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Grand Union Main Line

 

Grand Union Canal - Moorings, Canalside Pubs, Barge Hire and Canal Holidays. 

The tabs above will give you information you need for the planning of your Grand Union Canal narrowboat holiday, cycle route, towpath walk or favourite fishing spots with the canal guide being printable to use while on your canal adventure. Using information through our Grand Union Canal guide, Canal map and photo galleries we can help you find narrowboat hire bases, mooring spots, places to eat at canalside pubs and restaurants, towns, villages and landmarks of interest. Information of all kinds is added all the time so if you can’t find some information at this time be assured that we are working hard to get it on the site as soon as we can.

The Grand Union Mainline forms a direct link between London and Birmingham with a junction in Braunston linking Leicester via the River Soar, the Mainline covers 135 miles using 166 locks including the mighty 21 lock flight at Hatton, nicknamed the stairway to heaven. The canal rises over the beautiful Chiltern Hills as it climbs away from London and offers some terrific rural scenery along its entire length.

The sheer number of waterways that the Grand Union gives access to would account for a good many waterways on the wish list of any aspiring boater, from the outset the Rivers Lee and Stort, the River Nene near Northampton leading to the Fens and the Great Ouse, around Braunston the Oxford Canal leading to the Coventry and Trent and Mersey canals beyond that, the Kennet and Avon, the River Avon, the list goes on.

The Grand Union has a number of destination towns along its banks, Braunston and Stoke Bruerne are well known to boaters going back generations and towards Birmingham the historic town of Warwick and its close neighbour Leamington Spa offering contrasting surroundings, attractions and experiences. There is no shortage of activities along the banks of the canal, whether fishing, cycling, walking, sightseeing or just sitting in one of the many pubs and watching the world go by, there is something for everyone.

Waterways Leisure is a valuable resource for information on canal pubs, barge hire and places to eat and drink. In addition we also offer a range of country clothing and country wear and clothing which is suitable to be embroidered with our top embroidery service.

Canals and rivers with links to the the Grand Union Mainline:

River Thames; River Nene; River Great Ouse and Tributaries; Oxford Canal; Stratford Upon Avon Canal; Birmingham Canal Navigations; Grand Union Leicester Line; River Soar

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With narrowboat hire bases spread along the Grand Union Canal there is a good choice as to where to start your narrowboat holiday from.

The Following Grand Union Canal Guide is not only a guide for people on narrowboat holidays but is written to be just as handy for activities along the towpath and for people lucky enough to be boat owners with information of attractions, highlights, land marks, mooring spots, marina’s, food shops, canalside pubs and other places to eat in the settlements along the Grand Union Canal. Both the canal map and canal guide can be printed off by clicking the icon on the right to be taken with you as you enjoy your time on the Grand Union Canal.

The Grand Union Mainline forms a direct link between London and Birmingham with a junction in Braunston linking Leicester via the River Soar, the Mainline covers 135 miles using 166 locks including the mighty 21 lock flight at Hatton, nicknamed the stairway to heaven. The canal rises over the beautiful Chiltern Hills as it climbs away from London and offers some terrific rural scenery along its entire length.

The sheer number of waterways that the Grand Union gives access to would account for a good many waterways on the wish list of any aspiring boater, from the outset the Rivers Lee and Stort, the River Nene near Northampton leading to the Fens and the Great Ouse, around Braunston the Oxford Canal leading to the Coventry and Trent and Mersey canals beyond that, the Kennet and Avon, the River Avon, the list goes on.

The Grand Union has a number of destination towns along its banks, Braunston and Stoke Bruerne are well known to boaters going back generations, and towards Birmingham the historic town of Warwick and its close neighbour Leamington Spa offering contrasting surroundings, attractions and experiences. There is no shortage of activities along the banks of the canal, whether fishing, cycling, walking, sightseeing or just sitting in one of the many pubs and watching the world go by, there is something for everyone.

The London end of the Grand Union Canal starts in Brentford at the River Thames opposite Kew Gardens and adjacent to Syon House and Gardens which are well worth a visit. Within short walking distance from the canal are a good many places to shop, enjoy a drink or just relax in the park gardens. The canal is overlooked by modern apartment buildings and office blocks, but trees and greenery are never far away.

The canal takes a north westerly direction through a series of light turns as it leaves Greater London taking in the inevitable arterial roads, the occasional railway line and remaining very well cosseted away from the hubbub winding through thickets of trees, parkland, past a golf course and through ever more low lying suburban housing.

The Hanwell Locks are only a couple of miles from the Thames but already the difference in surroundings is a sharp contrast to the centre of London. At all times the towpath and canal banks are extremely well kept and the Lock keepers Cottage at Hanwell is exceptionally pretty and immaculate. There are six locks at Hanwell, the canal meets the tranquil River Brent at this point before continuing up the flight of locks.

