Pontcysyllte Aqueduct by Narrowboat

Waking up on a boat, on most days, is splendid. If you’ve moored in the right spot you will have the sun begging to shine through a curtain, a splashing of hungry ducks will be pecking expectantly at the hatch and there will not be a 36 metre high aqueduct some miles in front of you. 

Today was not that day. Tomorrow wouldn’t be either- not if you don’t cross it today! So cross it we must! The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct knows you must cross it- if you want to see all the beauty that Llangollen holds and it really does try it’s best to be accommodating- you really have to cross this unpronounceable bridge. 

This aqueduct is the highest canal aqueduct in the world and the longest in Great Britain, because of this, it is a massive tourist draw. People flow to this site- not just for those of us lucky enough to be on boats- but giddy people in canoes- pedestrians. It is clear that the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct wants everyone to enjoy it’s majesty. Therefore, it has a footpath that makes the crossing over the River Dee and the Vale of Llangollen a delight for walkers and my favourite- dog walkers.

I’m using words like ‘delight’ and ‘enjoy’ because I am naturally quite an optimistic person. However, for those scared of heights (or in my case ‘scared of bridges’) the Pontcysyllte will require a little more than just optimism. 

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct by narrowboat

Approaching the aqueduct it is best to not know that the 18 arched stones actually taper as they reach the top and are largely hollow. This Grade 1 listed building and World Heritage Site holds it’s own in grandeur even when compared with other World Heritage Sites like Stone Hedge. Completed by 1805 the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct took ten years to design and build.  Yet, it can be appreciated via boat in under ten minutes. 

Would I recommend the boat journey over the Pontcysyllte? Yes, I would. As a person who suffers from a fear of heights I definitely never thought I’d be able to be outside on the stern as we crossed the aqueduct. Yet, as the view approached I found it somewhat helpful to stay focused on enjoying the moment and not letting any negative doubts or fears into my mind. That’s where being an optimist does come in handy.

Have you been on the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct? What is your top tip for avoiding the vertigo? Please share your comments below. 


10/02/2019 at 10:21 am

Sorry to say I have not been on the aqueduct but I did have the pleasure on visiting on a warm August day in 2013 while seeing the sights in UK. And thoroughly enjoyed the bubbling River Dee, the happy crowds, the brightly coloured boats, helpful people and simply stunning scenery. I would have loved to cross the aqueduct but the sheer height, vertigo and terror not the meantion no barrier on one side of aqueduct and uncontrollable shaking defeated me. Now I know the supports narrow near the top and they are hollow! That’s worse still. It is a beautiful place.

10/02/2019 at 1:45 pm

We’ve been over it a couple of times on our holidays on the canal and also visited in the car and walked over it – fabulous – we are really excited to go over it in our own boat at some point this year as we bought and moved on our new boat last week 😆

Steven Hodgson
10/02/2019 at 11:17 pm

We used to park at the Chirk end, have a picnic and then walk over the aquaduct with the four children aged 2, 4, 6 and 12, to keep them from getting concerned and occupied we used to get them to see how many birds they could spot flying below us, they got an extra point if it flew under the viaduct, they also knew that we would also go to the pub at the other end for a lemonade.

18/02/2019 at 9:08 pm

Loved the vlog and I have crossed the aqueduct by boat (and back again) and loved the experience.

21/02/2019 at 10:30 pm

As you noted going over the Chirk Aqueduct, keeping your eye on the horizon will help with the vertigo. Our trip in October of last year (Wrenbury to Llangollen and back) allowed us to revel in the landscape, including the Roman era aqueduct that crosses the River Dee. You can see it from Pontcysylite aqueduct. We also learned the “put it in reverse to clear the leaves” trick on our first passing of the Chirk Tunnel where we slowed to a geologic speed, wondering if we’d make it through. Sir Thomas Telford, the engineer for the aqueduct, originally specified a mix of ox blood and Welsh linen to seal the joints between the iron plates, to make the canal trough water-tight.

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