Guide to the Coventry Canal

One of the UK’s shorter waterways, the Coventry Canal starts in Coventry Canal Basin and heads north west for 38 miles through the Midlands’ countryside up to Fradley Junction, just north of Lichfield. It was built to create an important link between the northern and southern canal networks, cutting out the need to travel through central Birmingham.

Coventry Canal – a brief history

This canal, which starts at Coventry Canal Basin, was build to transport coal by canal boat from the Bedworth coalfield to the north of the city of Coventry. It was then developed to link Coventry to the Trent and Mersey Canal at Fradley Junction then on to the River Trent at Trent Lock.

The famous canal engineer James Brindley started work on the original canal build, but was later sacked from the project apparently for going over budget because of his high standards of construction! By 1790 the canal was operating, but was in competition with the newly constructed Birmingham and Fazeley canal and the Oxford Canal. Despite this competition, the Coventry Canal was very profitable because of the transport of coal, and remained so until 1947. After this it fell into disuse and disrepair until the rise of canal boating for leisure started in the 1970s.

Interesting Facts

  • Canal Length

    38 Miles

  • Number of Locks


  • Work started

    Work on the Coventry Canal started in 1769

  • King of the Canals

    The famous canal engineer, James Brindley, designed the Coventry Canal in 1768

Overview of the route

The Coventry Canal starts at Coventry Basin located in the heart of the city and ends 38 miles to the north at Fradley Junction where it joins the Trent and Mersey Canal.  

From the canal basin, the canal takes a meandering route north out of the city to Hawkesbury Junction, where you’ll find a beautiful iron bridge that marks the start of the Oxford Canal.

The Coventry canal continues north (whereas the Oxford Canal turns and heads south) and you’ll cruise through some scenic countryside, past Bayton Lake, on to Marston Junction where the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal can be found.

From Marston Junction, the Coventry canal runs north-west through Nuneaton, Atherstone, under the A5 to Polesworth and then on to Tamworth. At Atherstone a set of 11 locks  lower the level of the canal 80 feet (24 m) towards Polesworth.

In a suburb of Tamworth, at Fazeley Junction, boaters can turn south towards Birmingham along the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal.

The Coventry Canal continues northwards to end at Fradley Junction where it joins the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Coventry Cathedral

Canal Rings

A fairly short length of waterway, the Coventry Canal forms part of three waterway rings 

Leicester Ring

The Coventry Canal forms part of the Leicester Ring, with the Trent & Mersey Canal, Grand Union Canal (Leicester Section) and North Oxford Canal.

Warwickshire Ring

The Coventry, Oxford, Grand Union and Birmingham & Fazeley Canals are all part of the Warwickshire ring. This 104 mile ring is one of the larger cruising rings with 121 locks and will take a good ten days or two weeks to navigate.

Black Country Ring

With 79 locks over 125 miles, the Black Country Ring incorporates five canals. You’ll come across a real mix of industrial heritage to rural scenery whilst navigating this ring, and the waterways are Trent & Mersey, Coventry Canal, Birmingham & Fazeley, Birmingham Main Line and the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal.

Trent and Mersey Canal

Did You Know?

  • Sutton Stop Lock

    Sutton stop lock, or just ‘Sutton Stop’ was named after its first lock keeper. There is very little fall with this lock, it was built mainly to prevent water belonging to the Coventry Canal Company being used by the adjoining Oxford Canal Company whose canal starts here.

  • Historic Coventry

    Coventry was heavily bombed in World War II but there are still many surviving medieval buildings. The famous ‘old’ and ‘new’ Cathedrals should definitely be visited if you have time to stop here.

  • Coventry Canal Basin

    Coventry Canal Basin was reduced to a fairly derelict state after the fall away in commercial canal usage but is now a great place to explore thanks to its restoration.

Black Prince Cruising Routes

You can cruise on the Coventry Canal from our narrowboat hire base Warwickshire. Check out our canal maps and cruise guides on our base page for more information for your canal boat holiday.


Black Prince Canal Guides

Below are links to a few of our other canal specific guides to help inspire you on your next canal holiday: