Short Break Route Suggestions:
Relaxed route: Summit Relaxation and Return - 20 miles, 6 locks, 8 hours total
Soak in the scenery and the quietness of this remote and beautiful stretch. The ultimate in slowing down: take this route if you just want to switch off. Set off through Barnoldswick, a Yorkshire town summarily transferred to Lancashire in 1974, then we’ll escort you through the three locks at Greenberfield. Stop at the Cross Keys at East Marton and enjoy a good meal in lively company. Next day, set off into one of the remotest and most beautiful places anywhere on the canals, with sheep and birds in all directions. Turn before Bank Newton, and go back past the boatyard to Foulridge. Travel through the mysterious tunnel and turn before the top of Barrowford, before making your way back. Don’t miss the Abbot’s Harbour at East Marton, the Anchor at Salterforth or Café Cargo at Foulridge.
Intermediate route: Gargrave and Return - 16 miles, 26 locks, 12 hours total
Stunning scenery and good pubs make a memorable short break.
This route winds along the contours on the side of Airedale, with extensive views of sheep country, and stone growing out of the landscape – farmhouses, barns, stone walls in all directions and the occasional village or small town. At Greenberfield, you leave the summit level, and paradoxically pass into the wildest scenery, where you could moor for days with no human contact but the occasional passing boat, walker or cyclist. Across the valley, you may see a boat behind a stone wall, apparently heading in the same direction as you on a parallel canal – only to find that you meet on a hairpin bend, and pass. Then the Bank Newton flight leads you round and down into Gargrave, an unspoilt canal village with shops and a great choice of places to eat and drink – our favourite is the Masons Arms. Turn and moor above Higherland Lock before heading back.
Active route: Skipton and Return – 26 miles, 30 locks, 24 hours total
Enjoy Skipton Castle and other delights in this bustling market town.
Go down to the bottom of the Gargrave flight (see above). From here it’s level all the way to Skipton, with views of the hills and lots of swing bridges. Quite suddenly, you are in Skipton, and can moor right in the centre of town. Explore the castle, cattle and street markets and shops, before turning to head back. Most would find this unrealistic for a weekend, but it makes a very fulfilling midweek break.
Weekly Route Suggestions:
Relaxed route: Bingley and Return – 58 miles, 30 locks, 24 hours total
Visit Skipton and the Bingley Five Rise, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways.
This route winds along the contours on the side of Airedale, with extensive views of sheep country, and stone growing out of the landscape - farmhouses, barns, stone walls in all directions and the occasional village or small town. At Greenberfield, you leave the summit level, and paradoxically pass into the wildest scenery, where you could moor for days with no human contact but the occasional passing boat, walker or cyclist. Then the Bank Newton flight leads you round and down into Gargrave, an unspoilt canal village with a good selection of pubs and places to eat, and small shops. From here it's level all the way to Skipton, with views of the hills and lots of swing bridges. Quite suddenly, you are in Skipton, and can moor right in the centre of town. Explore the castle, cattle and street markets and shops. Carry on along the side of the Aire Valley, with extensive views through the trees. Pass through the romantic village of Kildwick, clinging to the hillside with the canal going placidly through the middle. Silsden is a bigger town, with shops and eating places. Keighley Golf Course has astonishing rhododendrons in May. Moor at Bridge 197A and walk down to East Riddlesden Hall NT, a 17th century manor house with fine garden; or get a bus to Keighley Station, and take the steam train (of Railway Children fame) to Haworth, and walk up the steep hill to the Bronte Parsonage. Turn at the top of the Five Rise.
Intermediate route: Wigan and Return – 90 miles, 40 locks, 40 hours total
A journey entirely in Lancashire, this is ambitious but rewarding for experienced boaters.
Sail along the summit, plunge into Foulridge Tunnel, and then drop down Barrowford Locks onto the level you will stay with for 20 miles. Sail above Burnley’s rooftops on its embankment, one of the Seven Wonders of the waterways. Stop to visit the Weavers’ Triangle, full of textile history. Regain more open scenery, and carry on through Church, Rishton and Blackburn. At the bottom of Johnson’s Hillock flight you pass a never-completed link to the Lancaster Canal. Carry on along the contour above the River Douglas, till you arrive at the top of Wigan. Take a bus into this interesting town with excellent shops and covered market, but the passage down the flight is for another time…
this trip has fairly long urban stretches as well as views of the (Lancashire) Calder Valley and Pendle Hill, and is full of industrial history and other interest.
Active route: Rodley and Return – 72 miles, 62 locks, 45 hours total
Discover the astonishing legacy of Sir Titus Salt.
From the top of Bingley (see above), pass down the Five Rise, the first of several staircases – the most dramatic sort of lock. Soon you arrive in the World Heritage Site of Saltaire, Sir Titus Salt’s Italianate mills and model town founded on the wool of the alpaca. See the streets named after his eleven children, and find his statue in the nearby park. There’s also a splendid display of Hockneys – he is a Bradford lad. Turn after Bridge 218.
Fortnight Route Suggestions:
Relaxed route: Bingley, Burnley and Return – 76 miles, 44 locks, 35 hours total
An exciting blend of Pennine scenery and lively mill towns
Travel to Bingley (see above). Turn at the top of the Five-Rise – you’ll want to watch boats going up and down – and head back through Skipton and Gargrave, past your start point at Barnoldswick. Soon you reach the Foulridge Tunnel – nearly a mile long, but wide and easy to navigate. Barrowford Locks take you steeply down to the Burnley pool, and over the Burnley Embankment, with views over the rooftops of the town. The Weavers’ Triangle has a small museum and big pub in an old warehouse. Turn here and return.
Intermediate route: Selby and Return – 140 miles, 108 locks, 65 hours total
A journey of contrasts, from hilly uplands to sleepy river valley
Travel to Rodley (see above). Carry on down to the centre of Leeds – good moorings at Granary Wharf or the Royal Armouries. Then join the much wider Aire & Calder Navigation, with pushbutton locks. At Castleford Junction, turn left on the main line towards Goole. At Bank Dole turn off the main line and suddenly you’re on small-scale waterways again, taking the winding River Aire, and then the straight Selby Canal, through farmland and pretty brick-built villages, till you arrive at Selby. Explore the ancient Abbey, market and riverside before turning for home.
Active route: Liverpool and Return – 170 miles, 104 locks, 80 hours total
Join those who rave about their magnificent entrance into Liverpool Docks
Head for Wigan (see above). The Wigan flight is a great adventure, if hard work, with splendid views over the town. Trencherfield Mill, by the canal, has one of the largest steam engines surviving (open Sundays). The character of the canal changes, following the River Douglas through much flatter countryside, past the old canal settlement of Parbold and on to the Wirrall. Pass Aintree Racecourse (the famous water splash is not over the canal), and go through a series of swing bridges till you arrive at the top of Stanley Locks. Then the highlight of your trip; the passage down into Liverpool Docks, culminating in the magnificence of Albert Dock. Quiet moorings here are a short walk from the city centre with two cathedrals, shops, culture and more shops. Tate North and the Maritime Museum are actually in the dock where you moor. On the way back, take time to see the Rufford Branch (14 miles 14 locks 8 hours).