See historic towns
Kennet Avon Canal
Take a canal boat
Take canal locks
up and down hills
Stop at peaceful
pubs and villages
Four Counties Ring
The marina at Base 55 has been recently redeveloped by British Waterways, and is operated by one of the UK's leading canal boat companies. The marina is located at the northern end of Market Harborough - a quaint, traditional English market town that dates from 1203.
From Base 55 it’s just two hours cruising to the Leicester section of the Grand Union Canal along the Market Harborough Arm. The Grand Union canal boasts an extraordinary variety of wildlife, from feeding herons, and hunting owls, to water voles.
Day 1. Fri
Your adventure begins as you set off from Union Wharf and cruise 5 miles to Foxton where you can either choose to moor up or to cruise a little further to the bottom of Foxton Locks. This is where you will spend your first evening as you will not be able to navigate the Foxton locks until the morning. Foxton is a pretty village built on the side of a hill on either side of the canal, with plenty of pubs to choose from. Mooring at Bridge 61 you will find The Foxton Locks Inn and Bridge 61, which are both Canal side pubs and well worth a visit.
*There is a water point just after the Foxton Locks.
Day 2. Sat
Foxton Locks will take around an hour from start to finish and if in need of refreshments you will find the Top Lock Cottage Cafe a welcome place to rest! A further 2 hours cruising through a remote but attractive stretch and you will approach Husbands Bosworth Tunnel, you may wish to moor here at Bridge 46 and visit the Village as well as the Bell Inn. Husband Bosworth's tunnel is 1166 yards long, without a towpath but it is wide enough for two boats and relatively straight, so don't worry! At Welford Junction keep left onto the Welford Arm and after around 2 hours cruising and passing through Welford Lock you will be able to turn and moor for the evening. Welford has plenty to offer, with several pubs and supermarkets and a public footpath from the village which provides good views over the reservoir's which supply the canal with water and their resident wildfowl.
Day 3. Sun
Retracing your journey, you will need to allow a good 5 hours cruising from Welford to reach the Foxton Locks, the flight will take at least another hour to complete. Check the lock times here for Foxton Locks. North Kilworth is a small village which is accessible by bridge 45, just before Husbands Bosworth Tunnel and your last opportunity to purchase any supplies before the canal becomes more rural. For your last night you may choose to return to the Marina and the Waterfront Restaurant, which is open until late or moor up in Foxton with its' variety of pubs and restaurants.
Day 4. Mon
The end of your holiday and a maximum of an hours cruise back to the Marina. If you have the time why not spend the rest of the day exploring Market Harborough with lots to see, including a museum and a theatre.
Braunston and Return: 54 miles 46 locks 30 hours
Southwards cruise leisurely through rural and peaceful countryside to the famous Foxton Staircase Locks, about 2 hours away. Foxton is the site of a steam powered Inclined Plane, which replaced ten locks and lifted narrow boats 75 feet. It was opened in 1900 but suffered from mechanical and structural problems. The locks were reopened in 1908.
The Canal weaves its way through a remote but attractive stretch to Husband Bosworth Tunnel. The Tunnel is 1166 yards long and was opened in 1813. North Kilworth is off to your right, with a couple of pubs. At the Welford Junction you can if you wish take a slight detour up the Welford Arm for an overnight mooring with the facilities of the village close by. The Battle of Naseby in 1645 was fought 2 miles east of Welford.
The next stretch of the canal wanders southwards in a series of loops through wonderful rural scenery before you pass through the 1528 yards long Crick Tunnel. Stroll into the village of Crick, home of one of Britain’s largest annual boat shows. The lock-keepers at the Watford (not the large town in Hertfordshire!) Locks will help you through their complex set of locks to the summit level of 412 feet. Four of these locks form a staircase, with a 'one up one' down procedure.
Once through the Watford Locks continue towards the Norton Junction to meet the Oxford Canal. At Norton Junction you can then go down the Grand Union towards London, or head west towards Braunston. From Norton Junction to Braunston the canal runs westward through hills and wooded country, then into a wooded cutting which leads to 2042 yards long Braunston Tunnel. Braunston itself has a fine selection of old buildings, shops and pubs.
