Canal Cruising Holiday Route Descriptions - 2017
Cruise 1 – Banbury to Coventry – Wed 26th April – 6 nights
26 locks, 55 miles, 1 tunnel
South Oxford Canal, Cropredy, The Summit level, Napton flight, Braunston, Hillmorton Locks, Newbold Tunnel, Hawkesbury Junction, Coventry Basin
We depart from Banbury and head north passing through intermittent locks to the historic village of Cropredy. A few locks closer together and a nice short flight at Claydon bring us to the summit of the Oxford Canal. As it twists and turns round the contours of the land we have views out over the surrounding farmland for many miles. This section is beautifully secluded as we avoid most signs of civilisation. In view of the white windmill at Napton the canal finally submits and descends through 9 locks to where it meets The Grand Union Canal. From here we cruise along a winding route through more scenic farmland towards the canal centre at Braunston, our arrival marked by the ornate black and white wrought iron bridge which crosses both routes we can take from here. After a nights interlude somewhere along the moorings and perhaps within walking distance of a pub, we turn and continue on the Northern oxford Canal through peaceful countryside to Hill Morton. We descend swiftly down the interesting and attractive paired locks here as both boats are able to descend side by side yet separately. Beyond we travel along straightened sections of canal which take us through Rugby winding its way towards Newbold Tunnel on the outskirts. Here you can see the occasional old iron bridge which marks the original route of the canal and makes many short branches and arms, some abandoned, some still in use as small boatyards or marinas. At Hawkesbury Junction, otherwise known as Sutton Stop, after the lock keeper that worked here for many years, we may make time for a quick pint in the Greyhound pub before we turn left under the fine black and white iron bridge and travel up The Coventry Canal. The rural scenery continues for several miles until we begin to approach the edges of Coventry. An art trail follows the towpath along here and the art installations make for added interest as we cruise. Eventually we reach the basin in the heart of Coventry, home to several small business an art gallery and a few colourful boats.
A nice easy going cruise, covering the entire length of The Oxford Canal. It is interesting to see the difference between the winding Southern canal and the straightened northern section. Lovely and rural for this time of year as the countryside begins to come to life.
Railway station - Arrival – Banbury (10min walk or 15 min taxi ride)
Departure – Coventry (20mins walk or 10 min taxi ride)
Parking - There is parking at the new multi-storey station car park in Banbury.
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Cruise 2 – Coventry to Stoke – Wed 3rd May – 8 nights
31 Locks, 70 miles, 1 tunnel
Coventry Basin, Coventry Canal, Hawkesbury Junction, Atherstone Locks, Fradley Junction, Trent & Mersey Canal, Great Haywood Junction, Stone, Etruria
We leave the basin in Coventry which is home to a number of small shops, business and an art gallery, and begin making our way along the canal towards the edge of the city. The canal here survived the bombing of Coventry during the blitz and when at risk of closure, was saved by volunteers who fought to keep it open. Our course passes many works of art which have been installed along the towpath to make an Art trail which adds much interest as we cruise from urban town to rural countryside, all the way to Hawkesbury junction. We may have time to enjoy a pint at the Greyhound Pub at Hawkesbury junction and to admire the ornate black and white iron bridge here, before we continue along The Coventry Canal towards Atherstone. The canal travels past old quarry’s, some used as far back as Roman times, which have now been transformed into nature reserves and at Harts Hill we have magnificent views across the Anker valley. The flight of locks at Atherstone ease our passage with their original hooks which allow us to use a block to get the butty moving out of the locks and at least one working side pound. Cruising through Farmland on a long lock free section which brings us past Polesworth and through pretty wooded sections we eventually descend 2 locks at Glascote and pass the junction at Fazeley where the canal continues through flat open countryside following the course of The River Tame for several miles with Hopwas Wood rising on the hill to the west and views over the Tame Valley to the East. The course of the canal then becomes much more meandering as it follows the contours of the land away from the river. This is a pretty secluded section with overgrowth on the towpath and limited places to moor before we encounter the busy hub of Fradley junction where we meet The Trent & Mersey Canal. Once we have negotiated the top half of the busy flight here we are once again in rural seclusion and greenery until we pass the Armitage Shanks factory, manufacturer of bathroom items named after this small town, and the larger town of Rugeley beyond. As we emerge back into the countryside again beyond Rugeley we can see Cannock chase up on the hill ahead, an ancient hunting ground and home to herds of deer. We can see the River Trent which winds it’s course close to ours accompanying us past Shugborough Hall and The Haywoods. It is just here that the locks begin again, interrupting our cruising as they are spread every miles or so, making for some lovely gentle walking for those wishing to stretch their legs. The gentle countryside continues to the pleasant market town of Stone which has become somewhat of a spiritual home to many boaters and as we climb up the flight of 4 locks on the edge of the town we pass 3 boatyards. Another flight of 4 locks at Meaford and 1 lonely lock mark our journey towards Stoke, where a spread flight welcomes us into Etruria and our mooring for the end of this cruise.
This cruise is peppered with lively canal junctions which thrive on the hustle and bustle of boats arriving from all directions. For anyone wanting to sample some good old English Pubs this is the perfect cruise! A popular route for avoiding going through Birmingham, it provides a surprisingly green and rural corridor.
Railway Station - Arrival – Coventry (20mins walk or 10 min taxi)
Departure – Stoke on Trent (20mins walk or 10 mins by taxi)
Parking - Secure parking for these locations is difficult to provide.
