Short Break Route Suggestions (3 & 4 nights):
Relaxed route: Whitchurch and Return - 14 miles, 20 locks, 11 hours total
The boatyard itself is situated at an attractive converted mill. There are a couple of pubs nearby as well as a push-button swingbridge. Depart the marina and cruise west down the Llangollen Canal, - the scenery is very pretty along this stretch, with just a couple of locks to negotiate. There is a waterfront pub just before the locks, if you fancy a stop before navigating the Grindley Brook Staircase Locks, or there's a cafe further down for a tea or ice cream - depending on the weather! After making your way up the staircase, you cruise through leafy green countryside until you pass under a lift bridge leading to the Whitchurch Arm. There are moorings at the arm and from here its approximately a half mile walk into the town. St Alkmund's Church, built in 1713, is located in the town at the top of the hill. The town is also quite interesting, with old houses from all periods and narrow streets to explore, as well as plenty of pubs and restaurants to choose from for your evening meal. Turn around at the end of the arm to make your way back to Wrenbury Mill.
Intermediate route: Beeston Castle and Return - 26 miles, 30 locks, 16 hours total
This route takes you to Hurleston Junction and onto the Shropshire Union Canal. St Michael's Church, first mentioned in 1299, becomes visible as you leave Wrenbury behind. The Church is worth a stop, set in on picturesque hilltop overlooking a small lake. Work your way through the locks at Baddiley passing Baddiley Hall and the Swanley Locks, then past the backs of houses and gardens to 4 locks at Hurleston Junction. Head north from the junction passing Barbridge, where there is a waterfront pub if you fancied a break. As you continue cruising north through unspoilt countryside, Bunbury village is located just a mile south of the canal if you are looking for a place to eat. Beeston Castle is also within reach of the canal (approx. 2 miles' walk) - the impressive ruins of this 14th Century Castle are surrounded by woodland, great for an afternoon exploring. There's a turning point between Beeston Stone Lock and Wharfton's Lock to start making your return journey to the boatyard.
Active route: Ellesmere and Return - 39 miles, 20 locks, 22 hours total
Ideal for those wishing to experience a midweek break through breath-taking scenery.
Depart the boatyard cruising west down the Llangollen Canal and through three locks. There is waterfront pub to get some refreshment before entering Grindley Brook Staircase Locks. Passing under a lift-bridge, you reach the Whitchurch Arm where there are moorings if you wanted to walk into town. Returning to your boat, cruise through quiet countryside and under a series of bridges. The canal makes its way down to Ellesmere village, 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' then 'Blake Mere' which are lakes next to the canal. The countryside gives way to wooded hills as you approach Ellesmere, first passing through a small tunnel. Ellesmere is an 18th Century market town with tall red-bricked houses and narrow streets, there is a greengrocer, delicatessen and several pubs - plenty of opportunity to stock up on food. You can moor at the marina to explore the town, before turning around and heading back to Wrenbury.
Weekly Route Suggestions:
Relaxed route: Chester and Return - 45 miles, 40 locks, 24 hours total
Cruising east along the Llangollen Canal to Hurleston Junction. This stretch of the Llangollen Canal offers picturesque countryside and historic churches. At Hurleston Junction turn left and cruise north along the Shropshire Union Canal, sonn arriving at Barbridge which has a canalside pub. Bypass Barbridge Junction to your right and continue north. After negotiating the Bunbury Staircase Locks there are a couple of waterfront pubs around Beeston - why not take a break and walk to the ruins of Beeston Castle. Follow the canal as it wends through the Cheshire Plains past Waverton and a brick mill by Egg Bridge, enjoying a lock free stretch before reaching the village of Christleton; the buildings of Chester now visible infront of you. You can moor at Christleton if you wish to explore Chester (Park & Ride) or continue cruising into the city centre through 5 locks, passing the old city - a sharp right turn takes you into Tower Wharf. The city is most easily accessed from canal bridge 123E. Turn around, mooring outside the city centre for the night (somewhere quieter) then return to Wrenbury.
