Tag Archives: adventure

Ice Skating on Rideau Canal

The Canadian capital city of Ottawa is a stunning destination to visit. Full of history, culture and beautiful architecture. Winding through the city is the Rideau Canal. Although beautiful in the summer – in winter Rideau Canal turns into the world’s longest natural ice skating rink. Ottawa’s canal system is 7.8 km (4.8 miles) long and weaves along Downtown Ottawa. You can walk alongside the canal most of the way on Queen Elizabeth Drive. It is a popular route for joggers and dog walkers and beautiful in the fresh snow.

The canal was originally built as a supply route from Kingston to Montreal and was finished in 1832. It is the oldest continuously operating canal system in North America and has been named a UNESCO site. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the Rideau Canal opened for ice skating. Every year nearly one million people experience skating on the Rideau Canal!

Skateway Statistics

Rideau Canal UNESCO

The Rideau Canal ‘Skateway’ includes the canal and ends Dowes Lake. The total skating surface area is 165,621 square meters, larger than 105 national hockey league rinks or 90 Olympic sized hockey rinks! Underneath the ice rink, the water is frozen between 1 and 4.3 meters thick. The Rideau Canal Skating rink is checked regularly by safety teams and Froster’s.

What is a Froster?

A Froster is someone who is charged with maintaining the surfaces of the lake, 24/7 throughout the season. They will flood the top layer of the canal with fresh water. This will then freeze on top of the building ice. This repairs damage by skates and helps to thicken the surface.

Using a special drill, they dig into the ice and examine the core that is removed (about the diameter or a can of pop). They do this at various points along the canal and if any parts are not safe, they simply won’t open that part.

To get a really nice surface on top they then use a machine, commonly called a Zamboni after the inventor. They are specially made for the purpose of flooding the canal and have a reach of 60ft wide. It takes just one minute to fill the Zamboni with water, making the machine between 15/17 tonnes in weight! The machine floods around 400 meters of canal at a time and levels the surface. This practice is commonly done after 11 pm when the canal is quiet.


When you are skating on the Rideau canal, you don’t have to worry about food or drink. Concession stands are at hand selling Beaver Tails (like a flat donut with toppings, not actual Beaver!). Fast food, skate rental, sleighs and rest areas line stretches of the canal. Skate rental is reasonably cheap at around $11 an hour (plus a $50 deposit) and the atmosphere is amazing. Children of all ages, and adults, learning to skate with friends and family. Once open, the skateway is available 24/7 and totally free to use. If you have your own equipment, you can enjoy skating on the Rideau Canal for free all season.

During Winterlude festival, all sorts of other activities can be seen on the Rideau Canal or Dowes lake other than Skating, including a winter triathlon and dragon boat racing! We also spotted a mobile DJ booth and disco on the ice!

Check out the official Canadian Tourism page for more!

We go Skating on Rideau Canal!

Snow settled on the ice

We had planned our trip to co-inside with Winterlude festival and we were desperate to go skating on Rideau Canal. We had some setback with our planning as we had so much to fit in. If we were off doing something else, the Canal was open and the weather glorious. If we had a day in mind to go skating, the Rideau canal was either closed due to strangely mild temperatures melting the surface or it was snowing so heavy you couldn’t see!

We walked or took the bus past the canal every day whilst we were exploring the city of Ottawa. We were always on the look out to see how it was doing and amazed at the more advanced skaters. Commuters would just be zipping down the canal to and from work! How many people can say they ice skate to work – it is breathtaking.

A couple of days before we flew home we were lucky enough to find a break in the weather and our schedule where we could actually have a go.

Face your fear

Stood at the edge of the canal, rented skates in hand… we looked at each other and took in the enormity of what was about to happen. We had always been told not to stand on frozen water as it could crack but here we were, about to join hundreds of people along the canal, and all stand on it  at the same time. I was feeling nervous but the fact there was a 4×4 parked about 100 meters away on the ice filled me with some comfort that I wasn’t going to be too heavy etc.

