Walk #766: Carreg-y-Big to Llangothlen
Map of the walk
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I had a reasonable night's sleep, and I met Gary downstairs for breakfast feeling refreshed and ready for another day's walk. We went down for breakfast, and afterwards paid and went upstairs to get ready. The place was expensive, although for the price we had got an evening meal and a packed lunch - although adding VAT onto the bill was unexpected, and one of the first times this has occurred to me (usually B&B's quote a price inclusive of VAT). Gary and I set off together into what seemed like a good day; the trail immediately started heading downhill next to the bank of the dyke, and after a few hundred yards we came across a very new-born lamb that shakily got up onto its feet and approached us. We stopped, and the lamb came up and sniffed us; I am surprised if it has any nostrils left after having smelt my trousers!
The path started climbing once again to reach the top of Selattyn Hill along a track, the dyke being a short distance away to the west. It was a pleasant walk and we chatted as we followed the trail as it dived down to meet a road at Craignant. Another steep climb followed uphill, crossing a couple of narrow roads as it did so. At the second of these I hesitated to cross as a tractor as approaching; Gary nipped across and waited for me as the tractor slowly inched it's way along the road; the narrowness meaning that it had to zigzag along. The longer I left it the less safe it was to cross, and so I just waited for a couple of minutes for it to pass.
The trail started to descend once again along a footpath, descending down into a small but steep-sided valley apparently called 'Dirty Dingle', climbing up the other side before continuing on the descent. From here the views to the north were very good, with Chirk Castle sitting proud on the hillside ahead. This seemed to be boxy and more like a fort than a castle, and we both agreed that it did not look too nice from this aspect. Off to the tight there was a large factory complex visible, with chimneys pumping gasses into the air. The path continued downhill, and as we crossed the bridge over the River Ceiriog at Chirk Mill we met two more people walking Offa's Dyke in sections, heading in the other direction.
At Chirk Mill we had a choice of routes, and we decided to follow the seasonal route that headed uphill alongside the dyke, rather than the all-year route that headed further to the west. The seasonal path passed through the grounds of the castle, and had only opened on the first of April, and it proved to be a steep climb up to Home Farm alongside the dyke, although there were some good views to reward us back southwards. The castle itself is nearly 700 years old, and one of the many border castles, although the only one that is apparently still lived in. At Home Farm there was a visitors centre, and although I was tempted to nip in to get myself some treats Gary was keen to continue on.
When Gary had replanned his route a couple of days before he had had to cancel some accommodation that he had already booked, and I decided that I would cut the day short, stopping at Llangothlen for tonight, and so as we walked along the road and a footpath that led down towards the northeast I phoned up the B&B that he had planned to use and transferred his place over to me. It was extremely tempting to continue walking with Gary as it had been great fun, but he had less time than me to complete the walk and over the last three days I had walked long distances with my heavy pack, as I had sort of got dragged along in his slipstream. Instead of continuing on and giving myself another two long days, I decided to split it up into three separate days of much reduced distance.
As we descended down to meet the Llangothlen Canal I noticed that my walkman earphones had been ripped off as I had crossed a stile a few minutes before; they had been dangling down as I had talked to Gary and got caught. I had used that set of earphones (made by Sony) since early 2005 and they had lasted much longer than any other pair I have ever had; despite this I was not too sad, and could still listen through the undamaged ear bud. We had to cross a busy road before we continued the drop down towards the canal; for a couple of hundred yards the path paralleled the canal before eventually reaching a bridge by which the canal could be crossed to gain access to the towpath.
Through the trees to the right we could clearly see a magnificent viaduct that carried a railway over the Dee Valley, and I took a few photographs before heading on along the wide and busy towpath. It would have been an enjoyable walk aside from the fact that the hard surface underfoot was proving hard on the underside of my feet, but we still managed to overtake a few of the canal boats, which had to go slow as they navigated the narrow canal. Before we knew it we reached the spectacular Pont Cysyllte canal aqueduct, which the narrow canal towpath crosses. The official path passes below the viaduct, but even though I had been across it before I could not resist the more direct and easier route straight across it.
It was a good decision, and the views from the top of the cast-iron structure were superb, although the towpath was narrow, especially with my pack on. 126 feet below the River Dee flowed on it's long journey towards the sea, and we both took our time making the crossing, and I had to squeeze myself into the railing to let people past occasionally. As could be expected from an Easter Saturday the place was packed, and the wharf at the other side was not much better. I saw a pub, and we both decided to stop there for a drink, having covered a goodly distance so far. It was good to have a rest, and I took my boots off to allow my feet to recover slightly. Gary bought me a drink, and we sat down outside, enjoying seeing the boats pass, including one that had to dismantle a chimney to get under a bridge, and the sight of a man doing this whilst perched on a narrow ledge on the side of the boat and holding a cigarette in one hand made us wonder how long it would be before he fell in, but amazingly he made it under the bridge with no problems.
