Canal Holidays in Southern England

Canal boat holidays in Southern England give you access to waterways that include some of our finest rivers – the River Thames, River Avon and the River Severn. These join various canals:

  • the Oxford Canal connects to the River Thames at Oxford;
  • the Kennet & Avon Connects to the River Thames at Reading;
  • the Grand Union Canal connects to the River Thames at Brentford;
  • the Worcester & Birmingham Canal connects to the River Severn at Worcester;
  • and the Stratford Canal connects to the River Avon at Stratford-upon-Avon.

All these waterways offer a mixture of rural and urban cruising.

Many of the locks on the River Thames in the main boating season are worked for you by lock keepers, so you can concentrate on the historic atmosphere of the landscape it passes through as you glide along.

The River Avon forms part of the Avon Ring, and passes through some wonderful countryside between historic towns.

The Grand Ring which takes two weeks cruising, is formed by the River Thames, the Oxford Canal and Grand Union Canal.

Whether you want a short break, week or longer the Kennet & Avon Canal provides some varied cruising. The World Heritage City of Bath, the picturesque market town of Bradford on Avon and the magnificent Caen Hill locks are among the most popular destinations.

Top 7 canal boat holidays in Southern England

    1. Float to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath – on a four-night break from Devizes in Wiltshire, you can travel along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Sydney Wharf, on the edge of Bath. On the way, the route passes through the village of Seend with its popular canalside Barge Inn. And the historic market town of Bradford on Avon, with a choice of independent shops and restaurants.  You’ll also glide across over the magnificent Bath stone aqueducts at Avoncliff and Dundas. Once at Sydney Wharf, you can moor up and take a 15-minute walk into Bath City Centre.  The journey to Sydney Wharf and back travels 38 miles, passes through 16 locks (eight each way) and takes around 18 hours.
    2. Take a Thames boating holiday to Lechlade – from our Oxford base on the River Thames, it’s a nine-hour journey to the historic market town of Lechlade. Perfect for a mid-week break, the route passes through seven locks and miles of peaceful Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire countryside.  Places to stop off at include the village of Radcot with its 800-year old bridge across the Thames.  And Kelmscott Manor, once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris and home to the Plough Inn. Lechlade at the head of the navigable River Thames, has a choice of pubs, cafes and restaurants, including the riverside Trout Inn.
    3. Navigate the Avon Ring – on a 10-day or two-week break from Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal in Warwickshire, you can navigate the Avon Ring. The 109-mile circuit travels sections of the Stratford Canal, River Avon, River Severn and Worcester & Birmingham Canal.  It passes through 131 locks and takes around 58 cruising hours. Highlights include Shakespeare’s Stratford, historic Evesham, Tewkesbury, the City of Worcester and the 30 locks at Tardebigge.
    4. Cruise through the Vale of Pewsey – on a week’s break from Bradford on Avon on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Wiltshire, you can reach Pewsey Wharf. The journey takes you up the 29 locks of the Caen Hill Flight, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. And through the Vale of Pewsey, part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Places to visit along the way include the historic market town of Devizes. It takes around 34 hours to cruise from Bradford on Avon to Pewsey and back, passing through 72 locks (36 each way) and travelling 47 miles.
    5. Travel to Newbury & back – on a short break from our narrowboat holiday base at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Berkshire, it takes around seven hours to reach Newbury.  You’ll cruise through nine miles of beautiful countryside and pass through 11 locks. Along the way, the route passes the canalside Rowbarge pub at Woolhampton and The Swan at Thatcham.  And from Bull’s Lock No.88 it’s a short walk to the Bowdown Woods Nature Reserve.  The picturesque market town of Newbury has plenty of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs, as well as a racecourse, theatre, arts centre and market square.
    6. Boat down the Oxford Canal to Thrupp – on a week’s holiday from Napton in Warwickshire, you can cruise down the quiet South Oxford Canal to Thrupp and back. This meandering canal is mostly surrounded by farmland or woodland and you’ll pass through series of villages with historic pubs to enjoy.  At Fenny Compton you’ll find the historic Merrie Lion and Wharf Inn pubs. Cropredy, home of an annual folk festival, offers the choice of the Brasenose and Red Lion pubs.  Just south of Cropredy you’ll arrive at the historic town of Banbury and Tooley’s Boatyard museum. Thrupp is home to the Boat Inn and the Jolly Boatman pubs. The journey to Thrupp and back travels 84 miles, goes through 68 locks (44 each way) and takes around 47 hours.
    7. Cruise to Leighton Buzzard and back – cruising south from Gayton on the Grand Union Canal near Northampton, you’ll soon reach the Blisworth Tunnel. At 3,057 yards, it’s one of the longest canal tunnels in Britain. The tunnels south portal emerges at the historic canal village of Stoke Bruerne, home to the Canal & River Trust’s Canal Museum. And a choice of canalside pubs. From Stoke Bruerne, you’ll cruise on through varied scenery, through Cosgrove and across the Great Ouse Aqueduct.  You’ll skirt the suburbs and parkland of Milton Keynes, continuing on through the Ouzel Valley to Leighton Buzzard. The journey to Leighton Buzzard and back travels 59 miles, passing through 28 locks (14 each way) and it takes around 25 hours.

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