We have finished out tour of Wales and are now in central England on our way to the eastern counties where we spend the rest of our time in the UK.
We left the delightful Tyr Y Coed boutique hotel at Rowen and drove east to Sheffield for a couple of nights. We took a purposeful deviation on the way to see a couple of outstanding sights and came across some extra discoveries along the way.
Our first stop was at the World Heritage listed canal aqueduct at Pontcysyllte. This is a navigable aqueduct that carries the Llangollen Canal across the River Dee in the Vale of Llangollen in north east Wales. The 18-arched stone and cast iron structure is for use by narrowboats and was completed in 1805 having taken ten years to design and build. It is the longest aqueduct in Great Britain and the highest canal aqueduct in the world. It was designed by civil engineers Thomas Telford and William Jessop for a location near an 18th-century road crossing The aqueduct was one of the first major feats of civil engineering undertaken by Telford, who was becoming one of Britain’s leading industrial civil engineers. The work took around ten years from design to construction and cost around of £47,000.
Our second planned stop was at Powis Castle and its extensive gardens. We arrived in time for a late lunch and decided we needed to leave by 3.00 pm as we had nearly three hours of travel to reach Sheffield. Miles go past much more slowly than kilometres do and the queues that built up on the approaches to roundabouts slowed our travel considerably.
Unlike the case of other grand castles castles at places like Conwy, Caernarfon and Harlech which were all built by the English to subdue the Welsh, Powis Castle was built by a Welsh prince in the thirteenth century.
It is known for housing the treasures that were brought home by Robert Clive and his son, Edward Clive from India. The Clives “looted” them during their service with the British East India Company. It was held by the Clive family descendants until the 1950’s when the castle was donated to the National Trust because there were no further male descendants in the family to inherit it. I understand that Prince Charles stayed here on na number of occasions. His bedroom inside the castle was pointed out to me by one of the attendants. The rooms are ornately decorated and I can only describe them as really being over the top in terms of style and decoration.
During WW2, the castle was used as a school for Welsh girls who were evacuated from cir=ty areas for their safety.
Some of the day’s discoveries were the Valle Crucus Abbey near Llngollen and the town itself.
The Abbey is more formally known as the Abbey Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Valle Crucis. The Abbey was founded in 1201 by Madog ap Gruffydd Maelor, on the site of a temporary wooden church and was the last Cistercian monastery to be built in Wales. It was actually wealthier than its sister abbey at Tintern. As with other Catholic establishments, it was dissolved in 1537 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and subsequently fell into serious disrepair. The building is now a ruin, though large parts of the original structure still survive. It is now asurounded by a camping area.
Nearby Llangollenm is a pretty town on the River Dee. It hss a railway that was originally much more extensive than it is now but most of it was closed in 1969. However, a 10-mile stretch of the line has been restored between Llangollen and Corwen and it now operates as a tourist attraction. Across the river is a water mill that is over 600 years old and was originally used grind flour for local farmers. Today Llangollen relies heavily on the tourist industry, but farming is still important. Several factories were once built along the banks of the River Dee, where both wool and cotton were processed.
We arrived in Sheffield around 6.30 pm after a long drive. This is a large city and we have found some of the roads to be very confusing. We are staying the the Crowne Plaza hotel which was originally built in the 1800’s near the railway station. The railway line has since been relocated but the drive up to the hotel is along the old railway causeway. To get there, you have to do a sort of U-turn up a main road. I missed this turn on the first occasion and we ended up driving the wrong way along a one-way city road. We had to then do a complicated circuit through a few large roundabouts to get back to the hotel.