6 hrs / Day • 44 Locks
Burnley to Skipton – through Barrowford Locks, Foulridge Tunnel, Greenberfield / Bank Newton & Gargrave Locks
This in an unforgettable journey that flings feisty history together with euphoric Pennine views and treats the traveller to a rare sense of wind-swept freedom only Yorkshire knows. A route that simultaneously fills and clears the mind with a panorama of sheer pleasure.
The 'ordinary' town of Burnley was once the weaving capital of the world. If you could travel back in time to visit this spot in the late 19th century, the clickety-clack of a staggering 79,000 looms would overwhelm your senses. The Weavers' Triangle is a modern name given to a roughly triangular area around the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Burnley. Historic buildings still wrap around the canal – weaving sheds, spinning mills, engine houses, warehouses and workers' homes. Terraced rooftops, silent mills and retired chimneys fill the skyline with nostalgia and respect for the human story behind the magnificent weaving industry.
As you leave Burnley behind, the M65 temporarily races alongside the water until it crosses over the canal at Barrowford. This sleepy 'motorway' village has an itchy relationship with speed. It is the ancestral home of Roger Bannister who ran the first 4-minute mile in 1954. Boats that pass through at their unhurried 4 miles an hour today may spare a smile. Although the faint-hearted may not want to dawdle too long, since Barrowford is renowned for the Pendle Witches! There's a trail you can follow from Pendle Heritage Centre to explore their spooky story from 400 years ago. Pendle Hill wafts ghostly stories over the village below, but it whispers a powerful story of religious reform too. George Fox scrambled to the top of the hill in 1652, and was moved to form the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) shortly afterwards. This spot is poignant for canal travellers, since many of the early canals were built by the businesses and philanthropy of the Quaker movement.
Carrying onwards the route climbs through Barrowford Locks and, once past top lock, you’ve reached the summit of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Mountainous views gust across from afar until the complete darkness of Foulridge Tunnel grips your boat for 1,640 yards (1,500m). There's no towpath inside the tunnel and boats must steer patiently through the dripping darkness. Tales are still told of the famous 1912 'cow' incident. The unfortunate beast fell into the canal near the tunnel mouth and in her flurry she staggered all the way through to the other end, where it's said she was revived with alcohol.
The countryside beyond Foulridge is blissfully remote and outstandingly beautiful heading towards Barnoldswick, and beyond to Greenberfield Locks. Secretly along this stretch the canal soothes old wars, disregarding history's bloody boundary as it flows seamlessly from Lancashire into Yorkshire.
The canal ambles onwards to East Marton and the keen scuffle of walking boots is as at home as the putt-putt of a boat engine for one mile where the famous Pennine Way follows the towpath.
The Leeds & Liverpool Canal skips onwards without a care in the world, inhaling a windswept landscape. You'll scramble through Bank Newton Locks, soak in the views across the valley, and cross the River Aire on a stone aqueduct. After 6 more locks the cute cottages, tearooms, pubs and church of Gargrave greet you. This place sits on the border of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and knows how to pull out all the stops for English charm. The Pennine Way crosses the canal at bridge 170, so cyclists and walkers reliably join boaters in the Dalesman Café.
Travelling beyond Gargrave to Skipton, the views remain therapeutic. Skipton is Saxon for sheep, but today the canal basin in Skipton is a hub for boats and ice cream. After exploring Skipton's many interesting sights, including a castle, your journey turns round to retrace its steps to Burnley.
The following are examples of the boats that you can hire from ABC Boat Hire at Reedley:
Alvechurch Wren - For a maximum of 4 people, 2+2 Berth, Length 49ft, Semi-traditional Stern
Alvechurch Duck - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 60ft, Cruiser Stern
Vintage (Wide Beam) - For a maximum of 9 people, 9 berth, Length 57ft, Cruiser Stern
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