TOTAL LOCKS: 10
CRUISING TIME PER DAY: 7 HOURS (18 HOURS IN TOTAL)
Before setting off from the marina at Goytre Wharf, there’s much of interest around this huge woodland site. On the edge of Blaenavon Industrial Landscape UNESCO World Heritage Site, Goytre Wharf has some of the best preserved limekilns (now Grade II-listed) used to create lime from coal & limestone. The canal and wharf here once teemed with canal boats being loaded with the finished product.
Heading northwards, trees line the canal as it hugs the hillside before glorious countryside views over the valley of the River Usk open up to the east.
Arriving at Llanfoist Wharf today, a leafy cocoon humming with peace, it’s hard to imagine this historic wharf was once a flurry of less leisurely activity, and to see this canal as a busy export route to Newport. This is where the Blaenavon World Heritage Site meets the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal.
At the height of the Industrial Revolution, iron and coal were transported from the ironworks at Blaenavon along horse-operated tram roads down to the canal, and then stored in canalside warehouses before being loaded onto canal boats. The wharves and canal at both Llanfoist and Govilon form part of the Blaenavon World Heritage Site. Blaenavon was once one of the world's most important producers of iron, coal and steel. If you cross beneath the canal at the Wharf, it is possible to follow tracks of the former tram roads up into the hills and join the circular Iron Mountain Trail around major industrial sites of the World Heritage Site.
The canal continues through a wooded cutting before reaching Govilon where lines of moored boats indicate your arrival at Govilon Boat Club and Bailey’s Warehouse at the former terminus of another tram road from Nantyglo Ironworks. Another wooded stretch leads on towards Gilwern where the main A465 ‘Heads of the Valleys’ road noisily encroaches. Once under the main road at bridge 102, peace is restored as you approach this busy village, with its boatyard and pubs. The canal disappears into the trees again until magnificent views open out by bridge 110.
The historic buildings and limekilns at Llangattock Wharf are surrounded by moored boats. Limestone was brought down by tram road from the quarries above then loaded onto canal boats. This is the perfect place to reach the pretty market town of Crickhowell (described as the ‘glittering jewel in the vale’) – just follow the path from bridge 116 or 117 through Llangattock and across a field to reach the main road and river bridges. It’s then a short hop over the River Usk across the stone-arched bridge. The bridge is Grade I-listed and a Scheduled Ancient Monument – there has been a bridge on this site since medieval times and it is claimed as the longest stone-arched bridge in Wales. It is also unusual in having 12 arches on one side and 13 on the other (a quirk created in the 1820s by combining two of the arches on the upstream side into one!)
There is much to sightsee in Crickhowell, and there’s always time for a bite to eat or a spot of shopping, then head back to the boat to continue along the leafy route to Llangynidr. The glorious setting of this lock flight makes it light work, and there’s a well-placed pub to take a breather. The views disappear briefly as the canal enters the short Ashford Tunnel (375yds/343m long) and almost immediately you arrive in Talybont-on-Usk.
The Brecon Beacons today are synonymous with the outdoors yet, behind the scenes, this canal keeps secrets of a different past. Towards the edge of the village, there's another reminder of the area's industrial heritage. A model tram and display board tell the story of how limestone and coal was quarried up in the hills above Talybont, then brought down to the canal on an 8-mile tram road. Once at Talybont, the rock was put into burning hot limekilns to be broken down into quicklime. This was then transferred to barrels to be loaded onto waiting narrowboats. You can follow the path of the original tram road just above bridge 143, by the White Hart pub, up into the hills. Turn the boat here before leisurely heading back to Goytre Wharf.
Max: 5 People
Max: 8 People