Of all the narrowboat expeditions you could take on England’s canal network, the Cheshire Ring is one of the most popular. Featuring town and country, locks galore, spectacular viaducts and even England’s only hydraulic boat lift, it is one of the great canal expeditions of the UK.
Those booking narrowboat hire in the Midlands will first need to get there, via the Trent and Mersey Canal as far as Kidsgrove, where it meets the Macclesfield Canal.
For those going in a clockwise direction, the Trent and Mersey will continue north-east to its junction with the Bridgewater Canal near Daresbury, passing the Anderton Boat Lift – which provides access to a section of the River Weaver – and sliding through the narrow Preston Brook Tunnel. For those going anticlockwise, the way forward is north-westerly on the Macclesfield Canal.
Both these are largely rural routes, but this will subsequently change. After passing through the town itself, the Macclesfield Canal crosses into Greater Manchester. It then merges into the Peak Forest Canal at Marple.
The Marple stretch of the Peak Forest Canal is spectacular, with 16 locks and a 97 ft aqueduct over the River Goyt, flanked by an even higher railway viaduct. Beyond this, there is the Hydebank Foot Tunnel on the edge of Romiley as the canal snakes through Manchester’s outer suburbs before joining the Ashton Canal at Ashton.
From here, the route runs east past Manchester City’s Etihad stadium into the city centre, where it joins the Rochdale Canal.
After passing through the bustling district of skyscrapers, offices and bars, the Rochdale canal meets the Bridgewater Canal, which then heads west, flanking the Manchester Ship Canal and passing United’s Old Trafford home, just to even things up on the football front.
Passing through the south-western suburbs of Stretford and Sale, the canal then strikes west again, back into the countryside via places like Lymm and Daresbury before meeting the Trent and Mersey again.
Featuring six canals, 92 locks and 97 miles, the trip should take two weeks, plus a bit more to get up the Trent and Mersey Canal from the Midlands. When it comes to canals, it really is the best of British.