Canal Route - London to Liverpool


I'm thinking of cycling from London to Liverpool (or vice versa) along the canals in May this year.

Have any of you done this route? If so, Id love to hear more about it... is the route as straight forward as it is in my head?
Do all of the canals link easy enough?

I ride my bicycle, Buddy, for pleasure and love the freedom you get on a bicycle. I reckon I can cycle this distance at approx 30 - 40 miles a day at my current level of fitness. Does that seem ok for this route? Perhaps a week is needed?

Would love to find out more!



Legendary Member
This question fired my imagination.

I don't know the route as I've no involvement in canal boating but a very quick Google says it's possible to make the trip by canal boat.

If there is a navigable route you could follow that. Your problem would be if there are rideable towpaths all the way. You might need to jump on to roads on some sections


What’s the point
Depends where you want to start in London too. Forget regents canal at limehouse as the Islington tunnel, lisson moorings and Maida Vale ? Tunnel and moorings will mean road riding.

Yo can get waaay past Milton Keynes easy enough. I did Watford gap to Milton Keynes on a Saturday a few years ago. Just to see if I could . It can be a bit rough in places but my tourer hybrid with 700x35. Tyres coped well.


I hate to put a damper on what sounds like a good trip, but just as a heads-up: riding on canal towpaths for long periods of time *can* get a bit monotonous. The scenery doesn't change much, and obviously the gradient doesn't. There's also the fact that in summer - particularly weekends - the towpaths can get busy in certain areas, with dog-walkers, fisherman, people just hanging out, etc. This can make it tedious going. I'd take maps (or whatever the kids use nowadays) so you can make detours, or just have a break for a few miles, as required. That said, I've gone up and down the section from London up to around Tring a fair bit and if I didn't enjoy it (in moderation) I wouldn't have repeated the experience.


Hello, thank you all for responding, its very interesting to hear your thoughts / advice.

I was planning on ending the trip in Camden Lock. So in fact I will now be getting the train to Liverpool and cycling all the way to London.

I'm excited about seeing parts of the countryside I've never been to ... or even heard of. And yes, great idea regarding a detour, I think I will definitely check out towns or villages on the way, but i do like the idea of sticking to the towpath (where possible).
I'm 33 years old and only learnt to ride a bike recently, so the idea of main roads is still scary for me - though I hear your point that canals can get monotonous.

BW/CART - great advice, thank you, and also the route planning link, this is very helpful.

When you've done long journeys, do you tend to pre book hotels? I'm just concerned that if i'm having tired day and cant make it those extra miles, then i'll lose the room and money - but also, if i'm having a great day and want to keep going, i don't want to feel i should stay put just because I have a room booked. Has anyone just gone for it and found a room on the day?
What would you advise?

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Legendary Member
Hi Alicia, re booking rooms. To my way of thinking you have the right attitude. Booking rigidly ahead is a restriction exactly as you describe. My approach is this.

Sometimes I book ahead the first night, and if this is your first tour it might be wise, as this is one less thing to worry about on the first day. It gives time to settle down on the tour etc.

After the first night I look at my likely finishing point for the next day. If it's quite rural I'll try to find accommodation and book ahead, if a well populated area I don't bother. If in a popular area it could be worth booking ahead for a Friday or Saturday night.

With the "see how it goes" on the day approach you do have to be prepared for this going badly wrong and struggling to find anywhere. I've only failed once** but had some close shaves.

** in France and I had to sleep wrapped in my survival blanket under a hedge. It rained as well!!
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Sounds like a good trip, and probably a good bit of fun.

Your route may be a bit awkward depending on how you want to ride, the canal in liverpool is the leeds-liverpool canal, and it goes a long way north and east (Manchester) before you start to head south again. The only alternative is to head to runcorn on the trans pennine route and then try to pick up the trent and mersey canal there. But that's not a fun ride as you have to navigate through halton and runcorn. I do that route fairly regularly as an extended commute home.

A better route if you are coming into Liverpool might be to head across the mersey to ellesmere port where you would pick up the Shropshire Union canal, a large part of that route is cycle paths anyway.

An slightly longer, but perhaps better alternative would be to head around the Wirral circular cycle route to west kirby, then down the wirral way, picking up the Chester millennium greenway to chester, and picking up the Shropshire union there. That would be around 35 miles or so of completely off road riding, given you could get the ferry to Birkenhead and pick up the circular there. I'd go for this last route myself if you are planning on sticking with canals, the Shropshire union should get you all the way to Birmingham, and you have a fair number of options from there.
@si_c suggests the Shropshire Union route, which is a nice canal and pretty direct. I happen to live alongside this canal, and the towpath would be pretty tricky to cycle in quite a few places, especially the southern stretches.


@si_c suggests the Shropshire Union route, which is a nice canal and pretty direct. I happen to live alongside this canal, and the towpath would be pretty tricky to cycle in quite a few places, especially the southern stretches.
Is that tricky on a road bike/tourer or tricky on a mountain bike?


Legendary Member
I live a few mins from a canal and have done a ton of such riding, I think you'd go stir crazy after a few days. I agree with Bodhbh, but think "monotonous" is a kind description, if it's grey and miserable, or worse, cold+wet. then there is just about nowhere else I'd rather not be, than on a towpath!
Personal safety is another consideration.

Canal towpaths are favourite gathering spots for n'er do wells, particularly in urban areas.

Several stories a year or two back of cyclists being deliberately pushed into the canal.

The OP - 'Alicia' - may be a woman cycling alone which makes her an even easier target.

That's not a reason to abandon the tour, but it's probably not a good idea to wing it with no forward accommodation.

Caution would be needed approaching any group of youths, and I would go for early starts and aim to be off the paths by late afternoon.
Good point pale rider.

Definitely true of bits of the Lee Valley route in London.

In general I always avoid all urban or even suburban traffic free routes after dark. Early in the morning/just pre dawn even if dark is OK I reckon - neer do wells will be crashed out somewhere after a hard night.
In general I always avoid all urban or even suburban traffic free routes after dark. Early in the morning/just pre dawn even if dark is OK I reckon.
I do the same, shouldn't have to but it's just being realistic.

It doesn't matter how hard you are, if you are one and they are several you will come off worst.

A mate of mine - who is a bit of a hard case - was attacked by a group of youths.

From what I can gather, he kicked off and gave a good account of himself.

But his expensive glasses were smashed in the fracas, and one of the yobs stamped on his bike breaking the derailleur.

Another risk is you accidentally cause a serious injury to one of your attackers.

Self defence, of course, but there's no guarantee it will come out that way once officialdom gets involved.
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