Exploring Wales from the water
Your narrowboat holiday in Wales will provide you with some breathtaking views and great photo opportunities. The Lllangollen canal in Wales, meandering its way alongside the Berwyn Mountains, takes you over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in this beautiful World Heritage Site, towards the ancient town of Llangollen.
You’ll access this amazing Welsh waterway from Chirk Marina, near the site of Chirk Castle, in Wrexham, North Wales.
Black Prince offers boat hire with a variety of routes from this base in Wales, either travelling west to Llangollen, or crossing east into England to visit Ellesmere, Whitchurch and further north up to Chester and Northwich.
Each of these locations offers beautiful scenery, historical places to visit and some great attractions that will appeal to all the family.
Guests interested in barge holidays in Wales (barges being wider boats) should note that due to the restrictions in width of the canals in this part of the UK, most canal waterways only the offer the option of narrowboating.
Top Towns to Visit in Wales
Llangollen | Nestled in the Welsh hills, the ancient small town of Llangollen has a fascinating history dating back to the 7th century when it was founded by its founding saint Collen. There are plenty of sights to see here on a Welsh canal holiday, from the famous Dee Bridge, which was built I345 , Crow Castle and the Valle Crucis Abbey. Llangollen became important in canal history because of its position on the main London to Holyhead coaching road built by Thomas Telford in 1815 and the canal was also constructed around this. Nowadays, Llangollen is perhaps best known for hosting the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod every July. It’s a short canal boat trip, approximately four hours to cruising to get to Llangollen, which makes Chirk an easy place to rent a canal boat to reach this pretty town.
Chirk | Chirk oozes fascinating history, from the Norman fortress that dates back to the early 12th Century and Chirk Castle which today still proudly guards the entrance to the Ceiriog Valley. There’s plenty to see and do here – wander into town for a choice of shops, pubs and restaurants and see the sights including the famous Thomas Telford bridge constructed in around 1798. When you are renting a canal boat from Black Prince from our Chirk hire base, build in some time either before or after your trip to explore this historic small town.
Top Historical Attractions
Chirk Castle | Not far from Chirk Marina where your narrowboat hire will be moored up you can visit this magnificent medieval fortress which dates back to 1310. There’s plenty to explore including the medieval tower and dungeon, 17th-century Long Gallery, grand 18th-century state apartments, servants’ hall and historic laundry. There is also a lovely walk around the award-winning gardens and don’t miss out the garden terrace which offers stunning views the Cheshire and Salop plains.
Plas Newydd | This historic house, now open as a museum, holds much of it’s attraction in the fascinating story of the two ‘Ladies of Llangollen’. In the early nineteenth century these two upper-class women from Ireland developed a relationship that scandalised and fascinated their contemporaries and after a romantic elopement from their families in Ireland, they settled at Plas Newydd in Wales. The Ladies of Llangollen welcomed a host of society names to their house, including poets like Robert Southee and William Wordsworth, and statesmen like the Duke of Wellington. Potter Josiah Wedgwood visited, as did novelist Sir Walter Scott. Today it’s mock-medieval frontage has led to it being used in many television programmes and in film and it is one of Wales’ most popular tourist attractions. This museum is easy to visit on your Welsh canal boat holiday.
Castel Dinas Bran | In Llangollen, you can see the Castel Dinas Bran, a medieval castle that stands high above the town as its most famous landmark. Popular in literature, the castle can be accessed by a zigzagging path through the Welsh countryside from Llangollen. Moor up your hire boat in Llangollen, either on the canal or in the marina (small extra charge applies) and hike up to this attraction.
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is a navigable aqueduct that carries the Llangollen Canal across the River Dee in the Vale of Llangollen in northeast Wales. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most iconic landmarks in Wales. The aqueduct is a 1,800-foot-long, 125-foot-high structure that consists of 18 arches. It was designed by Thomas Telford and built between 1795 and 1805. The aqueduct was built to allow boats to travel between Llangollen and the River Mersey. It is now a popular tourist destination and is used for both commercial and recreational boating. You’ll cross this amazing structure on your Welsh canal boat holiday on your way to Llangollen.
