an incline, pulling the cars up to the station. You then walk up another hill and get on the ride which is gravity driven.
It’s not a ‘scary’ roller coaster, no loop the loops. Perfect for children, although you have to be 97cm. Our three-year-old loved it.
There were two shows at 1pm and 3pm (same entertainer, different show) and we went to both. He really made the children chuckle.
You have to work as a family to navigate the canal using one paddle and ropes to propel you along.
This is the first solar-powered ride in the UK and is for braver visitors to the park. You climb up a 12 metre tower and take an inflatable boat down one of two wave shoots or a spiral tube.
There’s also a barefoot trail, den building, a crocodile maze, Tree Top Towers tree house with slides, zip wires, Moon Karts, crafts, archery and a soft play area for under-threes.
Tree Top Towers tree house
And there is a bigger soft play area with a great cafe/restaurant where I was thrilled to find a wood burner to sit next to, to warm up at the end with a cake and a cup of tea!
We all leave with a smile on our faces feeling like we’ve had a thoroughly lovely day.
Our top tips
*If it is wet, the magic show is undercover and the soft play areas will be open. Also if it is raining it would be handy to have a towel or cloth to wipe seats/sledges etc so little ones don’t get too wet and uncomfortable.
*Dogs on leads are allowed.
*Be warned, the exit is via the shop!
*Some of the rides don’t open at certain times of year or in certain weather so check first.
GreenWood Forest Park information
Food: Picnics are welcome. There is a restaurant and snack bars.
Opening hours: 10am to 5.30pm.
Cost: It is cheaper in low or mid-season, rising at peak season to £16.20 for adults and children, seniors and students. Free for children under three. It is cheaper to book online.
Best for: Ages three to 10.
Time needed: At least three to four hours or a whole day.
Access and restrictions: It has partial disabled access but some areas and rides are difficult or impossible to access for disabled visitors. There are height and age restrictions on some rides.
Address: GreenWood, Y Felinheli, Gwynedd. (For sat nav use the postcode LL55 3AD).
We review Chateau Rhianfa in Anglesey and explore the surrounding area, beaches and attractions with our young children
It is not every day you wake up in a castle.
And the spectacular sight from our ridiculously comfortable bed through a large picture window means getting up is not appealing.
We are in Anglesey and our view takes in the waters of the Menai Strait, framed by majestic Snowdonia.
Other families we know holiday in Anglesey yet we had never been so we had decided to visit the beautiful island off north Wales for a half-term break.
Chateau Rhianfa is more decadent than your average venue with its grand decor and tiered gardens sweeping down to the water (click here for our full review of Chateau Rhianfa).
Fans of ITV’s Cold Feet will recognise it as it recently featured in an episode for the wedding of Spanish nanny Ramona.
It was built in the mid-1800s in the style of a French Renaissance chateau as an aristocratic country retreat.
This fairy tale venue is impressive from the outside and fascinating on the inside.
Inside Chateau Rhianfa
Our children loved exploring the grand drawing and music rooms and were excited to discover cosy cubby holes in turrets.
And we were all happy to find an atmospheric wine cave among the rabbit warren of spaces.
The hotel rooms and suites are lavishly finished.
A hotel room
The Gate Lodge
Or you can stay in equally beautiful self-catering accommodation in the grounds.
We were in the Gate Lodge, a two-storey cottage with arched entrance and miniature turrets, where attendants of visitors to the chateau would once have stayed.
It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen/diner and lounge area.
The Gate Lodge self-catering accommodation
With the space and the large grounds to enjoy, I could have stayed there all day. But there was an island to explore and two children eager to get going.
We were spoilt for choice for beaches and our favourite was Newborough, a wide sweeping bay backed by sand dunes and woodland walks.
We also liked Lligwys Beach near Moelfre – quiet and good for rockpooling – and the more rugged and windy Rhosneigr which was home to kitesurfers and kayakers.
Our daughter never tired of throwing stones into the water and our son loved hunting for crabs among the rock pools and paddling in the sea.
And we discovered exactly how crashing waves worked through clever replications at Anglesey Sea Zoo.
Everything in this aquarium is found around the British coast, and we found out plenty thanks to the friendly staff as they fed the fish and lobsters.
You can enjoy a feed too at the well-priced cafe and outside there’s a playground, bouncy slide, crazy golf and more.
Back at our castle, trying the food is a must as it has previously won Hotel Restaurant of the Year (Welsh Food Awards).
We had a delicious breakfast on our last morning and also risked our young children in the quiet and refined dining room for an evening meal.
Thankfully they behaved. Or at least, nobody was looking when they didn’t.
It was a small, thoughtfully put together menu. There were no separate options for children. But the chefs were happy to adapt one of the dishes to suit them. And my steak was the best I have ever tasted.
The food lived up to expectations, as did the venue, as did Anglesey itself.
We are one more family won over by its charms.
Chateau Rhianfa on the Menai Strait
Have you been to Anglesey? Where do you recommend for children?