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Llangollen, Wales

Llangollen, Wales

An Antipodean travel company serving World Travellers since 1983


By Marco Stojanovik

Llangollen is a small market town in Denbighshire, North Wales. It is renowned for its tumbling river and surrounding hills, situated on the south bank of the River Dee in the narrowest stretch of the Dee Valley, to be enjoyed via railway train journeys, boat trips, and motor passes. Visitors can also travel back in time by exploring historic sites such as Castel Dinas Bran, Valley Crucis Abbey, and the Plas Newydd estate. In addition, with a tour of Llangollen one can experience a range of pleasant cafes, bars, hotels, restaurants, guest houses, and cottages, as well as frequent festivals including the famous annual international Musical Esiteddford.

Llangollen town along the River Dee in North Wales, UK

Llangollen Canal

The Llangollen Canal opened in 1805 to carry slate from nearby quarries to the growing cities of England.

Today it remains a busy canal and major part of the tourist scene due to its picturesque twisting route through the Welsh hills across the lush green countryside of the Dee Valley. Eleven miles of the current waterway from Gledrid to the Horseshoe Falls via the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, near Llangollen.

Visiting tourists can enjoy the canal via boat rides or horse drawn cruises, while the Horseshoe Pass is a popular route for motorists seeking its rewarding spectacular views.

A narrow boat chugs slowly into view on the Llangollen canal.

Castell Dinas Bran

Occupying a prominent hilltop above the town is Castell Dinas Bran, a stronghold built in the 1260s by Gruffydd Maelor II ap Madog, a prince of Powys Fadog, to guard the strategic route through Dee Valley.

In 1277, during King Edward I’s initial invasion of Wales, English troops besieged Castell Dinas. Facing defeat, the Welsh lord of Dinas Bran set fire to and abandoned the castle. However, it was not badly damaged.

Ruins of Castell Dinas Brân

By 1282, during Edward’s second invasion of Wales, Castell Dinas had returned to the Welsh held by Dafydd ap Gruffyd, brother of Llywellyn the Last. But, with the English victorious, most of Powys Fadog including the castle was granted to John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey.

Today little remains of this once great castle, but the steep climb up to its ruins reveals spectacular views over Llangollen and the surrounding countryside below.

Mist shrouds Castlel Dinas Bran near Llangollen.

Valle Crucis Abbey

Established in 1201 by Cistercian monks, under the patronage of  Gruffydd Maelor ap Madog, Valle Crucis Abbey was once the spiritual centre of the principality of Powys Fadog and the second richest abbey in Wales.

During the 15th century the abbey gained a reputation as a place of hospitality and hosted several important Welsh poets of the period including Gutun Owain, Tudur Aled and Guto’r Glyn.

The abbey was dissolved in 1537 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, deemed not prosperous compared to the wealthier English abbeys at the time. It subsequently fell into repair, the ruins open to visitors today.

Ruins of Valle Crucis Abbey, a Cistercian monastery in Llantysilio, Denbighshire, Wales

Ladies of Llangollen

On the south-eastern edge of the town is Plas Newydd, from 1780 the home of the famed Ladies of Langollen, Sarah Ponsonby and Lady Eleanor Butler.

The two escaped their conventional lives in County Kilkenny in 1788, Ireland, to avoid the pressures of society and being forced into unwanted marriages. Eventually settling in Llangollen, they lived together for 50 years in intellectual retreat, their relationship both fascinating and scandalizing contemporary society.

They devoted their time to receiving friends and visitors, studies of literature and language, and improving their estate in the Gothic style. Welsh oak paneling, pointed arches, stained glass windows, and an extensive library were all added.

The house and grounds, with views over Menai Strait and Snowdonia National Park, are open to the public.

Plas Newydd at the town of Llangollen. Vintage etching circa 19th century.

Articles on Wales published by Odyssey Traveller.

External articles to assist you on your visit to Wales.