Apologies for jumping back in time but we really need to finish the story of our Shropshire and Staffordshire Road Trip. We interrupted the series of posts with our Bridges of London Challenge, which if you haven’t read then you really really should. It was an epic adventure.
Previously though we were heading north into Wales to visit the unbelievably impressive Pontcysyllte Aquaduct just outside Llangollen.
The Pontcysllte Aquaduct
One of the reasons for visiting this part of the world was to explore the beautiful Llangollen Canal and walk over the Pontcysllte Aquaduct. At over 300 metres long and 38 metres high it is the longest aquaduct in Great Britain and the highest in the world. We had seen it featured on various TV shows over the years and always wanted to visit. Built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop in 1805 it is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Our first issue was how on earth to pronounce the name. ‘Pont-see-silt‘ perhaps? Or could it be ‘Pont-size-yilty‘? Who knew. In the end I had to ask the incredibly patient lady working in the shop who had obviously been asked the same question a million times. She just smiled and pointed at this ….
Obvious huh? Not to us and we couldn’t even remember ten seconds after we left the building. Pretty hopeless but expected.
Jo isn’t a fan of heights but did incredibly well to walk all the way across. It is completely different to a normal bridge in that there’s a thin metal fence on one side and an open canal with no fence the other. Doesn’t feel at all safe as you walk across and it must be even more scary if you are sitting on the back of a canal boat.
Pontcysyllte Aquaduct has long been one of the places we have been desperate to visit and it didn’t disappoint one bit. Walking over the historic Llangollen Valley crossing and back and exploring the surrounding area was fabulous and we will definitely return. Highly, most highly, recommended.
Heading up the River Dee we spent a couple of hours exploring the town of Llangollen. Apparently it’s name means ‘a religious settlement’ but when we arrived it appeared to be ‘a tourist settlement’. Lots of coach parties and the car park from hell with big gangs of visitors wandering slowly up and down the main street. Not a great first impression.
However, as we crossed the bridge and found a quiet park for some lunch we started to see the real Llangollen with it’s historic buildings and Welsh character. The river dominates the town but with Castell Dinas Bran looking down over the town, the steam railway station, and canal trips from Llangollen Wharf there is a lot to see and do. Lots of independent shops, cafes and restaurants make it look like a wonderful place to return to for a couple of nights (another one on the ever-expanding list).
Leaving Llangollen we headed south towards Ludlow in Shropshire for our overnight accommodation. En route however we just had to divert slightly to visit another aquaduct in the delightfully named town of Chirk. Not as big as Pontcysyllte but here you get double-bubble as there is a railway bridge right next to the canal. Also, the English/Welsh border is right there at the beginning of the aquaduct.
Designed once again by Thomas Telford the Chirk Aquaduct was completed in 1801 and is also part of the Llangollen Canal system. The most impressive part for us was the Chirk Tunnel on the northern end of the aquaduct (you can see the entrance just behind Jo). It’s 421 metres long with no lighting and is the width of a narrow boat. Hasn’t changed in over 200 years. How great would it be to travel through on a canal boat?
Time to head south past Shrewsbury and onto our little bed and breakfast cottage just outside Ludlow.