Summer Tunnel Boat Trips 2015

Sunday Canal Trips Through Underground London

What's On

Travel by boat through Islington tunnel on the Regent's Canal, opened in 1820, and around three quarters of a mile in length. When it first opened boats had to be pushed through by a process of "legging" where men lay on the boat and pushed against the walls with their legs. Our trips are more easily achieved on board one of London's community narrowboats. We use the historic converted working narrowboat Tarporley, for many of these boat trips. A guide from the museum offers you a commentary on the history of the tunnel as you cruise through it.

The portal of the tunnel seen from an approaching boat tripThe narrowboat Tarporley entering the east end of Islington TunnelIslington Tunnel with foliage surrounding view and water reflections

Prices Dates and Times

Prices are £8.40 adult, £6.00 children, including admission to the museum. The boat trip is not offered on its own without museum admission. Please visit the museum before the boat departs if travelling on the 1500 or 1600 trips.

Dates for 2015 are the second and fourth Sundays of May to September, and 2nd Sunday of October.
May 10th & 24th
June 14th & 28th
July 12th and 26th
August 9th and 23th
September 13th and 27th
October 11th

Departure times from the museum:

Inside Islington Tunnel view of dark walls to tunnel mouth

The return trip takes just under one hour.In the event of bad weather passengers can travel inside the boat. Most of the trip will however be in the tunnel. A guide will travel with you and he or she will tell you about the history of the tunnel and the canal as you travel. Bookings can be made online, by telephone, or in person at the museum.

Disabled Visitors

On certain dates we are using a wheelchair-accessible boat. The dates are 10th May, 14th June; 12th July, and 13th September. The boat on these dates has a wheelchair lift and a ramp is available to get from the wharf onto the lift. The trip is suitable for blind and visually-impaired people, deaf and hearing-impaired people, and those with moderate walking difficulties on all dates. Assistance with boarding is available.

How to Book

There are 12 places on each trip and early advance booking is very highly reccommended. You can check availability of places live online at any time of the day or night. Bookings are open for all trips in 2015. Bookings are not refundable. It may sometimes be possible to amend a booking, e.g. to transfer it to a different time, if you give us plenty of notice. This can only be requested by e-mail or using our Online Booking Support Form. Please do not telephone asking to change your booking.

A Taste of Tunnel

About the Tunnel

The tunnel was opened in 1820 with a procession of boats carrying dignitaries. The engineer was the canal's engineer James Morgan, and is the major work of his life. Originally it was worked by "legging", which means that men lay on their backs on planks mounted on boats and pushed against the walls or roof of the tunnel to propel the boat. This was necessary because there is no towpath through the tunnel. Later, in 1826, a steam chain tug was introduced. An iron chain rang the whole length of the tunnel and was wound around a drum on board the tug, which was turned by a steam engine. Thus, the tug was pulled along the chain and it could tow several barges behind it. This speeded up traffic considerably. This method of towing boats and barges through the tunnel lasted almost without a break until 1926 by which time diesel tugs were available. The tunnel has lasted well since 1820 and remains in frequent use. You will be able to see the original brickwork and some sections that have been repaired in more recent years. It is 960 yards long and it will take about 20 minutes to pass through it in each direction on your trip. Your guide on the trip will tell you more.

There is more about the history of the tunnel on our page Canal Tunnels of London