Lock free cruising on Lancaster Canal

The Lancaster Canal runs from Tewitfield near the Lake District to Preston, Lancashire, providing over 42 miles (68km) of navigable waterway and it's the longest lock free strecth of canal in the country. Originally opened in 1797, the canal was created to transsport materials and produce for local industry. Now the canal and surroundings areas are popular tourist destinations in the North-West of England. 

Starting your journey

Your journey begins at Tewitfield Marina at the northern end of the canal, just minutes away from junction 35 of the M6 motorway. Here you will meet the team and, more importantly, be introduced to your boat. After a comprehensive training session, you will take charge of your narrowboat to embark on your canal boat holiday with a difference.

As you meander southward, you pass through the picturesque villages of Borwick and Capernwray, before arriving in the charming market town of Carnforth. This is the perfect opportunity to stock up on essential supplies at the market or from the local Tesco store, just 200 yards from your mooring.

While you're moored, why not explore the footpaths leading to ‘The Kellets’ to the east, Morecambe Bay to the west or the Visitor Centre at Carnforth Railway station, famed for its industrial history and an appearance in Noel Coward's ‘Brief Encounter’. Returning from your travels, quench your thirst at the Canal Turn, a lovely pub overlooking the canal.

Lancashire's Shores

Continuing along the canal for 4.5 miles you come across the town of Bolton-le-Sands. Once moored in Bolton-le-Sands, it is a short, brisk walk to the coast and scenic shoreline. It is not uncommon to spot sea-birds such as curlew and oyster-catchers, plus other wildlife including deer, squirrels and rabbits in this corner of rural Lancashire. Have your camera at the ready!

Onward, toward the Lancashire coast at Hest Bank, you can enjoy views of the Lake District to the north and stunning vistas over Morecambe Bay as the sun sinks into the sea. You can also try a guided walk over the sands of Morecambe Bay to the coastal town of Grange-over-Sands.

Historic City

Moving inland once-more, the canal leads on towards its namesake, the city of Lancaster, county town of Lancashire. Once a leading industrial centre, Lancaster now is home to a university and many tourist attractions, including its maritime museum, excellent array of shops and historic castle. Infamous for being the home of the Pendle Witch trials, the castle is a great activity and offers a fascinating journey back in time.

The canal crosses over the river Lune to the north of Lancaster and leads southward through its outskirts, before cutting back into the city. Here, the canal passes a number of excellent pubs and eateries minutes from the water, if not immediately on the banks. Take a seat alongside the canal at The Water Witch and enjoy one of their tasty local cheese-board selections, washed down with regional ales and fruit beer.

A short walk from the mooring at The Water Witch is Williamson Park, home to the Ashton Memorial, which was built in 1907-1909. This beautiful building serves as a classical concert venue, but also features an observation platform around the second floor with great views over Lancaster and the surrounding park and gardens can be admired from there. Adjacent to the memorial is Lancaster's butterfly house where you can walk among some of the most beautiful species of butterflies and tropical birds, or explore the ‘minibeast cave’ - a favourite with the kids.

To the Countryside & Coast

The canal quickly returns to the green fields and open countryside before reaching Galgate, 4 miles south of Lancaster. Moor up alongside Galgate's Canalside Craft Centre and browse their varied products and gifts. Or pop into the The Plough Inn next door for a variety of home-made meals.

At this point in your journey, you have the option to leave the Lancaster Canal and follow the Glasson Branch to the west, via locks. Passing The Stork Inn - a South African themed pub and restaurant - the canal guides you towards the coastal village of Glasson Dock. Various annual community events, including the Maritime weekend, draw the crowds and of course, visit the famous Port of Lancaster Smokehouse and pick up some of their excellent produce.

Markets & Events

Back on the Lancaster Canal and travelling south, we arrive at the bustling market-town of Garstang. This is a perfect point to stop and replenish food supplies or just explore the narrow streets and local hospitality. Th'Owd Tithe Barn and the Farmer's Arms provide excellent meals and ales to locals and visitors alike.

Continuing over the River Wyre via John Rennie's Garstang Aqueduct, the canal continues its winding route through the quaint neighbourhood. Next we reach the small village of Bilsborrow, whose social centre is at Guys Thatched Hamlet, a complex consisting of a public house & pizzaria, hotel, bowling green, cricket pitch and a few shops. Public mooring is allowed immediately alongside the complex. Seasonal events here include Morris Dancing, Ice Skating and the Oktoberfest beer festival, to mention but a few.

Carrying on cruising, following alongside the A6 twisting your way through the peaceful countryside and you soon reach the small charming village of Salwick, here you can find a pub The Hand and Dagger which is located right on the canal bank where you can go enjoy a fine home-cooked meal or just have a refreshing drink.

The Final Stretch

Now you’re nearing the 1 of the UK’s newest city Preston and the end of the lock free canal, the waterway snakes through fields and into more developed surroundings. This is a perfect point to reflect on your journey and choose from your favourite spots along the route to revisit on your return. The Lancashire countryside has so much to offer, we're sure you will have a full, yet relaxing canal boat holiday with Pintail Boats.       

Find out more about the canal route from British Waterways

Railway Transport to the Cities

There are four railway stations along the Lancaster Canal, Carnforth, Lancaster, Salwick and Preston. Carnforth station has trains that run from Manchester Airport to Barrow-in-Furness on the Furness Line and to Morecambe and Leeds. Lancaster’s station is also on the Furness Line but you can also get trains to Glasglow Central, Birmingham New Street and London Euston. Salwick station has access to Preston and Blackpool, allowing you to venture further into the Fylde area and beyond if you so wish. Preston station has links to all major cities around the country so access to any city is in reach. 

Future Development

The Northern Reaches Restoration Group (NRRG) and the Lancaster Canal Restoration Partnership are planning a multi-million pound project to restore the canal from Tewitfield to Kendal in Cumbria, providing a further 14 miles (22 km) of waterways for you to explore! Anyone wishing to get involved with the Trust should visit www.lancastercanaltrust.org.uk.