Four miles north of Macclesfield and just outside the Peak District National Park boundary, the old mill town of Bollington stretches out along the valley floor and up the hill towards the pretty village of Kerridge. Don’t be misled by the name: it’s not the River Bollin winding its way through the centre but the River Dean, en route to join forces with the Bollin in Wilmslow. The Macclesfield Canal runs straight through town too, carried on top of a mighty stone embankment, as does the Middlewood Way, a former railway line that closed in 1970 and is now a popular track for walkers, cyclists and horseriders.
The beauty of combining the Middlewood Way and Macclesfield Canal in a circular walk is that it’s endlessly flexible, and can be as long or as short as you want. The route described here is a short one but if you want to walk further you can just extend it at either or both ends – the path and canal run close together for much of their length, making it easy to switch and swap from one to the other. Click here to download a copy of the Middlewood Way leaflet, which also includes details of the canal path. Apart from a few access steps, this route is largely flat, making it perfect if you’re after a gentle stroll rather than a more taxing climb.
Start: Adlington Rd, SJ931780; 2½ miles; easy, along footpath, towpath & (briefly) minor roads
1 From the car park, take the flight of steps up on to the viaduct, which brings you out on to the Middlewood Way. Turn right and head north along the path until you come to bridge 8 (Holehouse Ln).
2 Come off the path here and up on to the road. If you turn left here, the Windmill Inn (check website for new opening hours) is just a short distance down the road. It serves a selection of local ales and is a popular stop for a pub lunch, especially in summer, when you can take advantage of the large beer garden, and kids can have fun exploring the small windmill-shaped maze. Otherwise head right and it’s only about a minute’s walk to the canal.
3 Go down on to the towpath to the right and head back towards Bollington. Before too long, you’ll come to Clarence Mill on your left, a large 19th-century cotton mill.
4 At this point you can cross over the bridge to the other side to visit the Discovery Centre, where you can learn all about the history of the town and the people who manned the mills (although it is closed at the time of writing). Alternatively, stop off at Café Waterside for a coffee and a cake. Then, suitably refreshed, carry on, past houseboats moored up, and look left to catch a glimpse of White Nancy high on the hill. This conical stone monument serves as a symbol of Bollington, built by the Gaskell family in 1817 to commemorate the British victory at the Battle of Waterloo a couple of years earlier.
5 Continue along the canal as it crosses over Palmerston Street, then past houses with gardens that come down to the water, and soon, on your right, you’ll see another big mill, the Adelphi, and some metal railings.
6 Come off the towpath at the gate just before the mill and go down the steps on to Grimshaw Lane, then turn left and walk for a short distance, past Bailey Business Park on the right, until you reach a grassy area on your right, signposted Middlewood Way.
7 Turn right on the footpath here, with a finger post pointing to Higher Poynton. You’ll soon pass the labyrinth on your right, a stone circle maze that was created for the Bollington Festival in 2009. Carry on, under a bridge then over a bridge (crossing the main road) and then you’ll be back where you started, on the viaduct by the skate park, where going down the steps will return you to Adlington Road. The Vale Inn is a very short distance up the road on your right if you’re ready for a post-walk drink (when it reopens).
Discover more walks in the area in our Slow Travel guide: