Dan Hobson

A waterside hike along six historic canals — Cheshire Ring

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A waterside hike along six historic canals — Cheshire Ring

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson

The Cheshire Ring is a long-distance walk along the towpaths of six historic canals which explores the diverse and spellbinding scenery of Cheshire.

Winding through peaceful countryside, wildlife-rich nature reserves, stately country estates, quiet villages, bustling towns, and even the vast urban landscape of Manchester, this waterside hike is packed with interest and is a wonderful introduction to the Cheshire Plain.

Starting and finishing from Marple Locks, the 109 mile (175 km) circuit takes you along the Macclesfield Canal, the Trent and Mersey Canal, the Bridgewater Canal, the Rochdale Canal, the Ashton Canal, and the Peak Forest Canal.

As the route follows canal towpaths for the most part, the walking is level and leisurely throughout and follows well-maintained trails. As such, it is suitable for all abilities. Whilst there are a few detours included which do involve a little climbing, there is nothing too demanding.

Highlights along the route include: Marple Locks, a flight of 16 locks that was completed in 1804 and is one of the steepest in Britain; Macclesfield, a vibrant town that was once famous for silk; Gawsworth Hall, a timber-framed 14th-century house with Shakespearean connections; Dane-in-Shaw Pasture, a beautiful nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI); Little Moreton Hall, a stunning Tudor house; the Anderton Boat Lift, a tremendous feat of engineering that was built in 1875; Walton Hall and Dunham Massey country house estates; and the bright lights of Manchester.

As the terrain is easygoing, I have split the route into an ambitious seven stages: 13.8 miles (22.2 km), 14 miles (22.5 km), 16.7 miles (26.9 km), 17.4 miles (28 km), 17.1 miles (27.5 km), 13.8 miles (22.2 km), and 16.5 miles (26.6 km), respectively.

On all of the stages that exceed 15 miles (24 km), I have given some advice on how to split the stage. Of course, you can divide the Collection into as many days as you are comfortable with or walk any single stage. As it is a loop, you can start anywhere you like and walk in either direction.

You are well-served by accommodation on this route and there are plenty of places for food and drink. Public transport links are excellent, too. Getting to the start/finish of this route is really easy as Marple has a train station.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    Difficult
    05:48
    13.8 mi
    2.4 mph
    550 ft
    625 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The first stage takes from the historic Marple Locks to the pretty town of Macclesfield, via a curious landmark with stunning views.

    With 13.8 miles (22.2 km) of distance, 550 feet (168 m) of uphill and 625 feet (191 m) of downhill, this hike is a great introduction to the overall challenge.

    You begin from Marple Locks, a flight of 16 locks built in 1804, and head south along the Macclesfield Canal; out of Marple, through Cheshire countryside into High Lane village, and through the town of Bollington.

    As you leave Bollington, it is worth following the detour shown here to White Nancy, a famous landmark on Kerridge Hill that affords fine views. If you continue along the canal, it eliminates all climbing and shaves off 2.2 miles (3.5 km).

    The final part takes you around Tytherington and into Macclesfield town via the famous 108 Steps. Macclesfield boasts independent shops, cafes, restaurants, museums, galleries, historic buildings, and plenty of accommodation.

    Difficult
    05:49
    14.0 mi
    2.4 mph
    375 ft
    425 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Grade I-listed buildings and wildlife-rich natural landscapes combine on this stunning stage.

    Ahead of some long stages, this hike is an intermediate 14 miles (22.5 km) with 375 feet (114 m) of uphill and 425 feet (130 m) of downhill.

    You leave Macclesfield to the east, rejoin the canal towpath and wind around the town. A little after Lyme Green, it is worth following the detour shown here to Gawsworth village. Here, you find two Grade I-listed buildings; the Church Of Saint James and Gawsworth Hall.

    A little stretch along a country lane brings you back to the canal a little way short of Oakgrove village. You continue south along the Macclesfield Canal before the waterway veers west and then winds around the auburn of Buglawton.

    Right before the canal heads into Congleton town centre, you hike through Dane-in-Shaw Pasture, a beautiful nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) where you can observe some fascinating plants, animals and insects.

    You find a good choice of accommodation and places for food and drink in Congleton.

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  • Difficult
    06:51
    16.7 mi
    2.4 mph
    100 ft
    425 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    You cross over an unusual twisted bridge and visit a wonderful example of a Tudor stately home on this stage.

    With 16.7 miles (26.9 km) of distance, this is a challenging stage. However, as the hike follows a downwards trajectory and has no hills of any note, the miles might not seem as tough as they sound. (For a suggestion on how to split the stage, read on).

    You leave Congleton to the west and soon cross over the Macclesfield Canal via Lambert's Lane Bridge, a quirky twisted bridge that was built in 1831.

