A walk along the Rochdale Canal in Central Manchester

One sunny afternoon in Manchester, instead of shopping we decided to take a 7 km canal side walk through the heart of the city.  The Rochdale canal runs from the Bridgewater canal at the Castlefield basin across the Pennines to join the Calder and Hebble Navigation at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, a distance of 32 miles.  We commenced our walk at Piccadilly Railway Station, leaving from the main exit, down the station approach ramp.  After continuing along the road for approximately 100m we reached the canal, just needing to cross the road and descend a short flight of stone steps leading down to the Rochdale canal towpath.

Rochdale Canal, Central Manchester
The starting point of our canal walk

The towpath is quite wide along here and cycling with care is permitted.  We enjoyed the peace and tranquility of viewing some of Manchester’s historic buildings beside the canal, there’s a mix of converted old warehouses, bars and modern style urban waterfront apartments.  The city seems to take on a different perspective along the canal bank, away from the hustle and bustle of Market Street and other city centre thoroughfares and it makes for an interesting stroll.

Rochdale Canal, Manchester
Lock on Rochdale Canal

We passed three locks on our way, sadly no canal boats entering the locks for us to watch but numerous brightly coloured canal boats were moored in the dock basin further along.  We found several inviting bars with balconies overlooking the canal where locals were enjoying weekend drinks in the sunshine.

Rochdale Canal, Manchester
The Rochdale canal with the Beetham Tower in the distance

As the canal reaches the junction with the Ashton canal, the towpath changes sides and we needed to walk across the lock gates to gain access to the other bank.  The towpath then changes back again a little further on.  In the above photograph the Beetham Tower can be seen.  This landmark 47 storey skyscraper was completed in 2006 and at a height of 169 metres is the tallest building in the U.K. outside of London.  The Hilton Hotel occupies up to Level 22 and on the next level, 23 there is a bar known as Cloud 23 which is cantilevered out by 4 metres,  this can been seen by the dark ‘stripe’ on the tower. The above floors are stylish apartments with the top floors having triplex penthouses!

Rochdale Canal, Manchester
Crossing the bridge to the other towpath

Our walk continued under the short Deansgate tunnel, past one more lock and into the Castlefield basin where we found several canal boats some of which were privately owned whilst others were holiday hire boats.  Reaching the end of the canal we headed back up Liverpool Road then turned onto Deansgate, taking us back into the city centre.

Manchester Town Hall
Manchester Town Hall

If you are planning a visit to Manchester it might be worth considering this canal side walk and you can reward yourselves after completing it by stopping off for drinks in Cloud 23.

Other posts I have written on Manchester may also be of interest:

BBC MediaCityUK Tour

Salford Quays and MediaCityUK

Manchester Christmas Markets



60 thoughts on “A walk along the Rochdale Canal in Central Manchester

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      1. I was born and raised in Wigan so have a love/hate relationship – I think of myself as Lancastrian but techincally I’m ‘greater Mancurian’ because they changed the borders around when I was born. But, I have to say, with as objective an eye as I can, that Manchester is one of the best cities in the UK. About a million times better than Birmingham for instance! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Hello Marion.

    Wonderful post, because I love canals. In Finland, we have canals here and there, because our water systems are on different levels. I lived, when young, in a town called Varkaus and there is Taipale canal. It is mainly intended for pleasure boats, but also cargo ships, because they need it for transporting goods.

    The Beetham Tower is awesome in my eyes. Thank You for this post.

    Have a wonderful day. Matti

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I have our vendor working with GE Siemens, a 60 years old man from Manchester…. I’ve always asked him, what’s in Manchester? Now I saw it from you…. Nice post! I’d always love seeing your post….. I’ll always pray for your good health condition and always take care so that you can post many more beautiful places…

    John Snow

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Cloud 23 has great views, we used to be able to see them filming Coronation Street before they moved to Salford. I’ve only been during the day time and it hasn’t been too busy. I love canal towpath walks anywhere. Thanks Joy for your ever welcome thoughts on my posts.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. Nice description which will encourage others to try canal paths as a way of getting that different perspective on cities like Manchester. I walked a canal path for 3 miles every day as a student. It was my daily commute. In those days industrial buildings were just an eyesore but modern redevelopment means new life in old places.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I did the same walk some months ago, but the weather was not so good and the canal was waiting for a team of volunteers to clean it up. It looks back to its best again now. I always love the mix of old and new, and the historic warehouses and architecture of Manchester always fascinate me. Manchester is my favourite city.

    Liked by 2 people

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