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12 of the best pubs along the Trent & Mersey Canal

PUBLISHED: 12:12 30 January 2017 | UPDATED: 17:00 31 January 2017

The beautiful thatched Holly Bush in Salt | General Views, Flickr CC2.0

The beautiful thatched Holly Bush in Salt | General Views, Flickr CC2.0


The 93-mile stretch of the Trent & Mersey passes through Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire. It simply takes in too many sights and features – the Cheshire Plain, Anderton Boat Lift, Harecastle Tunnel, Flyover Junction, Heartbreak Hill, Shardlow to name a few – for boaters not to need plenty of places to stop for a drink along the way. Here are some of the best…

1) Saracen’s Head, Weston

Having recently undergone a refurbishment, this friendly village pub in Weston, near Stafford, has a new paintjob and menu. So even if it’s a place you’ve tried on a previous boating holiday, it will be worth another visit (especially as they have some further renovation plans for 2017, including a takeaway option). The Saracen’s Head – a name harking back to the Crusades – is family and dog friendly and offers home-cooked pub classics, real ales and a beer garden.

2) Holly Bush Inn, Salt

There are many reasons why the Holly Bush is a firm favourite for those who visit. It could be the thatched roof and rustic décor, the extremely friendly staff and high-class customer service, or the award-winning grub made from locally-sourced ingredients. Or all of the above. It has been owned by Geoff Holland and his family for over 20 years, and they’re doing an excellent job.

3) The Big Lock, Middlewich

The balcony of this canal-side pub and restaurant certainly makes for a great view – overlooking lock 75 of the Trent & Mersey, on the outskirts of Middlewich. Just be extra vigilant and precise when taking your boat through the lock, as you could have an audience! Managed by Ken and Jackie Pickles, there is a lot to like about The Big Lock: a choice of setting inside with a dining room, lounge, snug and bar; cocktails for anyone looking for a more exciting drink; and the portions of their highly rated dishes are huge. Head there on a Thursday to take part in their quiz night.

4) The New Inn, Shardlow

In Shardlow – considered to be Britain’s most complete surviving example of a canal village – are more than 50 Grade II listed buildings. Among them are some fantastic pubs, including the impressive looking Clock Warehouse (a converted mill) and the New Inn.

On warmer days, you can sit outside and watch all the passing boats. Main meals are served all day and are very reasonable (all but the steaks are under £10). Their popular quiz night is on Wednesday.

5) The Stanley Arms, Anderton

Why not combine a visit to the famous Anderton Boat Lift, which connects the Trent & Mersey to the River Weaver, with the neighbouring Stanley Arms? Great food – especially the proper chunky chips – welcoming and a large beer garden for sunny days.

6) The Glebe, Stoke on Trent

If you’re mooring up in Stoke during a Trent & Mersey voyage, then you’ll have plenty of watering holes to pick from, but few as picturesque as the Glebe. The restored 19th-century corner pub, built at the same time as the surrounding civic buildings, boasts an original mahogany bar, glass windows from the studio of William Morris and an open fire.

7) Plume of Feathers, Barlaston

This is a canal-side (and dog-friendly) establishment where there is a decent chance of spotting a star of British television. Men Behaving Badly and Bob the Builder actor Neil Morrissey re-opened the doors of the village pub in 2015, and can be seen occasionally helping out behind the bar, in the kitchen or just enjoying a pint with the patrons. Unsurprisingly, the pub’s most popular ales are Neil Morrissey’s Blonde and Plume Bitter.

8) Star Inn, Stone

You can sit in one of the pub’s comfy arm chairs by a roaring fire on cold days, or when the weather turns nice, head outside and enjoy the pleasant setting right next to the canal lock.

There, you’ll see a plaque celebrating the Star’s place in the Guinness Book of Records for having the most different floor levels in an English pub. So take care!

Landlords Dom and Becky serve a traditional menu, with a particularly tasty range of burgers – how good does a wild boar and chorizo patty with grilled halloumi sound?

9) The Dragon, Willington

A lovely independent pub with a beer garden that looks out on the canal, the Dragon has plenty of charm to go along with its welcoming atmosphere. It has its own microbrewery, Boot Beer, and, since renovations a few years ago, boasts a decent-sized restaurant, courtyard and bar, where a big screen TV shows all the major sport. On its website, the Dragon also points a beautiful four-mile walk in the Willington area, which follows the canal.

10) Wolseley Arms, Stafford

On the edge of Cannock Chase and the banks of the River Trent, a stone’s throw from the canal, is this country pub filled with character and history. The inn used to be a changing place for coaches, so up to 100 horses were kept there. Not that you’ll be drinking and eating in a smelly stable – the Wolseley Arms is cosy, with wooden beams showing, and the food adds a splash of luxury. Try the stone-baked pizzas.

11) Stag Leap, Rugeley

Just a little stag leap down the canal from the Wolseley Arms is the Stag Leap, a perfect place to take the little ones. There is an outdoor play area – just look at the giant red armchair, which may be just as fun for the big kids as well – and a special children’s menu.

12) King’s Lock Inn, Middlewich

Rated as one of the top pubs and restaurants in Cheshire on TripAdvisor – and looking at that Sunday roast, it’s little wonder why – the King’s Lock is a free house on the banks of the canal, at lock 71. Be sure to try their Folk & Boats house beer, brewed by Merlin.


You may also like:

8 cosy pubs you have to visit on the Lancaster Canal

Unusual Cruises: Manchester Ship Canal

Me & My Boats: Neil Barnett

8 of the best pubs along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

The long and expensive history of building the Leeds & Liverpool


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