7 Hrs / Day • 44 or 60 Locks
Burnley to Bingley - through Barrowford Locks, Foulridge Tunnel, Greenberfield / Bank Newton & Gargrave Locks, then option of Bingley 5-Rise / 3-Rise and back
Boating from Burnley to Bingley is a journey from the nostalgia of lost weaving mills in Burnley, onwards into some of the best open countryside anywhere on England's canal networks, until your journey's end trumpets its thrilling finale in the magnificent canal engineering of Bingley Five-Rise staircase locks.
The Weavers' Triangle is a roughly triangular area around the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Burnley. 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. Burnley was once the weaving capital of the world and historic buildings still wrap around the canal. 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 head northwards from Burnley, 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! You can follow a trail 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.
The route carries on 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.
Beyond Foulridge, the countryside 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.
The views remain therapeutic as you travel onwards to Skipton. 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 carries on towards Keighley. Here, steam trains pull every traveller's eye away from the canal, and tissues should be at the ready since this railway line was made famous during the filming of ‘The Railway Children’. To add to the romance in the air, Haworth, home of the Brontes, is only 4 miles from here too.
Your journey continues lazily along its long lock-free pound towards Bingley. But brace yourself for one of Britain's most thrilling lock experiences - Bingley Five-Rise is one of the 7 Wonders of the Waterways! It is the steepest lock staircase in Britain and a howling treasure of Britain's canals. It was built in 1774, and it's said over 30,000 people flocked to see it being opened. The drama still rolls today as unspeakable gallons of water lift boats through a precipitous 60ft climb. Luckily a lock keeper oversees the flight so that your daring adventure can be safely enjoyed.
There is a winding hole just above Five-Rise if you prefer to turn your boat and sightsee the flight from the towpath before you retrace your route back to Burnley. Or, if you’re an adrenalin-seeker, you can conquer the Five-Rise and the Three-Rise shortly beyond before turning your boat to journey back 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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