Choosing your hotelboat cruise
There is so much to see and so many possible routes on the inland waterways, it can be difficult to decide which particular hotelboat cruise you think you would enjoy the most. Here we have tried to outline the character of each route, giving its highlights and points of interest. If you have any queries regarding any aspect of the hotelboat holidays, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

To help you in your choice of cruise, we have marked the descriptions with these symbols:

  • Good Walking    Good Walking
  • Museums   Museum Visits
  • Lock Wheeling   Lock Wheelers Paradise
  • Industrial Heritage   Industrial Heritage
  • Historic Towns   Historic Towns
  • Glorious Countryside   Glorious Countryside
  • Cityscapes   Fantastic Cityscapes

Cruise 1: Coventry to Stoke on Trent - 9 nights starting on Thursday 21st April 2022

70 miles , 36 locks and 1 tunnel

Coventry Basin, Coventry Canal, Hawkesbury Junction, Atherstone Locks, Fradley Junction, Trent & Mersey Canal, Great Haywood Junction, Stone, Etruria

A suprisingly green and pleasant route between these two great industrial cities. Pleasant spring walks, lively canal junctions and good old English pubs!

Good Walking   Country

We leave the basin in Coventry, which is home to a number of small shops, businesses 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 interest to our cruise from town to countryside, on 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.

We travel past old quarries, 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 have at least one working side pound. Our work through the locks is eased by using the original hooks. This allow us to use a block to get the butty moving.

Cruising through farmland on a long, lock free section, brings us past Polesworth and through a pretty wooded area, until we descend the two locks at Glascote. We pass the junction at Fazeley, travelling now through flat open countryside, following the course of the River Tame for several miles. Hopwas Wood rises on the hill to the west and there are views over the Tame Valley to the east.

The course of the canal meanders, 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 until 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, we are once again in rural seclusion and greenery until we pass the Armitage Shanks factory, named after this small town, where bathroom items were made, and then travel to the larger town of Rugeley beyond.

Beyond Rugeley we emerge back into the countryside again, and we can see Cannock Chase up on the hill ahead, an ancient hunting ground and home to herds of deer. The River Trent winds its course close to ours now, accompanying us past Shugborough Hall and The Haywoods. It is just here that the locks begin again, interrupting our cruising every mile or so, making for some lovely easy walking for those wishing to stretch their legs. The gentle countryside continues to the pleasant market town of Stone, which has become something of a spiritual home to many boaters and, as we climb up the flight of four locks on the edge of the town, we pass three boatyards.

Another flight of four locks at Meaford and one further, lonely lock, mark our journey towards Stoke, where a spread out flight welcomes us into Etruria and our mooring for the end of this cruise.

Canal Plan Route Details.

CoventryFradley JunctionBottle Kilns

Cruise 2: Stoke on Trent to Chester - 9 nights starting on Tuesday 3rd May 2022

49 Locks, 61 miles and 1 tunnel

Etruria, Trent & Mersey Canal, Harecastle Tunnel, Cheshire paired locks, Middlewich Branch, Shropshire Union Canal, Bunbury Staircase, Beeston, Ellesmere Port Canal Museum, Chester

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!

Good Walking  Museums  Lock Wheeling  Industrial Heritage

We begin this cruise in front of the statue of James Brindley in Etruria and make our way north along the Trent & Mersey 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 local area. We quickly begin our descent into the Cheshire Locks. Twenty-six 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. Beyond this, the canal meanders for a while before reaching Middlewich through several further 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 four 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 there is no point in being 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 five 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. Here, Beeston Castle is an imposing landmark on its rocky outcrop. Finally, we arrive on the outskirts of the city and take a series of locks down to the level of the city 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. There is time to explore and enjoy the museum, before we turn and head back towards our mooring just a short distance away from the old dry dock.

Canal Plan Route Details

EtruriaHarecastle TunnelEllesmere

Cruise 3: Chester to Llangollen - 8 nights starting on Friday 13th May 2022

62 miles, 35 locks, 3 tunnels and 2 grand aqueducts

Chester, The Shropshire Union Canal, Chester & Bunbury Staircase Locks, The Llangollen Canal, Chirk Tunnel & Aqueduct, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Llangollen

Dramatic engineering and peaceful countryside on this journey from England to Wales.

