THE AIRE VALLEY TOWPATH ROUTE on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

Why not have a full day out on the Aire Valley Towpath Route?
There are a number of attractions and places of interest in between Leeds and Saltaire and further along the canal to Bingley. Local tourist information centres or specific attractions will provide you with further information.

Leeds – bustling with shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and theatres. A number of visitor attractions can be explored in Leeds including The Royal Armouries on the banks of the Aire & Calder Navigation, with dramatic live presentations including medieval jousting in the outdoor arena. The canal basin at Granary Wharf is on the edge of the city, with the start of the Aire Valley Towpath Route close by. The arches which support the railway station with the powerful River Aire below, are now home to a number of independent shops and restaurants.
Left; Kirkstall Bridge towpath before improvement

Right; Kirkstall Bridge towpath after improvement

Leeds Industrial Museum is located at Armley Mills, between the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and the River Aire at Armley (bridge 225). This is a working musuem of Leeds industries and includes such exhibits as restored woollen machinery, replicas of clothing sweat shops and a coal mine. Kirkstall is steeped in history – medieval Kirkstall Abbey, on the banks of the River Aire, commenced construction in 1152. Opposite the ruins of the Abbey is the Abbey House Museum where three Victorian Streets have been recreated in the Old Abbey Gatehouse. The Old Bridge Inn close by, was reputed to have served as a mortuary for the monks at the Abbey – watch out for those spirits! The former Kirkstall Brewery overshadows the canal and is now home to student accommodation for Leeds University.

Left; Moss Weir towpath before improvement

Right; Moss Weir towpath after improvement

As the Aire Valley Towpath Route continues away from Leeds, it passes Bramley Falls – a picturesque haven amongst the urban suburbs of Leeds. Rodley offers an opportunity to stop for a bite to eat and rest weary legs – a number of pubs and shops are a short walk away. Rodley Nature Reserve (by bridge 218, Moss Swing Bridge) is open on Saturday and Sundays from 10.00 to 4.00. Please slow down or dismount when cycling past the entrance to Rodley Nature Reserve as pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles use the towpath to gain access to the reserve and neighbouring buildings.
The stretch of towpath between Rodley and Apperley Bridge is lined with an area of picturesque farm and woodland – Lodge Wood and Calverley Wood provide an opportunity to stop and watch the birds and wildlife.
Left; Rodley towpath before improvement

Right; Rodley towpath after improvement

Apperley Bridge Marina is constructed on the site of the boatyard where the record winning boat, rowed by Chay Blythe and John Ridgeway across the Atlantic in 1966, was built. The coffee shop is open most days, so call in for a drink and watch the world go by! The British Waterways office at Apperley Bridge houses an original forge and workshop used by generations of blacksmiths for making swing bridge and lock fittings and tools. The forge has recently been restored and is now in use again for the first time in 50 years by a local blacksmith.

A short walk from the Aire Valley Towpath Route is the famous village of Esholt – the original home of Emmerdale Farm. The Woolpack still dominates the village and Emmerdale merchandise can be purchased at the Post Office. For those with families, St Leonards Farm in the village provides an opportunity to feed a variety of rare and modern animal breeds.

As the route curves around Buck Wood, Thackley and continues towards Shipley, the bridleway from bridge 211, Buck Mill Lane Swing Bridge takes you over the River Aire to Baildon.

Left; Junction Bridge towpath before improvement

Right; Junction Bridge towpath after improvement

The short branch of water off the canal at Junction Bridge, Shipley is all that remains of the Bradford Canal. The canal was first suggested by Bradford’s merchants who also provided much of the funding. The branch was completed in 1774 with the main cargo being wool and limestone. The canal finally closed in 1922 and although most of the route is now filled in and built on, the original line can still be followed to its end at Forster Square, Bradford.

Shipley is a busy town with a variety of shops, supermarkets, markets and public transport links. The redevelopment of canal side buildings has revitalised this area, now home to offices, trip boats and restaurants.

Saltaire is firmly secured on the global map as the village has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The magnificent mill is now home to the largest collection of David Hockney paintings in Britain, designer shops, restaurants and cafes. The village has a wide selection of shops and the tourist information centre organise interesting and entertaining guided walks for groups. For those wanting to take a short walk away from the Aire Valley Towpath Route, follow the signs from the canal to Shipley Glen Tramway and either catch the tram to Shipley Glen or take the path alongside. Shipley Glen provides fantastic views over Bradford, with the imposing Lister Mills on the horizon. Bracken Hall Countryside Centre, alongside Shipley Glen, has displays on geology, local and natural history. Why not call into the Old Glen House pub before heading back down to the Aire Valley Towpath Route.

Left; Saltaire Mill towpath

Right; Saltaire Mill towpath

Beyond Saltaire, the route continues to Bingley passing Hirst Wood and Dowley Gap Changeline Bridge. This style of bridge ensured the continuous moving of the horse-drawn boats, without the need to untie the horse as the towpath passed from one side of the canal to the other. The Fishermans pub is close by with access from the canal towpath.

Bingley is the home of the world famous Five Rise Locks and it’s not so famous, but equally as impressive, neighbour, the Three Rise Locks. Both are magnificent examples of engineering and design; many a visitor has stopped to watch the boats pass through the locks.
The café at the top of Five Rise Lock flight is open throughout the summer and provides a refreshing reward to those who have completed this section of the Aire Valley Towpath Route. A new cycle bridge provides a link over the dual carriageway to Bingley town centre.


Be courteous and considerate and warn others of your approach in good time. Say “hello” and “thank you”. Remember some people may be deaf, partially sighted or blind.
Give way to others on the towpath - pedestrians have priority.
Dismount under low and blind bridges and where the towpath narrows under bridges. Again warn others by ringing your bell.
Never race or skid - it is dangerous and breaks up the towpath surface.
Watch out for anglers’ equipment - please give them time to move it before you pass.
If you have to cycle along the towpath after dark, please use front and rear lights.
Please take care at all road crossing points. Stop and check for road traffic.
Take your litter home or use rubbish bins.
Don’t forget your puncture repair kit and pump, food and drink, waterproof jacket and a cycle lock.
Remember - give way to pedestrians.

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