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Bettisfield Boats (Whitchurch)

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Narrowboat for hire on the Llangollen canal.

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      02.03.2008 17:38
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      Great boats, and wonderful canals

      Bettisfield Boats is a narrowboat hire company on the Llangollen Canal, situated just in a Wales, but only a few miles away from Whitchurch. There are two boats available for hire, Kingfisher (2-berth) and Heron (3-berth), both 35 feet in length. Kingfisher is a traditional style narrow boat (i.e. with a small counter at the stern of the boat, with no additional external seating). Accommodation comprises a permanent double bed, bathroom with pump out toilet, shower and vanity basin. There is a galley (Kitchen), with gas four-ring hob, grill and oven, four cu.ft. fridge, sink unit and ample cupboard space. The saloon (living room), has two easy chairs, folding table, colour t.v and ample storage space. There is pressurised hot and cold water throughout. Central heating comes from a Webasto diesel boiler. electrical power comes from a bank of batteries, which are charged by using the engine. Power is 12v DC, with 230v AC also available via a 350w inverter. In Heron, which is a very similar boat, the accomodation includes a fixed single bed. the seating in the saloon converts to a double bed, which is a normal practie in narrowboats. Hire rates vary seasonally and range between £450 and £610 per week on Kingfisher. Heron costs £75 extra if occupied by three people and the third person is an adult, but only £50 extra is that thrid person is a child under 12 years old. There is a 5% discount if you hire for two weeks, and a further 10% for previous hirers. We used Kingfisher in 2005 and liked ti so much that we hired the same boat in 2006. Narrowboating is a fantastic way of spending a holiday. You are compelled to go slowly - typically at 3 mph - and so you learn to appreciate the extraordinary detail of the British countryside. Canals give you new insight on towns, and also take you places you cannot otherwise reach. The Llangollen Canal is a particularly brilliant canal on which to travel. Travelling west takes you to the delightful town of Ellesmere with a delicatessen to spend a day in - Vermeulens. Further along, there is the junction with the Montgomery Canal, which is well worth exploring, although you need to book passage down the locks in advance. After the only two locks in this direction the next highlight is the spectacular stone aqueduct at Chirk, followed by Chirk Tunnel. A few miles further on takes you to the best canal aqueduct in the country at Ponycysyllte, where you are over 100 feet above the ground. The aqueduct itself is about 1000 feet long, and on one side of the boat, just the 2 inch thickness of the ironwork separates you from fresh air! The end of the Llangollen Canal comes in the mountain scenery of its eponymous town. This is now such a popular place to stop that you now have to pay £5 for overnight mooring, but it is still worth it. You could do Llangollen and back in three or four days, so a week's hire would either give you some time on the Montgomery Canal, or the chance of going to the east, towards the junction with the Shropshire Union Canal at Hurleston. This takes you through the beautiful three-lock staircase at Grindley Brook, as well as near to Whitchurch, before running through remote pasturelands close to the national border. A week is a good amount of time to do the whole Llangollen Canal. Llangollen itself gets very busy in the summer, so you might prefer to head east and progress from there. We did this on both of our trips. In the first year, we headed across to Middlewich and picked up the Trent and Mersey Canal, taking the amazing Anderton Boat Lift on to the very attractive river Weaver through Northwich to Vale Royal in Cheshire, a stretch populated by herons. The following year, we went all the way up to and beyond Chester, and down to Audlem. With two weeks hire, you could easily complete the Four Counties Ring, as well as a host of other adventures. A few caveats. Don't expect to get anywhere in a hurry. Do understand that the space on a boat is quite restricted and that there is not a vast amount of room for extra kit. Do bring protective clothing for when you are steering the boat. As you take your loo with you, it is wise to use canalside facilities whenever possible, otherwise you have to have your holding tank pumped out, which costs about £10. Narrowboating makes a great family holiday, as long as you know that everybody has good sense. Children love to operate locks, and can also be taught how to handle the boat if they are responsible enough.

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