A Walk along Ulverston Canal

A little about the history of Ulverston Canal

In 1796 the Ulverston Canal was opened connecting the town with the sea and thereby providing Ulverston with a port. Locally produced goods such as iron ore, gunpowder, bobbins, barrel hoops, cotton, roofing slates and leather were transported down the canal to the open waters of the Leven Estuary and the Irish Sea. Coal, softwood-timber and raw cotton were brought into town by the same means.

The canal attracted other industries including a timber yard, iron foundry, sail and rope makers and shipbuilding yards. Trade reached its peak in 1846, but this was also the year the Furness Railway started carrying iron ore from the Low Furness mines to Barrow-in-Furness where larger ships were able to dock.

After the railway was extended to Ulverston in 1854, then over the Leven Estuary in 1857, canal traffic declined and the canal eventually ceased operating in 1916.

Signs of the old lock along Ulverston Canal.

The Canal today

Today the canal, which is no longer navigable, survives as the deepest, widest and straightest canal in England and serves as an important and valuable leisure amenity for the people of Ulverston and visitors to the town.


An interesting and scenic 1.25 mile walk, from the head to the foot of the canal, begins at the A590, near Booths supermarket.

The canal and its environs are home to an abundance of birdlife including:

  • swans
  • geese
  • moorhens
  • herons
  • shags
  • all manner of ducks
  • and the keen-eyed may spot one of the resident kingfishers!

Foxes and pheasants can often be seen in the adjacent fields, particularly early in the morning or later in the day, and a lucky few may spot an otter in the water.

Kingfisher bird sitting on a branch
One of the many visual delights along the Canal.


Along the canal towpath artistic information boards give a brief history of the canal’s industrial past, whilst midway along the canal is the National Heritage, Grade 2 listed, Rolling Bridge.

Built in 1883, this unique bridge was designed to allow the railway to cross the water at the level of the towpath and is believed to be the only surviving example of this type of 19th Century bridge in Europe.

Although the bridge is now in a fixed position a working model has been installed to show how the bridge would have operated.

Historic old bridge. No longer moving but a view to the past.


The right hand side of the canal is still home to several industries, including a large Glaxo factory which is scheduled for closure and is being gradually demolished.

Canal Foot

The walk ends at Canal Foot and the stunning Leven Estuary where you can simply sit on one of the benches and admire the spectacular views across Morecambe Bay or perhaps take a walk along the shore or the pier.

View of Morecambe bay Canal Foot


The Bay Horse pub is great place to stop for refreshments before heading back along the canal to Ulverston and enjoying the views towards Hoad Hill and the surrounding countryside.

Canal Foot sailing boat