Edinburgh Canal Festival Raft Race

Submitted by edg on Sat, 18 May '24 7.38am
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Boaters on strange vessels compete in a raft race on the Union Canal with spectators crowded on the Leamington Lift Bridge behind them
Time & place

One of the highlights of the annual Edinburgh Canal Festival, held each summer on the Union Canal, is the Raft Race. Traditionally, Raft Race crews would compete in small, DIY, human-powered vessels in various states of marine readiness.

Edinburgh Raft Race 2024 is following a slightly different, creative format. Sponsoring organisation Driftwood Adventure will be providing crews with a ‘raft’ of two canoes lashed together, plus paddles and safety equipment, for free. The rafts can carry 6 people, but a maximum of 4 adults.

"Dogs, cats and parrots are also welcome to form part of your team!"  

It is each crew's mission to decorate the raft using materials that they bring on the day before competing. Crews are also encouraged to come in full themed fancy dress.

Raft teams can win one of several prizes:

  • First Place
  • Most Entertaining
  • Most Creative

The Old Raft Race Rules

In previous Raft Races there were only a few rules: rafts must not be more than 6 feet or 1.8m wide, human powered, cannot include marine parts (canoes, paddles,etc.) and must be made of materials that wont contaminate the canal.

There is no limit to the number of people on a raft team, but all must pass the finish line, and they must be able to carry their raft overland from finish to start line, if they win their heat.

Watching the Raft Race

The event is free to watch, and a small crowd turns up to view the antics from the side of the canal and hanging over the heritage Leamington Lift Bridge and footbridge near Lochrin Basin.