The Grand Ring
Formed by the River Thames and Oxford and Grand Union Canals, the Grand Ring is the ultimate trip. It can be covered in a fortnight, but 3 weeks are preferable in order to savour to the full the contrasting characters of its canal and river sections. The Oxford Canal is widely acknowledged as one of the prettiest waterways. From time to time you see another boat on what you take to be another, parallel canal, only to discover that it is the same canal winding back on itself. The Oxford Canal is characterised by simple lift bridges and single bottom lock gates, while the villages are blessed with stone built pubs - just the place to unwind after a hot days boating. Approaching Oxford there is a choice of links with the Thames, one of which will deliver to you the world famous ‘Trout Inn’. Thames-side towns and villages would be high up in any gazetteer of charm, but the river is not without its quiet places, hauntingly scenic places like the one above Shillingford where the Sinodun Hills spill down to the water from the Wittenham clumps. Past Runnymede and Hampton Court as the capital approaches, then you rejoin the orderly world of canals opposite the Royal Botanical gardens at Kew, threading your way through the satellites of West London and completing your journey on the Grand Union, perhaps our most famous canal.