Suggested Routes

Planning a cruise

When planning your first cruise it pays not to be too ambitious. If you allow a quarter of an hour per mile and a quarter of an hour per lock, not forgetting a stop for lunch or a shopping expedition to a nearby village, you will not be far out.

On the following pages are some recommended routes. There are obviously so many variations on these routes that you can have fun planning and exploring yourselves.

We would only recommend the cruises marked a "busy two weeks" to those who have holidayed on the canals before.

Maintenance Work on locks, tunnels, embankments etc, does have to be done from time to time. Most work is of course carried out during the winter months, but it is a good idea to have an alternative route in mind in case any work is in progress on your first choice of route. We are very fortunate at Weedon in having so many different routes from which to choose.

Some suggested routes

Please select a route below to view full details. The first option gives an overview of all 8 suggested routes.

NB. The figures shown beside the routes are: firstly the number of miles, secondly the number of locks and finally the approximate number of hours needed to navigate between the places marked with a black circle.

Suggested Routes Overview

Overview of all routes

South from Weedon - River Thames Ring - 2 weeks

A magnificent holiday combining the very best of both canal and river cruising. Travelling south on the Grand Union you should plan to meet the River Thames at Brentford approximately 4 days after leaving Weedon.

Having passed out of the canal on to the Thames, turn sharp right and head for Teddington. Do not stop until you have passed through Teddington Lock. This short section of the Thames is tidal and for safety reasons must be navigated in the upstream direction i.e. Brentford to Teddington. This passage can only be made 2½ hours either side of high water.

Your journey along the Thames will take you past Hampton Court with its maze, Windsor Castle, Marlow, Henley and Sonning. There are many beautiful riverside houses with lawns running down to the water edge. On through Reading and the Goring Gap, unusual birds may be seen here! On reaching Oxford, turn right at Osney or preferably carry on up river to Kings Lock and turn right at Dukes Cut on to the Oxford Canal which winds its way up through the Cotswolds and so back to Weedon.

249 miles; 174 locks, 2 tunnels, 1 swing bridge and some lift bridges; 9 hours per day navigating (a busy two weeks). To explore the many beautiful riverside towns and villages on route you do need three weeks. 5¾ hours navigating per day (an easy three weeks).

(a River Thames licence is required).

River Thames Ring

South from Weedon - Grand Union South - 1 week

Our personal favourite. Travelling south from Weedon, the Grand Union Canal passes through the one and three quarter mile long Blisworth tunnel. At the other end lies the small canalside village of Stoke Bruerne with its Waterways Museum, definitely worth a visit.

On south the canal passes over a small aqueduct at Cosgrove, through Linslade and Leighton Buzzard to Marsworth Junction and on south through Tring cutting to Cowroast lock; and return to Weedon.

98½ miles; 64 locks, 1 tunnel, 1 aqueduct; 7½ hrs navigating per day (an easy week). Also an ideal route for short breaks.

Grand Union South

South from Weedon - Oxford Canal - 1 week

The Southern Oxford is a contour canal that winds its way through the Cotswold countryside. Opened in 1790, it is one of the oldest canals in the country.

After circuiting Napton Hill with its windmill and climbing Napton locks comes Fenny Compton summit with its roofless tunnel. The canal then descends to Banbury then on to the Cherwell valley. A nice place to turn is Thrupp, a small village with a pub and lift bridge.

119.5 miles; 94 locks, 1½, tunnels and some lift bridges; 9½, hours per day navigating (a busy week).

For an easier week turn at Lower Heyford: 98 miles; 84 locks, 1½ tunnels, 8 hours per day navigating; or turn at Aynho 86 miles; 78 locks, 1½ tunnels, 7 hours per day navigating.

Oxford

North from Weedon - Shropshire Union Cruise - 2 weeks

Travelling north from Weedon along the North Oxford, Coventry and Trent & Mersey canals there are relatively few locks, so good progress can be made.

