Walking the Regent's Canal - Sections 1 & 2

The map above shows the path to walk along the Regent's Canal in Yellow, and the walking route over sections where the canal is in a tunnel are shown in purple

On a phone, use two fingers to move the map, and a finger and thumb moved together or apart to zoom in and out.  

If you want to view the map on a computer, or in a separate mobile phone browser window, you can use this URL : https://tinyurl.com/regentscanalwalk

USING THE WALK
The walk is designed to be used directly from your phone.
(Alternatively, you can download and print off a PDF version of the walk by clicking this link: PRINTABLE PDF VERSION OF THIS WALK

Just scroll down to start the walk using your phone.

TEXT COLOURS
There are links within the text to more information about things that are discussed in the walk. You can follow these up later if you wish.

In the walk:
- Directions and information is shown in black text.
- History notes are shown in blue text.
- Links to further information are shown in brown text.

WALK 23 – THE REGENT'S CANAL
SECTION 1
Limehouse Basin to the Islington Tunnel

NOTE: The beginning of this walk starts at the Limehouse DLR station. 

Each of the two sections of the walk can be done separately, or they can be done as one long walk. 
Section 1 is from Limehouse Basin to the Islington Tunnel, and section 2 is from Islington Tunnel to Little Venice,

Section 2 follows on from section 1, however, if you just want to just do section 2 of the walk, you can jump to the directions for it by clicking here.

Regent's Canal runs east-west across north London. It links the Limehouse Basin and the River Thames in the east, to the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal in the west. The entire route is about 14 Km (just over 8 ½ miles)

Part one is around 7 Km (approx 4 ¼ miles).
Part two is also around 7Km including the routes which go around the tunnels (which don’t have tow-paths).

NOTE: This is a route for a self-guided walk. Although it's possible to cycle it too, it’s not ideal, as parts of the tow-path can be narrow, and some sections can be quite busy with other walkers and runners, particularly at the weekends.

INTRODUCTION TO THE REGENTS CANAL HISTORY
The Regent’s Canal was intended to connect London and the River Thames with the Midlands and the North, via the Grand Junction Canal (now called the Grand Union Canal). It was first suggested in 1802. In 1812 the proposal to build the Canal was approved, and in 1820 it was finally completed. It was called the Regent's Canal because the architect John Nash, who was one of the directors of the canal company who planned to build it, was a friend of the Prince Regent (later George IV), who allowed them to use his name.

The Regent's Canal Act was passed in 1812 and a company was formed to build and operate it. The Regent's Canal Dock (now called Limehouse Basin) allowed a connection with the Thames. Goods, such as coal, could be transported by sea, up the Thames, then loaded into canal boats in the Regent's Canal Dock, for transportation inland.

Shortage of money, and problems with a new design of lock, which was eventually scrapped, slowed the building of the canal. Other problems, including embezzlement, doubled the estimated costs.

The canal was opened in two stages, from Paddington to Camden in 1816, and Camden to the Regent's Canal Dock finally in 1820.

Only twenty years after the Regent's Canal opened, the railways were flourishing, and taking business away from the canals. This led to unsuccessful attempts by the Regent’s Canal directors to turn the canal into a railway.

By the 1960’s almost all commercial traffic on the canal had finished.

The Regent’s Canal today is used mainly for pleasure trips, and for living accommodation in moored narrow-boats. The tow-path provides a picturesque rural route for Londoners to walk, run, and cycle across London. There are also lots of interesting and historical things to look at on the way.

START OF WALK
  • From Limehouse DLR, walk down the steps outside the station. Turn left, then left again, and walk along with the raised DLR tracks on your left.

  • When you get to Branch Road, turn left, then cross Branch Road at the crossing. Turn right and walk back down Branch Road, turning first left towards the Limehouse Basin.

  • Walk on to the footbridge over the Regents Canal, where it meets the Limehouse Basin (which was originally called The Regent's Canal Dock).
If you look across the Basin, on the other side is where the locks are, joining the Basin to the River Thames. The purpose of the Regent's Canal was to link the Grand Junction Canal's Paddington Arm with the Thames.