Intermediate route: Llangollen and Return - 76 miles, 24 locks, 38 hours total
A large part of this route has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is one of the '7 wonders' of the UK waterways, making this one of our most popular boating locations. Cruise west, passing several low bridges and lots of pretty countryside. This route takes you through the Grindley Brook Staircase Locks then onto Ellesmere. There are woodland walks from the Meres Visitor Centre if you fancy stretching your legs. Making your way past Frankton Junction you come to two locks and the landscape becomes hillier. After a sharp corner, you arrive at the Chirk Aqueduct and Tunnel. Chirk village is situated on the Welsh/English border and is overlooked by Chirk Castle. Cruise through woodland through a small tunnel, then onward to Trevor and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. There are a few waterside pubs as you cruise between Ellesmere and Trevor, to stop off for refreshments. After the bridge at Trevor the waterway gets narrower, so you need someone to hop off and walk up to check that the navigation is clear. The stunning canal scenery is punctuated by brick bridges as you cruise down the canal alongside a deep, green valley. There is a basin with visitor moorings at Llangollen (charges apply), which is within easy walking distance of the town. Llangollen itself is well worth exploring - you can hop on a traditional steam train for a scenic ride or take a horse drawn boat to Llantysilio past the Horseshoe Falls (built by Telford), which provides water to the navigation. Turn at the basin and return to Wrenbury.
Active route: Autherley and Return - 94 miles, 76 locks, 49.5 hours total
Cruise east along the Llangollen Canal to Hurleston Junction. This stretch of the Llangollen Canal offers picturesque countryside and historic churches. At Hurleston Junction turn right, heading south along the pleasant Shropshire Union Canal and leading you through open green fields as you travel towards Nantwich. Nantwich is a traditional Cheshire market town with black & white timber buildings and numerous shops, cafes and restaurants; just a short walk from the bridge. There are some great country walks to be had in this area, or for something slightly different, why not visit Hack Green's 'Secret Nuclear Bunker' located past Nantwich near bridge 85. Returning to your boat, cruise south through hedge-lined farmland and woodland to Audlem, where the lock free stretch ends. There are a couple of waterfront pubs and the opportunity to buy provisions, before you make your way through a flight of 15 locks and towards Market Drayton. Market Drayton is an attractive town, said to be the home of gingerbread, due its link to with Robert Clive, who brought spices back to the UK after his travels to the East. Departing Market Drayton, continue over two small aqueducts and through the five Tyrley Locks. The canal is very peaceful along this stretch and at Woodseaves it runs through deep rock 'cuttings' with high arched bridges above. There are plenty of pubs along this canal, most with nearby moorings. Brewood is a surprisingly pretty village to explore just before you reach Autherley Junction. Turn at Autherley to begin your return journey.
Fortnight Route Suggestions:
Relaxed route: The Four Counties Ring - 122 miles, 112 locks, 69 hours total
Start your journey by cruising east up the Llangollen Canal to Hurleston Junction. 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 south 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 woodland with quaint canalside towns and villages. There is a lock free stretch at first, interrupted by the 15-lock flight at Audlem where you can take a break at one of the canalside pubs. At Autherley Junction head east onto the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal - there is a narrow stretch between the junction and bridge 74, so look out for oncoming boats. Pass Gailey Wharf with its interesting toll keeper's house, heading to Penkridge where there is a handful of locks and some pubs. If you need supplies you can stop at Radford Bridge which is approximately 1.5 miles from Stafford (bus service available). Follow the canal through Tixall Wide with woodland concealing Shugborough Hall to the south. At Great Haywood, join the Trent & Mersey Canal and head north, making your way past the market town of Stone before arriving at Stoke-on-Trent. Pass through the centre of Stoke-on-Trent and alsong the Harecastle Tunnel, which is 2926 yards long (remember to book your passage). At Hardings Wood Junction there are some waterfront pubs to stop at for refreshment, before navigating through the 'Cheshire Locks'. At the Middlewich Junction, head west onto the Middlewich Branch which offers rural moorings, passing across a small aqueduct over the River Weaver. Once at Barbridge Junction turn south onto the Shropshire Union Canal for approximately one mile before rejoining the Llangollen Canal and returning the boat to the marina.
