Canals & Waterways

The rivers and canals of Nottinghamshire add a unique twist to the visitor experience.

nottingham canalsFrom the Nottingham Beeston Canal running through the heart of the city centre through to the big river experience on the Trent, Nottinghamshire is great to visit by boat.

The main waterways include the Erewash Canal, Nottingham and Beeston Canal, the Grantham Canal and of course the remarkable River Trent. These routes take visitors through a county of contrast from the busy cultural capital of Nottingham, to tranquil towpaths of the Erewash canal.

The waterways give access to Nottinghamshire’s natural habitats, country parks and nature reserves and an ideal opportunity to explore the magnificent market towns and villages throughout the county.


What could be more relaxing than drifting along a tranquil canal on a narrowboat, taking in the scenery and wildlife as you pass by, mooring up next to a quaint pub by the side of the water – what better way could there be to explore Nottinghamshire?

When cruising along you’ll find so much to do and to see; Bridges, locks, stately homes, industrial heritage, pubs, villages, country towns, castles, museums – the canals have them all. There really is a surprise around every corner.

Here’s some more information about the locks, towpaths and attractions on our waterways;

Erewash Canal – discover DH Lawrence country.

The Erewash Canal runs due north from the waterway crossroads of Trent Lock, past Nottingham, to the heart of DH Lawrence country. It is 12 miles from the Trent to Langley Mill, terminus of the canal. A curious collection of houseboats greets visitors entering Trent Lock and there are plenty of pubs along this route for that welcome break and moorings at Padmore, Trent Lock, Tamworth Road and Langley Mill. Make sure that you find time to look around the five nature reserves that are situated around the canal?

Nottingham Beeston Canal – via Attenborough Nature Reserve towards the city centre.

beeston lockThe canal is a prominent feature in the city centre and a unique way for you to explore Nottingham. The canal navigates from the Trent, via the Attenborough Nature Reserve at Beeston then on to the city centre and back onto the river Trent where you can continue to the market town of Newark. There are a few quirks along this route, such as the well know ‘Devils Elbow’ junction between Castle lock and Meadow Lane Lock. Being at a right angle it requires some tricky negotiations. And when you arrive at Castle Marina, you can stop outside Sainsbury’s to top up on any supplies. Castle Boulevard is an ideal mooring from which to see the city where you’ll be spoilt for choice for things to do and see.

Grantham Canal – for award winning foods and Belvoir Castle.

From the market town of Grantham to the River Trent, the Grantham Canal runs for 33 miles passing through the beautiful Vale of Belvoir. Though closed to boating many years ago, there are lengthy stretches in water. Much of the line is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The Grantham Canal was closed to commercial traffic in 1929, but is now undergoing restoration towards full navigation. Almost all the canal is still in water, and locks have been rebuilt. However, many hump-backed road bridges have been lowered, and will need to be reinstated before boats can pass. You can find out the latest restoration news at the restorers’ own website or by visiting the things to do in Nottingham section of our website.

River Trent – from the city of Nottingham to Newark.

river trent canalNottinghamshire’s most dominant waterscape feature – the non-tidal waters of the Trent run from the city to the market town of Newark. On the way you’ll come across some of the counties greatest rural assets. The River Trent has been an historic highway as far back as the Bronze Age when it formed part of the trade route between the Continent and the metal-working industry in Ireland. The Romans recognised the value of the river as a route from the sea to the centre of England, and later it acted as an easy route for Viking invaders to attack Nottingham.

The non-tidal reaches above Cromwell Lock are generally suitable for most inland vessels except after periods of heavy rainfall. Below the lock the tidal section demands respect, and the lower reaches should only be tackled by suitable vessels and crews.

Holme Pierrepont – home of Colwick Country Park and the National Watersports Centre where you’ll find plenty of activites and courses for water.

Activities really don’t get much wetter than this. Grab the opportunity to try some of the best outdoor water activities in the country and experience our Internationally renowned white water course. The white water course that we operate on is 700m of adrenaline pumping action. Used by the British Slalom, Freestyle Kayak and White Water Rafting Teams for training and competition the course truly is world class.

Gunthorpe Lock – a blissful way to spend a sunny afternoon.

gunthorpe lockThis lock is a popular part of the River Trent and a great place to stop off and explore the Nottinghamshire countryside. Gunthorpe has been an important river crossing for many years. The first Gunthorpe Bridge was built in 1875 but before this a ferry was the only means of crossing the river here. Visitors can discover more about the lock from the interpretation panel and listening post on site. Disabled visitors enjoy excellent access, with ample car parking and a wide towpath. For boaters on the River Trent, Gunthorpe Lock is a fine destination for lunch or an evening meal. Head to the east of Gunthorpe Lock to explore one of the most scenic parts of the River Trent.

