12 great canal routes

Instead of going from A to B, why not go round in circles? If you don’t have time to explore our 2,000 miles of canals and rivers, why not try one of these circular boating routes?

Couple working lock for narrowboat at Stoke Bruerne Stoke Bruerne, Grand Union Canal

If you’re taking a boating holiday then a cruising ring, as they're called, could be just what you’re looking for. Varying in length and taking anything from two days to three weeks, these circular routes mean you’ll never have to re-tread (or even re-cruise) your steps and every day you’ll get to see a new stretch of water. 

And with plenty of stopping off points for walking, cycling or even fishing along the way, they're great for trying all the healthy, fun activities our waterways have to offer. Before returning to where you started.

1. Avon ring

Two weeks should allow you ample time to navigate this 108 mile route without hurrying, while still allowing you to appreciate places such as Stratford-on-Avon or Worcester.

2. Birmingham ring

At 45 miles, this ring take just one week to complete at your leisure. And as the name suggests, it traces the major canals in the Birmingham Canal Navigations that form the city's maze of waterways.

3. Black Country ring

The 68 mile Black Country cruising ring (also known as the Staffordshire ring) is made up of a combination of canals each memorable for different reasons. Ten days cruising should do it. 

4. Cheshire ring

Featuring the Bridgewater Canal, the first canal to be built, the Cheshire ring is one of the original cruising rings. Its 97 miles should take the average boater about two weeks to travel. 

5. Four Counties ring

A solid two weeks cruising its 110 miles through the rolling Cheshire Plains to the Trent & Mersey Canal, the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal and back to the 'Shroppie', the Four Counties is best savoured slowly.

6. Leicester ring

At 154 miles this is one of the longer rings and should take you a litte over three weeks to complete. But it's worth it as the Leicester ring takes in rivers as well as canals.

7. Mid-Worcestershire ring

Looking for a weekend jaunt? The Mid-Worcestershire, or Droitwich ring is a 21 mile circular route. It's the only ring on the waterways that you can comfortably negotiate in a weekend.

8. South Pennine ring

The South Pennine ring crosses the rugged Pennines back and forth and includes the mighty Standedge Tunnel. With 197 locks along its 73 miles route, it's not for the faint hearted.

9. Stourport ring

Two weeks comfortable cruising along its 84 miles, the Stourport ring visits no fewer than three contrasting cities: Wolverhampton, industrial Birmingham and the ancient City of Worcester.

10. Thames ring

Thirty-five days with roughly seven hours cruising a day should see you conquer this mamouth, yet must-do ring. Taking in broad and narrow canals, rivers and tidal stretches through London.

11. Two roses ring

Twenty-seven days cruising - give or take a few tea stops along the way - Lancashire and Yorkshire are brought together in a combination of canal and river navigations criss-crossing the Pennines.

12. Warwickshire ring

This 104 mile route takes two weeks to carve a surprisingly rural canal boating journey through manicured fields and ancient meadows for much of its length. Despite how close to Birmingham it is.

Last date edited: 17 July 2019