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A small town in the Welsh north-east named after its founder and grew into one of Wales' prettiest and friendliest settlements

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This small town in the Welsh north-east was named after its founder, a 7th-century monk called St. Collen who came here to set up a church. Supposedly, he arrived via the river, sailing alone on a tiny one-man row boat. From this modest beginning, Llangollen grew into what is now one of Wales' prettiest and friendliest settlements.

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct near Llangollen
Photo by hha124l
The aforementioned river is the River Dee, which is still a focal point of the town. It is especially cherished by canoe and kayak enthusiasts, thanks to its fast-flowing water and uneven rocks. Several times a year, this natural obstacle course is the scene of national and international competitions, hosted by some of the biggest canoeing organisations in the world.

The River Dee at Llangollen
Photo by Paul Stainthorp
Just to the north of the River Dee is a second, newer waterway. This is the Llangollen Canal, which is a big part of the town's appeal. The best place to start exploring it is the Wharf, which runs two different kinds of boat trip along the canal. The first is a calm, relaxing ride to the west, offering views of the surrounding mountains. The journey takes place on board a traditional narrow boat, which doesn't use sails, oars, or an engine. Instead, it is towed along by a horse, which trots along the waterside. The trip goes as far as the Horseshoe Falls, a man-made waterfall at the very beginning of the canal.

The Llangollen Canal
Photo by Dave Goodman

Boat Rides on the Llangollen Canal
Photo by Dave Goodman

The boats are pulled by horses!
Photo by Dave Goodman

Horseshoe Falls
Photo by comedy_nose
The second kind of boat ride, meanwhile, uses motorised craft, which head in the opposite direction, to the east. There are several different routes, but all of them head across the Llangollen Canal's star attraction: the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This 200-year-old structure carries the canal over the River Dee. It reaches up to a height of 38 metres, supported by a series of imposing pillars. As your boat makes this crossing, you'll be treated to a scary, but spectacular view.

Crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
Photo by alistair hamilton
If you're not much of a sailor, then don't worry, because there's plenty of other ways to see Llangollen's beautiful surroundings. Hikers and cyclists will particularly enjoy exploring a nearby vale, to the north, which carries the ominous name of World's End. This strange title probably came from the area's array of tall, sheer cliffs. Another mode of transport that's available is the train, on board the town's very own Llangollen Railway. This historical line runs 12 kilometres west to the village of Carrog, using wonderful old steam trains.

The Llangollen Railway
Photo by Paul Stainthorp
It would be a shame, though, to make trips out of Llangollen without first exploring everything the town has to offer. Its redbrick houses, with their dark slate roofs, are a common sight, giving Llangollen's architecture a distinct identity - something that's often missing from other settlements in Britain. The most famous building inside the town is Plas Newydd, a former home of several very well-to-do ladies in the 18th and 19th centuries. This gothic, black and white house is now a museum, and is surrounded by picturesque grounds and gardens. A little further outside of Llangollen is Castell Dinas Bran, an ancient Iron Age castle which stands on a hill, overlooking the town. It's quite a walk to get there, but the atmospheric ruins are undoubtedly worth it.

Wandering the streets of Llangollen
Photo by Dave Goodman
Another part of the town's identity which is impossible to ignore is the International Eisteddfod, an annual music competition and festival which takes over the town every July. Tens of thousands of people make the trip, to witness participants that have previously included Pavarotti!
This event may bring people into the town, but it's Llangollen's very own charms which entice them back. It fully deserves its reputation as one of the country's best towns.
Visitor Information
Llangollen Railway runs a service daily from April to mid-October, all school holidays and most weekends throughout the year. Fares cost around £12 for adults, £8 for children. Abbey Rd, Llangollen, Denbighshire, LL20 8SN. Tel: 01978 860 979

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