Short Break Route Suggestions (3 & 4 nights):
Relaxed route: Ellesmere and Return - 14 miles, 0 locks, 7 hours total
Ideal for those wishing to experience a remote retreat through breath-taking scenery. Start your journey by cruising south-west passing Whixall Moss - a nature reserve home to a variety of rare plants and wetland birds. As you continue down the canal you pass Cole Mere, tucked behind the trees, then Blake Mere which is a beautiful lake right next to the canal. The countryside gives way to wooded hills as you approach Ellesmere. Ellesmere is an 18th Century market town with tall red brick houses and narrow winding streets; there is a greengrocer, a delicatessen and several pubs - so plenty of opportunity to stock up on food. You can moor at the marina here to explore the town, before turning around to head back to Whixall.
Intermediate route: Chirk and Return - 35 miles, 4 locks, 16 hours total
Start your journey by cruising south-west passing a nature reserve home to a variety of rare plants and wetland birds. As you continue down the canal you pass Cole Mere and Blake Mere. The countryside gives way to wooded hills as you approach Ellesmere Tunnel (87 yds) and Ellesmere village is within walking distance if you have time. Pass Frankton Junction heading west through rural farmland, coming across two locks as the landscape becomes hillier. After a sharp corner you arrive at the Chirk Aqueduct. Chirk village is situated on the Wales/England border and is overlooked by Chirk Castle - now owned by the National Trust - which is worth exploring; maybe even stopping off for a traditional Welsh Cake in the Castle's tearoom. There are also some canalside pubs between Ellesmere and Chirk for you to choose from. Turn your boat to before Chirk Tunnel to start making your return journey to Whixall.
Active route: Trevor and Return - 42 miles, 4 locks, 19 hours total
Head south-west, cruising through pretty countryside towards Whixall Moss and the village of Ellesmere. There are lovely woodland walks from nearby 'Meres Visitor Centre' if you fancy a walk. Pass Frankton Junction heading west through rural farmland, coming across two locks as the landscape becomes hillier. After a sharp corner you arrive at the Chirk Aqueduct and Tunnel. Chirk village is situated on the Wales/England border and is overlooked by Chirk Castle - now owned by the National Trust - which is worth exploring; maybe even stopping off for a traditional Welsh Cake in the Castle's tearoom. There are also some canalside pubs between Ellesmere and Chirk for you to choose from. Returning to the boat, cruise through a small tunnel then the River Dee appears soon after, leading you towards Trevor and the amazing Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
Weekly Route Suggestions:
Relaxed route: Llangollen and Return - 52 miles, 4 locks, 24 hours total
A perfect relaxed week or a very active midweek break (outside of School Holidays) - a large part of this route is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is one of 7 wonders of the UK waterways, making it one of our most popular boating locations. Head south-west, cruising through pretty countryside towards Ellesmere. There are lovely woodland walks from nearby 'Meres Visitor Centre' if you fancy a walk. Pass Frankton Junction heading west through rural farmland, coming across two locks as the landscape becomes hillier. After a sharp corner you arrive at the Chirk Aqueduct and Tunnel. Chirk village is situated on the Wales/England border and is overlooked by Chirk Castle - now owned by the National Trust - which is worth exploring; maybe even stopping off for a traditional Welsh Cake in the Castle's tearoom. There are also some canalside pubs between Ellesmere and Chirk for you to choose from. Returning to the boat, cruise through a small tunnel then the River Dee appears soon after, leading you towards Trevor and the amazing Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The canal narrows after Trevor, so you'll need someone to hop off with a mobile phone to check that the navigation is clear. The stunning canal scenery is punctuated by red brick bridges as you cruise in a westerly direction to Llangollen. The narrow canal runs above nearby hamlets, with picturesque views of the valley below. There is a basin with visitor moorings at Llangollen (charges apply) which is ideal for exploring the area. Maybe take a horsedrawn boat to Llantysilio past the Horseshoe Falls (built by Telford) which provides water to the navigation. Llangollen itself is well worth an visit - you can even hop on a traditional steam train for a trip through the valleys. Turn at the basin to return to Whixall.
Intermediate route: Hurleston Junction and Return - 39 miles, 38 locks, 26 hours total
Depart Whixall marina and head east, up the Llangollen Canal to the Grindley Brook Staircase Locks. Close to the locks there is a waterfront pub to stop at for refreshments and a small shop. Cruise through pretty countryside, under bridges and through the occasional lock, to Wrenbury where you can moor near bridge 19. The Wharf is made up of a converted mill, now used as a boatyard, and a warehouse which has been converted into a pub. There is a second pub nearby and It's only a short walk into the village. There is a 14th Century Church overlooking the village green, as well as a couple of stores. St Michael's Church, first mentioned in 1299, becomes visible as you leave Wrenbury behind. The Church is worth a stop, set on a hilltop overlooking a small lake. Work your way through the locks at Baddiley, passing Baddiley Hall and its surrounding woodland to Swanley Locks, then quietly cruise past the backs of houses and gardens to the 4 locks at Hurleston Junction. Turn around straight after the last lock to make your journey back to the base.
Active route: Chester and Return - 81 miles, 66 locks, 45 hours total
A busier weekly route option, including more locks but travelling through some wonderful Shropshire and Cheshire countryside. This cruise will take you to the historic City of Chester, known for its Roman walls, medieval architecture and Chester Zoo. Start your journey heading east on the Llangollen Canal, through the pretty villages of Whitchurch and Wrenbury to Hurleston Junction. At the junction you will join the Shropshire Union Canal, passing through rural scenery and canalside towns, such as Beeston. Beeston Castle can be reached from the canal; the former royal castle offers spectacular views of the Cheshire Plain and Welsh mountains. Either moor up at Christleton for the park and ride service into the city or continue cruising into the city centre through 5 locks passing the old city. Chester is easily accessed from the canal bridge 123D. Use the winding hole by the bridge to turn your boat for the journey back to Whixall.
