Sebastians Is a long established destination for visitors to this unspoilt town and it is…
Chirk is a former coal mining community, sited on a hillside that separates the River Dee from the Ceiriog. It’s in Wales – just – though if you wander any distance at all, you’ll be stepping in and out of Shropshire, too. The walk starts at Chirk Bank, just over the border with England, following the tow path of the Llangollen branch of the Shropshire Union Canal.
Chocolate-box cottages with rose gardens and hollyhocks line the tow path before you arrive at the deep chasm of the Ceiriog Valley, which has to be crossed. Engineer Thomas Telford’s solution was the 10-arched aqueduct of 1801, to convey the canal more than 70ft (21m) above the valley bottom. To the left of it is Henry Robertson’s even taller viaduct, built in 1840 to carry the railway. Both canal and railway were used to transport the coal from these once thriving Flintshire coalfields.
Country lanes lead from the outskirts of Chirk to the magnificent wrought iron castle gates, built for the Chirk Estate in 1721 by the Davies Brothers of Bersham. The estate’s grounds are very spacious, and there’s over a mile (1.6km) of walking across fields, scattered with magnificent, mature oak trees. The Norman castle was built in 1310 by Edward I’s Justice of Wales, Roger Mortimer, and replaced the 11th-century wooden motte-and-bailey castle south of the town. The walls of the castle have now been decorated by scores of mullioned windows, hiding the stark and powerful circular towers. Chirk Castle was bought by Thomas Myddleton in 1595, and remained in the family’s possession until 2004, when it was purchased by the National Trust. The Myddleton’s heraldic icon, ‘the bloody red hand’, can be seen on their coat of arms and on the signs of many a local pub. And herein lies a medieval tale of treachery, for it is said that a dying Lord Myddleton, not knowing who was the eldest of his twin sons, issued a challenge requiring them to race on horseback round the castle to the gates. The winner would inherit the estate. As the finish came into sight, legend tells how the losing son hacked off his own hand with his sword and threw it over the head of his brother, so touching the gates first and winning the prize. The second half of the walk takes in typical border country, where the beautiful Ceiriog river twists through pasture and woodland, overlooked by more cottages and, of course, the majestic castle.
Follow the tree-lined canal tow path from Chirk Bank, passing several cottages before coming to the aqueduct and viaduct over the Ceiriog Valley. After crossing the aqueduct the footpath climbs to the B4500 on the outskirts of Chirk. Turn left for a few paces, then right at the mini-roundabout and along Station Road. Turn left at the railway station, following a lane to some ornate wrought-iron gates.
Swing right with the lane, but soon turn off left through a gate onto the National Trust’s Chirk Estate (if the Estate is closed continue on the lane to Tyn-y-groes, Point 4) and follow the line of a fence on the left before veering diagonally right, across the fields in the direction of the first of many blue-arrowed waymarking posts. Once through another kissing gate, walk alongside a fence on the left, westwards, to meet a junction of drives. Take the one ahead towards the car park.
Take the fork towards the ticket office and then follow the edge of the car park to continue on a rough track across fields to the road corner at Tyn-y-groes.
Just beyond the corner go through a kissing gate by a cottage on the left, following a signed path heading southwest across successive pastures. Disregard a red-arrowed waymark post pointing left. Eventually the path passes left of Mars Wood and into a hollow overlooking the Ceiriog Valley, with Warren Wood on the right. Follow ‘Offa’s Dyke’ waymarkers down the clearing between the two woods, descending steeply to a stile. Beyond this a banked cart track descends past two farms to a junction at Ty Brickly.
Turn left and then fork right along a narrow, tarred lane down to the B4500 at Castle Mill. Cross the B4500 to follow the lane going over the bridge across the Ceiriog and up to Bronygarth. Turn left along the lane, passing the old schoolhouse building.
Go left down a lane that descends past several cottages towards the river. Beyond the last cottage continue on a descending gated path. After a kissing gate, bear right into Pentre Wood, where the path joins the River Ceiriog. Carry on in a meadow, finally emerging onto a lane. Go left to Pont Faen (the bridge).
Turn right at the T-junction at the nearside of the bridge, then take the left fork lane. At a Shropshire Way waypost, follow a path on the left through woods. Emerging over a stile, turn left along the edge of a couple of fields. As you reach the railway line, cross carefully and keep ahead beside another pasture. Leave at the far side, and cross to a narrow passage opposite between houses, which comes out at Chirk Bank. Go left along the lane back to the car park.
Well-defined woodland paths and tracks, many stiles
Limestone hillside and mixed woodland
Dogs should be on a lead except by the canal
OS Explorer 240 Oswestry
Small, free car park by canal at Chirk Bank, opposite Canal View
In car park behind The Hand Hotel
Route through Chirk Estate only open between March and December. In January and February take detour on quiet lanes rounding New Hall and its reservoir to Tyn-y-groes
WALKING IN SAFETY
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Although the collieries and steelworks on which the town of Wrexham prospered are largely things of the past, this bustling town is still the largest in north Wales. The town desperately wants to be a city and has applied for the status three times since the turn of the millennium. A plan is afoot to establish a ‘city region’ encompassing Wrexham, Deeside and Chester.
Heading south, prepare to be gobsmacked when you reach Chirk, where Thomas Telford’s magnificent 10-arched aqueduct was built in 1801 to convey the canal more than 70 feet above the bottom of the valley. What’s more, alongside it is an even taller viaduct, built by Henry Robertson in 1840 to carry the railway. Both were used to carry coal from the once-thriving Flintshire coalfields.
The other main feature of Chirk is its 14th-century castle, which stands proudly overlooking the town and the Ceiriog Valley, an area described by Lloyd George as ‘a little bit of heaven on Earth’. Despite its stunning scenery and easy accessibility, the valley is something of a secret. It lies immediately south of the Vale of Llangollen, and has been dubbed ‘little Switzerland’ for its lush green hills, dotted with small farms.
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