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Spotlight on the Canals - The Llangollen Canal

Breathtaking views, historic market towns and havens for wildlife 

The beautiful 41-mile long Llangollen Canal crosses the border between England and Wales, and links the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen in Denbighshire with the Shropshire Union Canal, just north of Nantwich in Cheshire.

The scenery varies from rural sheep pastures and ancient peat mosses, to tree-lined lakes and the dramatic foothills of Snowdonia.

In 2009, an 11-mile section of the waterway from Gledrid Bridge to the Horseshoe Falls in Llangollen - including the incredible Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts - was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

Soaring 35 metres above the rushing waters of the River Dee, which tumble out of Snowdonia, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the wonders of the waterways.

Built by the great canal engineers Thomas Telford and William Jessop, the aqueduct was completed in 1805. Supported by 18 giant pillars, it’s the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain, carrying a 307-metre long iron trough water passage for a single narrowboat and a towpath for pedestrians, with an exhilarating sheer drop on one side!

Best for beginners

Passing through just two locks, the 14-hour journey from our base at on the Llangollen Canal at Trevor to the Shropshire market town of Ellesmere and back, offers a fantastic short break holiday for beginners.

Setting off from Trevor Basin, holiday makers can get their first glimpse of Telford's famous work, from the Telford Inn. The canalside pub & restaurant is where Thomas Telford himself once stayed to observe the progress of his dream. The spectacular Pontycysllte Aqueduct, with its jaw-dropping panoramic views of the Dee Valley below, is just 10 minutes away.

Next it’s a lift bridge and The Aqueduct Inn at Froncysyllte serving excellent food, then on through Whitehouse Tunnel followed by Chirk Tunnel, before crossing Chirk Aqueduct.

Soon after the aqueduct, boaters reach the Poachers Pocket pub at Gledrid, and the Lion Quays waterside restaurant at Moreton, both good places to moor up for the night.

Four miles later at Frankton Junction the Montgomery Canal meets the Llangollen Canal and after another three miles, the canal passes by the Canal & River Trust’s Ellesmere Canal Yard, which dates back to the early 1800s.

At Ellesmere there are plenty of visitor moorings, giving canal boat holiday-makers the chance to explore this pretty market town with a mix of Tudor, Georgian and Victorian buildings, as well as its series of mini lakes, teeming with wildlife.

There’s a range of places to eat and drink at Ellesmere, including The White Hart serving a variety of beers, and The Red Lion coaching inn serving ‘build your own’ burgers and ‘off the grill’ options.                 

Best for experienced boaters

On a week’s holiday from Trevor, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel on from Ellesmere to Wrenbury and back, cruising a total of 66 miles through 24 locks, and taking around 32 hours.

The route passes through Whixall Moss nature reserve then the historic market town of Whitchurch, known for its clock makers, including J B Joyce & Co, the oldest maker of tower clocks in the world, established there in 1782.

When in Whitchurch, look out for half-timbered buildings, fair trade independent shops and restaurants, way-marked circular walks, water voles at Staggs Brook, woodpeckers at Brown Moss nature reserve, a selection of Roman burial vases in the Civic Centre and a Joyce clock in the tower of St Alkmund’s Grade I Listed Georgian Church. And there are numerous pubs to choose from, including the award-winning Black Bear and friendly Bulls Head.

Six miles further east, having passed through the Grindley Brook Staircase of Locks with lockside café and stores, boaters reach Wrenbury. The centre of the village is a conservation area with a range of historic houses and the 16th century St Margaret’s Church overlooking the village green. There is a Post Office with general stores and two pubs, the canalside Dusty Miller in a converted corn mill, and The Cotton Arms serving home-cooked traditional British meals and a range of real ales.

On returning to Trevor, allow time to take the two-hour journey on to the ancient Welsh town of Llangollen and moor up in Llangollen Basin to explore the town. Things to see include the famous Dee Bridge built by Bishop Trevor in 1345, the Llangollen Steam Railway, Plas Newydd house and gardens, Horseshoe Falls, plus many independent shops and places to eat, including the popular Corn Mill with stunning river and mountain views.

On a two week break from Trevor, boaters can continue on from Wrenbury to Barbridge, where the Llangollen meets the Shropshire Union Canal, and then tackle the Four Counties Ring.

This epic canal journey, travelling through Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands, covers 110 miles and 94 locks, and takes around 55 cruising hours. The total cruising time from Trevor is 97 hours, passing through 136 locks.

Travelling anti-clockwise around the Ring, at Barbridge boaters head south down the Shropshire Union Canal to its junction with the Staffs & Worcs Canal at Aldersley. Along the way, the route passes through the historic market town of Market Drayton, home of the gingerbread man, and a series of villages with excellent pubs, including The Hartley Arms at Wheaton Ashton and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.

At Aldersley, the route heads north east again along the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal to Great Haywood, where boaters then begin travelling up the Trent & Mersey Canal. Places of interest along this section include the National Trust’s Shugborough Estate with stunning riverside gardens, the 2,675-metre long Harecastle Tunnel and the Wedgewood Museum at Stoke on Trent.

At Middlewich, the ring turns west back towards Barbridge, travelling along the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal.

To make a booking or to get friendly advice on canal holidays, please call our Booking Office on 0117 304 1122.