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Cruise 3 – Stoke to Chester – Sat 13th May – 9 nights
49 Locks, 45 miles, 1 tunnel
Etruria, Trent & Mersey Canal, Harecastle Tunnel, Cheshire paired locks, Middlewich Branch, Shropshire Union Canal, Bunbury Staircase, Beeston, Ellesmere Port Canal Museum, Chester
We begin this cruise in front of the statue of James Brindley in Etruria and begin making our way north along the Trent & Mersey as it makes its way through this industrial city and past the greenery of Festival Park. In a short space of time we arrive at the pleasant south portal of Harecastle Tunnel. At 3000yds this is one of the longest tunnels on the network and in places has the lowest headroom too! After a 45min cruise through the darkness we emerge at the north end. The water here is bright orange from the high iron ore content of the earth. No time to rest up we very quickly begin our descent into the Cheshire Locks. 26 locks scattered over 6.5 miles they take us over a day to complete. Originally all were paired. Many fell into misuse over the years but those that were viable have now been restored and offer a lot of enjoyment as both boats can navigate through the paired locks in a tandem dance. Below the locks the canal meanders for a while before reaching Middlewich through several intermittent locks. A sharp left turn and a lock bring us onto the Middlewich branch of The Shropshire Union Canal which winds its way through the outskirts of Middlewich before reaching open countryside in just a few miles. We cross the River Weaver by aqueduct and have superb views of the river and Winsford Top Flash below. The countryside here rolls ahead of us and the canal follows the contours, making 4 rises through locks that are spaced out along the length of this canal. A busy route connecting the two north and south canals the locks here often have short queues and its hard to be in much of a hurry! At Barbridge Junction we join The Main Shropshire Union Canal and turn right to begin making our way north towards Chester. Now a wide canal the locks we encounter welcome both boats in one go and at Bunbury we descend the staircase and a further 5 intermittent locks beyond which bring us through pretty wooded scenery. Where the farmland opens up there are long stretches of moored boats on the offside. Beeston Castle is an imposing landmark on its rocky outcrop. Finally we arrive on the outskirts of the city and a series of locks bring us down to the level of the centre where we pass alongside the roman city walls. We descend the dramatic and deep staircase locks and for this cruise continue all the way up to The Canal Museum at Ellesmere Port where there should be time to explore and enjoy before we turn and head back towards our mooring just a short distance away from the old dry dock.
From one industrial heartland to another! This cruise has lots for those passionate about the canals – A long tunnel, paired locks, a wide staircase lock and the Canal Museum. With lovely rural scenery to enjoy along the way what more could you ask for!
Railway Station - Arrival – Stoke on Trent (20 mins walk or 10 min taxi)
Departure - Chester (20 min walk or 10 min taxi)
Parking - Secure Parking for these locations is difficult to provide
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Cruise 4 – Chester to Llangollen – Tue 23rd May – 8 nights
35 Locks 63 Miles, 3 tunnels and 2 aqueducts
Chester, The Shropshire Union Canal, Chester & Bunbury Staircase Locks, The Llangollen Canal, Chirk Tunnel & Aqueduct, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Llangollen
From our mooring below the city we immediately rise up the imposing staircase locks and under the roman city walls, cruising short distances to the 5 locks beyond which bring us up out of the heart of this historic city. We emerge into Cheshire countryside with views of Beeston Castle, ahead, un-missable on its rocky outcrop. There is such pretty scenery as we rise through a further five infrequent locks before Bunbury staircase and our last stretch of wide canal past Barbridge Junction, which brings us to Hurleston and the junction of The Llangollen Canal where we ascend the flight of four locks in heavy crosswinds. We cruise through farmland, and infrequent locks and lift bridges to the flight at Grindley Brook and its steep three lock staircase where the lockkeepers ensure the smooth flow of traffic. We pass through gentle countryside, and wooden lift bridges, of a design more typical in Holland. We cruise alongside Wixhall Moss, Britain’s 3rd largest upland bog and have pretty views out across Shropshire’s Lake District before mooring in the adorable small town of Ellesmere. Beyond we cruise along sections of canal with views far out over rural farmland and pass the staircase lock at Frankton and the junction with The Montgomery Canal. North of here we pass through the last locks at New Martin. The aqueduct at Chirk marks the beginning of some spectacular scenery and our last entry, of many, into Wales. Through the long Chirk Tunnel we eventually reach the climax of this cruise. The famous landmark of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct stands 120ft and crosses the expanse of the Dee Valley to lead us up the pretty, narrow and shallow stretch along the side of the valley to the tourist town of Llangollen itself. There is time to explore, maybe take a trip on the steam railway or sit and enjoy a drink looking out over the white waters of the Dee river.
The Llangollen certainly has the wow factor and is ideal for anyone’s first canal, or even to do again and again. It is an ideal choice for those wanting to walk or wander the towpath as much as it is for those who like to stay on board. With The Anderton Lift thrown in this cruise really does have it all.
Railway Station - Arrival – Northwich or Hartford (both 5 mins by taxi)
Departure – Ruabon (15 min by car or bus)
Parking - may be available at Llangollen or at a boatyard near Northwich but a 15 minute taxi ride away)
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Cruise 5 – Llangollen to Nantwich – Thu 1st June – 8 nights
61 miles, 31 locks, 3 tunnels, 4 aqueducts
Llangollen Canal, Llangollen, Dee Valley, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Chirk Aqueduct, Chirk Tunnel, Montgomery Canal, Meres at Ellesmere, Elizabethan Nantwich
Our first morning is spent making our way along the sides of the Dee Valley, down the narrow and shallow upper stretch of this canal. We eventually arrive at Trevor Basin and turn to cross The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. 120ft above the Valley floor on what is possibly Telford’s finest piece of Engineering. Continuing along the other side of the Valley before crossing the watershed into the Cerriog valley through Whitehouse tunnel and then the long dark Chirk tunnel. Chirk aqueduct runs parallel to the arches of the viaduct and is our first crossing of the Welsh Border into England. New Martin signals the first locks of this cruise and through the softer contours of England we progress down to Frankton where we join the Montgomery Canal to enjoy the peaceful surroundings of this completely rural canal. There are strict limits on the number of boats allowed into this area to ensure the local array of flora and fauna are not disturbed. We can explore the newly opened section of this canal on foot, beyond Maesbury which takes us to within just a few hundred yards of the welsh border and the unrestored miles to Welshpool. We work our way back up to the Llangollen main line and cruise to the small town of Ellesmere and past the Meres, formed in the ice age which fringe the canals route. From here we pass through the upland bog of Whixall Moss before passing through several lift bridges of a design more commonly seen in Holland. Gentle, rolling countryside brings us to the triple staircase lock at Grindley Brook with its canal side shop. From here we descend for the last part of the Llangollen Canal through flat Cheshire farmland to Hurleston junction. Here we turn right onto the wider course of The Shropshire Union and travel the short distance to Nantwich.
