Regent’s Canal Walk
Camden Lock Market to Limehouse Basin along the Regent’s Canal
Escape the crowds on London’s busy shopping streets and get behind the scenes along the city’s waterways. The Regent’s Canal is an 8.5 mile stretch of water running from Paddington to Limehouse, created in the early 19th century. From Camden Lock, you can go in two directions. One option is a two-mile route to Little Venice and the junction with the Grand Union Canal. In the opposite direction, you can reach the Limehouse Basin. It is a gentle walk, with many interesting sights and features.
Start your walk at one of London’s top tourist spots
Set off from the favourite north London haunt of Camden Lock Market. From here, go down the steps and under the bridge over the Regent’s Canal, and make tracks along the towpath in the direction of Kings Cross. This first part of the walk is very atmospheric, passing by narrowboats and locks, Victorian warehouses, the odd café and, near the Kingsland Basin, the Word on the Water second hand floating bookshop. A little further on, the Camley Street Natural Park is an educational two-acre nature reserve.
Step off the canal to explore the new developments at King’s Cross
At King’s Cross, the canal area is currently being transformed into one of the most vibrant corners of London. Granary Square is a vast open space with fountains, cafés and restaurants. Pass by the iconic cast iron structure of the gasholders at St Pancras Lock. These are being developed into a complex of high end apartments set amidst a canalside park. Nearby Coal Drops Yard will open in autumn 2018 as another major shopping destination for London.
Shortly after Granary Square, Battlebridge Basin is home to the London Canal Museum. This is a great place to learn about London’s waterways and the history of the ice and ice cream trades in the UK. The former ice warehouse was built for ice cream maker, Carlo Gatti.
Soon after, leave the towpath as the canal disappears into the Islington Tunnel. As you climb up from the canal, cross Muriel Street and follow the footpath opposite through the housing estate until you reach Maygood Street. Turn right at the junction with Barnsbury Road and continue a short distance until you see Chapel Market on your left. Continue to the end of Chapel Market, turn right onto Liverpool Road and cross Islington’s Upper Street.
Shopping in Camden Passage, Islington
If you have time to spare, Camden Passage and its neighbouring streets are one of London’s top shopping spots. Traditionally renowned for its antiques, its broad range of shops and delis greatly enhance any shopping experience. This is the place for you if you like to rummage through vintage clothes and jewellery, check out the latest contemporary designs or pick up a couple of boxes of handmade chocolates as gifts.
Returning to the walk, to the left of Angel tube station on Upper Street, signposts indicate Duncan Street and back to the canal. This stretch of the towpath can be slightly busier and a little less atmospheric than the first part of the walk. What it does provide, however, is a great insight into canal life. We did the walk on a bright winter’s day when the smell of wood smoke from the barges lingered in the air and people – city and canal boat dwellers – were making the most of the sunshine and exploring the towpath on bikes.
Stroll through one of London’s secret markets
If you do the walk on a Saturday, stop off at Broadway Market. Signposts lead to the market, just after Acton’s Lock. Still very much off the tourist trail, the market in this little East End street has been home to market traders since the 1890’s. It has only really started to gain popularity during recent years. Market stalls offer artisan bread, cakes, fresh farm produce and fabulous food alongside shops and laidback cafés.
Victoria Park and the Ragged School Museum
Back on the canal, the route continues past Victoria Park and the listed lock cottage and stables at Old Ford Lock. A little further along, by Johnson’s Lock, the Ragged School Museum provides a wonderful insight into Victorian London. Thomas Barnardo established the original school, now three canalside buildings, in 1867. The aim was to provide a free basic education to the children of Mile End. Highlights today include a recreated Victorian classroom with lessons led by an actor in full costume.
From here, it is just half a mile to Limehouse Basin. Much of the basin was redeveloped in the 1980’s and is now a marina for narrowboats, yachts and other boats. Get the best view of the Thames from the Narrow Street Swing Bridge, then head for Limehouse Stations. The Docklands Light Railway takes you back into central London.