Messing About ‘On’ the Water

This year’s Edinburgh Canal Festival, as enjoyed by Sandy Bennett-Haber – mum, author and blogger – with her two favourite boys…

I have to admit to being somewhat hesitant to go to the Canal Festival with two small children. Last year with our double buggy, my husband and I avoided the main festival and went to a lovely Fringe event run at the Canal-side Polwarth Church – they had a welcoming atmosphere, a green lawn, children’s games, music, a cake stall and storytelling. It was relaxed, there was space for the kids to roam about and I imagine this year would have been the same.

This year however I braved the festival itself – by myself, with the two kids now aged two and three. The beginning was touch and go: a runaway two year old and a runaway balloon, then an attractive bouncy castle slide that was for slightly older children.  We were on the verge of a tantrum, and, therefore, of going home, when we were saved by a canal boat ride.

Arriving early was an excellent strategy as after a short wait we were led aboard the narrowboat, Bluebell. The boat is one of the smaller ones offering free rides for the festival and it was the perfect way to enjoy the breeze on the Union Canal. The little boys and I loved sitting up the front waving to people going by and seeing our favourite park (Harrison) from a new angle. The home-made cupcakes were a hit, as was the chance for 3 yearr old Rafa to take the tiller and drive the boat.

Peace restored, we made our way past the cycling stalls, the playgroup stalls and the other local community information stands, to the No. 1 kid magnet – a portable pond filled with balls and ducks. This was a ‘shoes off, trousers off, toddlers in’ kind of attraction and the heat of the day made it perfect. Before long my two were joined by plenty of new and old friends and everyone was smiling. After a very long paddle and splash the boys got re-dressed (somehow mummy had two dry t-shirts!) and we continued our walk, watching the rafts practising, and looking out for ice-cream.

By the time we made it around to the Lochrin Basin, Finn (aged 2) was fast asleep in the pram and it was just ice-cream for two.  After ice-creams we found some shade, a bouncy castle that let three year olds bounce, and then Rafa had a dance to the very energetic band.

I love Edinburgh’s local festivals – we went to the Meadows Fest a few weeks ago, too – and I love them even more when my youngest has his nap mid-wander and I only have to keep track of one child. The festival was, as expected, crowded; there is only a limited amount of space Canalside, but one child to watch for on the dancefloor was manageable, and by the time Finn woke up, Rafa was danced out and ready to go home.

We just glimpsed the fun of the homemade raft race as we were leaving – much excitement, and many falling, in full costume into the canal (the participants, not us!)  I caught Rafa’s eye, and don’t doubt both boys, and their father, will be among the entrants it in a few years’ time… By which time, I will cheer from the side-lines while sampling the foodstall delights.

Read more of Sandy’s musings at

Link to Marie Campbell’s review of her latest publication here:


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