There’s no question that a walk by the water helps you feel refreshed and revitalized – with the added bonus of helping you burn off those mince pies! In the winter, our country’s waterways have that added allure.
The great thing about walking along our canals and rivers is that the ground is (nearly) always flat and it’s (virtually) impossible to get lost. Plus, the pubs and cafés peppered along the way certainly add to the experience! So, here’s our selection of the best canal walks to put your walking boots on for this winter…
Saddleworth walk (Greater Manchester)
This walk explores the routes over and under the South Pennines in Saddleworth, which is nestled between Oldham and Huddersfield.
The superb scenery along the way is full of dramatic contrasts – rugged hills, tranquil wooded countryside, historic mills and industrial buildings. The Huddersfield Narrow canal itself is a particular highlight, with its distinctive and narrow locks – not to mention the beautiful Standedge Tunnel.
The Pennines form a natural barrier between Northwest and Northeast England, but people have always needed to cross from one side to the other, even in ancient times – so why not embark on this walk and do exactly that?
Start point: King Street, Delph, OL3 5DH
Endpoint: Brownhill Countryside Centre, Wool Road, Dobcross, OL3 5PB
Distance: Six miles
Walk from Ilkley to Bingley (West Yorkshire)
Perhaps the most strenuous of our canal walks, this walk sees you crossing Ilkley Moor and making your way to Bingley. The moors are a remote and muddy place, so make sure you’re equipped with your walking equipment before setting off!
It’s towards the end of the walk that you’ll reach the Bingley Five Rise Lock on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The Five Rise was opened in 1774 and is the steepest flight of locks in the UK – so it’s definitely worth seeing for yourself!
Start point: Ilkley train station
Endpoint: Bingley train station
Distance: Seven miles
Llangollen Canal walk (North-East Wales)
This gentle six-mile walk along the Llangollen Canal is a must, mainly due to the stunning Pontcytslite Aqueductwhich you can find along the way. This is the oldest and longest navigable aqueduct in Great Britain, as well as being the highest in the world.
Other must-sees along the walk’s route include the pump-house between the River Dee and Llangollen Canal (which is still operational today) and Pentre Fellin, a motor museum that was once an important slate mining operation. One thing’s for sure, you won’t be short of places to explore on this walk!
Start point: Horseshoe Falls, Llangollen, LL20 8BN
Endpoint: Llangollen town
Distance: Six miles
Long Itchington walk (Warwickshire)
This beautiful eight-mile circuit starts in Long Itchington and loops back through the village of Ufton. Stroll alongside the idyllic Grand Union Canal and locks, negotiating gates, steps, and footbridges along the way.
If you happen to be walking on a wet day (which is so often the case), make sure you have appropriate footwear as the fields tend to get muddy. Luckily, if the weather is cold and/or wet, there’s a couple of cosy pubs along the way. The White Hart Inn will even let you park there for free and place your food order – so upon your return, there’ll be a plate of pub grub waiting for you! Sounds good to us…
Start point: Long Itchington Holy Trinity Church, CV47 9PN
Endpoint: Long Itchington Holy Trinity Church¸ CV47 9PN
Distance: Eight milesThe Grand Union Canal. Image credit: Millennium Way
Reading town, river and canal walk (Berkshire)
This three-mile walk starts outside of Reading Town Hall – which now houses the Museum of Reading -and takes you all around the town and its two rivers – the Thames and Kennet.
This is the perfect walk if you want to take it easy – it’s pretty flat other than steps leading to and from the rivers and the long bridge over the Kennet & Avon Canal. What’s more, there are opportunities to expand your local knowledge, with not one, but two museums along the way!
Start point: Queen Victoria statue in Blagrave Street, RG1 1QH
Endpoint: Queen Victoria statue in Blagrave Street, RG1 1QH
Distance: Three miles