Some of the spookiest moments we’ve had on our boats have been travelling through some of the tunnels along the canals…I think a wander down the canal feels like another world, but heading through these tunnels feels even more so!
The Harecastle Tunnel
I think our first ever tunnel that we travelled through was the third longest in the country, Harecastle Tunnel. At 8,778ft it’s fairly long and it takes 30 minutes to travel through on a narrowboat.
I’m sure reading this you’re probably thinking that 30 minutes doesn’t sound so spooky, however, even before you begin the journey through it feels pretty nerve wracking.
You can’t enter the tunnel without a booking and you also can’t enter without having a working horn and working head light, and you have to dampen down your woodburner if in use.
Upon arrival a member of CRT checks you in and inspects your boat and gives strict and serious instructions about how to travel through the tunnel and what to do in the event of a breakdown.
Maybe it’s just me, I am a bit of a wimp after all, but this along with the skeleton hanging ominously over the entrance to the tunnel on your way in just makes it all very spooky!!
At different points inside J got drenched from drips and leaks from above and we both kind of held our breath a bit until we could see the tiny dot of daylight in the distance finally appear and then begin to get bigger and bigger.
We breathed a sigh of relief at the other side! We haven’t yet met anyone who has broken down inside…that would be the stuff of nightmares for me haha!
We’ve travelled through Blisworth Tunnel, at 9,222ft it’s actually a little longer than Harecastle but as it allows two boats to pass through at once with no staff at either end or restrictions to give you the heebie jeebie’s it feels like a much more mellow ride.
The tunnel leads to the village of Stoke Bruerne which is one of my favourite parts of the canal system, especially The Boat Inn pub. It’s steeped in boating history and you can really feel it when you have a drink here…you must visit if you can!
Wildly, up until the 1870s the only way to get through this tunnel was by having someone leg it through as there was no towpath and early narrowboats didn’t have engines. I found a really insightful article which gives a true sense of what this work must have been like. Click here to read!
Next on our list is Braunston Tunnel, at 6,125ft, not quite as long and scary but another that used to have to be legged through.
Braunston is also a hugely historic and famous area of the canals and I also really love it here too. There’s a great butchers shop up on the high street that sells delicious lemon curd that can’t be missed on a visit here.
There are two whoppers of tunnels, Dudley Tunnel and Standedge Tunnel (this one takes an almighty 1 hour 20 minutes to travel though!!) that I’m not sure I could ever do…I’d have to jump off and leave Jason to it I think!!
With these tunnels in mind whenever we’d get to London on our boats we’d often hear people sounding very nervous about Islington tunnel.
When we eventually got over that side of town and went through it we could actually see the outside at the other end of the tunnel before we even entered!! This always makes us chuckle…
Do you reckon you’d be up for an adventure through some canal tunnels? Or, maybe, like me you’ll keep your eyes closed shut for half of the journey through!
Photo Credits (creative commons licence): Harecastle Tunnel by Stephen McKay; Blisworth Tunnel by David Martin; The Boat Inn by John M; and Islington Tunnel by Devokewater.
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