Nicholson’s Cambrian Traveller’s Guide
3rd Edition – Llangollen
LLANGOLLEN (pron. Khlangothlin), in the hundred of Chirk, and county of Denbigh, situated on the road from Linfon to Holyhead, is a lively little town, embosomed among lofty mountains, and watered by the Dee. The bridge, anciently considered one of the seven wonders of Wales, is formed of 4 irregular narrowly-pointed arches, and was erected in 1346, by Dr. John Trevor, Bishop of St. Asaph, who died in 1357. The bed of the Dee is composed of one continued surface of solid rock. The water has been known to rise in a few hours, even to the height of the bridge, bearing down some large trunks of trees and fragments of out-houses; such inundations have occurred in the finest weather, when there has been neither rain nor thaw. These incidents have been occasioned by a strong gale blowing s.w. over Bala Lake, which has the effect of a tide rushing with great fury through a confined channel, committing ravages on its way. The Church is an ancient structure, partly in the early style of English architecture, consisting of a nave with one aisle and a chancel. The roof is of oak, panelled and richly carved. The living is a discharged vicarage; the Bishop of St. Asaph patron. The interior is neat. The E. window is well painted by Eginton. The subject is Christ in the garden. Morning service in English only on the second Sunday in each month; on the afternoon of every other Sunday, the service is partly English and partly Welsh. The name of its patron saint is of extraordinary length; ie. St. Collen ap Gwynnawg ap Clydawg ap Cowdra ap Caradog Freichfras ap Lleyr Merim ap Einion Yrth ap Cunedda Wledig. From the churchyard is a view of the Dee; the perspective is not very pleasing, being what painters term a STUDY, rather than a composition. From this point is a good view of Crow Castle. On the road from Chirk a direct and commodious passage has superseded the necessity of passing the crooked and narrow streets of Llangollen. Between this place and Corwen all the steep and dangerous hills have been avoided, and an easy, smooth, broad, and well-protected road has been made by government. In 1831 the population of this town amounted to 1500 inhabitants.
Machinery, for the manufacture of fancy goods by power looms, has been formed in a building near the town, which, though an object inharmonious and unpicturesque, employs a number of children who might have been a burden upon the parish. The market is held on Saturday, and is well supplied with butcher’s meat. The fairs are on the last Friday in January, March 17., May 31., Aug. 21., Nov. 22. The neighbourhood abounds with coal and ironstone; lead ore is only found in detached nodules. Near New bridge are extensive iron-works; and in Cefn, earthenware is manufactured.
INNS.-The Hand, King’s Head, and Royal Hotel, are the principal. Mr. Pennant says, ” I know no place in N. Wales, where the refined lover of picturesque scenes, the sentimental, or the romantic tourist, can give into a fuller indulgence. No place abounds more with various rides or solemn walks. From this central spot. he may, as I have done, visit the seat of Owain Glyndwr, and the fine valleys of the Dee, to its source, beyond the great Llyn Tegid; or pass the mountains to the fertile Vale of Clwyd, or make the tour of Wrexham.” Notwithstanding this opinion has been given by the discriminating and indefatigable Pennant, and though Llangollen has long been the subject of much encomium, both in prose and verse, the opinion of other travellers declare that it cannot, richness, be compared with the Vale of Clwyd, nor is it equal in picturesque scenery to the Vale of Festiniog. Eglwysig Craig, a formal range of limestone on the N. E. side, greatly disfigure some of its most beautiful scenes; but the prospect towards the plain of Salop and upwards, is uncommonly striking and beautiful.
The principal houses in the immediate neighbourhood, are Plas-Newydd, Miss Lolly and Miss Andrew; Dinbryn, late F. Cunliffe, Esq.; and Tower, E. W. Eyton, Esq. ; the last, a charmingly retired spot, was sometime the residence of Miss Seward.