Newark and Southwell – for historical and architectural splendour.

The boating experience to Newark is second to none travelling though the attractive villages of Fiskerton and Farndon both popular fishing spots. The river continues directly in the heart of Newark, a popular market town recognised for its antiques, castle, showground and air museum. The cobbled market place is surrounded by stunning architecture and winding streets lined with exclusive shops and the town has a vast supply of places to eat and drink from country taverns to a la carte restaurants. Just past the town lock is a distinctive barge, converted into a floating pub serving drinks and bar meals – you can even moor up behind it!

Before reaching Newark, it is well worth a detour to Southwell. The town has many elegant Regency houses but its architectural jewel is the Southwell Minster church, boasting some of the best medieval stone carving in England. The town is scattered with charming tea shops and traditional pubs and restaurants. The historic Saracens Head Hotel is famed for being where Charles I spent his last night. The town has many markets and fine shops for you to rove around. Just outside town is the Workhouse, an authentic 19th Century institution restored by the National Trust. Find out what life was really like for Victorian paupers in this starkly atmospheric building.

Chesterfield Canal – home to some of North Nottinghamshire’s best known attractions.

Known locally as the Cuckoo Dyke, the canal runs through the heart of the Dukeries and Sherwood, from the river Trent at West Stockwith through the market towns of Worksop and Retford before taking you on towards the borders of Yorkshire. This 46 mile canal will keep you on your toes, with 46 narrow locks, 6 wide locks and 2 tunnels.

This area of North Nottinghamshire is home to some of the county’s best known attractions, full of heritage, culture and magnificent open spaces, venture off the towpaths and into the surrounding area to discover rural Notts.

thorpe top

Clumber Park and Mr Straws House are jewels in the crown for the National Trust here in North Nottinghamshire. Clumber Park welcomes visitors all year round to this outstanding park. Comprising of over 1500ha including peaceful woods, open heath and rolling farmland, with a superb serpentine lake at its heart and the longest avenue of lime trees in Europe, Clumber has to be on your list of must visit attractions.

Mr Straws House is a wonderfully preserved insight into early 20th Century suburban life playing homage with memorabilia furnishings and memories.

If you’re visiting the county in the winter months, then don’t miss the glorious Hodstock Priory famed for its fragrant winter gardens and Snowdrop woodland. The award winning Harley Gallery is a short drive from Worksop and offers visitors a diverse range of contemporary craft and visual art, photography and design.

The villages of Babworth and Scrooby just outside Retford are well known as the birthplace of two separatists who fought for wider religious tolerance and freedom of worship. The original Pilgrims left for Holland and then fled to America for a new life sailing on the historic Mayflower. The story of the Pilgrims can be seen in the Bassetlaw Museum and explored for real in the two villages.

Stopping at Worksop or Retford Town lock you’ll have opportunity to venture into these two magnificent market towns.

The towpaths here are lined with welcoming pubs and restaurants, perfect for that well deserved pint.

Fancy a river cruise?

Nottingham City Council now have two 70 foot long narrowboats available to hire for trips on the Nottingham Canal and the River Trent.

‘Megan’ and ‘Tinkers Leen’ can be booked for half day, full day, over night residential and evening (summertime only) use. Groups of up to 24 people can be accommodated. Supported by highly experienced skippers, you will have a true hands-on experience of the waterways including boat helming, working the canal’s locks and water safety. One boat is accessible for the disabled. For booking enquiries, please contact the Nottingham Tourism Centre.

Megan' and Tinkers Leen

If you are looking for an original way to celebrate a special occasion, a corporate event a school/college trip, or just a leisurely outing with the family or friends, then we are sure you will find it cruising the tranquil River Trent on board the Nottingham Prince or Nottingham Princess.

In addition, the Nottingham Prince and Nottingham Princess operate all year round allowing you to take in the changing seasons and breathtaking countryside in pleasant surroundings.

Alternatively, Trent River Cruises are the owners of the “The Trent Lady”. A riverboat that has graced the waters of the Trent since 1991. The boat itself underwent a major re-fit and alterations in 2001 when Trent River Cruises was formed.

More Information

If you would enjoyed this guide, why not take a look at some more Nottingham attractions and events in our other Nottingham tourism and travel information guides.