The Llangollen has it all and this cruise includes one of our favourites, the beautifully secluded Montgomery Canal. This is a great choice for anyone, walkers and watchers alike.
Railway Station - Arrival – Ruabon (15 min by car or bus)
- Departure – Nantwich (5 min by car) or Crewe (15 min by car)
Parking - is available at Llangollen or Nantwich Canal basin
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Cruise 6 – Nantwich to Northwich – Sat 10th June – 7 nights
18 Locks, 72 miles,
Nantwich, Shropshire Union Canal, Middlewich Branch, Trent & Mersey Canal, The Flashes, Anderton Lift, The River Weaver, Vale Royal Cut, Manchester Ship Canal Views, Winsford, Northwich
Setting off from the embankment that skirts the edge of this Elizabethan town we travel north on the Shropshire Union Canal, through rich Cheshire farmland, past the junctions with the Llangollen at Hurleston and turning on to the Middlewich branch at Barbridge. Four infrequent locks bring us through quiet and remote countryside on this much underrated link canal to the Trent and Mersey. The canal crosses the River Weaver by aqueduct and offers superb views over the river and of Winsford Top Flash. At Middlewich we negotiate a series of 4 narrow locks and one wide barge lock on the first section of The Trent & Mersey Canal and cruise north, following the delightful valley of The River Dane. We cruise through what used to be an industrial landscape and is now surprisingly scenic. Salt mining dominated this area for centuries and is the reason for the canal’s and Northwich’s development. Open flashes are scattered along the canal at points and offer tranquil scenes of calm with the odd part of a sunken narrowboat visible above the waterline, for many boats were sent here at the end of their useful lives. The flashes have become havens for wildlife and this pretty section continues until we arrive at the top of the Anderton lift ready for our booked time to descend the 50ft to The River Weaver. Known as The Cathedral of the Canals this wrought iron feat of engineering was built in 1875 to connect the Canal to the Weaver Navigation and is a ‘must see’ for any canal enthusiast. Once on the weaver we can fully appreciate the amazing structure and we have the remaining time of this cruise to explore this waterway all the way down to its junction with The Manchester Ship Canal where we may see large ferries or ships making their way inland. As we turn and make our way back upstream all the way to the Rivers highest navigable point at Winsford there is some stunning scenery, beautifully contrasted with the industrial surroundings of its lower section. Steep, wooded valley sides provide for some beautiful scenes, particularly along the Vale Royal Cut and through The Belt, a wonderfully peaceful section where no roads or houses intrude on the secluded rural setting. Our final mooring is in view of Town bridge at Northwich.
A really lovely and relaxed cruise with few canal locks, stunning scenery, leading into one of the prettiest rivers we feature. Not perhaps ideal for walking, but not to be missed if you fancy a week of total R & R.
Railway station - Arrival - Nantwich (5 min by taxi) or Crewe (15 min by taxi)
Departure – Northwich (15 min walk or 5 min by taxi) OR Hartford (15 min walk or 5 min taxi)
Parking - Parking may be available at Nantwich Canal Basin or Anderton Boats (15min taxi ride from Northwich)
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Cruise 7 – Northwich to Liverpool – Mon 19th June – 8 nights
82 miles, 15 locks, 6 tunnels, 1 boat lift and 1 aqueduct
The Anderton Boat Lift, The Trent & Mersey, Preston Brook & Dalton Tunnels, The Bridgewater Canal, Barton Swing Aqueduct, Worsley, The Leigh Branch, The Leeds & Liverpool Canal, The Leeds & Liverpool Link, Liverpool Docks.
From Northwich we quickly arrive at The Anderton Boat Lift, The Cathedral of the Canals, a wrought iron feat of engineering. Built in 1875 to connect the Canal to the Weaver Navigation, 50ft below it is a ‘must see’ for any canal enthusiast. Above and on The Canal we begin our journey north along The Trent & Mersey Canal, with views over the River Weaver below. We pass through 3 tunnels in quick succession, Preston Brook being the longest before arriving on The Bridgewater Canal which brings us swiftly into Manchester. At Waters Meet we continue towards Worsley and soon pass across the Barton Swing Aqueduct, a movable feat of engineering, built to carry the Canal over the Manchester Ship Canal which cuts it’s way into the heart of England’s 3rd city. Once a bustling waterway the canal is much less used today but still sees some commercial traffic, the ferries which offer trips up and down and the odd adventurous narrowboat convoy. Worsley marks the historic start of the English canal network and you can see the entrance for the Duke of Bridgewater’s underground mines. From here we head towards Leigh where we seamlessly join the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and head for Wigan. Through a countryside restored from mined land onto an embankment built to account for subsidence. We pass through several locks while negotiating Wigan and it’s famous pier before arriving in the more rural Douglas Valley. From Burscough to the original terminus of the Canal we have a lock free 24 miles through open countryside to start with before entering Liverpool’s suburbs, past Aintree Race Course. We descend 4 locks down at Stanley Dock and make our way through a series of connected docks, tunnels and 2 more locks, which make up The newly opened Liverpool Link, before mooring in Salthouse Dock.
This cruise meanders its way through an industrial heartland featuring many architectural highlights. Some rural scenery to be had but this is all about big wow features, both old and new.