We sat on a bench in a marque that had been erected, children of school age are being rallied together to get their skates off. A family with a toddler only just used to walking, is being fitted with his first skates by his Canadian parents. They are blue just like his all in one outfit to keep him warm and his crash helmet to protect his head. I look at him and wonder if he is as scared as I am and know he will be skating better than me by the end of this session!

It is then, once the boots are laced, that I remember I haven’t skated in about 20 years and have completely forgotten how to stand up – this is straight onto the ice, there are no matts or carpet like in Streatham ice rink!!!

Step and Glide!

Cautiously, I stand up, and move to the poles holding the marquee up. They look sturdy enough for me to hang on to for a second and then I remind myself there are little kids watching and try to look confident. I step and glide, step and glide, catch some ice, stumble about looking like a windmill and manage to stay on my feet. Once we get past the area by the marquee the ice smooths out nicely and there are less jagged patches to catch.

There are no railings to hold on to, and people are slipping and sliding about all over the canal but the air is full of laughter. People of all ages and abilities are there mixing and enjoying the sunshine even though it’s -14 today. Markers lining the canal tell you the distance from the city centre in kilometres and we aim to get down to one of them.

Once we finished skating, we took our boots off for some well deserved relief and then went for refreshments. We were so tired from trying not to fall over and can report that we stayed upright the entire time!

I can’t believe we can say that we have Skated on Rideau Canal. Something I never thought we would do but had the most amazing experience doing it. Honestly – it will be a memory we will treasure forever!

Beaver Tails on Dowes Lake

Check out our other Ottawa posts!

Rib Ride Boat Trip- Anglesey

Anglesey is well known for its stunning beaches. After a day on the sand, why not go to the other extreme. Try a high speed boat trip down the Menai Strait! Rib Ride offer several different types of boat trip depending on your thrill seeking level. Their newest boats are capable of doing 73 miles an hour on the water!

When we booked the ticket they did say that parking could be problematic. They recommended getting there about 30 mins before your trip. Having seen the parking situation I would recommend getting there much earlier – especially if you are in a larger vehicle. We had the VW at the time so not too bad however the Iveco would be much harder to park.

Rib Ride Boat

We met up with Matt, our captain for the Velocity boat trip. He took us through a very extensive health and safety briefing and ensured that we were all harnessed up correctly. There was plenty of room on the jetty for all of us to get into our harnesses. The captain ensured that the boat was balanced as we made our way onto the seating area.

The boats are incredible and resemble a roller-coaster and that’s exactly what the ride is, without the rails. You must hold on to the handles at all times through this ride as sudden turns or waves could hit you hard. It does require a certain level of physical fitness.

White Knuckle Rollercoaster

The adrenaline is flowing as you power through the water past all the little sail boats! Zoom under the two bridges from the mainland and back again and feeling the G force on your face. Try and remember to breathe! This ride gives you a thrill for sure but also give you a great view. Not only of the wild life but the tiny beach houses situated at the waters edge. You can’t see these from the road, they are well sheltered. A little bit of envy perhaps at these gorgeous properties and their views!

Our captain was lucky that there were not many boats on the strait that day so he could show us how the boat handled. With loops and quick turns he put her through her paces! It was a real treat to feel the wind on our faces and pass the small boats as if they were motionless.

Our Rib Ride captain was very knowledgeable about the boat and the water he was taking us on. He stopped when he needed to around other boats and ensuring our safety at all times. The team were great fun and tried to take footage of us on the trip. This is because you do need to have both hands on the handle bars and it would have been far too dangerous to use a camera. There would be a good chance that you would knock your captain out as the device would fly straight at his head. Unfortunately, on our trip the camera failed so we don’t have any pictures to share with you. I guess we will have to go and do it again…

Rib Ride Anglesey

Great value for money and other trips available

This boat trip is not very expensive for what it is, £35 each when we experienced it and a really fun mini adventure. Only negative comment is that it doesn’t last long enough! 30 minutes sail time is all you get on the Velocity ride but there are other boat trips available at a slower speed.