Fortnight Route Suggestions:
Relaxed route: Llangollen, Chester and Return - 123 miles, 64 locks, 63 hours total
An interesting and varied route allowing time to stop off and explore along the way. This journey incorporates the UNESCO World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, standing at 126ft the aqueduct is the tallest navigable in Britain. Once through the tunnels and over the aqueducts at the end of your outward journey is the town of Llangollen, home to the picturesque Horseshoe Falls, where you can talk a walk or a horse-drawn boat trip to take in the welsh countryside. Also in Llangollen is the historic steam railway, where you can take a ride through the stunning Dee Valley, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Turn at Llangollen basin for the journey to Chester. Cruise north up the Llangollen Canal to Hurleston Junction. The northern stretch of the Llangollen Canal offers picturesque countryside views, a few locks including the Grindley Staircase Locks and historic churches. Once at Hurleston Junction cruise north onto the Shropshire Union Canal, where you reach Barbridge which has a pet friendly pub, next to the junction with the Middlewich Branch. Continue cruising north west to the Bunbury Staircase locks through the green countryside, there are a couple of waterfront pubs around Beeston, and you might wish to take a break and walk to the ruins of Beeston Castle south of the canal. Follow the canal as it runs through the Cheshire Plains past Waverton, and a brick mill by Egg Bridge, enjoying a lock free stretch to the village of Christleton, with the buildings of Chester now visible in front of you. You can moor here if you wish to explore Chester, or continue cruising into the city centre through 5 locks passing the old city and a sharp right turn takes you to Tower Wharf. The city is easily accessed from the canal bridge 123E. You may wish to turn and leave the city for your evening on-board in search of quieter moorings.
Intermediate route: The Four Counties Ring – 137 miles, 144 locks, 86 hours total
Start your journey by cruising north up the Llangollen Canal to Hurleston Junction, there are 19 locks along this stretch to get you started and pretty countryside views. The Four Counties Ring offers an unforgettable cruise through the counties of Staffordshire, Cheshire, Shropshire and West Midlands. The tranquil route explores uplifting landscapes that unravel some of the nation's grandest stories of pottery, salt and engineering marvels. Head southwest on the Shropshire Union Canal past Nantwich - home to interesting black & white timber buildings, cafes and independent boutiques. The Shropshire Union Canal passes through pretty farmland and quaint canalside towns and villages. There are lift-bridges, often left open, with a lock free stretch which is interrupted by the lock flight at Audlem - where you can take a break at one of the canalside pubs, providing a selection of everything our canal's have to offer. At Autherley Junction head north east onto the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal - there is a very narrow stretch between the junction and bridge 74, so keep a look out for oncoming boats. Pass Gailey Wharf with its canalside shop and Penkridge where there is a handful of locks and pubs. If you need to top up on supplies you can stop at Radford Bridge which is approximately 1.5 miles from Stafford - there is a bus service to the town from here. Follow the canal through Tixall Wide with the woodland concealing Shugborough Hall to the south of the waterway. At Great Haywood you join the Trent & Mersey Canal and start heading north to make your way to Stoke on Trent passing the busy town of Stone. You pass through the centre of Stoke-on-Trent and then onto the Harecastle Tunnel, which is 2926 yds (remember to book your passage). Passing Hardings Wood Junction, there are a couple of waterfront pubs to stop for some refreshment before navigating through the 'Cheshire Locks'. Wheelock is a busy little village with a selection of pubs. At the Middlewich Junction, head west and onto the Middlewich Branch, which offers rural moorings and a small aqueduct which carries the canal over the River Weaver. Once at Barbridge Junction turn south to make your way back onto the Shropshire Union Canal for approximately one mile before rejoining the Llangollen Canal and returning the boat to the marina.
Active route: The Cheshire Ring – 158 miles, 138 locks, 89 hours total
Start your journey cruising north onto the Shropshire Union Canal and then onto the Middlewich Branch, where the scenery is dominated by fields and rural views. At the Middlewich Junction we suggest cruising south east to complete the 'Cheshire Locks' first. There are a couple of waterfront pubs to stop off for some refreshment at Hardings Wood Junction. Returning to your boat, navigate over the Poole Aqueduct and Red Bull Aqueduct onto the Macclesfield Canal. The canal passes through green countryside lined with tall hills - providing a great opportunity to stretch your legs, there are footpaths to the east of bridge 85. This is a quiet stretch of the Macclesfield Canal; there are several bridges and only 12 locks at Bosley, making for a relaxed cruise. There are plenty of towns and villages in the area to explore including Oakgrove, Gawsworth and Congleton, with family based activities such as picnicking and Bowling. Cruising onto the Peak Forest Canal you experience the Marple Aqueduct, the yard here is a hub of boating activities as well as an opportunity to stop for a meal. There are 16 locks at Marple and two tunnels, the canal then continues northward where the scenery becomes less rural, industrial buildings hinting that you are on the approach to Manchester. Ashton Canal passes through a very built up area with a consistent amount of locks, and Old Trafford can be seen to the south. As you leave the city centre behind onto the Bridgewater Canal the outlook becomes more rural with fields, the valley of the river Bollin and some Victorian factories. Stop off at Altrincham to take a walk round the market square with black & white timber buildings. Travel south to Lymm, with great views of the Pennines and access to a couple of pubs, fish & chips and stores. Make your way onto the Trent & Mersey Canal passing the Victorian Anderton Boat Lift to Middlewich, where you can cruise onto the Middlewich Branch and back on to the Llangollen Canal to Whixall.