The route described here gives ample opportunities to appreciate Beeston Castle’s superb strategic position from all angles. The natural defences of the hilltop site, with vertical sandstone cliffs to north and west, are strengthened by a deep moat dug into the bedrock, a sturdy inner gatehouse, and a fortified outer bailey protecting the more vulnerable southern and eastern approaches – though those steep slopes still represent a considerable obstacle, as anyone who pays the entrance fee and slogs up from the car park on a hot summer’s day will confirm.

The castle was built by the 6th Earl of Chester in the 1220s, on the site of an Iron Age fortification. Henry III took over the earldom and expanded the castle, though it was never a royal residence – the lack of a keep, considered unnecessary given the innate natural attributes of the site, meant that there were no appreciable living quarters within, though Henry used it to imprison unfortunates captured during his wars with the Welsh.

A century or so later, Richard II is rumoured to have hidden treasure within the castle during a visit to Chester en route to quashing a rebellion in Ireland. Searches have centred on the 370-foot well in the inner bailey, one of the deepest in England, but inevitably nothing has been found. If the treasure ever existed, it may have been swiftly recovered by Henry IV after he deposed his rival to the throne.

Other points of interest on this easy farmland walk include the attractive estate cottages and farmhouses of the Beeston area, and a short stretch of rural towpath beside the Shropshire Union.

Great British Life: Crags and countryside. (c) David DunfordCrags and countryside. (c) David Dunford

1. From the front door of the Shady, cross the humped canal bridge and follow the road between the mill and cottage opposite. Follow the road past the mill pond (left) and a further house (right). Continue over the railway bridge, and past Sidings Farm and cottages on the right. Take a footpath through a metal kissing gate on the right immediately after the semi-detached cottages. After a belt of woodland, cross three fields separated by similar kissing gates until you reach a stile in front of Lower Rock Farm. Follow the diverted footpath as it skirts to the right of the buildings.

2. On reaching the road, turn left past the entrance to the holiday cottages, then right through a kissing gate onto another fieldside footpath. Follow the left-hand edge of the field to a metal hand-gate where you join a concrete farm track that continues ahead and then turns left. Leave the track at this point, continuing ahead through another hand-gate along the hedge. At the end of the field, cross a footbridge to meet another concrete track, where you turn left.

3. Shortly after the track bends left, leave it through a kissing gate on the right into a field, with Beeston Castle away to your left. Cross the field to a corner in the right-hand hedge, where a further kissing gate leads into another field with Peckforton Castle ahead of you. Cross to another kissing gate on the far side of the field. Take the track opposite, which leads gently uphill to a gate with a stile to the left. Continue ahead until you meet a metalled driveway by Moathouse Farm.

4. Turn left through a kissing gate onto the Sandstone Trail, and cross the field ahead. In the far left-hand corner, go through another kissing gate and turn left towards Beeston Castle, still following the Sandstone Trail. The path descends to cross a stream via a footbridge, then continues across another field; go through a kissing gate at the far sid and drop down steps to a road. Turn left then, opposite Tabernacle Cottage, right into the wood, still on the Sandstone Trail. Climb through the trees then follow the path to the left until you meet the castle wall. Turn right to emerge on a road by the Sandstone Café.

Great British Life: Beeston Castle: the inner gatehouse. David DunfordBeeston Castle: the inner gatehouse. David Dunford

5. Continue to the castle gatehouse. Entrance to the castle is free to English Heritage members, but non-members will need to pay to enter (there is a discount if you book online in advance). The climb to the remains of the castle is quite steep, but the view will hopefully repay the effort. Returning to the walk, from the gatehouse, continue along the road past the car park on your right. Carry straight on past Castlegate Farm, a classic Cheshire estate farmhouse. Beyond the farm entrance, the road swings left, and the Sandstone Trail leaves the road on the right, initially down a farm track heading away from the farm. Beneath an oak tree, turn right through a kissing gate and turn left to a second and third, either side of a concrete sleeper track. Follow the fence beyond, to another kissing gate. The path continues along a line of oak trees then passes beneath the railway. After another kissing gate, walk across the next field to a bridge over a stream, the infant River Gowy. From here it is a short distance to the Shropshire Union Canal and Wharton’s Lock.

6. Take the first kissing gate to the lock compound (not the second, which carries the Sandstone Trail over the canal), then turn left below the lock gates and pass under Wharton’s Bridge. Follow the canal towpath for a third of a mile back to Bate’s Mill and the Shady pub. Although your walk has been short, and hopefully easy, a pint in the canalside garden is surely justified.

Great British Life: Welcome to the Shady (C) Yasmin Thomas PhotographyWelcome to the Shady (C) Yasmin Thomas Photography

The Shady

The Shady near Beeston has a wonderful location, right on the Shropshire Union Canal with striking views of Beeston Castle on its sandstone cliff. Given the challenges the hospitality industry has faced lately, it’s perhaps not surprising that pubs like this, well off the beaten track, have struggled. So, it’s brilliant news that a local pubco with a decent track record has stepped up to put it back on the map. When I spoke to Jenny Bufton at the Cheshire Pub Company, she assured me the pub’s family-friendly, traditional appeal has been maintained, and the interior sensitively modernised and brightened up as part of the investment in the building and its spacious canalside garden during its recent closure.

Food includes popular items from the Cheshire Pub Co. range such as their shish kebab, giant Scotch egg or signature Atlantic cod and chips, and Mediterranean and Middle Eastern meat-free dishes influenced by their vegan hub, Otto Vegan Empire in Bramhall. Drinks include locally brewed ales from Weetwood.

The pub’s 24 camping pitches (12 on hardstanding) are being retained, as is the independent pub group's child-friendly ethos, which includes colouring activities to entertain the little ones and a child’s menu designed to be nourishing while still appealing to younger tastes. Older kids might want to join their dads for a spot of coarse fishing: the pub owns the fishing rights to the adjoining section of canal. The outlet is making a special effort to attract ‘walk and boat folk’, so muddy-booted walkers from the nearby Sandstone Trail with dogs in tow are welcome, and Shropshire Union boaters can use the facilities for a small fee.

There is a large car park for patrons and ample roadside parking for other visitors.

The Sandstone Café, two miles or so into this walk near the Beeston Castle entrance, opens from 10am to 4pm in the summer and offers a range of hot and cold drinks and snacks.

Great British Life: Map: OS Explorer 267: Northwich & Delamere Forest 257: Crewe and Nantwich.OSMap: OS Explorer 267: Northwich & Delamere Forest 257: Crewe and Nantwich.OS


Area of walk: Tiverton near Tarporley

Start point: The Shady CW6 9UE

Distance: 3½ miles/5.8 km

Time to allow: 2 hours

Map: OS Explorer 267: Northwich & Delamere Forest + 257: Crewe and Nantwich

Refreshments: Shady and Sandstone Café at Beeston Castle

Practicalities: Fields may be muddy after rain and are likely to contain cattle; there are two stiles and occasional steps. No public transport.