Most people know about the River Thames and the central role it has played in the history of London. However London has many other waterways and canals that have also had an important role in its history. One of these is named the Regent’s Canal and it is one of London’s hidden gems.
Let’s start with a little history! The canal was designed by the architect of the day, John Nash, and was completed in 1820. The purpose was to have a waterway for the transportation of goods such as coal and timber that would link in with the Grand Union Canal (Birmingham to London ) and then cross London. The Regent’s Canal runs from Paddington to Limehouse where it joins with the River Thames. It transported goods in and out of London using horsepower and it was the spine of England’s transport system.
However competition from the railways grew in mid 1800s and the canal lost some commercial traffic to the railways. By the late 1960’s, after more competition from the lorries, commercial traffic had all but vanished.
Today the canal is a wonderful leisure facility and its towpaths showcase a different perspective on some of London’s well known sights.
The distance covered by the canal is just less than 9 miles and you can pick it up in many places. Starting at Little Venice (London’s answer to Venice), you will pass some famous landmarks including Regent’s Park, the London Zoo, the Camden Markets, Kings Cross, Broadway Market, Victoria Park, Mile End Park and finally the Limehouse Marina. The scenery is ever changing, from picturesque cottages and Regency styled houses with lovely gardens to colourful and quirky narrow boats.
There are so many places to stop off along the way and explore; for example in Primrose Hill with its independent bookshops, boutiques and cafes or walk to the top of the Hill for one of the best views in London. Or stop at Kings Cross which has been transformed in recent years and Granary Square buzzes with its restaurants, shops and cutting edge architecture. The canal flows alongside Victoria Park, one of London’s finest parks. Look out for Chinese pagoda and the stunning Burdett-Coutts Memorial Drinking Fountain. The canal ends at the Limehouse Basin where the docks have been replaced by waterside luxury flats and all kinds of boats.
There are cafes, restaurants and pubs en route to take refreshments and enjoy the atmosphere.
This is a fascinating walk showing how a working canal has been regenerated and transformed into a place for leisure and canal side living with so many places to stop off on the way and enjoy.