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Clifton: Canals of the Warwickshire Countryside

Boats Available:

Duchess 4
Duchess 6
Princess 2



Clifton Wharf, Clifton upon Dunsmore Rugby, Warwickshire CV23 0EY. Ideally situated in the heart of the Warwickshire countryside, Clifton offers a large number of interesting routes for beginners to the most experienced narrowboaters. Choose to cruise the picturesque waterways of the East Midlands with their misty dawns and spectacular sunsets, enjoying the beautiful quiet villages and excellent pubs or head to the vibrant stop-offs of Stratford Upon Avon or Birmingham city centre to soak up the culture. Whatever type of narrowboat journey you’re looking for, Clifton has it all.

Suggested Routes From Clifton

14 Miles, 52 Locks, 1 Week Cruise, 7 hours per day
The Leicester Line is a beautifully scenic, meandering waterway through rolling hills and unspoilt countryside of central England. With a great selection of canal features this is a highly recommended trip which can be challenging but great for those looking for an active holiday. There are narrow locks, broad locks, staircase locks, tunnels and a swing bridge which provide plenty of variety but you’ll be happy to know there are also long stretches of quiet cruising to be enjoyed. There’s also plenty of history surrounding this canal route. What is now called the ‘Leicester Line’ comprised two canals which were bought by the Grand Junction Canal in 1894: the Leicestershire & Northamptonshire Union Canal and the ‘old’ Grand Union Canal. The Leicester Line forms part of the Grand Union Canal Norton Junction to Foxton in 1814, providing a direct route from the East Midlands coalfield and industrial towns to London.

Starting your journey from our base at Clifton, head south to Braunston turning east to Norton Junction and then north along the Grand Union Leicester arm summit. For the less energetic you can turn turn down the Welford Arm and then return. As mentioned the Leicester Section features a couple of flights of locks, the first being Watford Locks (famous for being near the Watford Gap service area on the M1). This is a group of seven locks being formed (looking from the south) of two single locks, a staircase of four, and a final single lock. Together they lift the canal 16 m (52 ft 6 in) to the “Leicester Summit”, which it maintains all the way to Foxton Locks. Great views to be had at the top if you need a rest!

The canal continues north, until you pass through a short tunnel to Crick, a beautiful little village that dates back to the Doomsday Book. Stop here for supplies and a visit to the pub and if you are around at the end of May you can join in the festivities of the annual Crick Boat Show & Waterways Festival. After Crick you can relax on a long stretch of waterway without any locks, passing the hamlets of Yelvertoft and North Kilworth and through the Husbands Bosworth tunnel, which is about the same length as Crick tunnel. Next stop is the famous staircase locks at Foxton. These are the largest flight of staircase locks on the English canal system with two ‘staircases’ of five locks. There’s a great museum here at Foxton where you can learn more about the locks and how they were built and see local canal ware on show.

Alongside the locks is the site of the Foxton Inclined Plane, a unique bit of waterways history built in 1900. It was an innovative idea that tried to speed up the process of moving the canal boats up 75 feet by using water-filled tanks. Unfortunately it was not a commercial success and remained in full-time operation for only ten years. It was dismantled in 1928, but visitors can clearly see where it was sited and the museum has exhibits showing how it worked. Foxton Locks is close to Market Harborough in the south of the county and the town is well worth a visit for shopping and eating and drinking. Beyond Foxton the canal meanders around following the contour lines, and you can again enjoy navigating long stretches of waterway with no locks. The Leicester Line reaches the city of Leicester via the villages of Fleckney, Newton Harcourt and Blaby. On the way you’ll come across the 800 metre long Saddington tunnel, a slightly crooked tunnel that dates back to 1797.

Interesting for it’s history, this tunnel is home to numerous colonies of bats , and ‘Anna’, a headless female ghost! (Do let us know if you spot her!) The canal leaves Saddington tunnel and you navigate one or two locks as you continue northwards towards the city of Leicester. The approach to Leicester on the canal is one of the best among large towns and cities, and you can easliy gain access to the city centre along a lovely canalside walk. . It is worth taking time out to discover the many attractions of Leicester, like the Roman ruins, the County Museum, the Newarke Houses Museum, Belgrave Hall, the Jewry Wall and Archeological Museum. The travel agent Thomas Cook started his business in Leicester in 1841!

