Explore the Oldest Shipping Canal
Cruise Along the Oldest Working Shipping Canal in Europe!
Join us traveling at a relaxing pace as we sail along the canal, sit back and soak up the scenery, watch the locks come to life, the swing bridge majestically open, before enjoying the seaside town of Exmouth or Exeter’s Historic Quayside. This is a one-way trip where you can either board from Exmouth to travel up to Exeter or depart from Exeter to travel to Exmouth. For your return journey there are ample public transport links within a few minutes flat walk at both Exmouth and Exeter and our crew will be happy to point the way!
Duration: 2.5 hours
Groups of 15 or more: £10.00
Opened in 1566 this 6-mile-long canal was originally 16 feet wide and 3-foot-deep but was extended in 1701 to allow for larger crafts. It is the first canal to be built in Britain since Roman times and the oldest working shipping canal in Europe linking Exeter and Exmouth.
Cruising up the River Exe, we come to Turf Locks, the entrance to Exeter Canals. This tidal lock was the first pound lock to be built on any British waterway. It was constructed as part of the solution to the weir that had been built in 1284 by the Countess of Devon after she had a falling out with the port of Exeter, essentially blocking any vessels reaching the city.
By the 17th Century, Exeter was the fourth largest port and city in England and efforts were made to improve accessibility of it though the canal. It was lengthened and bought to its current depth of 3 metres and the next locks we pass through, Double Locks, were built.
They created a greater depth which allowed ocean going vessels to reach the city centre. Up to 500 ships were now using it every year and trade expanded to ports in Spain, Italy and Portugal.
It continued to thrive until the arrival of the Bristol and Exeter Railway in 1844, where the canal quickly lost trade, it was used until the late 1960’s with the last ship sailing it in 1972.
Along the towpath we pass two of the area’s most popular pubs, Turf Lock Hotel and The Double Locks. These two inns really come to life in the Summer months with heaps of people enjoying the outdoor spaces and community ambience – so give them a wave as we cruise by!
As we glide further along the canal we then bring traffic to a standstill as one of Exeter’s main roads comes to a halt when the Countess Weir Swing Bridge ceremoniously opens to allow our passage through. Designed to allow large vessels to pass, it is rarely used now but is kept busy with the 36,000 vehicles a day that use the bridge.
Depending on your departure point you will either arrive at the seaside town of Exmouth or Exeter’s Historic Quayside.
Exmouth is one of the oldest and most picturesque seaside towns in Devon with two miles of white sandy beaches The Marina, seafront and town centre have plenty of delicious local cafes and restaurants along with shops and entertainment venues.
Exeter Quay is one of the most beautiful parts of the city with its unique architecture and mix of historic and contemporary design. There are plenty of antique shops, boutiques and a range of cafes, restaurants and bars for you to enjoy some great food whilst soaking up the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the Quay.
So join us on this relaxing and unique cruise, we have limited sailing times due to the complexity of the route – so it’s definitely one not to miss – we look forward to welcoming you aboard!