Canals of Wales

Explore the inland waterways in Wales

Drifters offers canal boat holiday opportunities on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal in South Wales, and on the Llangollen and Montgomery canals in North Wales.

The Llangollen Canal

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.

The Montgomery Canal

The Montgomery Canal meets the Llangollen Canal at Frankton Junction.  Running for 38 miles between England and Wales, this beautiful canal is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on both sides of the border, and the entire length in Wales is also recognised as a Special Area of Conservation, making it one of the most important sites for wildlife in Europe.

Currently only around half the Montgomery Canal is navigable, including a seven-mile section from Frankton Junction to Gronwyn Wharf.  Restoration work is currently underway to restore the canal to Crickheath, where a new turning point for boats will be created, allowing boats to return to the area for the first time since 1936 when the canal was closed.

Departure points

The following hire boat bases are located on the Llangollen Canal, also giving access to the Montgomery Canal: Wrenbury; Whitchurch; Whixall; Blackwater Meadow; Chirk; and Trevor.

Day boat hire is also available from Trevor, Blackwater Meadow, Whitchurch, Wrenbury and Whixall.

Top 5 holidays on the Llangollen and Montgomery canals

  1. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Llangollen – from our base at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal, the Eisteddfod town of Llangollen can be reached on a short break, 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, you 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 our canal boat hire base at Trevor in Wrexham, you can cruise along the Llangollen Canal to the historic market town of Whitchurch and back in around 44 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, you can moor up to explore this pretty historic market town with half-timbered buildings, independent shops and restaurants, way-marked circular walks and the award-winning Black Bear pub.
  3. Travel through the Shropshire Lake District – on a short break from our narrowboat hire base on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal at Whixall in Shropshire, you 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, you can moor up on the Ellesmere Branch of the Llangollen Canal to visit The Mere, with its Motte & Bailey Castle, Cremorne Gardens and choice of places to eat.
  4. Watch out for wildlife on the Montgomery Canal – from our canal boat rental base at Whixall Marina, on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, it takes around six hours to reach Frankton Junction, where the Llangollen Canal meets the Montgomery Canal. Currently only around half this beautiful canal, which is recognised as a Special Area of Conservation, is navigable, including a seven-mile section from Frankton Junction to Gronwyn Wharf.  From Whixall, the journey to Gronwyn Wharf and back takes around 20 hours, travelling through 34 miles of beautiful countryside and passing through 16 locks (eight each way).
  5. Head to Chirk and its medieval castle on the hill – from our 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, you 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.

The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Isolated from the main canal network, the scenic Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal winds for 35 miles through the Brecon Beacons National Park, with just six locks along its route.

The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal (or Mon & Brec for short) was originally two separate canals: the Brecknock & Abergavenny Canal, and the Monmouthshire Canal.  Both were supported by horse-drawn tram roads mainly used to bring coal, limestone and iron ore from the hillsides.

Today this quiet waterway is a haven for wildlife and offers canal boat holiday-makers incredible mountain views, dark night skies for star gazing and a series of village pubs to enjoy along the way.

On a short break from our canal boat hire base at Goytre Wharf on the Mon & Brec Canal near Abergavenny, you can cruise to Llangynidr and back, enjoying dramatic views of the Usk Valley.

On a week’s holiday from Goytre Wharf, you can cruise to Brecon and back, passing through Georgian Crickhowell, with its fascinating 13th century castle, and Talybont-on-Usk with walks to the waterfalls at Blaen y Glyn.

 

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