Railway station - Arrival – Northwich or Hartford (both 5 mins by taxi)
Departure – Liverpool Lime Street (10 mins by taxi)
Parking - is available just outside Northwich.
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Cruise 8 – Liverpool to Manchester – Wed 28th June – 7 nights
58 miles, 26 locks, 4 tunnels,
Liverpool, Liverpool Canal Link, The Leeds & Liverpool Canal, The Leigh Branch, Worsley, The Bridgewater Canal, The Barton Swing Aqueduct, Manchester.
Leaving Salthouse Dock we travel through a series of connected docks and tunnels collectively called the Liverpool Canal link. We cruise past the Royal Liver Building in view of the River Mersey on the left and perhaps a cruise liner at the central dock. At Stanley Dock we make our way up 4 locks to arrive onto the Leeds and Liverpool Canal which takes us out of this bustling city, travelling through several suburbs and the famous Aintree Race Course and Beeches Brook before emerging into open countryside. We have a long lock free section down the Douglas valley and into Wigan, past the famous pier. We negotiate several locks and cruise along an embankment designed to counter subsidence and head for Leigh where the canal seamlessly becomes the Bridgewater Canal and takes us to Worsley, where the beginnings of English Canal heritage can be seen at the entrance to The Duke of Bridgewater’s Underground mines here. The Bridgewater canal takes us south and we cross over the Barton Swing Aqueduct and movable feat of engineering, built to carry the canal over the Manchester Ship Canal as it cut it’s way into the heart of the city, but which can swing out of the way to allow ships and other tall vessels through. At waters Meet we turn and make our way further towards the city centre, eventually arriving at Castlefield Basin, the historic hub of the canals in the city, before making our way up the Rochdale 9 and ending this cruise around Piccadilly or Dale Street Basin.
As Cruise 7, this isn’t a cruise about scenery but rather the wow factor. It is shorter than Cruise 7 and misses a few tunnels and the lift but Manchester provides for some fascinating history and interesting insight into the inner city regeneration surrounding the canals here! The successful blend of old and new around Castlefield Basin is good to see.
Railway station - Arrival - Liverpool Lime Street (10 mins by taxi)
Departure – Manchester Piccadilly (5-10min walk)
Parking - Unfortunately Parking is not easily found for this cruise.
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Cruise 9 – Manchester to Sowerby Bridge – Thu 6th July – 7 nights
31 miles, 82 wide locks
The Rochdale Canal, The Pennines, Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, The Calder Valley, Tuel Lane Lock
Leaving Manchester from our mooring we begin at lock 10 of The Rochdale through cast iron bridges and impressive old cotton mills. The first of 3 Pennine crossings this canal was built to carry payloads of coal, grain, salt, wool and cotton ‘over the top’. It takes 92 locks from its start point at castle Quay in Manchester to its junction with the Calder & Hebble at Sowerby Bridge, most of these only a short distance apart, making this canal slow with little respite. The work however is well worth it for the stunning views of the surrounding hills. As we leave Manchester, Sections of Canal between Failsworth and Littleborough are designated SSSI due to rare aquatic plants and white clawed crayfish. We are soon confronted with a more rural setting and The Pennines come into full view at Slattock. We skirt the town of Rochdale past the derelict arm which once served this town. Leaving Rochdale and the valley bottom behind the canal heads up into open woodland and onto the summit pound, giving very brief respite before descending towards Todmorden with magnificent views in front and behind. Passing Todmorden we travel through ancient deciduous woodland as the canal hugs the narrow Calder valley bottom and over Black Pitt Aqueduct which crosses us over the Hebble & Calder. From Hebden Bridge we cruise through a scene of tiny stone walled fields and stone homesteads down to Sowerby Bridge, our destination for this cruise.
The Rochdale Canal and the area it cruises is a gem in the northern crown. Surrounded by built up towns and cities it offers some remarkably stunning scenery, different to anything you can see on our other routes. Great for walkers, lockers and enthusiasts.
Adventurous Route! We always endeavour to provide the best cruise possible for our guests but we feel it only fair to point out that there is a chance that due to the poor state of repair of this canal we may have to use an alternative route or start/end location.
Railway station - Arrival – Manchester Piccadilly (5-10min walk)
Departure – Sowerby Bridge (short taxi ride or 10 min walk)
Parking - is available at Sowerby Bridge
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Cruise 10 – Sowerby Bridge to Whaley Bridge – Sat 15th July – 10 nights
58 miles, 82 wide locks, 34 narrow locks, 5 aqueducts, 2 tunnels
The Rochdale Canal, Tuel lane Lock, Hebden Bridge, Todmorden, The Pennines, The Upper & Lower Peak Forest Canals, The Marple Flight, Goyt Valley,Peak District, Bugsworth Basin
The first of 3 Pennine crossing, the Rochdale Canal was built to carry payloads of coal, grain, salt, wool and cotton ‘over the top’. It takes 92 locks from its start point at Castle Quay in Manchester to its junction with the Calder & Hebble at Sowerby Bridge. We start this cruise at the Wharf in Sowerby Bridge and almost immediately find ourselves going up one lock which brings us into the imposing structure of Tuel lane lock, the deepest lock on the UK network, where the depth of 2 locks were merged in order to navigate under the road when the canal was restored. Some gentle cruising and a few intermittent locks brings us through Luddenden Foot and eventually to the boho centre of Hebden Bridge, known for its creative culture. Established as a hippy hideout in the 1960’s it is now a very desirable and trendy place to reside, given its easy rail links with Manchester. Organic cafes and earthy boutiques line the high street as it nestles in the steep sided Pennine valley. Continue towards the summit of this canal, winding our way along a narrow valley with steep sides and vegetation. This is a stunning part of the country and makes for some very unusual and magnificent canal scenery. Todmorden aims to be entirely self sufficient for food by 2020 and has vegetable patches at bus stops and in parks, available for passers by and members of the community. You may even be lucky enough to spot a famous face as this has become somewhat of a retreat for some celebs. As we cross the summit pound of just 1 mile length, we are given little respite from the seemingly never ending locks which feature on this canal. We are never far away from a house or two as they dot along the canal and the nearby road which both make their way along the valley between the peaks but the boating is lonely as few boats bother making it this far up. We descend towards Littleborough through woodland and an SSSI. Slattock and finally the town of Rochdale where the urban sprawl begins to encroach. There is a rural break before we enter Manchester and make our way towards the centre and join the Ashton Canal to begin making our way back out but to the East. At Portland Basin Canal museum we can see the wooden boat society, who raise fund to preserve and restore old wooden working boats. The Lower Peak Forest Canal cruises us out of the city at last and a much more rural surrounding. At Marple we have 16 locks to climb, with the locks getting less deep and the pounds closer together until we reach the top on the other side of the town. The final part of our journey along The Upper Peak Forest is in view of rolling hills and countryside until we finally arrive in Whaley Bridge, after a short exploration of Bugsworth Basin, the transhipment terminus which has been carefully restored with its many alcoves and wharves.
