One of the questions I am asked most is, “Which is the best canalside village?” I’ve listed some of my favourite villages below in alphabetical order. I have set a rule of thumb that all the villages featured must be within 750m of the canal, and they all have a population under 7,500 – big enough to have a vibrant community, but small enough to have a unique sense of community.
It’s interesting to note how many of these villages are set to one side of the canal, often with a separate, small collection of buildings around a remote wharf. There are two main reasons for this. Either the canal was dug in a curve specifically to circumnavigate the village, particularly where land ownership made a closer route impossible, or, in keeping the cutting as level as possible to avoid building locks, it was dug around the hill upon which the villlage was built. Sometimes there has been a gradual infilling of the land between the wharf and the main village. Housing has also been created beside the canal through the conversion of canalside buildings, or by their demolition and replacement.
I have found a video showcase on YouTube for each village to give you a flavour of what they are like. If you find a better video to replace the ones I have chosen, please do let me know!
Audlem is a large village in Cheshire, close to the border with Shropshire. Audlem is on the Shropshire Union Canal, on the popular Four Counties Ring. There are two canalside pubs, and a popular canalside book and craft shop is based in the old Audlem Mill building. The population of the civil parish was 1,991 in the 2011 Census.
Alrewas is a village in Staffordshire between Lichfield and Burton-on-Trent, just inside the boundary of the National Forest, and close to the National Memorial Arboretum. The population was 2,852 at the time of the 2011 census. The Trent and Mersey Canal passes through Alrewas, and joins the River Trent northeast of the village. It is one of the oldest recorded communities in the Midlands with a church built in the year 822. There are some delightful 16th century timber tramed black and white houses, several of which have thatched roofs. Unfortunately the Trent occasionally floods right up to the edges of the village.
Bathampton, near the City of Bath, had a population of 1,603 in 2013. The Kennet and Avon Canal and the River Avon pass through the village. An ancient toll bridge passes over the River Avon beside Bathhampton Mill, creating some wonderfully picturesque views, and alongside the canal you’ll find a handful of pretty Bath stone houses, an ancient church, and the bustling George Inn. Sadly, the village is marred by traffic, particularly the busy A4 and A36.
Blisworth is in Northamptonshire between Northampton and Towcester. The Grand Union Canal passes through the village, and the Blisworth Tunnel north portal is close to the village. A Canal Festival is held in the village every August. There is one shop, one pub, a primary school and a doctor's surgery. It had a population of 2,867 at the time of the 2011 Census.
Braunston is in Northamptonshire between Rugby and Daventry. The village is set on an important canal junction between the Oxford Canal and the Grand Union Canal. Braunston Marina is central to the life of the canal and the village plays host to the Braunston Rally & Canal Festival, one of the highlights of the canal enthusiast’s year. Braunston had a population of 1,759 at the time of the 2011 Census.
Brewood is an ancient market town in Staffordshire, between Wolverhampton and Stafford. It lies alongside the beautiful Shropshire Union Canal. There is a fantastic sense of community here, with a useful selection of shops and pubs for everyday needs, and lovely local events to attend. The long-established butcher's is local landmark, and the Lazy Days cafe is a favourite of ours! There are some lovely walks in this area, and some excellent places to visit including Boscobel. Brewood had a population of 7,329 at the time of the 2011 census.
Bugbrooke is a village in Northamptonshire, beside the Grand Union Canal. There are three pubs including The Wharf alongside the Canal. The village is set on a ridge overlooking the River Nene valley. The main industry here is Heygate's huge flour mill and test centre for bread products. There has been a mill on the same site since it was mentioned in the Domesday Book. Over 200,000 tons of wheat is milled there every year. The population estimate in 2019 was 2,954.
Clayworth is a village north-east of Retford, in Nottinghamshire, on the River Idle. At the time of the 2011 census it had a population of 419. The Chesterfield Canal passes through Clayworth.
