10-day and two week canal boat holidays from Great Haywood

Canal boat holidays in England and Wales
The Black Country Ring (75 miles, 79 locks, 42.5 hours)

This circuit cruises sections of the Birmingham & Fazeley, Birmingham Main Line, Coventry, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Trent & Mersey canals. Highlights include: Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin; the 21 locks at Wolverhampton; and the peaceful waters at Tixall Wide.

At Great Haywood Junction, join the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal and head west.  You’ll pass a small aqueduct before reaching Tixall Wide, a beautiful stretch of water where the canal widens. Cruise on through the Staffordshire countryside, passing the canalside Radford pub at bridge 98. Next you’ll reach the market town of Penkridge, where there are several shops and pubs, including The Boat and The Cross Keys. You’ll pass Gailey Wharf.  Turn at Aldersley Junction and then you’ll go through the Wolverhampton flight of 21 locks on the Birmingham Canal Navigations Main Line.  It takes around three or four hours to go through the locks, then you’ll join the New Birmingham Main Line Canal, which will take you to Gas Street Basin in the centre of Birmingham.  Here you can moor up and explore the city, including nearby Brindleyplace with its Sea Life Centre, Mailbox Shopping Centre and great choice of waterside restaurants.  You can also walk to other city centre attractions, including the Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery with its wonderful collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings.  Next you’ll join the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, and you’ll go through a flight of 11 locks.  At Fazeley Junction you’ll join the Coventry Canal, where it’s lock-free until Fradley Junction. Here there’s a Canalside Café and The Swan Inn to visit, and you can enjoy spotting wildlife along the woodland trail and boardwalk at Fradley Pool Nature Reserve. From Fradley, transfer onto the Trent & Mersey Canal and head north going through the historic town of Rugeley with its canalside Colliers pub.  You’ll then pass through Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Wolseley Bridge, with canalside Wolseley Arms pub and access to the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Wolseley Centre.  Next you’ll cruise past Little Haywood, with Red Lion and Lamb & Flag pubs.  And then the National Trust’s Shugborough Hall is close by, with riverside gardens dotted with fascinating monuments and follies before returning to Great Haywood.

The Four Counties Ring (110 miles, 94 locks, 60 hours)

This popular circuit takes you on an unforgettable canal boating journey through the counties of Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Cheshire and Shropshire.  Highlights include: the 2,670-metre long Harecastle Tunnel, the flight of 15 locks at Audlem, views of the Cheshire Plains and the Roman town of Middlewich.

Head north along the Trent & Mersey Canal to the old market town of Stone, travelling for five hours and passing through four locks. Along the way, the route passes the village of Weston, with The Woolpack and Saracen’s Head pubs. Next, canal boat holiday-makers can enjoy views of the imposing Sandon Hall, its 400 acres of rolling parkland, and Grade II* listed Pitt’s Column, erected in 1806 by the first Earl of Harrowby in memory of the great Prime Minister Pitt the Younger.

The canal then passes along the outskirts of Burston, where the family-run micro-brewery Greyhound pub is well worth the short walk to. On arriving in Stone, there are visitor moorings at Westbridge Park, opposite the Swan pub, and a little further along past the Star pub on the left. Stone is considered to be the food and drink capital of Staffordshire, with regular markets, a diverse choice of cuisine and annual Stone Food & Drink Festival.  Continue north from Stone along the Trent & Mersey Canal to Stoke-on-Trent, first travelling through Meaford Locks, and past Neil Morrissey’s canalside Plume of Feathers pub at Barlaston. Just before Trentham Lock, you can stop to explore the World of Wedgwood, with a factory tour, afternoon tea in the Wedgewood tea room, woodland walks and award winning museum housing a UNESCO protected collection. Just under five miles later, after travelling through the Stoke flights of five locks, the canal reaches its junction with the Caldon Canal at Etruria, in Stoke-on-Trent. Here you can stop to visit the Etruria Industrial Museum, Spode Visitor Centre and the Waterworld indoor aqua park.  Continuing north along the Trent & Mersey Canal, you’ll pass through the mighty one-and-three-quarter-mile long  Harecastle Tunnel, re-emerging at Kidsgrove, and Harding’s Wood Junction, where the Macclesfield Canal meets the Trent & Mersey. Here you’ll meet the summit of ‘Heartbreak Hill’ – the series of 31 locks between Middlewich and Kidsgrove, that raise the canal 280ft up from the Cheshire Plains.

The next village is Rode Heath with its Royal Oak pub and Rode Hall, one of Cheshire’s most exquisite country houses. The South Cheshire Way crosses the canal at Lower Thurlwood Lock, one of a flight of three, then it’s the two Pierpoint Locks, and then there are two more at Hassall Green, just before the canal passes beneath the M6 motorway.

At Wheelock, where there’s a choice of pubs, including the canalside Cheshire Cheese, and eight more locks to negotiate. From Wheelock it’s a mile-long walk into the historic town of Sandbach, with regular markets, a Waitrose supermarket and plenty of places to eat and drink. Next there’s a three-mile break from locks as the canal winds round Ettiley Heath and the Sandbach Flashes, a group of 14 wetlands designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Four miles and another four locks on, the canal reaches the historic market town Middlewich, famous for its salt industry which dates back to medieval times. Here the Four Counties Ring route leaves the Trent & Mersey Canal, heading to Barbridge along the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal.  This quiet waterway travels peacefully through the Cheshire countryside, with just four locks along its 10-mile length. Along the way, the Badger Inn at Church Minshull is a short walk from the canal.

After travelling for a further two miles to Barbridge Junction, with its Olde Barbridge Inn. Head south down the Shropshire Union Canal. The route passes over the Nantwich Aqueduct on the outskirts of Nantwich. Two rural miles later, there are two locks at Hack Green, close to the Secret Hack Green Nuclear Bunker, once one of the nation’s most secret defence sites, and now a fascinating museum. Three miles on at Audlem, you’ll pass the Shroppie Fly pub and Audlem Mill, selling canal gifts, crafts and the locally made Snugbury’s Jersey Ice Cream. Then the Audlem flight of 15 locks takes the canal 93ft downhill to a lock-free mile, before another flight of five locks at Adderley. Next you’ll travel through Betton Cutting, past Brownhills Wood before reaching the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man.  Then there are five locks at Tyrley. After that, the canal is lock free for 17 miles, passing through a series of cuttings, embankments and villages with excellent pubs.  Places to stop along this 17-mile stretch include: Goldstone Wharf with its Wharf Tavern pub; Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Loynton Moss Nature Reserve at Grub Street; the Old Wharf Tearoom at Norbury Junction; the Royal Oak at Gnosnall; and the Hartley Arms and Mottey Meadows Nature Reserve at Wheaton Ashton. There’s just one lock at Wheaton Ashton, then the route is lock-free again for eight miles, passing the Bridge pub at Brewood.  Then you’ll go under the M54 motorway and pass close to Pendeford Mill Nature Reserve, before meeting Autherley Junction Stop Lock and the southern end of ‘The Shroppie’. You’ll then travel north up the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal back to Great Haywood.

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