Duration: 7 Nights
TOTAL LOCKS: 54
CRUISING TIME PER DAY: 9 HOURS (59 TOTAL)
Maps & Guides for this route: N3, P6, P7, L14 | Click here buy maps
A relaxing cruise, as the canal winds through uncluttered countryside. This route offers the rare chance to revel in remote landscapes with the drama of an idyllic lock flight and the heritage of two of Britain's canals’ most loved marinas.
Head south from Springwood Haven Marina along the Coventry Canal, past 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. The canal winds past pretty gardens round the edge of Nuneaton, birthplace of the writer George Eliot.
You pass Marston Junction where, if time allows, the Ashby Canal heads off to the east. And just beyond Bedworth, at Hawkesbury Junction, a busy place filled with boats and a photogenic former engine house, another detour into Coventry may tempt 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.
The Oxford Canal heads southeast from Hawkesbury Junction to Brinklow, a short walk south of Stretton Stop with a 13th-century church and the remains of a medieval castle built to defend the Fosse Way which crosses the canal here. The short Newbold Tunnel (250yds/229m long) leads into Rugby, a place with a museum for a particular sport, then the distinctive paired Hillmorton Locks remind your crew they have a job to do.
Following the Grand Union Canal and its locks through Braunston, you’ve arrived at a much-loved hub for canal leisure seekers that was once one of Britain's busiest commercial trading points linking with London. Today the marina hosts the famous Braunston Historic Boat Rally one weekend every year. But at any time of year there’s plenty to explore here with its Horseley iron bridges, historic workshops, and a settlement steeped in history dating back to the Doomsday Book. After navigating Braunston Tunnel (2,042yds/1,867m long), your route turns north onto the Grand Union Canal - Leicester Section at Norton Junction.
The M1, the railway and the old Roman road (now the A5) hurl past the canal in their rabid hurry to reach the city. Watford Gap service station is their only respite from their race. A brief encounter with the noise of the M1 is ironically thrilling from the peaceful canal, a reminder of the part canals played in the evolution of Britain's transport system, and the quest to constantly redefine speed. The canal scrambles through Watford Locks, four of which form a staircase, before drifting away again into tranquil rolling fields and onwards into the echoing silence of Crick Tunnel (1,528yds/1,397m long).
Just beyond the tunnel, Crick Wharf offers an opportunity to walk into the village of Crick which is oozing with deep history. The Doomsday Book records the numbers of households as, “17 villagers. 6 smallholders. 4 slaves. 4 freemen. 1 priest”. Crick redefines this remote canal route as Crick Marina hosts one of the busiest gatherings of people anywhere on Britain's canals, the annual Crick Boat Show every May. If you collide with that weekend you can look forward to festival fun and traffic jams of bunting and gleaming boats butting side by side, making overnight mooring a more communal affair than normal. If you prefer quieter times and boating solitude, it’s prudent to travel with the boat show date in mind.
The canal meanders through bridges and round curious hills, and seems to deliberately miss the region's villages. Carrying on towards Foxton, the isolation increases with no locks for around 20 miles, and only trees to occasionally break the silence of the landscape. At Welford Junction, there’s the option to detour for 1½ miles along the Welford Arm to explore Welford and the reservoirs which supply the canal with water.
Just beyond North Kilworth Wharf, the open views are temporarily blackened by Husbands Bosworth Tunnel (1,166yds/1,066m long) then a couple of miles further on you arrive at the highlight of your journey. Foxton Locks is a staircase flight of 10 locks scrambling 75ft downhill. The passage of boats through these locks is the quiet drama that remains unchanged since the flight first opened in 1812. In their heyday, Foxton Locks served horse-pulled haulage boats laden with cargoes of sugar, tea, soap, tinned food, chemicals and paper. Look out for the old stables opposite the top lock, and allow time to visit the museum and explore the remains of Foxton Inclined Plane. The plane once lifted boats from the canal at the canal at the bottom of the hill, hauling them over dry land to the higher levels. This method of lifting boats up and down the hill took a fraction of the time of travelling through the locks, but after only 10 years in service the plane was deemed too expensive to maintain and was abandoned in 1911.
Below the locks, a right turn leads along the short Market Harborough Arm through an unspoilt landscape with only the A6 briefly interrupting the silence where it crosses the canal. Market Harborough is a historic market town that has attracted shoppers since the early 1200s. The tradition still thrives today, and there’s also a museum and plenty of pubs and cafés. Once you’ve finished exploring this elegant town, turn and enjoy this journey again back to the marina.
Max: 4 People
Max: 4 People
Max: 4 People
Max: 6 People
Max: 6 People
Max: 6 People
Length: 66ft (63ft from Falkirk)
Max: 8 People
Max: 10 People