The Rochdale Canal in Central Manchester

One sunny afternoon in Manchester, instead of shopping we decided to take a 7 km canal side walk through the heart of the city.  The Rochdale canal runs from the Bridgewater canal at  the Castlefield basin across the Pennines to join the Calder and Hebble Navigation at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, a distance of 32 miles.  We commenced our walk at Piccadilly Railway Station, leaving from the main exit, down the station approach ramp.  After continuing along the road for approximately 100m we reached the canal, just needing to cross the road and descend a short flight of stone steps leading down to the Rochdale canal towpath.

The starting point of our canal walk

The towpath is quite wide along here and cycling with care is permitted.  We enjoyed the peace and tranquility of viewing some of Manchester’s historic buildings beside the canal, there’s a mix of converted old warehouses, bars and modern style urban waterfront apartments.  The city seems to take on a different perspective along the canal bank, away from the hustle and bustle of Market Street and other city centre thoroughfares and it makes for an interesting stroll.

Lock on Rochdale Canal

We passed three locks on our way, sadly no canal boats entering the locks for us to watch but numerous brightly coloured canal boats were moored in the dock basin further along.  We found several inviting bars with balconies overlooking the canal where locals were enjoying weekend drinks in the sunshine.

The Rochdale canal with the Beetham Tower in the distance

As the canal reaches the junction with the Ashton canal, the towpath changes sides and we needed to walk across the lock gates to gain access to the other bank.  The towpath then changes back again a little further on.  In the above photograph the Beetham Tower can be seen.  This landmark 47 storey skyscraper was completed in 2006 and at a height of 169 metres is the tallest building in the U.K. outside of London.  The Hilton Hotel occupies up to Level 22 and on the next level, 23 there is a bar known as Cloud 23 which is cantilevered out by 4 metres,  this can been seen by the dark ‘stripe’ on the tower. The above floors are stylish apartments with the top floors having triplex penthouses!

Crossing the bridge to the other towpath

Our walk continued under the short Deansgate tunnel, past one more lock and into the Castlefield basin where we found several canal boats some of which were privately owned whilst others were holiday hire boats.  Reaching the end of the canal we headed back up Liverpool Road then turned onto Deansgate, taking us back into the city centre.

Manchester Town Hall

If you are planning a visit to Manchester it might be worth considering this canal side walk and you can reward yourselves after completing it by stopping off for drinks in Cloud 23.

Other posts I have written on Manchester may also be of interest :

BBC MediaCityUK Tour

Salford Quays and MediaCityUK

Manchester Christmas Markets

A walk through Manchester