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You can do this route from :
Sawley Marina

Cruise most of the Trent & Mersey canal with this route, engineered by James Brindley its was the country's first long distance canal.

The canal takes you through some of the best scenes that our waterways offer, from the towering Anderton boat lift, through the heritage-rich industrial sites of Stoke-on-Trent's potteries district and the nature reserve at the lovely Fradley Junction, the long Harecastle Tunnel and the lengthy lock flight known as Heartbreak Hill, and the traditional canal town of Shardlow.

Pretty rambling villages are waiting to be explored and Canalside Pubs will quench your thirst!

Route Info

Route Facts & Figures

Cruising Days : 14.00

Cruising Time : 95.00 hours

Total Distance : 173.00 miles

Number of Locks : 152

Number of Tunnels : 2

Number of Aqueducts : 68

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Read our cruising notes to help you plan your canal boat holiday

Read our cruising notes.


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Cruising Notes

Harecastle Tunnel
Summer opening hours
The Tunnel will open for passage daily between 8.00am and 6.00pm. To be guaranteed a passage, you must arrive by 4.00pm.
Last craft in the Tunnel at 5.15pm, if the Tunnel is free both ways.
For any enquiries call 01782 785703 during office hours.
Winter opening hours
By appointment only – Telephone 01782 785703 giving at least 48 hours notice.
Mondays & Wednesdays - 8.30am to 12 noon (last passage 11.15am)
Fridays - 11.30am to 3.00pm (last passage 2.15pm)
Saturdays - 8.30am to 12.30pm (last passage 11.45am)
Closed: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays and Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day.

Day 1

Leaving the marina, you will first be heading towards Derwent Mouth Lock, the first lock on your cruise. This is where the Trent and Mersey canal meets the River Trent.
Not far from here, is Shardlow, where there are many pubs and restaurants, for example The Old Marina Bar and Restaurant, The Malt Shovel Inn and The Old Crown Inn. Children are welcome at all three.

There is a heritage centre at Shardlow, giving an insight into the C18th canal port. There is also a village trail.

Shardlow is a very interesting canal port and evidence of its importance is seen all around, from the large-scale canal architecture, to the canalside pubs.
There are local stores, post office, etc in the village.

A little further along the canal, and past Hicken's Bridge, you will reach Aston Lock No. 3, where you can moor up for the night, if you wish.

You will have cruised 3 miles and navigated 3 locks, in around 2 hours.

Day 2

Your destination today is Barton Turnover Bridge No. 36, in Burton-on-Trent, 17 miles away.

Leaving Aston Lock, you will head towards Weston-upon-Trent, en route to Swarkestone. Weston-upon-Trent village is near Weston Lock, the bottom gates of which are short, but extremely wide.

Away to your left, you may just catch sight of Donington Park, where numerous motor racing and motorbike racing events take place, including the MotoGP.

If you want to moor up along here, it is a pleasant walk down the lane, opposite King's Mills. There is a lovely view of the Trent valley, and on the hill you will see the church and rectory. There is a pub here in the main street – The Old Plough Inn – where children are welcome.

The canal now wends its way through Cliff Wood, towards Swarkestone Lock, where there is a short arm to the right, which used to be the Derby canal, but is now disused. There is an old toll house at this junction, which is now the HQ of Swarkestone Boat Club. The lock here is very deep – 11ft – so extra care must be taken.
Swarkestone has, as its main feature, an C18th five-arch stone bridge spanning the main channel of the River Trent.

A little further on is Barrow-upon-Trent, to your left, a small village set back from the canal. There is a lane from the church which leads down to the canal, and a row of old workmen's cottages.

Moving on, through Stenson Lock, then a sharp left, towards the busy village of Willington, set on the embankment, and bisected by the railway.

There are more pubs here – The Rising Sun and The Green Dragon – again, where children are welcome. A local store and post office can also be found here.

Egginton is the next quiet little village along the canal. There is a pretty church here, but no shops or pubs. Ideal if you just want a quiet walk.

Along this stretch of canal there are a series of small aqueducts, leading into the suburbs of Burton-upon-Trent, via Stretton and Horninglow, where you can moor at Horninglow Basin for fish and chips.

As you approach Burton-on-Trent, you will notice that many of the old canalside buildings have been demolished, but it has all been tidied up and makes for pleasant cruising towards the town, especially with the aroma of malt and hops from the local brewery.

