Route 66 of the National Cycle Network runs from Old Trafford football stadium in Manchester to Spurn Head in Yorkshire via Bradford, Leeds, York, Beverley, and Kingston upon Hull.
While there are some on-road sections Route 66 also contains several lovely stretches of traffic-free cycle path along canals and disused railway lines. Cycling past the various stretches of water, including the Rochdale Canal, the Calder and Hebble Navigation and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal all make for a wonderfully tranquil escape from the city.
The Calder & Hebble Navigation, which is part-canal and part-river, was once part of a very industrial area. However, it’s now a peaceful, rural route which connects the Yorkshire and Pennine canals. The Calder & Hebble Navigation has some interesting waterways architecture, of particular interest are its quirky lever-operated locks.
The Rochdale Canal, which opened in 1804, once carried coal, agricultural produce and materials for the textiles industry which flourished in the local area. However, with the growth of rail and road transport, regular through-traffic ended just before World War II and the canal closed as a through route not long afterward.
These two sections of the route will fascinate anyone who’s interested in the history of British waterways and they make for a lovely day out by the water.
Route 66 also includes the excellent Spen Valley Greenway. As you cycle along the disused railway line from Ravensthorpe to Oakenshaw make sure to keep your eye out for some of the artworks which are located along this stretch of greenway.
Between Shipley and Leeds, Route 66 is entirely traffic-free on the Aire Valley Towpath along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. This section is a real treat for those who are interested in history or engineering. The locks on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal are an 18th-century masterpiece. They operate as a 'staircase' flight in which the lower gate of one lock forms the upper gate of the next. When completed in 1774, thousands gathered to watch the first boats make the 60-foot descent. Now, over 200 years later, the flight is still in daily use.
Route 66 is a wonderful ride which includes several calm stretches of canal side cycling and the chance to see some of this area’s fascinating industrial heritage.
The sections which are currently open and signed in both directions are: Manchester Piccadilly to Hollinwood, Castleton to Calderbrook, Warland to Brighouse, Bradley to Frizinghall, Shipley to Bramham via Leeds, Tadcaster to Bishopthorpe, Millenium Bridge York to Etton and Cottingham to Kingston upon Hull.
We have taken all responsible steps to ensure that these routes are safe and achievable by people with a reasonable level of fitness. However, all outdoor activities involve a degree of risk. To the extent permitted by law, Sustrans accepts no responsibility for any accidents or injury resulting from following these routes. Walking and cycling routes change over time. Weather conditions may also affect path surfaces. Please use your own judgement when using the routes based upon the weather and the ability, experience and confidence levels of those in your group.
To make sure everyone gets the most out of their time by the water, please ensure you follow the Towpath Code.