Towpath cafe walks: The Leicester Line – East Midlands

Enjoy a surprisingly rural canal walk on Leicester’s doorstep, followed by a hearty cream tea in an old lock keeper’s cottage

Canal & River Trust


The Leicester Line is just one section of the mighty Grand Union Canal that links London and Birmingham, but it is a lovely one. It meanders for 41 miles through green and gentle rural England, skirting the cultural town of Market Harborough and the city of Leicester, where it becomes the River Soar.

You can see this transition from canal to river on a waterside walk from the heart of Leicester to King’s Lock in the village of Aylestone, a charming village in itself. This walk feels beautifully rural, taking you past ornamental bridges, an island of residential geese, Aylestone Meadows Nature Reserve and the fine gardens of Aylestone Hall. If you head further on from King’s Lock you’ll see Bluebank Lock, named after the bluish grey clay in which the canal was cut. After that, you’ll reach Gees Lock. Look to the east and you might spot humps in the ground – these are piles of spoil left by navvies searching for puddling clay. There are numerous bus stops along the route, or at least very close by. For a more direct route from the city to Aylestone, take the Grand Central Way, a tarmac path for walkers and cyclists.
Once you reach your destination, King’s Lock, you’ll find a friendly family-run tea room overlooking Aylestone meadows, the canal and River Soar. Built in 1796, King’s Lock Tearooms is the last remaining lock keeper’s cottage in Leicester. One of its former residents was lock keeper for 50 years – his name was George King, and boatmen of the time named the lock after him. The tea room has live music every third Sunday of the month and serves a mean breakfast baguette and cherry scone with clotted cream. Oh go on then.

King’s Lock Tearooms, Marsden Lane, Aylestone, Leicester LE2 8LT