Top 5 Narrowboat Holidays on the Shropshire Union Canal

Stretching from Ellesmere Port in Cheshire the North to Autherley Junction near Wolverhampton in the South, the 77-mile long largely rural Shropshire Union Canal is often simply called ‘The Shroppie’.

There are 47 locks along the main line, four along the Middlewich Branch and three on the River Dee Branch. With long stretches of pure countryside, the Shropshire Union Canal is great for getting close to nature – especially the canal’s deep mossy cuttings where the flashing blue of a kingfisher in flight can frequently be glimpsed.

The northern section, which runs through the gently rolling Cheshire landscape, is a wide waterway, while the arrow-straight southern section features fewer locks, long embankments, cuttings and grand bridges.

Here are Drifters’ Top 5 canal boat holidays on the Shropshire Union Canal for 2020:

  1. Cruise to the ancient City of Chester – On a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury near Tarporley in Cheshire, canal boat holiday-makers can head north to the historic City of Chester.  This 12-mile journey through the rolling Cheshire countryside takes seven hours, passing through 18 locks. Places to stop along the way include English Heritage’s Beeston Castle & Woodland Park, the famous Cheshire Ice Cream farm at Tattenhall and Christleton with its popular ‘Ring ‘o’ Bells’ pub.  Once at Chester, boaters can enjoy exploring this fascinating Roman City, including its Amphitheatre, Museum, City Walls, Chester Rows, Cathedral, Castle, racecourse and award-winning zoo.
  2. Potter through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton – from our boat yard at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, it takes around 10 hours to reach the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man – perfect for a mid-week afloat.  Along the way, boaters pass through 21 miles of beautiful Shropshire countryside, passing through six locks and a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.  Once at Market Drayton, boaters can enjoy picking up supplies at the Wednesday Cheshire market and admiring the town’s beautiful architecture.
  3. Navigate the Black Country Ring from our narrowboat rental base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal in Staffordshire, on a week’s break narrowboat holiday-makers can travel round the Black Country Ring, cruising 85 miles and passing through 81 locks in around 47 hours.  Highlights along the way include: Birmingham’s Gas Street Basin close to Brindleyplace; the 21 locks at Wolverhampton; the Black Country Living Museum; the waters at Tixhall Wide; the 11 locks at Ashton; and 13 locks at Farmer’s Bridge.  As well as cruising a south along the Shropshire Union Canal to connect with the Black Country Ring, the circuit takes in sections of the Birmingham & Fazeley, Birmingham Main Line, Coventry, Staffordshire & Worcestershire and Trent & Mersey canals.
  4. Cruise to Norbury and back – on a relaxing short break from our narrowboat hire base on the Shropshire Union Canal at Autherley Junction, boaters can travel north to the pretty village of Norbury.  This sedate journey takes around seven hours, passing through just two locks and travelling through 15 miles of peaceful countryside. Along the way, the route takes narrowboat holiday-makers through the charming village of Brewood with its half-timbered cottages, attractive Georgian houses and choice of places to eat, including the canalside Bridge Inn.  The route also takes boaters past Belvide Reservoir near Brewood and Mottey Meadows Nature Reserve at Wheaton Ashton, both home to an abundance of wildlife. Once at Norbury, boaters can enjoy a meal at the Old Wharf Tearoom or the Junction Inn.
  5. Travel the Four Counties Ring – on a 10-day or two-week holiday from our narrowboat hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union in Cheshire, canal boat holiday-makers can tackle the Four Counties Ring.  From Bunbury, this popular circuit, which passes through Cheshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire and the West Midlands, travels 114 miles, through 96 locks and takes around 58 hours.  As well as a section of the Shroppie and its Middlewich Branch, it navigates parts of the Trent & Mersey Canal, 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 house.