Leeds and Liverpool Canal

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Leeds & Liverpool Canal Guide

With canal boat hire bases spread along the Canal there is a good choice as to where to start your canal boat holiday from.

The Following Leeds and Liverpool Canal Guide is not only a guide for people on canal boat holidays but is written to be just as handy for activities along the towpath and for people lucky enough to be boat owners with information of attractions, highlights, land marks, mooring spots, marina’s, food shops, canalside pubs and other places to eat in the settlements along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Both the canal map and canal guide can be printed off by clicking the icon on the right to be taken with you as you enjoy your time on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Access to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal from the Leeds end is via the River Lock separating the canal from the Aire and Calder, from this point to Lock 13 at Newlay Locks be sure to time your entrance to the Leeds and Liverpool as all locks between this point are only open for limited hours in the summer, between 8am and 3pm and need to be booked in advance over the winter. There are mooring points near Bridge 222 at Kirkstall to jump ashore and enjoy the many shopping and eating opportunities that Leeds provides as well as a rich choice of museums. If you choose to just cruise upstream to get away from the city then you will be treated to some fine restored old warehouses and a canalside that is tidy and well presented.

The first advised place for mooring overnight is beyond lock 13 at Newlay, away from the city centre and all the hustle and bustle. The canal sweeps westwards towards Shipley going through the first of many swing bridges along this stretch, the crossing under the A6120 signals the end of Leeds and towards the imperceptible gap between Leeds and Shipley. There is some nice woodland and peaceful cruising despite the railway line following the waterway for much of this section, it rarely intrudes anymore than one would expect in an urban environment.

Many choose not to stop in Shipley and cruise straight on to Saltaire, much of the impressive architecture and imposing mills that run alongside the canal are primarily thanks to Sir Titus Salt who lends his name to the town and his considerable wealth made Saltaire one of the best laid out, designed and developed industrial towns in existence to the degree that it has been granted World Heritage Site status. It is certainly a place full of character and history with excellent facilities and plenty to do and most certainly worthy of a stopover.

After Saltaire there are quiet woodlands through the Aire Valley leading over a considerable 7 arched aqueduct and soon thereafter looms Bingley and the first of three flights of locks within quick succession,. The first flight of locks are the Dowley Gap Locks which lead to the centre of Bingley. In quick succession are the Bingley –Three-Rise and Bingley-Five-Rise, the five rise in particular involves massive chambers lifting the canal a mighty 60 feet by the top of the flight, there is a lock keeper to keep an eye on events here so support is never far away. There are moorings available above and below the five rise to recover from the exertion but rest assured there are no more locks between here and Skipton, just plenty of swing bridges.

The villages of Riddleden and Stockbridge offer canalside convenience for re-stocking provisions or stopping for a quick drink or two otherwise cruise through lush woodland, rolling hills and moorland that accompanies the canal throughout this section. Silsden is an appealing place it has many family run shops to re-stock from and a wide variety of pubs to while away some time in surrounded by rich moorland and some ideal walking opportunities.

Beyond Silsden, aside from the intrusion of the rather busy A629, the views northward are some of the best and most inviting on the canal which is a nice distraction from the seemingly endless swing bridges along this stretch.

Before long the canal lazily winds into Skipton at which point there are all the moorings and amenities that boaters could hope for, it is at this point that the canal turns left but do take time to go to the right if your boat is less than 35 feet, the Springs Branch only takes you half a mile or so taking the canal past the impressive walls of the 11th century castle. Skipton is not a large place and mooring close to Bridge 178 makes the whole historic centre and its many pubs within easy reach.

The number of swing bridges doesn’t seem so vast moving away from Skipton, and it’s a few miles beforeGargrave and the many locks to be faced on that stretch, so relax and take in the impressive scenery of theYorkshire Dales. Gargrave itself offers moorings and facilities to boaters and despite getting very busy in peak season is a great place to stop and relax, the River Aire flowing through the village, plenty of places to sit and relax surrounded by the Dales, it provides an ideal place to charge your batteries before taking on the imminentBank Newton Locks taking the canal back to the south and deeper into the Dales.

