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Duration: 7 Nights
TOTAL LOCKS: 48
CRUISING TIME PER DAY: 6 HOURS (40 HOURS IN TOTAL)
Maps & Guides for this route: P7, N1, N3, L14, L18, E1 | Click here buy maps
Market Harborough and return is a tranquil rural route through rolling Northamptonshire countryside. It is a 7 day cruise and has 48 locks. It is popular with those seeking something different – there are at least 4 moveable bridges, 20 small aqueducts/underbridges and 4 tunnels including Crick Tunnel (1528 yards) and Husband’s Bosworth Tunnel (1166 yards).
Day 1.From Gayton Marina you will begin your journey by travelling to the Grand Union Canal Main Line, a very short journey under Milton Road Bridge.
After Gayton Junction you will have open fields on one side of you and steep hills to the other. The only village on this stretch is Bugbrooke which is about an hour away and has a few places to eat, and there is a boatyard with pump out facilities a further half hour on.
Travel towards Stowe Hill Bridge No. 26 and moor around here for the night. This will have taken about 2 hours. If you have made good time and it is the right time of year, you may want to continue to Weedon and moor. Here the village is close to the aqueduct with places to eat and down from Bridge 24 there are a number of antique shops.
Weedon has a royal claim to fame – there is a canal arm that leads off the main line to a former barracks and royal pavilion which were built to provide a safe place for King George III during the Napoleonic Wars at a time when it was feared Bonaparte might invade the Country. It was intended that the canal would provide the means of transport for both royalty and military, but it was not needed for royalty. However, troops have been carried from here by canal to trouble spots and other ports. At one time the depot was also home to the Army Equitation School.
Day 2. Continue towards Buckby from wherever you decided to moor on the first night. Buckby is well known as the home of the ‘Buckby Can’, the metal carriers that have ‘roses and castles’ on them and were an essential part of canal life in times gone by.
As you approach Buckby and its locks you will see the railway main line on one side, the motorway on the other and the old Roman road, Watling Street (A5), giving a contrasting picture of different means of transport. However, as you climb the locks you will leave these behind. At Buckby Top Lock No. 7 before Norton Junction there is somewhere to stop and eat, depending on what time of day it is and how hearty your breakfast was!
At Norton Junction turn right onto the Leicester section of the Grand Union Canal.The first section of this stretch is quiet with you going through woods and fields before the canal passes behind Watford Gap services. This is south of Bridge 6 and can be accessed from the towpath if you need provisions.
Shortly after this you will arrive at Watford locks, which is a group of seven locks. The locks are formed of 2 single locks, a staircase of 4 and then a final lock, but there should be a Lock Keeper around to help you. Together they lift the canal 16m to the ‘Leicester Summit’ which continues all the way to Foxton Locks.
After the locks you will continue until you come to Crick Tunnel. This was built in 1814 by engineers James Barnes and Benjamin Bevan and is 1528 yards long. The tunnel is just about wide enough for two narrow boats to pass.
When you leave Crick Tunnel you pass by Crick village and then an old wharf, followed by a large marina. Continue up to around Yelvertoft – the canal loops around this, but it is a good area to moor for the night, as today you will have now cruised around 7 hours.
Day 3. From Yelvertoft you will continue past Winwick, a small village with a 16th century Manor House, towards Welford Junction. This will take around 3 hours and you will see open fields, wooded hills and the Avon valley.
Before the Welford Arm the river passes under the canal, and the canal continues to follow the path of the Avon after this. Next you will pass North Kilworth and there is a marina here that provide pump outs, water and moorings.
Not long after this there is Husband’s Bosworth Tunnel – this is 1166 yards and bricks for its construction were made on-site close to the east end of the tunnel, adjacent to the Honeypot Farm Bridge. This is a remote, but attractive stretch of the canal so you will have a few hours to enjoy the scenery before reaching Foxton Locks. When you reach Foxton you might find some spectators as you descend the two 5 lock staircase under supervision of the Lock Keeper as they are a popular tourist attraction.
Foxton village is built either side of the canal and at the top of the locks there is a country park. The site of the Foxton Inclined Plane is also alongside the locks – the inclined plane was built in 1900 as a solution to various operational restrictions imposed by the lock flight. It was not a commercial success and remained in full-time operation for only ten years and it was dismantled in 1926.
Somewhere between here and Black Horse Bridge No. 3 is a good place to stop for the night as you will have cruised for about another 7.5 hours.
Day 4. Today you will cruise to Market Harborough, turning there and then travelling back the way you came for some of day 3. It is a lock free run into Market Harborough whose facilities are easily accessible from a mooring within the canal basin at the end. This will take you about 2 hours and when you return aim to moor around the Gumley Road Bridge No. 60. This will mean you have cruised for about 6 hours, so if you start early you can also spend some time in Market Harborough.
Market Harborough has galleries, theatre, museum, leisure centre and of course the canal basin.
Day 5. Now it is time to do the return journey. Travel back through Husbands Bosworth Tunnel, past North Kilworth, onto the Welford Junction and down to Crick. Mooring around the Crick Wharf Bridge No.12 is a good place – you will have travelled 17 miles in around 7 hours, but lock free all the way!
Day 6. Crick Tunnel will be the first thing today and then locks at Watford. Continue all the way to Bugbrooke and moor around bridge No.38. This day’s cruising will be around 7 hours and will leave you in a place where you can eat out on the last night and gently cruise back to the marina the next day.
Day 7. From where you are moored it will take you about an hour to get back to Gayton Marina – no locks though so a nice gentle cruise at the end of your holiday.
Max: 4 People
Max: 5 People
Max: 5 People
Max: 4 People
Max: 7 People
Max: 6 People
Max: 6 People
Max: 6 People
Max: 8 People
Max: 10 People
Max: 12 People