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Stoke on Trent to Manchester & Return

Manchester canal boat holiday

118 Miles | 72 Locks | 10 Day Cruise | 6 Hours per day

Suggested daily itinerary:

This is just a suggested itinerary, and you can customize it to fit your own interests and time constraints. No matter how you choose to do it, a canal boat trip from Stoke on Trent to Lymm is a great way to see some of the best of the English countryside.

Day 1: Start your journey in Stoke-on-Trent and travel north along the Trent and Mersey Canal. Depending if you can go through the Harecastle Tunnel (time restrictions apply), you can moor and spend the night just before or just after the tunnel.

Day 2: Continue north to Middlewich. Visit the Middlewich Locks and learn about their history. Overnight in Middlewich.

Day 3: Travel from Middlewich to Lymm. Enjoy the scenery along the way and stop for lunch at one of the canalside pubs. Overnight in Lymm.

Day 4: Explore Lymm in the morning, before cruising on to Manchester, Castlefield Junction.

Day 5: Enjoy a day in Manchester.

Day 6 – 10: Cruise back the way you came, ensuring you are through the Harecastle Tunnel on day 10.

Day 11 (after your 10th night on board the boat): Return the boat to base by 9.30am.

The cruising route in detail

This town and country route will take you along the Trent and Mersey Canal, out of Stoke on Trent, the home of the Potteries, through scenic countryside onto the Bridgewater Canal to the bustling town of Manchester in the  north west of England.

It’s quite an active route with 72 locks in total (there and back), most of these being in the first half of the route, with the route between Preston Brook to Manchester being lock free.

Taking 10 days to complete this route allows you some time to explore Manchester and Middlewich, with some nice relaxing cruising days, averaging six hours per day.

Starting at the Black Prince base at Festival Park Marina in Stoke on Trent, you’ll start by travelling northwest on the Trent and Mersey Canal. In Stoke on Trent, you’ll see the living history of the canals, with old warehouses and pottery factories lining the side of the canal. Look out for the old pottery chimneys. The industrial buildings soon make way to open countryside as you continue along the Trent and Mersey to Hardings Wood.

Harecastle Tunnel

Just before Hardings Wood Junction, you’ll cruise through the Harecastle Tunnel, a 1.6-mile-long (2.6 km) canal tunnel on the Trent and Mersey Canal which was once one of the longest tunnels in the country and was built to transport coal to the kilns in the Staffordshire Potteries. The tunnel runs under Harecastle Hill, which is 640 feet (195 m) high and is located near Goldenhill, the highest district in Stoke-on-Trent.

The tunnel was initially used to transport coal from the mines in the north of Staffordshire to the potteries in the south. However, it also became an important transportation route for other goods, such as salt, lime, and bricks and is now mainly used for pleasure cruising.

When you reach Hardings Wood, where the Macclesfield Canal joins the Trent and Mersey, you’ll continue northwest to Middlewich and then to Preston Brook, where you’ll join the Bridgewater Canal.


Middlewich is a bustling little market town with a long and rich history and is worth a visit. It was founded by the Romans in the 1st century AD, and was known as Salinae, meaning “salt works”. In the 18th century, Middlewich became a major centre for the Industrial Revolution, due to its location on the River Weaver and the canals that were built to connect it to other parts of the country. Now, the town centre is home to a variety of shops, restaurants, and pubs, as well as the Middlewich Heritage Centre, which tells the story of the town’s history.

Once you are on the Bridgewater Canal at Preston Brook, just north of Middlewich, it’s a beautiful open country cruise on this lock-free canal all the way to Lymm.


Lymm is a good looking, traditional English village, worth stretching your legs for a walk round as you pass through. Take a look at the Town Hall and  Lymm Cross, a Grade I listed structure in the centre of the village. The “original cross” can be dated back to the middle 17th Century.


Once through Lymm, it’s an easy, lock free cruise to Manchester.

Manchester is a vibrant and exciting city, with a rich history and culture. It’s known as the birthplace of the industrial revolution, and has plenty of history at it’s centre, but is now more known for its great shopping, buzzing night life and also the “home of cool” with its thriving music scene.  It has a long and rich history of music, with bands like Oasis, The Stone Roses, and The Smiths all coming from the city.

Top places to visit include the Science and Industry Museum and the John Rylands Library, and if you’re into football then you must go to the National Football Museum and the Etihad Stadium.

Enjoy a stay in Manchester then return back to our narrowboat hire base in Stoke on Trent the way you came.

Manchester Canal

Book this canal boat holiday by using our online Availability Search, or by calling Black Prince on 01527 575 115.

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