There are mooring facilities a little further on in East Marton, the village offers some choice for those who wish to stop for a drink and the church dating back to Norman times is worth exploring. Many find themselves rushing on drawn in by the famous locks at Greenberfield which raise the canal a further 29 feet to the highest point of the Leeds and Liverpool. The character of the Greenberfield Locks lies in the serenity, dry stone walls, quaint and beautifully restored small canalside buildings, and the scenery signals the end of the Yorkshire Dales and the beginning of the Pennines, both as stunning as each other. Nearby Barnoldswick has a surprising choice of shopping opportunities based around the old market square.

The canal continues its southward journey past the village of Salterforth which offers limited facilities but lots of charm, and on to Foulridge, which is much nicer than its name suggests. Foulridge Tunnel is one of the longest to be found anywhere, at over 1600 yards in length there is a traffic light system used to keep order which can and usually does involve congestion, particularly in peak season. Foulridge Wharf is a well presented feature which has food and drink on offer with more traditional pubs and shops a short walk away.

The pound down to Leigh provides many public moorings amidst rolling countryside giving an amazing backdrop to several villages that punctuate the rural peace that offer several opportunities to stop for a while and relax to eat and drink and absorb the tranquil rural idyllic setting.

At Wigan the Leeds and Liverpool is joined by the popular Bridgewater Canal from the left, increasing the traffic somewhat around the junction. There are several locks on the way into Wigan not least two large flights before theLeigh Branch at the Wigan 21, where the Leeds and Liverpool meets the Bridgewater. There are plentiful moorings here or further down at the Bottom Lock, the latter giving easier access into the centre of Wigan and its wide selection of shopping opportunities. The waterside at Wigan is pleasant  but many choose to move on to the first of the Leeds and Liverpool canal’s imposing 72 foot locks at Pagefield Lock.

Heading west out of Wigan takes the canal to Crooke mooring peaceful and very rural after the bustle of Wigan, the distant M6 barely intrudes, just beyond which lie a few swing bridges but these are scarcer than upstream and feel more novel and enjoyable.

Appley Lock, which is the last until Liverpool, provides the most peaceful moorings on the run to Burscoughfrom Wigan and as such are very popular, from here there is peaceful cruising to be enjoyed along the Douglas Valley arriving in the beautiful village of Parbold which exudes welcome to all boaters who wish to stop to restock at independent stores or have something to eat and drink.

At Berscough the Rufford Branch to the Lancaster Canal joins the Leeds and Liverpool, there are mooring and shopping facilities here and on the way out there are three swing bridges to operate before the first winding hole from the junction.

On clearing Burscough the canal seems somewhat disjointed from the large conurbations that surround it, the flat marshland and reed beds are a stark contrast to the urban sprawl of Southport, Liverpool, Maghull andOrmskirk. The roads hardly intrude on the peace, the canal crosses under the busy A570 and the slightly less busy A5147 runs alongside the canal to varying degrees until the centre of Maghull but there is no shortage of nature to accompany us.

The town of Maghull provides plenty of opportunity to restock. Maghull Manor house was built in 1638 and local tradition has it that King Charles 2nd slept there whilst in the area. By 1780 a new manor house was built near the site of the original, it still stands with part of the original moat. Moving forward between Maghull and Aintree the canal is once again crossed by a busy motorway, this time the M58 and soon after the M57. The canal curves round in a sweeping arch through almost 180 degrees to lead us past Aintree and its famous racecourse for a little while before skirting around the northern edge of Liverpool’s suburbs.

Contrary to what you may have heard, large parts of Liverpool are welcoming, clean and along the canal we are treated to some nice well groomed suburban surroundings, more often than not there is a belt of green following the path of the canal and some enjoyable lively pubs along the way.

The canal loops south to skirt the River Mersey and the surroundings become much more industrial and built up as we progress towards the newly renovated Liverpool Docks giving access to the Mersey beyond. TheEldonian Village before the entrance to The Stanley Dock is as inviting and convenient as any within miles and due to its proximity to the Docks lock system and the limited hours that the locks are open for makes it an ideal point for a stopover before tackling the locks.

The navigation through the many locks and docks of the Liverpool Basin is as long and complex at it is enjoyable, after years of redevelopment the docks now provide a salubrious environment surrounded by industrial history, luxurious apartments and interesting buildings surrounded by retail outlets, cafe’s and bars. The highlight of the journey through this area is leaving Princes Docks, through St. Nicholas Tunnel and coming out to a grand view of the iconic Liver Building or entering the equally iconic Albert Dock. Welcome to the Mersey!

With narrowboat hire bases and marinas spread along the Canal there is a good choice as to where to start your narrowboat holiday from.