Good Walking   Glorious Countryside

From our mooring below the city we immediately rise up the imposing staircase locks and under the Roman city walls, cruising the short distance to the five locks beyond up out of the heart of this historic city. We emerge into Cheshire countryside with views of Beeston Castle ahead, unmissable on its rocky outcrop. There is such pretty scenery as we rise through a further five infrequent locks before Bunbury staircase. Our last stretch of wide canal past Barbridge Junction brings us to Hurleston and the junction with 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, Here, the lock keepers 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 third largest upland bog, and have pleasant 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 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. It leads 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 trip, 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.

Canal Plan Route Details

Chester StaircaseLlangollenLlangollen Basin

Cruise 4: Llangollen to Nantwich (via the Montgomery canal) - 8 nights starting on Monday 23rd May 2022

60 miles, 37 locks, 3 tunnels and 2 grand aqueducts

Llangollen Canal, Llangollen, Dee Valley, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Chirk Aqueduct, Chirk Tunnel, Montgomery Canal, Meres at Ellesmere, Elizabethan Nantwich

Dramatic engineering and peaceful countryside on this journey from Wales to England, with a detour down the little travelled Montgomery Canal.

Good Walking  Glorious Countryside

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. This is arguably Thomas Telford’s finest piece of engineering. We continue 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 peaceful surroundings of Montgomery 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.

Canal Plan Route Details

PontcysyllteMaesbury MarshNantwichHorse

Cruise 5: Nantwich to Northwich - 7 nights starting on Wednesday 1st of June 2022

57 miles, 21 locks and a wonder of Victorian engineering

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

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.

Glorious Countryside   Industrial Heritage

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, we turn 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 four 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 development of the canal and of Northwich town itself.

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, as many boats were sent here at the end of their useful lives. The flashes have become havens for wildlife and we travel through this pretty section 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. It 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. Here 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 river’s 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.

Canal Plan Route Details

NantwichAqueductAndertonthe river weaver 2018

Cruise 6: Northwich to Liverpool - 8 nights starting on Friday 10th June 2022

85 miles, 15 locks, 6 tunnels and a wonder of Victorian engineering!

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.

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.

Cityscapes   Industrial Heritage

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. Once on the canal, we begin our journey north along the Trent & Mersey Canal, with views over the River Weaver below. We pass through three 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, built to carry the canal over the Manchester Ship Canal, which cuts its way into the heart of England’s third 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. We head for Wigan, through a countryside restored from mined land onto an embankment built to counter subsidence. We pass through several locks while negotiating Wigan and its famous pier, before arriving in the more rural Douglas Valley.

From Burscough to the original terminus of the canal we have a lock free twenty-four miles through open countryside at first and then we enter Liverpool’s suburbs, past Aintree Race Course. We descend four locks down at Stanley Dock and make our way through a series of connected docks, tunnels and two more locks, which make up the newly opened Liverpool Link, before mooring in Salthouse Dock.

Canal Plan Route Details

Northwich Town BridgeBarton Swing AqueductLiverpool Docks

Cruise 7: Liverpool to Manchester - 7 nights starting on Monday 20th June 2022

59 miles, 23 locks and 4 tunnels

Liverpool, Liverpool Canal Link, The Leeds & Liverpool Canal, The Leigh Branch, Worsley, The Bridgewater Canal, The Barton Swing Aqueduct, Manchester.

Take the journey between two great Northern cities.

Cityscapes   Industrial Heritage

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 may see a cruise liner at the central dock. At Stanley Dock we make our way up four locks to arrive onto the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, which takes us out of this bustling city. After travelling through several suburbs and the famous Aintree Race Course and Beeches Brook we emerge into open countryside.

We have a long lock free section down the Douglas Valley and into Wigan, past the famous pier. We then negotiate several locks and cruise along an embankment designed to counter subsidence. We head for Leigh where the canal seamlessly becomes the Bridgewater Canal and takes us to Worsley. Here we see evidence of the earliest English canals, at the entrance to the Duke of Bridgewater’s underground mines. The Bridgewater canal takes us south and we cross over the Barton Swing Aqueduct, built to carry the canal over the Manchester Ship Canal, as it cut its way into the heart of the city. The bridge 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 Manchester’s city centre, eventually arriving at Castlefield Basin, the historic hub of the canals in the city. We make our way from here up the Rochdale Nine locks and end the cruise around Piccadilly or Dale Street Basin.

Canal Plan Route Details

Liverpool DocksWorsleyManchester

Cruise 8: Manchester to Sowerby Bridge - 8 nights starting on Wednesday 29th June 2022

31 miles, 82 locks and 3 tunnels

The Rochdale Canal, The Pennines, Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, The Calder Valley, Tuel Lane Lock,

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.