As Gary had much further than me to go today we agreed to part soon, and as we headed past a skittish horse to a bridge under the old Llangollen to Trevor railway line Gary started to increase speed. A steep ascent took us up to a main road, which was followed for a short distance before the trail took a road that headed further uphill. This led into a tree-lined driveway, and as we approached this a car carrying a group of girls roared past and up the driveway. This looked odd to me, and as we walked past the car started reversing past us, with the driver smiling and laughing to her friends as she did so.
The driveway led to a path that headed uphill through the trees of Trevor Hill Wood, and on this ascent Gary sped up, leaving me trailing behind him. The ascent was followed by a descent, the path then skirting the hillside just within the treeline, and on this descent a couple passed me in the other direction, saying that Gary had asked them to say Goodbye to me as he was pressing on. I therefore ambled along the path through the trees, a pleasant enough walk that was soon followed by a steep ascent uphill; as I started the ascent I could see Gary in the distance, and this continued to be the case at the top of the climb, where the path joined a long tarmac road called the Panorama.
The reason for the road's name was immediately obvious; the views over Llangollen was superb, as were those ahead, where rocky crags loomed precipitously over the road. It made for a very pleasant walk, and the views even took my mind of my feet, which were again starting to ache. Cars occasionally came past, and Gary always seemed to be a few hundred yards ahead of me. After a while a couple stopped me and told me that Gary had stopped them and told them to give me encouragement, and a while later, whilst walking under a particularly spectacular section of cliffs, some people by a car shouted "Go on David! You can make it!" The cheeky goit had told them that I was struggling. Smiling, I pointed out that my rucksack was far larger than his, and in return I got a chocolate bar to see me on my way.
This continued for another mile, with people along the road giving me words of encouragement, something that I found absolutely hilarious. There was a short route along the northern flank of the hill of Castell Dinas Bran that would get me to Llangollen quicker, but as the dafternoon was still young I decided to walk on, reducing the distance that I would have to walk tomorrow. It was a beautiful sunny day and the crags also looked superb, and I was in a really good mood - I was starting to really enjoy the trip, especially as I had now few qualms about being able to finish it. As time went on I started to catch up with Gary, and on the last ascent he sat down and waited for me, and we chatted for a while before continuing on.
Eventually we reached a road junction ar Dinbren-uchaf, and we shook hands and whilst Gary continued on along the road, I started to head down another road that led south towards Llangollen. The descent was easy and I was not feeling too tired after the relatively short day, and I enjoyed a few momentary views of the ruins of the castle on top of Dinas Bran to my left, and the crags on the hill behind me. I dropped down past the canal into the centre of Llangollen, before climbing back up to reach the B&B.
I booked myself in, and had to carefully negotiate my pack down some stairs to reach me compact but nice en-suite room. The Oxford/Cambridge boat race was about to begin, so I turned the television on and watched it engrossed, cheering on Cambridge and was gleeful when they beat the opposition. After this I had a shower, and headed down into the town for a drink. As I had been staying in B&B's for the last couple of nights I decided against an evening meal, knowing that the cooked breakfast in the morning should be able to see me through tomorrow with no problems, and instead had a couple of pints in a pleasant pub higher up in the town.
It has been over ten years since I was last in Llangollen, on a trip to visit the steam railway with a fiend who is sadly no longer with us. As I walked back down the street towards the bridge over the river I saw the station and got slightly melancholic, and I walked over the the station, which was shut as the last train of the day had long since arrived, after which I went back to the bridge and phoned Sencan, and hearing her voice cheered me up considerably. It had been a good day's walk, and tomorrow's promises to be equally good - I have booked myself in at the Clwyd Gate hotel, which promises to be an easy walk to reach.
This makes a total distance of 15.3 miles, with 2602 feet of ascent and 3344 feet of descent.
I spent the night at the New Ross B&B at Dinbren Road, Llangollen, Denbighshire, LL20 8TF. They can be contacted by telephone at (01978) 861334, and have a website at http://www.newrossllan.co.uk . This was a pleasant B&B to stay at, with some very pleasant views down over the canal marina and the town of llangollen itself. The town centre is only a five-minute walk away.
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And finally, enjoy your walking!
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