Loughborough and Return: 76 miles 70 locks 40 hours
Cruising north will take you towards Leicester and you can visit some of the pretty towns and villages on the way. Soon you will pass through Saddington Tunnel which is 880 yards long - lookout for bats! The Tunnel was built crooked in 1797. The first locks you reach are the Knibworth Locks, with 5 locks to negotiate along this stretch.
The Canal enters Leicester along a pleasant cutting. A variety of buildings line the canal banks and a series of ornamental bridges lead straight into the town centre. There are secure moorings at Castle Gardens (on the right past Bridge 2). The city centre is remarkably compact with everything surprisingly close to these moorings. A great day out for the whole family is at The National Space Centre close to Belgrave Lock 44.
For the last twenty miles of the route you'll be travelling along the River Soar, which is a tributary of the Trent, where you can enjoy some very pleasant countryside views. The canal continues on the Loughborough Navigation which completes the last 9 miles to the River Trent. Loughborough is a busy town. The Bell Foundry Museum is worth a visit, south of Bridge 38. The Great Central Railway south of Bridge 36 is 8 miles of preserved steam railway, open every weekend and weekdays June-August. At Loughborough Wharf you can turn around and head back to base.
Day 1. Sat
Your adventure begins as you set off from Union Wharf and cruise 5 miles to Foxton where you can either choose to moor up or cruise a little further to the bottom of Foxton Locks. This is where you will spend your first evening as you will not be able to navigate the Foxton locks until the morning. Foxton is a pretty village built on the side of a hill on either side of the canal, with plenty of pubs to choose from. Mooring at Bridge 61 you will find The Foxton Locks Inn and Bridge 61, which are both Canal side pubs and well worth a visit.
Day 2. Sun
Before tackling the Foxton Flight of 10 locks you may wish to take some time and explore the amazing inclined plane, stepping back in time and experiencing how the boats used to travel in the once operational boatlift, you will find The Boilerhouse situated in the middle of the lock flight. Foxton Locks will take around an hour from start to finish and if in need of refreshments you will find the Top Lock Cottage Cafe a welcome place to rest! With a further 2 hours cruising through a remote but attractive stretch, you will approach Husbands Bosworth Tunnel, where you may wish to moor up at Bridge 46 and visit the Village as well as the Bell Inn. Husband Bosworth's tunnel is 1166 yards long, without a towpath but it is wide enough for two boats and relatively straight, so don't worry! Continuing for a further 4 hours cruising through open fields, backed by wooded hills and with splendid views over the Avon Valley and you will reach Yelvertoft. The village is set back from the canal but with a short walk you will find stores and The Knightley Arms. Skirting Crack's Hill and after an hours cruising, Crick Tunnel looms, you may wish to moor near to Bridge 12 for the evening and visit the large village of Crick with a selection of pubs and shops.
*There is a water point just after the Foxton Locks.
*There is a water point at Yelvertoft.
Day 3. Mon
Start the day by navigating Crick tunnel which is 1528 yards long and without a towpath. Leaving the tunnel behind you and after another hours' peaceful cruise you will approach the Watford Lock Flight. The staircase consists of 7 locks with opening hours varying depending on the time of year. Turning right on to the Grand Union Main Line you will be cruising through hills and wooded country before reaching a wooded cutting which leads to Braunston Tunnel. The tunnel is 2042 yards and wide enough for two boats to pass through. As you leave the tunnel the landscape opens out and you will notice there are many moored crafts as you navigate the well spread out Braunston locks. Braunston is a well-known canal centre with a long main street with houses of all periods, set up on a hill to the north of the canal. There is plenty of space to moor along this stretch of canal and a good choice of pubs and cafes to explore. Turning left at Braunston junction on to The Oxford Canal, a further 2.5 hours of peaceful cruising through open countryside and a good place to moor for the evening is at Napton Bottom Lock, where you will find The Folly Pub. Napton Hill dominates the landscape, a 400ft climb will get you to the top to enjoy the view!
*There is a water point at the bottom of Watford Locks.
*There is a water point just before Norton Junction.
*There is a water point in Braunston.
*There is a water point at Napton Bottom Lock.