Good Walking  Lock Wheeling  Glorious Countryside  Industrial Heritage

Leaving Manchester, we begin at lock ten of the Rochdale locks, travelling past cast iron bridges and impressive old cotton mills. The first of three Pennine crossings, this canal was built to carry payloads of coal, grain, salt, wool and cotton ‘over the top’. There are ninety-two locks from the canal’s start point at Castle Quay in Manchester to its junction with the Calder & Hebble at Sowerby Bridge. Most of these are only a short distance apart, making this canal slow work 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 Sites of Special Scientific Interest due to the rare aquatic plants and white clawed crayfish in the area. 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 the 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 the Hebble and Calder Canal via the Black Pitt Aqueduct. 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.

Canal Plan Route Details

geograph-3155590-by-David-Dixonrochdale summitgeograph-695768-by-Dr-Neil-Clifton

Cruise 9: Sowerby Bridge to Whaley Bridge - 10 nights starting on Saturday 9th July 2022

52 miles, 116 locks and 5 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 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.

Good Walking  Lock Wheeling  Glorious Countryside  Industrial Heritage

The first of three Pennine crossings, the Rochdale Canal was built to carry payloads of coal, grain, salt, wool and cotton ‘over the top’. It has ninety-two 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. This is the deepest lock on the UK network, where the depth of two 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 bohemian centre of Hebden Bridge, known for its creative culture. Established as a hippy hideout in the 1960s, it is now a very desirable and trendy place to reside, given its easy rail links with Manchester. Organic cafes and new age boutiques line the high street as it nestles in the steep sided Pennine valley.

We continue towards the summit of this canal, winding our way along a narrow steep sided valley covered with lush vegetation. This is a stunning part of the country and offers some very unusual and magnificent canal scenery. Todmorden, which is aiming to be entirely self sufficient for food, has vegetable patches at bus stops and in parks, available for passers by and members of the community to help themselves. You may even be lucky enough to spot a famous face as the town is said to have become a retreat for some celebrities.

The summit pound of just one mile in length, gives a little respite from the seemingly never ending locks which feature on this canal. A house or two dot alongside the canal and there is a nearby road along the valley between the peaks, but the boating is lonely as few boats make it this far up. We descend towards Littleborough through woodland and another SSSI at Slattock and then notice we are entering the outskirts of the town of Rochdale.

After Rochdale, there is one more rural break before we enter Manchester. We make our way towards the centre and join the Ashton Canal to travel 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 takes us out of the city at last and into a more rural area.

At Marple we have sixteen 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 through rolling hills and countryside. We have time for a short exploration of Bugsworth Basin, the trans-shipment terminus, which has been carefully restored with its many alcoves and wharves, before we finally head into Whaley Bridge.

Canal Plan Route Details

rochdale summitMarple JunctionBugsworth Basin

Cruise 10: Whaley Bridge to Stoke on Trent (via the Caldon Canal) - 9 nights starting on Thursday 21st July 2022

74 miles, 49 locks and 3 tunnels

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, Etruria

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.

Good Walking  Lock Wheeling  Glorious Countryside  Historic Towns

Our first night on this cruise will be spent at the atmospheric Bugsworth Basin, the trans-shipment terminus which has been carefully restored with its many alcoves and wharves. We then make our way along the Goyt Valley with magnificent views of the Peak District around us, to Marple. Here we turn left to avoid the flight of sixteen 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 line the towpath. We reach the twelve 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 the 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 butties 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 and 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 into 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 five locks of Stockton Brook, which bring us into lovely pleasant farmland. At Hazelhurst junction the canal splits and we descend three locks here and cruise to Cheddleton and past the old flint mill. Two locks here and a further three attractive and isolated locks, bring us to the valley floor and we cruise alongside the River Churnet. W eventually join the river, where the scenery is stunning and unspoilt with thickly wooded valley sides reaching down to the canal. The Churnet Valley Steam Railway could be running as we travel, so our journey along this beautiful valley may be 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 one 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 picturesque and secluded canal, and 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.

Canal Plan Route Details

Bugsworth BasinHarecastle TunnelFroghall Wharf

Cruise 11: Stoke on Trent to Nottingham - 9 nights starting on Monday 1st August 2022

89 miles and 69 locks

Trent and Mersey Canal, Stone, Cannock Chase, Fradley Junction, Shardlow, River Trent, The Erewash Canal, Nottigham.

Experience narrow canals, broad canals and rivers on this lovely trip through the Midlands.

