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Jurys Inn’s Guide to… Birmingham Canals Jun 15
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Stretching over 100 miles across the city and over 200 years back in time, the Birmingham Canals are an integral part of the UK’s second largest city. Many Brummies’ proudly claim that there are more canals in Birmingham than in Venice but not many people associate the two together.

Much of the commercial use of the canals finished in the 1960s and 54 miles of it were closed. However, the remaining network within the city has been regenerated, making it a fantastic area to explore as well as highlighting the city’s industrial heritage. Most of the routes end at Gas Street Basin; the primary canal basin or mooring dock in the city. Often voted as a top UK tourist destination, Gas Street Basin is a vibrant area filled with numerous venues, restaurants and bars and is only a 2 minute walk from Jurys Inn Birmingham!

To understand the history and relevance of the BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigations), read through our guide below.

History

 

The London and Birmingham Railway and Canals by British Library / No known copyrights

The first canal to the area was the Birmingham Canal (now known as the BCN Main Line), built from 1768 to 1772 under the guidance of James Brindley. Stretching from Birmingham up to Wolverhampton, it was created to quicken the transport of coal during the Industrial revolution. Proving vastly profitable from the start, many more were soon built to aid the city’s rapid modernisation. The canals also connected Birmingham to rest of the Black Country, helping turn it into the West Midlands cultural hub that it is known as today.

Main Canals

Although there are several canals running throughout the city, each of them developed in different ways, becoming a single system upon nationalisation in 1948. Below are some of the main canals.

BCN Main Line


BCN New Main Line – Galton Bridge and Smethwick Galton Bridge Station by Oxyman / CCBY


Originally known as the Birmingham Canal, the BCN Main Line runs from Aldersley Junction, north of Wolverhampton, to Gas Street Basin. Designed to shorten and straighten the Birmingham Canal Old Main Line and without a single lock, this is one of the only canals in the UK that you can reach the 4mph speeding limit!

The Birmingham and Fazeley Canal

 

Drayton bridges, Birmingham and Fazeley Canal by Oosoom / CCBY (must indicate if changes are made)


Another route used by boats during the Industrial Revolution, the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal was beautifully renovated in the 1980s for public use. There are a number of access points as well as a resurfaced towpath making it an ideal walking trail.

 

The Birmingham and Fazeley Canal

 

Drayton bridges, Birmingham and Fazeley Canal by Oosoom / CCBY (must indicate if changes are made)

Another route used by boats during the Industrial Revolution, the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal was beautifully renovated in the 1980s for public use. There are a number of access points as well as a resurfaced towpath making it an ideal walking trail.

The Grand Union Canal

 

Grand Union Canal near Olton, Solihull by Roger Kidd / CCBY

An important route, the Grand Union Canal links Birmingham to London. Running through rural Northamptonshire and Warwickshire and a whopping 283 miles in length, this is the longest canal in the UK. There are plenty of walking paths along the canal with a number of locks - perfect for observing the boats gently pass through.

The Worchester and Birmingham Canal


Worcester and Birmingham Canal by Roger Kidd / CCBY


Coming into Birmingham from the south, this canal starts in Worcester and joins the BCN Main Line to end at Gas Street Basin. Important in its own right, a lot of the chocolate supplies for the Cadbury factory were carried along here!

Canal Boat Trips
 

People taking pictures by Bob Hall / CCBY (must indicate if changes are made)


There are various boat excursions on offer in Birmingham that start in the centre. Here are some recommendations below. Sherborne Wharf

Situated in the heart of the city, Sherborne Wharf offer boat trips and parties for all ages to enjoy. Boat trips depart from the International Convention Centre (ICC) moorings and last for around one hour exploring the inner city canals history and new developments alongside them. From Easter to October there are four trips available during the day, with commentary, costing £6 for children and £8 for adults.


Away2Canal

Away2Canal offer shorter, commentated half an hour cruises and one hour trips called ‘Country in the City’. ‘Country in the City’ takes visitors through Gas Street Basin and along the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, passing through the green suburb of Edgbaston. The shorter trip goes through the city centre, highlighting the cultural points of Birmingham. Their modernised boats also depart from opposite the ICC with various departure times throughout the day, costing £4 for children (under 3s are free) and £7 for adults.


Birmingham, walk
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