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The Warwickshire Ring
Featured Routes

The Warwickshire Ring from Rugby Base

Duration: 7 - 10 Nights

Maps & Guides for this route: P6, P10, N3, L13, E1, E3 | Click here buy maps

The Warwickshire Ring is a journey of junctions - the chameleon that ambles through the heart of the canals. This energetic route meanders through secret countryside, industrial heritage and into the canal capital of Birmingham. And with aqueducts, lock flights and tunnels to navigate, the full Ring is a great challenge to test a helmsman's skills.

Before leaving Rugby Marina, any fans of a particular sport will be compelled to explore the town itself. Rugby is world famous for its connection with rugby and the Webb Ellis Rugby Football Museum tells the story of how one schoolboy changed the course of sporting history. 

The distinctive paired Hillmorton Locks remind your crew they have a job to do before an easy few miles south to the idyllic canal village of Braunston, the junction between the Oxford and Grand Union Canals, once one of the busiest commercial trading points linking with London. 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 Braunston and Napton. Today its importance has not diminished as it has become a much-loved hotspot for canal leisure seekers and the marina hosts the annual Braunston Historic Boat Rally. There is much to explore in this settlement which dates back to the Doomsday Book, including the marina with its Horseley iron bridges and historic canalside workshops. All Saints’ Church is known as the ‘Cathedral of the canals’, having overseen the christenings, marriages and burials of generations of boaters.

The canal meanders, lazily, westwards through quiet open country towards Napton Junction where the Grand Union Canal heads north towards Birmingham. The appropriately named pretty village of 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 crew’s work now begins in earnest as the three Calcutt Locks are quickly followed by 10 Stockton Locks and the staircase locks at Bascote as the canal descends into the Avon Valley.

The canal skirts Leamington Spa, an elegant town with broad streets of Regency houses, where the Royal Pump Rooms offer the opportunity for a refined afternoon tea. Almost immediately, Warwick calls for exploration to the south of the canal - its most famous attraction being of course Warwick Castle, dramatically overlooking the River Avon.  

The rather daunting 21 Hatton Locks have the nickname 'Stairway to Heaven', but there’s a welcome teashop and pub at the top! There is a breather for a couple of miles now as the canal cuts through Shrewley Tunnel (433yds/396m long) before reaching Kingswood Junction – it is possible to continue north along the Grand Union skirting Birmingham, but your route takes the short link across to climb the remainder of the Lapworth Flight on the Stratford Canal to head into Birmingham city centre. The bronze bull of the Bullring, the markets, Antony Gormley's sculpture, designer shopping, multi-cultural panache and a spectacular controversial library - that's Birmingham. Yet first impressions don't give away the city's biggest secret. It is at the heart of Britain's canal network and spaghettis more miles of water than Venice (over 100 navigable miles of it!).The historic waterside hub is alive with bars and restaurants. Symphony Hall, ICC, Barclaycard Arena and Brindleyplace spoil visitors with choice and beg you to stay as long as you can. Birmingham’s famous markets are only a short walk from the canal, and there are also art galleries, museums, theatres and dizzy opportunities for shopping too.

You now leave the city via a quick succession of locks, the 13 Farmer’s Bridge Locks followed quickly by the 11 Aston Locks, taking you to Salford (or Spaghetti) Junction and a right turn past the city’s trailing outskirts. Back in the countryside and through the diminutive Curdworth Tunnel (57yds/52m long), the 11 Curdworth Locks take the canal down to Fazeley Junction where any kids aboard may want a quick detour to Drayton Manor.

Crossing over the beautiful Grade II-listed Tame Aqueduct, your route now follows the Coventry Canal, a rather less energetic affair as it winds through delicious English countryside. Another burst of energy is needed for the 11 Atherstone Locks then the canal passes a series of nature reserves and landscape formed from the spoil heaps of former quarries, the most dramatic of which is known as Mount Judd. Skirting the edge of Nuneaton, you pass Marston Junction where, if time allows, the Ashby Canal heads off to the east. But another detour into Coventry may vie for your time too. The ruins of the original cathedral are a stark voice on the skyline of Coventry's own 'ground zero' left from the horror of World War II. In the 1960s a light of hope was built in the new cathedral. A bond between these two buildings that lean side by side is a powerful and emotional paradox. 

Back on the Oxford Canal from Hawkesbury Junction, a busy place filled with boats and a photogenic former engine house, it’s now a gentle (though intruded for a while by the M6 and M69 motorways) lock-free journey as the canal skirts most villages. Brinklow is a short walk south of Stretton Stop and has the remains of a medieval castle built to defend the Fosse Way which crosses the canal here, before the final couple of miles and the short Newbold Tunnel (250yds/229m long) brings you back to Rugby Marina, gloriously completing the full Ring.

Featured Boats

Featured Boats from Rugby Base, Warwickshire

Two to Five berth Boats

Alvechurch Grebe

Max: 4 People

Length: 47ft

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Alvechurch Wren

Max: 4 People

Length: 49ft

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Viking Tyne

Max: 4 People

Length: 48ft

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Six to eight berth Boats

Alvechurch Duck

Max: 6 People

Length: 60ft

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Alvechurch Gull

Max: 6 People

Length: 66ft

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Alvechurch Lark

Max: 6 People

Length: 66ft (63ft from Falkirk)

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Alvechurch Warbler

Max: 8 People

Length: 69ft

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Viking Medway

Max: 6 People

Length: 57ft

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Up to twelve berth Boats

Alvechurch Wagtail

Max: 10 People

Length: 70ft

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