Top canalside events to visit on a canal boat holiday in 2024

Top 9 canalside events to visit on a canal boat holiday

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.

Here’s our pick of the best canalside events to head to on a canal boat holiday in 2024:

1. Easter Boat Gathering, Friday 29 March to 1 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 at Bunbury.

2. Crick Boat Show, Northamptonshire, 25-27 May

Over 300 exhibitors will gather at Crick Marina on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal near Daventry for the Crick Boat Show.  The event, which is organised by Waterways World and the Canal & River Trust, will showcase thousands of inland waterways products and services. And there’ll be an exciting programme of entertainment, including boat trips, live music, boating seminars and a wide variety of food and drink stalls. Our nearest bases are at Gayton and Braunston.

3. St Richards Canal Festival, Worcestershire, 3-6 May

This annual event organised by the Worcester-Birmingham and Droitwich Canals Society takes place in Vines Park alongside the Droitwich Barge Canal. The event offers family entertainment, live music, boats, classic cars, markets, duck races and a real ale bar. Our nearest bases are at Worcester, Stoke Prior and Tardebigge.

4. IWA Canalway Cavalcade, London, 4 May

The Inland Waterway Association’s annual Canalway Cavalcade takes place at Little Venice 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. Our nearest base is on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Aldermaston.

5. Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Wales, 2-7 July

Thousands of people from around the world descend on the pretty town of Llangollen on the Llangollen Canal each year to celebrate dance, music, costume and culture. The Llangollen Eisteddfod is one of the world’s great music and culture events with six days of world-class competitions and concerts featuring an array of international performers. Our nearest bases are Trevor, Chirk and Blackwater Meadow.

6. Stone Food & Drink Festival, Staffordshire, 5-7 July

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, street food and a farmers’ market. Our nearest bases are Great Haywood, Brewood and Stoke on Trent.

7. Rickmansworth Canal Festival, Hertfordshire, 18-19 May

Celebrating canals, the community and the environment, the 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. Our nearest base is on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston.

8. Fairport Convention at Cropredy, Oxfordshire, 8-10 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 at Napton.

9. Edinburgh Canal Festival, Scotland, 17 June

Organised by the Fountainbridge Canalside Community Trust, this annual event takes place at Lochrin Basin, at the Edinburgh end of the Union Canal.  The event includes free boat trips, canoe taster-sessions, children’s entertainment, music, dance and food. Our nearest base is at Falkirk.