The Shropshire Union Canal, has a fascinating line up of attractions as it makes its 66-mile journey from the River Mersey at Ellesmere Port, home of the National Waterways Museum, almost on a straight line to Wolverhampton. On the way, it passes through countryside dotted with castles, stately homes, picturesque canal side villages, restored mills and waterside pubs. Some of the well-known stopping points include the medieval market towns of Nantwich, Market Drayton and the Roman City of Chester. The Southern section is widely regarded as an astonishing feat of engineering with long embankments, deep cuttings and high bridges.
Built nearly 200 years ago, this forms part of the Shropshire Union Canal, running from Nantwich to Llangollen. The 47-mile stretch of canal has become one of the most popular waterways in the UK for its stunning scenery, including the Chirk and Pontcysyllte Aqueducts along with the bustling Welsh town of Llangollen. The Llangollen Canal links to the Montgomery Canal at Welsh Frankton, this 35-mile stretch through the Welsh Marches is currently under renovation.
Opened over 230 years ago, this canal runs for 97-miles from Preston Brook in the north to the Shardlow and Derwent Mouth in the south, taking in the counties of Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire. Passing through the Potteries region of England, it once provided a solution for transporting the fragile porcelain of Wedgewood, avoiding the hazardous bumpy roads. Two of the canal’s highlights are recognised as outstanding feats of engineering, the Anderton Boat Lift, the first and only vertical boat lift in England and the 3000 yard Harecastle Tunnel.
Just 6 miles south of Aqueduct Marina, Nantwich is a popular stop for canal users with its supermarkets, banks, restaurants and bars. This bustling market town dates back to Medieval times and still retains many charming features including black and white, half-timbered Tudor buildings and narrow, winding streets. The town holds a weekly market and annual festivals including the Jazz and Blues Festival, the Food and Drink Festival and the Nantwich and South Cheshire Show.
Aqueduct Marina is a good starting point for this popular cruising route, passing through five counties and along six canals. The range of scenery is dramatic, stretching from the high peaks of the Pennines, through the peaceful dairy lands of Cheshire into the lively urban centre of Manchester.
Distance: 97 miles, Cruising Times: 55 hours / 1 week, Locks: 93, Highlights: Anderton Boat Lift / Bridgewater Canal / Manchester / Heartbreak Hill / Salt Museum, Northwich / 16th Century Little Morton Hall, Waterways in this ring: Ashton Canal / Macclesfield Canal / Peak Forest Canal / Rochdale Canal / Trent and Mersey Canal / Bridgewater Canal.
Aqueduct Marina is at the centre of this popular cruising route, taking in Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and, briefly, the West Midlands. The Four Counties Ring enjoys huge swathes of rural scenery and open countryside, balanced by several fascinating industrial areas including the Potteries. It passes through the 3,000-yard-long Harecastle Tunnel, an hour of subterranean navigation
Distance: 110 miles, Cruising Time: 55 hours, Locks: 94, Highlights: Harecastle Tunnel / Wedgewood Pottery / Heartbreak Hill / Nantwich / Market Drayton / Audlem, Waterways in this ring: Shropshire Union Canal / Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal / Trent and Mersey Canal.
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