Britain’s canals and rivers host hundreds of exciting events each year, bringing people to the waterways and celebrating the things that make them special.
These events make great destinations for canal boat holiday-makers, so we’ve put together our Top 10 events for 2019, along with information on our nearest canal boat hire bases:
- Easter Boat Gathering, 19-20 April – the annual Easter Boat Gathering at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port marks the official start of the boating season. Over the weekend, dozens of boats will moor up across the Museum’s seven-acre site and visitors can enjoy live music, workshop tours, historic boats and museum activities.
- St Richard’s Canal Festival, 3-5 May – this annual event, which takes place in Vines Park alongside the Droitwich Barge Canal, will be extra special this year as the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Society will be celebrating the 45th anniversary of the start of the restoration of the Droitwich Canals. The event offers family entertainment, live music, boats, classic cars, art workshops, community stalls, a real ale bar and the annual ‘Great Droitwich Duck Race’ with over 1,000 plastic ducks competing. Drifters’ nearest canal boat rental bases are Worcester and Stoke Prior.
- Rickmansworth Canal Festival, 19-20 May – celebrating canals, the community and the environment, the annual Rickmansworth Canal Festival attracts a spectacular array of canal boats from across the country. Occupying part of the Aquadrome and the Grand Union Canal towpath between Stockers Lock and Batchworth Lock, the event hosts a range of music, performing arts, displays, presentations, traders and catering. Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston.
- Crick Boat Show & Waterways Festival, 25-27 May – close to 300 exhibitors will gather at Crick Marina on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal near Daventry to celebrate the canals and showcase thousands of inland waterways products and services. Now Britain’s biggest inland waterways festival, the event offers visitors a fantastic day out by the water, with free boat trips, live music, children’s activities, arts and crafts stands and a wide variety of food and drink stalls. Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire bases are at Gayton, Braunston and Market Harborough.
- Chester Dragon Boat Festival, 9 June – this annual and very colourful charity event on the River Dee in Chester sees over 20 dragon boat teams of up to 16 paddlers and a drummer battling to become the champions. Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire rental centres are Bunbury and Brewood.
- Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, 1-7 July – every yearthousands of people from around the World descend on the pretty town of Llangollen on the Llangollen Canal to celebrate dance, music, costume and culture. The Llangollen Eisteddfod is one of the world’s great musical and culture events with six days of world-class competitions and concerts featuring an array of international performers. Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire bases are at Trevor, Chirk and Blackwater Meadow.
- Stratford River Festival, 6-7 July – this two-day free annual event offers visitors waterside family fun in Stratford-upon-Avon with music, a gathering of boats, craft and food stalls, family zone, charity stalls, illuminated boat parade and spectacular fireworks. Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is Wotton Wawen.
- Gathering of Historic Boats at Audlem, 27-28 July – over 30 historic narrowboats will gather on the Shropshire Union Canal at Audlem, celebrating the fascinating history of working boats. Boats on display will include ‘Saturn’, a 1906 Shropshire Union Canal fly boat, which often worked from Audlem carrying cheeses and other produce loaded from the canal warehouse at Audlem, now the Shroppie Fly pub.Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire bases are at Bunbury and Brewood.
- Stoke Bruerne Village at War, 7-8 September – organised by the Friends of the Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum, the annual vintage themed Village at War event takes people back to the 40’s with live music, tea dances, vintage fashion shows, a Black Market, tanks and other military vehicles, re-enactments and displays. Historic boats are on show, including the Museum’s own restored narrowboat ‘Sculptor’, which saw action in London as a fire boat during the Blitz. Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire bases are Gayton, Braunston, Stretton and Rugby.
- 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. Drifters’ nearest narrowboat rental bases are Great Haywood, Brewood and Peak District.