Canal Cycle Routes
The UK is covered with hundreds of delightful canals witth canalside towpaths for cyclists to use. Below are a selection of popular cycle routes which include canalside cycling for all or part of the route.
Please use the links below to view full route information including descriptions, elevation profiles, interactive maps and GPS downloads.
For more information on cycling on towpaths please visit the Canal & River Trust Website. They have just launched the Share the space, Drop your pace campaign which calls for all those who use London’s towpaths to follow a new Greenways Code and to help keep our historic network of waterways safe and pleasant for everyone to share
Please use the links below to view full route information including descriptions, elevation profiles, interactive maps and GPS downloads.
You can also view an overview map of all the routes in the using the Canal Cycle Map
|Aire Valley Towpath||16 miles (26 km)||Follow the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and the River Aire from Leeds to Bingley on this waterside cycle or walk. The route follows NCN route 66 and passes Kirkstall Abbey, Bramley Fall, Rodley, Calverley Woods, Apperley Bridge, Thackley, Shipley, Hirst Wood and Dowley Gap with both countryside and urban sections to enjoy.|
Highlights on the route include the fascinating Saltaire Village World Heritage Site. Here you will find the grade II listed Victoria Hall and Salt's Mill with its shops, cafes and galleries.
Also of interest is Kirkstall Abbey. This medieval Cistercian abbey is set in beatutiful parkland and is well worth a visit if you have time.
|Ashby Woulds Heritage Trail||4 miles (6 km)||This lovely short cycle and walking trail runs from Measham near Ashby-de-la-Zouch to Moira along a disused railway path. The path passes old Donisthorpe Colliery site, which is now a Woodland Park and Conkers - a forest-based attraction with a number of activities to enjoy. There is also a pleasant waterside section along the Ashby-de-la-Zouch canal.|
Please click here for more information
|Bishop Bennet Way||32 miles (52 km)||The Bishop Bennet Way is a shared walking and cycling path running from Beeston in Cheshire to Wirswall on the Shropshire borders.
The route starts at the 13th century Beeston Castle and proceeds through Milton Green, Churton and Shocklach where you will pass the Grade I listed Norman church. You continue to Grindley Brook where you cross the Shropshire Union Canal shortly before finishing at Wirswall near Whitchurch.
For cyclists please note that a mountain bike is required for this route as there are some fairly rugged off road sections.
|Bude Marshes||3 miles (5 km)||This delightful local nature reserve in Bude is a great escape from the busy seaside town centre. You can enjoy a stroll along the Bude canal tow path with views of the River Neet. An off road National Cycle Network route runs along the opposite side.|
Habitats in the reserve include reed bed, wet grassland, woodland and willow carr. You can look out for a variety of birds from the bird hide, while otters can also been seen around the canal and river.
|Claude Duval Bridleroute||63 miles (102 km)||This shared walking and cycle path runs from Quainton, near Aylesbury in Oxfordshire to Great Barrington in the Cotswolds.|
This route is named after the well-known local highwayman, Claude Duval. It starts at Quainton and passes Stratton Audley, Bicester and Bucknell before crossing the Oxford Canal near Woodstock. The route then heads towards Chipping Norton and then Spelsbury where you join the River Evenlode for a short waterside stretch to Ascott d'Oyley. You then head onto Great Barrington via Fifield.
For cyclists a hybrid or mountain bike is required for this route. This is a fairly challenging route but with some fabulous Cotswolds scenery to enjoy.
|Cloud Trail||13 miles (21 km)||This super traffic free cycle route runs from Derby to Worthington along National Cycle Network route number 6. Most of the trail takes place on traffic free, well surfaced paths so it's a lovely one for families or anyone looking for an easy flat ride.|
The route begins in the centre of Derby near the train station and takes you along the River Derwent and Derby Canal path, passing Pride Park, the home of Derby County Football Club. The rest of the ride takes place on a dismantled railway path which passes Swarkstone, Melbourne, the Trent Viaduct, the Trent and Mersey Canal and the River Trent. The route finishes at Cloud Quarry in Worthington.
