Top 5 narrowboat holidays on the Trent & Mersey Canal

The 93-mile long Trent & Mersey Canal begins close to the River Mersey near Runcorn and finishes at its junction with the River Trent in Derbyshire.  It has 73 locks and several feats of canal engineering, including the magnificent Anderton Boat Lift, which raises or lowers boats 15 metres between the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal, and the 2,647-metre long Harecastle Tunnel.

The Trent & Mersey Canal evolved as a direct result of the development of the pottery industry in North Staffordshire.  In 1765 Josiah Wedgewood, the top producer of pottery, put forward the idea of building a canal to link the Potteries with the River Mersey. His vision was made possible by the genius of canal engineer James Brindley.

Opening in 1777, it was the country’s first long distance canal and its effect was instant and phenomenal – transport costs were quartered and the whole area expanded.  As well as pottery, other industries prospered from it including the brewing industry at Burton on Trent, salt at Middlewich, Northwich and Sandbach, and coal mining in North Staffordshire.

Today the canal takes narrowboat holiday-makers through some of the best countryside and scenery that our waterways have to offer.  To celebrate, here are Drifters’ Top 5 canal boat holidays on the Trent & Mersey Canal for 2020:

  1. Float gently along to Fradley – on a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Great Haywood in Staffordshire, narrowboat holiday-makers can head south to Fradley Junction, where the Coventry Canal meets the Trent & Mersey.  The journey takes around five hours, travelling 12 peaceful miles of Staffordshire countryside and passing through just five locks.  At Fradley, boaters can moor up to visit the Canalside Café or The Swan Inn, and take a wander around the Fradley Pool Nature Reserve.
  2. Travel the Four Counties Ring – on a 10-day or two-week holiday from our narrowboat hire base at Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, canal boat holiday-makers can tackle the Four Counties Ring.  This popular circuit, which passes through Cheshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire and the West Midlands, travels 110 miles, through 94 locks and takes around 55 hours.  As well as a section of the Trent & Mersey Canal, it also travels stretches of the Shropshire Union, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Wardle canals. Highlights include: the Harecastle Tunnel; the flight of 15 locks at Audlem; views of the rolling Cheshire Plains; Wedgewood Pottery in Stoke on Trent; the Roman town of Middlewich; the National Trust’s Shugborough Hall; and the Elizabethan Churche’s Mansion. 
  3. Cruise to Congleton & back – from our Peak District canal boat hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Stoke-on-Trent, boaters can cruise to Congleton and back on a short break, travelling a total of 22 miles, passing through two locks (one each way) and taking around 10 hours.  Travelling north along the Trent & Mersey, boaters soon reach the extraordinary one-and-a-half-mile long Harecastle Tunnel, which takes around 45 minutes to travel through.  Then at Hardings Wood Junction, boaters can transfer on to the Macclesfield Canal, enjoying lovely open countryside with beautiful hillside views.  Along the way, from Bridge 86 it’s a short walk to the National Trust’s fascinating Tudor Little Moreton Hall, and once at the historic market town of Congleton, there are plenty of pubs and restaurants to choose from, including the Lion & Swan 16th century coaching inn.
  4. Steer gently through the countryside to Stone – from Drifters’ canal boat yard at Great Haywood it takes just five hours of gentle cruising along the Trent & Mersey Canal to reach the historic Shropshire market town of Stone.  Stone is renowned as the food and drink capital of Staffordshire, with regular markets, a good choice of restaurants and the annual Food & Drink Festival in October.  Along the way, there are just four locks to pass through and plenty of pubs to enjoy, including The Woolpack at Weston and The Holly Bush Inn at Salt.
  5. Tour the mighty Cheshire Ring – on a week or 10-day long holiday from our narrowboat hire base on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Acton Bridge, near Northwich in Cheshire, canal boat holiday-makers can travel round the Cheshire Ring.  This epic journey cruises a total of 97 miles, passes through 92 locks and takes around 56 hours. The Cheshire Ring takes boaters past the Anderton Boat Lift, through four tunnels and over two aqueducts.  It travels through the centre of Manchester and the Peak District via the Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals. Highlights include: the flight of 26 locks on the Trent & Mersey Canal between Middlewich and Kidsgrove known at ‘Heartbreak Hill’; and stunning views from the Top Lock at Marple on the Peak Forest Canal.
Anderton Boat Lift