Good Walking  Glorious Countryside  Historic Towns

From our mooring in Etruria we turn onto the mainline of the Trent and Mersey Canal and make our way down the few locks which take us out of the city. A section, broken by just one lock, brings us through to the four locks at Meaford, as we arrive onto the edge of Stone. Another four locks bring us down through the town, past this bustling canal centre and its famous Star Inn. Beyond here, the canal is very peaceful, although the addition of a large marina has added a few boats to the usual sparse traffic.

Intermittent locks bring us to Great Haywood and the junction of the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal. Continuing on the Trent and Mersey, we pass Shugborough Hall, home to Lord Lichfield, and cruise through a scenic wooded landscape with more intermittent locks. At Cannock Chase there is an ancient hunting ground, home to herds of fallow deer for many centuries. The skyline is marked by the not so attractive sight of Rugeley Power Station.

The River Trent is never far away and we travel through its quiet countryside until we reach Fradley Junction. The junction is always busy with boats and with people enjoying The Swann Inn, the most photographed pub on the network. We continue straight past the Coventry Canal junction, staying on the Trent and Mersey.

The pretty village of Alrewas with its Georgian brick houses, marks some very pretty sections of canal alongside 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 canal side settlement of Shardlow, with its large scale canal architecture: wharves, an 18th century mill and a 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, where a narrowboat can on occasion feel a little overwhelmed by strong winds and the width of the water here. 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 river scenery, a contrast to the previous canal surroundings. The River Trent meanders gently along its course and by going downstream we arrive in the heart of the city of Nottingham on the Beeston Cut.

Canal Plan Route Details

EtruriaStoneBeeston Lock

Cruise 12: Nottingham to Market Harborough- 7 nights starting on Friday 12th August 2022

59 miles, 45 locks and 1 tunnel

Nottingham, River Trent, River Soar, Leicester, Grand Union Leicester Arm, Foxton locks, Market Harborough Arm.

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.

Glorious Countryside  Historic Towns

The Beeston cut carries us out of the heart of this vibrant modern city until we arrive onto the navigable part of the River Trent again. The river winds through flat land, passing the village of Barton in Fabis and past picturesque Barton Island, situated in the centre of the flow. After making 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 work the locks up onto Cranfleet Cut.

We go up Kegworth Deep Lock and head towards Kegworth, 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 the 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 the straighter canal and beyond this, intermittent locks, making this a good section for walking. Five locks bring us out into countryside once again and we continue to cruise along this scenic river course to Saddington Tunnel (880yds long). A hilly landscape brings us to the foot of the locks at Foxton, where we can spend some time exploring the locks and 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 on the last leg of our journey into the basin of this market town.

Canal Plan Route Details

Beeston Cut WeirFoxton Locks InnMarket Harborough

Cruise 13: Market Harborough to Warwick via Stoke Bruerne - 9 nights starting on Monday 22nd August 2022

78 miles, 64 locks and 5 tunnels

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

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.

We leave our mooring in the canal basin of Market Harborough and cruise a lock free five mile section through to the bottom of the staircase locks at Foxton. Using a combination of two sets of five 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 inclined-plane boat lift 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 canal summit as it follows the gentle contours of this farming area. For several hours of cruising, there are open fields backed by wooded hills. 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 third longest canal tunnel in Britain. Exiting brings us to the National Waterways Museum at Stoke Bruerne, before we turn round and travel back through the tunnel.

At Long Buckby we rise up seven 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.

Canal Plan Route Details

Market HarboroughStoke Bruernesaltisford

Cruise 14: Warwick to Warwick - 8 nights starting on Monday 5th September 2022

51 miles, 91 locks and 6 tunnels

Hatton Locks, Lapworth flight, the North Stratford Canal, King's Norton Junction, Edgbaston, Gas Street Basin, Farmers Bridge Locks, Camp hill, Knowle Locks.

A mix of broad and narrow canals, beautiful countryside and urban splendor.

Good Walking  Lock Wheeling  Industrial Heritage  Glorious Countryside  Cityscapes

Our first obstacle on leaving Warwick is the flight of twenty-one locks at Hatton, but we are rewarded with views over the castle and city of Warwick from the top, after a swift ascent through its wide locks.

Arriving at Kingswood Junction, we join the Stratford Canal and immediately find the perfect bow hauling locks at Lapworth, where the top of one lock is only yards from the bottom of the next. The final twelve miles of the Stratford Canal are lock free, rural at first before entering the residential outskirts of Birmingham. Passing through the unique guillotine stop lock that marks the end of the Stratford canal we approach King’s Norton junction where we turn towards the centre of Birmingham.

