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TOTAL LOCKS: 90
CRUISING TIME PER DAY: 9 HOURS (63 HOURS IN TOTAL)
Maps & Guides for this route: P7, N1, N3, L14, L17, E1, E3 | Click here buy maps
This is a good cruise for first timers and takes you through the Cotswold countryside. Takes you down the North Oxford Canal via Braunston and Napton Junctions. Onto the South Oxford Canal, renowned for its meandering route to the Thames.
Your adventure begins as you set off from Union Wharf and cruise 5 miles to Foxton where you can either choose to moor up or cruise a little further to the bottom of Foxton Locks. This is where you will spend your first evening as you will not be able to navigate the Foxton locks until the morning. Foxton is a pretty village built on the side of a hill on either side of the canal, with plenty of pubs to choose from. Mooring at Bridge 61 you will find The Foxton Locks Inn and Bridge 61, which are both Canal side pubs and well worth a visit.
Before tackling the Foxton Flight of 10 locks you may wish to take some time and explore the amazing inclined plane, stepping back in time and experiencing how the boats used to travel in the once operational boatlift, you will find The Boilerhouse situated in the middle of the lock flight. Foxton Locks will take around an hour from start to finish and if in need of refreshments you will find the Top Lock Cottage Café a welcome place to rest!
With a further 2 hours cruising through a remote but attractive stretch, you will approach Husbands Bosworth Tunnel, where you may wish to moor up at Bridge 46 and visit the Village as well as the Bell Inn. Husband Bosworth’s tunnel is 1166 yards long, without a towpath but it is wide enough for two boats and relatively straight, so don’t worry! Continuing for a further 4 hours cruising through open fields, backed by wooded hills and with splendid views over the Avon Valley and you will reach Yelvertoft. The village is set back from the canal but with a short walk you will find stores and The Knightley Arms. Skirting Crack’s Hill and after an hours cruising, Crick Tunnel looms, You may wish to moor near to Bridge 12 for the evening and visit the large village of Crick with a selection of pubs and shops.
*There is a water point just after the Foxton Locks. *There is a water point at Yelvertoft.
Start the day by navigating Crick tunnel which is 1528 yards long and without a towpath. Leaving the tunnel behind you and after another hours’ peaceful cruise you will approach the Watford Lock Flight. The staircase consists of 7 locks with opening hours varying depending on the time of year. Turning right on to the Grand Union Main Line you will be cruising through hills and wooded country before reaching a wooded cutting which leads to Braunston Tunnel. The tunnel is 2042 yards and wide enough for two boats to pass through. As you leave the tunnel the landscape opens out and you will notice there are many moored crafts as you navigate the well spread out Braunston locks. Braunston is a well-known canal centre with a long main street with houses of all periods, set up on a hill to the north of the canal. There is plenty of space to moor along this stretch of canal and a good choice of pubs and café’s to explore. Turning left at Braunston junction on to The Oxford Canal, a further 2.5 hours of peaceful cruising through open countryside and a good place to moor for the evening is at Napton Bottom Lock, where you will find The Folly Pub. Napton Hill dominates the landscape, a 400ft climb will get you to the top to enjoy the view!
*There is a water point at the bottom of Watford Locks. *There is a water point just before Norton Junction. *There is a water point in Braunston *There is a water point at Napton Bottom Lock
Plenty of cruising today as you head for Banbury. The 9 locks at Napton are nicely placed with the final 2 locks at Marston Doles; a tiny settlement which owes its existence to the canal. Towing horses used to be stabled here and to the north of the Arm are the remains of the pumping house that used to pump water up to the summit of the Napton flight. The canal twists and turns skirting the villages of Fenny Compton and Wormleighton, both set back from the Canal and an hours walk away.
After 4 hours of pleasant cruising you will reach Claydon Locks, 5 locks in total with the charming village of Claydon to the East. A further 3 locks before reaching Cropredy, a quiet village which is situated right next to the canal and offers 2 pubs as well as places to stock up on supplies. This little village bursts into life on the second week in August during the annual Folk festival, a tradition which began in 1979!
