Short
Breaks

Chirk & return from Wrenbury Mill

4 Nights
TOTAL LOCKS: 24
CRUISING TIME PER DAY: 6 HOURS (30 HOURS IN TOTAL)

This route ambles through a landscape of international renown, sparkling with Ice-Age meres, then winds through big Welsh countryside singing with green fields. Your journey reaches a triumphant meeting point at Chirk Aqueduct, where canal and railway engineering collide. A peaceful break spiced with engineering marvels and natural beauty. 

Your journey begins at Wrenbury Mill, a short walk from the quintessentially English village green. Cruising through lift bridges synonymous with the Llangollen Canal, the canal ambles its way through quiet rural surroundings with isolated locks. Grindley Brook presents your first major canal challenge – the last three of Grindley Brook’s six locks are joined together in a staircase – but don’t worry, a lock keeper is on hand to help during the busy summer season. 

About a mile beyond Grindley Brook, the pretty town of Whitchurch lies at the end of the short Whitchurch Arm. The town dates back to Roman times and is recorded in the Domesday Book. It is famed for Joyce's tower clocks, and was also the historic collection point for Cheshire cheese to be loaded onto canal boats and transported to Ellesmere Port for export. If you’re here on the first Saturday in the month, try some local cheeses at the Farmers’ Market. Whitchurch’s other claim to canal fame is a former rector of the Grade I-listed St Alkmund’s Church. Francis Henry Egerton came from the lineage of the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater who instructed canal engineer James Brindley to build the Bridgewater Canal, hence launching a canal revolution! 

The canal now winds its way through an open rural landscape. Just beyond the junction with the short Prees Branch, the canal crosses the huge expanse of the Fenn's, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses National Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). 

Together with Cadney and Wem Mosses, the area forms Britain’s third largest lowland raised bog, also a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, a European Special Area of Conservation, and apparently large enough to be seen from space! It is teeming with plant and insect life, and of course plenty of bird-spotting opportunities too, with regular sightings of Willow Warbler, Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit and countless others. 

Cole Mere, the first of several glacial Ice-Age meres (lakes) in this stunning landscape, borders the canal between bridges 53 and 55. The short Ellesmere Tunnel (87yds/80m long) then signals your approach to the small town of Ellesmere. There’s plenty to explore here including the Meres Visitor Centre by the large Mere which gave Ellesmere its name. 

Ellesmere Yard, just opposite the town arm, is a rare and very well-preserved example of a canal maintenance yard dating from the early 1800s. A range of buildings, many of which are now Grade II*-listed, include a blacksmith's forge and joiner's shop, a dry dock, a yard manager's house and Beech House - former head offices of the Ellesmere Canal Company. The canal engineer Thomas Telford worked here while building the canal. 

Travelling west, Frankton Junction is where the Montgomery Canal branches off to the south. After the two New Marton locks, there are no more locks - so you and your crew can relax into the farmland scenery and far-flung views. 

The journey easily forgives the short noise interruption when the canal goes under, and then alongside, the A5 briefly between bridges 17 and 19. Ambling into tranquillity again, the canal loops round to leave England and enter Wales! Here, Chirk Aqueduct carries the canal over the River Ceiriog, and the railway viaduct storms past in its parallel route. The railway exerted its importance in 1846-48 by building the viaduct 30ft higher than the aqueduct. 

The Aqueduct is included in the 11-mile stretch of the Llangollen Canal which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009. The canal was built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop between 1795 and 1808, and the Grade II*-listed Chirk Aqueduct was started in 1796 and completed in 1801. It is 70ft high, built of masonry and stone, and crosses the river below on 10 spans of 40ft each. 

Immediately beyond the aqueduct, there's a winding hole before the canal enters Chirk Tunnel. You can moor here and take the opportunity to explore Chirk, where there is a castle screaming to be visited. Chirk Castle was started in 1295 and completed in 1310, and sited on the Welsh-English border with the brutal purpose of keeping the Welsh out of England. The castle is currently looked after by the National Trust and is a short walk to the west of Chirk Aqueduct. 

The last pub in England, with its perfect view overlooking the stunning drama of the rivalling Viaduct and Aqueduct, entices you before experiencing the journey in reverse to Wrenbury Mill. 

Featured Boats

Featured Boats from Wrenbury Mill, Welsh Borders

Two to Five berth Boats

Alvechurch Grebe

Max: 4 People

Length: 47ft

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Alvechurch Heron

Max: 5 People

Length: 58ft

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Alvechurch Bunting

Max: 5 People

Length: 47ft

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Alvechurch Wren

Max: 4 People

Length: 47ft

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Alvechurch Weaver

Max: 4 People

Length: 47ft

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Six to eight berth Boats

Alvechurch Eagle

Max: 7 People

Length: 66ft

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Alvechurch Goose

Max: 8 People

Length: 69ft

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Alvechurch Gull

Max: 6 People

Length: 66ft

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Alvechurch Lark

Max: 6 People

Length: 66ft (63ft from Falkirk)

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Alvechurch Thrush

Max: 6 People

Length: 66ft

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Alvechurch Warbler

Max: 8 People

Length: 69ft

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Alvechurch Woodpecker

Max: 8 People

Length: 60ft

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Up to twelve berth Boats

Alvechurch Owl

Max: 10 People

Length: 70ft

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