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Canal Holidays guide to the Leicester Ring

This pleasant and leisurely two week cruise on rivers and canals covers four counties in the East Midlands. The route includes 5 tunnels, several aqueducts, and flights of 'staircase' locks.

Cruising the Ring

Starting in the Rugby area it is a short trip through farmland to the Grand Union Canal at Braunston. Turn left to Braunston Locks and Tunnel before turning at Napton Junction onto the Leicester section of the Grand Union Canal. This peaceful canal through open countryside is noted for its 'staircase' locks.

After the lock keeper assisted flight at Watford there are 22 miles of isolated waterway with villages and pubs to explore. Two long tunnels lead to Foxton and a short branch route to Market Harborough. At Foxton climb the famous 10 lock staircase (lock keeper assistance), and visit the remains of the inclined plane once used to haul boats up the embankment in iron tanks.

Travel on to Leicester city, where the River Soar joins the canal, meandering through Loughborough and Barrow on Soar to Redhill Lock where it meets the River Trent. A short cruise upstream on the wide River Trent is a fascinating contrast before reaching the Trent and Mersey Canal at the restored inland canal village port of Shardlow.

At Burton on Trent, centre of the brewing industry and home to many varieties of ale, the locks change from broad to narrow. The rural route continues down the Coventry Canal through Atherstone to Rugby. If time, detour into Coventry to see the Cathedral.

The Swan Inn at Fradley Junction
Coventry Cathedral
Routes in a Google Map
Leicester Ring Location

Distance, Time, and Locks

about 75
  • The Ring can be covered in two weeks, which may also give time to explore the Ashby and Coventry Canals.
  • Several sections provide out-and-back routes suitable for one week or short breaks.

Places of Interest

Canal village, locks and tunnel at Braunston

Watford Lock Staircase

Foxton Locks and Inclined Plane

Market Harborough


Shardlow restored canal port and village

Burton on Trent breweries and ale

Coventry Cathedral

Braunston Marina Foxton Locks

Possible Holidays on the Leicestershire Ring

One Week
There are a number of superb one week out-and-back routes in the Leicestershire Ring area.
Towards Market Harborough: from Braunston turn at Norton Junction onto the Leicester Ring through tunnels, staircase locks, and open countryside. A shorter option is to the Welford branch.
Ashby and North Oxford Canals: A very leisurely route with only four locks up the Ashby Canal to Snarestone. Famous for the death of King Richard III, the Bosworth Battlefield with Visitor Centre and Country Park is less than a mile from the canal.
Towards Oxford: at Napton take the beautiful meandering historic South Oxford Canal to Cropredy village and Banbury. (See Thames Ring Guide)
Towards Stoke Bruerne: at Braunston head down the Grand Union Canal to Stoke Bruerne and its Waterways Museum. A rural route with two tunnels including Blisworth Tunnel (3056 yards, the longest in England). (See Thames Ring Guide).

Short Breaks
Mid-week and weekend breaks are available from all Canal Holidays bases on the Leicestershire Ring. These can be adapted from the one-week routes above.

Longer Holidays
A two week trip on the Leicestershire Ring gives ample time for seeing the many interesting sights; it may be possible to link in the Warwickshire Ring section through Birmingham. In three weeks it will be possible to cover the Thames Ring.

Customer Comments

Read what some of our previous clients say about the Leicester Ring.

"It was an excellent holiday for children and adults alike. Our 2 children are young adults, 14 + 17yrs, but they were not bored at any time. Our son did a lot of the steering and was really good at it."

"Very good boat, good and friendly staff, good service. I would recommend such a holiday to everyone. The boats are easy to handle and the British are very friendly."
HA, Netherlands

"Many thanks for a great family break. The only complaint is how much food 3 boys eat due to opening the locks all week!"

"We particularly enjoyed the stretch through Foxton Locks (great fun was had by all the family!) and Market Harborough is definitely worth a visit."

"The wildlife on the canal during June (baby ducks, baby geese, baby swans, herons, other birds) was a constant delight."