Almost contiguous and overlooking the town of Llangollen, is the simply elegant building called Plas-Newydd, in the cottage style, fitted up for the late Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Ponsonby, who quitted the busy hum of men in the meridian of youth, and withdrew from the paths of fashionable life, to dwell in seclusion and peace, in these retired shades; nor can it be matter of surprise to any who examine this spot and its concomitant beauties, that a decided preference has been given to it. The rooms were allowed to be inspected by strangers; and they are elegantly fitted up, and ornamented with drawings of the most picturesque spots in the vicinity. The window of the dining room commands a prospect of the mountains ; and from the study appears the well arranged plantations adjoining.
From another window the tower of Llangollen Church alone is visible ; the plantations intercepting a view of the town. Dinas Bran Castle forms a fine back scene from the walks. Nature has indeed been favourable, but art has also contributed greatly. Many are the embellishments which have been superadded, particularly an elegant doorway or ENTRANCE, composed of turned wood columns, in the style of the furniture of the 16th century. (See an interesting series of views in this vicinity by the late Samuel and George Nicholson; Ackermann, 1824.)
“Lady Eleanor Butler,” says Madame de Genlis, ” was born in Dublin : an orphan from the cradle, and a rich, amiable, and lovely heiress. Her hand was sought by the first families in Ireland; but she very early announced her aversion to marriage. This taste for independence she never concealed; yet no woman was more remarkable for mildness, modesty, and all the virtues that embellish her sex. From earliest infancy, she was the intimate friend of Miss Ponsonby. By a singular coincidence of events (which struck their imaginations), they were both born at Dublin in the same year, and on the same day; and became orphans at the same period. It was easy for them to- fancy, from this, that Heaven had created them for each other, to perform together the voyage of life. Their sensibility enabled them to realise the illusion; and their friendship so increased with their age, that at 17 they mutually promised to preserve their liberty, and never to part from each other; and formed from that moment the plan of withdrawing from the world, and permanently fixing themselves in the profoundest solitude. Having heard of the charming landscapes of Wales, they made a secret journey thither, in order to choose their place of retreat.
“On arriving at Llangollen they found, on the summit of a mountain, a small isolated cottage, in a delightful situation; and there it was that they resolved to fix their abode. The guardians of the young fugitives, however, traced their steps, and brought them back to Dublin; but they declared they would return to their mountain as soon as they should have attained their majority. In fact, at twenty-one, in spite of all the entreaties and arguments of relatives, these ladies quitted Ireland for ever, and went to Llangollen. Miss Ponsonby was not rich, but Lady Eleanor enjoyed a considerable fortune; she purchased the land about the mountain, with the little cottage, and built a house upon its site, of which the outside is extremely simple, but the interior, of the greatest elegance. The two friends possessed, at the foot of the hill, a meadow for their flocks, a beautiful farm-house and a kitchen garden. These two extraordinary persons, both of whom possessed the most cultivated minds, resided in that solitude for seven years, without having slept out of it in a single instance. Nevertheless, they are far from reserved, frequently visiting the neighbouring gentry, and receiving with equal politeness and kindness, travellers, who are either coming from, or going to Ireland, and who may be recommended to their attention by their old friends.
“They possess an excellent library of the best English, French, and Italian authors; and the interior of the house is remarkable for the beauty of its proportions, the convenient distribution of its apartments, the elegance of the ornaments and furniture, and the noble prospects visible from all the windows. The drawing-room is adorned with charming landscapes, drawn and painted after nature, by Miss Ponsonby. The arts are cultivated with equal success and modesty; and you admire their productions in this secluded spot, with a feeling which you could not experience elsewhere; and are delighted to find so much merit sheltered from the attacks of satire and envy, and talents free from ostentation and pride, which never desire other suffrages than those of friendship. I must not quit Llangollen, without mentioning the pure manners of that part of Wales. The two friends assured us, that often, when they quitted home to walk in the neighbourhood, they left the key in their cottage door, though they had a considerable quantity of silver plate and other valuable articles, which might have easily been carried away. The inns of Llangollen are distinguished by the neatness peculiar to England.”
