Day 11 Friday 24 June Chirk to Llangollen

This was a short day today. There were some sunny intervals this morning but rain came in during the afternoon.  I rejoined the ODP by following a road to the Chirk Castle estate.  The 18th century gates are rather ornate.

The castle was commissioned by Edward I to defend the land he gained by defeating Llewellyn the Last.  He granted it to Roger Mortimer who was made Justiciar of Wales by Edward II.  Edward II  became very unpopular with his Court when, it was claimed, Hugh Despenser (his favourite) had too much influence over him and his policies. Despenser also got involverd in several disputes over land with other Marcher lords. Mortimer, leading the Marcher lords, took up arms against the King but was eventually defeated and thrown into the Tower of London. Aided by a guard, Mortimer and his nephew, Mortimer of Wigmore, escaped and fled to France. The nephew Mortimer eventually had an affair with Edward’s wife, Isabella. A story worthy of Game of Thrones, although the murder of Edward II by a red hot poker inserted into a delicate part of his anatomy is probably a myth (possibly propagated by homophobic contemporaries in response to Edwards relationship with Despenser) . This turbulent part of British history is well covered in “The Plantagenets” by Dan Jones. Where is the miniseries? Come on BBC, Netflix. Lena Headley to reprise her Cersei role as Isabella. Charles Dance for one of the nobles, Peter Dinklage to wield the poker.

Mortimer was restored to his lands by Edward III. The castle was eventually bought by the Myddleton family in 1595 (for £5 000!) and their descendants still live in part of the castle today, although the castle and land has been donated to the National trust.

Chirk castle

I walked through the deer park and rejoined the ODP at a lane to the north-east of the estate. There was a long slightly downhill walk along lanes and through fields until I reached the A5. Crossing the A5 was a bit of a challenge as the footpath emerges on to the kerb and the road is busy.  I crossed it without incident and entered a field.  Here I walked alongside the Dyke for the last time. The line of the Dyke heads north-east towards Wrexham but the ODP goes north-west to cross the Clwydian mountains.

I joined the towpath of the Llangollen canal.  This was built in the early 1800s and ran from the Shropshire Union canal to Llantysilio just outside Llangollen. It was used to carry coal but it was also a major water supple of the Shropshire Union Canal, the Horseshoe Falls on the River Dee were built to supply the canal system with water. I followed the towpath for a couple of miles passing a large lime kiln at Froncysyllte.

I passed a couple of locks. The path turned north and I arrived at the highlight of the day, the Pontcysyllte aqueduct.  This was built by Tomas Telford and Williams Jessop. It spans the river Dee, at a height of about 125 feet. The path is narrow with a narrow trough of water to one side and the metal fence to the other.  As people are walking in both directions along the aqueduct you need to take care to avoid an early bath.

Across the aqueduct, I arrived at the Trevor basin which was packed with boats. 

I stopped for coffee, crossed the canal and continued to a pretty little footbridge. I left the canal and climbed steeply uphill into the Trevor wood.  I emerged from the wood to a road called the Panorama Walk.  Llangollen became a tourist centre for Victorian England after the coming of the railway and this was a popular walk. 

Llangollen from the Panorama Walk

There were good views over Llangollen and the hills to the west.  The road was unfenced so I was able to walk along the short grass verge, although there were no cars. The road passes below an impressive limestone scree slope. I approached the Castell Dinas Bran. This was built in the 1260s by the Princes of Powys but within 20 years it was destroyed by Edward I army. It is thought that an iron age fort preceded the castle on the hill.

My leg was sore and I could see rainclouds gathering but I decided to climb up to the ruins.  It was a spectacular spot but, as I arrived the rain started and I was grateful for a wall to shelter behind while I donned my wet weather gear.

I left the castle and the ODP to descend to a farm track and then into Llangollen for my night’s stop.

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