Greater Manchester is very proud of its canal network. Spanning all ten boroughs and beyond, it is an important symbol of the city’s vital role in the Industrial Revolution and the creation of the city we know and love today.
A walk on the canal can be an excellent way to explore Manchester and see the city from a new angle. So many of the most popular local tourist attractions are located near or on the canal network – Old Trafford, the Etihad stadium, the Gay Village, Media City to name but a few.
But enjoying a long walk by the water is not the only fun to be had on the Manchester canals. There are some creative Mancunians who have found novel ways to capitalise on the passing foot traffic.
From pizza to parties, here are some of the more unconventional ways to have fun on the canal.
Exploring the canals can really make you work up an appetite. But before you head off in search of a pub lunch, why not consider the Waltzing Matilda – a pizzeria on a canal boat, which you can find travelling between towns on the Macclesfield canal running through Stockport. All the pizzas are made by hand and cooked in the boat’s wood-fired oven, and you can also pick up hot drinks and cakes.
There is limited space on the inside, which is why booking online beforehand is essential, but they do put tables on the towpath as well when it is sunny and there are some walk-in slots. The location of the boat is always changing so follow their Facebook for more information.
Safari Narrowboat Tea Room
About an hour’s walk from Manchester city centre, heading east on the Ashton canal, you will end up at Droylsden Marina, home to a community of narrowboat residents and the Safari Narrowboat tea room. There’s space for around 12 people inside, but they also put chairs out when it’s sunny. Their menu consists of all the British lunchtime favourites, such as a full English, soups, sandwiches and afternoon tea, which you can even get with a glass of bubbly.
They are open Wednesday-Sunday, 9am-3pm, with last orders for breakfast at 11:45am. More information, including how to book, can be found on their Facebook page.
Any city that has a body of water running through it is bound to have party boats, and in Manchester you will normally find them on the Bridgewater Canal sailing in between Castlefield and Salford Quays. They are are popular choice for private parties, but there are also some public events to keep an eye out for.
Some of the options include Manchester River Cruises, which hosts themed music nights (Elvis, Rat Pack, 90s, to name but a few), as well as kids’ events, Cocktails Ahoy, and Drybarge, which also offers a water taxi service to Old Trafford on match days.
Canal Boat AirBnB
Boat life is not for everyone; space is tight, you have to be careful with how much water you use and if you don’t opt for permanent mooring, you have to move every couple of weeks. But if you want to experience canal boat life without all the hard work that comes with it, you can always spend a night on this AirBnB boat in Castlefield.
The Vatten Hus describes itself as a “floating penthouse, designed for class and practicality.” It features two king-sized bedrooms, a double bathroom with a double shower, an open plan kitchen living area with skylight and sofa bed and outdoor VIP seating. The living area also doubles as extra sleeping space, meaning you can fit up 6 people in the boat. You can find out more via the boat’s AirBnB profile.
If, after all these canal-related activities, you want to find out more about the canal’s history, head down the Ashton canal to Portland Basin, where you’ll find a museum dedicated to the history of the canals and the local area. One of the floors has been recreated into a 1920s street, complete with shop fronts, a pub, post office and houses. There is also a wide selection of canal and industrial era artefacts and cool facts about how the canal was built and operated.
The Rochdale canal runs through the city centre, right to the heart of Manchester’s Gay Village. Welcoming all walks of life, Canal Street has something for everyone – a tearoom, pubs, restaurants and clubs. It’s particularly worth a visit on August bank holiday weekend when it hosts Manchester’s annual pride event.
Here, you will also find Kampus, a new residential and leisure development that has a growing selection of restaurants, bars and cafes, as well as a regular program of events, such as beer festivals.