Lady Emily Butler died at Plas-Newydd, near Llangollen, on the 2d of June, 1829, aged 90. Her loss will be severely felt by the surrounding poor. Miss Ponsonby departed this life December 9th, 1831, aged 76. Both are interred in the churchyard of Llangollen. The entire property was purchased by two maiden ladies, Miss Lolly and Miss Andrews, who are said to emulate the retirement of its former possessors.
On the N. side of the Dee, about 3 m. from Llangollen, upon a rising slope of a finely wood-clad hill, stands Brynkinallt, Lord Dungannon, M.P., new-fronted and gothicised, formerly a large brick mansion. It was built by the father of Sir John Trevor, and descended to the Hills, it being the property of Arthur Hill, baron Dungannon. Sir John was a highly distinguished and eccentric character.
In a beautifully retired valley near Plas-Newydd is Pengwern, or Plas, once the seat of Tudor Trevor, Lord of Bromfield, about 924, whence the Mostyns of Mostyn are descended, and this mansion is their property. Several of the windows are entire, retaining their original ceilings and arched ribs. An ancient carved stone, bearing a mutilated inscription, has been inserted into the wall. Two miles further s. is Llansanffraid Glyn Ceiriog. The road lies over an uninteresting mountain, but it affords numerous fine prospects. Descending the other side, Glyn Ceiriog comes in sight, and reaching the straggling village, enter the romantic scenery of this mountain pass, somewhat resembling Nantperis. Craig-y-Felin Deirw is a grand object. After reaching the end of the pass, recross the mountain, and turning to the I., pass the woody glen, called Nant-y-Bache to Llangollen. This forms to an artist or amateur a very charming excursion. Mr. Pugh has given a most interesting print in which the rivulet is introduced. ( Cambria Depicta, 310. )
Mr. Lloyd, of Trevor Hall, erected a neat modern summer cabin, within 50 yards of this venerable remnant of antiquity.
Vale Crucis has been pronounced by several travellers to be one of the most beautifully secluded situations in the kingdom. It is surrounded by towering mountains and abrupt rocks, covered at their base with wood and verdure. ” Visit the vales of the Dee, the Ebwy, and the Rhydol,” says Mr. Bucke; but if you would select a sweet and tranquil spot, in which, forsaking all the world, you would devote the remainder of your days to contemplation and delight, let that spot be the Vale of Crucis. Surrounded upon all sides by towering mountains, this vale, secured from the northern blast by high and overarching rocks, presents a charming asylum where might be estimated at their true value, the pomp of folly, the ignorance of pride, and the littleness of grandeur.” (Beauties, &c. of Nature, i. 209.) Here are the venerable remains of Llan-Egwest, ‘or Vale Crucis Abbey, situated in the centre of a small verdant meadow at the foot of Bron-fawr a high hill in the township of Maesyr Yehen, and 2 m. s. w. of Llangollen. From the road at a little distance, the fine Gothic west end, embowered in trees, and backed by the mountain on the summit of which stands the remnants of Castell Dinas Bran, produces a scene finely picturesque. This abbey derives its name from the cross or pillar of Eliseg, which is in a meadow adjoining, still known by the name of Llwyn-y-Groes,” the Grave of the Cross.” It appears to have been erected to the memory of Eliseg, father of Brochmail, Prince of Powys, by Concenn or Congen his great grandson, the same who was defeated in 607 at the battle of Chester. It was once 12 ft. long, but being thrown down and broken, its upper part is only left, which is 7 ft. in length. The owner of the land caused this portion to be placed on its pedestal, in 1779. The beginning of the ancient inscription, as copied by Mr. Edward Llwyd, ran thus :-” Concenn filius Cateli, Cateli filius Brochmail, Brochmail filius Eliseg, Eliseg filius Cnoillaine, Concenn itaque pronepos Eliseg edificavit hunc lapidem proavo suo Eliseg.” This ancient inscription is now illegible. The proprietor of the land added thereto the following: -” Quod hujus veteris monumenti superest, diu ex oculis remotum et neglectum tandem restituit I. Lloyd de Trevor Hall, A. D. 1779.” The tumulus on which the pillar stands, was opened some years back, wherein were discovered remains of some bones between broad flat stones, the usual mode of interment in ancient times.
