This formerly isolated canal is now ’linked’ to the main system, albeit via a slightly tricky tidal passage along the River Ribble from the Rufford Branch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Those who take the initiative to use the new Ribble Link are well rewarded, and are often reluctant to return to the hurly- burly of the main system.
This quiet, wide and delightfully scenic canal penetrates almost to the Lake District. It stretches for over 40 lock-free miles from Preston through Garstang, Galgate, Lancaster and Carnforth to its ignominious terminus at Tewitfield, where it was prematurely cut off when the M6 was built in the late 1960s. But there are long-standing plans to reopen the Northern Reaches to give access through even more delightful countryside to Kendal.
In the meantime there is plenty to enjoy as you cruise leisurely between mountains and coast. At Hest Bank you can even tie up for a quick trip to the beach, and a visit to Morecambe Bay! Close to Lancaster the canal also boasts Rennie’s impressive Lune Aqueduct.
And if the lock-free cruising gets too relaxing, you can venture down the six locks of the Glasson Branch to visit Glasson Basin, where the canal meets the sea (well, the Lune estuary) and there is a totally different atmosphere to that normally found on the canal network.