4 Nov 2020 - 4 minutes

The best running routes around Manchester

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With gyms closing once again, it’s time to seek other ways to keep the blood pumping. Many of us have Joe Wicks to thank for helping us stay active through the first lockdown. For the second, why not try combining your exercise with getting some fresh-air and seeing some of Manchester’s most iconic sights?

The city is full of great running routes, perfect for both beginners and seasoned athletes. From industrial canal paths to riverside parks, read on to find out about some of our favourites. On your marks, get set, go!

Manchester ‘Runseeing’ Tour

This 3-4-mile run takes in the important sights of the of the older parts of the city, located on the east side of the River Irwell. Begin near Victoria station, taking in Chetham’s Library, the National Football Museum and Manchester Cathedral. Continue on Exchange St. to Cross St., through St Ann’s Square and then Albert’s Square. On the way, you’ll pass St. Ann’s Church, the Town Hall, Manchester Central Library and St. Peter’s Square.

After the Library, continue the run along Oxford St. to the Rochdale Canal Path for roughly one mile to Castlefield Basin. Head around the basin to Liverpool St. and the Science and Industry Museum. For the final mile, run along the River Inkwell and cross New Quay St. to the west side of the river, finishing by the People’s History Museum.

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Image: @louiscannell

Rochdale Canal Path

The Rochdale Canal Path route is the most popular canal path run in Manchester. It is possible to run the full 30+ miles of the canal from Manchester to Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire.

The route provides a good variety of landscape, including both urban and rural spots. The first 1-2 miles passes through central Manchester and gets more pastoral as it heads out of the city.

The towpath is probably the easiest running route through the Pennines, as it takes you through the heart of the hills at a relatively gentle gradient.

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Image: @c_harper_photography

River Irwell and Peel Park Loop

This run can be done as a nice, standalone loop, or can be added on to other routes in central Manchester (such as the ‘runseeing tour’ or Rochdale Canal path.) Start at Blackfriars & Chapel St, and head north on the River Irwell path. The four miles up to The Meadow and Peel Park include pleasant paths and plenty of greenery.

Sights you will see include the University of Salford and the Salford Museum and Art Gallery.

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Image: @solmazr

The Salford Quays

This run takes in the scenes of Manchester’s old harbour at Salford Quays. The harbour was shut down in 1982 after years of deterioration and was regenerated as an office, retail and residential area. It is also the site of MediaCityUK, home to media giants such as the BBC and ITV.

There are pleasant waterside paths around the Quays, looping around three ‘basins’ – North, Central and South Bay. The run around the perimeter path is nearly 4 km.

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Image: @thecountryexplorer

Ashton Canal Towpath

Another one of the canal towpaths in Manchester, this has a more industrial vibe and passes many of the old mills. The route begins near the Alan Turing Memorial and takes in Manchester City’s Etihad Campus, the National Squash Centre, Manchester Regional Arena and the Tennis Centre.

The route can also be combined with the Rochdale Canal Path, connecting at the New Islington Marina.

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Image: @jprincephotos

Bridgewater Way Path

The Bridgwater Way/Bridgewater Canal Towpath heads south from Castlefield Basin for several miles. This specific section is about 4.75 miles, between the Basin and the M60/River Mersey Intersection.

There are good water views for most of the way, and the route takes in Old Trafford, home of Manchester United. The surface of the run alternates between pavement and cobblestone.

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Image: @flo_roundtheworld

Heaton Park

Heaton Park is a beautiful, 600-acre park about five miles north of the city centre. There are plenty of trails, both open and wooded. A run of 3-5 miles can be achieved within the park without much overlapping.

There is a designated 5 km route and a 3 mile “highlights” walk within the park. One of these highlights is the neoclassical 18th century country house, Heaton Hall. The park was renovated as part of a millennium project partnership. The park also contains an 18-hole golf course, a boating lake, an animal farm, an adventure playground and a volunteer-run tram system and museum.

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Image: @kozakphoto

Alexandra Park

This is a nice route for those looking for something a little shorter. Alexandra Park is located in the Whalley Range area off Princess Road. The 60-acre green space was designed in 1868 and was, at the time, considered experimental for its oval and curved pathways.

Looping around the perimeter and main ovel is about 2.6 km, and there is about ½ mile of additional pathways within the park.

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Image: @timetakesitstoll

South Manchester and River Mersey

Just as Heaton Park is about five miles north of the city centre, there are also an extensive series of parks and river paths five miles to the south, incorporating the Manchester section of the 213-mile Trans Pennine Trail.

A path along the River Mersey runs east-west along the water through several parks and fields. Along the way, you’ll pass through Mersey Bank Playing Fields, Chorlton Water Park, Hardy Farm and Ivy Green.

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Image: @lucylouharvey
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