Head to Cheshire and our hire base at Acton Bridge to discover where it all started – the Bridgewater Canal, which takes you lock-free to Manchester. In this northwest corner of England there’s plenty of canal history to be explored on narrowboat holidays in Cheshire, plus a host of major attractions to spot whilst cruising along in your holiday hire.
The Bridgewater Canal was the first canal to be built in England which didn’t follow an existing watercourse, so becoming a model for the man-made waterways that followed it. In this region, you can also cruise the Trent and Mersey Canal and the Macclesfield Canal on our Cheshire narrowboats holidays, which form part of the Cheshire Ring, all of which provide some fascinating insights into canal history.
Top Attractions in Cheshire
When hiring a narrowboat with Black Prince in Cheshire doesn’t mean you have to stay on board 24/7. Take some time out to visit some of the great attractions on or near the waterways and holiday routes. Remember to allow time into your itinerary if you plan to stop off, as you may need a holiday of a week or more rather than a shorter weekend break to fit it all in.
- The Anderton Lift – an awe-inspiring 50-foot vertical boat lift link between two navigable waterways: the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal. It offers an interesting visitor centre with a café and activities for the kids.
- Chester – a beautiful old Roman city that is great for a canal holiday. Take a stroll along the Roman walls, take photos of the stunning Tudor centre, and shop and eat to your heart’s content.
- The National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port – well worth a visit on a canal boat holiday; it’s found at the northern end of the Shropshire Union Canal where it meets the Manchester Ship Canal.
- Little Moreton Hall – a moated half-timbered manor house 4 miles southwest of Congleton. The tours are recommended and the whole feel is a bit Harry Potter-esque.
- Harecastle Tunnel – a remarkable feat of engineering by Thomas Telford and James Brindley. Not for the claustrophobic, with its low roof and long period of darkness!
- Nantwich – this lively market town that dates back to the medieval ages has a number of listed buildings from Tudor and Georgian times that are worth seeing, plus it’s well known for it’s many food and music festivals.
- Chester Zoo is great for a day out with the kids as it’s one of the largest and most diverse zoos in the country and also famous for conservation projects. Definitely one to put on your itinerary for a family-friendly daytrip.
- On the Shropshire Union Canal you’ll see the imposing sight of Beeston Castle, a former royal castle dating back to 1220 that is perched on a rocky sandstone crag 350 feet above the Cheshire Plain. There is a visitor centre with a museum and refreshments and 40 acres of woodland walks.
- If you want to immerse yourself in history then head to the lived-in home of Gawsworth Hall near Macclesfield. Built in 1480, the Tudor manor house features fine paintings, furniture, sculpture and an ancient pleasure garden. (Just open to the public during July & August).
- Chester is home to the largest Roman amphitheatre in Britain, used for entertainment and military training by the 20th Legion, based at the fortress of ‘Deva’ (Chester).
Cheshire canal boat holidays are the perfect UK break. You can head to Chester’s medieval shops and Roman walls, cruise Llangollen canals and visit the nearby steam railway, quaint villages such as Preston Brook, Bollington or Brewood and canal-side attractions such as Chirk and Beeston Castles and the National Waterways Museum.
Travelling through five counties, you can hire a boat to cruise the Cheshire Ring, which takes you along the highest waterways in England on the Macclesfield and Peak Forest canals, before heading to the city of Manchester and onto the lower Cheshire Plains. This is a lovely part of northwest England to visit for friendly holidays onboard narrowboats / long boats.
Cheshire Canal boat hire base
The Black Prince Cheshire canal boat hire base is at Acton Bridge, near Northwich. Hire a narrowboat from here and you can enjoy a boat holiday on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal or continue on the Cheshire ring cruising route via the Peak Forest and Macclesfield. From south of the narrowboat hire base you can travel on the Four Counties Ring, or meander up to Chester and beyond to the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum.
You can enjoy some interesting canal boat short breaks from this base or just make the most of narrowboat hire in Cheshire, including seeing sights such as the Anderton Lift and the old market town of Middlewich.
Our northern boat hire base in Cheshire offers pet-friendly holidays, please ensure that you read our booking conditions and ensure you book a pet-friendly boat.
