When canal cruising became popular, the original centre section of the Ellesmere Canal (later part of the Shropshire Union), was renamed the Llangollen canal – deemed a more appropriate name to underline the wonderful scenery and stunning engineering features of ‘Britain’s most beautiful canal’. The 66-km (41-mi) route links Llangollen in North Wales to Hurleston in Cheshire, via Ellesmere in Shropshire.
The journey is worth it for two aqueducts alone, though the Canal also passes through wonderful countryside. The amazing 19-arch Pontcysyllte Aqueduct spans the River Dee and 10-arch Chirk Aqueduct crosses the River Ceirog. These were the audacious creations of Thomas Telford and William Jessop in the early years of the 19th century.
Pontcysyllte soars above the Dee Valley to a height of 38 m (125 ft) for a distance of 305 m (1,000 ft). This awe-inspiring engineering marvel certainly deserves its status as a Grade I Listed Scheduled Ancient Monument. The water is carried by an iron trough that extends to just 30 cm (1ft) above the water level, and though that extends to just 30 cm (1ft) the water level, and though there is a towpath on one side, the other is unprotected. When travelling by narrowboat, this leads to the extraordinary sensation of floating through mid-air.
The crossing is popular, especially in high summer, with a non-stop procession of boats and walkers experiencing this unique attraction. Chirk Aqueduct is less eye-catching than Pontcysyllte, but an equal cleaver piece of engineering, with the adjacent tunnel serving as a reminder of the challenges faced by its builders.
From the English end, the Canal passes through the lush green countryside with the Welsh hills as a backdrop, then wends its way through foothills and ancient woodland before reaching the final stretch to Llangollen beneath limestone cliffs. Narrowboats are available for hire at Llangollen, Whittington, Trevor and Wrenbury, allowing for a choice of different journeys.
Mode of Transportation
When to visit
May to November
Duration of the Journey
A week-long round trip along the canal from Llangollen and back involves some 36 hours of actual cruising.
- Horseshoe Falls 0 a weir and pumping house on the River Dee near Llangollen built by Telford to supply the canal system with water.
- Chirk Castle – a magnificent medieval fortress, the oldest castle built by Edward I that is still inhabited.
- Lift bridges – the Llangollen Canal is noted for the number of ingenious lift bridges (operated by the lock key) that often have to be raised before a narrowboat can pass.
You should know
The joints on Pontcysyllte Aqueduct’s iron through are still sealed using the original mixture of flannel and lead dipped in liquid sugar.