Pontcysyllte aqueduct

Crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Wrexham

Thomas Telford was one heck of a busy man. In between designing bridges, roads, churches and tunnels he also found time for the magnificent Pontcysyllte (and Chirk) Aqueducts.

We visited Pontcysyllte Aqueduct as part of a longer walk. I cannot recommend the walk. Particularly the section past a landfill site, walking beside a 50mph road. Lorries whizzing past. Whipping up leaves and dust. Instead I’m just going to tempt you with the highlights, the canal and the aqueduct.

Llangollen canal

I have a love-hate relationship with canals. On a grey winter’s day they can be deserted and pretty dreary. But at other times they’re magical.

Autumn on the Llangollen canal
Autumn on the Llangollen canal

We visited in late October when autumn was busy turning the leaves yellow and orange. Reflecting the colours in the canal. Plenty of boats chugging along the still waters. Walkers and dogs parading the banks.

Ducks on Llangollen Canal
Ducks on Llangollen Canal

Approaching the aqueduct we came across these ducks all in a line. Which got me thinking. I wonder what they make of it. Do they ever paddle across?

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the longest and highest in Great Britain, is an impressive beast. Built between 1795-1805 it carries the canal 38 metres over the Dee Valley, linking the villages of Froncysyllte and Trevor. Someone, presumably a marketing guru, has named it the ‘stream in the sky’. Not technically correct but a great description; easier to pronounce too.

Crossing the Pontcysyllte aqueduct
Crossing the Pontcysyllte aqueduct

If we’d timed our visit better we could have taken a narrowboat ride across the aqueduct. Regular trips allow you to experience the scary side of the structure, with just a few centimetres of iron trough to stop you going over the edge. Although I’m sure no boat has ever sailed off it.

Crossing the Pontcysyllte aqueduct
Crossing the Pontcysyllte aqueduct

Instead we just walked. The path can easily fit two people side by side. But most people naturally gravitate to the handrail side. Which results in a moment of nervousness when you meet someone in the middle. Be polite and risk slipping in the canal? Or stick rigidly to the railings?

Footpath beside the Pontcysyllte aqueduct
Footpath beside the Pontcysyllte aqueduct

I stopped to enjoy the view and take a few photographs halfway over. Ignoring the sewage works. Focussing on the swirling River Dee far below. Watching birds fly beneath me. And checking that my son hadn’t gone for a paddle.

View from Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
View from Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

The aqueduct and part of Llangollen canal achieved Unseco World Heritage status in 2009, a worthy tribute to Thomas Telford’s vision. Could you imagine it being built nowadays? It would be festooned with barriers and safety nets. And I’m sure the mortar wouldn’t have been made with ox blood!

 

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

At the far end we stopped for lunch, before continuing our walk down the steps and alongside the River Dee. Turning round every so often to marvel once more. The further away you get the more it looks like boats and people are crossing the canal with no protection at all.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

The walk across isn’t for everyone. But it’s easy to appreciate Telford’s engineering mastermind from plenty of vantage points without stepping foot on it. Well worth visiting!

More info

  • I’d suggest parking at Ty Mawr Country Park and walking beside the River Dee to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. There are great views as you approach, although you’ll need to climb a few stairs to access the aqueduct itself.
  • The towpath and canal are occassionally closed for maintenance.  Check further details in advance of your visit on the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct website.
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24 thoughts on “Crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Wrexham”

  1. Love the canal, love the Aqueduct – luckily I’m still oblivious to any dubious bits in between. 😉

    A beautiful viewpoint indeed and it certainly made my heart beat that little bit faster every time I looked down. *Gulp*

    1. Very impressive Kate. There’s actually another viaduct not too far away which is impressive too but I didn’t manage a decent photo of it.

  2. I saw this once before on Pinterest, so its nice to see a more thorough guide about it! Could be fun to check out one day if we are ever in that region! #FarawayFiles

    1. The other end of the Kennet & Avon is near to us so it’s my local canal too. I do have plans to cycle from Bath along part of it this year.

  3. I watched a documentary on this aqueduct not so long ago but, unlike your photos, it didn’t adequately demonstrate just how THIN this bridge is. Taking a narrowboat on the “scary side” must be quite an experience…

    Genuinely impressive (and I really enjoy your sense of humour too). Thanks! #FarawayFiles

  4. There is something so romantic about canals and the views from the acqueduct are incredibly beautiful. The autumn colours and scene made the effort to get there so worthwhile. I am sure I would have been clinging to the railings though! Thanks for joining us on #FarawayFiles

  5. You definitely seem to put yourself in fear of heights testing situations. I think I would actually take the boat as it would seem a secure place and the walking would freak me out. It does look beautiful and thanks for the tip of taking the other way up! Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin #FarawayFiles

    1. Heights don’t bother me too much when there’s a railing in place. That said, I’d be scared walking over if there wasn’t one (actually, I probably wouldn’t).

  6. That is an impressive engineering feat indeed, 38m over ground! I’d love to take the narrow boat ride across the canal. Thanks for sharing #FarawayFiles

  7. Hi Christine, I am no lover of heights, but I think I would walk this amazing piece of architecture just to get a photo or two (which may prove difficult whilst clutching the handrail and peeping through one eye!). Your photos give a good sense of just how high it is too.

    Walking alongside fast moving traffic isn’t my idea of a nice walk either.

    xx

  8. I would love to take a ride on the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct! My husband and I lived on a narrow boat for 2 years before having kids:) I love your first paragraph, hilarious! Thanks for linking to #MondayEscapes

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