Narrow canal (but up to 9ft), 33 miles, 6 locks, 1 short tunnel, 1 week to explore.
The Monmouth & Brecon Canal
Although this area of South Wales was busy during the Industrial Revolution the upper section of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal from Brecon to below Cwmbran was never much of a commercial success.
However, because it carried water from the River Usk at Brecon down to the large docks at Newport, the watercourse remained open long after barge traffic finished early this century. Because of the beauty of the surrounding area it became popular with pleasure craft and restoration of the upper portion above Pontypool was carried out in the 1960's and 70's. It is now one of the most beautiful cruising waterways in Britain, completely isolated from the rest of the canal system. All of the canal can be cruised easily in a very relaxed week and it is rarely busy, even at the height of the season.
The canal runs for almost all its route within the Brecon Beacons National Park, an area of outstanding natural beauty covering over 500 square miles. For much of its 35 miles it follows the tree lined course of the River Usk, often seeming to hang on the hillsides above it. Abergavenny and Brecon are both bustling market towns with plenty of interesting things to see and do, especially on market days! Crickhowell is an interesting country town and there are numerous other villages to explore. However the canal is essentially a rural waterway and you'll probably see more wildlife than people along its route; swans, kingfishers, herons and buzzards are common and the canal is well stocked with fish.
Though the canal is fairly short it contains all the normal engineering ingredients. There is a fine four arch masonry aqueduct over the Usk at Brynich, many fine stone bridges and a number of lift bridges along the route, short tunnels at Ashford and Cwmbran and flights of locks at Llangynidr and Pontnewydd. In many places it is possible to see where feeder narrow gauge tramways once brought coal, limestone and iron-ore down to canal wharves for loading onto the barges and disused lime kilns are visible along the canal.
There are a number of lift bridges on the canal which were built when the canal was being restored. There is also an electrically powered lift bridge near the village of Tallybont.