It's a lovely route with waterside sections and great views of the surrounding countryside to enjoy.
|Colne Valley Trail||7 miles (11 km)||Follow the Colne Valley Trail from Uxbridge to Rickmansworth and enjoy riverside and canalside walking or cycling.|
The trails follows the Grand Union Canal and the River Colne while also passing a series of pretty Lakes including Lynsters, Stocker's and Batchworth Lake. The trail finishes at Batchworth Lake by the car park in Rickmansworth.
|Coventry Canal||38 miles (61 km)||Enjoy waterside cycling and walking along the 38 mile long Coventry Canal towpath. Walkers can follow the whole of the route while cyclists can enjoy lovely sections through Coventry and from Marston Junction to Nuneaton.|
The canal runs from the centre of Coventry to Fradley Juction, passing through Bedworth, Nuneaton, Atherstone, Polesworth and Tamworth.
Highlights along the canal include the vibrant Coventry Canal Basin with its shops, businesses and art gallery. You'll also pass the splendid Hartshill Country Park which has miles of footpaths and wonderful views over the Anker Valley. There's also some wonderful countryside to enjoy and a series of artworks by local artists on the Arts Trail from the Basin to Hawkesbury Junction. At the end of the route at Fradley Junction there is a nature reserve with excellent bird watching opportunities.
The canal links with the Ashby-de-la-Zouch canal just north of Bedworth and with the Trent and Mersyet Canal at the end of the route at Fradley Juction near Lichfield.
|Downs Link||36 miles (58 km)||This is a terrific walking or cycling path running from St Martha's Hill to Shoreham-by-Sea and linking the North and South Downs National Trails.|
You start on St Martha's Hill will terrific views of the Surrey countryside before heading south to Cranleigh along the Wey and Arun Canal. The path continues to Rudgwick and then onto the delightful Southwater Country Park. The next stage takes you to Henfield and then onto Bramber with its ruined castle. The final stage runs along the River Adur taking you to Shoreham-by-Sea.
|Ebury Way||3 miles (5 km)||This is an easy short cycle and walking route ideal for families. It runs along NCN route 61 and a dismantled railway line from Ricksmanworth to Watford and passes through a variety of habitats, including open moor, woodland, and wetlands. The trail crosses a number of waterways including the rivers Colne, Chess and Gade and the Grand Union Canal.
Please click here for a pdf guide from watford council
|Exe Valley Ride||7 miles (11 km)||This lovely easy ride or walk follows the River Exe, the Exeter Canal and NCN route 2 from Exeter to Exminster.|
Highlights include Exeter's attractive quay, views of the Exe esutaury and the Riverside Valley Park.
Please click here for more information on this route.
|Forth and Clyde Canal||35 miles (56 km)||Follow the towpath of the Forth and Clyde Canal from Bowling to Falkirk on this super cycling and walking route. The route follows National Cycle Network Routes 7 and 754 so is well signed throughout. At Falkirk you can link up with the Union Canal which will take you into Edinburgh. As such you can cross central Scotland from Glasgow to Edinburgh on traffic free canalside paths.|
You start off at the Bowling Basin near to Bowling train station on the Glasgow suburban line. The path then heads through Clydebank and the outskirts of Glasgow, crossing the four-arched 120 metre long Kelvin Aqueduct and the Kelvin Walkway as you go. From the Aqueduct you continue to the town of Kirkintilloch passing Cadder, Bishopbriggs, a Roman Fort and the pretty Possil Loch on the way.
From Kirkintilloch you continue to the nearby town of Kilsyth, passing along the River Kelvin and Dumbreck Nature Reserve.
The final leg runs from Kilsyth to Falkirk, passing Bonnybridge and the Antonine Wall - a Roman turf and stone fortification bisecting Scotland. On the outskirts of Falkirk you'll come to the Falkirk Wheel - this rotating boat lift connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal lifting boats from the basin to the aqueduct 24 metres above. See the video below for a full description of this fascinating tourist attraction.