This abbey was a house of Cistercians, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and founded about 1200, by Madog ap Gryffydd Maelor, Lord of Dinas Bran and Bromfield, grandson of the famous Owain Gwynedd, Prince of Wales. The annual revenues, at the dissolution in 1235, according to Dugdale’s statement, were 188 l., but Speed makes them amount to 214 l. 188. 5d. This house remained in the possession of the Crown till the 9th of James I., who granted it to Edward Wotton, afterwards Lord Wotton. In 1654, we find a lady, Margaret Wotton, a recusant, to have been in possession, and that it was put under sequestration. The last abbot was John Herne. It now belongs to T. Trevor Mather, Esq. of Pentrehobin. Three rows of groined arches on single round pillars, support the dormitory approached by steps from without. Part of the chimney in one of the bedchambers contains a portion of a sepulchral monument with this mutilated inscription: -” Hic jacet. ….ARVRVI….” The floors are remarkably thick, and partly supported by rows of Gothic arches. The ruins of the Church and part of the Abbey still remain. The church was cruciform, in several styles of architecture, and furnishes a specimen of the ornamental Gothic of the thirteenth century. The length of the abbey church is 180 ft., the nave 31, the side aisles 13. A few of the arches are pure Gothic, but those which support the tower and several of the doors are mixed and ornamental. The E. end is in the most ancient style, having three pointed windows rising 2 or 3 ft. from the ground, to half the height of the building. Above these are two narrow lancets traced or bordered with stones slightly projecting from the surface, and continue between the lower windows to the ground. The top of this end is considerably mutilated. The w. gabel has a semicircular entrance to the w. transept; round tracings above, extending from one side to the other, under which are three pointed arches including in each two smaller pointed ones, and above is a marigold window, of elegant fretwork, with this inscription, ” A. D… ADAM…DMS… fecit hoc opus. pace beata quiescat. Amen,” and under, the mutilated date, ” M. D…. ” The pilasters which support the internal arches end in capitals of elegant foliage, and the mouldings of the arches are highly ornamental. In the N. transept is a chapel with two arches, and near it a double benetier or vessel for holy water. The area of the church is overgrown with tall ash-trees. Adjoining the church is the Abbey, to which the apartments of the abbot were contiguous. The front was uncommonly grand. A large window, highly ornamented with tracery, which reached from the roof to the ground, is still visible with, three long lancets, and over them two others, with remarkable pilasters dropping from them. Within are traces of a small narrow staircase. This dormitory, supported by three rows of groined arches on single round pillars, is now converted into a hay-loft, and approached by steps from without. The cloister is vaulted, and supported by rows of low pillars, now divided into apartments which are appropriated for cattle, a farmer occupying part of it as a dwelling house.
Upon a lofty conical eminence, about 1 m. distant from Llangollen, stands Castell Dinas Bran. The structure appears to have been about 800 ft. long and 150 ft. broad. On one side it was defended by trenches cut through the rock. The present remains consist of a few scattered walls. The style of architecture indicates that it was founded by the Britons; but the period of its erection as well as its ‘founder’s name, are buried in oblivion. Its appellation is apparently derived from the Bran, which runs just below, a term applied to many rivers from an aptness to overflow their margins. Probably it was built by one of the lords of Yale, whose seat it was for several centuries. These lords were the descendants of Osborn Fitzgerald, Earl of Desmond, who followed Gryffydd ap Cynan from Ireland, whither he had retired to avoid the troubles which agitated Wales in the 11th century. In l257, it afforded an asylum from the fury of his enraged countrymen to Gryffydd ap Madog, who basely sided with Henry II., and betrayed his country. At his death, the king gave it to John Earl Warren. In 1390, this castle was inhabited by Myfanwy Fechan, a most beautiful and accomplished female, descended from the house of Tudor Trevor. She was beloved by Hywel Hoel ap Eynion Llygliw, an illustrious bard who addressed her in a charming ode. The ruins of this old castle present an object wildly desolate. The obtrusive weeds which fill the court-yard, the ivy and moss which cover the fast decaying wall, form a scene at once pleasing and melancholy, and lead the imagination back to the days of old, when this now shattered fortress echoed loudly to the shouts of mirth and revelry. In contemplating this contrast, the ravages of time and the comparative vanity of man’s boasted attainments, forcibly strike the beholder.
