Peak Forest & Ashton Canals

Peak Forest & Ashton Canals Overall Rating: ⭐⭐

Stretching for 14 miles from Marple into the centre of Manchester, the Peak Forest Canal and Ashton Canal combine to form a delightful traffic-free route. As you’d expect from a canal towpath route, it’s mainly flat, but do take care at several of the bridges where you need to cross the Peak Forest Canal. They’re often very steep and slippery.
You will certainly benefit from having lights when cycling through the Woodley tunnel.


The surface varies enormously. Between Marple and Hyde, it’s unsurfaced and (as is often the case with towpaths) muddy and slippery in places. From Hyde onwards it’s a sealed surface.
Along the Peak Forest Canal, there are some spiral ramps to the bridges you need to use, and those are treacherously slippery, even when dry.
On the Ashton Canal, there are cobbled segments alongside the locks, and there are often gaps large enough between the stones for a wheel to go in.
Though the Ashton Canal towpath (except for those cobbled parts) is tarred, there are speedbumps at regular intervals.


You definitely want a bike with chunkier tyres. Trikes and most cargo bikes will not be able to use this route. Tandems might cope, but will struggle in places.


There are toilets in Marple, and again at the end, In Manchester.

Points of Interest

Marple Locks are stunning, as is the aqueduct soon after. Manchester has rich Industrial Revolution heritage, much of it right alongside the canal.

Other Routes in Cheshire

See also  Thorpe Thewles to Ryhope traffic-free cycle route


Towpath cycling is full of obstacles. Though there are no A-frame barriers for you to contend with, do read the part about the surface.


Safety: ⭐⭐
Hilliness: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Refreshment stops: ⭐
Barriers: ⭐
Surface: ⭐⭐

Overall: ⭐⭐

The grading system I use is explained here.

Forecast for the Peak Forest & Ashton Canals

What the Peak Forest & Ashton Canals look like

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More Routes

To find more routes, click this link.


DayCycle routes are routes can can easily be cycled by most people in a day, or part of a day. Do have a look at all the other DayCycle routes available on WillCycle. Many contain detailed route guides, as well as embedded maps (like the one below) from which you can download the GPX file for the route.

7 thoughts on “Peak Forest & Ashton Canals”

  1. Many thanks for a dose of nostalgia. It’s many years since I cycled this route.
    Is it worth mentioning that you need to go over the hill at Romiley because you would get wet using the legging (Hyde Bank) tunnel? Maybe it’s now signposted but when I first started using this canal towpath, I struggled to find my way over the hill.
    The route along the upper part of the canal has stunning scenery so why stop at Marple?

  2. That was a nice sunny day after the rain of the evening before. So are you serialising the Cheshire Ring as a series of day rides then Will?

    • No – I simply did this because it’s a traffic-free route that I’ve personally cycled, a nd therefore didn’t need to ask anyone else for information about it.

  3. Thanks for the route. Today we took our boys (12 & 17) on the route (there and back). It is the furthest we have ever cycled. The boys enjoyed the route as it has lots of entertaining challenges because of the bridges. I personally enjoyed the scenery. I have also never seen bike speed bumps before. Thanks again

    • Hi Natasha,
      Hearing your boys (and you) enjoyed the route brought a smile to my face. I create these route guides precisely in the hope that people will have the experience you had.
      Hope you all have plenty more cycling adventures 🙂


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