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is a feat of engineering and a beautiful piece of architecture. It is a must-see for anyone visiting Wales. You can easily walk from Chirk Marina to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
Attractions for Kids
OUTDOOR ADVENTURE | The area around Llangollen is packed full of outdoor adventure, including rock-climbing, kayaking down the Dee, and white water-rafting. Visit the local tourist information for details on companies who can organise day trips and activities in this area, most of this equipment can be rentals as opposed to having to bring your own equipment.
LLANGOLLEN HERITAGE STEAM RAILWAY | Even big kids enjoy a steam railway, and the Llangollen Steam Railway needs to go down on your to do list whilst your are enjoying your canal boat holiday here. Located beside the historic Dee Bridge in Llangollen, the line follows the River Dee, classed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), for its entire length. Fans of Thomas the Tank Engine will be pleased to know he visits at least once a year!
TOP CANAL HOLIDAY ATTRACTIONS
PONTCYSYLLTE AQUEDUCT | If you’re looking for a stunning photo opportunity on your Welsh canal boat holiday, then this is the place to come. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Stream in the Sky’ the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is one of the first things you will cross on your narrowboat holiday as you head towards Llangollen.
Standing 126ft high over the River Dee, it has 19 arches each with a 45ft span and is the largest aqueduct in Britain. The brainchild of Thomas Telford, this elegant aqueduct holds 1.5 million litres of water and was completed in 1805. Be warned – it’s not one for the fainthearted! One side of the aqueduct is just sheer drop. If you are renting a canal boat then some narrow boaters (the ones that aren’t driving!) prefer to walk on the footpath that runs alongside it.
HORSESHOE FALLS | Horseshoe Falls in Llangollen is a distinctively shaped weir created by Thomas Telford that helps create a pool of water that can enter the Llangollen Canal. Since 2009, the weir has been part of a World Heritage Site, which covers 11 miles (18 km) of the Llangollen Canal from just above Horseshoe Falls to just below Chirk Aqueduct. The canal was awarded World Heritage status because of the amazing feat of civil engineering that meant this canal was constructed with no locks through such difficult terrain.
LLANGOLLEN INTERNATIONAL EISTEDDFOD | If you enjoy international music and a great party atmosphere then head over to Llangollen in July. This world-famous event sees people from across the globe flock to Llangollen to compete and soak up the atmosphere.
Canal Boat Hire FAQs
WHAT IS THE BEST CANAL TRIP IN THE UK
Many would argue that a canal boat trip along the Llangollen Canal in Wales is the most scenic canal trip in the UK. The stunning views across the Unesco World Heritage Site makes for a stunning canal boat holiday.
WHICH CANAL IN WALES HAS THE LEAST LOCKS?
The Llangollen Canal in Wales has no locks to travel through, making it a very easy Welsh canal boat holiday, whilst the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal is a more challenging route.
CAN YOU MOOR A CANAL BOAT ANYWHERE?
When you hire a canal / narrowboat from Black Prince, you are allowed to moor almost anywhere alongside canal towpaths. The only exceptions are near bridges, at water points and in private marinas.
CAN I HIRE A CANAL BOAT IN BRECON?
Canal boating in Brecon is a great way to explore the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, a 36-mile waterway that runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park. Black Prince do not offer a canal boat hire there, our alternative is the stunning Llangollen Canal in north Wales.
WHAT ATTRACTIONS ARE AVAILABLE FOR KIDS DURING THE CANAL BOAT HOLIDAY?
The great thing about a canal boat holiday in Wales is that you can hop on and off the boat at any time, visiting anything that looks interesting to you – you make your own itinerary! When you reach Llangollen, we recommend a ride on the Llangollen railway. Children will love riding the old fashioned steam train that runs for 10 miles through the stunning Dee Valley, following the River Dee from Llangollen to Corwen. There are five stations along the line, each with its own special charm and hidden gems.
IS A NARROWBOAT THE SAME AS A BARGE HOLIDAY IN WALES?
The primary differences between barges and narrowboats lie in their size, design, and intended use. Barges are typically larger, broader, and heavier vessels with a flat-bottomed hull. They are designed for carrying heavy cargo, and their size allows them to transport substantial loads. Narrowboats, as the name suggests, are narrower and more streamlined than barges. They have a distinctive long, narrow shape and a deeper draft relative to their size. Due to the width of the canals in Wales, Black Prince offers narrowboat holidays as opposed to barge holidays in this area.