Britain’s best boat trips: the Dudley Tunnel, West Midlands

Underground basins, working mines and a chance to have a go at legging: enter a subterranean world with this boat trip along the Dudley Canal

Photo: Denny Boy/


A trip along the Dudley Canal offers a real subterranean adventure, as you journey through tunnels and into underground basins, reflecting the fact this canal was built to transport limestone and coal directly from nearby mines. The Dudley Tunnel, which was begun in 1776, is often considered the second longest on the network, although it is not consistent and is instead formed of three separate sections. Following closure in 1962, some sections were abandoned but new tunnels have been built since 1989 to reopen the canal to traffic and link different parts of the underground network.

Dudley Canal & Tunnel Trust run five different trips ranging from a short trip for kids to a serious six-hour round trip for underground nuts. Tunnel Tots, a 20-minute tour aimed at the under 5s, takes place every Monday at 10am. The slightly longer 45-minute trip allows visitors to see the limestone tunnels – complete with fossilised remains of small creatures and plants – as well as the reconstruction of a working mine and a chance to have a go at “legging”. Next level up is the two-hour trip through the full length of the main Dudley Tunnel – these run on Sundays, once or twice a month between March and October – while the occasional six-hour summer epics take in the Dudley and Netherton Tunnels as well as the Parkhead and Factory lock flights. For those who don’t fancy such prolonged exposure to dankness, there is also a 2.5 hour trip through open water along the Old Main Lane and Gower Branch Canal.

Take the trip

With trips that run through the Dudley Tunnel, the Dudley trip offers a fascinating spin on the boat trip experience. All trips start from the Trust’s Portal building, which includes an interactive exhibition space, gift shop and The Gongoozler café. Entry to the building is free of charge. Walkers are also catered for, with the Limestone Discovery Trail providing a short 20-minute signposted walk allowing visitors to discovering the history of the local mines, canals and tunnel network from above the ground.

Explore the Dudley Canal

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