Day 4. Tues
Plenty of cruising today as you head for Banbury. The 9 locks at Napton are nicely placed with the final 2 locks at Marston Doles; a tiny settlement which owes its existence to the canal. Towing horses used to be stabled here and to the north of the Arm are the remains of the pumping house that used to pump water up to the summit of the Napton flight. The canal twists and turns skirting the villages of Fenny Compton and Wormleighton, both set back from the Canal and an hours walk away. After 4 hours of pleasant cruising you will reach Claydon Locks, 5 locks in total with the charming village of Claydon to the East. A further 3 locks before reaching Cropredy, a quiet village which is situated right next to the canal and offers 2 pubs as well as places to stock up on supplies. This little village bursts into life on the second week in August during the annual Folk festival, a tradition which began in 1979!
Continue south along the Cherwell Valley making a steady decent through several locks and on into Banbury. There are plenty of places to moor between bridges 163 and 166 but before deciding on your spot, cruise as far as Bridge Wharf where you will need to turn, so you will be pointing in the right direction for your return trip to Union Wharf. There is plenty to explore in Banbury with a Museum at Tooley's Boatyard, Spiceball Park and the Mill Arts Centre by Banbury Lock to name a few. If the canalside pubs don't tempt you then take a walk in to Banbury and sample a Banbury Cake, produced here for at least 300 years!
For those with more time, Broughton Castle is a 10 minute taxi ride away and well worth a visit.
*There is a water point at Marston Doles.
*There is a water point at Fenny Compton Wharf.
Day 5. Weds
Retracing your journey back on the Oxford Canal, through Cropredy and after around 6 1/2 hours cruising you may be in need of refreshment. The Canalside Wharf Inn at Fenny Compton may be a good place to stop or continue on to bridge 135 where you can take a walk into Wormleighton. As the canal snakes back towards Napton you will need to choose a good place to moor for the evening, Priors Hardwick is a further 2 hours cruise and you can moor at bridge 124 and walk into the village where you will find The Butchers Arms. Alternatively, cruise for an extra hour and moor before Napton Top Lock. There is a path from Marston Doles that takes you to the remains of the pumping house at the end of the old Engine House Arm.
Day 6. Thurs
After 4 hours cruising on the Oxford Canal; passing Napton-on-the-Hill, the villages of Lower Shuckburgh and Flecknoe you will arrive at Braunston turn where you will join the Grand Union Canal once again. Taking another opportunity to stop in Braunston you may want to explore the Stop House, the original Toll Office between the Oxford Canal and the Grand Junction Canal or take the two minute walk on to the main street. Once through Braunston locks, the 2042yrd Braunston Tunnel awaits; this tunnel has a slight S bend due to a mistake during construction! For those with more time, moor at Welton Wharf (bridge 6) and take a 3/4 mile walk in to the village where you will find the 400 year old White Horse Inn.
Arriving at Norton Junction and turning left on to the Grand Union Canal (Leicester section) you will meander for a mile before passing the back of the Watford Gap service area. Leave the noise and bustle of the motorway behind you or moor up and take advantage of the 24hr provisions accessible from the towpath.
After negotiating Watford Locks and reaching the summit level of 412ft, the canal continues at this level for the next 20 miles. A further hours cruising from here (5 in total from Braunston) and back through Crick Tunnel, you will be ready to moor up for the day. With so many pubs and stores in Crick this is an excellent place to stay and explore.
Day 7. Fri
Leaving Crick and heading north you will pass Yelvertoft to the west, shortly after here there is an opportunity to moor at bridge 23 where you can take a mile long walk to the sleepy village of Winwick, where you will find a 16th-C Manor House. After around 3 hours cruising through open countryside you will meet Welford Junction. For those extending their holiday a detour to Welford may be in order. Welford has plenty to offer, with several pubs and supermarkets and a public footpath from the village which provides good views over the reservoir's which supply the canal with water and their resident wildfowl.
This is your last full days cruising and you will need to allow a good 4 hours from Welford Junction to reach the Foxton Locks, the flight will take at least another hour to complete. North Kilworth is a small village which is accessible by bridge 45, just before Husbands Bosworth Tunnel and your last opportunity to purchase any supplies before the canal becomes more rural. Your last night and you may choose to return to the Marina and the Waterfront Restaurant, which is open until late or moor up in Foxton with its' variety of pubs and restaurants.
Day 8. Sat
The end of your holiday and a maximum of an hours cruise back to the Marina. If you have the time why not spend the rest of the day exploring Market Harborough, with lots to see, including a museum and a theatre.