The Kennet & Avon Canal is the most well known manmade Wiltshire waterway linking the river Avon in the west, Bath to the river Thames, Reading in the east.
The canal itself, excluding the two river navigations at either end, is 57 miles in length and enters West Wiltshire at Bradford on Avon and leaves through the tiny village of Little Bedwyn on the Berkshire border in the east.Accommodation on and near the Canal
There is plenty of accommodation with easy access to the canal at the towns of Devizes | Marlborough | Pewsey
and at villages surrounding and alongside the canal, some of them converted lock-keepers cottage on the banks of the canal. The towpaths can be cycled or walked and there are plenty of village and canal side pubs to visit at your leisure.
For some accommodation examples please scroll down this page.
The canal and its environs makes a wonderful centre for walking, cycling and visiting the many historical and natural attractions so do take a look at our Heart of Wiltshire Videos
as an introduction to this unspoilt area of outstaning beauty.
The initial construction commenced in 1723 by rendering the river Kennet navigable between Reading and Newbury and similarly the river Avon navigable from Bristol to Bath in the west a few years later. In the latter half of the 18th century the route was decided through the heart of the Wiltshire countryside linking the two rivers thus providing a navigable link from the Severn Estuary in the west with the Thames Estuary in the east.
After an initial struggle raising the finances John Rennie was appointed the Chief Engineer. The canal proved to be his greatest work and he was responsible for the astonishing spectacle of the 29 Caen Hill Locks
Disaster followed as money dried up. Investors pulled out and together with some financial chicanery and engineering difficulties all work was suspended at the turn of the century. The good news was that the link between Newbury and Hungerford was completed and in regular use.
Work slowed considerably after further financial and engineering difficulties but the final link from Devizes in the west and Hungerford in the east through the Pewsey Vale, Burbage and Great Bedwyn was completed in 1810. Barges could at long last travel the entire length of Kennet Avon Canal from the Severn to the Thames estuaries.
The arrival of the steam locomotive in the latter half of the 19th century spelt disaster for the canal. The Great Western Railway Company took over the canal and it was allowed to fall into disrepair. After nationalisation of the railways in the late1940’s the situation became even direr. By the 1950’s water had drained away from the canal, lock gates collapsed and the canal silted up.
The canal saviours came from an unexpected quarter. The Trust of volunteers was set up more than 40 years ago specifically to restore the canal. Thanks to this organization and its army of volunteers the canal has become what it is today, a haven of peace and tranquility accessible by barge, cycle or on foot Historical sites abound along the route, from the White Horse of Pewsey Vale to the working beam engine at Crofton pumping station to the windmill at Wilton.
Canal boat holidays are a particular favourite for visitors to the area and White Horse Boats
at Devizes and Sally Narrow Boats
of Bradford on Avon hire canalboats.
A delightful pub serving excellent meals and refreshments close to Wilton windmill and only ten minutes walk from the canal is The Swan at Wilton village
where you can be sure of a warm welcome. ACCOMMODATION
A wide range of comfortable B&B’s, pubs, self catering and camping accommodation is available both close to the canal or in the nearby villages and a good choice of hotels at the larger centres of Bradford on Avon Trowbridge Melksham Devizes and Pewsey, all within easy reach of the canal.
You might like to try the following: B&Bs near on or close to the canal. The White House
, on the banks of the canal. Bridge Cottage on the towpath of the canal, both at LittleBedwyn.Crofton Lodge
, a little further west at Crofton village just to the west of Great Bedwyn is only a 3 min walk to the canalside and close to the historic Crofton Beam Engine. B&B is also is also available at the quiet location of Wootton Rivers, a short stroll from the canal at The Royal Oak.
(Incidentally there is a circular walk from the Royal Oak at Wootton Rivers east along the canal towpath crossing over the Burbage to Marlborough road at the canal bridge towards Durley hamlet on the edge of the forest. Take the main entrance left into Savernake Forest on the central Grand Avenue then south again back to Wooton Rivers. The circular walk will take 3-4 hours.)
Other accommodation available within 5 minutes drive from the canal at Shalbourne village, is Westcourt Farm B&B
. Set in 25 acres of land yet only 120m from the village centre and less than 10 minutes drive from Hungerford this 14th century listed building offers B&B with private facilities.
Further to the west and just one mile from the canal Southdown B&B
has a footpath running alongside the house which takes you to the canal and the attractions and facilities of Devizes. A short walk in the other direction takes you on to Roundway Down where you can see the Devizes Millennium White Horse (one of 8 cut into the Wiltshire Downs) the site of the Battle of Roundway in 1643 and Oliver’s Castle hillfort. The Stables at East Lodge Farm
on the outskirts of Devizes where a short walk east takes you to the spectacular flight of 29 lock gates at Caen Hill offers luxury two bedroom self catering accommodation set in a quiet location.
The comfortable Old Manor Hotel
at Trowle Common just outside Bradford on Avon is also within easy reach of this historic canal.
Other accommodation includes a choice of self-catering and holiday cottage accommodation close to the canal. You may choose to stay at Willowbank Lodges
at one of the 6 one/two bed luxury lakeside cabins just two minutes walk from the canalside and 2 miles south of Pewsey.
Another luxury four star self catering cottage is The Stables
just one mile from the canal and one mile from The Savernake Forest.
At the village of All Cannings are Rendells Holiday Cottages
, also on a lake is less than half a mile south of the canal at the village of All Cannings
We have other holiday self catering accommodation available at Mason's Yard Cottages
close to the canal and close to all the village of Great Bedwyn amenities. These are offered by the same owner and you have a choice of 1, 2 bedroom or sleeping up to 6 holiday cottage accommodation.
There are small friendly camping and caravan sites available close to the canal. There is a small site at Wilcot a village on the canal at the back of The Golden Swan
pub , another The Barge Inn and Campsite at Honey Street near Pewsey right on the canal. Other caravan sites within reach of the canal are the Postern Campsite at Savernake Forest and Church Farm campsite at the village of Mildenhall just east of the ancient town of Marlborough.
For services and amenities within easy reach of the canal please click on the link below.Kennet Avon Canal