Short Break Route Suggestions (3 & 4 nights):
Relaxed route: Ellesmere and Return - 24 miles, 0 locks, 11 hours total
Ideal for those wishing to experience a remote retreat through breath-taking scenery. Depart the boatyard cruising west along the Llangollen Canal through quiet countryside and under a series of low brick bridges. The canal makes its way down to Ellesmere village, passing Whixall Moss - a nature reserve home to a variety of rare plants and wetland birds. As you continue down the canal you pass Cole Mere, tucked behind the trees, then Blake Mere which is a beautiful lake right next to the canal. The countryside gives way to wooded hills as you approach Ellesmere, passing through a small tunnel. Ellesmere is an 18th Century market town with tall red brick houses and narrow winding streets; there is a greengrocer, a delicatessen and several pubs - so plenty of opportunity to stock up on food. You can moor at the marina here to explore the town, before turning around to head back to Whitchurch.
Intermediate route: Hurleston Junction and Return - 27 miles, 38 locks, 19 hours total
Depart Whitchurch marina and head east, up the Llangollen Canal to the Grindley Brook Staircase Locks. Close to the locks there is a waterfront pub to stop at for refreshments and a small shop. Cruise through pretty countryside, under bridges and through the occasional lock, to Wrenbury where you can moor near bridge 19. The Wharf is made up of a converted mill, now used as a boatyard, and a warehouse which has been converted into a pub. There is a second pub nearby and It's only a short walk into the village. There is a 14th Century Church overlooking the village green, as well as a couple of stores. St Michael's Church, first mentioned in 1299, becomes visible as you leave Wrenbury behind. The Church is worth a stop, set on a hilltop overlooking a small lake. Work your way through the locks at Baddiley, passing Baddiley Hall and its surrounding woodland to Swanley Locks, then quietly cruise past the backs of houses and gardens to the 4 locks at Hurleston Junction. Turn around straight after the last lock to make your journey back to the base.
Active route: Nantwich and Return - 31 miles, 38 locks, 20.5 hours total
Best suited to a midweek break, start by cruising east through Grindley Brook Staircase Locks, passing Wrenbury village, heading towards Hurleston Junction (as above). From the junction cruise south down the Shropshire Union Canal through a couple of bridges and over the Nantwich Chester Road on a cast iron aqueduct. Mooring near the bridge you are a short walk from the historic market town of Nantwich. Nantwich was the centre of our salt mining industry until the 19th Century and has some fine Tudor buildings, antique dealers, boutiques and traditional food shops. The town also hosts various festivals during the year including the Jazz Festival, Food Festival and the International Cheese Awards. There is a winding hole just south of the town where you can turn and return to the boatyard.
Weekly Route Suggestions:
Relaxed route: Llangollen and Return - 61 miles, 4 locks, 27 hours total
A perfect relaxed week or a very active midweek break (outside of School Holidays) - a large part of this route is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is one of 7 wonders of the UK waterways, making it one of our most popular boating locations. Head south-west, cruising through pretty countryside towards Whixall Moss and the village of Ellesmere. There are lovely woodland walks from nearby 'Meres Visitor Centre' if you fancy a walk. Pass Frankton Junction heading west through rural farmland, coming across two locks as the landscape becomes hillier. After a sharp corner you arrive at the Chirk Aqueduct and Tunnel. Chirk village is situated on the Wales/England border and is overlooked by Chirk Castle - now owned by the National Trust - which is worth exploring; maybe even stopping off for a traditional Welsh Cake in the Castle's tearoom. There are also some canalside pubs between Ellesmere and Chirk for you to choose from. Returning to the boat, cruise through a small tunnel then the River Dee appears soon after, leading you towards Trevor and the amazing Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The canal narrows after Trevor, so you'll need someone to hop off with a mobile phone to check that the navigation is clear. The stunning canal scenery is punctuated by red brick bridges as you cruise in a westerly direction to Llangollen. The narrow canal runs above nearby hamlets, with picturesque views of the valley below. There is a basin with visitor moorings at Llangollen (charges apply) which is ideal for exploring the area. Maybe take a horsedrawn boat to Llantysilio past the Horseshoe Falls (built by Telford) which provides water to the navigation. Llangollen itself is well worth an visit - you can even hop on a traditional steam train for a trip through the valleys. Turn at the basin to return to Whitchurch.
