According to my oracle (Trip Advisor) there are over 1600 attractions in London. Enough to fill years of sightseeing. But what if you’ve only got an hour to spare? Maybe you’ve seen the major sights and are looking for something different. Well, look no further; here’s my top ten quirky ways to spend an hour in London:
A couple of years ago we visited the ghost village of Imber which was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence in the Second World War. Tyneham is a similarly abandoned village, taken over by the military in 1943 and used as a training ground for the D-Day landings. The Army compulsorily purchased the land after the war and its 225 residents were never allowed to return.
I’d never heard of Yr Eifl before our recent holiday to Anglesey. It was only as I stood on Newborough Beach looking over to the hills on the Llyn Peninsula that I knew I had to visit.
If you’re a regular blog reader you’ll have probably seen my posts about our walks around Llangollen and over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Little did I know when I booked our earlier trip that I’d be returning so soon!
Every year I treat myself to a walking break with Country Adventures, usually in the Lakes or Peak District. But this time the destination was Llangollen, staying a mile or so from the holiday house I’d rented with the family two months earlier. I had mixed feelings about heading back somewhere so soon but I needn’t have worried. The walks, the weather and of course the people were all different.
Our base was the White Waters Country Hotel in Llangollen; a step up from the usual youth hostel accommodation. I met the rest of the group for a welcome talk the first evening; lovely to catch up with some familiar faces from previous holidays before settling down to our evening meal.
Day 1 – Llantysilio hills
The day started with a minibus journey along the Horseshoe Pass to the Ponderosa cafe. We’d driven up here on our previous visit but only stopped briefly, rather put off by the sights and sounds of a hundred or so motorbikes. This time we were walking along Llantysilio mountain, a range of hills running from the Pass, before dropping down into Rhewl and back to Llangollen.
Leaving the minibus behind we headed towards our first peak, stopping frequently to enjoy the glorious views of the mist settled over Llangollen. Although the sunny picture above doesn’t manage to convey how cold it was!
Our route ahead was plain to see; an up and over track taking in the summits of Moel y Gamelin, Moel y Gaer and Moel Morfyyd. We’d already started from a high point so the walking wasn’t too strenuous. However there were a couple of steeper downhill stretches to negotiate, complete with icy patches, which slowed some of the group.
We eventually reached the far summit of Moel Morfyd. Looking back from the trig point I tried to work out the ramparts of the Iron Age hillfort on Moel y Gaer but had no luck. Although it’s immediately obvious when you look at aerial photos afterwards.
The summits of Snowdonia were much easier to spot. It’s rare that I’ve seen them bathed in sunlight and clear of cloud. I’ve walked in Snowdonia many times and can barely remember a trip where it didn’t rain!
After a lunch break we headed downhill towards Rhewl, passing near some paragliders taking advantage of the weather. It was great to chat with the group members as we walked; both those I already knew from and others who I hadn’t met before.
Our route took us along an old drovers track. In years gone by drovers moving their livestock would stop for a drink in the Sun Inn at Rhewl. It’s a pity it was closed when we passed as it looked like the kind of place where you could easily while away an afternoon.
We paused for a while to peer down the driveway of Llantysilio Hall, a large Victorian house once owned by the locomotive designer Charles Beyer. Rather fittingly he’s buried in the graveyard at nearby Llantysilio Church, which he’d helped restore and modify.
We’d been spoilt by the glorious sunshine up on Llantysilio. It was a stark contrast as we walked through the fog that cloaked Llangollen. How different Horseshoe Falls looked from my previous visit!
Fortunately the warmth of our hotel was only a short walk from the Falls. Plenty of time to relax before one further walk; a trip to The Corn Mill in Llangollen for a tasty curry and an evening of enjoyable conversation.
Day 2 – Trevor Rocks
Our walk on the second day covered some of the places I’d visited on my previous trips so I’m focussing this report on Trevor Rocks, my favourite part.
We started out from Ty Mawr Country Park, initially walking to Pontcysyllte aqueduct and then onwards through Trevor Hall wood towards the limestone escarpment of Trevor Rocks.
I hadn’t realised how popular the area around Trevor Rocks would be. With the dead. After spotting several memorial plaques it became apparent that a lot of people have enjoyed the views during their lifetime.
It’s easy to see why as they stretch for miles in all directions. If you live in Llangollen I guess this is your local beauty spot. We stopped for lunch and to enjoy the views too but when it became obvious that a family group were meeting to scatter ashes nearby it was time to move on.
We worked off our lunch with a short uphill climb. It was worth the effort when we reached the top, being treated once more to views of Dinas Castle, on the hill opposite.
This ruined medieval castle stands on top of an Iron Age hill fort. Climbing to the castle from Trevor Rocks gave me a completely different perspective from my previous visit when I’d walked from the town centre. It certainly seemed much steeper!
After mooching around the ruins and experiencing the buffeting winds we returned to Llangollen where the group split and we headed our own ways for coffee, photographs and a spot of shopping.
Day 3 – Llangollen walk
Some of the group were leaving early on day three so it was a depleted number who set out for a morning stroll from Llangollen.
It was only a short walk, from the town up into the hills and back down to Berwyn but a perfect leg stretch before a long drive. The sun didn’t make much of an appearance but this didn’t seem to bother the kayakers on the River Dee. Rather them than me, the water must have been freezing!
The highlight? Finding the cafe open at Berwyn Station and enjoying bara brith before an impromptu trip on the steam train back into Llangollen.
A little later we headed our separate ways, another excellent break over. Roll on next year!
- If you’re looking for a guided walking break in the UK I highly recommend Country Adventures. Joe, the owner, runs day and weekend trips primarily in and around the Lakes, Yorkshire, Peak District and Welsh hills. Pop over to their website for further details.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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!
- 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.
Are you thinking of a family holiday to Brittany? We stayed for a week in the Côtes-d’Armor department and discovered just how much there is to see and do in Brittany. Read on to find out our top ten suggestions for a family trip.