Short Break Route Suggestions (3 & 4 nights):
Relaxed route: Llangollen, Whittington and Return - 28 miles, 4 locks, 12.5 hours total
This route will take you through the Whitehouse Tunnel, over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and through to the lovely town of Llangollen. Moor in the basin at Llangollen overnight to explore the area. Llangollen offers plenty of shops, restaurants and pubs, a steam railway that will take you through the valleys and a traditional horse drawn boat that takes you to the pretty Horseshoe Falls. The next morning return past Chirk Marina, through Chirk Tunnel and over Chirk Aqueduct, cruising as far as Whittington, where there is a canalside pub. Turn around after Maestermyn Bridge No. 5 and return to Chirk Marina.
Intermediate route: Llangollen, Ellesmere and Return - 38 miles, 4 locks, 16.5 hours total
Follow the relaxed route (above) but extend your cruise to include the traditional town of Ellesmere. Instead of turning at Maestermyn Bridge, continue cruising east. This will take you past Frankton Junction (with the Montgomery Canal branch) then along a meandering canal route through countryside and farmland, eventually arriving at the Ellesmere Canal Arm to your left. Moor nearby to walk into the town, where there are local pubs and shops including a traditional family-run delicatessen. Turn here and return to Chirk.
Active route: Trevor, Whitchurch and Return - 52 miles, 4 locks, 24 hours total
Best suited to a mid-week break. Follow the relaxed route above towards Llangollen over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, but turn around at Trevor (at the end of the aqueduct) instead. Return past Chirk Marina, through Chirk Tunnel and over the Chirk Aqueduct. Stop at Ellesmere for a spot of food shopping, before passing through Ellesmere Tunneland continuing towards Whitchurch. There is a winding point just before the entrance to the Whitchurch Arm or you can turn at the boatyard before the road bridge. Whitchurch is Roman in origin and is recorded in the Domesday Book. Some buildings date back to the 14thC in the town centre and the attractive High Street has a variety of shops, cafés and restaurants. Please note that the closest pub is a mile away, in the town centre, so you may wish to cater onboard.
Weekly Route Suggestions:
Relaxed route: Llangollen, Whitchurch and Return - 62 miles, 4 locks, 27 hours total
This route will take you over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and to the lovely town of Llangollen. Llangollen offers plenty of shops, restaurants and pubs, a steam railway that will take you through the valleys, a traditional horse drawn boat that takes you to the pretty Horseshoe Falls and back and some very pretty scenery indeed. Return past Chirk Marina, passing the junction at Frankton with the Montgomery Canal (locks need to be prebooked if you want to explore the Montgomery). Continue on through the Ellesmere Tunnel towards Whitchurch. Turn in the small arm at Whichurch - you may be able to proceed towards the winding hole to turn if your chosen boat is not too long (check dimensions using the map). Whitchurch is Roman in origin, and is recorded in the Domesday Book. Some buildings date back to the 14th C in the town centre and the attractive High Street has a variety of shops, cafés and restaurants. Please note that the closest pub is a mile away so you may wish to cater onboard.
Intermediate route: Llangollen, Wrenbury and Return - 76 miles, 24 locks, 38 hours total
Follow the trip above to cruise into Llangollen first to experience the tunnel and aqueducts, then return and continue past Whitchurch to the Grindley Brook Staircase Locks (Lockside cafe and shop here) towards Wrenbury Mill. There is a choice of pubs serving food within a short walk from the boatyard at Wrenbury Mill and a well stocked village shop half a mile away. Return for home.
Active route: Llangollen, Nantwich and Return - 92 miles, 42 locks, 48 hours total
Follow the intermediate route above then continue to Hurleston Junction at the end of the navigation. Join the mainline of the Shropshire Union Canal and bear right (south) towards Nantwich. Moor by the Chester Road bridge and the town centre is less than 1 mile walk. Nantwich is a medieval town with timbered buildings, antique and craft shops, restaurants and little boutiques. It has the largest collection of listed historic buildings in Shropshire with the Grade I listed St Mary's Church dating back to the 14th Century.
Fortnight Route Suggestions:
Relaxed route: Llangollen, Chester and Return - 123 miles, 66 locks, 62 hours total
About 5 hours a day. Cruise east on the Llangollen Canal to Hurleston Junction. The northern stretch of the Llangollen Canal offers picturesque countryside, a few locks including the Grindley Staircase Locks, small villages and historic churches. Once at Hurleston Junction, turn left, cruising north onto the Shropshire Union Canal, where you reach Barbridge which has a pet friendly pub, just before the junction with the Middlewich Branch. Continue cruising north through the Bunbury Staircase locks and the green countryside. There are a couple of waterfront pubs around Beeston - 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. Arriving at Chester, moor or turn at the moorings / winding hole by Cow Lane Bridge near the city walls, or go through the Northgate Staircase Locks and moor just beyond to explore the city.
Intermediate route: Llangollen, Chester, Ellesmere Boat Museum and Return - 140 miles, 70 locks, 70 hours total
About 6 hours cruising a day. As above but continue through Chester for a further 8 miles and 3 locks to the Boat Museum moorings. Turn and return to Chirk.
Active route: Llangollen and The Four Counties Ring - 199 miles, 136 locks, 107 hours total
About 8 hours cruising a day. As per the relaxed route above, then head South on the Shropshire Union Canal (Shroppie) towards Nantwich. The canal crosses a stunning cast-iron aqueduct, designed by Thomas Telford in 1826, just outside the medieval town of Nantwich. Take time to moor up and explore this historic market town - a short walk to the east of the aqueduct. Nantwich was the centre of the salt mining industry until the 19th C. and has some fine Tudor buildings, antique dealers, boutique shops and traditional food shops. The town hosts various festivals during the year including the Jazz Festival, Food Festival and the International Cheese Awards. Continue south on the Shroppie towards the 15 locks at Audlem, a good place to stop overnight; there is a Tourist Information Centre, shops including a supermarket, butchers, chemist, takeaways & canal side pubs. Next stop, the attractive town of Market Drayton, again with canal side pubs and fine old buildings. Now a very rural stretch of the canal towards Norbury, then further south at Gnosall there is access to shops via Bridge 34. Next comes a quiet 8 miles to Brewood passing Wheaton Aston and its canalside pub. Brewood has pubs, shops, cafés and a popular curry house. At Autherley Junction head east up the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal towards Great Haywood. En route there are places to stop and eat at Hatherton Marina or Penkridge village (stores, butchers, chemist, takeaway, pubs and restaurants). Radford Bridge is the closest point to the town of Stafford, about 1.5 miles away (frequent bus service). 5 miles further on is Great Haywood at the junction with the Trent & Mersey Canal. Here you join the Trent & Mersey and travel towards the more built-up area of The Potteries. Cruise through the Harecastle tunnel (check opening times) and to Middlewich through a series of locks, then take the Middlewich Arm. There is plenty to do around this area. On the Middlewich Arm you have the opportunity to take in some magnificent rural views. Middlewich itself is a market town founded by the Romans, which was once renowned for its salt production. It now boasts an annual boat festival, Roman and Norman festivals and regular farmers' markets. Once at Barbridge Junction turn left and to Hurleston Junction (Llangollen Canal) making your return journey to Chirk.