After the Falkirk Wheel you complete the trip by passing along the canal into Falkirk and finishing at Falkirk train station.
|Gloucester and Sharpness Canal||16 miles (26 km)||Enjoy cycling and walking along the towpath of this lovely canal in Gloucestershire. The whole of the route is suitable for walkers while cyclists can enjoy several sections as
well. National Route 41 of the National Cycle Network runs along the canal from Gloucester Docks to the outskirts of the city. There's also another section from Frampton Upon Severn to Shepherd's Patch. |
The canal runs from Gloucester Docks to Sharpness with wonderful views of the Severn Estuary, the Forest of Dean and the Cotswolds. Route highlights include Gloucester Docks with its variety of shops, leisure facilities, marina and fascinating Gloucester Waterways Museum. You will also pass the wonderful Slimbridge Wetland Centre where you can see thousands of migrant birds. The route finishes at the dock of Sharpness Port which was opened in 1874.
The canal links nicely with the River Severn in several places so you have the option of picking up the Severn Way and continuing your walk.
|Great Glen Way||73 miles (117 km)||Follow the Great Glen, running from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east. The route is suitable for walkers and cyclists with a mountain bike or robust hybrid.|
The stunning trail follows the Caledonian Canal and the shores of Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness with the mountains of the Ben Nevis range making a splendid backdrop. The route also passes Fort Augustus and includes several woodland sections, most notably through Creag nan Eun Forest.
The route is waymarked with a black hexagon thistle.
|Greenwich to Cheshunt||21 miles (34 km)||Follow NCN route 1 on this plesant ride or walk through north London into Hertfordshire. You start by the Thames at the Cutty Sark in Greenwich and crosses to the Isle of Dogs via the Greenwich tunnel. This section gives splendid views of the River Thames and Canary Wharf. |
Shortly after leaving the Thames behind you will come onto the Lee Valley path which will take you along the Regent's canal and through Tower Hamlets and Victoria Park. You then join the River Lee near Lea Bridge for some more waterside riding. The off road path then takes you past various Reservoirs until you reach the lovely Lee Valley Park - London's largest open space. After going through the park you will soon pass close to Waltham Abbey in Essex before you arrive at the finish point at Cheshunt station next to Cheshunt lake.
|Hertford Union Canal||1 miles (1.7 km)||Enjoy an easy, waterside walk or cycle along this canal in Tower Hamlets. It runs for about a mile, linking the Regent's Canal and the Lea Valley Walk. You'll pass a series of locks and bridges along the way. It runs alongside Victoria Park so there is scope for continuing your walk through the park or along the Regent's Canal.|
|Lancaster Canal||57 miles (91 km)||Follow the Lancaster Canal from Preston, in Lancashire, to Kendal, in Cumbria, on this splendid waterside walk or cycle. From the canal there are fine views of the Silverdale Coast, the Forest of Bowland AONB and the lovely Wyre countryside. The route passes Garstang, Lancaster and Carnforth before finishing at Kendal.|
|Leeds and Liverpool Canal||126 miles (203 km)||Enjoy waterside cycling and walking along Britain's longest single canal. It runs for 126 miles across the Pennines, passing many villages, towns and cities with a fascinating heritage and industrial history. There are also umpteen pretty locks, viaducts and some wonderful countryside to enjoy. |
Walkers can enjoy the whole route from Leeds to Liverpool, while there are several sections for cyclists too. If you are on a bike then you can follow Sustrans National Cycle Route 66 from the start at Leeds to just outside Silsden. There's another Sustrans section around Barnoldswick and from Nelson to Burnley in Lancashire. The section from Chorley to Adlington is also open to cyclists.
Highlights on the route include the impressive 5 rise locks at Bingley, Wigan Pier and the lovely Foulridge Reservoir in Colne.
|Leeds to Shipley||12 miles (20 km)||This route follows the tow path of the Leeds Liverpool Canal from lock 1, where the canal joins the River Aire, to Shipley rail station|
|Llangollen Canal||49 miles (79 km)||Enjoy a waterside walk or cycle along the Llangollen Canal. The canal runs from Llangollen in Wales to Hurleston near Nantwich in Cheshire. You can walk along the canal towpath from start to finish, while cyclists can enjoy the section from Llangollen to Chirk using National Cycle Network routes 85 and 84. This first section starts at the wonderful Horseshoe Falls just to the west of Llangollen. You then head through Llangollen to the wonderful Pontcysyllte Aqueduct where the canal is carried over the valley of the River Dee. The magnificent structure is the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain and a World Heritage Site. There are wonderful views of the Dee valley from this major highlight on the route. You can explore the Aqueduct by clicking on the google street view link below.|
You continue to Chirk where you will pass the National Trust owned Chirk Castle. The castle has award-winning gardens and a 460 acre estate to explore so is well worth the small detour from the canal.