The Rochdale Canal is a gem in the northern crown. Surrounded by built up towns and cities it offers some remarkably stunning scenery, different to anything you can see on our other routes. Great for walkers, lockers and enthusiasts. But do be aware that there are 2 days cruising through Manchester – but the contrast makes you appreciate the pretty bits all the more!
Adventurous Route! We always endeavour to provide the best cruise possible for our guests but we feel it only fair to point out that there is a chance that due to the poor state of repair and water supply issues on The Rochdale Canal we may have to use an alternative route or start/end location.
Railway station - Arrival – Hebden Bridge (5 minute walk)
Departure – Whaley bridge (3 minute walk)
Parking - is available at Sowerby Bridge.
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Cruise 11 – Whaley Bridge to Stoke – Wed 26th July – 9 nights
81 miles, 34 locks, 2 tunnel, 4 aqueducts
Bugsworth Basin, Upper Peak Forest Canal, Macclesfield Canal, Goyt Valley, Bosley Flight, Harecastle Tunnel, The Trent & Mersey Canal, The Caldon Canal, Consall Forge, Churnet Valley, The Leek Branch.
Our first night on this cruise will be spent at the atmospheric Bugsworth basin, the transhipment terminus which has been carefully restored with it’s many alcoves and wharves. We then make our way along the Goyt valley with magnificent views of the Peak district around us, to Marple where we turn left to avoid the flight 16 locks and cruise instead along The Macclesfield Canal. The turnover bridges on this waterway are a unique and attractive feature. At Bollington we cross the valley on a stone aqueduct and continue past the houses built in the local grey stone towards Macclesfield, which we skirt. The scenery is secluded and peaceful, with wooded sections interchanging with open farmland just the other side of the hedgerows which follow the towpath until we reach the 12 locks at Bosley, the only flight of locks with split gates top and bottom. As we rise in the locks we are overlooked by the hill known as ‘The Cloud’ and beyond, the timber framed Moreton Hall and folly of Mow Cop. Each lock here has a cast iron bridge at the tail of the lock with grooves worn into the underside from the hauling lines of horse boats and buttys over the years. Some stunning views can be seen from the Porters Farm Aqueduct near Congleton. A shallow stop lock, once the separation between different canal company waters, brings us to the junction with The Trent & Mersey where we make a sharp right turn and join the queue for Harecastle Tunnel. At 3000yds long and narrow boats must take turns to navigate in each direction. We emerge in Stoke and make our way the short distance to Etruria where we climb the staircase locks onto The Caldon Canal and begin making our way out of Stoke past old Bottle Kilns and new development. Beyond Milton we emerge into rolling countryside and climb the 5 locks of Stockton Brook which bring us into lovely pleasant farmland. At Hazelhurst junction the canal splits and we descend the 3 locks here and cruise to Cheddleton and past the old flint mill. 2 locks here and a further 3 attractive and isolated locks bring us to the valley floor and we cruise alongside and eventually on The River Churnet. The scenery of this section is stunning and unspoilt with thickly wooded valley sides encroaching to the canal. The Churnet Valley Steam Railway should be running as we boat on Wednesday and our journey along this beautiful valley is accompanied by the wonderful sound of the steam whistle. We boat just beyond Consall Forge to Flint Lock, parallel with the railway, cruising underneath the platform at one point. We must turn in the last 70ft winding hole, just 1 mile shy of the terminus at Froghall. We rise back up the locks along this branch and at Hazelhurst junction turn onto The Leek Branch which offers another stunning and secluded canal as we see the Churnet Valley from higher up. As we emerge from Leek Tunnel we are surrounded by rolling countryside and some of the best scenery of the network. From here we must turn and make our way back along the canal into Stoke.
This cruise is perfect for keen walkers, wanderers and scenery lovers alike with frequent places to get on and off and the opportunity to spend some time enjoying the Peak District before or after.
Railway Station - Arrival – Whaley Bridge (2 min walk)
Departure – Stoke (short taxi ride)
Parking - secure parking is difficult to find for these locations
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Cruise 12 – Stoke to Nottingham – Sat 5th August – 9 nights
86 miles, 72 locks, 6 aqueducts
River Trent, Shardlow, Trent and Mersey Canal, Fradley Junction, Cannock Chase.
