Stretching for 41 miles, the 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 waterway offers breath-taking views, iconic canal structures, and a series of historic market towns and nature reserves to explore. Its scenery varies from ancient peat mosses and tree-lined lakes to wooded valleys and the dramatic foothills of Snowdonia.
Ten years ago, an 11-mile section of the Llangollen Canal from Gledrid Bridge to the Horseshoe Falls in Llangollen, including the incredible 307-metre long Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and 220-metre Chirk Aqueduct, was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Soaring 35 metres above the rushing waters of the River Dee, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the wonders of the waterways. Built by the great canal engineers Thomas Telford and William Jessop, and completed in 1805, the aqueduct is supported by 18 giant pillars, carrying a 307-metre long iron trough allowing passage for a single narrowboat.
Drifters Waterway Holidays (www.drifters.co.uk) offers 550 narrowboats for hire from 45 bases, including six on the Llangollen Canal.
Here are Drifters’ Top 5 canal boat holidays on the Llangollen Canal for 2020:
1. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Llangollen – from Drifters’ base at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal, the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen can be reached on a short break (three or four nights), crossing over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct along the way. This lock-free journey to Llangollen cruises seven miles, passes through Whitehouses Tunnel and takes around four hours. Once in Llangollen, boaters can moor up to enjoy exploring this pretty town nestled on the edge of the Berwyn Mountains, including its regular markets packed with local produce, choice of independent shops and restaurants, steam railway and famous Horseshoe Falls.
2. Cruise to Whitchurch – on a week’s holiday from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Trevor in Wrexham, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel along the Llangollen Canal to the historic market town of Whitchurch and back in around 44 cruising hours. The route crosses over the magnificent Pontcysyllte and Chirk aqueducts, through the 420-metre Chirk tunnel, and passes through just four locks (two on the way, two on the way back). Once at Whitchurch, boaters can moor up to explore this pretty historic town with half-timbered buildings, independent shops and restaurants, way-marked circular walks, water voles at Staggs Brook, woodpeckers at Brown Moss nature reserve and the award-winning Black Bear pub.
3. Travel through the Shropshire Lake District – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ narrowboat hire base on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal at Whixall in Shropshire, canal boat holiday-makers can head west to Ellesmere and the Shropshire Lake District. The journey to Ellesmere takes around four hours and passes Cadney Moss, Lyneal Moss and Colemere Country Park along the way. Once at Ellesmere, boaters can moor up on the Ellesmere Branch of the Llangollen Canal to visit The Mere, with its Motte & Bailey Castle, Cremorne Gardens and a choice of places to eat.
4. Cruise the Four Counties Ring – from Drifters’ narrowboat hire centre at Blackwater Meadow on the Llangollen Canal near Ellesmere, on a two-week break canal boat holiday-makers can travel along the Llangollen Canal to connect with the Four Counties Ring. This popular circuit takes boaters on a 110 mile, 94-lock odyssey through the counties of Shropshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands. Highlights along the way include the 2670-metre long Harecastle Tunnel, the flight of 15 locks at Audlem, views of the rolling Cheshire Plains, Wedgewood Pottery, the Roman town of Middlewich and the National Trust’s Shugborough Hall. From Blackwater Meadow the journey takes around 90 hours.
5. Head to Chirk and its medieval castle on the hill – from Drifters’ canal boat rental base at Wrenbury on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, on a four-night mid-week break narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through dramatic scenery to the Welsh border at Chirk. Along the way, the route passes through 12 locks and the Shropshire Lake District, and takes around 15 hours. Once at Chirk, boaters can moor up to visit the National Trust’s medieval fortress up on the hill above the canal – one of several medieval marcher fortresses built on the Welsh-English border.