Canal boat holidays—Llangollen Canal

Published: Wednesday, 19 January 2011

THE Llangollen Canal is easily the most popular of the waterways for holiday hire, giving the canal boater plenty of attractions.

It's great attraction being the majestic Pontcysyllte Aqueduct that takes the canal 120ft over the Dee. which is the main attraction for visitors to this canal, though there is another spectacular aqueduct at Chirk with an impressive  railway aqueduct by its side.

Being a narrow lock canal makes it suitable for beginners, with the only problem being its sometimes fierce bywashes below the locks that can push a boat out unexpectedly from the bank. The reason for these is that the waterway acts as a feeder from Horseshoe Falls above Llangollen, supplying drinking water for the reservoir at Hurleston where the canal joins the Shropshire Union.

It is often proclaimed with such phrases as 'Cruise the mountains of Wales' and suchlike, but in fact there is only four miles of the canal actually in Wales, and this is partly a narrow concrete trough clinging to the hillside with passing places, overlooking the A5. For many miles the waterway passes through undulating farmland, and though the scenery is attractive, there are no mountains in sight.

There are plenty of mooring places along the waterway, with a few eateries scattered about, but serious shopping is limited to the arms off the canal at Ellesmere and Whitchurch. Of course Llangollen itself is a fairly substantial town for shopping, though mooring is limited. There is a basin at the very end of the waterway where visiting boats can be accommodated at a fee.

A problem with this canal is with it being so popular and containing so many hire bases and companies, it  is  rather crowded with boats, particularly in the high season, so it is wise to allow plenty of time to be able to fulfil a cruise. With many hire bases it does offer plenty of facilities for boaters.

Of the locks, the most unusual is the Grindley Brook Staircase, which needs a little care or else the boat can be stuck on the floor of a lock, but normally the lock keeper is in attendance, and if not, there are detailed instructions how to proceed.

Particular features of the Llangollen are the lift bridges, some operated by the windlass and others electrically operated by key, but which offer added interest to cruising this waterway.

The most interesting part of the canal is its final few miles towards the Dee, particularly around Chirk, cruising the top of Chirk Bank, over an aqueduct and through two tunnels, before reaching the massive Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. From here is the four miles into Llangollen itself. If by then you fancy a walk, this could be to Horseshoe Falls, but alas it is not very spectacular.

It is considered a 'safe' canal, that is there are no usual reports of bad behaviour towards boaters or such as damage to boats. There are official moorings with rings, but being so popular, particularly in high season, latecomers may have difficulty finding space.

This waterway is recommended for new hirers and short breaks, is by no means strenuous, has many interesting features towards its end, but do not expect to be cruising the hills of Wales. The only 'problem' is the strong flow at the tail of locks that can make the approach difficult. Also, if entering the Llangollen from the Shropshire Union Canal, through Hurleston Locks take care to take up any fenders as two of these locks are notorious for being narrow. with many unsuspecting boats caught out.

The canal is 45 miles long, has 21 locks, two tunnels, two impressive aqueducts and numerous lift bridges. The flow from Horseshoe Falls to Hurleston Reservoir will affect cruising time, with or against the current.

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The moor black stars the better.