Rail and canal share this route into the city, passing through the centre of the Bournville chocolate factory. We enjoy fine views from the Edgbaston embankment of Birmingham University and the residential splendour of this suburb. The railway now makes it way to New Street station, whilst we make a sharp left to pass through Worcester Bar and Gas Street Basin.

We have a lock heavy day ahead of us. Farmers Bridge and then Ashted flights take us down of the Birmingham plateau, then Camp Hill takes us up again to the start of the Grand Union.

Miles of level cruising brings us to the windswept locks at Knowle. Finally we come to Hatton once more to, complete our descent into Warwick and return to our mooring on the Saltisford Arm.

Canal Plan Route Details

SaltisfordBirminghamHatton Flight

Cruise 15: Warwick to Worcester - 7 nights starting on Thursday 15th September 2022

48 miles, 101 locks and 8 tunnels

Warwick, Grand Union Canal, Hatton Flight, Kingswood Junction, North Stratford Canal, Guillotine Lock, Worcester & Birmingham canal, Wasthills Tunnel, Tardebigge, Droitwich Canal, River Severn, Worcester

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.

Good Walking  Lock Wheeling  Glorious Countryside  Historic Towns

From our peaceful mooring on the Saltisford Arm, we cruise a short distance to our first lock and the start of twenty-one locks 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. At the junction with the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, we turn left and immediately begin cruising a series of three 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 we arrive at the top of the Tardebigge flight. This wonderful collection of locks is the longest flight in the country with twenty-nine locks and will take us half a day to gradually descend over two miles, with stunning and far reaching views ahead of us. These locks are a favourite for many canal enthusiasts and the regular rhythm of work 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. We descend a total of 300ft in just five miles over forty-one locks. Coppices, woodland and farmland surround us before we reach the junction with the Droitwich Canal at Hanbury. 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.

Seven 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 eight barge locks and seven miles, is very pretty. We eventually 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.

Canal Plan Route Details

saltisfordLapworth JunctionTardebigge

Cruise 16: Worcester to Stratford upon Avon - 8 nights starting on Friday 23rd September 2022

50 miles, 109 locks, 1 aqueduct and 5 tunnels

Worcester, Worcester & Birmingham Canal, Tardebigge, Wasthills Tunnel, Guillotine Lock, Stratford Canal, Kingswood Junction, Lapworth flight, Forest of Arden, Wilmcote Flight, Stratford

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!

Good Walking  Lock Wheeling  Glorious Countryside  Historic Towns

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 six 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 reopened in 2011.

After climbing the seven locks at Astwood and the six at Stoke, we have a short break before the twenty-nine 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 will have time to soak up the quaint local architecture. 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.

Canal Plan Route Details

Diglis BasinTardebiggeStratford Basin

Cruise 17: Stratford upon Avon to Banbury - 8 nights starting on Monday 3rd October 2022

57 miles, 102 locks, 1 tunnel and 1 aqueduct

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,

Seven days cruising to make a twenty five minute car journey! The intimate Stratford, the wide Grand Union and the windy South Oxford all in one cruise.

Good Walking  Lock Wheeling  Glorious Countryside  Historic Towns

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 twenty-one 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, Watling Street.

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. 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, we reach the medieval market town of Banbury.

Canal Plan Route Details

Bancroft BasinHatton FlightBanbury

Cruise 18: Banbury to Braunston - 5 nights starting on Thursday 13th October 2022

33 miles and 28 locks

Banbury, South Oxford Canal, Cropredy, Claydon Locks, the Oxford Summit, Napton Flight, the Grand Union Canal, historic Braunston.

A short taster cruise through the autumnal Oxfordshire countryside.

Glorious Countryside

We leave the market town of Banbury and dive straight into the Oxfordshire countryside. We pass through the pretty village of Cropredy before using the five locks at Claydon to rise up to the Oxford summit. The canal meanders now, following the contours of the land for many miles and providing us with long views across the landscape. After a tricky turn, we enter the first of the nine locks with Napton Hill and its windmill always visible on the horizon. We make our way around the hill and then, if we’ve made good time, take a left turn for a quick detour on to the Grand Union canal.

Here we can experience the motorway of the canal system. The cut is deep, wide and straight. The locks are all double and fill quickly. It was all designed to keep the boats moving as quickly as possible and make for the efficient distribution of vital goods moving throughout the country.

We turn and make our way back to the Oxford canal and enjoy a lock free cruise to our final mooring in the historic canal side village of Braunston.

 

Tooley's Boatyard BanburySomerton Deep 3Cruising The South Oxford Twyford Bridge