Breaking News! We can now arrange a self-guided walking holiday
along the northern sections of the long Grand Union Canal.  Contact us to find out more

The Oxford Canal

The Oxford Canal was constructed in the late 18th century following an Act of Parliament in 1769 and it opened up the countryside in the heart of England at the beginning of the industrial revolution.  Running between Hawkesbury near Coventry and Oxford, in its heyday it was part of one of the most important transport links between London and the Midlands, carrying coal from Warwickshire.  From Oxford, traffic followed the River Thames into central London, but the single-gate flash locks along the Thames were difficult to manoeuvre, so in 1805 the Oxford Canal lost its leading position when much of the traffic to the capital moved to the more direct and faster Grand Junction Canal.

Ambling along a flat canal path with swans and ducks, watching the barges negotiating locks and discovering glimpses of our industrial past make a self-guided walking holiday along the Oxford Canal Path an ideal getaway from busy city life.

As one of our earliest canals, the Oxford Canal’s original route followed the contour, twisting around hills to avoid changes in gradient.  Although the section north of Braunston in the industrial Midlands was straightened in the 1820s, the southern section remained untouched.  It curves through the Oxfordshire countryside, retaining the charm of a lost industrial era, with picturesque bridges, locks, wharfs and marinas.

Life on the canals was hard, with long hours of plodding drudgery on barges pulled along the towpath by horses. Families lived in minute cabins on their barges, filled elsewhere with a cargo of around 20 tons coal.  Living with no fixed abode, the canal folk developed their own mode of dress and form of art.  Every surface of their tiny floating homes was painted, every moulding picked out with strong colour, and every tin utensil smothered in painted roses and romantic landscapes.

The painted pleasure barges that still run up and down the canal give a flavour of this lost way of life.  You can also visit to Tooley’s, Boatyard, still working after 200 years, and the museum in Banbury to find out more.

Despite the decline of canal transport in favour of railways and roads in the 19th and 20th centuries, the canal is now thriving with pleasure barges. In the summer, it is one of the most crowded on the canal network, so the Oxford Canal Path makes a for fascinating walk.

Relax and enjoy a beer in one of the canalside pubs
or just sit and watch the barges passing through the lock gates 

If you like to see a few more pictures of the Oxford Canal Path, check out our photos on Flickr!

Route details for the Oxford Canal Path

Distance:  77 miles (124 km) between Oxford and Hawkesbury Junction with a further 5½ miles (9 km) along the Coventry canal to Coventry city centre, making 83½ miles (135 km) in all.  It can be walked in full or in part and in either direction.

Canal Walks: Oxford Canal Path map

Grade: Easy.  The path is flat and follows the canal towpath along the full length of the canal.

Average duration: Coventry to Oxford (full route): 7 days and 8 nights or a relaxed 10 walking days and 11 nights.  Braunston to Oxford (part route): 5 walking days and 6 nights, or Banbury to Oxford (part route): 2 to 4 walking days and 3 to 5 nights.

Time of year: We recommend April to October.  The path can be walked in winter but after rain the path can be rather muddy and the water level very high.

Prices: From £80 per person per night based on two people sharing a room.  This includes bed and breakfast in good quality accommodation, luggage transfer, a guide book and map and support in the unlikely event of an emergency.

Here are some of the towns and villages that offer comfortable and welcoming accommodation along the Oxford Canal Path.

Location Miles Km
Coventry 0 0
Hawkesbury Junction 9
Rugby 18 29
Braunston 28 45
Napton 35 56½
Fenny Compton 45 73
Banbury 56 90
Aynho 63 101
Lower Heyford 69 111
Kidlington 77 124
Oxford 84½ 135

With accommodation and luggage transfers taken care of, you are free to relax and enjoy the walk at your own pace, leaving you to immerse yourself in the peace and tranquility that this canal walk offers.  With prices starting from as little as £80 per person per night, based on two people sharing in B&B accommodation, this holiday certainly delivers excellent value for money.

If you think the Oxford Canal Path is for you, please contact us here to book or to discuss your individual requirements.

Canal Walks: a canal bridge on the Oxford Canal

Here’s what some of our customers say about their walk along the Oxford Canal …

A worry free service which ensured a successful walk along a beautiful canal towpath.

Johnathan Watson, UK, 2017

We had a lovely holiday and intend to come back for more next year!

Peter Jones, UK, 2015

Always felt I could get the info I needed.  Appreciated your help very much!

Tricia Mulholland, Australia, 2013

Canal walks: a family of ducks on the Oxford Canal
Canal Walks: Fishing on the Oxford Canal Path
Canal Walks: Working the locks on the Oxford Canal Path