Six places to paddle in Cheshire and the North West

Six places to paddle in Cheshire and the North West

Are you looking for new places to paddle as the weather warms up? To help you get back on the water we have put together our top six places to paddle in Cheshire and the North West. From historic canals to picturesque countryside views, there is something for everyone. Whether you are kayaking, canoeing or stand up paddle boarding (SUP), you can enjoy all of these locations. 

River Weaver

Let’s begin with the River Wear. Located in the North West of England, it flows through 20 miles of tree-lined banks from Winsford to Weston Point near Runcorn. Soak in the beautiful scenery all year round as you paddle through not only ancient woodlands but stunning scenery.

River Weaver in West Cheshire on a summer's day looking across to the bridge

The original river has been straightened in places to make navigation easier for larger boats. This has left the original river line to become a quiet backwater, allowing wildlife to thrive. Be sure to look out for coastal plants and birds as you paddle through the salt water lakes that scatter the route.

There are several slipways along the river that are great for paddling. They were installed with the help of the Canal & River Trust and are ideal for launching paddle crafts. Weaver Parkway is an ideal launch point south of Northwich. It has parking and a picnic area, as well as easy access to the water for canoes, kayaks and paddle boards. You can find out more about launch points along River Weaver here.

Do I need a water licence to paddle on the River Weaver?

Yes, a licence is required for paddling on this river. A British Canoeing ‘On the Water’ Membership includes a water licence that covers paddlers on the River Weaver. 

Bridgewater Canal

Often referred to as the first true canal in Britain, the Bridgewater Canal stretches for 39 miles, connecting Runcorn to Leigh. Built over 250 years ago by the Duke of Bridgewater, its construction was for the transportation of goods during the industrial revolution. 

Walton Bridge on the Bridgewater Canal in summer

If you fancy taking your kayak, canoe or paddle board for an adventure along here, there are some great routes to follow. The Barton Upon Irwell to Leigh paddling trail will take you across the well known Barton Swing Aqueduct which passes over the Manchester Ship Canal. The 10.5-mile trail curves through the suburbs of Salford and on to Worsley. There is a lovely park on the river banks perfect for a picnic before you continue your paddle towards Plank Lane Swing Bridge, an area that was once part of the Brickshaw Coal Mine. The orange colour of the water is caused by iron ochre seeping from the old coal mines.

The Little Bollington to Keckwick Hill Bridge is another great paddling trail along the Bridgewater Canal. Along this 11 mile trail, you will paddle through rural Cheshire alongside small towns and villages such as Lymm. The streets of this small town come down to the water’s edge, making it a great location to stop for a bite to eat. You will also paddle past Walton Hall and Gardens which is a great location to land and explore. 

For more information on launch points and paddling trails along the Bridgewater Canal click here.

Do I need a water licence to paddle on the Bridgewater Canal?

Yes, a licence is required for paddling on this canal. A British Canoeing ‘On the Water’ Membership includes a water licence that covers paddlers on the Bridgewater Canal.

Macclesfield Canal

The Macclesfield Canal runs for 26 miles connecting the Peak Forest Canal to the Trent and Mersey Canal. The route travels through a mostly green and rural area of Cheshire that forms a direct link between Manchester and the Midlands. 

A small bridge over the Macclesfield Canal in Cheshire

Although the Macclesfield Canal has a total of 13 locks, 12 of those are at Bosley Locks. Due to most of the locks being in flights, you don’t have to worry too much about portaging. You can just paddle along and enjoy the wildlife.

Sutton Hall is a great launch point along the canal and has parking facilities and easy access to the water for kayaks, canoes and paddle boards. You will be able to admire some brilliant Victorian architecture along the way such as mills and warehouses that add distinctive character to this canal.

The Macclesfield Canal is well located, making it perfect for multi-day adventures along the canal navigations in this area. However, if you are planning to connect to the Peak Forest Canal, you will be met with the flight of locks known as Marple Lock. It has 16 locks in close succession and one serious uphill portage. For more information on the Macclesfield Canal click here.

Do I need a water licence to paddle on the Macclesfield Canal?

Yes, a licence is required for paddling on this canal. A British Canoeing ‘On the Water’ Membership includes a water licence that covers paddlers on the Macclesfield Canal.

