The Four Counties Ring
The Four Counties Ring is probably the most popular circular canal route, particularly for hire boat holidays because it can be covered in one, fairly busy, week. And there’s so much else to see just off the 4 Counties Ring by taking a few detours.
- The Trent & Mersey Canal starting from the old canal town of Middlewich lifts you off the Cheshire Plain up the 31 locks boaters call ‘Heartbreak Hill’ into Staffordshire. Then comes Harecastle Tunnel, a long, dark and wet experience not to be missed, before emerging into the daylight of the Staffordshire Potteries. Then downhill through pleasant countryside to turn off at Great Heywood.
- The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal soon enters Tixall Wide, a pleasant the lake-like place to moor before the canal crosses the wide open heathlands of Cannock Chase, filled with wildlife but also the roar of the M6 traffic. On the outskirts of Wolverhampton there’s a tricky narrow section with passing places just before reaching Autherly Junction.
- The Shropshire Union Canal heads north into some of the least populated areas of England, along long straight stretches of canal in deep cuttings and upon high embankments, on its way back towards the Cheshire plain. From Barbridge the Middlewich Branch completes the circular route.
- Leave the Ring and find lots more to see. For instance explore the fascinating Caldon Canal and Churnet Valley for a few days, continue up to Chester and the National Waterways Museum, take the Anderton Lift down to enjoy a cruise along the River Weaver or head into the Welsh Hills up the stunning Llangollen Canal.