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Canal route planning

Cruising rings & times

When planning the route you want to take through the UK’s canals, you will need to consider how much time you have, how far you would like to travel and what attractions you might want to see on the way. 

It’s also worth bearing in mind how active your crew will be and how many locks there are on the waterway.

You also might want to consider whether there will be any stoppages or restrictions along your planned route.

Waterway cruising rings offer boaters a way of exploring part of the waterways system without necessarily having to see the same bit of a canal or river twice. 

Cruising time and distance

Once you know how many days you want your trip to last, you’ll need to work out how many cruising hours you have available.  The first and last days of your holiday will probably not be full days.  You will need to decide how many hours you want to cruise each day.  If you cruise early or late in the year you will have fewer daylight hours.

A useful way to calculate a waterway journey time is to allow 3 miles an hour and ten minutes for each lock (6 locks an hour).  The actual time taken to go through each lock will be less if there is little traffic, you have a good number of crew and the locks are close together in a flight and aren’t any other boats waiting to use the locks.  Narrow locks also tend to take less time than broad locks.

You can calculate cruising routes and times using CanalPlan AC, a free interactive guide to the waterways, or Chris Clegg’s Canal Time Map, which is an A4 laminated sheet showing the connected UK waterway network divided into 2 hour sections with over 450 places shown.  To calculate the time to cruise between any given places, just count the dots and multiply by 2 hours.

Stoppages and restrictions

Navigation authorities occasionally have to close sections of the network for emergency repairs and maintenance work.

Find out the relevant navigation authority for the waterway you are planning to visit on our A to Z of the waterways.

Waterway underfunding

Hundreds of miles of waterways – along with their unique heritage and habitats – are currently starved of funding and rely on constant lobbying by us to safeguard their future.

Sustainable Boating

We want boating on canals and rivers to be more sustainable and – even though the current overall contribution to UK carbon emissions is very small – we want to help reduce emissions on the waterways.

Waterways Heritage at Risk

Britain’s canals and rivers are a unique, living heritage. But that heritage is at risk – from urban development, lack of protection, loss of skills and knowledge and climate change.

You can help Save Waterways Heritage.

Waterway restoration

Restoring the UK’s blue infrastructure – our inherited network of navigable canals and rivers – is good for people and places.