Tooley’s Boatyard

We were very excited to recently be invited to Tooley’s Boatyard in Banbury for a tour. We’ve been on the river before on a river boat but never on a canal boat or the canal.

Situated Canalside in the heart of Banbury Town Centre, next to Lock29; Tooley’s is home to one of the oldest working dry docks in England. It is listed as a nationally important, ancient monument by Historic England. Managed and preserved in part by a group of local waterways enthusiasts, the charitable trust (Tooley’s Boatyard Trust) is passionate about sharing the dry dock’s history with fellow boaters and the wider community.

Tooley's Boatyard

We enjoyed a tour with Matt, Director of the Boatyard. It was great to hear about the history of Tooley’s, which I hadn’t even heard of before until they contacted me. I’m not familiar with Banbury and didn’t even know there is a canal there! It was really fascinating learning about the dry dock where they carry out maintenance work on the boats.

Alongside the dry dock sits the original blacksmith’s forge and carpenter’s workshop. They are both still fully operational today, repairing traditional wooden and modern steel boats. As part of the original boatyard, the dry dock has remained in continuous service since 1778.

Workshop at Tooley's Boatyard

As well as the dry dock and workshops you’ll find a gift shop and cafe. Inside the gift shop are lots of photos of the Boatyard at different stages of its life and a wealth of information about its history. It’s quite a fascinating place!

As part of our visit to Tooley’s Boatyard we were invited aboard the Dancing Duck. The 39ft day boat has been purpose built at Tooley’s to give tours of the canal. It can seat 12 passengers on a ride up and down the Oxford Canal.

We really enjoyed our 40 minute boat trip. Our knowledgeable tour guide John (Chair of the Tooley’s Boatyard Trust) was really informative and told us so much about the canal’s history. It was so interesting to hear how things have changed (or not changed!) over the years.

Aboard the Dancing Duck at Tooley's Boatyard

We loved seeing all the different canal boats along the way. Many of them have lovely paintwork and funny names. Some even had gardens on top!

The Tooley’s Boatyard Trust is in the process of securing funding to build a museum and visitor centre for future generations. Their plans sound amazing and will help preserve the rich history of this historic site.

Tours on the Dancing Duck narrow boat are taking place every Saturday until the end of September. Tickets cost £10 per adult, £3 per child or £20 for a family. Under 1s travel free of charge. To book please visit their website here:

Dancing Duck boat tour at Tooley's Boatyard

The Boatyard itself is free to visit and is open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-1pm. Don’t forget to have a walk along the tow path while you’re there to see all the lovely canal boats. You might even be lucky enough to see the lock in action!

Facilities Checklist

  • Toilets  Yes
  • Pushchair / Wheelchair Friendly  No
  • Disabled Access No
  • Dog Friendly  Yes
  • Refreshments available  Yes small cafe
  • Car Park Pay and display at Chamberlaine Court Car Park next door
  • Gift Shop  Yes
  • Baby facilities  No

Address: Spiceball Park Road, Banbury, OX16 2PQ

Price Band: £


Disclaimer: We were gifted tickets for the Dancing Duck boat tour free of charge in order to carry out this review. All words, photos and opinions are that of my own.

For more places to visit in Oxfordshire look here:

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