This year both the Dude and I are having “big birthdays,” and to help celebrate this we have made a Forty things at 40 list. Rather than have a party and celebrate on just one night, we decided to make a whole twelve months of it! Talk about dragging it out, I know, but if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. One thing on the list was to go on the Falkirk Wheel and so by a tenuous link we ended up having afternoon tea on the Union Canal.
I recently discovered Re-Union Canal Boats whilst over at the Falkirk Wheel and decided to look them up when I got home. Realising that this project was much more than just taking people on a jolly along the canals (Union, and Forth & Clyde). As a social enterprise the local communities are involved with clean up projects, maintenance and promotion of the canals with community groups and volunteers.
As well as being able to hire the boats out for the day, Re-Union also do Afternoon Tea on selected dates for a very reasonable price of £22.50. Two hours on board and you travel along the canal at a rather leisurely pace.
We arrived at Edinburgh Quay where the Lochrin Belle was moored – the start (or end) of the Union Canal, just a few miles out of the city centre. Once on board we were seated at tables of six. Initially I felt slightly disappointed at being seated with strangers instead of the romantic table for two I had planned in my head. It turns out that social dining is a totally different experience and we had a great time chatting to our fellow diners.
Once we had set off our tea and coffee were served along with a selection of canapes, rolls, meringues, scones and sponges. With jam, butter and cream options for the scones too. Enough for the whole table to enjoy.
There was no shortage of fresh coffee in our china cups and once the ice was broken with offering the canapes round the table everyone seemed to be having a great time. Admiring the view from our seats or choosing to make our way to the front of the boat for fresh air and a full view ahead.
Once at the end of our outward journey, we were carefully about turned, and made our way from whence we came.
If it wasn’t for a group of enthusiasts and community campaigning starting back in the 1970’s the Union canal would have remained closed. It wasn’t until the late 1990’s when £78 million was allocated for the Millennium Link Project. This involved the Falkirk Wheel, bridge repairs and even the M8 was re-routed!
It was nice to see after all those years of campaigning and hard work that the old tow paths are actually really well used. We saw dog walkers, runners, cyclists, families, rowers, couples and everyone else in between. A really pleasant place to be.
I know otters have been seen along the canal in other parts of Edinburgh so it proves the water is much cleaner. They feel safe enough to call it home. Canals are wonderful wildlife corridors and make it easy for creatures to get from one place to another with few barriers.
Sadly, it still seems acceptable for some people to leave rubbish here and the volunteers at Re-Union canal boats do what they can to keep the paths, banks and the waterway as clear as they can. Making it as pleasant a space as they can for wildlife and people to enjoy in harmony.
Afternoon tea on the Union Canal
If you are looking for something different to do in Edinburgh next time you visit I can highly recommend this. Good value for money and it’s something really nice to do with friends or family. Maybe you have a Forty things at 40 list too – this would make a brilliant addition.
I think, for me, it was slightly overcrowded. There are twenty four places available and four large tables staggered down the boat. Once everyone is seated it is quite difficult to get around (either to the bathroom or to go outside) without disturbing anyone else. If there was just one less table this issue would be solved. It would also mean that on a day not so nice as the one we had people could still stand at the windows and look out. It would also mean that staff could get around when serving hot drinks etc too.
All in all we had a great time having afternoon tea on the Union Canal and would recommend it to anyone who has a special occasion to celebrate or who fancies doing something a bit different without breaking the bank.
And after all that we STILL haven’t made it to the Falkirk Wheel to experience it properly! Do you have any suggestions on what else we could squeeze in to our year of birthday celebrations? Let us know over on Facebook or comment below.