Llangollen: 98 locks, 160 miles – two weeks
Justly famed for its dramatic mountain scenery and awe-inspiring architecture, the Llangollen Canal enjoys an enduring popularity as a holiday destination. Leave the Shropshire Union at Hurleston Junction and journey through gentle, rolling pastureland with a sprinkling of locks, quaint swing bridges and sleepy villages such as Wrenbury and Market Drayton.
Beyond Wrenbury, the canal shakes off its lethargy at Grindley Brook where three single locks and a substantial, triple staircase blow away the cobwebs prior to a 20 mile lock-free stretch. The attractive market town of Whitchurch, famed for its blue-veined cheese and clocks which adorn public buildings worldwide, is well worth a visit and is a fine spot for stocking up with supplies.
The peatlands of Whixall are soon followed by a gentle meander through Shropshire’s own Lakeland, a haven for wildfowl and birds of all description. A sharp left turn approaching Chirk, then a sharp right heralds a dramatic crossing into Wales via the impressive Chirk Aqueduct, 70ft above the turbulent River Ceiriog. A dramatic setting in its own right, Chirk is merely the curtain raiser for Telford’s masterpiece of canal engineering, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. 127ft above the rushing waters of the River Dee, this 1000ft iron channel never fails to thrill even the most seasoned of boaters. It was a sensation when it opened in 1805 and remains so today.
For the last few miles into Llangollen, the canal follows the majestic Vale of Llangollen amidst a picturesque landscape of pine forests, limestone cliffs and the tumbling river below, to complete one of the great inland waterway experiences.