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The Kennet and Avon Canal

At a glance
Length: 87 miles, Locks: 104, Recommended time: 2 weeks

Linking the cities of Reading and Bristol, the Kennet and Avon is one of the most popular inland waterways of the U.K. - for a reason. Taking in the stunning cities of Bath and Bristol, the pretty countryside of the Cotswolds and plenty of outdoor activities, canal history and lots of locks, the Kennet and Avon is one of a kind. Experience this world famous region from the comfort of your floating holiday home and have the holiday you always dreamed of.

A Journey from Bristo to Reading

From Bristol to Bath - exciting citylife and tranquil countryside

Your journey on the Kennet and Avon Canal starts in the bustling city of Bristol. The waterway carries you from the floating harbor through the very urban surroundings and only a couple of locks, which makes for a rather gentle introduction to your boat holiday. Note that the first stretch from Bristol until Hanham Lock is actually the tidal River Avon. From here, however, the river loses its tidal character and makes your cruise a a very pleasant experience. As soon as you have passed through the 2 locks, you’ll also notice a change in scenery. The hustle and bustle of Bristol city is left behind and the absolutely gorgeous countryside awaits you. The canal makes its twisty way past the Avon Valley Country Park and only now and then you’ll encounter the odd lock on the way. The River Avon slowly loses its rural character as soon as you reach bridge 208. This marks your entrance into Bath. The world famous roman spa town has plenty of great mooring spots, from where you can explore everything that Bath has on offer.

From Bath to Devizes - remote countryside and eye watering locks

It’s time to leave Bath behind and carry on East. Just outside Bathwick the River Avon finally turns into the Kennet and Avon canal. You’ll soon reach the village of Claverton, which is well hidden behind a wooded stretch. If you have time, take a walk to the village and Claverton Manor. Both are well worth a visit. It’s smooth cruising for most of the way, there are only 6 locks in between Bath and Bradford on Avon. At times, you’ll likely feel completely secluded from the rest of the world as you cross through thick woodland which blocks out the surroundings. The canal only skirts the beautiful town of Bradford-on-Avon but is easily reached on foot through some pretty woods. The Kennet and Avon continues to retain its peaceful and rural character, but soon you’ll notice the increasing amount of locks you need to tackle. The hard work is made more pleasant however by the pretty surroundings. Just after the turnover bridge (146) you’ll enter Lock 22, the first of 7 locks that still have conventional pounds. Once you have tackled these, it’s time for the Caen Hill Flight proper. 16 staircase locks in total have to be worked here in order to reach the other side. At the end however, you can moor up and take a breath in the tearoom. The sight of the Caen Hill Flight is most impressive, so if you have an ounce of energy left, walk down the hill and enjoy the view. After all the lock wheeling it’s time to carry on and find your mooring spot for the night. Why not spend a night around Devizes and replenish your energy levels in one of the many pubs and restaurants?

From Devizes to Hungerford - beautiful walks and more lock wheeling

After all the hard work you’ll be happy to know that there are barely any locks to be tackled for the next few miles. The surroundings continue to be pretty and interesting, as you have rolling pasture on one side and steep hills on the other. Your canal boat journey carries on through a few swing bridges which makes for a nice change every now and then but consists of slow and steady cruising through the beautiful countryside. You’ll soon reach the villages of Wilcot and Pewsey, which are very quaint and also make for great starting points if you enjoy walking in the country. The Vale of Pewsey offers a big variety of footpaths and spectacular views. Soon after you’ll encounter your first lock for 15 miles. But don’t fret - it’s only 3 locks that are well spaced out this time. After passing through Bruce Tunnel you reach Crofton Locks, a succession of 7 locks that lead you down towards Wilton Water. From here on, it is a steady amount of locks all the way to Hungerford, lots of work but almost always with a great view.

From Hungerford to Reading - wildlife watching and pubs a plenty

The last stretch from Hungerford to Reading is a rather great one. First, the canal carries you through some beautiful and interesting water meadows until you reach the town of Newbury. The Kennet and Avon Canal turns into the River Kennet here and carries on East until you reach Midgham Lock. Back on the Kennet and Avon Canal you need to navigate another series of locks, but all well spaced out again to give you a breather in between. You now cross through Aldermaston, which has some rather pretty woodland for you to explore and the impressive Aldermaston lift bridge. It is mechanically operated and carries a well frequented road into the village centre. If you like wildlife watching, you’ll have many options here. Cumber Lake and Woolwich Green Lake are both nature reserves which can be easily reached on foot from the towpath. There is also Tyle Mill, which is a series of former gravel pits. Once again, the canal turns into the River Kennet and leads you through water meadows until you reach the outskirts of Reading. This also marks the end of your journey on your narrowboat from Bristol and it’s time to turn around and make your way back along this absolutely stunning inland waterway.