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The Northern Pennine Ring

For experienced boaters

Boating holidays on the Northern Pennine Ring - Gargrave, Leeds & Liverpool Canal

185 miles 215 locks 115 hours

One Way Map 21 Day Trip

The second way to cross the Pennines twice, by the Rochdale and the Leeds & Liverpool. There are real contrasts between the urban centres (some newly regenerated, and some waiting for that), and the Pennine crossings, which have some of the most striking scenery on the waterways.

Sowerby Bridge to Summit

Northern Pennine Ring - Brearley, Rochdale Canal Below the Rochdale Canal summit, Northern Pennine Ring

Leaving our historic canal basin, your journey begins with the excitement of a new tunnel and the deepest lock in the country. The canal gradually climbs through woods, fields and small stone towns to Hebden Bridge. This old mill town nestles in a fork in the hills, houses piled tier upon tier. Hebden has excellent shops and is full of surprises - everything from horsey clothing to hand-made pottery. Untie, and go on up the valley, its sides closing in with crags and trees and views of the moors high above. A stream runs alongside, and the locks are set among woods or stone cottages. The Pennine Way crosses at Callis.
So to Todmorden, completely untouristy yet with much to enjoy - fine Victorian buildings, especially the Town Hall, a lively market and many places to eat and drink, all dominated by a curving railway viaduct.

Summit to Manchester

Littleborough flight, Rochdale Canal on the Northern Pennine Ring Manchester centre on the Northern Pennine Ring

From here the going gets serious – more Alpine than Pennine. Another 18 locks in just three miles bring you breathless but exhilarated to the summit, at 600' the second highest you can scale in England. You will have earned a drink at the Summit Inn.
From here, you drop down into Littleborough. Pass Clegg Hall, a Grade 2* listed building dating from 1618, which was long a ruin but has now been restored. Soon you come to Rochdale itself, where some of the biggest restoration projects have been tackled, including the M62, which for so long seemed permanently to block the canal. Now you go under it by a short but ingenious deviation of the canal. Then descend through town and country, transformed by the restoration of the canal, right to the centre of Manchester. Pubs and restaurants welcome boaters, and the city is full of life and things to do.

Manchester to Skipton

Wigan Locks, Leeds & Liverpool Canal, on the Northern Pennine Ring Gargrave, Leeds & Liverpool Canal - Northern Pennine Ring

Steal away from Manchester by dropping under a skyscraper and taking the last nine locks of the Rochdale to Castlefield, junction with the Bridgewater Canal. Pass the Trafford Centre and turn onto the Leigh Branch. Go to Worsley, and stop to see the birthplace of the canals. Transfer seamlessly to the other Leigh Branch (you will have to look this up!). This takes you through to Wigan, where you join the L&L just above the bottom of the famous flight. Pause to explore the covered market and bustling town. Set out up the flight, with splendid views back over the town. Then you are back in the country, with locks at Johnson's Hill, where the Lancaster Canal never got joined to the L&L. And so through countryside, with views of the Calder Valley (that's the Lancashire Calder), interspersed with old mill towns like Blackburn, you get to Burnley, and cross the embankment above the rooftops of the town. By now you're getting the message: the builders of the L&L were astonishingly bold, so you aren't too surprised, having climbed the deep locks at Barrowford, to see the long, wide and deep Foulridge Tunnel ahead of you. You emerge into a pastoral scene, with your first views of the Yorkshire Dales. After dropping through three locks, you meander round the hillside on one of the most isolated stretches of canal anywhere, an extraordinary step out of modern life. Keep going through Bank Newton and Gargrave flights, to arrive at Skipton, Gateway to the Dales. Pause to explore the castle.

Skipton to Leeds

Riddlesden, Leeds & Liverpool Canal on the Northern Pennine Ring Dobson Lock, Leeds & Liverpool Canal on the Northern Pennine Ring

A long stretch along the hillside with smashing views and lots of swing bridges - much easier these days - takes you to the top of Bingley Five Rise. Now you get more activity, with several staircase locks taking you down into Leeds, green nearly all the way into the city centre. Huge investment is transforming Leeds: you can visit the Royal Armouries, Harvey Nicholls and many places to eat and drink.

Skipton to Leeds

Lemonroyd, Aire & Calder Navigation on the Northern Pennine Ring Double Locks, Calder & Hebble Navigation on the Northern Pennine Ring

Now you are on the Aire and Calder, a big navigation with electric locks: you may see some commercial traffic. This takes you round to Wakefield, where you join the Calder & Hebble Navigation. This gradually leads you up the valley, the locks getting shorter and the lock houses smaller as you go. Your route passes in and out of the river, and has a charm of its own. Finally the Pennines come into view again, and you know you are nearly back in Sowerby Bridge.

Navigation notes

Previous experience essential. You can make this journey in either direction, depending on your start day. This trip can be done in two weeks by very active, organised crews only. The western half of the Rochdale Canal is not yet in as good condition as other canals and you may experience difficulty or delays. We will give further details in the Information Pack available to you as soon as you have booked your holiday. You must tell us at the time of booking that you intend to do the Northern Pennine Ring. We will advise on direction of travel and lock/tunnel booking.

Distances and times shown (for guidance) are for the complete ring. Information we provide about specific waterways or suggested routes is for general reference only. Please see more about route availability.

How to Book

Use this form to check availability. When you find the boat you want, click 'Book this holiday now' and you can pay your deposit or hold for 48 hours - or ring 01422 832712.

The counties are the names of the boats, not where they start from! Click the map for routes, and the boat for details

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