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In 2009 the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site together with 11 miles (18 km) of the canal and surrounding countryside.

It now goes by the somewhat clumsy title of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct & Canal World Heritage Site. Here are just three of the places covered:

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct


Clwyd Map

I first read about the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct back in the 1960s in a book I had borrowed from the local library about one man's travels around Britain in a narrowboat. It was probably Narrow Boat by L T C Rolt but the name meant nothing to me back then.

Ever since then I have wanted to experience the thrill of steering a boat along the narrow trough with the towpath on one side and the unguarded drop to the River Dee 126 ft (38 m) below on the other.

Alas it was not to be, and I had to settle for the view from the cabin of the tripper boat that runs from Llangollen Wharf.

However, returning later in the day and walking across was almost as good. If not better as I could take my time and stop to admire the view.

The aqueduct takes its name from the old stone bridge, the Pont Cysyllte (from the Welsh meaning the Bridge at Cysyllte - a township of Llangollen), a little way to the west and much lower down.

Competed in 1805, the aqueduct was designed by Thomas Telford under the supervision of William Jessop. It is the longest aqueduct in Great Britain and remains the highest canal aqueduct in the world.

It was the final act in an attempt to build a canal from Ellesmere in Shropshire to a new settlement called Ellesmere Port on the River Mersey. Work commenced from both ends, but funds ran out shortly after completing the aqueduct and the middle section was never built.

The canal, originally known not unsurprisingly as the Ellesmere Canal, was rebranded the Llangollen Canal by the British Waterways Board in the 1980s.

Horseshoe Falls


Clwyd Map

With no funds available to complete the canal, the southern section was left short of water. So in 1808 a narrow navigable feeder was built from a weir on the River Dee on the other side of Llangollen. This met the original line of the canal at right-angles at the Trevor (Trefor) Basin at the north end of the aqueduct.

The term "falls" is a bit misleading to say the least. To say that the elegantly curved 140 m (460 ft) long weir, lacks the grandeur of its namesake on the Canadian side of the Niagara river, is an understatement.

Given that the weir was built in 1808 at about the same time as the boundary between the United States and Canada was being established, I can't help wondering if the term Horseshoe Falls started out as an ironic nickname.

Llangollen Wharf


Clwyd Map

Given that the Llangollen feeder canal is only about half the width of a normal canal, it is only right that Llangollen Wharf is equally diminutive.

Consisting of little more than a small warehouse (now home to the Tea Rooms), the wharf is these days the base for horse-drawn boat trips along the feeder, and the motorised boat trip across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.