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Hire a canal boat for a Grand Union canal holiday
Hire A Canal Boat offer many options for taking a canal holiday along the Grand Union Canal – to check the availability of our narrow boats follow this link. Choose from a 45 foot, 4 berth narrow boat or a 55 foot, 6 berth narrow boat and take a relaxing canal holiday on the Grand Union.

History of the Grand Union Canal

Formed by amalgamations of once-independent canals, the 'Leicester Line' of the Grand Union Canal runs north from Norton Junction for about 35 miles (56 km) until it reaches Leicester where it joins the River Soar to provide links to the River Trent and Trent and Mersey Canal. It was to have been the final link between London and the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire coalfields. The canal itself meanders its way through untainted rural surroundings, constantly changing direction as it lazily motions you onwards.  In its entirety and including the Soar, the line has a total of 59 locks and is 66 miles in length.

The Leicester Line is a quiet canal that runs through rolling hills and beautiful countryside, including the waterway landmark and tourist honey-pot at Foxton Locks, the highest point on the Grand Union. The Leicester Line is both interesting and varied and actually includes the River Soar navigation, which runs south from the junction with the River Trent near Kegworth, home to the excellent waterside pub/eatery, The Otter. At its other extreme, it begins when you leave the Grand Union Main line at Norton Junction south of Braunston, a famous and busy waterways intersection, even today. The canal section before Leicester is very rural at times and has two tunnels at Crick (1,528 yards) and Husband's Bosworth (1.166 yards). Both tunnels were built to maintain the level of the canal. In addition, there are staircase locks at both Watford and Foxton. Crick, of course, features one of Britain’s largest annual boat shows held over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend each May and is also home to a large Showmen’s Park.

There is a short arm to Market Harborough and also another taking you to the village of Welford. Both are offer tempting diversions for boaters and towpath walkers alike.  Another major feature, Saddington Reservoir, built to keep the canal well watered, is a wildlife haven. Take your binoculars.

4 locks on Grand Union canalThe seven narrow beam lock flight at Watford lifts the GU Leicester Line 52’6” (16m) to the Leicester summit level. Four of the locks are in a staircase sharing top and bottom gates. They were opened in 1814 and there have been countless schemes to widen them from 7 foot to 14 foot ever since! They, along with Foxton Locks at the other end of the summit level, are the main barriers preventing wide beam boats reaching the waterways of the Midlands and North.

Foxton itself, at the junction with the Market Harborough Arm is the site of a steam powered Inclined Plane which replaced ten locks and lifted narrow boats 75 feet. It was opened in 1900 but suffered from mechanical and structural problems and the locks were reopened in 1908.  There is an ongoing campaign to restore it.

Union Wharf canal basinThe City of Leicester itself has Roman ruins and the National Space Centre. The stretch of the canal which passes through the city centre known as the 'Mile Straight' is home to the Leicester Rowing Club a rowing and sculling club formed in 1882. The club holds its annual regattas on the Soar navigation usually in mid-April which sees participants from across the UK competing over half-mile course.The Grand Union Canal is one of most beautiful and relaxing of all the canal boat holidays – check for availability online today.

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