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TravelThe Llangollen History Trail: A Walk With Landmarks and Views

The Llangollen History Trail: A Walk With Landmarks and Views


Discover the rich history and breathtaking beauty of the 6 mile Llangollen History Trail. This scenic route boasts a collection of captivating landmarks that will transport you back in time. As you wander along the trail, you’ll encounter historical gems such as the fascinating Castell Dinas Brân perched up on a hill, the charming ruins of Valle Crucis Abbey, Horseshoe Falls as well as walking along river and canal.

Alongside these remarkable landmarks, prepare to be mesmerized by the stunning views that surround you. From panoramic vistas of the Dee Valley to enchanting glimpses of the rolling Welsh countryside, the Llangollen History Trail offers an unforgettable experience for history enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

It really is a walk for everyone and if you want to gain more insight into the lovely little town of Llangollen then put your walking shoes on and do this circuit. A walk with a rich variety with new things at every turn.

castell Dinas Bran from distance

You can choose to start this walk anywhere on the circuit as each landmark has its parking areas but we will start where most will want. On the bridge in the centre of Llangollen itself.

Route Details

Distance: 6 miles (9.5 km)
Moderate difficulty with some steep sections
Car Parking: Llangollen itself has many car parks with reasonable prices for all day parking.

Download the Llangollen History Trail GPX route

abbey Llangollen

The origins of Llangollen

Llangollen traces its roots back to ancient times, with evidence of human habitation in the area dating back thousands of years. The town’s name is derived from the Welsh words “llan” meaning “church” and “gollen” meaning “holy”. This suggests that Llangollen was originally a religious site of importance. The town sits at the foot of the Berwyn Mountains, offering a breathtaking backdrop of natural beauty.

In the early medieval period, Llangollen began to take shape as a settlement. Its strategic location near the River Dee made it a hub for trade and commerce. The town’s growth was further fueled by the construction of the nearby Valle Crucis Abbey in the 13th century, attracting pilgrims and visitors from far and wide. Today, the ruins of the abbey still stand as a testament to Llangollen’s rich history.

The industrial revolution and its impact on Llangollen

As the industrial revolution swept across Britain, Llangollen underwent significant changes. The town became a centre for industries such as coal mining, ironworks, and limestone quarrying. The construction of the Llangollen Canal in the late 18th century further fueled the town’s growth, providing a vital transport link for goods and people.

The canal, which stretches for over 40 miles, connected Llangollen to the national canal network, opening up new opportunities for trade and tourism. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the canal’s most impressive features. Spanning over 300 meters and standing at a height of 38 meters, the aqueduct is a marvel of engineering and a testament to the ingenuity of the time.

Famous figures and events in Llangollen’s history

Llangollen has been home to many famous figures throughout history. One of the town’s most notable residents was the poet and writer, Thomas Gray. Gray spent several months in Llangollen, drawing inspiration from the town’s natural beauty and writing some of his most famous works.

Another famous duo who left their mark on Llangollen were the Ladies of Llangollen, Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby. In the late 18th century, the ladies settled in Llangollen and lived together in Plas Newydd, a picturesque cottage overlooking the town. They became known for their unconventional lifestyle and close friendship, attracting visitors and admirers from across Europe. Today, Plas Newydd is a museum dedicated to their lives and legacy.

Setting Off

For the purposes of this walk we start in Lanngollen itself on Llangollen Bridge. A wondrous place to start that gives a famous view up the River Dee.

llangollen river view from the bridge

Heading away from the town centre you come off the bridge, across the main road and up over the canal. It then becomes the steepest part of the walk to get out of the way first.

Up and up the path and the castle ruins on the hill above the town gets nearer and nearer. The first destination.

Castell Dinas Brân

Castell Dinas Brân dates back to the medieval period and the castle’s origins can be traced to the 13th century when it was built by the local Welsh Prince and ruler Gruffudd ap Madoc for defensive purposes. There are signs that the spot was used previously as a prehistoric hillfort. A wooden structure built around 600BCE by the Ordovices, a then local Welsh tribe.

Castell Dinas Brân on the hill

It could very well have been built during a period of peace between England and Wales in the latter 13th Century and a string of castles were built at this tme. Dolforwyn Castle is so similar to Dinas Bran that it is thought to have been the same stone mason involved.

remains of wall at Castell Dinas Brân

Throughout its history, Castell Dinas Brân played a role in various conflicts and was occupied by different factions.

Despite its ruined state today, the castle remains a popular tourist destination due to its stunning location atop a hill, providing panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

The name Dinas Brân translates in different ways depending how you look at it, leading to much confusion. In English it is commonly known as ‘City of Crows’. In modern Welsh the word ‘Dinas’ does mean ‘City’ but at the time the castle was built in the 13th Century, Middle Welsh would have Dinas meaning ‘enclosed fortress’. The Welsh for crow though is indeed ‘brân’.

baldhiker in Llangollen

There are many other theories abound re the name from myths and legends all the way to taking the name from a brook nearby. But Crows Castle has stuck.

