This is the perfect short break for families enjoy a narrowboat for the first time. You’ll cross the border between England and Wales as you cruise through the stunning Dee Valley, an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and float through the clouds along the sky-high Pontcysyllte Aqueduct for one of the most memorable views on the UK’s waterways.
At either end of your out-and-back route are two fascinating towns that are packed full of adventures, and with just a couple of locks to conquer each way, you’ll get a relaxing taste of canal life.
You’ll complete the 37-mile round trip with four-and-a-half hours of cruising each day, giving you plenty of time to explore this wonderful stretch.
“If you’re trying a canal holiday for the first time this route is perfect. The memory of crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct will stay with you for a long time!”
Becky Davies, Chirk base manager
YOUR 4-NIGHT ADVENTURE
37 miles | 4 locks | average of 4.5 hours per day cruising
Dee Valley Area of Natural Beauty
Ellesmere’s award-winning Mere
Wood Lane Nature Reserve
Ellesmere’s Sculpture Trail
*Please note that the cost of entry is not included in your holiday. Check the attraction website for latest prices. We recommend booking in advance.
COVID-19: ATTRACTION ADVICE
There are lots of attractions to enjoy on route, but their opening times and visitor procedures may have changed to cope with COVID restrictions. Please check their website and phone ahead for the latest information, and to check whether you need to book in advance.
Route highlights: Pontycysllte Aqueduct
THE HIGH LIFE
At 39 metres tall, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the highest canal aqueduct in the world, so when you cross you really are experiencing something special. The waterway takes boats over the Dee River, and the and surrounding valley is so stunning it was given World Heritage status. As you cross, one side of the aqueduct carries a footpath for walkers but the other side falls away, giving you the feeling of floating through the air. This is an experience not to be missed.
“Moor up before or after the aqueduct and follow one of the trails down to the River Dee, a great setting for picnics and skimming stones.”
Route highlights: Chirk Aqueduct
A THRILL IN TWO COUNTRIES
This is one route with two incredible aqueducts! Chirk Aqueduct carries boaters across Ceiriog Valley. Although it’s a little shorter than Pontcysyllte, it has the bonus of Chirk Tunnel at one end which, as it’s totally unlit, you’ll cruise through in the dark!
“The aqueduct crosses the border between England and Wales, so why not take a selfie with a foot in each country!”
Route highlights: The Dee Valley
The Dee Valley is an official Area of Natural Beauty that includes some of the UK’s most wonderful landscapes. Although you’re only cruising through a short stretch of it, you’ll enjoy astounding views and a wealth of wildlife. The beauty of a canal break is you can stop and explore at any time.
“This is a great route for putting your Towpath Activity Guide to use, especially the sections on family walks and wildlife watching.”
Route highlights: Chirk Castle
KING FOR A DAY
Imposing Chirk Castle was one of several fortresses built in medieval times to keep the Welsh under English rule. The incredible castle was constructed with some of the most state-of-the-art defences for the period, including round towers with a wider firing field for archers, a broader base that made it difficult for battering rams to get close, and murder holes in the towers where defenders could drop all sorts of nasties on unsuspecting invaders. This is a National Trust property, so entry is free for members.
“Book your tickets in advance. The castle is just over a mile from Chirk Marina, or you can catch a taxi from Llangollen.”
Route highlights: Ellesmere’s Wildlife
You’ll spot plenty of plants and animals as you cruise along, but when you reach Ellesmere you have the opportunity to see even more of the local wildlife. Head to The Mere for an award-winning green space that includes a shallow lake, woodland walks and play areas. Alternatively, Wood Lane Nature Reserve is a quarry site that has become one of the best places in Shropshire to view bird life. More than 180 species have been spied on the lagoon islands, among the newly planted trees and wading through the shallow waters.
Route highlights: Ellesmere’s Sculpture Trail
For a countryside walk with a difference follow the Ellesmere Sculpture Trail. This three-mile route is dotted with works from international artists, so there’s great family fun in being first to spot the different statues.
PERFECT FOR YOUR FIRST FAMILY CANAL CRUISE
High Life is a great choice for canal holiday first timers. The route is truly stunning, yet it’s short enough to give you loads of time to explore along the way, and the two towns at each end are perfect for day visits. And if you don’t fancy tackling too many locks, there are just two to travel through on your way to and from Ellesmere.
YOUR ADVENTURE STARTS WITH A FREE COACHING SESSION
Before you head off, we’ll give you and the family a free British Marine Federation accredited coaching session.
We’ll walk you through the controls on the boat. Show you how to steer and stop. How to cruise safely. How to operate locks and swing bridges and navigate tunnels.
You won’t leave until you’re a wiz on the narrowboat. Ready and raring to discover a new destination every day.
YOUR HOLIDAY INCLUDES
Lifejackets for children and adults
All your linen and kitchen equipment
Mobile WIFI (enough to keep you connected, but not for streaming)
A coaching session before you set off
A family-friendly route plan with advice on stops each day and night
The Towpath Activity Guide from family adventurer David Mellor
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