    A short while after Kingspool Wood, it is worth taking the detour shown here along the South Cheshire Way footpath to see Little Moreton Hall, a stunning Tudor house that looks like it's straight from the pages of a fairytale.

    You hike east along the South Cheshire Way and join the Trent and Mersey Canal just after Thurlwood.

    The canal continues through pretty countryside past Hassall Green, Wheelock, and Elworth to finish in Middlewich, a historic town with a good range of accommodation and places to eat and drink.

    If you would like to split the stage, there is accommodation in Elworth and Sandbach and a railway station close to the finish.

    Difficult
    07:10
    17.4 mi
    2.4 mph
    350 ft
    300 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage winds through towns and patchwork countryside dotted with pretty lakes caused by mining subsidence.

    The longest stage of the Collection, this hike is a challenging 17.4 miles (28 km) long with 350 feet (107 m) of uphill and 300 feet (91 m) of downhill. (For a suggestion on how to split the hike, read on).

    You leave Middlewich to the northwest along the Trent and Mersey Canal and soon pass Croxton Flash, which was formed because of mining subsidence and is one of many such lakes on this stage.

    You hike along the canal through pleasant countryside, loop around Rudheath village and cut through Marston village and soon step into Marbury Country Park.

    A little while later you pass the Anderton Boat Lift, a tremendous feat of engineering that was built in 1875 to provide a 50 foot (15.2 m) vertical link between the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal.

    You continue along the canal; around Barton village and through patchwork farmland to Dutton. There is no accommodation here but there is a Travelodge hotel 1 mile (1.6 km) away if you hike west on Northwich Road.

    If you wish to split the stage, there is accommodation in Lostock Gralam village and there are options in Northwich, too.

    Difficult
    07:00
    17.1 mi
    2.4 mph
    200 ft
    250 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage visits two glorious county houses and takes you to a village known for its historic terracotta buildings.

    Another challenging hike, Stage 5 is 17.1 miles (27.5 km) long with 200 feet (61 m) of uphill and 250 feet (76 m) of downhill. (For a suggestion on how to split the hike, read on).

    You leave Dutton to the north and soon join the Bridgewater Canal. When you get close to Walton Hall, it is worth a brief detour from the towpath to explore the idyllic parkland and Grade II-listed house.

    The canal continues east through suburbs of Warrington to Lymm, a pretty village with historic terracotta buildings. There is some accommodation in and around Lymm, as well as places to eat and drink, should you fancy splitting the stage or taking a pit-stop.

    At Little Bollington, it is worth following the detour shown here to see Dunham Massey, a magnificent National Trust-owned country house and gardens.

    You rejoin the canal at Woodhouse Lane and hike east to Altrincham, where you find a good choice of accommodation and places to eat and drink.

    Difficult
    05:40
    13.8 mi
    2.4 mph
    225 ft
    150 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The character changes considerably on this stage, which explores the urban landscapes of Sale, Stretford and Manchester.

    After some lengthy recent stages, this hike is a manageable 13.8 miles (22.2 km) long with 225 feet (69 m) of uphill and 150 feet (46 m) of downhill.

    To begin, you follow the Bridgewater Canal through the urban landscape of Sale. After crossing underneath the M60 motorway, it is worth taking a stroll around Sale Water Park, where you can admire a lovely pocket of nature and treat yourself in the cafe.

    You then hike along the canal as it winds into the vast urban landscape of Manchester. Some highlights along the way include MediaCityUK, China Town (where plenty of amazing food awaits), and Canal Street, the heart of Manchester’s famous ‘Gay Village’.

    There is a fantastic choice of accommodation and plentiful places to eat and drink where this stage finishes.

    Difficult
    06:52
    16.5 mi
    2.4 mph
    650 ft
    250 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The final stage winds through Manchester and finishes along one of the steepest flights of locks in Britain.

    With 16.5 miles (26.6 km) of distance, 650 feet (198 m) of uphill and 250 feet (76 m) of downhill, this is a challenging conclusion to the Cheshire Ring. (For a suggestion on how to split the hike, read on).

    You begin the hike by exploring Manchester city centre, taking a trip to the cathedral and Piccadilly Gardens. You then join the Rochdale Canal before cutting to the Ashton Canal and following it east out of the city.

    At Portland Basin, you join the Peak Forest Canal, cross over the River Tame and follow it through Hyde and Woodley.

    The final section takes you along Marple Locks, a flight of 16 locks that was built in 1804 and is one of the steepest in Britain.

    If you wish to split this stage, there is accommodation and places to eat and drink everywhere on this route, especially the first half, making it really easy to tailor the route.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    7
  • Distance
    109 mi
  • Duration
    45:10 h
  • Elevation
    2,450 ft
Dan Hobson

A waterside hike along six historic canals — Cheshire Ring