AHNE Bryniau Clwyd / Clwydian Range AONB

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Heritage sites

Many of our heritage sites are of national importance. And some occupy the world stage – including one landmark of Georgian engineering that according to UNESCO is on a par with the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site

The Dee Valley has always been a major communications route and bears the evidence of successive innovations in the history of transport. Perhaps the most notable is the Llangollen branch of the Shropshire Union Canal, constructed by Thomas Telford and opened in 1805.

  Pontcysyllte Aquaduct

From its source at the Horseshoe Falls the canal follows the northern side of the valley before crossing the Dee at dramatic Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – a pioneering masterpiece of engineering and monumental metal architecture.

Nicknamed “the stream in the sky”, the aqueduct remains the tallest navigable canal boat crossing in the world. It’s 126 feet tall and 1,007 feet long and is essentially a giant cast-iron trough held aloft by 18 great stone pillars and made watertight by Welsh flannel, lead and boiling sugar.

In 2009, UNESCO made Pontcysyllte Aqueduct a World Heritage Site – along with 11 miles of canal stretching from Telford’s earlier aqueduct at Chirk to the Horseshoe Falls at Llangollen.

Upstream of Llangollen, the Dee Valley narrows to cut between the Llantysilio and Berwyn mountains. At Berwyn village a historic succession of transport routes crowd together through the gap: the river, canal, railway and Telford’s London-Holyhead A5 trunk road.

Chirk Castle

Completed in 1310, Chirk is the last Welsh castle from the reign of Edward I that is still lived in today – it’s been continuously inhabited for the last 700 years.

Features from this long history include the medieval tower and dungeon, 17th century Long Gallery, grand 18th century state apartments, servants' hall and historic laundry.

This imposing Marcher fortress with its round towers commands views over nine counties. Its gardens – once voted the best in the National Trust – contain clipped yews, herbaceous borders, shrub and rock gardens.

The parkland provides a habitat for rare invertebrates, wild flowers and contains many mature trees and also some splendid wrought-iron gates, made in 1719 by the Davies brothers.

Valle Crucis Abbey

Valle Crucis

Hill-encircled Valle Crucis Abbey is among Denbighshire's loveliest historic places, and is much the best-preserved medieval monastery in North Wales. Founded “far from the haunts of men” in 1201 by a local Welsh prince, its monks were white-robed Cistercians. Valle Crucis was once the second-richest abbey in Wales after Tintern and was lived in until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1537.

Among many memorable features is the still-towering west front of the church, with its “rose window” above triple pointed lancets, and the beautifully vaulted chapter house. Also worth viewing are the monks' dormitory and the picturesque monastic fishpond beyond the extensive ruins.

But Valle Crucis is not just a lesson in medieval ecclesiastical architecture. A visit to this fascinating site evokes the lives of the Cistercian monks – successful sheep farmers and enthusiastic supporters of Welsh culture.

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