Shropshire Union Canal cycle route overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐
The part of the Shropshire Union Canal covered by this guide isn’t in Shropshire at all, but in Cheshire. This route stretches from Nantwich to Ellesmere Port, a distance of 30 miles.
Cycling on canal towpaths can be blissfully serene, but comes with challenges. The rewards should more than make up for it though, but do yourself a favour and only cycle this route if it’s been warm and dry for at least a week.
Especially if cycling with kids, consider setting off from Waverton instead, cutting out the worst of the towpath. Also ensure at least one adult on the ride is a competent swimmer.
Surface on the Shropshire Union Canal
Towpath cycling brings unique challenges, and the Shropshire Union Canal’s no exception. In towns and villages, the towpath can be very good, often with a sealed surface.
However, along the rural stretches it can be overgrown. Especially after rain, it can be very muddy in places, and as the towpath along the rural parts has a lot of clay, it can be extremely slippery when wet.
From Waverton, the towpath is decent and rideable all year round (barring ice).
There are several cafés and pubs in Nantwich, but as soon as you leave the centre of town, your options rapidly disappear. Your next option is the Calveley Mill Café (6 miles along) then the Lockgate Coffee House, almost 10 miles from the start. About a mile further there’s the Shady Oak pub, but you’ll have to leave the canal and cycle on a quiet lane for a short bit. There’s The Boathouse at Tattenhall Marina, but again you’ll have to leave the canal to access it. Next is the Cheshire Cat pub, at 18 miles in, then in Chester itself there are various options. After leaving the centre of Chester, there are no other refreshment stops until the end, in the Port & Anchor Eatery, in Ellesmere Port.
Standard bikes are needed for this route, and then ideally with chunky tyres.
Toilets are available in various places in Nantwich, at all the refreshment stops above, and at Bunbury Staircase Locks (8 miles along). You will need a CRT key to access the services at the locks.
Points of Interest
The Chester city walls are spectacular, and parts of it date back to the Romans (who also named the city).
Consider visiting Chester Cathedral, as well as the Roman amphitheatre.
Routes in Cheshire
- The Shropshire Union Canal cycle route
- Chester Millennium Greenway
- The Wirral Way cycle route
- Trans Pennine Trail – Altrincham to Warrington
- Peak Forest & Ashton Canals
- Middlewood way
There are no barriers along this route. However, expect the towpath to be narrow, and overgrown in places.
Hire bikes are available in Chester, from Chester Cycle Hire.
Hilliness: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Flat)
Refreshment stops: ⭐⭐
Paying the rent
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Weather forecast for the Shropshire Union Canal
What the Shropshire Union Canal looks like
Getting to the Shropshire Union Canal
The route as shown on the map below starts at Chichester station, so you can easily get to the start car-free, by taking your bike on the train. As ever, read my Bikes On Trains guide for useful and helpful tips for taking your bike on the train.
DayCycle routes are routes that 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).