Coolcanals: Waterways Directory & Information Guide. Waterside Walks & Cycling, Boating & Holidays in the Waterways Outdoors

 
 

Cycling

 
Imagine a place where you can cycle all day and never meet a car - and you don't have to struggle up hills. Add an idyllic splash of water and you're pedalling the canals of Britain.
 
Canalside cycling

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Towpaths, originally designed for horses pulling the working boats of the Industrial Revolution, now make perfect slow bike trails.
And you can take the kids and let them ride safely in the great outdoors with all the thrills of a stress-free adventure following a secluded historic trail.
 
Cycle, cycle, cycle...
 

National Cycle Network

Many canal towpaths form part of the National Cycle Network, with over 650 miles of waterside routes. There is more demand than ever from people to access the peaceful, pleasurable walking and cycling routes that waterways provide. To find a route near you, just visit www.sustrans.org.uk
 
Sustrans
Canalside teashops & cafés
 

Download some favourite Sustrans cycle rides FREE >>

Sustrans is the UK's leading sustainable transport charity and is the organisation behind the award-winning National Cycle Network (NCN), Safe Routes to Schools, Bike It, TravelSmart, Active Travel, Connect2 and Liveable Neighbourhoods programmes - all projects that are changing our world one mile at a time. Their vision is a world in which people choose to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment and to make this vision a reality they work on practical, innovative solutions to the transport challenges facing us all.
 
From the very beginning of its life 30 years ago, Sustrans recognised the enormous value the UK's waterways bring to the people of Britain. As well as being wonderful places to visit by boat or while away the hours with a fishing rod, our waterways attract millions of visits by walkers and cyclists every year because they provide enjoyable, safe, traffic-free journeys through some of Britain's most beautiful countryside, as well as into the hearts of our cities and communities.
 
Waterways have always played a crucial role in the ongoing success of the National Cycle Network and one of the earliest examples of this was the Kennet & Avon Canal between Reading and Newbury. The Kennet & Avon Cycle Route is now Britain's most popular long-distance waterside cycle, thanks to huge improvements made in partnership between Sustrans and British Waterways (now Canal & River Trust) to long sections of the towpath, including the whole length from Bath to Devizes, around Newbury and between Thatcham and Reading. These kinds of projects continue to this day, the latest example being in Leeds where the Aire Valley Towpath has been completely resurfaced and new links created.
 
Cycling Towpaths were originally designed for horses towing boats, but these days you're more likely to see cycle tracks or footprints than hoof prints. Most canals have easy towpath trails. The shortest canal is under a mile, the longest 137 miles, and collectively, they make up over 2,000 magnificent slow waterside miles, meandering from the highlands of Scotland to the sands of Cornwall.
 
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors
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You'll find all these cycle rides, cycled and recommended by Sustrans rangers, in our book 'Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors' - available in our Shop and from all good bookshops...:
 

Download some of these favourite cycle rides FREE >>

 
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Birmingham cycle ride Birmingham canals cycle ride
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Birmingham cycle ride
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Bridgwater & Taunton cycle ride Bridg&Taunton Canal cycle ride
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Bridgwater & Taunton cycle ride
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Crinan cycle ride Crinan Canal cycle ride
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Crinan cycle ride
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Exeter cycle ride Exeter Ship Canal cycle ride
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Exeter cycle ride
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Kennet & Avon cycle ride Kennet & Avon Canal cycle ride
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Kennet & Avon cycle ride
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Leeds & Liverpool cycle ride Leeds & Liv Canal cycle ride
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Leeds & Liverpool cycle ride
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Midlands cycle rides Midlands canals cycle rides
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Midlands cycle rides
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Monmouthshire & Brecon cycle ride Mon & Brec Canal cycle ride
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Monmouthshire & Brecon cycle ride
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Southeast cycle rides Southeast canals cycle rides
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Southeast cycle rides
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Union cycle ride Union Canal cycle ride
Britain's Great Waterways Outdoors Union cycle ride
In summer, start early and cycle till dusk, and after a cycle ride on a winter's day, nothing beats toasting your toes over a roaring fire in the quiet hubbub of a canalside inn. Wherever you live, canals are never far away. Just get on your bike and enjoy the great waterways outdoors!
 

Why not join in the canalbagging craze?

Whenever we think we've walked them all and ticked every canal in Britain off our list, we stumble on another hidden waterway to explore. The journey is addictive! We call it canalbagging - canalbagging can be fun whether you travel by bike, boot, boat, wheelchair, canoe or any other way...
 

Or plan a cycling holiday

There's accommodation along the canals to suit every taste - from cosy waterside inns to luxurious hotels, and from floating B&Bs to 5-star cruises... And of course campsites for cyclists too.
 
We list canalside accommodation in our user-friendly Directory to help you plan your own travels...
 