The Regent's Canal Dock
The Regent's Canal Dock was built large enough to admit sea-going vessels. In the dock / basin, goods could be transferred between sea-going boats and narrow boats, who could then transfer the goods inland.

The main product going from the Regent’s Canal Dock on to the 8.6 mile long Regent’s Canal, was coal. This was loaded from colliers (bulk sea-going goods ships) into 14-foot wide horse drawn canal barges. The barges supplied coal merchants for distribution to homes and businesses, to be used as heating fuel. They also supplied several gas works, built along the banks of the canal, for conversion into coal gas to be used for heating and lighting.

Thames entrance to the Regent’s Canal Dock, 1826. CC BY-SA 4.0


Regent Canal Dock drawn by Gustave Doré 1872 (Public Domain)
  • When you get to the other side of the Regent’s Canal on the bridge, turn left and walk along the Regent's Canal towpath.

  • Immediately after the footbridge is a lock and the Commercial Road bridge.
Commercial Road Bridge, and lock
    
The Commercial Road Bridge
The enormous pipe on the Commercial Road bridge is part of a system introduced in 1898 for keeping parts of the locks at this end of the canal supplied with water. The 3-foot diameter pipe was laid from a pumping station on the River Thames to a water storage pond just above Mile End Locks. The water storage pond is now converted to an ornamental pond in Mile End Park.
   
Walk on the and under Salmon Lane bridge towards the lock.
   

Looking Under Salmon Lane Bridge, heading towards Salmon Lane Lock


Salmon Lane Lock Keepers Cottage

The lock-keeper’s cottage dates from 1864. The attached single-storey boiler house had a steam pump, which helped to maintain the water level in the locks 
above here.
     
Regent's Canal Locks
There are twelve locks on the Regent’s Canal, five of which are in Tower Hamlets. These are Commercial Road Lock, Salmon Lane Lock, Old Ford Lock, Johnson’s Lock, and Mile End Lock. They were all built with two lock chambers, so that two boats could use the locks at the same time, sometimes in two directions at once. It was also a way of conserving water, as one lock in the pair could be partially filled with water from the other. Most of the locks on the Regents Canal have now been adapted, so that one out of each pair of lock chambers is now a weir.
  • Walk on past the lock, under a bridge carrying DLR tracks. The canal will start to bend to the left. On the right you will see a tall brick chimney.

The red-brick sewer vent shaft by the side of the Regents Canal

The red-brick sewer vent shown above is just before you reach Mile End Park. It was built around 1906 by the London County Council, to ventilate the Northern Low Level No.2 Sewer and the Limekiln Dock Inversion Sewer.

All the bridges have identification numbers on them, in oval plaques. The first one on this walk is 64, and then they count down as you walk along to the low numbers, which are in west London.

  • Soon on the right hand side of the canal, you will start to see lots of green as you start to pass Mile End Park. This continues for about 1.91 km (1.19 miles).
Mile End Park
Mile End Park is a 32 hectare linear park. It was created on industrial land, devastated by World War II bombing. A plan existed from the end of the Second World War to create the park. It was part of a scheme to create several green routes, each connecting areas of London to the River Thames. Development of Mile End Park did not begin until the late 20th Century.

Mile End Park supports a wide diversity of wildlife, including birds, butterflies and bees. Over 400 species of beetle have been recorded, including the very rare Streaked Bombardier. Around 170 types of spiders have also been recorded, including two species never before recorded in Britain.


More details and a map of Mile End Park here: Mile End Park Info
   
Just before bridge 59, on the right are some steps up towards the front of the Ragged School Museum (see picture below).


After bridge 59, on the towpath, is the rear entrance to the Ragged School Museum, and also to a cafe and a toilet.

The Ragged School Museum
The Ragged School Museum was opened in 1990 in the premises of the former Dr Barnardo's Copperfield Road Ragged School. The school opened in 1877 to serve the children of Mile End with a basic education. It was the largest of its kind at the time. It closed in 1908 when sufficient government/London County Council schools had been established to take over the work. At its height the school had more than 1,000 pupils on weekdays, and 2,400 Sunday school attendees.

