Britain’s 3,000-mile network of navigable canals and rivers is home to dozens of waterside museums and attractions, many of them linked to our nation’s industrial past.
To celebrate, we’ve published a guide to the Top 8 waterside museums to visit afloat in 2022:
- The Black Country Living Museum
Famous as a filming location for The Peaky Blinders, this 26-acre open air museum on the Birmingham Canal Navigations, gives visitors an insight into life in one of the world’s most heavily industrialised landscapes. From our narrow boat hire base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Tardebigge, it takes around eight hours to cruise to the Birmingham Black Country Museum. The journey travels 23 miles and passes through three locks.
- The Leeds Industrial Museum
Next to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Canal Road in Leeds, this museum explores the inventions that shaped Leeds, from Scootacars to steam engines, and space food to Spirograph. It takes around 26 hours to cruise to the Leeds Industrial Museum from our canal boat hire base on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Barnoldswick. The journey travels 40 miles and passes through 38 locks.
- The National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port
On the banks of the Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal, this museum brings together a unique fleet of historic boats, docks, warehouses, forge, stables and workers cottages, with rich collections and archives, to tell the story of Britain’s canals. It takes around 11 hours to cruise to the National Waterways Museum from our boat yard on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury. The journey travels 21 miles and passes through 16 locks.
- The Hepworth Wakefield Museum
This modern gallery on the banks of the Calder & Hebble Navigation showcases the extraordinary work by the British sculptor Barbara Hepworth. There are also works on display by Henry Moore, Antony Gormley, David Hockney, Bridget Riley and Anthony Caro. It takes around 22 hours to reach the Hepworth Wakefield Museum from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Sowerby Bridge.
- Warwick Castle
This incredible medieval castle on the banks of the River Avon offers a fantastic day out, with Flight of the Eagles displays, Horrible Histories Maze, Kingmaker exhibition, towers and ramparts to climb, the Castle Dungeon tour and Mighty Trebuchet firing spectacle. It takes around eight hours to reach moorings close to Warwick Castle from our canal boat hire base at Stockton on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire. The journey travels 11 miles and passes through 22 locks.
- The Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne
On the banks of the Grand Union Canal in Northampton, this quirky little museum in a historic tells the story of Britain’s canals through archive films, models and artefacts. It takes around one and a half hours to reach the Museum from our canal boat hire rental at Gayton. The route takes boaters through the Blisworth Tunnel, which at 3,076 yards long is the third longest on the canal network and takes 30 minutes to cruise through.
- The Anderton Boat Lift
Connecting the River Weaver Navigation and the Trent & Mersey Canal, the Anderton Boat Lift and its museum, tell the story of this incredible Victorian structure, nicknamed ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’. It takes around 21 hours to reach Anderton Boat Lift from our base at Acton Bridge on the Trent & Mersey Canal. The journey cruises 21 miles and passes through eight locks. Drifters also has a hire boat base next to the Lift.
- We The Curious in Bristol
Part of Bristol’s Floating Harbour, ‘We The Curious’ is a science centre and educational charity with interactive displays, a planetarium and exhibitions. It takes around eight hours to cruise there from our canal barge rental base at Bath. The journey cruises 17 miles along the Kennet & Avon Canal and Bristol Avon, and passes through 13 locks.