On the N. W. side of the hill, is a remarkable geological phenomenon consisting of a vast rock called Craig Eglwysig, the ” hallowed rock.” For more than ½m. it lies stratum upon stratum forming steps parallel with the horizon, called by naturalists ” Saxa Sedilia.” The prospects from the castle are very extensive, and to those who have not ascended Snowdon or Cader Idris, they will appear very extraordinary. Although this hill is nearly 600 yards in perpendicular height, two wells within the castle walls are never deficient in water. If this eminence want the sublimity of Arran Fowddy or of Carnedd Llywelyn, the loss is more than compensated by its superior beauty. More than 50 mountains surround it, exhibiting a variety of amphitheatres, the most distant fading into the clouds.
PLANTS. Upon the walls grow Pyrus hybrida and Hieracium murorum.
Pont-Cysylltau, the most stupendous work of the kind in Great Britain, which supports and conveys the Ellesmere canal across a valley above the river Dee, lies at the distance of 4 m. on the road to Ruabon. On the way, pass Trevor Hall, to the I. 2½ m., an ancient residence of the Trevor family, and now inherited by the Misses Thomas, co-heiresses of the estate. Having proceeded further, more than 1½ m., turn along a road on the r., leading over the Dee, at right angles, at Pont-Cysylltau, forming, with the scenery around, a splendid subject for the pencil, an aqueduct, supported by 18 handsome square stone columns, at the height of 120 ft. above the surface of the water. On a tablet is the following inscription: -” The nobility and gentry of the adjacent counties having united their efforts with the great commercial interest of this county, in creating an intercourse and union between England and N. Wales, by a navigable communication of the three rivers, Severn, Dee, and Mersey, for the mutual benefit of agriculture and trade, caused the first stone of this aqueduct of Pont Cysylltau, to be laid on the 25th day of July , 1795, when Richard Myddleton, of Chirk, Esq., M. P .; one of the original patrons of the Ellesmere Canal, was lord of this manor, and in the reign of our sovereign, George the Third, when the equity of the laws and security of property promoted the general welfare of the nation, while the arts and sciences flourished by his patronage, and the conduct of civil life was improved by his example.” The navigation over this aqueduct was constructed from designs by Mr. Telford, and opened 29th November, 1805. Length of the iron-work, 1007 ft. Height from the surface of the rock, on the s. side of the river, to the top of the side plates, 126 ft. 8 in. Breadth of the water-course. within the iron-work, 11 ft. 10 in. Number of the stone pillars, besides abutments, 18. Distance of ditto from each other at the top, 45 ft. Length of the earthen embankment, s. side of the river, 1503 ft. 8 in. Height of ditto at the s. abutment, 75 ft. The sandstone with which this magnificent work of art is built, as well as that over the Ceiriog, at Chirk, is perhaps equal in beauty and durability to Bath or Portland stone. Connected with the surrounding scenery, it contributes to several interesting pictures. This admirable production of scientific ingenuity is seen to the greatest advantage from the base of the acclivities on each side the valley. The aqueducts of the Romans were more extensive, but in other respects, decidedly inferior to this.