11 Miles, 2 Locks, 1 Week Cruise, 6 hours per day
Ideal for first timers or those wanting a very relaxing holiday, these stretches of beautiful waterways will suit you perfectly. With just the one lock at Hawkesbury you can enjoy a week cruising the length of the attractive and rural Ashby canal, 22 lock free miles, passing the Battlefield of Bosworth, Shackerstone Steam Railway and many small villages. Your canal boat journey begins at Clifton upon Dunsmore, just on the outskirts of Rugby on the northern Oxford Canal. Believe it or not, Rugby is the birthplace of the game of the same name. Here you can find out about the man credited to inventing the game, William Web Ellis. Based in St. Matthew’s Street, The Webb Ellis Rugby Football Museum wealth of rugby memorabilia for the rugby enthusiast.

A good way to explore Rugby is by following one of the self-guided walks through the town center. The Pathway of Fame will take you around the town while telling you about important events and people throughout the history of the game. If you are more interested in the history of the town the Blue Plaque tour will show you the historic buildings of Rugby and fill you in on their importance. After Rugby you will travel through the short but beautifully lit Newbold Tunnel, past Brinklow with it’s shops and pubs, across the Hopsford Valley Aqueduct to Hawkesbury, where you’ll find the lock with the smallest lift on the system at only six inches! At Hawkesbury you can either take a left to Coventry along the Coventry Canal or take a right to Marston.

A trip to Coventry is worthwhile to see the remains of its 14th century cathedral, which was destroyed during the Second World War. The city also features the Midland Air Museum, Herbert Art Galley and Coventry Transport Museum. Once at Marston, you can either turn right to coast down the lock-free and rural Ashby Canal, or left to continue along the Coventry Canal towards Tamworth.

The Ashby Canal offers very quiet and extremely peaceful journey with few boats to disturb you. The canal was once an important part of the local mining industry, but now exists as a calm cruise area with beautiful views. The market towns of Hinckley and Market Bosworth are worth a visit on this route. Hinckley market, which recently celebrated its 700th birthday, claims to be the best in the country – you’ll have to visit for yourself to see if that claim is true! Market days are on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. Further up the Ashby Canal, just before Snarestone you there’s the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre, which celebrates the battle in which King Richard III lost his life and Twycross Zoo one of UK’s leading wildlife attractions, home to over 1000 different species of animal.

100 Miles, 95 Locks, 1 Week Cruise, 8 hours per day
The Warwickshire Ring involves 100 miles and 95 locks so bring a fit crew! Choose a week or longer to take a fascinating and energetic trip through the historic towns of Royal Leamington Spa, Warwick and Birmingham, bringing you back via the more relaxing Birmingham and Fazeley and Coventry canals. We recommend cruising the Ring in a clockwise direction so that you get most of the locks behind you during the first half of the week. You start your Warwickshire Ring canal boat holiday from our Clifton-upon-Dunsmore base, on the Oxford Canal. Travel south to Braunston before heading west at Napton Junction onto the Grand Union Canal. Just past Napton Reservoir you’ll hit your first flight of eight locks, the Stockton Locks and then the set of four Bascote Locks before travelling on to the beautiful town of Royal Leamington Spa.

Often described as ‘the best bits of London, all in a ten-minute walk’, this Victorian spa town is a must-do on your Warwickshire Ring trip. There are visitor moorings both sides of bridge 40 (and winding holes at both ends of the town if you miss them) and from here you can enjoy an easy walk into the center of town. Cure your gout and rheumatism at the Royal Pump Rooms, stroll around the Jephson Gardens and marvel at the Georgian and Edwardian architecture of the central shopping area. Just west of Leamington, Warwick is another historic town worth a visit and if you are travelling with children then you must make time for Warwick Castle, a fun attraction that brings history to life in a very dynamic way.

Then it’s the run up north along the wide locks of the Grand Union Canal to the Hatton Flight and into Birmingham, or you can divert at Kingswood via the North Stratford Canal through Kings Norton and onwards into the city. Kings Norton features a 13th century church and several medieval buildings. The town also has historic significance as the center of Civil War skirmishes. You can also head south at Kingswood Junction to the Stratford Upon Avon where you can moor opposite the Theatre. The town is one of the UK’s most prominent cultural areas and was the birthplace of the playwright William Shakespeare – it is now home of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The Hatton Flight, or ‘Stairway to Heaven’ as it’s known, is a 2-mile corridor of twenty-one locks. It’s clearly not a run for the faint-hearted, but this area is excellent for lovers of wildlife so take your time and enjoy the views! One you reach Birmingham you can explore England’s second largest city and discover a variety of attractions, from shops and bars to art galleries and exhibitions. You can also take in the University, Botanical Gardens or Cadbury World, depending on your area of interest. The Botanical Gardens exhibits fifteen acres of nature and over 7000 plants, whilst Cadbury World is perfect for those with a sweet tooth. You can even play in chocolate rain!

