Canals of Wales

Explore the canals of Wales

Drifters offers canal boat holiday opportunities on the canals of Wales, including the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal (Mon & Brec) 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.

Canal boat holiday on the Llangollen Canal

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

In 2009, 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 38 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 an eight-mile section in Shropshire, from Frankton Junction on the Llangollen Canl to Crickheath Basin.  Restoration work continues.

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.

The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

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

Welsh canal boat holidays

The Mon & Brec 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.

Our departure point for the Mon & Brec is at Goytre Wharf, near Abergavenny.

Top 5 holidays on the Welsh canals

  1. Float across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ to Llangollen – from 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 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 through the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park – on a weekend’s break from Goytre Wharf you can cruise lock-free through the beautiful Usk Valley to Llangynidr and back.  The route travels 32 miles and takes around 13 hours, with mountain views to enjoy.  You’ll pass through a series of small villages with historic pubs, including the Lion Inn at Govilon, deep in the Welsh countryside. On a week’s break, you can continue on to the historic market town of Brecon, with access to Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park trails. Along the way, you’ll pass through through Crickhowell, with its fascinating 13th century castle. And Talybont-on-Usk with walks to the waterfalls at Blaen y Glyn
  3. Cruise to Whitchurch – on a week’s holiday from 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, and through the 420-metre Chirk tunnel. You’ll cross over the Welsh border into England at Chirk.  There are just four locks (two each way). 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.
  4. Travel through the Shropshire Lake District and into Wales – on a week’s holiday from Whixall on the Prees Branch of the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, you can head west through the Shropshire Lake District and into Wales. First you’ll pass Cadney Moss, Lyneal Moss, Colemere Country Park and Ellesmere.  Soon after, the World Heritage Status section of the Llangollen Canal starts at Gledrid and runs for 11 miles to the Horseshoe Falls in Llangollen.  You’ll cross over the border into Wales at the magnificent Chirk Aqueduct, and later you’ll cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The journey from Whixall to Llangollen takes around 12 hours and there are just two locks to pass through along the way.
  5. Head to Chirk and its medieval castle on the hill – from Wrenbury on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, on a four-night mid-week break you can travel through dramatic scenery to the Welsh border at Chirk. Along the way, the route passes through 12 locks 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. There’s a choice of canalside pubs, including the The Bridge Inn at Chirk Bank.

Canal Boat Holidays

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