From our mooring in Etruria we turn onto the Mainline of The Trent & Mersey Canal and make our way down the few locks which take us out of the city. A lock free section, broken by just one Lock, brings us through to Meaford and the 4 locks here, as we arrive onto the edge of Stone. Another 4 locks bring us down through the town passing this bustling canal centre and its famous Star Inn. Beyond the canal is very peaceful and remote, although the addition of a large marina has added a few boats to the usual traffic. Intermittent locks bring us to Great Haywood and the junction of the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal. Continuing on the Trent & Mersey we pass Shugborough Hall, home to Lord Lichfield and cruise through a scenic wooded landscape and more intermittent locks. At Cannock Chase there is the ancient hunting ground, home to herds of fallow deer who have roamed for centuries and the skyline is marked by the not so attractive mark of Rugeley Power Station. The River Trent is never far away and it’s quiet countryside until we reach Fradley Junction, always busy with boats and people at The Swann Inn, the most photographed pub on the network, where we continue straight past the Coventry Canal junction, staying on the Trent & Mersey. The pretty village of Alrewas with its Georgian brick houses marks some very pretty sections of canal and open fields and meadows. The aroma of brewing, malt and hops heralds our arrival at Burton-on-Trent, where you can sample a pint under the guise of an ‘educational tour’ of a brewery if you like. We carry on along the Trent Valley past hamlets and villages before arriving at the canalside settlement of Shardlow with its largescale canal architecture, wharves and an 18th century mill and clock warehouse. One last lock brings us to The point where the canal merges with The River Derwent and The River Trent, a vast and exposed expanse of water, a narrowboat can on occasion feel a little overwhelmed by strong winds and the width of the water here, but we soon gain our bearings once more as we climb the locks on The Erewash Canal and spend some time navigating up and down this industrial waterway, before returning to the River where we can really begin to enjoy the new river scenery, a contrast to the previous canal surroundings. The River Trent Meanders gently along it’s course and going downstream we arrive in the city of Nottingham on the Beeston cut which brings us into the heart of the city here.
Railway station - Arrival – Nottingham
Departure – Stone
Parking - is available at Stone, a bus/train/taxi ride away from Stoke,
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Cruise 13 – Nottingham to Market Harborough – Tue 15th August – 7 nights
57 miles, 46 locks, 1 tunnel, 1 aqueduct
Market Harborough Arm, Grand Union Leicester Arm, Foxton locks, River Soar, Leicester, River Trent, Nottingham
The Beeston cut carries us out of the heart of this vibrant modern city until we arrive onto the Navigable part of the river again. The Trent winds through flat land passing the village of Barton in Fabis and past picturesque Barton island situated in the centre of the river. After meandering our way upstream we eventually reach the point where The River Soar meets the River Trent, and we turn onto this smaller and more intimate waterway and lock up onto Cranfleet Cut. We go up Kegworth Deep Lock and head towards Kegworth, passing through a Willow lined reach passing a maze of shallow and weedy backwaters. The church at Normanton stands proud on the banks of the river visible from miles away. We enjoy rural seclusion passing charmingly small settlements such as Normanton-on-Soar and Ratcliffe-on-Soar. Scattered Locks bring us towards Loughborough through open countryside. High reed banks and park land mark our entry into Leicester at the North of the city, and Watermead Country Park, a favourite spot for joggers, dog walkers and cyclists, makes for pleasant cruising. The navigation cuts right into the centre of the ancient city of Leicester with evidence of Roman buildings just a stones throw away. As we leave we cruise sections of river navigation interspersed with straighter canal and beyond this, intermittent locks, making this a good section for walking. 5 locks bring us out into countryside once again and we continue to cruise along this scenic river course to Saddington Tunnel (880yds). A hilly landscape brings us to the foot of the locks at Foxton where we can spend some time exploring the locks as well as the remains of the Inclined Plane Boat lift which once worked here. There are stunning views over the surrounding landscape from the top. The Market Harborough arm takes us the last leg of our journey to the basin in this market town.
Two very contrasting rivers. The Trent is much wider and imposing than the scenic meandering course of the River Soar and it’s manual locks. Not a great cruise for walking, but with lots to keep a scenery lover entertained.
Railway station - Arrival – Nottingham (3 min walk)
Departure – Market Harborough (short taxi ride)
Parking - may be available at Market Harborough
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Cruise 14 – Market Harborough to Warwick – Wed 23rd August – 9 nights
78 miles, 64 locks, 5 tunnels and 6 small aqueducts
Grand Union Canal Leicester Arm, Foxton Staircase Locks, Husbands Bosworth Tunnel, Welford Arm, Crick Tunnel, Watford Staircase Locks, Grand Union Canal, Stoke Bruerne, Braunston Tunnel, Braunston, Stockton Locks, Bascote Staircase Lock, Warwick
We leave our mooring in the canal basin of Market Harborough and cruise a lock free 5 mile section through to the bottom of the staircase locks at Foxton. Using a combination of 2 sets of 5 locks built as staircases we climb 75ft in just a few hundred yards with views over Leicestershire stretching out behind us. Whilst here there is time to look around the museum and the site of the old incline plain, that used to be an alternative to the time consuming bottleneck of the staircase locks. There are plans to restored this to working order but there has been little progress thus far due to difficulties in funding. From the top of the locks we cruise to and through Husbands Bosworth Tunnel (1166yards) and begin a winding course along the canals summit as it follows the gentle contours of this farming area. For several hours of cruising we there are open fields backed by wooded hills, avoiding civilisation. Crick tunnel (1528yards) marks the end of this winding route and at the triple staircase of Watford we descend from the summit. Shortly after we arrive at Norton Junction and turning right begin our detour along the Grand Union mainline. Accompanied by Motorway, Railway and Roman road for a few miles this valley was a natural route to London. Passing through the village of Weedon we cross the River Nene and enter an agricultural landscape. Blisworth tunnel is 3057yds long, the 3rd longest canal tunnel in Britain. Exiting brings us to the National Waterways Museum at Stoke Bruerne before we turn round and travel back through Blisworth Tunnel and emerge on the other side into an agricultural landscape. We cross the River Nene and pass through the village of Weedon and for a few miles are accompanied along the valley by motorway, railway and roman road on what was a natural route to London. At Long Buckby we rise 7 locks into wooded countryside before cruising through another long tunnel at Braunston. This canal town is arguably the spiritual home of canal boating, having had many a historic cruise begin here. At Braunston Turn we continue on the Grand Union to Napton Junction and Calcutt locks beyond. The scenic flight at Stockton beings us down past a number of restored working boats and out to Bascote staircase lock. Beyond there are intermittent locks spread through lush countryside to bring us towards the spa town of Royal Leamington Spa and Warwick beyond.
