Top 8 canalside events to visit by boat in 2023

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 eight events for 2023, along with information about our nearest canal boat hire bases:

1. Easter Boat Gathering, Friday 7 to Monday 10 April

The annual Easter Boat Gathering at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port marks the official start of the cruising season.  Over the weekend, dozens of boats will moor up across the Museum’s seven-acre site and visitors can enjoy live music, children’s activities, workshop tours and historic boats.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire base is 10 cruising hours away at Bunbury.

2. IWA Canalway Cavalcade, Saturday 29 April

This annual event at Little Venice celebrating the best in life on the waterways in London, will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2023.  The event includes live music, a real ale bar, food stalls, an illuminated boats procession and kids’ entertainment.  Drifters’ nearest base is 34 cruising hours away at Aldermaston.

3. St Richard’s Canal Festival, Friday 28 April to Monday 1 May

This annual event organised by the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Society takes place in Vines Park alongside the Droitwich Barge Canal.  Visitors can enjoy 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 base is three cruising hours away at Stoke Prior.

4. Rickmansworth Canal Festival, Saturday 20 to Sunday 21 May

Celebrating canals, the community and the environment, the annual Rickmansworth Canal Festival attracts over 100 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 42 cruising hours away at Braunston.

5. Crick Boat Show, Saturday 27 to Monday 29 May

Three hundred exhibitors will gather at Crick Marina on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal near Daventry, to showcase thousands of inland waterways products and services.  Now Britain’s biggest inland waterways festival, Crick Boat Show offers visitors free boat trips, over 50 boats to look around, live music and a wide variety of food and drink stalls.  Drifters’ nearest narrow boat hire base is five cruising hours away at Braunston.

6. Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Tuesday 4 to Sunday 9 July

Every year thousands of people descend on the pretty town of Llangollen on the Llangollen Canal to celebrate dance, music, costume and culture.  2023 events will include ‘The White Flower: Into the Light’ on 5 July when massed choral and orchestral forces will come together in a concert of remembrance for the fallen of Sarajevo and Ukraine.  Drifters’ nearest base is a two-hour cruise away at Trevor.

7. Stone Food & Drink Festival, Friday 15 to Saturday 16 July 2022

Staffordshire’s biggest celebration of all things gastronomic takes place at the Georgian market town of Stone on the Trent & Mersey Canal.  The festival will host cookery demonstrations, talks and tastings, licensed bars, street food, live music and family fun.  Drifters’ nearest base is five cruising hours away at Great Haywood.

8. Fairport Convention at Cropredy, Thursday 10 to Saturday 12 August

This annual festival of folk and rock music is held in the village of Cropredy, next to the Oxford Canal. The event is run by the Fairport Convention, often credited with being the first English electric folk band.  Drifters nearest narrowboat hire base is 10 cruising hours away at Napton.