To CORWEN, the road is highly interesting. The picturesque Vale of Crucis extends for about a mile, when Glyn Dyfrdwy, ” the Valley of the Dee,” once the property of Owain Glyndwr, opens. The mountains here are high, and their features bold and prominent. The river winds, and the vale is so irregular, as to produce a continued variety of landscape. On the I. appears Plas Madoc, Thomas Youde, Esq. At the distance of 3m., appears Llandyssilio Hall, the family seat of the Jones’s, upon a woody flat, near the opposite edge of the Dee. About ½m. beyond Llandyssilio is a lofty hill, to which a gentle ascent leads from the road. The entire vale, and all its windings, with the serpentine Dee, appears immediately beneath. Castell Dinas Bran seems placed upon a lower eminence. The vale of Llangollen, and the flat country beyond, for many miles, may be seen hence, terminated by distant mountains. After the fourth mile- stone, the road has a straight direction, by which a uniformity prevails, and the beautiful variety of prospect subsides. About 4 m. beyond, at Sychnant, in the site upon which stood the palace of Owain Glyndwr. It is marked by a small clump of furs upon an eminence on the r. An oak wood is on the I. Except a few scattered stones on the ground, no remnant of such palace appears. The spot was surrounded with only one deep trench; the ground being elevated above the Dee, which runs 20 yards behind it, a deep cut supplied the water from the river. The moat is nearly square, including not a quarter of an acre.
There is a gentle elevation near the centre, where the house stood. Here Glyndwr lived the life of a little sovereign, in his own dominions, till a quarrel arose between him and his neighbour, Lord Grey, of Ruthin Castle, l2 m. distant, now in ruins. Their manors were contiguous. Grey wished to confine Glyndwr within the bounds of the Dee, and claimed the hills N. of the river. This unjust seizure produced a suit. Owain gained it, but Henry lV. succeeding to the crown, favoured the cause of Grey against his antagonist, and revived the quarrel, which lasted many years. By this means, he sacrificed 100,000 lives, destroyed immense property, burnt numerous habitations, and excited an animosity not yet wholly extinguished. Grey was the most powerful in arms, Glyndwr in stratagem. Grey was backed by the crown, Glyndwr by his faithful Welsh. Glyndwr, expecting a visit from Grey, drove a great number of stakes into the ground, and covered each with a cap and jacket, which Grey, mistaking for an army in battalia, retreated. Wishing to take Grey in ambush, he ordered the shoes of his horses to be reversed, in order to cause the enemy to think he was running away, which succeeding, Grey became his prisoner. The descendants of Grey were afterwards dukes of Kent. The room is still in being at Machynlleth wherein Glyndwr held his parliament, and assumed, with the consent of the states, the sovereignty of Wales. As the power of England was superior to that of Wales, Glyndwr was at length subdued, and after- wards lived in retirement. Three of his daughters were married to three Herefordshire gentlemen, whose descendants are in high life, i. e. Croft, Monnington, and Scudamore. Owain Glyndwr was the greatest general Wales ever produced; the scourge of the English, a tormenting thorn to Henry IV., and the ruin of his country. The family name of this extraordinary character, was Fychan; he is styled Glyndwr, or Glyndwrdwy, from his possessions lying principally in the vale of Dee, or of Llangollen. He was fourth in descent from Gryffydd Fychan, the surviving son of Gryffydd ap Madog, Lord of Bromfield and Yale, whose residence was Castell Dinas Bran. By his mother’s side he was allied to the N. Wallian princes, from which descent he derived his claim to the throne of Wales. Writers vary respecting the time of his birth, some attaching that event to the year 1349, and others to 1354. He died on the 20th September, 1415, in the 61st year of his age, having passed the last years of his life under the protection of his daughter Scudamore.
Two m. before the traveller reaches Corwen, the vale completely changes its aspect. It is destitute of wood, the mountains are cultivated, and the Dee assumes a placid form. On the road to CHIRK, 5 m., occurs the famous boundary between England and Wales, called Clawdd Offa, or Offa’s Dike. This boundary is often mistaken for Watt’s Dike.
