A cruise down to Pontypool is the perfect beginner’s itinerary. If you rather not do any lock wheeling on your canal holiday, then this might be the route of choice for you. Instead of lots of locks, the canal boasts many horseshoe bends to wind itself around the hills and almost always crosses an aqueduct. At times noisily tumbling streams and rivers underneath make a scenic sight. The more you progress along the canal, the steeper and more impressive the hills get. There are many visible remains of the mining industry from the past, which make for a very interesting excursion on foot. You’ll cross through a wooded area and shortly reach the crossing of the River Usk. A walk under the canal through the tunnel in Govilon makes a nice change to your holiday on the canal. The scenery changes between open pastureland, wooded areas and steep hills and making this cruise down to Pontypool a very exciting and pleasant one. There are many opportunities for walks in the surrounding countryside and although there are sections without any towns and villages, in sight, a traditional pub or restaurant is almost always only a short walk away. Once you have reached the town of Pontypool, it’s time to turn around and retrace your journey back to the hire base in Gilwern.
Experience the famed Llangollen Canal on a relaxed journey to the picturesque market town of Ellesmere. Enjoy the beautiful meres around Ellesmere, tackle the Grindley Brook Staircase Locks and explore the expansive Whixall Moss Nature Reserve. Don't forget your binoculars, there is plenty of wildlife to be seen, either from the Mammoth Tower or the birdhide at Charles Sinker Fields. The quaint village of Wrenbury is also a great place to stop and visit one of the popular pubs.
One of the most popular routes, the journey from the hire base to Llangollen and back, could be done in one week by an active crew or enjoyed over 2 weeks for more relaxed cruising. There are 26 locks each way. Highlights along the way are the Grindley Brook staircase locks at Whitchurch and Whixall Moss. The latter is a designated SSSI and provides several trails that cross this raised bog. Ellesmere, with its several meres, is soon reached. After passing through Whitehouse Tunnel, you’ll soon reach another highlight of your narrowboat holiday: the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The aqueduct is truly one of a kind: 1001 ft long, 126 ft high, - no handrail on one site. At times, it feels like you are floating in the air. You’ll catch your first glimpse of the Welsh hills, a truly spectacular sight. Now you have time to take in the Welsh landscape and just enjoy your cruise until you reach Llangollen.
If you want to experience the whole of the Mon and Brec Canal in one narrowboat holiday, this route is the perfect option for you. Starting at the hire base in Gilwern, it’s a good idea to begin your journey down towards Pontypool. Due to the lack of locks on this stretch of canal, this is the perfect warm-up for your holiday cruise. Tumbling streams, historic remains of the mining industry and great walks away from the towpath make for a holiday that never gets boring. Once you arrive in Pontypool, you turn around and retrace your steps back towards Gilwern, where you pass the hire base and start your second leg of the journey to Brecon. There are 6 locks in total, 5 of which are a flight, set in a very idyllic woodland. The remains of an old castle in Pencelli and of course the area around Llanrynach with its vast amount of prehistoric remains are only 2 of the many highlights on the way to Brecon. In Talybont, you can take a stroll along the disused tramway line to Talybont reservoir, where you can watch the rich wildlife and have a pleasant time in the Welsh countryside. In Brecon, you can moor up in Theatre Basin, which is the perfect base for exploring Brecon. Now it’s time to start your journey back to the hire base in Gilwern.
Starting at the hire base in the village of Gilwern you’ll leave the characteristic lime kilns of Llangatock behind and cross your first Aqueduct. You’ll cruise through pleasant Glanusk Park and find yourself among the Welsh hills and a thickly wooded area. Just after leaving the woods, you’ll reach the first of 5 locks. The lock flight has probably one of the most picturesque and idyllic settings in the U.K., located in the middle of the woods among the Welsh hills. Now, flat pastureland follows and you’ll have a pleasant and relaxing cruise through the Brecon Beacons. The remains of a castle in Pencelli and prehistoric remains around the settlement of Llanfrynach are only 2 of the highlights on the way to Brecon. After crossing another impressive Aqueduct, you’ll encounter your 6th and final lock before reaching Brecon. On the last mile, you’ll cruise your holiday boat high up on the hillside before entering the outskirts of Brecon and shortly arriving at Theatre Basin, the turning point for this journey.
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