Mr and Mrs 50 Plus have been on a few narrowboat holidays. Read about or latest adventure on the canals below …
At the beginning of 2020 we’d (optimistically, in retrospect) booked a couple of holidays, evenly spaced throughout the year. Then March came along and with it, Lockdown! COVID19 had laid waste the plans of many a mouse and man.
Before we knew it though, 3 months in, a Downing Street Press Conference hailed the easing of restrictions for self-catering holidays and lo and behold Short Break Number 1 was well and truly on.
Black Prince Holidays
So here we are on a Black Prince Holidays narrowboat called Nancy, sailing down the Llangollen Canal. The full title is apparently The Shropshire Union Canal – Llangollen Branch, but hey we’re not nit-picking here. Now the last time we did this, we had 5 hormone-fuelled teenagers with us so we knew this had to be more relaxing than on that occasion and were we ever right.
We started our adventure on Day 1 of the ‘lifting of restrictions’ and now on Day 4 we are about as chilled as we possibly could be. The Corona Beer (we’re not superstitious!) and Pinot Grigio in the dappled sunshine may be helping but whatever you say, there’s no mode of transport quite as relaxing as a narrowboat. By their very nature, canals are slow moving and as the boats con only muster a speed of 5mph, it’s about as laidback as you can get.
It turns out some people take to it more easily than others but whether you’re a novice or Captain/Commodore/Admiral, the Marina staff will patiently take you through all the instructions and make sure you kind of know what you’re doing before you leave and set off on your own little adventure – be it a weekend, mid-week break or a whole week!
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – Wow!
I could see that not even halfway through our briefing, Mrs 50 Plus was starting to glaze over. Our guide explained inverter isolators, grease glands and gas bottle diverters. Simply not her field of interest! So once clear of Chirk Marina, we headed left towards Llangollen via the world-famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This structure, built way back at the beginning of the nineteenth century, is a sight to behold. With no more than a six-inch steel girder between you, your boat and a 200 foot drop, it’s not for the faint-hearted! On one side, there’s the towpath, but on the other…
After a 90 degree turn in the Trevor basin, the canal gets narrower and shallower, but offers serenity hard to find on today’s tarmac highways. With overhanging trees, sheer rock cuttings and wildlife in abundance, it’s an experience hard to find nowadays without venturing miles off the beaten track. Knowing that you can just moor up and soak it all in at your leisure makes it even more special.
Relaxing & Scenic
On our second day we arrived at the scenic and attractive town of Llangollen, where we parked up and took a walk around the town. Still being relatively soon after those dreaded lockdown days, not all the shops, cafes and attractions were fully open, but just taking in the sights from the famous bridge and the elevated canal side was enough.
Re-tracing our steps, we headed back down the canal to explore some of the canal on the English side of Chirk. The canal changes its character once you exit the ever-so-long Chirk tunnel and cross the aqueduct. Passing through fields and villages, the canal widens and after passing through a couple of locks at New Marton it passes through fields and hedgerows. In fact when we moored between Hindford and Frankton, it was so quiet and peaceful it seemed a shame to have to start the engine the next morning.
Narrowboat cruising is as relaxing as you want to make it. We watched some fighting and struggling, bouncing from one side to the other, revving the life out of their engines. In reality though, if you take your time, go nice and slowly and just enjoy the scenery, it’s as enjoyable as any journey can be. You meet and chat with people out walking on the tow paths, you talk to other boaters in passing, you sometimes just tie-up and sit to soak up the pure peace and quiet that the canals can offer.
Black Prince Narrowboats
The Black Prince narrowboats are well-appointed, comfy and easy to operate, so even novices shouldn’t be put off. Although on our final evening, whilst moored very close to the entrance to Chirk marina we sipped a glass of wine while watching a boat exiting the marina at full speed and crunching into the opposite bank at 90 degrees. If that didn’t empty the kitchen shelves, then I don’t know what would. We wished them luck as they bounced bank-to-bank up towards the aqueduct.
We had a chilled, relaxing and reflective week on the canal and wouldn’t hesitate to do it all again. It offers a world that’s hard to find nowadays and we really treasure it.