Bank Newton - Approaching top lock

Leeds & Liverpool Canal

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal is 127¼ miles (205 K) long making it the longest continuous canal in the country.  It is also one of the most varied and scenic canals, passing through areas of industrial heritage and natural beauty. Route.

Construction of the Canal began in 1770, but was not completed until 1816.  Since then the Canal has undergone a number of changes and developments. Chronology of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Today it offers a wide variety of leisure activities.  Overall responsibility for the management and maintenance of the Canal rests with the Canal & River Trust.


The Leeds & Liverpool Canal is unique, whilst at the same time being very illustrative of the transitions through which many of the British canals have passed.

There was a long period of gestation followed by approximately one hundred years of relative success even when confronted by increasing competition from the railways.

There was then a steady decline between the two world wars culminating in a post-war ‘crisis’.  Read more…

From Commerce to Leisure

The final decline of commercial traffic on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal occurred somewhat later than it had on other inland British waterways (owing to the width of the Canal and the number of industrial towns that it interconnected.

From the end of the Second World War the Inland Waterways Association had fought doggedly for the restoration and maintenance of pre-existing canals.

These efforts were rewarded when Barbara Castle, as Minister of Transport, designated 1400 miles of non-commercially viable canals to be ‘leisure ways’.  Read more…

Boats of the Canal

The 250 years history of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal have seen major changes in methods of propulsion.  Apart from the stretches of ‘legging’ boats through the tunnels, initially the only option was horse power.

Boats at the time were universally wooden in construction.

As means of propulsion developed other options were available – steam and diesel – and with the added power that these provided a shift towards steel construction.  Read more…

The Leisure Canal Today

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal today offers a range of leisure opportunities.  The opportunity that continues to characterise the canals is boating.

On the water there is a noticeable growth in canoeing and kayaking as leisure activities and even more recently the emergence of paddle boarding.

On the towpath, fishing remains a popular activity; and the gentle nature of the level of the path make it particular attractive to walkers and cyclists.  Read more…