Short
Breaks

Braunston or Napton & return from Gayton Marina

3 Nights
TOTAL LOCKS: 26
CRUISING TIME PER DAY: 8 HOURS (15-19 HOURS IN TOTAL)

This is a peaceful journey of junctions and battles between two rival canals, the Oxford and the Grand Union. A relaxing cruise through open countryside dosed with occasional lock flights and the great engineering drama of a collision between canal, railway and road.

Just beyond the marina at Gayton, if time allows, you could boat through the 17-lock flight which takes the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal down into the heart of Northampton. A much lazier option is to turn right at Gayton Junction to head along the Grand Union Canal which meanders its way northwards through open farmland. The canal mainly skirts round the villages which dot the landscape, and activity is centred on the boatyards and pubs which create occasional diversions from the calm. 

The railway runs alongside the canal for much of the way, and then just north of Weedon and its two aqueducts, canal and railway are joined by the busy A5 on the old Roman road of Watling Street, and the infamous M1. A brief encounter with the noise of the M1 is ironically thrilling from the peaceful canal, and the four transport routes run parallel as the canal climbs the seven Buckby Locks before reaching Norton Junction where you turn left to head westwards through a magnificent hawthorn-flanked canalscape, diving briefly into the hillside for 2,042yds (1,867m) at Braunston Tunnel. 

After travelling down through Braunston’s locks, take time to explore the idyllic canal village of Braunston, a settlement steeped in history dating back to the Doomsday Book, with its Horseley iron bridges and historic canalside workshops. The canal leads to the sleepy junction between the Grand Union and Oxford Canals, once one of the busiest commercial trading points linking with London. 

The canal engineer James Brindley built the Oxford Canal in his typical winding fashion, flowing around contours rather than bulldozing a straight course. When the much straighter Grand Union Canal was built, it stole much of the Oxford Canal’s commercial traffic - but the Oxford Canal fought back by charging extortionate tolls to use its water in the London to Birmingham link between Napton and Braunston. Today its importance has not diminished as it has become a much-loved hotspot for canal leisure seekers and the marina hosts the famous Braunston Historic Boat Rally every year too.

After the hubbub of Braunston, the Grand Union Canal meanders westwards through quiet open country before reaching Napton Junction. The Grand Union now continues north towards Birmingham while the Oxford Canal meanders southwards. The appropriately named Napton on the Hill is well-known for its windmill, which dominates the landscape and would have been a useful landmark for traditional boatmen in the commercial carrying days of the canal. The pretty village of Napton has had a windmill since 1543, although the current Grade II-listed windmill dates from the 18th century.

Many villagers were employed in the local brick and tile works, and the symbol of a windmill was stamped into the bricks and tiles before being transported away on canal boats. Napton’s 13th-century church, adjacent on the hill, is also worth a detour. After soaking in the view from the hill, it’s time to turn round and retrace your journey back to Gayton Marina. 

Featured Boats

Featured Boats from Gayton Marina, Northamptonshire

Two to Five berth Boats

Alvechurch Grebe

Max: 4 People

Length: 47ft

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Alvechurch Heron

Max: 5 People

Length: 58ft

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Alvechurch Bunting

Max: 5 People

Length: 47ft

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Six to eight berth Boats

Alvechurch Eagle

Max: 7 People

Length: 66ft

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Alvechurch Gull

Max: 6 People

Length: 66ft

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Alvechurch Sandpiper

Max: 6 People

Length: 63ft

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Alvechurch Thrush

Max: 6 People

Length: 66ft

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Alvechurch Warbler

Max: 8 People

Length: 69ft

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Up to twelve berth Boats

Alvechurch Owl

Max: 10 People

Length: 70ft

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Alvechurch Swan

Max: 12 People

Length: 70ft

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