Day Five: Tuesday, 1st May, 2012 – Llangollen to Carreg-y-Big

The River Dee, Llangollen
The River Dee, Llangollen

May Day! But starting rather overcast and grey. We breakfasted and took Tony’s offer of a lift into Llangollen. By the time we emerged from Spar with our provisions, it was starting to rain. It was a shame that the visibility was limited and the light so poor on a day that promised stunning scenery.

We climbed out of the town, circumnavigating the looming Dinas Bran, and headed south on our old friend, Offa’s Dyke Path. This initially followed a small road which continued to follow the line of the Eglwyseg Crags. The views over the Dee valley to the west and back over Llangollen were limited by the misty, wet conditions.

Bluebells in the woods above Trevor
Bluebells in the woods above Trevor

We left the road and descended through woodland to Trevor and on to Froncysyllte (how do you pronounce that??). On approaching the latter village, there was a signpost showing Offa’s Dyke Path in both directions (as well as the way from which we had come!). It transpired that we could walk over the aqueduct on the canal towpath or on the road through Froncysyllte. We opted for the latter to get a better view of the aqueduct itself. There was also a pub on this route handily placed for an early lunch and an escape from the incessant drizzle. Alas, the Aqueduct Arms was closed. Rural Britain seems to be dying on its feet. The post office was open for soft drinks, but provided little shelter or rest.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct above the River Dee
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct above the River Dee

We continued on the towpath of the Llangollen Canal for a mile or so to Irish Bridge before crossing fields and meandering down country lanes until Chirk Castle came into view. At this point, we left The Path to visit the castle. The drizzle had deteriorated and was now steady rain. We were therefore seeking refuge. Luckily we are members of The National Trust and so entered free of charge.

Chirk Castle viewed through the mist
Chirk Castle viewed through the mist

This was the first sanctuary on The Path since Llangollen; a non-member of the Trust would have had to pay £9 for respite from the elements and a rest. We headed straight for the tearoom, which was warm and cosy. Macaroni cheese and sausage with bubble & squeak lifted our spirits.

After a lightning tour of the castle, we took a footpath thorough the castle grounds to rejoin ODP at the hamlet of Castle Mill. After crossing the Ceiriog river, we climbed to our first view of the dyke itself.

Plaque on bridge over River Ceiriog at Castle Mill
Plaque on bridge over River Ceiriog at Castle Mill

The rain was getting harder and the visibility deteriorating. The two-mile hike to Craignant was tough  going. At Craignant, we wondered whether to ask our host at Carreg-y-Big to pick us up, but we didn’t fancy waiting in the rain for 10 to 15 minutes.The last two miles of the day to Carreg-y-Big was more time-consuming than arduous. Yes,  we were tired, but the drizzle and fog on the open pasture of Selattyn Hill made way finding difficult. For the first time,on this walk, we switched on our GPS to guide us to our haven for the night.

We must have been a disturbingly bedraggled sight as Ian opened the door to us at Carreg-y-Big at 6.30p.m. But unperturbed, he welcomed us most warmly. Carreg-y-Big is a farm with stables which caters for the horse riding fraternity. The B&B accommodation has all been recently renovated. We were the only guests staying for the night, and so we had the run of the whole suite – this included a comfortable lounge, small kitchen, a room for drying wets clothing, a dining room, and shower & bathrooms. Despite the radiators belting out, the rooms were cold, and there was not enough hot water for a bath. But this was a minor quibble; Ian is a natural raconteur and  superb cook and produced a chicken casserole with roasted vegetables and greens which was top drawer.
23 stiles all in the last 4 miles!
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