Canal boat holidays—Oxford Canal - With Grand Union

Published: Wednesday, 19 January 2011
With Grand Union

Between Braunston and Napton junctions the canal shares with the Grand Union Canal for five miles, whilst towards its southern end there is a short river section where the canal joins the Cherwell.

The river locks are unusual as they are diamond shape, with the purpose of holding a great deal of water, with the advantage that they can take a number of narrowboats, as seen in the picture below.

It is after Napton that the many twists of Brindley's original canal can really be experienced, being able to look through the hedges and see boats travelling in the opposite direction though actually going the same way.

There is a handy supermarket a few hundred yards from the moorings at Rugby, with dedicated mooring by a park. The canal passes through the centre of Banbury with a very extensive waterside shopping precinct by its side. There is a  supermarket just beyond, South of the town. There are official moorings in the towns, though Oxford itself is somewhat taken up by resident boats, and access to the city is limited being on the opposite side to the towpath.

There are many boatyards and marinas over the length of the waterway so no shortage of facilities for boaters.

The canal is famous for its many lift bridges, though quite a few are in the raised position, so present no problem. Others are quite easy to operate, causing little or no problems, except possibly with locking devices.

There are just two lock flights—Napton and Claydon, but present no great difficulty.  Nearer to Oxford the lift bridges are mechanised.

It is considered a 'safe' canal with the exception of Banbury, where a waterside high wall and a footbridge over the waterway seems to tempt people to throw things onto either moored or passing boats. It is advised not to moor overnight in those areas, or even close to the wall in daytime, as the temptation to drop items on boats seems to be too much of a temptation for some.


Many boaters use the canal for access to and from the Thames, with a split in the waterway at Oxford giving two choices, taking  the original line by the side of the city through Isis Lock (pictured) for travelling East on the Thames, or Duke's Cut that joins the river further West.

The Oxford Canal is recommended for new hirers and for get-away short breaks, but being so popular has the reputation of being very crowded at peak times, especially at the two flights, which can be closed at certain times during exceptionally dry weather due to water shortage. There are numerous boatyards along the waterway and plenty of services.

The combined North and South is 77 miles long with 43 locks and numerous lift bridges. It has a tunnel and two aqueducts, one being quite impressive.

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