The Macclesfield Canal

Starting at the summit level of the Trent & Mersey, the Macclesfield Canal climbs even higher and reaches one of the highest summits on the system at 518 feet to overlook the Cheshire Plain and cling to the skirts of the Pennines.

Pennine scenery and dark skies

Pennine scenery and black clouds

Cruising the Macc is immediately full of interest, right from the unusual ‘flyover’ junction with the Trent and Mersey at Hardings Wood, then the Victorian folly high above on Mow Cop and cruising past the amazing timber framed Little Moreton Hall. The canal has long embankments and cuttings, and sits on the edge of a hilly ridge for much of its route, overlooking Manchester and Stockport in the distance.

The comfortable towns and villages may all look fairly similar, Congleton, Macclesfield, Bollington … They all have warm Pennine stone cottages, Victorian mills mostly now converted to trendy apartments or Business Enterprise Centres, interesting pubs and expensive shops, all evidence that these are great places to live, close enough to Manchester to commute, but surrounded by striking scenery. And they are all worth tying up and exploring! When you finally reach the summit level around Higher Poynton the Peak District hills open out before you as you reach the interesting junction with the Peak Forest Canal at Marple.


Key Facts

Macclesfield Canal; 26 miles, 12 narrow locks, 8 aqueducts, 2 swing bridges. 2days.

Designed by Telford this late built canal slashed existing travel times from Manchester to the Potteries, Midlands and south via the Bridgewater Canal and the Trent and Mersey Canal by shortening the distance, avoiding delays waiting for the tunnels after Preston Brook and by being built after many years’ experience of boatmen’s techniques. All the Macc’s locks were collected in one flight at Bosley, minimizing delays by having them close enough together to prepare one whilst the first lock is being used. Maintaining a long level on each side of the locks by bold “cut and fill” techniques also reduced journey times and gave us eight aqueducts and the high embankments and cuttings.

Little Moreton Hall

The canal was threatened with closure in the 1950’s but efforts by the North Cheshire Cruising Club and the Inland Waterways Association Second National Rally held in Macclesfield in 1953 drew attention to the lack of maintenance and deterioration of this canal. After a campaigning cruise met apparent sabotage the Peak Forest Canal Society came up with the rallying call of a ‘Cheshire Ring’ of regenerated canals which was finally opened after ten years’ effort in 1974.


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