The Caldon Canal is rightly prized as one of Britain's most picturesque, second only to the Llangollen Canal in most affections.
NCN 550 follows the towpath for the first 12 miles to Cheddleton, shaking off urban Stoke for a gentle ride to Cheddleton and its flint mill. The city ride is fascinating in its own way, with traces of the old potteries – a factory along here was among the last to use canal transport in the 1980s. At the intricate Hazelhurst Junction, the canal’s Leek Branch (NCN 559) heads north to the market town of its name.
The second half of the route is more taxing, heading into the Peak District on quiet, narrow, but steep lanes, until reaching the limestone quarry at Cauldon. Here you can join the Manifold Way, perhaps Britain's oldest rail-trail (opened in 1937) and now designated NCN 549.