It’s a sort of golden rule for hiking enthusiasts. After a long and tiring day of walking it might be a good idea to plan a shorter, easier one, especially when you have the perfect opportunity to do so. After the unexpected war of attrition on the third day, we were able to recover with a relatively short stage. We would walk from Llangollen to Chirk where we would meet up with our family and Welsh friends. Because we would return to our hostel in the evening we only needed to take food and water with us. And what was even better, we had all the time in the world.
Llangollen – Froncysyllte (7 km/4,3 m)
After a short climb from the centre of Llangollen to Offa’s Dyke Path we began the day where the previous one had ended, with a stretch along the so called Panorama Walk. The view is undoubtedly spectacular, looking over the Dee Valley and with some more views over Dinas Brân, but of course a paved road is a little less agreeable on the feet and it is a rather busy one as well, so you do have to endure the passing cars. But luckily, we would soon enter Trevor Hall Wood and there we would find peace and quiet.
Trevor Hall is a Victorian mansion and as is often the case it is partially used for weddings and receptions. The woodlands are part of the domain of the mansion, but, as is common in the United Kingdom, it is accessible for hikers. The forest itself feels totally different than Llandegla forest, where we had some trouble finding the right way, which may have clouded our judgement. Trevor Hall Wood is more fairy-like and reminds you why J.R.R. Tolkien drew inspiration from Wales and its landscape while creating the fantastic (and fantasy) world of Middle-Earth.
After you leave the forest you walk through a tunnel and via a kissing gate you enter a field with horses. I was able to experience one of the deepest connections I ever head with an animal, thanks to a short but intense friendship with a horse. The selfie was fun enough, but it continued to follow my every step afterwards, not leaving my side. For a minute I had feeling of being a horse whisperer. Unfortunately we had to say goodbye. After a short break in Trevor, we went to Froncysyllte (again, a rather peculiar place name and a bit of tongue twister), where you can find and walk on the famous (well, in the UK) aqueduct of the Scottish engineer Telford.
Froncysyllte – Chirk (9 km/5,6m)
Hold on. Someone thought it was a good idea to name the aqueduct in Froncysyllte Pontcysyllte. Originally it was part of a plan to link the Severn in Shrewsbury with the Mersey in Liverpool. The aqueduct was built in 1805. But due to a lack of funds, the trajectory wasn’t finished and with the dawn of the railroad there now was a alternative for the Llangollen canal. It wasn’t used for industrial transport. Today it mainly serves recreational purposes. Now and then you can spot the horse-drawn boats, but there are many pleasure crafts along the canal. Telfords aqueduct is the oldest and longest navigable aqueduct in the United Kingdom and with its height of 38 metres (+- 125 feet) also quite impressive.
The path follows the canal for another couple of kilometres, until you reach the Irish Bridge, where you go down and into the comfort of green meadows. The good news is that you can spot a chunk of the dyke. At first it’s rather subtle, but after a while the earthen wall becomes quite prominent. After descending some more, the path goes around Chirk Castle (see below), where, behind a fence, there is more Offa’s Dyke to admire. From there on it is about half an hour to the final destination of the day (Castle Mill). We add another two kilometres to the centre of Chirk, for a meeting with friends and family.
A delicious spaghetti at Paul and Ruth’s, my parent’s Welsh friends.
The day after dinner at the Corn Mill, a good restaurant located next to the river Dee.
We chose to stay at the Llangollen Hostel for three nights, because of the fact my parents were visiting friends in Chirk at the time. We would use the next day to walk from Llangollen to Chirk and then have a rest day. So this good hostel with good facilities was an excellent and budget-friendly choice.
In Chirk you can find one of my favourite (Welsh) castles, the eponymous Chirk Castle. It is a real treat, both on the inside and the outisde. There’s also a beautiful castle garden and the surrounding grounds lead to the impressive gate, which leads us to the legend of the red hand.
The legend of the red hand tells of a dying lord who didn’t know which one of his sons was the oldest, which was a bit of a problem when it came to the inheritance. He decide to organise a race. The first one to touch his deathbed would gain his possessions and inherit the title. When one of the sons realised he would lose the race, he allegedly chopped of his hand and threw it at the bed, being the first one to touch it. Hence the red, bloody hand that features in the gate. Other legends speak of the same story but with the hand being cut off by a sore loser. There are also stories about a curse, that would only be lift when a prisoner would survive in the dungeons for more than ten years.
The truth is probably more mundane. James I, in need of money, created baronies. Those who purchased lands were allowed to add a red baronet’s glove to their crest.
Thomas Telford was one of the great engineers of his time and apart from canals and aqueducts, he also designed built bridges, tunnels and harbours.