Done the ring several times and prefer anti clockwise. Leicester is a good place to stop. Secure moorings and easy walk into the centre. Most boaters go from Kilby Bridge to Leicester in one go to avoid any trouble. We don’t much like the pub at Kilby but there are a fair few good moorings there, both sides of the bridge itself. On way north of Leicester you can stop at Birstall.
Other favourite moorings on the Soar are around Zouch (pronounced Zotch), near the pub but also a few bends downriver for more rural location. Flights into East Midlands go above your head, which we quite like. From there we usually go straight to Shardlow, which is good for pubs but can be busy. Then you’re into some heavy locks until the doubles turn into singles near Burton as I recall.
Willington is ok for shops and pubs. We like stopping in Alrewas. Keep off the weir on the bit of River Trent before you get into Alrewas. Then we’d probably head for Hopwas or Atherstone (we moor below the locks usually as we like rural stuff). Then a night at Hawkesbury and a visit to the Greyhound, followed by Braunston. Loads of lovely moorings on the Leicester Line summit. Not much in the way of shops or pubs after Crick, which is a good mooring. Welford arm is nice but we don’t rate the pub. Others love it. Worth a detour to Market Harborough. Moor as close to the basin as you can. You can actually moor in the basin if you pay a few quid to the marina people. Then on to Kilby Bridge, which is where my version of this tour began.
Rugby has good moorings and is close to Tesco.
Places to avoid would probably be Nuneaton and I suppose Tamworth. That’s about it. Have a good time!