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The Best UK Boating Holidays: Peak Forest Canal

One of the shortest canals in the UK, but definitely one of the most beautiful. Just under 15 miles long, it joins the Ashton Under Lyne canal and travels through miles of breathtaking valleys and reservoirs up to the Peak National Park before heading down through to Buxworth and Whaley Bridge. It’s one of the most scenic routes of water throughout the entire country, notably when it passes over the River Goyt via a historic arched aqueduct.


How long does it take?

You can travel the length of this canal in quite a short period of time, and we estimate that going from Marple to Whaley Bridge will take you around four and a half hours. That means it’s ideal for a relaxing day trip with a few stops, or you could make a weekend of it if you fancy really taking everything in and spending a night moored up somewhere along the way.


peak forest canal


Where do I hire a boat?

It’s important that your trip begins by using a high quality, reliable hiring service that’ll allow you to have the most comfortable trip you possibly can. We recommend you start at the north end of the canal and work your way down.

Portland Basin Marina provides just what you need to enjoy your trip on the Peak Forest canal. They offer a great flexibility for boats and hire periods, where you can enjoy a simple day boat hire or a longer holiday period on their larger cruiser narrowboat. The hiring process is affordable and very straightforward, so you can get on the water as soon as possible and start enjoying the experience.


Their website is also very helpful for suggestions on what to do with your trip. They share tips on how to be best prepared for life on the water, how to control the boat, what weather conditions will affect your trips and where to stop off along the way.


What landmarks can I see?

Before you set off from the Portland Basin in Dukinfield, you could stop in for a quick visit to the Portland Basin Museum. The museum is housed inside an impressive canal warehouse first used in the 1800’s. Here you can discover what life was like 100 years ago, whilst exploring a little bit of the history surrounding the canal you’re about to travel down. The museum also has a great play area for children, should you wish to take the whole family on your trip.


Just slightly further down the way after cruising off on your trip, you’ll pass close to the Ruined Chapel, where we’d definitely advise you to stop and take a look. Although surrounded by industrial works, the chapel’s ruins have been well preserved as a historical landmark with some very important history. It’s said that this sacred chapel was used as far back as the 1600’s and owned by the Duckenfield family, whom the town is named after. Some evidence suggests that this was the first Congregational chapel in the entire country, so to say you’ve been here is an impressive achievement.


You then have the chance to enjoy the beautiful countryside landscape for a mile or two, with refreshing greenery and iconic British wildlife all the way through. You’ll pass a few nature reserves along the journey such as Haughton Dale, which will be a really notable place to enjoy untouched, protected countryside.


things to see on the canal


If you’re a little hungry after all the exploring and you’re after a meal, a snack or just something nice to drink, the Spread Eagle pub is situated very close to the canal just after Romiley. It’s a really comfortable, traditional pub that serves seriously great food. The Spread Eagle is very highly rated for its atmosphere and food quality, so you won’t be disappointed.


Once you’ve reached the Bugsworth Basin at the end of the Peak Forest Canal route, you’ll only be 5 miles from the Peak District National Park. It’s hard to reach here via boat, but it’s only a short 30-minute bike ride if you want to hire bikes for the afternoon. If you fancy heading a little further in the narrowboat, you can join the Goyt River for another few miles to see some more breathtaking views and stunning scenery.