Intermediate route: Chester and Return - 60 miles, 60 locks, 35 hours total
Cruise east to Hurleston Junction. This stretch of the Llangollen Canal offers picturesque countryside and just a few locks to keep you active, including the Grindley Staircase Locks. Once at Hurleston Junction, turn left onto the Shropshire Union Canal to Barbridge which has a pet friendly pub. Continue cruising north to Bunbury Staircase Locks, through the green fields and woodland. There are a couple of waterfront pubs near Beeston and you may wish to take a walk to the ruins of Beeston Castle, just south-west of the canal. The waterway runs through the Cheshire Plains past Waverton and the brick mill near Egg Bridge; enjoying a lock free stretch all the way to the village of Christleton, with the buildings of Chester now visible infront of you. You can moor at Christleton if you wish to explore Chester or continue cruising into the city centre, through 5 locks then past the old city, with a sharp right turn taking you to Tower Wharf. The city is easily accessed from the canal bridge 123E. It is recommended that you turn and leave the city at night, in search of quieter moorings!
Active route: Market Drayton and Return - 55 miles, 82 locks, 37 hours total
Cruise east to Hurleston Junction. This stretch of the Llangollen Canal offers picturesque countryside and just a few locks to keep you active, including the Grindley Staircase Locks. Once at Hurleston Junction turn right, cruising south, passing under a bridge which leads you to open green fields and towards Nantwich. Nantwich is an interesting traditional Cheshire town with black & white timber buildings; various shops, cafes and restaurants are available just a short walk from the bridge. There are a great selection of country walks in this area if you fancy stretching your legs. For something slightly different, why not visit Hack Green 'Secret Nuclear Bunker' located near bridge 85 to the south of Nantwich. Returning to your boat, continue through hedge lined farmland to Audlem, where the lock free stretch ends. There are a couple of waterfront pubs here and the opportunity to buy provisions before making your way through a flight of 15 locks to Market Drayton. Market Drayton is an attractive town, said to be the home of gingerbread due its link to with Robert Clive, who brought spices back to the UK after his travels to the East. There are a couple of wharfs located just before the bridge here, where you can turn to make your return journey.
Fortnight Route Suggestions:
Relaxed route: The Four Counties Ring - 137 miles, 132 locks, 77 hours total
Start your journey by cruising east to Hurleston Junction. There are 19 locks along this stretch to get you started and pretty countryside surroundings. The Four Counties Ring offers an unforgettable cruise through the counties of Staffordshire, Cheshire, Shropshire and West Midlands. This tranquil route explores uplifting landscapes that unravel some of the nation's grandest stories of pottery, salt and engineering marvels. Head south on the Shropshire Union Canal past Nantwich - home to interesting black & white timber buildings, cafes and independent boutiques. The Shropshire Union Canal passes through pretty farmland, woodland and quaint canalside towns and villages. A lock free stretch is interrupted by the lock flight at Audlem - where you can take a break at one of the canalside pubs. At Autherley Junction head east onto the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal - there is a very narrow stretch between the junction and bridge 74, so keep a look out for oncoming boats. Pass Gailey Wharf with its toll keeper's watchtower and Penkridge where there is a handful of locks and pubs. If you need to top up on supplies you can stop at Radford Bridge - approximately 1.5 miles from Stafford - there is a bus service to the town from here. Follow the canal through Tixall Wide, nearby woodland concealing Shugborough Hall to the south. At Great Haywood you join the Trent & Mersey Canal and start heading north to make your way past the market town of Stone, to Stoke-on-Trent. Pass through the centre of 'Stoke' and through the Harecastle Tunnel, which is 2926 yards long (remember to book your passage). Passing Hardings Wood Junction, there are a couple of waterfront pubs for refreshment before navigating the 'Cheshire Locks'. At Middlewich Junction, head west onto the Middlewich Branch Canal, which offers rural moorings and has a small aqueduct that carries the canal over the infant River Weaver. Once at Barbridge Junction turn south onto the Shropshire Union Canal once again, cruising for just one mile before rejoining the Llangollen Canal via Hurleston Junction and returning the boat to the marina.
