The Lancaster Canal
The Lancaster Canal runs for 42 lock free miles through pleasant pasturelands, overlooked for most of the way by the foothills of the Pennines, from which hang gliders often soar. Just north of Lancaster the sea shore is only a few hundred yards to the west and you can see the sands of Morecambe Bay and across to the magnificent mountains of the Lake District, well worth a visit.
There is a short branch to Glasson Docks, which has six locks. A round trip from Preston to Lancaster is easily possible in a week. Lancaster is an interesting old County Town, with a castle and other old buildings. Preston and Lancaster have good railway and road links to Scotland and the South of England.
The Lancaster Canal was built early in the canal age but with no connection between the northern section from Preston to Lancaster and the southern section from Wigan to near Chorley.
The problem was the Ribble valley. The canal was never profitable enough for the considerable engineering works, either locks or aqueduct, which would have been needed to cross the deep valley. The southern section became part of the busy Leeds & Liverpool Canal but the isolated northern section became a backwater. The canal was engineered by John Rennie, and the bridges and aqueducts are built on his usual massive classical scale.
The northern terminus at Kendal can no longer be reached, the canal was culveted when the M6 motorway was built across it in the 1960's. However plans are afoot for full restoration of the 'Northern Reaches' of the canal to Kendal.
The canal lost its isolation from the rest of the system when the Ribble Link was opened in 2002, though this involves tidal river cruising to link with the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Tarleton branch.