The next section runs to Ellesmere passing Hindford and the pretty Frankton Locks on the way. At Frankton Junction you can pick up the Montgomery Canal which runs to Newton. When you reach Ellesmere you will pass close to the lovely Ellesmere Country Park where you can enjoy lakeside and woodland walks.
You continue east to Whitchurch passing the delightful Colmere Coun try Park, the Ellesmere Canal and Bettisfield on the way. The final section runs from Whitchurch to Hurleston passing Marbury (with its series of meres) and Wrenbury.
|Macclesfield to Marple - Middlewood Way||11 miles (18 km)||Follow the Middlewood Way - a lovely off road cycle and walking path running from Macclesfield to Marple and passing by the Macclesfield Canal.|
|Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal||37 miles (60 km)||Follow the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal from Brecon to Newport on this super waterside walking and cycling route. Walkers can enjoy the whole route along canal towpaths while cyclists can follow National Cycle Network routes 4, 47 and 49 from Newport to Pontypool. The cycle path is wide and well surfaced so it's a lovely, safe ride. The cycle section runs for about 12 miles. |
The whole route runs from Brecon to Newport passing through the beautiful and dramatic scenery of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The first section runs from Brecon to Talybont-on-Usk via Pencelli. It's a 6.5 mile walk with views of the River Usk and the pretty Brynich Lock.
The canal continues to the delightful Llangynidr locks and then on to Cricklehowell and Abergavenny. There's an opportunity here to visit Abergavenny Castle Meadows and Linda Vista Gardens with a small detour from the canal.
The next section runs from Abergavenny to Pontypool, passing the noteworthy Goytre Wharf, with its historic limekilns.
The final section runs from Pontypool to Newport via Cwmbran. This section is open to cyclists. The route finishes in Newport near the castle.
|Montgomery Canal||35 miles (56 km)||Enjoy easy waterside cycling and walking along the Montgomery Canal through Powys and Shropshire. The whole of the route can be walked while cyclists can enjoy the section from Newtown to Welshpool along National Cycle Network route 81. It's a great ride and suitable for families and people of all abilities. |
Starting in Newtown you follow the River Severn towards Llanllwchaiarn and the start of the canal. You then follow the towpath north passing the Pwll Penarth Nature Reserve and a series of pretty villages including Abermule and Berriew where the canal is carried over the River Rhiw aqueduct. The route continues to Welshpool passing Powis Castle and the Llyn Coed y Dinas Nature Reserve. It's a super section of the canal with wildlife such as otters and water voles to look out for.
From Welshpool you continue north to Arddleen and Four Crosses where you cross the Vyrnwy Aqueduct. It's a highlight of the route with splendid views of the River Vyrnwy to enjoy.
The route continues through Pant and Maesbury Marsh before finishing at Frankton Locks in Shropshire. Here you can pick up the Llangollen Canal and enjoy more waterside walking.
|Neath Canal||3 miles (5 km)||This section of the Neath Canal makes for a lovely waterside cycle or walk. It runs along the National Cycle Network route from the parking area at Craig Nedd, Resolven to Glynneath. You'll pass pretty locks and bridges with views of the River Neath along the way.|
|Regent's Canal||9 miles (14 km)||Follow the Regent's canal through Regent's Park and Central London on this pleasant waterside cycling and walking route.|
Starting at the Little Venice basin in Maida Vale, you follow the canal into Regent’s Park where you will find the famous Zoo. You then pass through Camden, with its popular market, before continuing towards the East End. The route then passes the revived Mile End Park with its arts pavilion, terraced gardens and green bridge with views of Canary Wharf. You finish at the River Thames at Limehouse Basin.
|River Wey Navigation||20 miles (32 km)||Follow the River Wey Navigation towpath from Godalming to the River Thames at Weybridge on this super waterside walk. The whole of the route is suitable for walkers while cyclists can enjoy a super waterside section in Guildford. |
You start off in Godalming and pass Guildford, Sutton Park, Pyrford and Byfleet before finishing in Weybridge where you can pick up the Thames Path. There's lots of pretty Surrey countryside to see and a series of pretty locks and bridges on the way.
