Canal boat holidays—Shropshire Union Canal

Published: Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Article Index

Secret bunker

But by far the greatest attraction on the waterway is the communications bunker at Hack Green, a vast underground complex, that remained secret for 50 years, but is now open for visitors. It shows how people worked and lived in the 35,000sq ft underground bunker, part of a vast secret radar network during the 'cold' war'. Mooring by Bridge 85 at Hack Green.

Canal society

The Shropshire Union Canal has the great advantage of having a very active society, the Shropshire Union Canal Society, that is responsible for a host of mooring and picnic sites along the waterway, so moorings on this particular waterway are very good indeed, a fact that is appreciated by many holiday boaters.

There are a few hire bases, and new marinas have been constructed recently, so boating facilities are much improved, though there is mile upon mile of deserted waterway, with nothing but perhaps just a single lock to break the monotony.

The main flight is at Audlem, comprising of 15 narrow locks, which are in no way difficult, each within walking distance, with good paddle gear. There are two smaller flights at each side of Market Drayton, at Adderley and Tyrley, both of five locks each.

The waterway can be quite busy during holiday periods where it comprises part of the Four Counties Ring, especially with beginners at the lock flights. Congestion can be exacerbated by hirers from around Nantwich and Middlewich heading for, or returning from, the Llangollen Canal where it joins the Shropshire Union.


After the the junction with the Middlewich Branch, the canal becomes broad, with a two locks staircase and a further three locks staircase in Chester, dropping the waterway that was once the lock free Chester Canal to Ellesmere Port.

This waterway is recommended for new hirers, being ideal for a relaxing holiday, as it is by no means strenuous, with many miles of lock free boating. One difficulty in mooring is that for many miles it has a protruding ledge below the water level that prevents getting the boat right into the side. Also is has mile upon mile of moored boats, as seen in the picture, that can affect cruising times.

The canal is 66 miles long, has 47 locks, a single tunnel, embankments and cuttings but no lift or swing bridges.

Ease of operation ✪✪✪✪

Ease of passage ✪

Features ✪✪

Boat facilities ✪✪✪

Shopping ✪

Moorings ✪✪✪✪

The more black stars the better.