Spanning across two countries in Wales and England, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site comprises of 11 miles (18 km) of scenic canal route.
There are two iconic aqueducts - at Pontcysyllte and Chirk. The site straddles three counties, Denbighshire, Wrexham and Shropshire, and is part of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).
It became a World Heritage Site in 2009, recognised for its outstanding civil engineering in a difficult geographical setting. It was designed by two innovative Victorian engineers, Thomas Telford and William Jessop, and built between 1793 and 1808. A branch canal connects the system to the River Dee. The Llangollen Canal was used to transport coal, slate, limestone and iron. Gledrid Bridge in Chirk marks the gateway to the site, with the canal ending at Horseshoe Falls where it merges into the river.
In an area known as the Trevor Basin, clients will find the world famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, known as 'The Stream in the Sky'. The aqueduct was built between 1795-1805 and stands 38.4 metres 126 ft) high and 307 metres (1007 ft) long. The structure comprises 18 tapering stone pillars, carrying a narrow trough of iron plates. Clients can walk along the aqueduct and experience the thrill of looking down at the River Dee, with views of the valley beyond. Alternatively, Anglo Welsh Waterways Holidays offer daily 45min boat trips across the aqueduct, departing 11am, 12 noon, 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm from Canal Wharf, Trevor, Llangollen LL20 7TT.
There is a large car park available next to the Chapel Tearoom which can cater for large parties, and there is coach parking. Coaches should approach from Acrefair, not the Froncysyllte side of the River Dee.
- Artefacts and displays at the Visitors Centre;
- Rope marks on the railings either end of the aqueduct cut by the ropes of the horse-drawn narrow boats;
- The ‘plug’ halfway across the aqueduct used for emptying the canal trough;
- Milestone sculpture in memory of Thomas Telford.
Llangollen is 4.2 miles (6.7 km) from Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The town has coach spaces at Market Street car park and a good choice of restaurants and shops. Clients will also find access to the boats and Llangollen Railway from here. Plas Newydd Historic House and Garden is a 10min walk from the town. The grounds are free to enter all year but the opening of the house is seasonal. There is a charge to enter the house but groups of 15+ are offered a free talk from a Heritage Assistant about the fascinating occupants who lived there, known as ‘the Ladies of Llangollen’.
Llangollen Wharf offer a 45min or 2hr Horse Drawn Boat Trip towards Horseshoe Falls. There is also a 2hr motorised boat trip crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct available which can include refreshments. Both trips can be booked privately for groups between 20 and 52 clients. Another option is a self-drive day hire boat for up to 10 guests covering a round trip of around 10 miles. Contact the Wharf for booking information and discounts.
Horseshoe Falls is where the WHS begins and is another masterpiece designed by Thomas Telford. The weir falls is located 1.86 miles (3 km) from Llangollen and can be reached by walking along the canal tow path or alighting at Berwyn Station on the Llangollen Railway. There is also a small fee paid car park near the falls which has toilet facilities (suitable for a minibus, but this can get extremely busy during peak season). Clients can walk down to the river and view how the supply of water from the River Dee is fed into the canal system, via the J shaped weir and gauge house. Lunch and refreshments are available at The Chainbridge Hotel. From here, view The Chain Bridge which crosses the river and is the oldest chain bridge in the world. Walk 11mins to the medieval St Tysilio's Church, Llantysilio, which is open to visitors.
Travel to Chirk which is 4.2 miles (6.8 km) from Pontcysyllte Aqueduct or 6.8 miles (10.9 km) from Llangollen. From the town centre, clients can walk 0.8 miles (1.3 km) to Chirk Aqueduct. Part of the walk is along the Chirk Bank where clients can stand in two countries at the same time. The aqueduct has ten arches and was completed in 1801. The stone pillars are hollow and there are iron plates resting on the top to reduce the weight. The aqueduct crosses the border between England and Wales and is 70 feet (20.7 m) high and 710 feet (216 m) long. It stands alongside the railway viaduct which was completed 41 years later. Continue walking across the aqueduct and along the towpath to reach Chirk Tunnel, affectionately known as ‘the Darkie’. It is advisable to take a torch before entering the 421 metre (1,371 ft) long tunnel.
Just outside the World Heritage site is the 13th century fortress, Chirk Castle. Initially built for defensive purposes, it became a comfortable Tudor residence in the 16th century and remained in the Myddleton family until the National Trust took over in the 20th century. The rooms are furnished and the gardens extensive. Parking and refreshments are available, with coaches welcome and group rates available.
Visitors can walk along all or parts of the heritage site. The towpath is well maintained and largely suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs. Cyclists need to dismount when crossing the aqueducts and travelling through the tunnels.