Feats of engineering galore in this lovely rural cruise. Staircase locks and tunnels are standout features but there is some beautiful, gentle cruising in between to contrast from all that excitement.
Railway Station - Arrive - Market Harborough (short taxi ride)
Departure – Warwick parkway or Town (short taxi rides)
Parking - There is secure car parking at Warwick and may be at Market Harborough.
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Cruise 15 – Warwick to Warwick – Mon 4th September – 10 nights
99.5 miles, 51 wide locks, 32 narrow locks, 3 tunnels, 7 aqueducts
Grand Union Canal, Stockton Flight, Braunston, North Oxford Canal, Hill Morton paired locks, Sutton Stop, Coventry Canal, Anker Valley, Atherstone Flight, Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, Hatton Flight, Warwick
We leave Warwick and make our way towards Leamington Spa. This canal is wide and a good depth and we make good speed as we rise up through the Foss locks crossing under the Roman road. Stockton & Calcutt locks bring us up to the level which takes us all the way through Braunston and peaceful countryside to Hill Morton on The North Oxford Canal. We descend swiftly down Hill Morton’s paired locks before travelling along a straightened section of canal which takes us through Rugby winding its way towards Newbold Tunnel on the outskirts. Here you can see the occasional old iron bridge which marks the original route of the canal, before we reach Hawkesbury Junction, otherwise known as Sutton Stop. A quick pint in the Greyhound pub before we turn under the fine black and white iron bridge and travel up The Coventry Canal towards Atherstone. The canal travels past old quarry’s, some used as far back as Roman times, which have now been transformed into nature reserves and at Harts Hill we have magnificent views across the Anker valley. The flight of locks at Atherstone ease our passage with their original hooks which allow us to use a block to get the butty moving out of the locks and at least one working side pound. At Fazeley junction we turn and head through quiet and attractive open farmland. Flooded gravel pits have attracted much wildlife before we finally reach the outskirts of Birmingham. Through Salford and Bordesley junctions we then head back out of Birmingham on The Grand Union Canal which takes us down towards Knowle. Our final obstacle before we reach Warwick is the flight of 21 at Hatton with views over the castle and city of Warwick from the top and a swift descent through its wide locks. Please be aware this cruise may be done in the reverse direction.
This cruise has the convenience of being a single centre route with secure car parking facilities. It also has lots of interest and variation with wide, narrow and paired locks; Industrial Birmingham contrasted with beautiful Warwickshire countryside.
Arrival - Arrive & Depart - Warwick Parkway or Town (short taxi rides)
Parking - There is secure car parking available at Warwick
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Cruise 16 – Warwick to Worcester – Fri 15th September – 7 nights
45 miles, 99 locks, 4 tunnels of 2.5 miles in total, 3 small aqueducts
Warwick, Grand Union Canal, Hatton Flight, Kingswood Junction, North Stratford Canal, Guilltine Lock, Worcester & Birmingham canal, Wasthills Tunnel, Tardebigge, Droitwich Canal, River Severn, Worcester
From our peaceful mooring on The Saltisford Arm we cruise a short distance to our first lock and the start of 21 which make up The Hatton flight. From the top we have great views behind of the city of Warwick and its famous castle. Beyond Shrewley Tunnel we arrive at Kingswood Junction where we detour onto the Northern Stratford Canal and take the opportunity to soak up some of the atmosphere and architecture at this lovely junction. The Lapworth flight brings us up through locks that are bunched close together before they begin to stretch further apart and the countryside opens out around us. A long lock free stretch winds through the suburbs of Birmingham before taking us under the imposing Guillotine Lock, no longer in use, but which used to mark the exchange of water from one canal company to another. and the junction with The Worcester & Birmingham Canal where we turn left and immediately begin cruising a series of 3 tunnels. It takes us 40 minutes to cruise the 2726yrds back into daylight at Wasthills but a little less for the others at Shortwood and Tardebigge. Out of suburbia and into lovely open countryside and the top of the Tardebigge flight. This wonderful collection of locks is the longest flight in the country at 29 and will take us half a day in total as we gradually descend over 2 miles with stunning and far reaching views ahead of us. These locks are a favourite for many keen canal goers (including me!) and the regular rhythm at each lock is enjoyable and provides some good dinner table conversation. A brief interlude at The Queens Head gives us an opportunity to quench our thirst before continuing through yet more locks which bring us even further down. We descend a total of 300ft in just 5 miles over 41 locks. Coppices, woodland and farmland surround us before we reach the junction with the Droitwich Canal at Hanbury where we turn and make our way along this restored canal which, having only re-opened in 2011 is the newest restored canal on the network. 7 narrow locks bring us into Droitwich Town centre where we meet the Barge canal and are finally welcomed into wide locks where both boats can be accommodated side by side. The last stretch on this canal through 8 Barge locks and 7 miles, is very pretty and eventually we reach the River Severn for the final few miles of this cruise, which bring us past the Cathedral and finally up the locks at Diglis and into the shelter of the Basin here.
