Top 5 scenic canal routes in the UK

10 June 2019

What better way to discover the UK's stunning landscapes than drifting dreamily down a canal on a charming narrowboat?

There are so many canal routes in the UK to choose from, each with its own wonderful waterside delights. Which one will you pick?

1. Cheshire Ring

The Cheshire Ring offers something for everyone; it's a magnificent route through bustling towns, sleepy villages and the heart of Manchester (past Old Trafford Stadium) – it's easy to see why this is such a popular choice for canal holidays.

The fact that it's circular means that you could, if you so wished, do the entire 97 mile route without having to turn back on yourself; the canal itself passes through enough diverse scenery to keep you entertained for the whole journey. From the rolling Pennines to the bustling city centre, it doesn't leave a lot of scope for boredom.

Read about it in The Cheshire Ring: In Circular Canal-Side Walks 1: A 100-Mile Walk in and Around the City, available in the Saga Bookshop.

2. Kennet and Avon Canal

Said to be one of the most stunning of Britain's waterways, the Kennet and Avon canal combines a bit of everything: the Downs, open plains, villages, market towns and – of course – the historic Georgian city of Bath.

It's made up of three historic waterways, the Kennet Navigation, the Avon Navigation and the Kennet & Avon Canal, which were connected over time. By 1810 canal boats could go from Reading in Berkshire to Bath in Somerset, but the 1841 opening of the Great Western Railway that ran from London to Bristol had a negative effect on the profitability of the canals. The canal fell into disrepair in following years, but in the early 1960s Kennet & Avon Canal Trust was formed and over time, has restored the canal to a condition everyone can enjoy.

Read about it in The Kennet and Avon Canal: The full canal walk and 20 day walks, available in the Saga Bookshop.

Cruise some of the world's most beautiful waterways. Find out more here

3. Oxford Canal

Perhaps the most popular in the country, the Oxford Canal winds its way past country estates, charming towns and, most importantly, first-class pubs. Starting in (unsurprisingly) Oxford, you can wend your way 77 miles north to Coventry - or you can go from Coventry to Oxford, and follow the journey taken by people lugging coal in the 1770s. 

A guide to canal boat holidays

4. Forth and Clyde and Union Canals

Cross all the way from Glasgow in the west to Edinburgh in the east, passing over three fabulous aqueducts and the spectacular Falkirk Wheel on your way.

5. River Wey

This tranquil waterway runs through the heart of Surrey, beginning as two branches and joining at Tilford, between Guildford and Farnham. It then heads north to meet the Thames while still in Surrey.