Britain’s beautiful inland waterways flow through some our most exciting towns and cities, all hosting annual events and festivals.
Today’s narrowboats provide comfortable accommodation with all the essential home comforts, including well equipped kitchens, fresh water flushing toilets, hot water and showers, comfortable beds, TVs, DVD players and many now have WiFi too. So canal boats make a great base for visiting a festival, as well as the opportunity to cruise through the countryside to get there.
Here’s our guide to the Top 5 festivals to visit afloat this autumn:
- The British Ceramics Biennial, 7 September to 13 October – bringing together over 300 contemporary artists for a vibrant programme of exhibitions, installations and workshops, this international festival will occupy a series of venues in Stoke on Trent, including the China Hall, Middleport Pottery, the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Spode Works and World of Wedgewood. It’s not surprising that canals are nearby, as boats were used to transport both raw materials and the finished product for the ceramics industry during the Industrial Revolution. Drifters’ Peak District canal boat hire base at Etruria in Stoke on Trent provides easy access to many of the venues and Drifters’ base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal is 17 miles and 13 locks (eight hours) from moorings close to Spode Works, and 14 miles and 12 locks (seven hours) from the World of Wedgewood.
- Stone Food & Drink Festival, 4-6 October – Staffordshire’s biggest celebration of all things gastronomic takes place at the Georgian market town of Stone on the Trent & Mersey Canal. As well as a range of themed food marquees, the festival hosts demonstrations by top chefs, a beer festival, live music, gourmet dining in the pop up restaurant, street food and a farmers’ market. From Drifters Peak District canal boat hire base in Stoke on Trent, it takes around five hours to cruise to Stone, travelling nine miles and passing through 10 locks along the way. From Great Haywood, it takes around five hours, passing through just four locks.
- Abergavenny Food Festival, 21-22 September – each year chefs, food businesses, farmers and food producers come together in Abergavenny to offer people from all walks of life the chance to explore and learn about food, with an outstanding programme of events including product tastings, kids activities, masterclasses, hands-on cookery lessons and topical debates. Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny offers the chance to explore the local area afloat and use a canal boat as the base to visit the Food Fest.
- Birmingham Comedy Festival, 4-14 October – the award-winning Birmingham Comedy Festival has been drawing attention to the City’s vibrant comedy scene since 2010. From 4-14 October, a packed programme of stand-up comedy, improve and sketches from big names to exciting new emerging talent will run at venues throughout Britain’s exciting second City. From Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Tardebigge on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, it takes just five hours to reach moorings in Birmingham City Centre.
- Bath Children’s Literature Festival, 27 September to 6 October – now Europe’s largest festival dedicated to children’s literature, the Bath Children’s Literature Festival offers the chance for children and young people to meet the creators of their literary heroes and to see illustrations come to life. Events this year include an audience with Cressida Cowell, author of the hugely popular ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ series, and a drawing masterclass with top illustrator Sarah Warburton. Drifters has a number of narrowboat hire bases on the Kennet & Avon Canal close to Bath, including Brassknocker Basin, just four hours by boat from Bath City Centre.