Massive stone construction
Massive stone construction
Top locks ahead
Top locks ahead
Looking down towards Bingley
Looking down towards Bingley
Wide beam boat leaving Bingley 5 Rise
Wide beam boat leaving Bingley 5 Rise

Feature Spot – Yorkshire’s Bingley 5 Rise Locks

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal

With a main line of 127¼ miles, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal is easily the longest canal in Britain built by one company. (The Grand Union Canal is 10 miles longer but was a later amalgamation of a number of canals.) It links the north west seaport of Liverpool with the Aire and Calder Navigation at Leeds, forming a through route between the Irish Sea and the North Sea. The Millennium Ribble Link now provides a link via the River Ribble to the Lancaster Canal. Extension of the western end past Liverpool Pier Head to join up with the main Dock system & River Mersey was completed in 2008.

From the top of Stanley Docks in Liverpool the canal leaves the city houses and streets at Litherland. Crossing the flat rich farmlands of the Lancashire plain to Parbold through numerous swing bridges, many now mechanised, then following the Douglas valley in to Wigan where it splits. The Leigh Branch heads west, often on embankments because of the amount of mining subsidence but now surrounded by greenery and nature reserves, to Leigh to meet the Bridgewater Canal.

The Leeds & Liverpool Main line from Wigan climbs north into the Pennine hills up the famous Wigan 21 locks. From here across the Pennines into Yorkshire the Leeds & Liverpool is a barge canal, built with locks 60 feet long and 14 feet wide. The canal passes the entrance to the Walton summit branch of the Lancaster Canal, now abandoned, and on through the once proud cotton towns of Blackburn and Burnley where waterside Victorian mills still stand. At Burnley the Weaver’s Triangle is worth a visit; weaving sheds, spinning mills, foundries and houses, a reminder of Burnley’s industrial heritage from the days when the town led the world in the production of cotton cloth.

Lancashire Mills near Leigh

The summit level is reached at the mile long Foulridge tunnel at a height of 487 feet above sea level amidst fine moorland scenery on the ‘backbone of England’. The reservoirs on this stretch are a reminder of the importance of water supplies for canals, this canal has always been subject to water shortages. The canal descends down the Aire Valley through remote and beautiful countryside and the market town of Skipton with its fine castle. Saltaire is a Victorian model village. Mills, comfortable stone houses and library for the workers, but no pubs! Titus Salt was a Victorian philanthropist, interested in the health and morals of his workforce for religious and efficiency reasons. The huge and impressive Bingley Five Rise Locks speeds the descent through the Yorkshire Dales and on towards the bustling city of Leeds. The junction with the Aire & Calder Navigation now houses tasteful and lively waterside developments, including the Royal Armouries Basin with lots to explore and enjoy.

The Rufford branch

Linking the canal near Burscough, via the small port of Tarleton, with the River Douglas and the River Ribble it now provides access to the Lancaster Canal. Crossing the tidal River Ribble requires careful planning, many boats prefer to travel in convoy employing the services of a professional pilot.

Canal Ring

The Pennine Ring links to the Rochdale Canal or to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

Key facts

Broad canal, 127 miles, 93 locks, 2 tunnels, 2 weeks Liverpool to Leeds. Wigan to Leeds locks only 60ft long, but some longer narrowboats can fit, with much care, diagonally in locks. Liverpool to Wigan and Leigh Branch 72ft.

The Liverpool Canal Link

This is the extension of the canal from Stanley Dock linking the North Docks to the South Docks and passing the famous Pier Head and the ‘Three Graces’, the Liver Building, Cunard Building and the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board Building. This involved a mile and a half of new canal with two new locks and tunnels. The flagship project was opened in 2008 at a cost of £22m.

The original canal terminus in Liverpool city centre was filled in in the 1960’s. The Stanley Dock branch gave canal access to the northern dock system but plans were put forward in the early 2000’s for the extension past the landmark Liverpool waterfront into the South Docks. The original link between the North and South dock had been lost when Georges Dock was filled in at the beginning of the 20th century to allow the building of the Three Graces. Book passage with CRT.

Maps & Guidebooks

You can by maps and guides covering the Shropshire Union Canal from our Online Shop.

All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. Dalton House, 35 Chester St, Wrexham LL13 8AH. No unauthorised reproduction.

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