Going on a Boating Holiday on the Llangollen Canal

Setting off on our boat ‘Archers Lark’ from Blackwater Meadow Marina, which is situated mid-way down the Llangollen Canal, we really wondered what would be in store for us because it was out first time ‘skippering’ a barge. After we’d checked in at Reception and put all our stuff on the boat, we had an hour’s training from Mike who was really informative and helpful (and very patient). He showed us how everything worked on the boat and how to steer, moor-up, etc. before we left. Here are the details of our trip: –

We decide to make our way to Llangollen town and back again over our midweek break, so off we go on Monday afternoon, nice and slowly to begin with but already enjoying our surroundings as we sweep along, past open farmland and friendly-looking cows, greeting other boaters with a wave as we meet. There are loads of little brick bridges to go through but no locks to do at all on our first afternoon so it gives us a chance to get used to steering before we moor up for the night at The Narrowboat Inn, next to bridge 5 (the bridges all have numbers) where we have a very pleasant meal and a good nights’ sleep.

On Tuesday morning we enjoy a cooked breakfast, prepared in our surprisingly well-equipped little kitchen on the boat, then undo our ropes and off we go again. Puttering along, we spot all kinds of wildlife including a heron, some rabbits, ducks, swans and a kingfisher! We also notice that lots of the bridges have ‘cupboard doors’ in them, so we look it up in our guide book and find out they contain wooden planks which are used to stop-up the flow of the canal if they need to do maintenance work – interesting.  Just ahead of Bridge 1 we come to our first lock. We stop at the canalside and hold our ropes steady while two of our crew go to open the gates; they twist the handle to let the water out then wait for it to get to the same level as us so that we can drive in. Closing the gates behind us, they use the lock handle again to close the ‘paddles’ then go to the opposite end to open that side, allowing us to drive out – much easier than we thought and quite good fun! There’s another lock to do just after that and we’re done.

Chirk Aqueduct

We pass 3 canalside pubs but don’t stop because we’re excited to do the Chirk Aqueduct which is just around the corner. Suddenly we’re there, passing high above the ground on the canal, over a valley – amazing! The Aqueduct leads directly to a tunnel which we exit after just 10 minutes, then we moor up next to some woodland and walk to Chirk village to have a look around. Back to the boat for lunch, throwing our leftover bread to the ducks afterwards.

View from Chirk Aqueduct

We plan to get to the town of Llangollen for the evening, so off we go again through another short tunnel as the canal veers slightly to the left. Then ‘WOW!’ – we spot it through the trees – we are approaching the big Pontcysyllte Aqueduct! Rounding a corner we come across a lift-bridge which we have to open, passing underneath, then there’s a short wait to let other boat traffic pass before we make our way onto the Aqueduct itself. What a fantastic experience it is; so high up over the valley, with the River Dee running far below us. Some people are walking across on the path and others are boating, straining their necks to look over the side (carefully).

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

At the end of the Aqueduct is Trevor Wharf where we moor up to enjoy the view and take photos (pub nearby) then we make a sharp turn under another little brick bridge, which takes us along the last part of canal towards Llangollen. This is a one-way part of the canal, so we’re advised to wait for the go ahead before proceeding, in case another boat is coming towards us. This is a really picturesque part of the canal, with lovely views and interesting buildings to admire along the way.


Eventually we pass a small depot where they run horse-drawn canal trips; the horses in their bridles with the tow-rope attached and ready to go. Further ahead there’s a canal basin where we moor for the evening at a charge of £6.00 for the night. We walk into Llangollen, down the towpath, past the steam trains and station and over the bridge crossing the River Dee.

The steam railway at Llangollen

Llangollen is an interesting town and we enjoy walking around the place, visiting shops, taking cobbled back streets and pathways, buying gifts. We treat ourselves to a traditional cream tea at the Courtyard Coffee Shop and later that evening we have a wonderful dinner at The Corn Mill which overlooks the River.

Approaching Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

The next morning we walk into Llangollen for a cooked breakfast at the Cottage Tea Rooms before turning the boat around in the Basin and retracing our steps to Trevor Wharf. Excitedly we pass across the high Pontcysyllte Aqueduct again – enjoying the view – then make our way through Chirk Tunnel and over the Chirk Aqueduct once more. This time we do stop for lunch after crossing the Chirk Aqueduct, opting for pub grub at the Bridge Inn. That afternoon we set off again at a leisurely speed, soaking in our lovely surroundings. In Llangollen we’d picked up some locally made pies, so we decide to moor up near Hindford Bridge and eat dinner on the boat, surrounded by countryside, enjoying the peace and quiet of the canal.

Bright and early next morning we set off towards Ellesmere. Mooring at Ellesmere Visitor Moorings we walk around the narrow winding streets of the village. In the centre there is a widely renowned delicatessen called ‘Vermeulens’ which offers all sorts of wonderful delicacies including homemade cakes, rustic loaves, cheeses, local paté, cured meats, sweet and savoury pies, etc. which is well worth a visit to stock up (so we did). Dropping our purchases back at the boat, we decide to visit The Mere which is a local beauty spot within 15 minutes’ walk of the village; the views there are magnificent and we stop for a drink at The Boat House, which overlooks the massive lake. Nipping back onto the boat for one last outing, we cruise down the canal through Ellesmere Tunnel, passing ‘Blake Mere’ on our left (very picturesque) before turning around just before Little Mill Bridge No. 55 and returning to Ellesmere Village for the last evening where we get fish and chips with lashings of salt and vinegar.

On Friday morning we pootle back to Blackwater Meadow Marina for our 9.00am handover, cruising just 10 minutes down the canal and planning our next narrowboat holiday already.

Blake Mere

Day One:             Blackwater Marina to Maestermyn Bridge – 2 hours 10 mins

Day Two:             Maestermyn Bridge 5 to Chirk Tunnel Moorings – 2 hours 30 mins

                             Chirk to Trevor Wharf – 1 hour 45 mins

                             Trevor Wharf to Llangollen Basin – 1 hour 30 mins

Day Three:          Llangollen Basin to the Bridge Inn, Chirk – 3 hours 5 mins

                             Bridge Inn, Chirk to Hindford Bridge 11 – 2 hours 30 mins

Day Four:            Hindford Bridge 11 to Ellesmere Visitor Moorings – 2 hours

                             Ellesmere to Little Mill Bridge 55 and back – 2 hours

Day Five:             Ellesmere to Blackwater – 10 minutes