The Four Counties Ring

Ring Stats

110 miles
approx. 55hrs

A circular route which is perhaps slightly more challenging in terms of it’s level of difficulty, but well worth the effort!

The Four Counties Ring satisfies boating holiday goers looking for rural views, with the Cheshire plains visible from your narrowboat, and pastoral scenes amid the Cheshire locks climbing to the panoramic views at ‘Heartbreak Hill’. The ring route offers a diverse mix of wildlife, countryside views, quaint villages and city life.

Which canals are part of the Four Counties Ring?

Trent & Mersey Canal boat holiday
Trent & Mersey Canal boat holiday
  • Shropshire Union Canal (1827)
  • Middlewich Branch (1833)
  • Wardle Canal (1829)
  • Trent & Mersey Canal (1777)
  • Staffs & Worcs Canal (1771)

Cruising up the Shropshire Union Canal with it’s rolling countryside, the southern stretch of this navigation offers lock free cruising until Market Drayton, a traditional market town. The town is full of 17th Century architecture and has been home to gingerbread for the last 200 years. Cruising north takes you through Adderley and to Nantwich, a historic town just south of Hursleton Junction containing over a hundred listed buildings. Passing through the town by boat you cross the Nantwich aqueduct and north to the Middlewich Branch.

Middlewich is set in the middle of the Cheshire salt industry, from the canal you can see mountains of salt next to the remains of Roman salt sites. Middlewich is home to an impressive set of historic halls and gardens, such as Little Moreton Hall, one of the most famous Tudor Halls in England,  Rode Hall and Dorfold Hall. Cruising from Middlewich to Stoke-On-Trent via the Trent & Mersey is the most lock heavy section of the ring. The Cheshire Locks are a flight of 26 locks dating back to the 1770’s which raise the canal from the Cheshire Plain to the Summit Level at Kidsgrove.

The Trent & Mersey Canal is home to the spooky Harecastle Tunnel just north of Stoke on Trent, which spans approximately 1.75 miles. Mooring just south of Stoke-on-Trent you can explore the city on foot, spending time discovering the famous Staffordshire Potteries Museum & Art Gallery and Wedgewood Museum. Staffordshire is perfect for foodies, Stoke-On-Trent has plenty of fine food restaurants & every October the market town on Stone hosts a 3 day Food and Drink Festival to celebrate the best of Staffordshire’s local food produce.

Tixall Wide Scenic Views
Tixall Wide Scenic Views

As you pass the Haywood Junction onto the Staffordshire & Worcester (Staffs & Worcs) Canal the waterways widen, rumour has it that when this section of the canal was built the landowner had insisted that the canal be widened as he thought narrow canals were unsightly! This is now referred to as Tixall Wide just southeast of Great Haywood. The Staffs & Worcs Canal stretches approximately 20.5 miles from the Haywood Junction to Autherley Junction, where to continue on the Four Counties ring, you cruise north back onto the Shropshire Union Canal. There are 12 locks on this stretch including a flight of four locks just as you cruise past Gailey.

We would recommend a 1 week holiday minimum for those wishing to complete this ring route, depending on daylight hours and level of experience. Although 10 days would be make for a more comfortable cruising schedule as to achieve this route in a week you would need to cruise approximately 9.5 hours a day. For those with no previous experience who really want to do a ring route rather than an out and back journey, there are shorter circular routes that we would recommend you try first, such as the Droitwich Ring or Birmingham Ring- watch this space for articles relating to these one way circular routes!

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To speak direct to one of our friendly team at Waterways Holidays Ltd, call us on 01252 796400, open 7 days a week.

For a visual representation of the Four Counties Ring see below:

Four Counties Canals Map
Four Counties Canals Map