Continue south along the Cherwell Valley making a steady decent through several locks and on into Banbury. There are plenty of places to moor between bridges 163 and 166 but before deciding on your spot, cruise as far as Bridge Wharf where you will need to turn, so you will be pointing in the right direction for your return trip to Union Wharf.
There is plenty to explore in Banbury with a Museum at Tooley’s Boatyard, Spiceball Park and the Mill Arts Centre by Banbury Lock to name a few. If the canalside pubs don’t tempt you then take a walk in to Banbury and sample a Banbury Cake, produced here for at least 300 years! For those with more time, Broughton Castle is a 10 minute taxi ride away and well worth a visit.
*There is a water point at Marston Doles *There is a water point at Fenny Compton Wharf
Retracing your journey back on the Oxford Canal, through Cropredy and after around 6 ½ hours cruising you may be in need of refreshment. The canalside Wharf Inn at Fenny Compton may be a good place to stop or continue on to bridge 135 where you can take a walk into Wormleighton. As the canal snakes back towards Napton you will need to choose a good place to moor for the evening, Priors Hardwick is a further 2 hours cruise and you can moor at bridge 124 and walk into the village where you will find The Butchers Arms. Alternatively, cruise for an extra hour and moor before Napton Top Lock. There is a path from Marston Doles that takes you to the remains of the pumping house at the end of the old Engine House Arm.
After 4 hours cruising on the Oxford Canal; passing Napton-on-the-Hill, the villages of Lower Shuckburgh and Flecknoe you will arrive at Braunston turn where you will join the Grand Union Canal once again. Taking another opportunity to stop in Braunston you may want to explore the Stop House, the original Toll Office between the Oxford Canal and the Grand Junction Canal or take the two minute walk on to the main street. Once through Braunston locks, the 2042yrd Braunston Tunnel awaits; this tunnel has a slight S bend due to a mistake during construction! For those with more time, moor at Welton Wharf (bridge 6) and take a ¾ walk in to the village where you will find the 400 year old White Horse Inn.
Arriving at Norton Junction and turning left on to the Grand Union Canal (Leicester section) you will meander for a mile before passing the back of the Watford Gap service area. Leave the noise and bustle of the motorway behind you or moor up and take advantage of the 24hr provisions accessible from the towpath.
After negotiating Watford Locks and reaching the summit level of 412ft, the canal continues at this level for the next 20 miles. A further hours cruising from here (5 in total from Braunston) and back through Crick Tunnel, you will be ready to moor up for the day. With so many pubs and stores in Crick this is an excellent place to stay and explore.
Leaving Crick and heading north you will pass Yelvertoft to the west, shortly after here there is an opportunity to moor at bridge 23 where you can take a mile long walk to the sleepy village of Winwick, where you will find a 16th-C Manor House. After around 3 hours cruising through open countryside you will meet Welford Junction. For those extending their holiday a detour to Welford may be in order. Welford has plenty to offer, with several pubs and supermarkets and a public footpath from the village which provides good views over the reservoir’s which supply the canal with water and their resident wildfowl.
This is your last full days cruising and you will need to allow a good 4 hours from Welford Junction to reach the Foxton Locks, the flight will take at least another hour to complete. North Kilworth is a small village which is accessible by bridge 45, just before Husbands Bosworth Tunnel and your last opportunity to purchase any supplies before the canal becomes more rural. Your last night and you may choose to return to the Marina and the Waterfront Restaurant, which is open until late or moor up in Foxton with its’ variety of pubs and restaurants.
The end of your holiday and a maximum of an hours cruise back to the Marina. If you have the time why not spend the rest of the day exploring Market Harborough, with lots to see, including a museum and a theatre.
Max: 4 People
Max: 7 People
Max: 6 People
Length: 66ft (63ft from Falkirk)
Max: 10 People