If you plan to visit the museum, details can be found here: raggedschoolmuseum.org.uk/plan-your-visit  
Bridge 57 goes under the Mile End Road, which is so named as it leads to  Mile End, which itself was so named as it was reckoned to be one mile from the City of London.
  • After bridge 53, on the right is the Blu Ivy Cafe. bluivycafe.co.uk 

  • This area is a short break between Mile End Park and Victoria Park.

  • At the side of the Blu Ivy Cafe you can see the Hertford Union Canal branching off the Regents Canal (See below).





The Hertford Union Canal
The Hertford Union Canal is just over 1 mile (1.6 km) long, and connects the Regent's Canal to the Lee Navigation in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It was opened in 1830 but quickly proved to be a commercial failure. The canal was also named Duckett's Cut after Sir George Duckett, who succeeded in obtaining an Act of Parliament in 1824 which authorised the building of the canal and the charging of fees for its use.
  • After Bridge 54 (Old Ford Road) the Regent's Canal starts to follow the bottom edge of Victoria Park. This lasts for about 662.01 metres (2,171.94 ft).
Old Ford Road
Old Ford Road is so named because it was part of a road going east from here towards a wide and shallow ford across the River Lea. The River Lea has since been deepened, and the Lea Navigation (a canalised river) added to it, so no ford now exists. Evidence has been found of a late Roman settlement at Old Ford, dating from the 4th and 5th centuries. The Lea is thought to have been used to supply Roman London with agricultural products and with pottery from Hertfordshire and the north. Old Ford was where the goods were transferred to continue their journey into London by wagon.

Victoria Park
After a report was published that stated that an East End park would "diminish the annual deaths (of residents) by several thousands" and "add several years to the lives" (of the east end population), a 30,000 signature petition to Queen Victoria was created, asking for a park to be built.

Victoria Park was the first public park to be built in London specifically for the people. It was an instant success, with local people using the park as early as 1843, before works were completed. Queen Victoria visited the park, which she had been instrumental in establishing and which bore her name.
More details and a map of Victoria Park here: tinyurl.com/vicparkdetails
  • After bridge 51 and the metal bridge that follows it, on the other side of the canal is a modernised version of a House originally built sometime between 1827 and 1837, next to it is Containerville, and then the Bethnal Green Gasholders (see below).



This area has historically been used for industrial purposes, such a mill and a glass bottle factory. Now, Containerville consists of 78 recycled shipping containers housing a range of businesses - these include film producers, brand designers, printers and dog carers.

To the left of Containerville are what were once Georgian bow-fronted cottages. They have recently been converted into modern apartments.
   
The Bethnal Green Gasholders were originally known as the Marian Place Gasworks. It was owned by the Imperial Gas Light & Coke Company. The gasworks here were sited next to the canal for the transportation for the large amounts of coal needed to make the coal gas which was then held in the gasholders. Depending on the amount of gas in the gasholders, they would rise and fall. These gasholders (also called gasometers) date from about 1865-89.

The current plan for the gasholders is to retain them, but build flats inside them following the line of the drum like metal structures.
  • Just before bridge 49 are steps leading up to Broadway Market. This is a market with a long history of trading. See links and the picture of the market, below). 


  • After bridge 48 look out for the shark in the water.



The shark is an art installation by architect Jaimie Shorten.
The installation was originally much bigger, see tinyurl.com/canalsharks . However, Hackney London Borough Council claimed the larger instalation fell foul of planning law, and so it was removed.
  • Between bridges 44 - 43 there are quite a few canal side cafes, and a small number afterwards.
  • Just before Bridge 39, on the left of the Regent’s Canal is the Wenlock Basin.
  • Just after Bridge 39, on the left of the Regent’s Canal is the City Road Basin.
The City Road Basin, when it was opened in 1820, became an important canal traffic centre. It handled mostly incoming freight and made a huge difference to the prosperity of the canal company. Its position made it better placed to be a distribution centre for goods coming into London on the canal, rather than into Paddington. A number of firms, which had first become based at the Paddington end of the canal, moved to City Road Basin.

Because of this success, in 1826 the privately owned Wenlock Basin was opened. This basin took it’s name from Wenlock Barns, which was a local farm at the time.

