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.
Waterway events make great destinations for canal boat holiday-makers, so we’ve put together a list of the top 10 events for 2018, along with information on our nearest canal boat hire bases:
1. St Richard’s Canal Festival, 4-7 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.
2. IWA Canalway Cavalcade, 5-7 May – the Inland Waterway Association’s Canalway Cavalcade takes place at Little Venice, close to Paddington Basin in London. This unique waterways and community festival offers fun for all the family with a boaters’ gathering, pageant of boats, trade stalls, live music, kids’ activities, competitions, Morris Dancers, a real ale bar and variety of food stalls. Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire bases are at Oxford and Aldermaston.
3. 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.
4. Crick Boat Show & Waterways Festival, 26-28 May – over 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.
5. Chester Dragon Boat Festival, 10 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.
6. Edinburgh Canal Festival & Raft Race, 16 June – taking place at Edinburgh Quay on the Union Canal, this annual community event includes raft racing, music, stalls, kids activities, boat trips, canoe taster-sessions, water walkers, music, dance and food. Drifters’ nearest base is at Falkirk.
7. Stratford River Festival, 30 June-1 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.
8. Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, 3-8 July – every year thousands 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.
9. Stoke Bruerne Village at War, 8-9 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.
10. Stone Food & Drink Festival, 5-7 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.