What are the most scenic routes for a canal boat trip in the Midlands?

11 June 2024

The Midlands is a region teeming with rich history, diverse landscapes, and a network of meandering waterways that beg to be explored. The gentle pace of canal boat trips provides a unique perspective for soaking in the scenic beauty and distinctive charm of the Midlands. From the historic industrial heartland to idyllic countryside settings, the routes along these channels are varied and plentiful. Here, we will delve into the most scenic canal routes to traverse in the Midlands, allowing you to create unforgettable memories on your next canal boat holiday.

The Ashby Canal

The Ashby Canal stretches over 22 miles without a single lock, making it an excellent choice for beginners or those in search of a relaxing and leisurely journey. Being one of the most tranquil waterways in the Midlands, the Ashby Canal is fringed with unspoilt countryside, offering breathtaking vistas at every turn.

Starting from Marston Junction, the Ashby Canal takes you through the rolling fields of Leicestershire and Warwickshire, punctuated by quaint villages and historical landmarks. Highlights include the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Castle, the Battlefield Line Railway, and the site of the Battle of Bosworth. With the gentle hum of your canal boat as your soundtrack, this route provides a serene escape from everyday life.

The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal

The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal is a 46-mile-long waterway that connects the Trent and Mersey Canal to the River Severn. It provides a diverse backdrop, ranging from the metropolitan cityscape of Wolverhampton to the lush greenery of the Staffordshire countryside.

The canal winds through the charming town of Penkridge, past the impressive 18th-century Stafford Castle, and on towards the vibrant city of Stafford. If you continue your journey southeast, you'll reach the historic town of Stourport-on-Severn, where the canal meets the River Severn. Along the way, you'll encounter a variety of flora and fauna, making it not just a boat trip, but a nature expedition as well.

The Coventry Canal

The Coventry Canal is a solid contender when it comes to scenic canal routes in the Midlands. Spanning 38 miles from Coventry to Fradley Junction, this canal presents a unique blend of urban and countryside scenery.

From the regenerated Coventry Basin – a hub of art galleries, eateries and historic buildings – the canal heads north towards Nuneaton, passing through charming villages and beautiful rural landscapes. The Coventry Canal also boasts numerous canal art installations, adding a splash of creativity to your journey. To top it off, the canal route includes a visit to the picturesque Fradley Pool Nature Reserve – a haven for bird watchers and nature enthusiasts.

The Shropshire Union Canal

The Shropshire Union Canal stretches from Wolverhampton to Ellesmere Port, crossing several counties along the way. Though the entire route is worth exploring, the section from Autherley Junction to Market Drayton is particularly scenic.

This route takes you through the serene Shropshire countryside, where you'll be treated to a panorama of rolling hills, farmland, and woodlands. The canal also passes by several attractive villages, including Brewood, Audlem, and Market Drayton – each boasting their own unique character and charm. This route is a prime example of the tranquil beauty the Midlands has to offer.

The Trent and Mersey Canal

Last but certainly not least, the Trent and Mersey Canal is synonymous with the Midlands' rich industrial heritage. The 93-mile-long canal runs from Shardlow to Preston Brook, offering an array of historic and natural sights.

Starting in the bustling town of Derby, the canal cuts through the heart of the Midlands, passing through Burton upon Trent, Stone, and Stoke-on-Trent. The canal route is interspersed with remnants of the pottery industry, historic mills, old salt towns, and not to mention, the Anderton Boat Lift – a masterpiece of Victorian engineering. The canal also skirts the edge of the Peak District, presenting awe-inspiring landscapes and idyllic countryside views.

These scenic canal routes in the Midlands offer a unique blend of natural beauty, history, and tranquillity. Whether you're a seasoned boater or a first-timer, these routes are sure to provide an unforgettable canal boat experience in the heartland of England.

Grand Union Canal

The Grand Union Canal is one of the most iconic and longest waterways in the Midlands, stretching over 137 miles from Birmingham to London. This canal offers an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in the heart of the English countryside while also exploring some of the most vibrant towns and cities in the Midlands.

Your journey could start at Gas Street Basin, a historic canal hub in Birmingham, known for its colourful narrowboats and waterside eateries. From here, the canal meanders through Solihull, Warwick, and Royal Leamington Spa, offering a blend of urban and rural landscapes. Along the way, you'll pass by the famous Warwick Castle, the peaceful Hatton Locks, and the picturesque Braunston village, known for its traditional canal culture.

However, one of the Grand Union Canal's most compelling features is the Leicester Line, which branches off at Norton Junction and takes you through the heart of the East Midlands. This route offers stunning views of the Leicestershire and Northamptonshire countryside, and brings you close to the historic Foxton Locks and the fascinating Harborough Museum.

Black Country Ring

A canal boat trip around the Black Country Ring is a journey through time, showcasing the industrial heritage of the Midlands. This popular 75-mile route encompasses parts of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, Trent and Mersey Canal, Coventry Canal, and Birmingham Canal Main Line, forming a circular route that delivers both historical significance and natural beauty.

Starting at Alvechurch, the ring takes you through a chain of locks at Tardebigge, the longest flight of locks in the UK, leading to Bromsgrove and the beautiful Worcestershire countryside. As you navigate towards the Black Country Museum, you'll experience a living history of a bygone era, illustrating the impact of the Industrial Revolution on the region.

Continuing on, you'll pass through Wolverhampton and Stafford, where you can admire the impressive Stafford Castle. Eventually, the journey takes you through the heart of Birmingham, where you can explore the vibrant Gas Street Basin before returning to Alvechurch.


The Midlands, with its network of historic canals, offers a unique and tranquil boat trip experience. Each route, be it the serene Ashby Canal, the diverse Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, the artistic Coventry Canal, the panoramic Shropshire Union Canal, the historic Trent and Mersey Canal, the iconic Grand Union Canal, or the circular Black Country Ring, provides a unique perspective on the region's rich history and natural beauty.

Whether it's a leisurely journey through rolling countryside or a voyage of discovery through former industrial heartlands, a canal boat trip in the Midlands is sure to leave you with lasting memories. So, whether you're a seasoned boater looking for your next adventure or a first-timer seeking a unique holiday experience, consider embarking on a journey through the Midlands' waterways - a truly idyllic way to explore the heartland of England.

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