River Dee

The River Dee flows for 68 miles and is mainly considered a Welsh river. However, there are stretches that cross into England that are perfect for paddling your kayak, canoe or paddle board. The river begins in the mountains of Snowdonia, then flows down through the hills, winding its way through the valleys. Finally, it flows into the Dee Estuary (Liverpool Bay) before greeting the Irish Sea. Well known among white water paddlers, the River Dee has some exciting features for fast-flowing water lovers. Serpent’s tail and horseshoe falls are popular spots, and there are several spots for touring.

River Dee winding through Cheshire

For those looking for more placid waters, we suggest beginning with the Farndon Bridge to Chester paddling trail. This 11-mile trail starts at Farndon Bridge and is the perfect way to explore the surrounding area. You can also immerse yourself within nature as you paddle through the Cheshire countryside and into Chester. After paddling 6 miles you will enter into the Duke of Westminster’s estate, where you can admire Eaton Hall on the left bank. 

As Chester appears along this trail, the first sight of civilisation is the Red House Pub on the right bank. It has a jetty and welcomes paddlers, making it a great location to land and refuel. You will then paddle alongside the riverfront promenade where you will be able to soak up the historic sites of Chester. These include the Roman city walls, the Old Dee Bridge and the Chester Weir. 

If you are looking for some wildlife opportunities, the mouth of the river at the Dee Estuary has plenty of them. Keep a lookout for wheatears, spoonbills, treecreepers and little egrets to name a few. For more information on the River Dee, such as launch locations, parking spots and white water river grading click here.

Do I need a water licence to paddle on the River Dee?

No, a licence is not required for paddling on the River Dee.

Shropshire Union Canal

The Shropshire Union Canal flows for 66 miles from Wolverhampton to Ellesmere Port. This impressive canal has 47 locks and makes for a beautiful paddle through the Cheshire countryside.

Paddling under a bridge on the Shropshire Union Canal

This canal navigation is a great place to take your kayak, canoe or paddle board if you are looking for a place to disconnect from urban life and immerse yourself in nature. There are no towns along the riverbank of this rural canal for often miles on end.

Although much of the paddle is through the countryside, the canal does cut through the centre of the Roman town of Chester, a brilliant place to land and look around. Look up at the impressive buildings and bridges as you paddle through. The canal ends at Ellesmere Port, the home of the National Waterways Museum, which is home to a fascinating collection of historic working boats and insight into the history of the canals. 

Click here to discover even more paddling trails and local launch points in this area.

Do I need a water licence to paddle on the Shropshire Union Canal? Yes, a licence is required for paddling on this canal. A British Canoeing ‘On the Water’ Membership includes a water licence that covers paddlers on the Shropshire Union Canal. 

Llangollen Canal

Finally, the Llangollen Canal is an impressive stretch of canal, crossing the border between England and Wales. Flowing for 46 miles, it is a great canal for multi-day paddling trips. A combination of picturesque countryside and breath-taking engineering means you will be in for some spectacular sights.

Scenic view of the LLangollen Canal near Ellesmere in Wales

Starting just west of Crewe where the Llangollen Canal meets the Shropshire Union Canal, you will find the adrenaline-inducing Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. One of the most photographed aqueducts in the world, this monster of engineering beauty links two huge valleys. It is one of the most impressive structures you will see along British waterways.

However, the aqueduct crossing is not for the faint-hearted and paddlers are advised to stay low as they cross. Please note that stand up paddle boarders are not allowed to paddle across the aqueduct. You will also have to dismount and walk along the towpath for your safety.

Although the main reason why you might paddle this stretch is for the views along the famous aqueduct, the canal route itself is also rich with heritage. You will paddle past constant reminders of the canal’s industrial past as you paddle along. It has great connections with other canals and rivers in the area, such as the River Dee and the Shropshire Union Canal.

Find out more about the Llangollen Canal including launch points, routes and parking locations here.

Do I need a water licence to paddle on the Llangollen Canal?

Yes, a licence is required for paddling on this canal. A British Canoeing ‘On the Water’ Membership includes a water licence that covers paddlers on the Llangollen Canal.

So, there you have it! We hope you take away six new stunning locations you can canoe, kayak or stand up paddle board around Cheshire and the North West. Wherever you paddle, we would love to see what you got up to. Be sure to let us know over on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!