The county’s canals and rivers offer up historic sights, lively events and some delightful pit stops along the way, says Simone Kane.

1  Ride the Anderton Boat Lift 


Anderton Boat Lift
Ride ‘the Cathedral of the Canals’, aka the Anderton Boat Lift. This fine example of high Victorian engineering was built in 1875 to enable barges to scale the 50ft-high gap between the Trent & Mersey Canal and Weaver Navigation. Today, you can take a boat ride through the lift and climb to its summit for a look at the inner workings. 

2  Join a canal-side festival


Middlewich FAB Festival
Middlewich comes alive in summer for the FAB Festival, an annual celebration of music and canal life. There’s a packed programme of concerts and events, as well as a floating market, at this watery junction where three canals converge. Live music is performed on the canal-side stage – previous headliners include Peter Hook, formerly of New Order – as well as events around town. 

3 Admire three engineering marvels 
 

Locks, lifts, bridges and aqueducts – some serious innovation was required to get the best out of Cheshire’s waterways. At Audlem see the ladder of 15 locks that allows the Shropshire Union Canal to descend 93 feet to the Cheshire Plain. The Northgate Locks at Chester Basin – the deepest in the UK, carved from sandstone – once delivered barges from the Chester Canal onto the River Dee. And, the meeting point of the River Goyt and the Macclesfield and Peak Forest Canals is dominated by the magnificent Marple Aqueduct. A flight of 16 locks (one of the steepest in the country) leads to this 18th-century engineering feat, a 100fthigh structure that carries the canal over the river.

4  Sail on a steam ship


The Danny
Take a cruise on the last surviving steam-powered tug built on the Mersey, The Danny, with its recreated Art Deco interiors, from mid-May to early September, along the River Weaver – you can even bring a picnic. Built in 1903 in Birkenhead, The Danny was once the flagship of the Manchester Ship Canal Company and was saved from the scrapyard by volunteers who restored it to its former glory.
 

5 Drink in waterfront views 


Pop in for a pint at the recently refurbished Leigh Arms, with views of the Acton swing bridge and the Grade II-listed Dutton Horse Bridge, a rare example of a laminated timber arch bridge, which celebrates its centenary this year. Pull up a chair in the floating beer garden, overlooking the River Dee, at The Boathouse in the heart of Chester. Parkgate on Wirral is home to The Ship, a coaching inn with views over the Dee Estuary. And watch the narrowboats go by from the beer garden of The Dusty Miller, a converted 18th-century corn mill on the banks of the Llangollen Canal in Wrenbury.

6 Get behind the tiller


Hire a narrowboat and cruise the Cheshire Ring. This 97-mile route crosses no fewer than six canals – Ashton, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent & Mersey and the first to be built in the modern era, James Brindley’s Bridgewater Canal. Go to canalrivertrust.org.uk

Written by Simone Kane.

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