Rib Ride also offer rides out to see the seals and puffins, as well as castles and islands. A 2nd office in Hollyhead also offers trips out to South Stack, Gogarth and the Skerries.

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Fistral Beach, Cornwall

fistral beach vanlife
woman surfer vanlifediary

Cornwall’s Fistral beach is one of the best spots in the UK for surfing. The 750 metre long beach is backed by sand dunes, and sits half a mile west of Newquay. Boasting golden sand and plenty of things to do this hot spot will keep you returning for years to come. Fistral beach is enclosed by two headlands and creates a perfect, west facing, beach front with consistent world class waves. This has lead the beach to become a haven for surfers and water sport enthusiasts.

Whats about?

Fistral holds several major events here throughout the year including Boardmasters surf and music festival, Slyde Handboards UK Bodysurfing Championships 2017, the Quicksilver Skins, the UK Pro Surf Tour and the BUSA Championships.

There are two car parks close by, one off of Tower Road with a short walk through the golf course. The 2nd is off of Headland Road which will take you to the car park for the entertainment complex situated here. The complex comprises of a large surf school, retail shops such as FatFace, Ann’s Cottage surf shop. The Seashore Beach Shop caters for all of your bucket and spade needs. There are also several eateries such as Rick Steins fish restaurant, The Stable (a pizza, pie and ale restaurant).

Fistral Beach Bar

My personal favourite, Fistral Beach Bar and Kitchen which serves food from breakfast through until dinner. Having eaten both breakfast and dinner here for my birthday I can wholeheartedly recommend this place to eat. Their nachos and pizza were devoured by us rather quickly. You can also drink and socialise after a hard day surfing or topping up your tan. Genuinely dog friendly, one of the staff came around when we were eating breakfast with a sausage for the dogs. On our return they let him in to the bar in the evening where he not so discretely curled up on the sofa. They have large flat screen TV’s situated around the venue showing videos of surfing, jet-ski competitions and local events. Their wooden decor providing a friendly and warm atmosphere in which to relax.

Surf School

The surf school itself features a large selection of equipment and provides lessons for all of the family catering in body boarding, surfing and stand up paddle boarding. They are able to tailor make sessions for all levels of experience and if you haven’t had a go before. Trained experts teach you how to be safe with the equipment and maximise enjoyment.

There are lots of different surf schools along the beaches around Cornwall. I can honestly say that even if you do it once for the experience, it is a real adrenaline rush. At an affordable price it is worth spending a few hours having a go! It’s a great taster session and help you figure out if it is something you would like to continue without spending a lot of money before you know if you like it. I am not suggesting, that like me, you get an idea into your head and run before you can walk. I say this because of course I wanted to buy a surf board and just do it on my own but I settled for the wet suit which I will also wear when kayaking so that was an investment. It was! Stop judging me!

Coastguard Patrols

A coastguard  patrols the beach throughout the summer and some busier winter weekends. They have clearly marked out flagged zones for surfing and body boarding which they make sure people keep to. This ensures the safety of other people in the sea and helps them to keep an eye on everyone. Whilst surfing and body boarding are the main sports here we also witnessed some kite boarding happening. They make it look so easy but I am assured that it is not!

Relax and Unwind

For the less adventurous the beach is a lovely sun trap and there is plenty of room to spread out. There are some rock pools at the western end of the beach to go crabbing or searching for critters in. Fistral a unique selling point – in that it is dog friendly all year round so you can take your dogs for lovely walks.

You can also take a lovely coastal walk from Fistral Beach to Crantock. It is a moderate 4.5 mile walk including sandy footpaths, quiet roads and pavements. It can be a little steep in places but it links pastures with coastlines showing off superb Cornish shoreline. There is also a peaceful saltmarsh, home to wading birds and salt-loving plants. Be sure to check the tides before you leave though.

Another of the attractions that you can take home with you is the fact that there is a live video feed streamed from the beach HERE where you can come home after your holiday and pine over how much you want to go back to Cornwall.