Canals and Waterways of Wales

button-theme-canalxCanals and other Inland Waterways of Wales

Demand for raw materials, lime and iron from Wales increased rapidly in the early decades of the Industrial Revolution, and canals were engineered through hilly terrain to transport them cheaply and reliably. Wharves became focal points for new industrial facilities and tramroads.

Today some of the canals are leisure routes through some of Britain’s prettiest countryside, and Pontcysyllte aqueduct – still a marvel of civil engineering – is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other Welsh canals are derelict, under restoration or filled in.

Now you can use your mobile to scan HistoryPoints QR codes at many locations and discover the often surprising stories of structures along the canals, whether vanished or extant. You can also take our self-guided tours along the Route of the Glamorganshire Canal and the towpath of the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal – as introduced below.

Wales also has a long heritage of transport along rivers and estuaries – see the list of HiPoints below.

 

Route of the Glamorganshire Canal tour

In the early 19th century, the Glamorganshire Canal was a major freight artery, connecting ironworks and collieries to Cardiff and the sea. It remained profitable for decades after the opening of the Taff Vale Railway but succumbed to rail competition in the 20th century.

Today almost nothing can be seen of its route through Cardiff, but now you can use your mobile to scan HistoryPoints QR codes at key locations in the city to see how scenes familiar to us today looked when the canal existed. Alongside images kindly provided by Cardiff Libraries, you’ll find information about the structures and related social history – including the water’s grim tendency to attract suicidal women.

Use the Upstream and Downstream icons to find the next featured location in either direction.

To follow the tour virtually, click here to start at the site of the Old Sea Lock, in what’s now Hamadryad Park.
To view all the locations on this tour on a map, click here.The map will open in a new window.

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal tour

Today this canal is a popular route for walkers and boaters, but it was engineered for freight transport. It was built as connected sections of canal by two companies, which eventually merged. We’re fortunate that it survives. A proposal to convert the canal west of Abergavenny into a railway fell through in the 1850s. And it’s thanks to campaigners and volunteers in the 1950s that the canal – then derelict – was reopened to boats before it could be severed by damage or land sales. Today it’s managed by the Canal & River Trust with the help of local volunteers.

Now you can discover stories of structures and places along the route by scanning HistoryPoints QR codes beside the towpath. Use the Upstream and Downstream icons to find the next featured location in either direction.

To follow the tour virtually, click here to start at the Brecon terminus.
To view all the locations on this tour on a map, click here.The map will open in a new window.

 

Other canal and waterway HiPoints

Wrexham county borough
Pontcysyllte - the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain, built 1796 to 1805
Trevor - historic dry docks for narrow boat maintenance
Trevor - Telford Inn was probably built for Matthew Davidson, construction supervisor for the Ellesmere Canal project
Cefn Mawr - ironmaster William Hazledine set up a foundry at Plas Kynaston to supply spans for Pontcysyllte
Froncysyllte - this basin was the canal’s terminus while Pontcysyllte was being built

Flintshire
Connah’s Quay - riverside port handled large volumes of coal destined for Ireland and other places in the 18th century

Conwy county borough
Conwy town - small paddle steamers sailed upstream from Conwy quay to Trefriw
Dolgarrog - barges took newly made aluminium downriver to a former whaling ship, moored in Conwy as a warehouse
Trefriw - the Belle Vue Hotel catered for visitors who arrived by river steamer at the quay just over the road
Llanrwst - Steam Packet Lane led to a jetty where you could catch a boat to connect with the steamers at Trefriw

Anglesey
Malltraeth - coal was once dispatched from this hamlet by the river Cefni

Ceredigion
Aberystwyth - corn warehouse beside the river Rheidol received bulk grain by boat

Powys
Llanymynech - canal wharf was a hub of lime transport. A giant Hoffman limekiln still stands nearby
Llanymynech - Carreghofa was the meeting point of the Ellesmere and Montgomery canals
Llanymynech - the troublesome Vyrnwy aqueduct was the largest single structure on the Montgomery Canal
Welshpool - Pool Quay was the highest navigable point up the Severn and joined the canal network in 1797
Llandrindod Wells - the timber of the Castell Collen log boat, found in 1929, was felled between 1198 and 1228

Monmouthshire
Chepstow - ships sailed up and down river from here. Chartists were deported here after the 1839 uprising in Newport

Newport
Caerleon - ships sailed to Bristol and Somerset from the quay by the Hanbury Arms

Caerphilly county borough
Cwmcarn - dam of reservoir for Crumlin arm of canal burst in 1875, releasing a torrent which killed 12 people

Cardiff
City centre - ships used to sail up the river Taff to quays where Westgate Street now runs

Swansea
Clydach - canal lock chamber had a unique gate after road widening in the 1920s
Clydach - heritage centre exhibits show how area changed after Swansea Canal construction began in 1794