As a former Castlefield resident, I’ve run this canal route countless times.
It has a lot going for it: peaceful canals, cobbled streets, viaducts that double-up as TV sets and an inspirational halfway point in Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium. Oh, and it’s traffic free!
Let’s get to it…
Canal run starting point – Deansgate train station
The run begins at Deansgate Castlefield Metrolink station. The train track runs above the canal, with multiple entry points to the towpath.
Once waterside, head along Bridgewater canal away from the city. You’ll emerge on the cobbled road opposite the Lock Keeper’s cottage – rumoured to be the only detached house in Manchester city centre.
Take the large footbridge (Merchant’s Bridge) in front of you to join the canal on the right.
For future reference, you’ve already passed two of Castlefield’s finest sun trap pubs at this point – The Wharf and Dukes 92. Both are blessed with large outdoor spaces that come alive on a rare sunny day in Manchester. You can thank me later!
Once you’ve crossed to the other side, immediately turn back on yourself to follow the canal footpath on your right.
For fellow snappy runners, this area has lots of photo opportunities with narrowboats and graffiti framed by railway arches, bridges and mills.
You stay on this side of the Bridgewater canal tow path for 2km, passing Deansgate Castlefield Metrolink station and the ever-changing Ordsall skyline.
Your exit point is Throstles Nest bridge, a small pedestrian wrought iron bridge that allows you to cross the Bridgewater Canal and continue your journey along the Bridgwater Way, on the other side of the canal.
You’ll pass alongside Victoria Warehouse, the original home of dance night The Warehouse Project, before exiting at Hotel Football next the Old Trafford. I’ve encountered many an away football manager and their backroom staff on this stretch, limbering up on the morning of European games.
The Old Trafford stadium is a marvel in itself. So much history in one place.
The Manchester United trio of George Best, Denis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton are there to greet you in statue form. I also liked to run through the concourse areas around the stadium, which are unlocked and open to the public.
As you’ve come this far, I recommend exploring into MediaCityUK. Home to the BBC, ITV, Imperial War Museum North and others, it’s a huge development straddling River Irwell and the Manchester Ship Canal. There’s always something going on to observe, whether an outside news broadcast, filming in the Blue Peter garden, or rowers and wild swimmers.
It’s then the return leg, retracing your steps back to Castlefield. Towards the growing number of skyscrapers in its vista.
Anybody wanting to add some extra distance may wish to check out Castlefield Bowl. The outdoor events pavilion is the gateway to the first passenger railway station in the world on Liverpool Road.
The Manchester and Liverpool railway line opened in 1830 to transport people and cargo linked to the booming cotton industry of Manchester. You’d never know its significance from the outside but for a discrete heritage plaque. This was a passenger station only until 1844, when Hunts Bank, now Victoria Station, came into use. The buildings are now part of the Museum of Science and Industry complex and a fitting end to this route.