Route highlights include the delightful riverside nature reserve in Guildford and the wonderful Wisley Gardens near Woking. The route also links with the Wey South Path around Guildford.
|Sheerness Way||6 miles (9 km)||Opened in 2011 this super, circular cycle and walking route, follows a series of safe, traffic free paths around Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey.|
You will run along the attractive Isle of Sheppy coast and Sheerness beach, while there is also a pleasant waterside section along the Queenborough Lines or the canal bank as it is known locally.
This is a nice family cycle ride as it takes place on flat, off road paths. Walkers looking for an easy circular walk will also find it suitable.
The route is easily accessible, starting and finishing at Sheerness-on-Sea railway station.
|Stratford Upon Avon Canal||26 miles (42 km)||Enjoy waterside cycling and walking on this 26 mile canal which runs from Stratford Upon Avon to Birmingham. The whole route can be walked while cyclists can enjoy the sections from Stratford Upon Avon to Wilmcote at one end and through the outskirts of Birmingham at the other. |
The route starts in the centre of Stratford Upon Avon and passes through a series of pretty villages before entering the outskirts of Birmingham and finishing in King's Norton. There's lots of pretty locks and some lovely Warwickshire countryside to enjoy. Around Solihull you'll pass close to Earlswood Lakes which is well worth a small detour. You'll also pass close to the lovely Baddesley Clinton. Here you will find a moated manor house surrounded by gardens and woodland. Also, around Kingswood the canal links up with the Grand Union Canal Walk so you can easily pick up another super canal trail.
|Swansea Canal||4 miles (5.7 km)||Enjoy an easy waterside cycle or walk along the Swansea Canal and River Tawe. The route runs from Clydach to Pontardawe along route number 43 of the National Cycle Network. The route uses the canal towpath and a riverside trail, passing locks and bridges on the way. Look out for a variety of wildlife including otters, kingfishers, dippers, ducks, moths, butterflies and beetles.|
|Two Tunnels Greenway||11 miles (18.5 km)||This is a super, shared cycling and walking path making use of a disused railway path through Bath and the surrounding countryside. The path takes you through Bath and then on into some splendid Somerset countryside before following the Kennet and Avon Canal Towpath and the River Avon back into Bath.|
|Union Canal||31 miles (50 km)||Follow the Union Canal towpath from Falkirk to Edinburgh on this super, waterside cycling and walking route. The route follows National Cycle Network Routes 75 and 754 so is well signed throughout. At Falkirk you can link up with the Forth and Clyde Canal which will take you into Glasgow. |
The route starts at Falkirk near the train station and follows the canal to Linlithgow, passing Polmont and Muiravonside Country Park. Here you will find 170 acres of woodland and parkland with views of the River Avon. Also in Linlithgow you'll pass the splendid Beecraigs Country Park which has miles of woodland cycling and walking trails. You can also enjoy a stroll around Linlithgow Loch.
The next section runs from Linlithgow to Ratho, passing farmland, woodland and the settlements of Broxburn, Winchburgh and Philpstoun. You also pass the Almond Aqueduct which carries the canal 23 metres above the wooded River Almond gorge. Not far from here you will find the pretty Almondell and Calderwood Country Park with peaceful woodland and a lovely waterside trail running along the River Almond.
The final section takes you from Ratho in Edinburgh. The first few miles take you through farmland before entering the suburbs of Edinburgh. You soon come to Slateford Aqueduct which carries the canal over the Water of Leith. It is the second largest aqueduct in Scotland at 180 metres long and 18 metres tall. The route ends at Lochrin Basin in the city centre of Edinburgh.
|Woking to West Byfleet||9 miles (14 km)||This easy cycle or walk follows the Basingstoke canal and NCN route 221 from Brookwood, near Woking, to West Byfleet.|
You start at Pirbright Bridge, Brookwood and head east along the towpath through Woking and then onto the finish point at West Byfleet. With pretty locks and woodland views, this tree lined path makes for a nice relaxing ride or stroll. Also there are train stations at either end of the route making it easily accessible.