Two-mile canal walk from Silsden to Kildwick
This lock-free stretch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal blows you off your feet with some of the most uplifting open countryside anywhere on England’s canal networks. Relax on a country stroll through a quiet meandering waterways landscape which feels remote and gloriously green, with birdsong for company and views former mills, dry-stone walls and grazing sheep and cows.
Boats pass you on the water while other walkers or cyclists pass you on the towpath - wave and let them pass because on this walk, you won’t want to rush.
Canal: Leeds & Liverpool Canal
Start: Silsden Bridge OS Grid ref: SE041461 Postcode: BD20 0EB
Finish: Redman Swing Bridge OS Grid ref: SE009460 Postcode: BD20 9BJ
Distance: 3.2km / 2 miles
Start: Silsden was once busy with the sound of industry from its former textile mills and nail-making forges. The stunning Grade II*-listed former worsted mill, chimney and engine house of Waterloo Mill, dates from the 1860s. Its 1896 steam engine last powered the looms in 1977, but the engine house has recently been repaired thanks to funding. Descend stone steps from Silsden Bridge to the canal towpath then turn to follow the towpath under the bridge.
1. Across the canal is the boatyard for Silsden Boats, busy with bright-coloured holiday hire boats. Their canalside warehouse dates back to the 18th-century origins of the canal.
2. As the canal curves leaving the town behind, note the ‘½’-mile milepost. Mileposts were required to tell working boatmen the distances they’d travelled and therefore how much toll would be due to canal companies who charged on a ton and mile basis. Leeds & Liverpool Canal Company marked every ¼, ½, ¾ and mile along the canal, or the distance from both Leeds and Liverpool. Many of these mileposts have been restored or replaced thanks to special funding for the canal’s 200th anniversary in 2016.
3. The leafy landscape opens around you. Follow the grassy towpath, passing allotments opposite then fields lined by drystone walls, with sweeping views down to the River Aire in the valley below and across to the hills beyond.
4. The canal swirls its way past boat moorings at a farm opposite as it approaches Cowling Swing Bridge, first of several swing bridges on this walk. The way ahead is usually clear but, if the bridge is in use moving cows or tractors across the canal, a gate gives walkers access through. And of course the bridge may need to be swung open for passing boats.
5. Canoe portage signs are dotted along the towpath. The entire Leeds & Liverpool Canal is part of the Desmond Family Canoe Trail, running 162 miles coast to coast from Liverpool to Goole.
6. The towpath runs through a dappled wooded stretch, with glimpses of the river below. The canal looks green as overhanging trees reflect in its water. The only sounds are birdsong from the hedges, the moos of cows in the fields and the occasional putt-putt of a boat passing on the water. Keep your eyes peeled for swans, herons, kingfishers and perhaps even a water vole or otter.
7. Just beyond Grange Swing Bridge and moorings, you’ll notice the curved wall of Grange Aqueduct carrying the canal over the diminutive Grange Beck below.
8. A line of moored boats announces your arrival into Kildwick, and a view down to the Grade I-listed Kildwick Bridge carrying the Keighley road over the River Aire. One of the earliest documented medieval bridges in the country, it was originally built in the early 1300s for the monks of nearby Bolton Abbey.
9. Just beyond Warehouse Swing Bridge and a row of terraced houses, the Grade I-listed Church of St Andrew also dates to the 1300s and the monks of Bolton Abbey. The distinctive Grade II-listed Parsons Bridge 186, built in 1774, was an important footway linking the church with the vicarage and Kildwick Hall above the canal.
10. The canal and towpath swirl through Kildwick with spectacular effect. Yorkshire-stone homes, gardens and converted former mills line the canal and look across the water to the awe-inspiring views beyond. Farnhill Aqueduct, again built in 1774 and now Grade II-listed, carries the canal over Main Street below.
End: This is a great spot for a break before you hop on a bus or retrace your steps along the towpath to Silsden, enjoying this glorious walk from a different viewpoint.