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Awesome aqueducts - canal boat holiday destinations

Our charity's 2,000-mile canal network is made up of thousands of historic structures, including 370 aqueducts.

Aerial view of a narrowboat crossing an aqueduct over a river and surrounded by verdant fields.

These engineering marvels are still doing the work they were designed to do 250 years ago and provide exciting focal points for canal boat holiday-makers today.

Aqueducts were originally invented by the Romans, but the idea of a ‘canal in the sky' was initially ridiculed by the canal builders, concerned about the amount of masonry required to support the weight of the water above. However, dozens of canal aqueducts went on to be constructed across the canal network and have survived to become some of the most iconic sights on our waterways.

Discover awesome aqueducts

Take a look at our directory to find hire boat operators in England and Wales

To help narrowboat holiday-makers plan their 2023 adventure afloat, Drifters Waterways Holidays has listed the top eight aqueducts to glide across.

1. Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales

Cruising over the Pontcysyllte Aquedect

Standing 33 metres high above the Dee Valley, the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales has UNESCO World Heritage Status. Designed by Thomas Telford, its 305-metre long cast iron trough in which narrowboats float, is supported by 19 enormous hollow pillars. Ox blood was added to the lime mortar used to bind the masonry together, as it was believed the blood of a strong animal would help strengthen the structure. This aqueduct can easily be reached from Drifters' bases at Trevor, Chirk and Blackwater Meadow.

2. Avoncliff Aqueduct in Somerset

Designed by canal engineer John Rennie, the beautiful Bath stone Avoncliff Aqueduct carries the Kennet & Avon Canal across the Avon Valley near Bath. It is over 100 metres long and 18 metres wide. It can easily be reached on a canal boat holiday from Drifters' bases at Bath, Monkton Coombe, Bradford on Avon, Hilperton and Devizes.

3. Chirk Aqueduct on the Welsh border

Cruising across Chirk Aqueduct

Also part of the Llangollen Canal World Heritage site and designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument, the striking Chirk Aqueduct Ancient Monument was completed in 1801. Designed by William Jessop and Thomas Telford, it runs alongside the Chirk Viaduct. Spanning 220 metres, Chirk Aqueduct carries the Llangollen Canal 21 metres high above the River Ceiriog, using 10 circular masonry arches. Narrowboat holiday-makers can easily reach the Chirk Aqueduct from Drifters bases at Trevor, Chirk and Blackwater Meadow.

4. Iron Trun Aqueduct in Buckinghamshire

This magnificent engineering structure was the world's first wide canal cast iron trough aqueduct. It takes the Grand Union Canal 12 metres high across the River Great Ouse, close to the village of Cosgrove. Built in 1811 by canal engineer Benjamin Beavan, the Iron Trunk Aqueduct is made up of two cast iron trough spans, with a single masonry pier. Drifters' nearest narrowboat hire base is a five-hour cruise away at Gayton in Northamptonshire.

5. Dundas Aqueduct in Somerset

View of Dundas Aqueduct

Another Bath stone aqueduct designed by John Rennie, this structure on the Kennet & Avon Canal near Bath was completed in 1810. It's a Scheduled Ancient Monument and connects the Kennet & Avon Canal to the Somerset Coal Canal. It can easily be reached on a canal boat holiday from Drifters' bases at Bath, Monkton Coombe, Bradford on Avon, Hilperton and Devizes.

6. Edstone Aqueduct in Warwickshire

Carrying the Stratford Canal across three railway tracks, a minor road, a stream and a field, this 146-metre long structure is the longest cast iron aqueduct in England. Completed in 1816, it was amongst the earliest prefabricated structures, made up of 35 separate sections bolted together. It is an hour's cruise away from Drifters' narrowboat hire base at Wootton Wawen in Warwickshire.

7. Lune Aqueduct in Lancashire

A boat crosses over a multi-arch canal aqueduct

This Grade I listed iconic structure carries the Lancaster Canal 16 metres high above the River Lune. It was designed by John Rennie and has five 21 metre high semi-circular arches. The nearest Drifters base is a week's cruise away at Acton Bridge in Cheshire.

8. Nantwich Aqueduct in Cheshire

The impressive Grade II* listed Nantwich Aqueduct offers canal boat holiday-makers panoramic views across the historic market town of Nantwich. The Aqueduct carries the Shropshire Union Canal over the A534 Chester Road. It was designed by the famous canal engineer Thomas Telford and completed 1826. Drifters' nearest narrowboat hire base is just two hours away at Bunbury, near Tarporley in Cheshire.

Last Edited: 23 May 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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