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Tow Path Trail to Bath

Discover canal architecture on the this tow path walk into Somerset.

Distance 11 miles (17.7km)

Minimum time 4hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient Negligible

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Canal tow path

Landscape River valley and urban area

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorers155 Bristol & Bath;156 Chippenham & Bradford-on-Avon

Start/finish ST 824606 (on Explorer 156)

Dog friendliness No real problems; keep under control through Bath

Parking Bradford-on-Avon Station car park

Public toilets Bath Spa Station and car park

1 Walk to the end of the car park away from the station and follow the path left beneath the railway and beside the river. Enter Barton Farm Country Park and keep to the path across a grassy area to an information board. Keep ahead and pass to the left of the tithe barn to reach the Kennet and Avon Canal. Turn right along the tow path for 1¾ miles (2.8km) to Avoncliff.

2 Bear left at the Cross Guns and pass beneath the canal. Ascend steps and join the tow path on the opposite side. Proceed for 3 miles (4.8km) to reach the Dundas Aqueduct. Cross the bridge over the canal and continue for 1¼m (2km) to Claverton Pumping Station.

3 Keep to the tow path through the now very rural Avon Valley, with all eras of transport modes in sight - river, canal, railway and road. Beyond Bathampton, the tow path leads you through the attractive suburbs of Bath, probably the least stressful and least busy route into the heart of the city. Pass through Sydney Gardens, cross the canal in front of Sydney House and continue on the opposite side of the canal. At the bottom of Bathwick Hill, cross the road and canal and continue along the tow path, passing locks to reach the A36.

4 Cross the lock gates on your left, drop down steps and pass beneath the road. Soon you'll reach the junction where the canal meets the River Avon. Do not follow the riverside path ahead, instead bear left along the pavement and turn right across the footbridge over the Avon to reach Bath Spa Station. Return to Bradford-on-Avon via the hourly train service (every 2 hours on Sunday).

Bradford-on-Avon lies on the Kennet and Avon Canal, which stretches 87 miles (140km) from the River Avon at Bristol to the River Thames at Reading. Now fully restored, the canal offers some of the best-loved walking in Wiltshire. Between Bradford and Bath it passes through steep, wooded hillsides that rise 400ft (122m) above the Avon Valley, arguably the finest natural landscape along the length of the canal. But there is far more than just great scenery for you to savour on this memorable 11 mile (17.7km) ramble to Bath. You will discover some exceptional canal architecture, notably restored wharves, magnificent aqueducts, a 19th-century pumping station and ornately decorated tunnels.

At Bradford-on-Avon the canal company built two wharves, one below and one above the town's lock. A lock was required to raise the level of the canal to that of the Wilts and Berks Canal at Semington. On the upper wharf a stone and timber structure was built and alongside it remains the original dry dock, now in use again.

With great skill, the engineer John Rennie took the canal along the winding Avon Valley crossing the river twice via substantial aqueducts. Avoncliff aqueduct was built in 1804 to take the canal across the valley to the north side. It is 110yds (100m) long and features three arches, a solid parapet and balustraded ends. The Bath stone has not weathered well and has suffered from casual repair work and patching in brick.

Perhaps the most impressive of the masonry structures on the canal, Dundas Aqueduct stands as a fitting memorial to the architectural and engineering skill of John Rennie. Built in 1804, this fine classical stone aqueduct carries the canal 64ft (19.5m) above the River Avon on a graceful wide arch spanning 65ft (19.8m), which is framed by paired giant pilasters. It is worth walking down into the valley below to really appreciate this structure. Brassknocker Basin marks the junction of the Kennet and Avon Canal with the Somerset Coal Canal, opened in 1801 to run 10 miles (16.1km) to the mines at Paulton and Radstock. It was taken over by a railway company and closed in 1898. The first ¼ mile (400m) was restored between 1986-88 for moorings.

The waterwheel powered pumping station was built at Claverton in 1810 to raise the water from the Avon to the canal and is the only one of its kind on British canals. Now fully restored it is open to the public on certain days.

What to look for

Note the tow rope marks etched into the tight corner of Avoncliff aqueduct and the two mills below beside the River Avon. Look for the ¼ mile (400m) posts showing the distance from the River Thames at Reading, and the cast iron crane at Dundas Wharf.

While you're there

If time allows, spend some time exploring Georgian Bath. Highlights in the city include the 15th-century abbey, the Roman Baths and Pump Room and the elegant terraces and mellow-stoned buildings, notably the celebrated Pulteney Bridge, the Circus and the Royal Crescent.

Where to eat and drink

Try the excellent Fordside Tea Rooms in a garden beside the canal at Limpley Stoke or the Hop Pole Inn. At Brassknocker Basin there is a café and canal museum. The George at Bathampton offers good food and ale.

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