The canal doesn't actually go through the centre of the town, but along one side of it, so you might like to moor up and have a stroll into the town.

As you might expect from a brewery town, there is a visitor centre on Shobnall Road, called Marston's Brewery Visitor Centre. To find out more, go to, or call 01283 507391.
Brewing originated here at Burton Abbey when monks in the C13th discovered that because of the high gypsum content of the town's water, they could brew an excellent beer!

There are many pubs and restaurants in Burton-on-Trent, serving real ale and good food, for example: The Navigation Inn, The Loaf and Cheese and The Blacksmith's Arms, to name just three, where children are welcome.

As you cruise through the suburbs on your way out of Burton-on-Trent, you will pass through Shobnall, and on towards Branston, and through Branston Water Park towards Tatenhill Lock. Just beyond here is Barton Turnover Bridge No. 36, where you can moor for the night, on a reasonably quiet stretch of the canal.

Today you have cruised 17 miles and navigated 7 locks, in around 7¼ hours.

Day 3

Leaving your mooring, the canal is moreorless straight until you reach Wychnor Bridges and locks, where it veers to the right towards Wychnor, a tiny farming settlement built around the church of St Leonards.

A little further on, through a weir (where the canal briefly joins the River Trent) where you must take great care, you will approach Alrewas to your left.

Alrewas is a rambling little village with hidden back lanes lined with timbered cottages. Some pretty houses and gardens, and a bowling green face the canal as it wends its way through the village.
Alrewas Church is worth a visit, if only to see the modern stained glass window that was once a leper window.
The spacious church is mainly C13th and C14th.

There are a couple of pubs in Alrewas – The George and Dragon and William IV Inn. Both serve food, and children are welcome.

Moving on, you will soon approach Fradley Junction, where you need to go straight on, through Fradley Wood, a little further, then an abrupt right turn, changing course from south west to north west.

You may like to moor up at Fradley Junction, which is a long-established canal centre, at the point where the Trent and Mersey canal joins the Coventry Canal. There is a British Waterways information centre with a cafe, BW moorings, and at the holiday park, another cafe and a pub, The Swan. All this is in the middle of the flight of five locks!

Beyond here is Wood End Lock, just prior to more woodland, from where you will cruise on through open countryside and King's Bromley Wharf, with little sign of life, until you reach Handsacre and Armitage, both mostly to the left of the canal.

Not far from Armitage, as you approach Brereton, you will reach Ash Tree Bridge No. 62, where you can moor up for the night.

Today you have cruised 12 miles and navigated 11 locks in just over 7 hours.

Day 4

Today you are heading for Aston Bridge No. 90, around 14 miles away, on the outskirts of Stone.

Firstly, you will cruise through Brereton, again predominantly to the left of the canal, before reaching Rugeley, a busy redeveloped town.

There are pretty moorings near Bridge No. 66, where it is only a short walk into the town centre, where there is a variety of shops, and two churches.

Leaving Rugeley, you will soon be approaching Cannock Chase, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty since 1949. Many parts are Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and there is much exceptional fauna and flora, including a herd of fallow deer. A 4½sq mile area forms one of the largest country parks in Britain. Steeped in history, there is a Museum of Cannock Chase on Valley Road, Hednesford (
There are a few nice pubs in the area, for instance, The Ash Tree at Rugeley, The Wolseley Arms, also in Rugeley and Shimla Palace Indian Restaurant and Takeaway, south of Wolseley Bridge No. 70.

Cruising on through the countryside through Colwich, you will soon approach Little Haywood, a pretty residential village.

There are two pubs here – The Red Lion and The Lamb and Flag. There is also a general store, which doubles as a B & B!

Further on, and you will pass Shugborough Hall, which is easily accessible from the canal. Just walk through Haywood Lock and through the park. The Hall is leased to Staffordshire County Council, who now manage the whole estate. For more information about ticket prices, opening times, etc. visit, or call 0845 459 8900.

As you leave Great Haywood, stay on the Trent and Mersey Canal at Great Haywood Junction, just after Haywood Lock 22.

