This cycle route, chosen as Stage 3 of the Sustrans Slow Tour of
Yorkshire, is from Leeds, along the towpath of the Leeds &
Liverpool canal, to Saltaire.
It's 12 miles one way, or 24 miles there and back. This is the
Sustrans leaflet for the ride.
It's an enjoyable ride. The canal passes through built-up areas and
countryside. The reflections in calm water are lovely. Early in the
morning, there are quite a few cycle commuters, and later on, there
are more people going for walks, but it's never all that busy.
(Perhaps a sunny, summer, Sunday afternoon might be different).
The surface starts out tarmac leaving Leeds, but then every stretch
seems to be different. The tar and chip, that was paid
for by Cycle City Connect as I reported in 2015, has settled
down quite well (September 2018), and most of the loose gravel has
gone. Ideally, there would be one, consistent surface type - that's
what you'd get in a country that provided for cycling in a serious,
professional way - but it wouldn't matter too much if all the
surfaces were good quality.
The incredibly disappointing part is beyond Apperley Bridge towards
Shipley, where there are long sections of rough, cart-track style
surface, which make for a bone-jarring ride. In 2015, the towpath
was supposed to be upgraded between Kirkstall and Shipley 'where
required', and decent funding was provided to the Canal & River
Trust by government, through Cycle City Connect, to do the work.
Well, the rotten surfaces towards Shipley do require upgrading, but
they haven't been done, which is pretty shameful.
One possibility is that the Canal & River Trust want to put
obstacles in the way of cycling on it, in the hope that some people
will be put off. Anyway, in spite of their efforts, this is a nice
Obstacle to cycling: speed bump, and speed bump
bypass routes created either side by bike riders
Leeds to Saltaire cycle route: map
The map shows the route from Leeds to Saltaire in yellow.
Leeds to Saltaire cycle route: route notes
Leeds to Kirkstall
If you start from Leeds station, you have to find your own way to
the canal. (After that, it's easy because it's signposted, and
anyway you just follow the canal).
Turn left out of the station on New Station Street, then right on
Bishopgate Street. Veer right on Neville Street, under the railway.
Take the tunnel to the right immediately after Brooks News.
Brooks News, Leeds
When you're in the tunnel (which has little or no traffic), you can
see the river Aire running a few metres below your feet. A left turn
brings you out at the newly re-developed Granary Wharf.
Granary Wharf, Leeds
There is no signage at Granary Wharf. I turned right out of the
tunnel, and went through Granary Wharf with the restaurants (shown
in the photo above) to my right, and the Double Tree Hilton Hotel to
my left. Equally, you could go straight on out of the tunnel, to
cross the canal, then turn right on Canal Wharf, and right again to
come back across the canal - see the map.
Either way, you reach the canal near two interesting red-brick
towers (and a third dull tower further left).
They are Italian-style bell towers, or campaniles. The
thinner one was built in 1864, modelled on the Lamberti
Tower in Verona; the thicker one was built in 1889, and is
based on the bell
tower of Florence Cathedral, but perhaps it is ever so
slightly less ornate.
The canal takes you north west out of Leeds City Centre, past
Bridge over the canal, Armley
You pass the Leeds
Industrial Museum at Armley Mills. There's a small museum sign
by the steps up from the canal.
Way to Leeds Industrial Museum from the canal
Next, there are a couple of cool bridges at Aire Valley Marina.
Bridge at Aire Valley Marina
Immediately after Aire Valley Marina, you're diverted off the
towpath and onto a very quiet road that runs parallel with it, past
an electricity sub-station. It's very nice as a cycle route - wide,
smooth, and no traffic to dodge. In September 2018, there was quite
a lot of rubbish which appeared to have been fly-tipped.
Diversion from the towpath onto Redcote Lane after
Aire Valley Marina
Next, you get limited views of Kirkstall
Abbey away to your right.
Kirkstall to Shipley
Canal at Rodley
After Kirkstall Abbey, there are a couple of looping bends, with
Bramley to your left and Horsforth to your right. You reach Rodley.
To the right, over a swing bridge, is Rodley Nature Reserve
- a very popular and well-managed nature reserve with habitats
including some wetland by the river Aire. A little further along,
there's a pub called the Rodley Barge, over to your left on the
other side of the canal.
Rodley Barge pub
Soon after, you come to Calverley Bridge Canalside Walk, where the
Tiny Tea Rooms is to your right, and has outdoor seating.
Calverley Canalside Walk
There's then a long-ish stretch which is more or less in the
countryside. Calverley Wood is across the canal, to your left. You
pass Apperley Bridge, then there's a little slope to go up by the
Field Locks, near Apperley Bridge
Head on to Esholt, with Dawson Wood and Buck Wood to your left.
Past Esholt, as you near Shipley, there are places where the towpath
is very narrow as it goes underneath bridges.
Canal near Shipley
Just before the centre of Shipley, you're diverted off the towpath
and onto Dockfield Road, which runs parallel to the canal, past the
Saltaire Brewery. It's a very quiet road, so it's no problem.
Saltaire Brewery on Dockfield Road
Shipley to Saltaire
Back on the towpath, it's not much further to Saltaire. You know
you're nearly there when you see the New Mill.
New Mill, Saltaire
An information board tells you about Saltaire.
Information board by the canal at Saltaire
The canal towpath brings you past Salts
Mill to a junction with Victoria Road, Saltaire. You have now
arrived at your destination!
Salts Mill, Saltaire
To your left, up Victoria Road, is Salts Mill, and a pub called Don't
Tell Titus; a little further up is the centre of Saltaire. To
your right, across a bridge over the river Aire, is Roberts Park;
there's a pub called the Boathouse
Inn by the river.
Roberts Park, Saltaire
When I was in Roberts Park, a pair of kingfishers were ignoring all
the people walking across the bridge, and zooming across the river,
perching on the bank, and going fishing. How brilliant is that?
Kingfishers, Roberts Park
Return by the way you came.
All photos © Hedgehog Cycling
Leeds to Saltaire cycle route: comments and suggestions
This is a really nice route, but as I mentioned at the top of the
page, parts of the towpath are in desperate need of resurfacing. I
think you have to trust people to share the path considerately,
which most people do most of the time, rather than deliberately
trying to inconvenience certain users.