The original purpose of the Regent’s Canal was planned to be moving goods coming into London from the Midlands. However, in practice, it turned out that large amounts of imported goods were being shipped into London instead.

The basin is now used for canoeing by the Islington Boat Club. Islington Borough Council have started an ongoing regeneration of the City Road Basin area. New buildings have, and are still, being built on the surrounding area. Environmental improvements have been made, and there is now public access.
  • Walking on, after passing the City Lock and going under bridge 38 (Danbury St) you will come to the eastern side of the Islington tunnel (see picture below) and the end of this part of the walk. Just before you get to the Islington Tunnel there is a slope leading up to Colebrooke Row.



END OF PART ONE OF THE WALK

IF YOU WANT TO END THE WALK HERE:
  • The nearest tube station is Angel (325 metres away). To get there, cross Colebrook Row at the crossing, and continue straight on into Duncan Street.

  • At the end of Duncan Street, turn left into Upper Street. Angel tube station is straight ahead, on the left.
IF YOU WANT TO CONTINUE, AND DO 
SECTION 2 OF THE WALK, FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS BELOW TO GET TO THE END OF THE ISLINGTON TUNNEL:
  • Turn right on to Colebrooke Row, then turn left into Charlton Place.

  • Cross Camden Passage, and at the end of Charlton Place, cross over Upper Street on the crossing. Turn right then immediately left and head straight ahead into Berners Road with Aztec Row on your left and the Business Design Centre on your right.

  • Turn left into Parkfield Street and then immediately right into Bromfield Street.

  • Turn first left into Liverpool Road, then first right into Tolpuddle Street. Continue to the junction with Penton Street / Barnsbury Road.

  • Turn right and go along Barnsbury Road, then left into Maygood Street, which turns into a footpath. Carry on down the footpath to the end where it comes into Muriel Street.

  • The entrance to where the Regents Canal continues at the other side of the Islington Tunnel, is over the road and a little to the right. Go down the steps on your left after the gate to get to the towpath. You can look back to see the western end of the Islington Tunnel
IF YOU ARE ONLY DOING PART 2 OF THE WALK:
  • To get to the starting place, go to the Angel tube station. On exiting, cross Islington High Street and walk down White Lion Street, opposite to the tube station exit. White Lion St. turns into Donegal St., continue along it.

  • At the junction with Rodney St. turn right and continue along Rodney St. Where Rodney Street ends, continue straight on, over Wynford Road, into Muriel Street.

  • The gate to the towpath is 70 metres on the left.
WALK 23 – THE REGENT'S CANAL
SECTION 2
The Islington Tunnel to Little Venice


  • Walk along the tow-path, away from the western side of the Islington Tunnel (see above).

  • The first bridge that you come to is number 37 (the Thornhill Bridge), where the Caledonian Road crosses over the canal.
The Caledonian Road was originally known as Chalk Road. Its name was changed when the "Royal Caledonian Asylum" was built by members of the Highland Society of London, in the early 1800's. It's purpose was to provide a home and an education for Scottish children in London, who had been orphaned in the Napoleonic Wars. The building no longer exists, and the Caledonian Estate was built on the site between 1900 – 1907.
  • After bridge 37, a little further on, you will see the Battlebridge Basin on the left, with the London Canal Museum at the far left end, (see below).
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Attribution: Oxyman

Housed in a Victorian ice warehouse, the London Canal Museum opened in 1992. The building that the museum is housed in was built between 1862 and 1863. It was used to house ice that was imported from Norway by ship, and then by canal barge. Under the building, there are two preserved ice wells. One of the wells can be viewed inside the museum.

The stretch of water outside the museum is now known as Battlebridge Basin. This basin was constructed in 1820 and the buildings around it were completed in 1822. The title Battlebridge Basin is taken from the former name for the King's Cross area. The name Battlebridge comes from an ancient bridge over the River Fleet which was the site of a battle between Queen Boudica and the Romans. 

Other names that the basin has had over the years are Horsfall Basin, named after the original landowner, and also Maiden Lane Basin, named after a local street which is now called York Way. Maiden Lane is a not an uncommon name for city streets. Usually “Maiden” is a corruption of the word Midden, meaning a dung heap.
  • After the next bridge (with York Way going over it), on the left you will see evidence of another gasworks, now being used as a building feature (see below). Behind it, emerging from a tunnel, are train lines going in to Kings Cross Station.



King's Cross Station was built in 1851–52 as the London terminus of the Great Northern Railway (GNR), and was the fifth London terminal to be constructed. The station took its name from the nearby King's Cross Monument (portraying King George IV) which stood in the local area, but had been demolished in 1845.

Plans for building the station started in 1848, to be built on the site of a smallpox hospital. The station was designed by Lewis Cubitt, the brother of Thomas Cubitt (the architect of Bloomsbury, Belgravia and Osborne House), and Sir William Cubitt (chief engineer of the Crystal Palace, built in 1851). The station was the biggest in England at that time, and opened in October 1852.
  • After the next bridge, on the right are the Canalside Green Steps (see below). At the top of the steps you will find an areas called Granary Square, leading to the Coal Drops Yard.

The Victorian office buildings in Granary Square were used to manage the arrival of coal from South Yorkshire, and put it on to narrow boats or on to horse-drawn carts. There are also some Victorian warehouses here, now used as offices by the University of the Arts.

Above: Victorian buildings in the Granary Square
  • Return to the canal and continue along. Go past another bridge, and then the canal turns 90 degrees right.

  • On the right you will came to a couple of tunnels, leading into Coal Drops Yard.


The two tunnels (see above) have an exhibition of information about the history of the local area which is worth a look. The two Victorian coal drops sheds in Coal Drops Yard were used to receive coal from South Yorkshire and load it on to narrow-boats on the Regents Canal and on to horse-drawn carts for local deliveries. The yard processed approximately 8 million tonnes of coal per year.
  • Return to the canal and continue along it. Ahead is St Pancras Lock, and then the St Pancras Basin.
The St Pancras Basin is also known as St Pancras Yacht Basin. It was formerly known as the Midland Railway Basin, because it was built by the Midland Railway Company 1869. It’s purpose was to load canal barges with coal from Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire brought down by the railway. The basin fell into disuse and the basin is now owned by the Canal & River Trust, and since 1958 it has been home to the St Pancras Cruising Club.
  • Opposite to the Basin there are good views of Gasholders that have been converted into buildings and a small park (see below).
  • Walk on and go under a railway bridge (Lines leading in to St Pancras Station). This is followed by bridges that go under Camley Street, St Pancras Way, Royal College Street, Camden Road, Camden Street and Kentish Town Road near Kentish Town Lock.

  • Next comes Hawley Lock, Camden High Street Bridge, and Camden Lock. On your right is Camden Market.

  • At this point there is a small canal inlet in your path. Walk around the inlet, past food stalls, to come back to the towpath (see picture below)
  • You will pass under Oval Road Bridge, then under a rail bridge with lines going down to Euston Station.

  • After going under Gloucester Road, Regent’s Park Road and Prince Albert Road bridges, the canal turns right. As it does so, you will pass Feng Shang Princess, a floating Chinese restaurant, looking like a red pagoda (see below).



  • After the next bridge, you are inside London Zoo, on the north side of Regent’s Park.
       
  • After two more bridges, you will see an unusual structure on your right see below).



This structure was originally called the Snowdon Aviary. It was Britain's first public, walk-through aviary, and housed shorebirds such as Gulls and Ibis when it opened in 1965.

The aviary was re-developed as a walk-through primatarium. It is now called "Monkey Valley", and was opened in August 2022 to house a troop of eastern black and white colobus monkeys.

London Zoo, or the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) was established by Sir Stamford Raffles and Sir Humphry Davy in 1826, who obtained the land for the zoo.

The Society was granted a royal charter in 1829 by King George IV, and in 1847 the zoo was opened to the public in order to aid funding. 

Originally, it was believed that tropical animals could not survive outside in London's cold weather, so they were all kept indoors. In 1902, when Peter Chalmers Mitchell was appointed secretary of the Society, he set about a major reorganisation of the buildings and enclosures of the zoo. This reorganisation brought many of the animals out into the open where they thrived.
  • After the next bridge (No. 10) you have left London Zoo, and are now in Regent’s Park.