After going past North Hyde the Grand Union Mainline meets the first of the navigable arms and canals lending to a wide variety of choice for the timescale and destinations cruisers choose to take while navigating the canal. The Paddington line heads in a north easterly direction through Paddington, Marylebone and Finsbury leading to the Rivers Lee and Stort just before the crossing of the A312 road.

As the canal veers more northerly a small distance further along the Slough Arm turns west from the Mainline taking a direct route into the heart of Slough leaving just a short walk into the centre, there is ample opportunity in Slough for shopping of every kind and a wide selection of pubs to while away some time in. The Slough Arm is only short but takes a straight path past nice lake scenery in Huntsmoor Park, fields and parkland into Slough, it does pass under one particularly busy road but on the whole it is a nice diversion.

The canal continues on, blissfully detached from the intensity of London life, it skirts around Uxbridge, past the spectacular lake scenery including Springwell, Stockers, Lynsters and Savay Lakes in and around Colne Valley Park to the left, there are no shortages of pubs and restaurants throughout this entire stretch and despite being in the most populous part of the country provides plenty of trees, grass, wildlife and fishing spots throughout this section of the journey.

Around Rickmansworth where the canals turns more easterly the scenery really opens up, as well as the lakes that have accompanied the canal for the last couple of miles there is wide open parkland at Croxley Common, another golf course and thick woodland that cossets in the canal. These pleasant surroundings continue all the way to Watford which the canal skirts around to the western fringes making access into the city centre somewhat tricky, there are however a few convenience stores within walking distance of the canal should you need provisions.

The canal goes under the regally white Grove Bridge as it reaches the northern edge of Watford after which the canal crosses under the heinously busy M25. Once past the motorway the tree lined banks, water fowl and open fields surrounding the towns of Hunton Bridge and Kings Langley give a taste for the kind of surroundings associated with some of the more rural areas to the northern reaches of the Grand Union, this is marred slightly by the intrusion of the M25 but it is soon behind us.

The Grand Union skirts around the southern edge of Hemel Hempstead, there is no shortage of pubs near the canal and the shopping centre is only a short walk from the canal, ample visitors moorings are on hand. The canal cuts straight through the centre of Berkhamstead giving yet more options to stop for a drink and a bite to eat after which the canal dives straight into rich farmland as it nears the Wendover Arm at Tring.

It is another relatively short arm into the pleasant town of Wendover, the town has a very relaxed atmosphere compared to much of London and the winding high street with white painted storefronts overlooked by wooded hills is a most pleasant place to spend some time.

A short distance and a few locks up the mainline from the Wendover Arm is the Aylesbury Arm, it runs a relatively straight course over the short distance from Marsworth, there are 16 locks to navigate but the splendid market town of Aylesbury is certainly worth the journey and exploration. There are restaurants and pubs to cater to all tastes and budgets and the market square, side streets, churches and shops provide enough to do and see to justify a day or two to explore properly.

Back on the Grand Union Mainline the next stretch through Leighton Buzzard and onto Milton Keynes has few locks and plenty of wide open scenery to enjoy without much interference from roads, busy or otherwise and towns or villages. Horton Lock and Grove Lock I found to be very striking with pleasant surrounding views. Leighton Buzzard lies to the east of the canal, it offers a chance to shop at a supermarket or to just enjoy the wide corridor of greenery that envelopes the canal bank, punctuated by houses with well kept gardens bordering the banks.

The railway line keeps the canal company for a short distance after heading north out of Leighton Buzzard, the canal takes a more meandering course before it passes Stockgrove Country Park to the right. The countryside here is less wooded and more arable than previous surroundings but that lends itself to far reaching views through breaks in the trees.

Entrance to Milton Keynes is marked by first arriving at Bletchley and Fenny Stratford, home of Bletchley Park and the Enigma code breakers of World War Two. As well as historical significance this area provides a rich variety of pubs. The canal passes through the very heart of Milton Keynes, it has a huge shopping mall and a variety of leisure activities to offer, from indoor skiing and skydiving to pleasant fishing spots and walks through parkland, the pleasant Linford Lakes and adjacent wild fowl centre. I must admit I was surprised by how nice Milton Keynes was from the canal and wandering around some of the open areas as people can speak somewhat disparagingly of this new town, cruisers are well catered for with many pubs within easy reach of the canal.

On leaving Milton Keynes the Grand Union passes over the River Great Ouse and past Cosgrove, there is ample opportunity to stop for a bite here or further on out into the countryside. The landscape from here to Stoke Bruerne is relatively flat, this has the benefit of providing some lock free cruising for a time and enjoying the quiet scenery.

Stoke Bruerne caters to cruisers and users of the canal better than nearly all, as such the upside is that the village has all you will need or want in a lively rural village. The downside is that it gets very busy here in peak times so be prepared to queue for the flight of locks. Back to the plus side again, it is one of the finest places I can think of to be stuck in a queue, The Navigation Inn has a great menu, a canalside beer garden and lovely real ales, the thatched cottages equally are nice to look at, there is a very interesting canal museum, the people are friendly, in short, Stoke Bruerne is great.

