On this popular countryside route the locks are well spaced for easy cruising. You can choose to travel to Chester and then retrace your steps back to the marina or continue along the Shropshire Union main line to it’s historic terminal on the River Mersey at Ellesmere Port. Mooring in Chester is within easy reach of the walled city centre with its medieval‘rows’ where there are a variety of shops, galleries and the majestic cathedral.
The fascinating Boat Museum 0151 355 5017 www.boatmuseum.org.uk at Ellesmere Port is a few locks beyond Chester, near to the junction with the Manchester Ship Canal. The museum has an extensive collection of preserved inland waterway craft and display areas in many of the former warehouses
After stopping for the first night at Middlewich, this cruise is through the heart of the Potteries. Entertain the family for the day at Alton Towers 08705 204060 www.altontowers.com, just 8 miles from the end of the Leek canal arm – ask for details of taxis.
A fascinating voyage of discovery and well worth the extra bit of effort!
The journey takes you along the wonderfully rural Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal to Great Haywood Junction where, passing under a distinctive roving bridge, you join the Trent and Mersey Canal heading north towards the Potteries and Peak District. The rolling Staffordshire countryside leads you to Stoke-on-Trent, the Wedgewood Visitors Centre and the impressive 2926-yard long Harecastle Tunnel.
Beyond Harecastle the 13 miles to the salt town of Middlewich sees the canal descend 31 locks to the Cheshire Plains. The short Middlewich arm links the Trent and Mersey Canal to the Shropshire Union Canal again through more glorious countryside.
The scenery on the climb up ‘Heartbreak Hill’ to the summit at Kidsgrove is fantastic. As well as sights of the potteries such as the Bottle Kilns at Etruria, the Wedgwood Pottery Centre at Barlaston is not to be missed. 01782 204218 www.thewedgwoodstory.com
The National Trust’s Shugborough Hall is a short walk from moorings at Great Haywood. 01889 881388www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Heading North of the Cheshire Ring the scenery is varied, frequently rural and often spectacular. Cross the Manchester Ship Canal at the impressive Barton Swing Aqueduct.The cottages and dry dock of Burscough Junction now form a sleepy gateway to the Rufford Arm.
For the more energetic this can be a 14 night trip, but if you are wanting to take your time and see the sights then take a more leisurely 3 week break.
Heading north of the Cheshire Ring the scenery is varied, frequently rural and often spectacular.
You will experience areas of easy, lock-free cruising through the beautiful wide-open moorland of rural Pendle. If just two people are cruising, it is best to share the large double locks with another boat if possible.
A comfortable turning point for a fortnight cruise is the appealing market town of Skipton. This is a short walking distance from the canal and a lovely market town to explore. It has a good selection of shops, a castle, museum and local bicycle hire
The newly restored Huddersfield Narrow Canal crosses the Pennines to complete the fantastic South Pennine Ring.
At 5698 yards, the Standedge Tunnel is the longest in Britain – the passage requires pre-booking (01484 844298). East of Huddersfield the canal is wider and the locks are shorter, so the maximum length of boat to complete this new circuit is 58ft.
A fascinating trip that takes you through the heart of Manchester and the Peak District with its distinctive stone architecture.
Moor at Castlefields to explore the city of Manchester, including Old Trafford, home of Manchester United F.C. 0870 4421994www.manutd.co.uk, the huge Arndale shopping centre and the Science & Industry Museum. 0161 832 2244 www.msim.org.uk
The trip will let you enjoy glorious scenery as the Pennine Range overlooks the canal and, if time allows, detour along the Peak Forest canal to its terminus. Enjoy the stunning views from Marple and at Anderton pause to visit the fabulously restored boat lift which now operates throughout the cruising season to link the canal with the River Weaver.
With the re-opening of the Anderton boat lift in Spring 2002, a whole new navigation is open for exploration from the Anderton base.
A stunning feat of 19th Century engineering, the lift carries two boats at a time hydraulically, one up and one down.
Centre of the Cheshire salt-making region, the River Weaver has a wealth of history, including the Salt Museum at Northwich 01606 41331 www.saltmuseum.org.uk Head south to the head of the navigation and the Winsford Flash lakes, one of the many wildlife havens on the river.
Cruise above the picturesque River Weaver and its valley, where the only lock has a drop of just six inches! Preston Brook has a tunnel of nearly a mile and there are also two shorter ones on this route.
This route winds through the delightful valley of the River Dane.
Explore the start of Heartbreak Hill and see the variety of wildfowl and wading birds that this peaceful and unspoilt stretch attracts. With a few turning points on the way up the hill, this gives you the chance to choose how far you explore, depending on time available and enthusiasm for locks