  • The next bridge that you come to has large classical looking columns. It is called Macclesfield Bridge.



Macclesfield Bridge (above) was once known as “Blow-Up Bridge”. This was due to an explosion that happened in 1874. On the 2nd of October of that year, a narrow-boat called Tilbury, which was loaded with sugar, nuts, three barrels of petrol and about five tons of gunpowder, exploded when it was passing under Macclesfield Bridge. They were travelling westwards heading for a quarry in the West Midlands. 

The three men aboard the Tilbury were killed, and the bridge was destroyed. The columns holding up the bridge were made of cast iron, in the Coalbrookdale forge, north west of Birmingham, and survived. The columns were reused in the replacement bridge. You can see the word Coalbrookdale at the top of each one.

After the next bridge, a footbridge, you will start to see a number of grand houses on the left. They are on the Outer Circle road around Regent’s park.


There are six large detached villas here, along the north-western edge of Regent's Park. They were designed by the architect Quinlan Terry between 1988 and 2004. Each of the six houses are built in a different classical style. There is the Ionic Villa, the Veneto Villa, the Gothick Villa, the Corinthian Villa, the Regency Villa, and the Doric Villa (shown above).


The seventh house that you can see from the canal is Hanover Lodge (see above). It was designed by the architect John Nash and built in about 1827. On the right of the picture you can see the top of the minaret on the Regent’s Park Mosque.
  • You will go under the Park Road bridge then two train line bridges going into Marylebone Station.
      
  • The canal will widen, and you will go through a gate on to Lisson Grove Moorings (see below). 
  • NOTE: the moorings are only open from dawn to dusk. If ever you do find them closed, there is a green footbridge just before the gate so you can continue the walk on the other side of the canal.

  • After the Lisson Grove Moorings, you will go under Lisson Grove (the road) through quite a long foot tunnel next to the canal (see below).

  • You will then come to the second tunnel on the canal that has no pedestrian access, the Maida Hill tunnel (see below).





  • To get to the other end of the tunnel, go up the ramp and stairs to street level. Head straight ahead on to Aberdeen Place.
      
  • On the right hand side of the road, at 32 Aberdeen Place, you will see this blue plaque to Guy Gibson V.C., the leader of the Dambusters Raid.
   
  • At the end of Aberdeen Place, walk over Edgware Road and go immediately to the right of the Cafe ahead of you. Continue in the same direction on Blomfield Road with the canal on your left.
        
  • Carry on walking along with the canal on your left. There is a narrow pathway on the left of Blomfield Road, but the trees are quite big and you may need to squeeze past them.
       
  • Opposite to 31 and 33 Blomfield Road are gates in the fence to get back on the tow-path.
       
  • Carry on along the tow-path and walk under bridge No. 1.
       
  • You will emerge on to triangular stretch of water called Little Venice.
    (See picture below).


  • Walk on along the towpath and look around the basin (see picture below).
In the picture above:
   
[1] is the entrance to the Regent’s Canal, leading to Limehouse Basin from the north-eastern side of Little Venice.


[2] is the entrance to Paddington Basin, which was opened in 1801 before the Regent’s canal was built. The site of the basin was chosen because of its position near to major roads, for the efficient onward transport of goods unloaded from the canal boats. Little Venice connects to the Paddington Basin from in it’s south-eastern side.

[3] is the entrance to the Grand Union Canal, leading to the Midlands. Little Venice connects to The Grand Union Canal on it’s west side. In 1929 the Grand Junction Canal and two Warwick Canals were merged and was renamed as the ‘Grand Union Canal'.
  
END OF WALK
The nearest station to Little Venice is at Paddington.
The quickest way to it is to walk via the Paddington Basin.
(See map and written directions below)
 

  • There are steps up to street level from the tow-path to Blomfield Rd.
       
  • Turn right, then right again along Warwick Ave, past Rembrandt Gardens (there is a WC here). Turn right again into Harrow Road, and first right into Warwick Crescent. Go through the gate on the right, and walk down to the tow-path. Turn right and walk along the tow-path. About 450 metres down the tow-path, the entrance to the station is on the right.
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