10 things to know about the Cheshire Ring

The Cheshire Ring is one of our most popular canal boat holiday routes due in part to the fascinating heritage of the area, together with the beauty of the varying scenery. Here are some answers to the most common questions we get asked about a canal boat holiday in this area.

cheshire canal ring

Where is it?
The Cheshire Ring is a circular canal route in the North West of England that is one of the most famous UK canals. It’s a popular boat trip route as it travels through a varied mix of landscapes between Manchester city centre and rural Cheshire, with stunning views of the Peak District and the Cheshire Plain.  Check out our Cheshire Ring canal map here.

Which canals does the Cheshire Ring include?
The Cheshire Ring takes in the Bridgewater Canal, Macclesfield Canal and parts of the Trent and Mersey Canal, Rochdale Canal, Peak Forest and Ashton Canals. It has a variety of canal features including broad and narrow locks, aqueducts and tunnels. It also passes the historic Anderton Boat Lift near Northwich.

How long is the route and how long will it take to cruise?
The Cheshire Ring route is 97 miles long and has a total of 92 locks.  An experienced crew could complete the ring in one week, if you average eight hours a day, otherwise we would recommend ten to fourteen days if you’re on a relaxing boat holiday.  It’s handy if you have a larger crew then someone is able to go ahead and prepare the next lock.

Clockwise or Anti-clockwise?
If you are departing from our base in Acton Bridge, then we recommend clockwise as you have an easy lock-free run north up to Manchester.  But people choose to do it either way!

The Bridgewater Canal is the famous one isn’t it?
After leaving our base in a clockwise direction, you will cruise northwards over the Bridgewater Canal, sometimes described as England’s first canal so it’s pretty well known, yes.

The third Duke of Bridgewater built the canal in 1761 to transport coal from his mines at Worsley to the industrial areas of Manchester and so the Bridgewater Canal was the forerunner of canal networks.

It’s one of the particularly notable British waterways because it was the first canal in Britain to be built without following an existing watercourse, and so became a tried and tested model for other canals.
Affectionately known as the “Dukes Cut” the Bridgewater Canal revolutionised transport in England and marked the beginning of the golden canal era, which followed from 1760 to 1830.

In the last 35 years it has primarily existed as a leisure waterway.

manchester canal

What famous sites will I see along the way?
There’s a real mix on this route, from the industrial architecture of Manchester to lovely Peak District landscapes and the high foothills of the Pennines. Take your camera, as they’ll be plenty of good photo opportunities on the route, even more so if you also spend some of your time on the Cheshire Ring canal walk.

Travelling north from Acton Bridge you’ll cruise along the Bridgewater Canal through the heart of Manchester, where you can moor at Potato Wharf. On this route, you’ll come across the Barton Swing Aqueduct, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways spanning the Manchester Ship Canal.

Heading south then on the Peak Forest Canal and cross the Marple Aqueduct, 100ft over the wooded ravine of the River Goyt.  Marple locks are also alleged to be the most picturesque flight of locks in the country.

If you fancy a step back in time then enjoy a stop off a Macclesfield’s Silk Museum and Heritage Centre and enjoy canal walks, which is up there with some of the best things to do in Cheshire.

South of Congleton are the Mow Cop Hills – take some time out to walk up to Mow Cop and enjoy the view – then travel on round to Middlewich and Northwich.  Here you can explore the restored Anderton Boat Lift, known as the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’.

Where is the  ‘Happy Valley’?
Not to be confused with the recent TV programme of the same name starring Sarah Lancashire, this ‘Happy Valley’ is named by the locals of the town of Bollington.
Cruise the Cheshire Ring to the Macclesfield Canal and you’ll arrive at the pretty stone villages including Bollington, Adlington and Higher Poynton. Bollington is known locally as The Happy Valley, and its most famous landmark is the White Nancy, built in 1817 to commemorate the battle of Waterloo.



Can you race the Cheshire Ring?
Not in your canal boat, no! Strictly four miles an hour please.

However, if you fancy pitting your strength in a canoe then check out the canoe marathon at www.madcc.btck.co.uk/CheshireRingRace  and be prepared to compete against people who can complete the 96 miles in 15 hours.   The race is open to individual paddlers, crew boats, and relay teams using kayaks or Canadian canoes.

Where can I moor?
Why don’t you check out our Frequently Asked Questions here to find out more about mooring, or find out more about our boat hire from Acton Base here.

Can I just do part of the Cheshire Ring?
Yes, there are various canal boat hire routes you can take from our base at Action Bridge, including cruising part of the Cheshire Ring.  You could do the Trent and Mersey Canal to Middlewich and then take the Shropshire Union Canal to Barbridge as a short canal holiday break, for either three or four nights. Alternatively, head north to Wigan on the Bridgewater Canal and enjoy a seven-night break on the Bridgewater Canal.


Take a look at our LOCATIONS page to start planning your narrowboat holiday.

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Or if you would like help planning your adventure then call on +44 (0)1527 575 115 and a Black Prince team member will be happy to help!