Short Break Route Suggestions (3 & 4 nights):
Relaxed route: Chirk Marina and Return - 23 miles, 4 locks, 10.5 hours total
A perfect route for beginners that will allow you to relax and enjoy the peaceful scenery, passing through only two locks each way. Start your journey by travelling west towards Frankton Junction, passing the entrance to the Montgomery Canal and continuing your journey on the Llangollen Canal. Travel through beautiful countryside and farmland, passing over the amazing Chirk Aqueduct where you will cross the border from England into Wales. Just past the aqueduct and through Chirk Tunnel, you will find Chirk Marina; moor up near here to explore the village of Chirk and the National Trust’s Chirk Castle. Turn your boat around and begin your journey back to base.
Intermediate route: Llangollen Basin and Return - 37 miles, 4 locks, 16 hours total
A fairly busy weekend route or a nice relaxed midweek break, with plenty of time to explore. This is an exciting route that includes travelling over one of the most impressive landmarks on the UK canal system - the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Head west from the marina, tackling the only two locks on this route. You will then cruise over the amazing Chirk Aqueduct and through two tunnels, first of all Chirk Tunnel at 459yds and then through the much shorter Whitehouse Tunnel of 191yds. Cruise past pleasant rural scenery on the approach to thefantastic Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the longest and tallest aqueduct in the UK at over 125ft high. With a sheer drop to one side and a railed walkway to the other, the aqueduct offers the most spectacular unspoilt views of the Welsh countryside and the River Dee below. Once across the aqueduct it is an enjoyable two hour journey to the town of Llangollen. Moorings are available at Llangollen Basin for a small daily fee. From here the Horseshoe Falls (weir) and the town of Llangollen are within easy walking distance. Turn at the basin to retrace your steps back to Blackwater Meadow. Allow extra time during peak times for this route.
Active route: Wrenbury and Return - 38 miles, 20 locks, 21 hours total
Best suited to a midweek break rather than a weekend, however it is possible with very long daylight / cruising hours. Start your journey heading east on the Llangollen Canal, cruising through stunning Shropshire countryside on the approach to Ellesmere Tunnel. Cruise through the 87yd tunnel and continue on through Whixall Moss, an SSSI (site of special scientific interest) due to its rare insect and plant life. Cruise through the agricultural landscape on your way to the town of Whitchurch. The town features many beautiful old houses and plenty of pubs to choose from and is only a 20 minute walk away from the moorings at the Whitchurch Arm. After exploring Whitchurch continue to Grindley Brook, where you’ll tackle the staircase locks, 6 in total. There is a cafe and store at the side of the locks, selling local farm products. From the locks it is roughly a four hour cruise, with only one canalside pub at Willeymoor Lock, to the village of Wrenbury. The centre of which is a conservation area, due to the listed period properties. There are a couple of canalside pubs and some general stores to allow you to stock up on supplies before turning your boat and travelling back to base.
Weekly Route Suggestions:
Relaxed route: Llangollen Basin, Whitchurch and Return - 62 miles, 4 locks, 27 hours total
Head west from the marina past Frankton Junction, then operating the only two locks on this route. Pass through pleasant countryside until you come to the amazing Chirk Aqueduct and Chirk Tunnel (459yds). Soon you will be approaching Trevor and the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which is the longest and tallest aqueduct in the UK at over 125ft high. With a sheer drop to one side and a walkway to the other, the aqueduct offers the most spectacular unspoilt views of the Welsh countryside and the River Dee below. Once across the aqueduct it is an enjoyable two hour journey to the town of Llangollen, moorings are available at Llangollen Basin for a small daily fee. Explore the charming town, take a steam train ride and visit the Horseshoe Falls, before turning your boat at the basin to start the cruise to Whitchurch. Bypass the the boat base, enjoying the stunning Shropshire countryside on your approach to the 87yd Ellesmere Tunnel. On the way to Whitchurch you pass through Whixall Moss, an SSSI (sight of special scientific interest) due to its rare insect and plant life. Moor at the Whitchurch Arm for a leisurely walk into the town, which features many beautiful old houses and a great selection of pubs to choose from.