Turning left at Great Haywood, Tixall Wide is a nice mooring place; this is a lake through which the canal passes in the grounds of Shugborough Hall, home of the Earl of Lichfield. On to Autherley junction. This is rather a built up area so it is better to travel on to Brewood, a beautifully quiet village. The Shropshire Union is well known for its deep wooded cuttings and high embankments. Carry straight on past the junction with the Llangollen canal and turn right to Middlewich with its salt works. Travel south through the one and three quarter mile long Harecastle tunnel - this tunnel is only one-way at a time, so delays here can be expected. The tunnel keeper will tell you when you can enter. Harecastle tunnel is an eerie place with reddy brown water at one end and clear at the other. It is reputed to be haunted by a ghost called Kit Crewbucket! (not recommended for the faint hearted). Having survived Harecastle tunnel, travel on south through the Potteries, rejoining your outward track at Great Haywood.

263 miles; 166 locks, 3 tunnels; 9 hrs per day navigating (a busy two weeks).

This two week Shropshire Union Cruise can be nicely extended into three weeks to include the Llangollen Canal with its two spectacular aqueducts. You would then cover 353 miles; 206 locks, 4 tunnels and 2 aqueducts; 7¾ hours a day navigating (a comfortable three weeks).

Shropshire Union cruise

North from Weedon - Ashby Canal - 1 week

A route especially sought after by the lock-shy.

The Northern Oxford Canal takes you to Hawkesbury junction with its cast iron bridge and old steam pumping engine house. Turn right at Marston Junction along the narrow winding Ashby Canal, past the fields where the Battle of Bosworth was fought in 1485. Bridge 53 gives access to Shackerstone Station, home of the Market Bosworth Light Railway. On through Snarestone tunnel to the canal terminus. Then retrace your route to Weedon.

112 miles; 34 locks, 3 tunnels; 7 hours per day navigating (an easy week).

Ashby Canal

North from Weedon - Leicestershire Cruise - 2 weeks

Some lovely scenery. You travel the long winding Leicester summit to Foxton, down this famous flight of locks where the old inclined plane can still be seen. They used a steam engine to winch the narrowboats up the hill in tanks of water.

The old town of Market Harborough makes a pleasant detour; then on through Leicester and down the River Soar. Do not be surprised to see steam trains crossing Bridge 38: this is the Great Central Steam Railway. Turn sharp left at Trent Junction along the river to Shardlow then via the Trent & Mersey and Coventry Canals and the lock-free Ashby Canal to Snares tone and back then on south, skirting round Rugby and so through the 2048 yard long Braunston Tunnel to Weedon.

219 miles; 115 locks, 1 swing bridge, 5 tunnels; 7.25 hours navigating (an easy two weeks).

Leicestershire Cruise

Westward Ho! - Avon Ring - 2 weeks

Upper and Lower Avon licences are payable by crews at Tewkesbury and Evesham locks.

Travelling north via Braunston, Napton and Kingswood Junction you join the North Stratford Canal to Kings Norton, past Alvechurch and down the notorious Tardebigge flight of 30 locks. On to the River Severn at Worcester, there are very few mooring places between Worcester and Tewkesbury. Be careful not to overshoot the turning by Healings Mill at Tewkesbury. Head on up the lower and upper Avon to Stratford where you can moor in the basin outside the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. The southern Stratford Canal with its barrel-roofed cottages is very shallow and slow going. On reaching Kingswood Junction you retrace your outward track to Weedon.

180 miles; 249 locks, 6 tunnels, 2 aqueducts, 8 hours per day navigating (a busy two weeks).

A variation of the Avon Ring would be to travel north via the North Oxford and Coventry Canals to Great Heywood. Travel the full length of the Staffs & Worcester Canal to Stourport, then down the River Severn to Worcester where you can join the Avon Ring. 243 miles; 196 locks, 9 hours per day navigating - a busy two weeks!

Avon Ring

Westward Ho! - Warwick & Leamington - 1 week

Plenty of waterside inns on this route to quench your thirst.

Royal Leamington Spa with its fine Regency terraces has some fine shops and the Pump Rooms where people have been sampling the water since 1838, when Queen Victoria took them.

On through Warwick with its Castle and curio shops. Just beyond Warwick are the 21 locks at Hatton - an awe-inspiring sight. Some boats' crews turn at the bottom of Hatton and retrace their route to Weedon, others look upon Hatton as a challenge and press on to Kingswood before turning for home.

71 miles; 118 locks, 2 tunnels, 7½ hours per day navigating (an easy week).

Warwick and Leamington

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