Directly after Stoke Bruerne is the Blisworth Tunnel, the third longest navigable tunnel in Britain after Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and Dudley Tunnel on Dudley Canal No 1. At almost 2800 metres long Blisworth Tunnel takes between 20 and 30 minutes to navigate which in itself is astonishing. Welcome sunlight is reached again at the pleasant village of Blisworth and just after to the right is the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union. There are a good many locks to navigate up to Northampton as the canal passes under the busy M1 leading up to Cotton End and skirting around the centre of Northampton leaving a small walk to the numerous shops and pubs in the grand centre.

The canal winds through wide expanses of arable farmland keeping to the southern edge of the small towns of Bugbrooke and Nether Hatford, both towns giving a choice should you wish to stop for a drink and a bite to eat. A little further on the canal passes through the slightly larger settlement of Weedon Bec offering a further choice of pubs and shops. After Weedon Bec the M1 runs alongside the canal again for a short time before the Norton Junction outside of Daventry.

At the Norton Junction the mainline follows a course to the left and the Grand Union Leicester Line goes off to meet the River Soar in the north in Leicester. Followers of the Mainline soon come across the Braunston Tunnel on the northern edge of Daventry, at nearly 1900 metres long it is an impressive piece of canal architecture, taking into account problems with quick sand and contractors digging in the wrong direction when it was made it is all the more impressive and unique.

Much like Stoke Bruerne, Braunston is geared up to cater to cruisers, the village lies to the northern bank and has a rich choice in pubs, primarily The Admiral Nelson on the canalside to the east of the village and The Old Plough in the centre of the village, make time to drop in to both, you will not be disappointed. The views of the church spire across the meadow is outstanding and the village has an enduring popularity with boaters not least due to the fact that Braunston marks the point at which the Oxford Canal joins to share the waterway with the Grand Union for five miles. This has the foreseeable effect of making this area one of the busiest on the entire canal network, it is well worth enduring the hunt for a mooring spot as Braunston and the waterway have a lively and friendly atmosphere which is worth enjoying for a time before moving on.

The Oxford Canal and Grand Union part ways just before the village of Napton on the Hill, the Grand Union veers off to the north past the villages of Stockton and Long Itchington. Radford Semele is an outlying village to Royal Leamington Spa, the canal heads westerly through the suburbs of Leamington getting to within half a mile or so of the town centre.

There are plentiful visitor moorings in Leamington, the old high street is just a minutes walk from the moorings next to the Aga factory offering a few convenience stores and a lot of Indian restaurants. The walk into the centre goes past the old Pump Rooms that gave the town its name, over the River Leam and the beautiful main shopping street called the Parade begins. There are so many restaurants in Leamington that every taste and budget is catered to. If walking through pleasant parkland is appealing then stop at Jefferson Gardens next to the Pump Rooms for a good picnic spot and some impressive plants and flowers, just beyond the Gardens at the bottom of the Parade is The Lounge, a great place to stop for a drink and a bite to eat while deciding which attractions to take in next.

The gap in between Leamington and Warwick is almost indiscernible but the difference in the two towns could not be mistaken. Where Leamington has wide straight roads and white buildings in the spa style, Warwick’s twisting roads, old buildings of every type and shape and more olde world feel is a pleasant contrast, most famous for its incomparable castle Warwick offers much from its racecourse to the beautiful Priory Park there is certainly enough to do here to fill a couple of days. The historic centre of Warwick lies a ten minute walk from the canal to the south, it is well worth getting off the boat for.

Soon after Warwick the Hatton Locks loom, they are undoubtedly a large undertaking but the lock gates are in good working order and towards the top the views back over Warwick are worth the effort, there is of course room for two narrowboats side by side to help share the load.

A couple of miles further up from Hatton is the 400 metre long Shrewley Tunnel which comes out into open farmland as the canal heads into the northern reaches of Warwickshire. The canal goes through some quiet countryside down long straight stretches passing by some quiet villages, not least the pleasant village of Rowington where you are lucky enough to have a great pub on the canal banks, The Tom O' The Wood, it's hard to miss due to the pleasant vine covered side of the building facing the canal. There is a farmshop close by to make a stop doubly worthwhile, the pub is popular with walkers as there are many  rambling groups that pass by year round to enjoy the great ales on offer and locally sourced food. The canal passes the small town of Lapworth which has a couple of pubs and a well stocked convenience store before heading past the larger town of Knowle on the outskirts of Solihull.

The canal now is into the city of Birmingham and goes through Olton past Worlds End through Sparkbrook to first meet with the Birmingham and Warwick Junction Canal and a short while after the Digbeth Branch of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, this is where the Grand Union ends and the Birmingham Canal Navigations begin on the southern end of the BCN and a stones throw from the centre of Birmingham.

Waterways Leisure is a valuable resource for information on canal pubs, barge hire and places to eat and drink. In addition we also offer a range of country clothing and country wear and clothing which is suitable to be embroidered with our top embroidery service.