The list of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’ was compiled half a century ago by Robert Aickman, co-founder of the Inland Waterways Association and published in his book Know Your Waterways.
The scale of these extraordinary structures – which built by the engineering superstars of their day – still amazes visitors today.
We’ve revisited the list and added details of our nearest canal boat hire bases so you can plan a visit to one or more of them on your next canal boat holiday:
|The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct…carrying the Llangollen Canal 38 metres (126ft) high above the River Dee, the awesome World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the highest and longest in Britain. It was built between 1795 and 1805, uses 18 magnificent piers made of local stone and a 307-metre (1007ft) long trough for the canal to run through.With not even a hand rail on the south side of the aqueduct to obscure the views of the breath-taking Dee Valley below, narrowboat holiday-makers literally feel like they are floating above the earth!***Our nearest base is just a 20-minute cruise away at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in Wrexham.The Anderton Boat Lift…also known as ‘The Cathedral of the Canals’ this extraordinary structure raises boats 15 metres (50ft) from the River Weaver to the Trent & Mersey Canal. Designed by Edwin Clark and opened in 1875, it consists of two caissons, each large enough to take a barge or pair of narrowboats.Sadly, in 1983 problems with the mechanism caused the lift to close but it reopened in 2002, following a restoration programme supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.***Our nearest base is a nine-hour cruise away at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire.The Caen Hill Flight…with 16 of its 29 locks falling in a straight line, the Caen Hill flight of locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Devizes in Wiltshire is visually the most impressive in the country.
The locks were the final link in the Kennet & Avon Canal’s construction, opening in 1810. By 1950 they had become derelict but after a major restoration effort, they were reopened HM The Queen in 1990.
***Our nearest base is a seven-hour cruise away on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire.
The Burnley Embankment…also known as the Straight Mile, the Burnley embankment on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal stretches almost a mile long and is up to 60 feet high in places.
This impressive structure was designed by Robert Whitworth of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal Company and built between 1795 and 1801. It carries the canal above Burnley and meant that the engineers did not have to build two sets of locks to cross the Calder Valley.
***Narrowboat holiday-makers can travel to Burnley as part of the Pennine Circuit which takes three weeks from our Great Haywood base.
The Bingley Five-Rise Locks…completed in 1774, this spectacular staircase of locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal 17 miles from Leeds, raises (or lowers) boats 18 metres (60ft) in five cavernous chambers. The locks open directly from one to another, with the top gate of one forming the bottom gate of the next.
***Canal boat holiday-makers can travel through Bingley as part of the Pennine Circuit which takes three weeks from our Great Haywood base.
The Standedge Tunnel…at over three miles long tunnelling beneath the Pennines, this incredible feat of 18 and 19th century engineering is the longest, highest and deepest tunnel on the canal system. Cutting through solid rock, it took the navvies 16 years to build, opening in 1811.
Unfortunately, the Huddersfield Canal became un-navigable in 1948 but after a long restoration programme, both the canal and tunnel were reopened in 2001. Today’s boaters pass through the tunnel with a Canal & River Trust pilot, giving a vivid personal commentary. There is also a trip boat operating from the Marsden end.
***Our base at Bunbury is a week’s cruise away from Marsden or Diggle.
Barton Swing Aqueduct…originally built in 1761 by James Brindley to take the Bridgewater Canal across the River Irwell, the Barton Aqueduct was considered a marvel at the time of its opening.
But when the Manchester Ship Canal company decided to use the course of the Irwell at Barton as part of its navigation channel, Brindley’s Aqueduct was replaced by the Barton Swing Aqueduct in 1893. The 1,450 tonne, 100-metre long aqueduct swings open, full of water, to allow the passage of ships along the Manchester Ship Canal.
***Our base at Bunbury is a three or four day cruise away from the Barton Swing Aqueduct.