Leaving the city via narrow canals to Fazeley, you return southwards past Coventry. Diversions into Coventry or onto the peaceful Ashby Canal should be considered, but don’t forget to allow extra time for this. In Coventry you can go and see the remains of the 14th century cathedral, which was destroyed during World War II. The Herbert Art Gallery, Midland Air Museum and Coventry Transport Museum are also notable points of interest. If you fancy a more peaceful journey, head instead down the Ashby Canal for a calm cruise with lovely views.

94 Miles, 82 Locks, 1 Week Cruise, 7 hours per day
If you fancy a real countryside cruise through pretty scenery to picture postcard canal-side villages then head south on the Oxford Canal to the Grand Union Canal from Clifton-upon-Dunsmore. First stop is Braunston, a busy but scenic canal junction with lots of canal side pubs and a jovial atmosphere. Down on the canal by the wharf you see long rows of moored boats, a very large marina, some lovely old black and white bridges and plenty of places to pick up supplies. Don’t miss The Stop House, which was originally the Toll Office between the Oxford Canal and the Grand Junction Canal. The village itself is located up the hill and the church with its high spire is visible for miles around. Heading west from Braunston you’ll travel through Braunston Tunnel, 2042 yards long

The canal now runs eastward through gentle hills and green fields until the Braunston Tunnel. This prettily lit tunnel is 1867 meters long and fortunately wide enough for two boats. It opened in 1796 to create a route through the low hills which separate the main Grand Union Canal from Braunston. You’ll come across another tunnel just before Stoke Bruerne. The famous Blisworth Tunnel is the third longest tunnel in the whole canal network and is also reputed to be haunted. During it’s construction fourteen builders were killed when they hit quicksand – the tunnSel caved in and a new tunnel had to built. Ever since then boaters have told stories about strange lights that appear at the very place where the old tunnel would have been… Stoke Bruerne offers some nice pubs and a great canal museum – a good stop for children and adults alike to soak up some waterways history.

Continue southeast through some very gentle and pleasant rural countryside past the village of Weedon and Nether Heyford, and on to Milton Keynes where bus routes connect to the city center if you decide on a shopping spree. If modern towns are not your thing then continue onto Soulbury and Leighton Buzzard. Leighton Buzzard is a lively market that owes a lot of its development to the Grand Union canal. Sand and gravel were extracted locally for major building projects in the Midlands and Greater London, and this was formerly all transported up and down the canal by horse-drawn barges. There are some lovely pubs along this stretch of canal plus a large supermarket to restock your supplies.

Clifton Base Information

Hotels / Guest Houses
Premier Inn Rugby North, Newbold Hotel, Brownsover Road, Rugby, CV21 1HL Tel: 0871 527 8948 Double rooms – £70, single rooms – £55. Rates include breakfast.
Public Transport
National Rail Enquiries: www.nationalrail.co.uk
Tel: 08457 484950
www.thetrainline.com Tel: 0871 244 1545


Taxi / Minicabs
J’s Taxis Tel: 07966 287306
Abc Taxis Tel: 01788 574355
Peoples Express Tel: 01788 561000
Approximate prices: (Prices courtesy of Peoples Express – subject to change)
Birmingham International Airport to Clifton: £40/£55 (minibus)
Stanstead or Heathrow Airport to Clifton: £115/£170 (minibus)

Car Hire
Hertz Car Hire have depots throughout the UK including main airports. We have an exclusive agreement with Hertz who will provide reduced rates for all Black Prince customers. Drop-offs, collections and one ways are all available, allowing you to pick up a car at your arrival point and request a car to be waiting at the end of your holiday for onward travel. To book your car visit www.hertz.co.uk or call 0870 844 4844 and quote CDP 694816.
www.nationalrail.co.uk    /   www.qjump.co.uk
National Rail Enquiries: Telephone : 08457 484950

Flying into London
From Heathrow airport, get the London underground tube to Euston station. From Gatwick airport, get the Gatwick Express to London Victoria station, then get a London underground tube to London Euston. From Stansted airport, get the London underground tube to London Euston. From Euston, get a direct train to Rugby. From Paddington, get a direct train to Rugby Visit www.tfl.gov.uk to plan your route on the London Underground.

Flying into Birmingham
Get a direct train to Rugby.

How To Find Us (By Road)

Clifton is situated 1 mile North East of Rugby, Warwickshire. From the M6: Exit at Junction 1 and follow the signs for Rugby (A426). Proceed over 2 roundabouts. At the third roundabout take the first exit left onto Boughton Road and follow this road to the end. At the traffic lights turn left and the entrance to Clifton Cruisers is first turning on the left.


There are a number of shops in Chirk, including a Co-op supermarket.

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