Enough locks spread through several flights to keep crew and willing guests happy, but also nice long stretches of scenery and canal features which offer interest in between. The restored Droitwich Canals are an obvious highlight for keen canal goers
Railway station - Arrive - Worcester Shrub Hill or Foregate Street (short taxi rides)
Depart - Warwick Parkway or Town (short taxi rides), Leamington Spa
Parking - Secure parking available at Warwick or at a boatyard near Worcester (short taxi ride away)
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Cruise 17 – Worcester to Stratford – Sat 23rd September – 7 nights
50 miles, 112 narrow locks, 5 tunnels of 2.5 miles in total, 2 aqueducts
Worcester, Worcester & Birmingham Canal, Tardebigge, Wasthills Tunnel, Guillotine Lock, Stratford Canal, Kingswood Junction, Lapworth flight, Forest of Arden, Wilmcote Flight, Stratford
We leave our convenient mooring in Diglis Basin and a series of intermittent locks bring us through the city and towards its edge. We spend the first half of this cruise climbing to the higher ground that marks the Midlands. Beyond 6 locks at Offerton we reach Dunhampstead Tunnel, the first of several on this cruise. We pass coppices, woods and farmland, passing the junction with the Droitwich Canal which is due to reopen in 2011. After climbing the seven locks at Astwood and the 6 locks at Stoke we have a short break before the 29 locks of Tardebigge. We find ourselves 300ft higher up in just five miles, with good views out over Worcestershire from the top. Tardebigge and Shortwood Tunnels take us through open countryside before the 2726yd long tunnel at Wasthills. At Kings Norton junction we take a right turn under the Guillotine Lock, no longer in use, but which used to mark the exchange of water from one canal company to another. A long lock free cruising section winds its way through the suburbs of Birmingham, following the green corridor the canal provides for this urban area, before we emerge into lovely countryside. The Lapworth flight begins slowly with intermittent locks before they begin to bunch closer and eventually we descend the very short pounds which bring us to the lovely characterful Kingswood Junction where we hopefully have time to soak up the quaint architecture here. Beyond, we find a very pretty waterway, a delight with its unique split bridges, barrel roofed lock keepers cottages and the narrow cast iron aqueducts which take us over country lanes, streams and a railway line. We cruise through the Forest of Arden into the land of Shakespeare passing through wealthy Warwickshire villages. There are plenty of locks to keep us on our toes and plenty of walking opportunities if people so wish. Our final destination will be the bustling heart of Stratford at Bancroft Basin. Stratford is a wonderful town, full of energy, history and, of course, anything Shakespeare.
This cruise has lots of canal features for enthusiasts and enough locks to keep any lock lover happy. Scenery lovers will also be happy. Both canals are full of character, interest and picturesque scenery!
Railway station - Arrival - Stratford on Avon (10min walk or 5 min by car)
- Departure - Worcester (5 min by car)
Parking - We may be able to arrange secure parking at Worcester.
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Cruise 18 – Stratford to Banbury – Mon 2nd October – 8 nights
58 miles 103 locks 3 aqueducts 1 tunnel
Stratford-on-Avon, Stratford Canal, Forest of Arden, Wilmcote, Kingswood Junction, Grand Union Canal, Hatton flight, Napton locks, South Oxford Canal, The Summit level, Claydon, Cropredy
Having soaked up the atmosphere of Stratford we travel up the canal with its cast iron aqueducts, barrel roofed cottages, and split bridges. Pretty scenery accompanies us through a selection of exclusive Warwickshire villages, such as Wilmcote, location of Mary Arden’s House and the Forest of Arden. Many and frequent locks provide good opportunities for stretching your legs and although a helping hand is always welcome there is no obligation to help as the crew take the boats through the narrow locks. At Kingswood junction, just before the full flight of Lapworth we turn on to The Grand Union Canal and head towards Warwick. After a short time in open farmland we make our way through the short Shrewley Tunnel and continue to the 21 wide locks of Hatton. As we descend we have views over the town and countryside below. The Grand Union canal is wide and a good depth, having been the motorway to London in its heyday and we swiftly cruise through Leamington Spa and rise up The Foss locks crossing under the well known Roman road. The flights at Stockton and Calcutt bring us to Napton junction where we can see the windmill of Napton Hill for the first time. We ascend the flight of nine locks at Napton and once on the summit the canal slowly meanders its way across the rolling patchwork countryside with the best views to be had from the towpath. Eventually the canal submits to the landscape and drops down the five locks at Claydon to the pretty village of Cropredy. Passing under a rather unsafe looking ladder bridge at Wormleighton before we reach the medieval market town of Banbury.
We think this route has it all. The wonderful intimate character of The Stratford, the wide expanse of the Grand Union and the gloriously laid back route of the South Oxford Canal. 3 different personalities in one cruise and 103 locks. 7 days cruising to travel what takes 25mins by car! What more could you want!
Railway station - Arrival – Stratford on Avon (15 min walk or short taxi ride)
Departure - Banbury (5 min walk)
Parking - Parking is available at Banbury Station or Stratford on Avon Marina
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Cruise 19 – Banbury to Banbury – Wed 11th October – 6 nights
41 miles, 24 locks
South Oxford Canal, Somerton Deep Lock, Cherwell River & Valley, Thrupp,
Cruising from the historic market town of Banbury we head through open farmland and quiet Cotswold countryside. An early canal which twists and turns it gives many opportunities for guests who enjoy walking or helping us through the intermittent locks. The canal follows The Cherwell Valley sharing it with the railway line which is generally close by but unnoticeable till a train passes. Somerton deep lock is one of the deepest on the cut and set amongst the rolling open farmland that continues as we make our way further south. Sharing a length of several miles with The River Cherwell we are treated to some river scenery before dropping off its course and heading into the traditional boatman’s stop of Thrupp turn where we do indeed turn and begin making our way back to Banbury, experiencing the same scenery all over again from a different angle, as those anew.
A short cruise designed to offer an introductory experience to hotelboating with the convenience of same start and end locations with car parking available, making the most of the autumnal season on this delightful canal.
Railway Station - Arrive - Banbury (5 min walk)
Depart – Banbury (5 min walk)
Parking - There is supervised car parking at Banbury rail station
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