After a slight curve in the canal to the right, the next stretch is reasonably straight, and quiet, and as you approach Ingestre Bridge No. 78, you will see Ingestre Hall, half a mile south of the bridge. This was originally the home of the Earls of Shrewsbury, and is now a residential arts centre, which is not open to the public.

Cruise on to Weston-upon-Trent, a pretty village with cottages mixed with new houses. There is a pub in the village called The Woolpack.

From Weston-upon-Trent the canal meanders through peaceful meadows, through the villages of Sandon and Burston.
Sandon is a small estate village, and Burston is a pretty hamlet, set around a village pond, and for the most part, untouched by modern times.

There are pubs in both places – The Dog and Doublet in Sandon and The Greyhound Inn in Burston.
Next, the canal passes through the peaceful Trent Valley water meadows, until you reach the outskirts of Stone, where you will find Aston Bridge No. 90, where you can moor for the night.

You have cruised 14 miles and navigated 6 locks in about 7½ hours.

Day 5

Today's destination is Burslem Branch Winding Hole, which is not far from Harecastle Tunnel.

As you are on the outskirts of Stone, you may like to stay moored up and visit the town before leaving.
Stone is a busy, pleasant town, with excellent shopping facilities. At the canalside there are dry docks, wharves and old brewery buildings, as well as the old priory church which in 1751 was rebuilt by the parishioners. There are also plenty of pubs and restaurants to choose from if you want breakfast before setting off, for example: The Star (canalside); The Three Crowns; The Crown Hotel.

Leaving Stone, you will be cruising up the valley to Meaford, via a series of locks and bridges, and for a time, the railway runs adjacent to the canal.

This area is less rural and soon you will approach Barlaston, a small, sprawling village, and just beyond is Trentham Lock, where there are some good moorings which enable you to visit the Wedgwood Pottery, set back from the canal.

Should you wish to visit the Wedgwood Visitor Centre and Museum, the website is, and the 'phone number is 01782 282986.

Also from here, you can reach Newstead Wood and Hem Heath Nature Reserves, both large open spaces, and a brief reprieve before you reach Stoke on Trent.

There is a pub in Barlaston called The Plume of Feathers, and if it's nearing lunchtime, in Trentham Village there is a Toby Carvery.

The nearer you get to Stoke on Trent, the busier the canal becomes, with rebuilding of old factories and evidence of the city's pottery industry all around.
Among good places to visit whilst you are in Stoke on Trent are: Etruria Industrial Museum, Trentham Gardens,
Alton Towers (if time permits:, tel. 0871 222 3330), Waterworld in Festival Park, and The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.

There are pubs, shops, restaurants, etc. in the city, so something for everyone.

Cruising on, once you reach the Stoke flight of locks, keep to the left, as here the canal branches off to the right (the Caldon Canal).

Once through a winding bit of canal through Etruria, you will cruise through an area of flattened remains of an industrial site.

Along here, is the old Burslem Arm, near to Longport Road Bridge No. 126, and you can moor up here for the night.

Total cruising today: 11 miles, 14 locks in about 7½ hours.

Day 6

Destination today is M6 Motorway Bridge No. 147A, 9 miles away.

When you leave you mooring today, it is only a short cruise to Harecastle Tunnel, one of the longest tunnels in the UK, at 2,926 yards (1.66 miles). It takes around 30 – 40 minutes to cruise through the tunnel. (See Navigational Notes above for admission times, etc).
Legend has it that in the 1800's a young woman was decapitated in the Tunnel and her body thrown into a coal landing stage inside the Tunnel, called Gilbert's Hole. So look out for her ghost in the form of a white horse, or a headless woman. . . Some tunnel keepers will also tell you tales of a number of boats that went in, but maybe one less came out!

Once through the tunnel, you will soon reach Harding's Wood Junction, where the Trent and Mersey joins the Macclesfield Canal, which crosses the Trent and Mersey on Poole Aqueduct.
Canalside at Harding's Wood Junction, is a pub called The Blue Bell, where you might like to stop for an early lunch, or just a leisurely drink, before continuing your journey.

At the Kidsgrove junction, bear left on the Trent and Mersey, where there are now many locks, which are sometimes called 'heartbreak hill', but are know to locals just as the Cheshire Locks. Most of the locks are narrow pairs, having their chambers side by side.