Intermediate route: Llangollen, Wrenbury and Return – 76 miles, 24 locks, 37.5 hours total
Follow the same route as the relaxed option above, but continue east from Whitchurch to Wrenbury Mill. Between Whitchurch and Wrenbury you will pass under a lift bridge, followed by six locks at Grindley Brook. Three of the locks at Grindley Brook are ‘staircase' locks, so there normally is a lock-keeper on hand to assist you. There are then 4 rather nicely spread out locks before your arrival at Wrenbury Mill Wharf, where there are is a mechanical lift bridge which you open with a key. Close to the wharf there are two pubs, so it's a good place to moor. Turn around at the wharf and return to Blackwater.
Intermediate route: Audlem and Return - 67 miles, 42 locks, 36.5 hours total total
Cruising north-east up the Llangollen Canal to Hurleston Junction (with the Shropshire Union Canal). The northern stretch of the Llangollen Canal offers picturesque countryside and farmland views, the Grindley Staircase Locks, small towns and historic churches. Once at Hurleston Junction cruise south, passing under a bridge which leads you to wide open green fields as you travel towards Nantwich and over a small cast-iron aqueduct. Nantwich is an interesting traditional Cheshire town with black & white timber buildings and various cafes and restaurants available just a short walk from the bridge. Continue cruising south past farmer’s fields and woodland on the way to Audlem, mooring up near bridge 85 if you wish to visit the Hack Green 'Secret Nuclear Bunker'. Once over Moss Hall Aqueduct, moor near the winding hole for a 15 minute walk into Audlem, a visit to the well-known Shroppie Fly pub comes highly recommended. Use the winding hole close to your mooring spot to turn your boat for the journey back to Blackwater Meadow.
Active route: Chester and Return - 80 miles, 52 locks, 42.5 hours total
A busy weekly route option, including more locks and 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 by heading east on the Llangollen Canal, past the pretty villages of Whitchurch and Wrenbury to Hurleston Junction. At the junction, join the Shropshire Union Canal, passing through rural scenery and canalside towns, such as Beeston. Beeston Castle can be reached from the canal and the former royal castle offers spectacular views of the Cheshire Plain and Welsh mountains. To visit Chester, moor up at Christleton for a 'park and ride' service into the city centre.
Fortnight Route Suggestions:
Relaxed route: Llangollen Basin, Chester and Return - 118 miles, 56 locks, 59 hours total
This combines two of the most popular routes on the canal network. Firstly travelling along the Llangollen Canal to the canal basin there, followed by cruising the length of the Llangollen Canal, then joining onto the Shropshire Union Canal to visit the historic city of Chester. Start your journey heading west from the Marina, travelling over the amazing Chirk Aqueduct, followed by the 459yd Chirk Tunnel. Stop off at Chirk to visit the pleasant town and the National Trust’s Chirk Castle. Next you’ll be on the approach to the fantastic Pontcysyllte Aqueduct - the longest and tallest aqueduct in the UK at over 126ft high. Tthe aqueduct offers some of the most spectacular unspoilt views of the Welsh countryside and the River Dee below. A further two hours cruise will bring you to the town of Llangollen, moor at the basin for a small fee to visit the Horseshoe Falls and explore the town. To begin your cruise to Chester, turn around and head east from Llangollen Basin. Cruise back over the aqueducts and through some pretty rural villages to Hurleston Junction, where you will join the Shropshire Union Canal. Known for its beauty, the Shropshire Union will take you through picturesque scenery and canalside towns, such as Beeston. Worth a stop to visit Beeston Castle, which can be reached from the canal; the former royal castle offers spectacular views of the Cheshire Plain and Welsh mountains. To visit Chester, moor up at Christleton for the park and ride service into the city centre, where you can visit Chester Zoo and admire the Roman Walls and Medieval architecture.
Intermediate route: The Four Counties Ring - 161 miles, 132 locks, 90 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 industrial stories about 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 to the Harecastle Tunnel, which is 2926yds long (remember to book your passage). Passing Harding’s 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 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 at Hurleston Junction and returning the boat to the marina.
Active route: The Cheshire Ring - 170 miles, 138 locks, 96 hours total
Start your journey cruising north onto the Shropshire Union Canal and then along 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 then a couple of waterfront pubs to stop off for some refreshments 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 old mills, 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 on 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, after which you can cruise back to the Middlewich Branch and return to Blackwater.