Cosgrove is a small village in Northamptonshire, surrounded by many tranquil footpaths. It has two pubs, including the canalside Navigation Inn. Sadly locals are having to fight a Planning Application for industrial development on land off Stratford Road and at Furtho Pit. Cosgrove had a population of 521 at the time of the 2011 Census.
Crick is best known to boaters as the home of the famous Crick Boat Show. The village is full of character and has no less than 48 listed buildings. It has a Post Office, a Co-Op, and three pubs. The marina is on the Leicester Line which passes to the east of the village. The M1 is a disappointing blot on the west side. The population was 1,886 at the time of the 2011 Census.
Cropredy and the neighbouring area of Prescote together had a population of 717 at the time of the 2011 Census. The village is famous for Fairport’s Cropredy Convention Festival.
Ellesmere is a charming village in Shropshire on the Llangollen Canal near the towns of Oswestry, Whitchurch and Wrexham, (not to be confused with the large Cheshire town of Ellesmere Port). The village is surrounded by beautiful natural meres, and the area is popular with birdwatchers. The population was listed as 3,835 in the 2011 census.
Gargrave is a village north-west of Skipton in North Yorkshire, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. The River Aire and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal pass through the village. It had a population of 1,755 when the 2011 census was compiled. Unfortunately this area is subject to flooding so be cautious when choosing property in low lying areas.
Hawkesbury Village is alongside the canal at Hawkesbury Junction, an area also known as Sutton Stop. The population was 1,147.
Hebden Bridge is a small market town on the Rochdale Canal between Rochdale and Halifax in West Yorkshire. In 2015, the town had a population of approximately 4,500. Hebden Bridge is popular with visitors who enjoy its independent shops and outdoor pursuits such as walking, climbing and cycling. The town lies at the confluence of the River Calder and the Hebden Water, and has a history of flooding, so be cautious when you look for a home in the lower parts of the town.
Honey Street is a small hamlet with some delightful old cottages and a handful of smart modern houses clustered on each side of the Kennet and Avon Canal. Despite its diminutive size, too small for a separate population count, the hamlet is a bustling place, popular with narrowboaters. Here you will find the Barge Inn, a wharf with a small hire fleet, a timber yard, a crop circle exhibition centre, the old Honeystreet Mill buildings which feature an Indian import shop and a cafe overlooking the canal, and a view of one of Wiltshire’s famous White Horses.
Hungerford is a historic market town between Marlborough and Newbury in Berkshire. It had a population of 5,767 at the time of the 2011 census. The Kennet and Avon Canal passes through the village forming a picturesque counterpoint to the High Street. It is the home of the Rose of Hungerford trip boat. Away from the High Street there are some beautiful areas to explore. The lower part of the town is clustered beside the River Kennet, and is famous for its antique shops. Don’t miss the famous Tutti Pole cafe ject before the canal, and a walk up to the village church and the Marsh are well worth the diversion.
Kintbury is a charming village between Newbury and Hungerford in Berkshire. To the north of the village the River Kennet, the railway, and the Kennet and Avon Canal run in parallel. The village itself is set up a hill above the canal. In 2011 it had a population of 2,534 and a thriving community. The canal here is the base of the wonderful Kennet Horse Boat Company, and they have day boats for hire too.
The friendly village of Kinver has a fantastic range of independent shops, pubs and restaurants, clubs and societies. There are many local beauty spots nearby including the National Trust's Kinver Edge and the fascinating Rock Houses. The population of Kinver was 7,225 at the time of the 2011 Census.
Llangollen is a large village with a well established tourist industry based around the Llangollen Canal, the River Dee, and the Llangollen Railway. It hosts a busy programme of events including the International Eisteddfod and the Llangollen Fringe Festival. Canal trips are available from Llangollen Wharf, including horse drawn boat trips and motorised boat trips to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The population of Llangollen was 3,658 at the time of the 2011 Census.