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Other canalside cycle rides

  • SOUTHWEST

  • Bridgwater & Taunton Canal
    WEST COUNTRY WAY
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 3
    Follows the canal towpath most of the way from Taunton through to Bridgwater.
  • Bude Canal
    WEST COUNTRY WAY
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 3
    Follows the canal towpath from Bude to Marhamchurch.
  • Exeter Ship Canal
    EXE CYCLE ROUTE
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 2
    Through Riverside Valley Park, Devon Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve, Exminster Marshes & the RSPB Nature Reserve.
    SOUTH COAST CYCLE ROUTE
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 2
    Follows the canal towpath all the way from Exeter to the Turf.
  • Gloucester & Sharpness Canal
    SEVERN & THAMES CYCLE ROUTE
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 41
    Follows the canal towpath much of the way from Slimbridge to Gloucester (though it is possible from Sharpness).
  • Grand Western Canal
    WEST COUNTRY WAY
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 3
    Follows the canal towpath all the way from Tiverton to Sampford Peverell. NB Please dismount to walk under bridges. Always give way to horses pulling the trip boat.
  • SOUTH

  • Basingstoke Canal
    THE SATURN TRAIL
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 221
    Follows the canal towpath from Pirbright Bridge through to the canal's junction with the Wey Navigation.
  • Grand Union Canal (South)
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 6
    Follows the canal towpath from Leighton Buzzard through to Milton Keynes.
  • Kennet & Avon Canal
    KENNET & AVON CYCLE ROUTE
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 4
    Follows the canal towpath all the way from Bristol to Reading.
  • Oxford Canal
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 5
    Follows the canal towpath for a short while out of Oxford, before heading across country towards Woodstock.
  • HEART OF THE COUNTRY

  • Coventry Canal
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 52
    Follows the canal towpath all the way from Coventry to Hawkesbury, and from Bedworth to Nuneaton.
  • Grand Union Canal (Midlands)
    LIAS LINE CYCLEWAY
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 41
    Follows the canal towpath much of the way from Long Itchington to Leamington Spa.
  • Grantham Canal
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 15
    Follows the canal towpath all the way from Grantham to Muston.
  • Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 54
    Follows the canal towpath all the way from Stourport to Kidderminster.
  • Trent & Mersey Canal (Midlands)
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 5
    Follows the canal towpath all the way from Barlaston to Kidsgrove.
  • Worcester & Birmingham Canal
    THE MERCIAN WAY
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 45
    Follows the canal towpath all the way from Worcester to Offerton.
  • NORTH

  • Lancaster Canal
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 6
    Follows the canal towpath from Lancaster to Carnforth.
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 62
    Follows the canal towpath for a short while out of Preston.
  • Leeds & Liverpool Canal
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 6
    Follows the canal towpath from Blackburn to Rishton.
    AIRE VALLEY TOWPATH
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 66 / 69
    Follows the canal towpath all of the way from Leeds through to Bingley.
    PENNINE CYCLEWAY
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 68
    Follows the canal towpath all of the way from Colne to Barnoldswick (or join the canal at Burnley for longer stretch).
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 69
    Follows the canal towpath all of the way from Silsden to Shipley (becoming Route 66 from there to Leeds).
  • Rochdale Canal
    CALDER VALLEY CYCLEWAY
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 66
    Follows the canal towpath much of the way from Sowerby Bridge through to Warland.
  • WALES

  • Mon & Brec Canal
    LON LAS CYMRU
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 8
    Follows the Taff Trail from Cardiff to Brecon and the canal towpath from Brynich to Brecon.
    TAFF TRAIL
    Follows the canal towpath all the way from Brecon to Brynich Lock (trail walkers can continue along the towpath as far as Talybont-on-Usk to rejoin the Route there).
  • SCOTLAND

  • Caledonian Canal
    GREAT GLEN MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAILS
    Several trails of various lengths along the route of the Caledonian Canal, which follow the canal and loch towpaths much of the way from Corpach to Inverness.
    CAMPBELTOWN TO INVERNESS
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 78
    Follows the canal towpath all the way from Corpach to Fort Augustus.
  • Crinan Canal
    CAMPBELTOWN TO INVERNESS
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 78
    Follows the towpath all the way from Ardrishaig to Crinan.
  • Forth & Clyde Canal
    GLASGOW TO EDINBURGH
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 754
    Follows the canal towpath all the way from Clydebank through to Falkirk.
  • Union Canal
    CLYDE TO FORTH CYCLE ROUTE
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 75
    Follows canal towpath from Slateford Aqueduct to Edinburgh Quay.
    GLASGOW TO EDINBURGH
    National Cycle Network (NCN) 754
    Follows the canal towpath all the way from Falkirk through to Slateford Aqueduct before joining Route 75.
 
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