The canal now meanders through small villages, whilst slowly rising through the countryside via the locks. At Hassall Green, there is a canal centre, called Lockside 57, which is located at the old buildings by the paired locks No. 57. Here, there is a family restaurant, with lockside seating and reasonably priced food, from breakfast to dinner.
M6 Motorway Bridge No. 147A is conveniently located at Hassall Green, and this is where you can moor for the night.

You should have cruised about 9 miles and navigated 18 locks in just over 7 hours.

Day 7

Heading for Richardson's Bridge No. 178, just beyond Middlewich.

Leaving the mooring, you will pass under the M6 Motorway Bridge and make your way towards the Wheelock flight of locks, descending into the quiet and unspoilt countryside, and passing Sandbach to your right along the way.

The village of Wheelock has a busy main road running through it. There are local stores here and a selection of pubs, including Nags Head and The Cheshire Cheese.

Cruise on through an increasingly flat and industrial landscape, and past a number of salt works, towards Middlewich, a long-established salt producing area. The canal wends its way around the outskirts of Middlewich, through locks and passing moored narrowboats.

Again, there are many pubs here – The Kings Lock Inn, The Cheshire Cheese, The Newton Brewery, Boars Head Hotel and The Big Lock.

Moving on from Middlewich, you will be in pretty countryside again, the canal being overhung by trees as it meanders along the hill side, following the valley of the River Dane. Moorings along the route are bedecked with picnic tables and barbeque facilities, supplied by Broken Cross Boating Club.

On the opposite side of the canal is open parkland, and not far from here, is Bridge No. 178, where you can moor for the night, in peaceful surroundings.

You will have cruised 10 miles and navigated 17 locks in around 7¼ hours.

Day 8

Today you will travel to Anderton, and then turn to moor back at King's Lock No. 71 (just past Middlewich Junction).

So, leaving your mooring, you will be heading firstly to Northwich, which is at the junction of the Rivers Dane and Weaver.

Northwich is another salt mining town, typical of this area. The town centre is close to the wharves near Town Bridge, and there are good moorings here. There is a relatively new shopping precinct in the town and a variety of pubs and restaurants.

Leaving here, you will soon see Anderton come into view, with its iconic boat lift. For lots of interesting information about the boat lift, visit or call 01606 786777.

There is a cafe at the lift, serving hot and cold drinks and light snacks. Its opening times are the same as the lift.
You can turn here and make your way back towards King's Lock No. 71 to moor for the night, on your return journey.

Days 9 – 14
Enjoy your cruise back to Sawley, perhaps stopping off where you didn't on the way.


NB: This route has been provided as a guide only. Information may become inaccurate or out of date. You should always check with the marina that the route is possible within your time frame, current weather conditions and canal stoppages etc.


The following boats operate on this route (subject to availability)

1966 n all That (Sleeps a maximum of 6 People).

Beryl the Peril (Sleeps a maximum of 4 People).

Bishtons Cakewalk (Sleeps a maximum of 6 People).

Black Swan2 (Sleeps a maximum of 6 People).

Dunnerholme (Sleeps a maximum of 4 People).

Home & Dry (Sleeps a maximum of 4 People).

Laal Ratty (Sleeps a maximum of 6 People).

Lady Blue Sky (Sleeps a maximum of 4 People).

Lady of Trent (Sleeps a maximum of 4 People).

Little Demon (Sleeps a maximum of 4 People).

Mellors Crazy Shake (Sleeps a maximum of 4 People).

Real Ale (Sleeps a maximum of 4 People).

Resting Easy (Sleeps a maximum of 4 People).

Rosemary (Sleeps a maximum of 4 People).

Sawley Mist (Sleeps a maximum of 6 People).

Sawley Tempted (Sleeps a maximum of 4 People).

Soo 95 (Sleeps a maximum of 6 People).

Spirit of Debdale (Sleeps a maximum of 6 People).

Taylors Crazy Frog (Sleeps a maximum of 6 People).

This England (Sleeps a maximum of 6 People).

Wallis Ali Baba (Sleeps a maximum of 4 People).

Wilsons Chaos (Sleeps a maximum of 6 People).

Maps and Guides

Pub Guide

Sorry, we have no pub guide for this route currently.


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The information above is provided in good faith to assist you with planning your canal boat holiday. Information accuracy cannot be guaranteed, however, if you do see something that needs updating, please don't hesitate to contact us.