3 / 4 Nights
TOTAL LOCKS: 4
CRUISING TIME PER DAY: 7-10 HOURS (17 HOURS IN TOTAL)
Maps & Guides for this route: P3, N4, L8, H2, E4, E6 | Click here buy maps
The canal hugs the side of the River Dee valley on its approach to the town of Llangollen. This is a 3 or 4 night break - During the Sumer period you may need to allow more time to complete. You must pre-book your passage if you plan to travel on the Montgomery Canal.
This spectacular journey not only oozes natural beauty, it also showcases the manmade diva of Britain's canals – Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
Thomas Telford's engineering marvel is the longest and highest aqueduct in the UK, and those who travel across will swear that boats can fly! Although thoughts of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct may sparkle across this entire waterway, your journey is packed with different things to see and enjoy. At Blackwater Meadow Marina, there’s plenty to explore before the journey even begins.
Ellesmere Yard, just opposite the town arm, is a well-preserved example of a canal maintenance yard dating from the early 1800s. Many of the buildings are Grade II*-listed, including a blacksmith's forge and joiner's shop, a dry dock, a yard manager's house and Beech House, once the head offices of the Ellesmere Canal Company. The great engineer, Thomas Telford, worked here while building this canal.
As you head westwards, the canal winds past Frankton Junction where the Montgomery Canal branches off to the south. The route continues through remote countryside until your first exertion at the two New Marton locks.
There are no more locks beyond here so boat crews can relax into the farmland scenery and far-flung views. As if to remind you how peaceful canal boating is normally, there's a brief encounter with noise when the canal goes under and then alongside the A5 between bridges 17 and 19. Soon the canal quietly loops round to cross Chirk Aqueduct, leaving England behind and entering Wales. Chirk Aqueduct is 70ft high with 10 spans of 40ft each to carry the canal over the river. It's Grade II*-listed and included in the 11-mile stretch of the Llangollen Canal which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The history of canals as transport routes and the invention of their rival railways is written powerfully in the landscape here.
When the steam train decided it could carry trade faster than canal boats, railway tracks were often laid alongside existing waterways. The railway exerted its importance in 1846-48 by building the viaduct 30ft higher. The railways remains busy today, so as you cruise over the aqueduct don't be surprised if a train screams past in its hurry. Before you immediately plunge into Chirk Tunnel (459yds/420m long), keep any eye out for approaching boats in order to avoid embarrassment, as it’s not wide enough for two boats to pass.
The canal now follows the path of the railway past Chirk then through the short Whitehouse Tunnel (191yds/175m long). Again, this little tunnel isn't wide enough for two boats to pass, so check before you enter. The railway waves goodbye to the canal as it heads northwards and boats turn sharply east. Here a sweet excitement builds with innocent hills and fields of sheep bordering the canal on one side, and on the other side glimpses through the trees tease down to the River Dee below - wafting a hint of the mighty moment that lies ahead! From here most boats cruise in slow sweaty haste, passing Fron Lift Bridge, before turning northwards to where the heart-swelling monster marvel awaits - Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the longest and highest aqueduct in the UK, 1007ft long and 127ft high, and spans the River Dee in the valley below.
Built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop, the aqueduct was completed in 1805 and is considered one of Telford’s greatest engineering achievements.
The aqueduct and 11 miles of the Llangollen Canal, stretching from Horseshoe Falls just beyond Llangollen through to Chirk Aqueduct, were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.
This inspirational feat of engineering sends shivers to the vertiginous and the non-vertiginous. Believe it, or not, its 18 arches are held together with ox blood and Welsh flannel to keep the Llangollen Canal in flight above the River Dee. How can 127 feet of fresh air make narrowboats fly and a canal defy gravity? “Don’t look down”, crew members will whisper to each other as you steer into the flying bathtub, with sheer drops to the side.
The story of the unpronounceable aqueduct is more than a history of who built it and why - it is the living drama it continues to create, as anyone ventures across this wonderful, terrifying marvel. Beyond the aqueduct, the canal breathes again, ambling through idyllic Welsh countryside.
The water winds its narrow leafy way past sheep-filled fields and under pretty stone bridges, as it hugs the hillside with occasional peeks over the stunning River Dee below. The canal becomes very narrow on the approach into Llangollen then opens out into perfect visitor moorings. After exploring, retrace your route to Blackwater Meadow, with every thrill of the journey ahead again.
Max: 4 People
Max: 4 People
Max: 7 People
Max: 6 People
Length: 66ft (63ft from Falkirk)
Max: 8 People
Max: 8 People
Max: 10 People