Intermediate route: Froghall and Return - 120 miles, 142 locks, 77 hours total
Cruise east onto the Shropshire Union Canal and head north to Barbridge where there is a canalside pub. Turn right, heading along the Middlewich Branch which offers rural moorings and has a small aqueduct which carries the canal over the River Weaver. Passing a pathways to the small village of Church Minshull with it's notable 18th Century Church, continue cruising east towards the Trent & Mersey Canal. Once on the Trent & Mersey turn south heading to Wheelock, the salt work mining heritage of the area is still evident here. Wheelock is a little village with a selection pubs - the 'Cheshire Locks' begin here and taking you down to Hardings Wood Junction which has a couple of waterfront pubs. Continue through the Harecastle Tunnel, which is 2926 yards long (remember to book your passage). Westport Lake Visitor Centre, popular with fishermen is close to the canal here. The industrial heritage of 'The Potteries' becomes evident as you make your way to the centre of Stoke-on-Trent and head west onto the Caldon Canal. There are two staircase locks then a further lock, with shops and eateries nearby. Continue cruising east to Endon where the canal splits and follow the stretch through Hazelhurst Locks then under the aqueduct, heading south to Cheddleton where this an old mill, a steam railway station and a waterfront pub. The canal meets the River Churnet for about a mile to Consall Forge and runs through densely wooded hills on its approach to Froghall. Here, industrial works and historic buildings break up the spectacular scenery - why not visit the lime kilns whilst you're here - mooring are available before the tunnel. The tunnel is so low that most boats will not pass under, so turn your boat just beforehand to return to the boatyard.
Active route: The Cheshire Ring - 146 miles, 138 locks, 85 hours total
Start your journey cruising east to the Shropshire Union Canal and onto the Middlewich Branch, where the scenery is dominated by fields and rural woodland. At the Middlewich Junction we suggest you go south to complete the challenging 'Cheshire Locks' first. There are then a couple of waterfront pubs at Hardings Wood Junction. Returning to your boat, cruise over the Poole Aqueduct and Red Bull Aqueduct onto the Macclesfield Canal. The canal passes through green countryside lined with tall hills - providing a great opportunity for walks - there are footpaths to the east of bridge 85. This is a lovely quiet stretch, as the Macclesfield Canal has only 12 locks at Bosley, making for a relaxed cruise. There are plenty of towns and villages in the area to explore including Oakgrove, Gawsworth and Congleton, offering family-based activities such as picnicking or even bowling. Meeting the Peak Forest Canal you pass across Marple Aqueduct; the nearby yard is a hub of boating activity and also an opportunity to stop for a meal. There are 16 locks at Marple and two tunnels, then the canal continues northward where the scenery becomes less rural with industrial buildings hinting that you are on the approach to Manchester. Ashton Canal passes through a very built up area with regular locks, then Old Trafford can be seen to the south as you arrive in the centre of Manchester. Leaving the city centre behind and joining the Bridgewater Canal, the outlook becomes rural once again as you pass the valley of the river Bollin and some Victorian factories. Stop off at Altrincham to take a walk round the market square with its black & white timber buildings. Make a stop at Lymm, with its great views of the Pennines and access to the pubs, fish & chip shop and stores there. Turn left at Preston Brook back onto the Trent & Mersey Canal, passing the interesting Victorian Anderton Boat Lift. Then it's back to Middlewich, where you join the Middlewich Branch again on your return to Whitchurch.