Intermediate route: The Cheshire Ring - 132 miles, 118 locks, 71.5 hours total
Cruise east along the Llangollen Canal to Hurleston Junction and the Shropshire Union Canal, then onto the Middlewich Branch where the scenery is dominated by rural views. At Middlewich, head south along the Trent & Mersey Canal, completing the active 'Cheshire Locks'. There are a couple of waterfront pubs at Hardings Wood Junction, after the flight. From here, navigate over the Poole Aqueduct and Red Bull Aqueduct onto the Macclesfield Canal. The canal passes through green countryside lined with hilly woodland and old mills, providing an excellent opportunity for a walk. On the Macclesfield Canal, there are several bridges but only 12 locks, at Bosley, making this a relaxing cruise. There are plenty of towns and villages in the area to explore including Oakgrove, Gawsworth and Congleton. Cruising left onto the Peak Forest Canal you experience the stunning Marple Aqueduct. The nearby wharf is a hub of boating activity with the opportunity to stop for a meal. There are 16 locks at Marple and two tunnels, then canal continues northward where the scenery becomes less rural, industrial buildings hinting that you are on the approach to Manchester. The Ashton Canal passes through a very built up area with regular locks. Old Trafford can be seen to the south as you enter Manchester City Centre. Leaving the city centre behind, you join the Bridgewater Canal and the outlook becomes more rural as you cruise through the valley of the River Bollin. Stop off at Altrincham to take a walk round the market square with black & white timber buildings, then continue to Lymm, which has great views of the Pennines and access to some pubs, a fish & chip shop and local stores. Turning towards Preston Brook, make your way onto the Trent & Mersey Canal passing the Victorian Boat Lift at Anderton. Then to Middlewich again, where you turn onto the Middlewich Branch once again and back to Wrenbury.
Active route: Llangollen, Chester, Market Drayton and Return - 150 miles, 108 locks, 79 hours total
Cruise west towards Llangollen, passing under several bridges and through pretty countryside. Navigate through the Grindley Brook Staircase Locks and then onto Ellesmere village. There are nice woodland walks from the Meres Visitor Centre. Making your way past Frankton Junction you come across two locks, then after a sharp turn you arrive at Chirk Aqueduct and Tunnel. Cruise through woodland through a small tunnel then towards Trevor and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. There are some canalside pubs for you to stop at between Ellesmere and Trevor. After Trevor the waterway gets narrower, so you need someone to hop off and walk up to check that the navigation is clear. The stunning canal scenery is punctuated by brick bridges as you cruise down the canal alongside a deep, green valley. There is a basin with moorings at Llangollen (charges apply), which is within easy walking distance of the town. Llangollen itself is worth exploring - you can hop on a traditional steam train for a scenic ride or take a horse drawn boat to Llantysilio past the Horseshoe Falls (built by Telford). Turn at the basin, making your journey back past Wrenbury to Hurleston Junction, then head north on the Shropshire Union Canal. Continue up through Bunbury Staircase Locks, then there are a couple of waterfront pubs around Beeston. Beeston Castle is visible from here and is approx. 2 miles' walk from the canal. Follow the route as it runs through the Cheshire Plains past Waverton and the brick mill by Egg Bridge, enjoying a lock free stretch to the village of Christleton. You can moor at Christleton if you wish to explore Chester (Park & Ride) or continue into the city centre through 5 locks, passing the old city. The city and its attractions are easily accessed from canal bridge 123E. Turn around and cruise south again, mooring outside the city centre for the night (somewhere quieter). Continue down the Shropshire Union Canal, past Hurleston Junction to Nantwich, which has interesting architecture and various restaurants withing walking distance from the bridge. Return to your boat, cruising south through farmland to Audlem, where the lock free stretch ends. There are a couple of waterfront pubs and some local shops for provisions, before you make your way through a flight of 15 locks leading towards Market Drayton. Market Drayton is an attractive town, said to be the home of gingerbread. Turn here to make your return journey to Wrenbury - which will take approximately 13 hours.