Little Venice to Kings Cross
2.5 hours each way, 3.5 miles and 4 locks
Price : £345
The trip from Little Venice to Kings Cross is one of the most rewarding trips that we can offer with so much packed into a relatively short trip.
For the first hour or so we will follow the Little Venice to Camden route, passing through Maida Vale, Lisson Grove, Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill before we arrive at Camden Lock Market.
There are three locks at Camden, starting with the very busy scene around Hampstead Road Locks which is certainly the most gongoozled in the UK. Gongoozling, by the way, is an old boatman’s word for those who stand and stare at boats, particularly those going through a lock. You will certainly be the focus of attention of hundreds of tourists, nay Gongoozlers, as we start the descent which is approximately 7 feet.
Passing under Hampstead Road itself, now known as Camden High Street or Chalk Farm Road depending on whether you turn right or left, we immediately find Hawley’s Lock alongside the site of the great fire at Camden Market in 2008. For 7 years it has been temporary host to the Camden Lock Village Market, but sadly this is now closed (Feb 2015) while the developers take advantage of this prime land but of course this was just a tiny part of the main Camden Lock Market, still fully open and thriving.
And immediately after Hawley’s we find the final lock at Camden – Kentish Town Road lock. Each of the three locks takes between 10 and 20 minutes depending on other traffic on the canal, and so its the ideal time for you to leave the boat for a little while giving just enough time to grab a hot snack at one of the hundreds of food stalls in Camden, or maybe do just a little shopping.
We are now well out of the normal operating area the other public passenger boats on London Canals, which tend to operate only between Little Venice and Camden. The atmosphere changes as we make several tight turns beneath the local road bridges – unlike Little Venice which was created around the canal, this area including Kentish Town was already a busy part of London when the canal was built and so local roads had to be bridged to cross it. Just look at some of the original bridges to see how tiny the roads were in those days!
Much of the land in this area was originally slum accommodation, demolished to form railway sidings and then redeveloped in the early 1980s to once again become a housing area, including the lovely little Elm Village area which even has its own bee-hives. This low rise development was presumably built at a time when the high rise flats of the 60s and 70s had been a social housing disaster, and ironic to see that all along the canal from here to Limehouse there are brand new buildings all along the canal and all of which are at least 10 floors high.
Passing some of the most recently built (2014) canal-side flats at Camley Street we can see some new mooring rings provided in Feb 2015 to help the hundreds of boats in London which have no home mooring and therefore are only allowed to stay 14 days maximum before they move on to new location. From now on almost all the boats we see will be so called Continuous Cruisers, which encompasses all boats without a home mooring, and you’ll see boats here in London of absolutely all shapes and sizes as people try to find an affordable way to live in London. Some, as you will see, are somewhat less comfortable than others!
Now, not a tunnel, but a dark cavern beneath the Eurostar railways lines as we get close to St Pancras. As well as the railway station, St Pancras on the canal is the home of St Pancras Cruising Club who have a picturesque boat club mooring basin right in the shadow of St Pancras. Turn to face the other direction and the landscape is different here every week while the old coal wharves and gasworks are transformed into a whole new part of London, hardly on the map yet.
The most striking building so far is the rebuilt Gas Holder which reminds us of the history of the area but rather than containing gas, now forms a circular arena and park.
We drop down one more lock – St Pancras lock, with its charming single storey lock keeper’s cottage and then skirt around the Camley Street Gardens, a city centre nature park in heart of London on the site of the old coal wharves for the Kings Cross gasworks. New buildings appear every year here – the landscape is almost unrecognisable from the old days when the red light area of Kings Cross used to extend in the now demolished side streets here.
What better example of urban redevelopment is the canal-side Granary Square with its famous concrete steps often adorned with ornamental grass. Inside Granary Square are fabulous illuminated pavement fountains, wonderfully restored old warehouses which now house Central St Martins University of the Arts and an arena here hosts all kinds of events throughout the year as well as KERB, a lunchtime streetfood market during the week and an every growing selection of restaurants and bars.
Its a great place to end the trip – either using it as a very easy way to walk to Kings Cross Station for tube and bus, or to visit one of the ever increasing number of restaurants and bars here.
Alternatively we can take you a little further to end the trip at York Way, or by special prior arrangement we can continue another 5 minutes into the Battlebridge Basin and drop you off at the London Canal Museum who have a private landing stage right outside their windows. An entry fee is payable to the museum on arrival, but its well worth the £4 or so to spend a while looking round this unique little museum before leaving by road. (At the time of writing the museum closes at 4:30 pm and is not open on Mondays, but please do check with them before planning a visit).
We normally offer this trip from Little Venice to Kings Cross as a one way cruise.
You’ll be on the boat for 2 hours 30 minutes and see the very best of the canal with the chance of ending somewhere really interesting.
It is most suited to those with an interest in the canal and want more than a return trip from Little Venice.
The price for this trip is £345 whether joining at Little Venice or indeed the reverse direction, joining in Kings Cross and ending in Little Venice.