Canals to cruise with narrow boat hire from the Acton Bridge, Cheshire
The Bridgewater Canal, often heralded as the birthplace of the modern canal system, holds a special place in the history of transportation and engineering. Opened in 1761, it was the brainchild of the visionary industrialist and engineer, Francis Egerton, the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater. This groundbreaking waterway stretched from Worsley to Manchester, through Nantwich, serving as a means to transport coal from the Duke’s mines to the city. What made the Bridgewater Canal revolutionary was its use of innovations like the inclined plane at Barton Aqueduct, which eliminated the need for cumbersome locks, significantly increasing efficiency. Today, the Bridgewater Canal, surrounded by picturesque landscapes and dotted with historic features, has transformed into a popular canal boat cruise destination for those wanting to enjoy long boat hire in the peaceful countryside of Cheshire.
The Macclesfield Canal offers a serene and picturesque journey through the charming Cheshire countryside. This 26-mile-long canal, completed in the early 19th century, connects the town of Marple, near Manchester, to the town of Kidsgrove in Staffordshire. Known for its tranquil waters, the Macclesfield Canal meanders through idyllic landscapes, including dense woodlands, rolling meadows, and quaint villages. The canal is distinguished by its unique and historic features, including the Hovis Mill, an iconic 18th-century building that stands as a testament to the region’s industrial heritage. Today, the Macclesfield Canal attracts boaters, walkers, and nature enthusiasts alike, offering a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life, and is a popular canal boat trip route. Black Prince offers narrowboat rental to cruise this popular canal.
Peak Forest Canal
The Peak Forest Canal, perhaps one of the most picturesque waterways in England was built to transport Derbyshire limestone to Manchester. Completed in 1800, this 15-mile-long canal connects the town of Marple, near Manchester, with the bustling city of Ashton-under-Lyne. What sets the Peak Forest Canal apart is its stunning route through the heart of the Peak District National Park, offering boaters and visitors breathtaking views of lush green valleys, limestone cliffs, and charming stone-built villages. The canal features an array of historic structures, including the Marple Aqueduct and the Marple Lock Flight, showcasing the ingenuity of the early canal builders.
Shropshire Union Canal
The Shropshire Union Canal, nicknamed the ‘Shroppie’ weaves its way through the picturesque landscapes of England’s Shropshire and Cheshire counties and is mainly a quiet and rural route. This extensive waterway system, comprising several interconnected canals, was constructed in the 19th century and played a vital role in transporting goods during the industrial revolution. Along its route, you can discover charming canal-side pubs, historic bridges, and iconic landmarks like the Audlem Flight of 15 locks.
Trent & Mersey Canal
The Trent & Mersey Canal connects the River Trent in the east to the River Mersey in the west. Completed in the late 18th century, this historic canal was the brainchild of engineer James Brindley and industrialist Josiah Wedgwood. It spans approximately 93 miles, featuring over 70 locks, tunnels, and aqueducts, making it one of the most intricate canal systems in the country. Along its route, the Trent & Mersey Canal offers a fascinating journey through a blend of rural and urban landscapes, with highlights such as the Anderton Boat Lift and the Potteries region, renowned for its pottery heritage.
Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal
The Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal winds its way through the picturesque landscapes of Staffordshire and Worcestershire counties. This historic waterway, dating back to the late 18th century, extends for approximately 46 miles, connecting the River Severn in Stourport-on-Severn to the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood. The canal’s route is a journey through quintessential English countryside, passing through charming villages and lush woodlands. Notable features along the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal include the famous Stourport Basins and the unique Bratch Locks.
Pet friendly holidays in Cheshire
If you’re looking for a dog-friendly boating holiday in Cheshire, then a canal boat hire is a fantastic way for pet lovers to enjoy a relaxing vacation with their four-legged friends. Whether cruising along tranquil canals or meandering down scenic rivers, these holidays provide a unique opportunity for dogs and their owners to bond in the great outdoors.
Black Prince offers pet-friendly canal boat options, ensuring that your four-legged friend and other types of family pet can join in on the adventure. Your first pet travels free, there is a small charge an extra pet. We recommend no more than two dogs per boat as space for dog beds etc. starts to become limited. If you would like to take another type of pet other than a dog, please call our team to ensure that we can cater for it on board our pet-friendly boats.
Visiting Cheshire from overseas
Welcome to canal boat vacations in Cheshire with Black Prince! Each year we welcome visitors from all over the world, including the USA, Canada, Australia, all over Europe and elsewhere.
Many of our overseas guests enjoy either a short break or longer vacation in this lovely county in the north west of England. You can choose a three or four-night break which you could easily tag on to the end of another holiday here in the UK, or boost the holiday to a week or more.
You can reach our hire base at Cheshire either by public transport or by car. The nearest airport is Manchester and the nearest train station is at Acton Bridge, where our canal boat hire base is located. We provide free car parking at the hire base.