Cruising Time Per Day 5hrs • Total Locks 4
Blackwater Meadow to Chirk –
Past Frankton Junction, across Chirk Aqueduct and back – 3 nights – total locks 4 (2 x 2)
A peaceful journey spiced with engineering marvels and natural beauty. This route ambles onwards from a landscape sparkling with the ancient meres that once gave Ellesmere its name, then winds through big Welsh countryside singing with green fields, and finally reaches a triumphant meeting point at Chirk Aqueduct, where canal and railway engineering collide.
Your journey begins just outside the pretty town of Ellesmere at Blackwater Meadow Marina.
If you have extra time, visit the Meres Visitor Centre by the Mere which gave Ellesmere its name. There is a series of smaller meres bordering the Llangollen Canal to the east of the town.
Ellesmere Yard, just opposite the town arm, is also worth exploring. It is a rare and very well-preserved example of a canal maintenance yard dating from the early 1800s. There are a range of buildings, many of which are now Grade II*-listed, including a blacksmith's forge and joiner's shop, a dry dock, a yard manager's house and Beech House - former head offices of the Ellesmere Canal Company. The canal engineer Thomas Telford worked here while building the canal.
Travelling west, the canal heads towards Frankton Junction where the Montgomery Canal branches off to the south. After the two New Marton locks, there are no more locks - so you and your crew can relax into the farmland scenery and far-flung views.
The journey easily forgives the short noise interruption when the canal goes under, and then alongside, the A5 briefly between bridges 17 and 19. Ambling into tranquillity again, the canal loops round to leave England and enter Wales! Here, Chirk Aqueduct carries the canal over the River Ceiriog, and the railway viaduct storms past in its parallel route. The railway exerted its importance in 1846-48 by building the viaduct 30ft higher than the aqueduct. Although history text books will tell how new speedy railways first arrived to steal trade from slow canals, it’s only as you cruise across the aqueduct that this narrative yells with such piercing thrill.
Chirk Aqueduct is included in the 11-mile stretch of the Llangollen Canal which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009. The canal was built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop between 1795 and 1808, and the Grade II*-listed Chirk Aqueduct was started in 1796 and completed in 1801. It is 70ft high, built of masonry and stone, and crosses the river below on 10 spans of 40ft each.
There's a winding hole immediately beyond the aqueduct before the canal reaches Chirk Tunnel. You can moor here and take the opportunity to explore Chirk, where there is a castle screaming to be visited. Chirk Castle was started in 1295 and completed in 1310, and sited on the Welsh-English border with the brutal purpose of keeping the Welsh out of England. The castle is currently looked after by the National Trust and is a short walk to the west of Chirk Aqueduct.
Before retracing your route back to Blackwater Meadow, you can enjoy the perfect view from the last pub in England, which overlooks the stunning drama of the rivalling Viaduct and Aqueduct.
The following are examples of the boats that you can hire from ABC Boat Hire at Blackwater Meadow Marina:
Alvechurch Weaver - For a maximum of 4 people, 2+2 Berth, Length 49ft, Semi-traditional Stern
Alvechurch Eagle (6 berth) - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+3 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern
Alvechurch Eagle (7 berth) - For a maximum of 7 people, 4+3 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern
Viking Wye Class - For a maximum of 8 people, 6+2 Berth, Length 68ft, Cruiser Stern
Alvechurch Owl - For a maximum of 10 people, 6+4 Berth, Length 70ft, Crusier Stern
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