Market Bosworth is a large village in Leicestershire. It has a good range of shops, including craft and antique shops, cafes and pubs. It has a charming market square and several thatched buildings. The Ashby Canal runs to the far west of the village. There are no wharves or heritage buildings along the canal but Bosworth Marina is within easy reach of the village. Market Bosworth had a population of 2,097 in the Census of 2011.
Marsden is a large and lively village in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, It is on the edge of the Peak District and the South Pennines. Standedge Tunnels are about half a mile away from the village. The village hosts a variety of popular events incuding Imbolc, Cuckoo Day, and Marsden Jazz Festival. Marsden is also the home mooring of the canal-based Mikron Theatre Company. It had a population of 3,499 in 2001.
Parbold is a village in West Lancashire. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal passes over the River Douglason the edge of the village. Parbold has two churches, two primary schools, a doctor, and a small selection of essential shops. There are two pubs, the Windmill and the Stocks Tavern, but neither are canalside, in fact there is little heritage along the canal corridor. The village is overlooked by the dramatic Parbold Hill which is about a mile to the east of the village. The village had a population of 2,582 in the 2011 census.
Shardlow is a historic trans-shipment port in Derbyshire, where goods were transferred between the River Trent and the Trent and Mersey Canal. The Wharf area has over 50 Grade II listed buildings. The Clock Warehouse pub, the Malt Shovel, the New Inn, and the Shardlow Heritage Centre all overlook the canal. Several of the old warehouses have been converted into housing. Just outside the village on the Trent is the large Shardlow Marina and caravan park, and on the Canal is the smaller Chapel Farm Marina. The population of Shardlow and Great Wilne was estimated at 1,289 in 2019.
Slaithwaite lies on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal in West Yorkshire. The village was voted the best place to live in the North & Northeast in The Times 2022 Best Places To Live annual guide. It is a vibrant village well served with independent shops, primary schools, a post office, restaurants, cafes, and pubs. It has a busy cultural life including Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival, an orchestra and a brass band. The population listed in the 2011 census was 2,892.
Stoke Bruerne is an iconic hamlet on the on the Grand Union Canal. Despite its diminutive size, Stoke Bruerne has two pubs, The Boat Inn and The Navigation, and a wonderful Canal Museum owned by the Canal and River Trust. The south portal of Blisworth Tunnel is a short walk down the towpath. Boat trips are also available here. The population at the time of the 2011 Census was 373.
Talybont is a delightful and popular village in Powys, Wales on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal. The village has a shop and two canalside pubs, the White Hart and the Star Inn. Sadly the pubs and several of the cottages alongside the canal are set at a lower level and don't benefit from great views. Talybont had a population of 719 at the time of the 2011 Census.
This is a very attractive part of rural Oxfordshire, crossed by the Oxford Canal and the meandering River Cherwell, just to the north of the larger settlement of Kidlington. Thrupp is a tiny canalside hamlet with a popular canalside pub, the Boat Inn. Oxford's little airport is nearby. Thrupp's claim to fame is that in 1989 BBC Television filmed scenes for an episode of Inspector Morse outside a house in Canal Road and at the Inn. Small though it is, Thrupp has a Cruising Club and a Canoe and Kayak centre. Neighbouring Shipton on Cherwell is a slightly larger, but less canal-oriented hamlet, which deserves a mention for its canalside church. In the 2011 census the two hamlets had 493 residents in total.
Uppermill forms a continuous urban area with the neighbouring village of Dobcross. With their combined population of 7,500 this is the largest settlement in this list.
Weedon Bec is a village in Northamptonshire, which owes its former prominence to the Roman road Watling Street. The Grand Union Canal passes to the east of the village. Weedon is famous for its former Military Ordnance Depot, which dates from the Napoleonic War era. It straddles its own branch of the canal, sadly no longer connected, but it is well worth a visit. The population at the time of the 2011 census was 2,706.
Willington is a village on the Trent and Mersey Canal in Derbyshire. The 2011 Census recorded a population of 2,864. Ttake care when choosing property here as parts of this area near the River Trent are subject to flooding.