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
- The Shropshire Union Canal cycle route
- Chester Millennium Greenway
- The Wirral Way traffic-free cycle route
- Trans Pennine Trail – Altrincham to Warrington
- Peak Forest & Ashton Canals
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.
Refreshment stops: ⭐
Forecast for the Peak Forest & Ashton Canals
What the Peak Forest & Ashton Canals look like
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.