The castle’s history is intertwined with the turbulent political landscape of Wales. It changed hands several times, with Welsh and English forces vying for control. Notably, during the Welsh rebellion in the early 15th century led by Owain Glyndŵr, Castell Dinas Brân was briefly held by the Welsh rebels. That being said, since the stone castle’s short lifespan in the late 13th century the castle has slowly become the maginificent ruins we see today.

The history trail path allows you to choose to carry on beneath the steep climb to the ruins themselves or to carry on and admire them from below. If you are up for it then the views from the top are worth it.

You get a wonderful view back down to the town of Llangollen where you started the climb.

view of Llangollen from Castell Dinas Brân

From the castle ruins the walk then takes you down through a field before a small section of uphill lane. You will come to junction that has a direction sign that points into a wonderfully named World’s End. You are not following this lane all the way, just a couple of hundred metres before turning off and back onto a lovely path.

a street sign with different directions, one way says World's End

The pathway now is flat but you realise you are still halfway up to the tops with a new valley to look along below and mountain scenes in all directions. The dogs were having a great time.

path on Llangollen history trail

Valle Crucis Abbey

The trail here also gives you a super view of Valle Crucis Abbey ruins from above before you turn a corner and head to the ruins themselves. More Llangollen history to discover.

looking down to Valle Crucis Abbey

Valle Crucis Abbey was the last ever Cistercian Abbey that was built in Wales. It was founded in 1201 by Prince Madog ap Gruffydd together with the Cistercian ‘White Monks’.

The name translates from Latin to Valley Of The Cross. This refers to a local landmark, Pillar of Eliseg which was erected 4 centuries earlier in honour of a local Welsh Chieftain.

The Abbey in its heyday was famous for its lavish hospitality and became second in wealth in Wales only to Tintern Abbey.

ruins of Valle Crucis Abbey

By 1537 though it still was not as wealthy as the English Abbeys so it was dissolved. The Dissolution of the Monasteries followed and since then the abbey fell slowly to the ruin we see today.

From the Abbey, the walk continues within the outskirts of Llangollen and the area of Llantysilio. Across Velvet Hill and then down to the sound of the river. From the peace of the valley the area here gets busier with people visiting Horseshoe Falls and the church of Llantysilio.

St Tysilio’s Church

Well, this certainly is a history trail isn’t it? Next we came upon St Tysilio’s Church which is located above Horshoe Falls on the banks of the River Dee.

St Tysilio’s Church

It is a quaint parish church built in the 15th Century in the name of St Tysilio who lived during the 7th Century.

During the Victorian era it was renovated by one of the founders of the Beyer company, Charles Beyer. A big player in mechanical engineering in his time he died whilst living in the area at Llantysilio Hall. His gravestone in the churchyard is made of Aberdeenshire granite and weighs well over 2 tonnes.

Inside the church you will find a medival lectern made of wood carved into a black crow or raven.

medieval bird lecturn at St Tysilio’s Church

Horseshoe Falls

Just a couple of hundred metres away from the church you will find Horseshoe Falls. A great feature that uses the river from the industrial age.

horseshow falls Llangollen

It was constructed in the late 18th century as part of the Llangollen Canal, which was built to connect the industrial areas of North Wales with the English canal network.

The falls were designed by Thomas Telford, a renowned civil engineer of that time. The purpose of Horseshoe Falls was to help create a weir that enabled water to be fed into the new canal and thus create navigable route for boats on the canal.

horseshoe falls near Llangollen

Its unique horseshoe shape was carefully engineered to guide the water flow. The falls are named after this distinctive shape. Over the years, Horseshoe Falls has become a popular tourist attraction due to its picturesque setting and historical significance.

Back Along The Waterways

From horseshoe falls you simply follow the towpath along the canal back to Llangollen. Yet more variety to an already varied and beautiful walk. For most of this section you have a tale of 2 waterways. The canal on your left and the River Dee on your right. A contrast of calm and rushing water.

canal bridge at Llangollen

If you have time on the way you can stop in at places like Llangollen Motor Museum which is just off the path or one of the canal/riverside pubs.

Before long you are back into Llangollen and back to the bridge you started on. A wonderful 6 miles done. If you are ever staying near Llangollen like we were then this walk is perfect for discovering the cultural history of the area as well as being immersed in remarkable landscapes.

So much to see, so much to learn. Time to rest and visit the Oggie Shop for refreshments.

Other walks nearby:

A Walk Up Moel Famau: The Top Of The Clwydian Hills

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