To RUABON, or Rhiwavon, the banks of the Dee are followed for awhile, watering a beautiful narrow vale. The hills at length approximate so nearly as only to leave room for a most picturesque passage, shaded with trees. On the I., Pont-y-Cysylltau, cross the new bridge, and ascend for some space, leaving upon the l. considerable collieries.
On the road to LLANRHAIADYR, occurs the village of Llansanffraid, 3 m., situated in Glyn Ceiriog ; following the course of the stream for 3 m. occurs the village of Llanarmon, containing a church, dedicated to Garmon, or St. Germanus ; here the vale becomes enlarged and cultivated, and hence the term Dyffryn Ceiriog. This village lies in the hundred of Yale. In the church is a monument, thus inscribed: -” Hic jacet Gruffydd Llywelyn ap Ynyr,” with five bloody fingers on his shield, and a dog at his feet, carved upon the lid of a stone coffin. In this district are many tumuli, composed of loose stones and earth, under a layer of soil, 2 ft. thick, and a coat of turf, in some of which have been found several urns, reversed, and sometimes a flat stone without urns; also considerable fragments of burnt bones. Entering the cross road from the Berwyn mountains, regain that which was left near Llan Cadwaladr, 1½m. To Llanrhaiadyr, the distance is 4 m. Midway, about 1 m. to the r., is Llanarmon, Mynydd mawr.
To OSWESTRY, the road lies upon an ascent producing a delightful retrospect. For 3 or 4 m., the Dee continues on the I., disfigured by a feeder above it, cut to the Ellesmere Canal. Business is little attentive to picturesque beauty, or this might be rendered of trifling detriment, by a range of plantations. Hence appears, to great advantage, the aqueduct, Pont Cysylltau, over the Dee. The environs of this place are so thickly bestudded with habitations of various sizes, as to suggest the idea of the contiguity of some populous town. Among these are Trevor Hall, Wynnstay, and Chirk Castle. Quit the course of the Dee, and enter a rich champaigne country. At CHIRK is another aqueduct of lesser dimensions. Immediately after quitting this place, enter Shropshire, and passing over a portion of Watt’ s dike through the village of Gobowen, soon arrive at OSWESTRY.
To RUTHIN there are two routes; the first, described as follows, is along an excellent turnpike-road. Reach Pentre-Felin, 1 m. 1 fur. ( on the r. Dinbryn Hall, Llan Egwest Abbey, ½ m.) Leave on the r. Fron-fawr, and Tyn-y- Pistyll, a little to the r. (Craig Eglwyseg lies 2 m. to the r.) Leave nearer to the road Moel Eglwys and Tan-y-Bwlch; on I. Crib-yn-oernant, through Bwlch-yr-rhiw-felen, to Pentre-Bwlch turnpike, 3 m. 7 fur. Pass Tafarn Dowyrch, and leave Llandegle 1 m. to the r., to Faniol, 3½ m. Craig-fechan, 1½ m. (½m. beyond, on the I., Garth Gynnan, and Plas Newydd. RUTHIN, 3 m. 7 fur.
The other route is adapted for the pedestrian or equestrian only, but is far preferable, on account of the romantic views it affords. We will follow Mr. Pennant, who heeded not the circuity of the path. He was a botanist, and so could never be out of his road. He passed from Llangollen by Vale Crucis, and after winding along a steep, midway to the old castle, descended, and then crossing the rill of the Bran, arrived in the valley of Eliseg; this is long and narrow, bounded on the r. by astonishing precipices, divided into parallel strata of white limestone with some vast yew trees ; on the I., advance by smooth and verdant hills, bordered by pretty woods. One of the principal of the Eliseg rocks, is named Craig Arthur; at the end of the vale is Craig-y-Frwyn, bold, precipitous, and terminating in a vast natural column.
In order to attain the high road, pursue a path up a steep ascent to the I.; about midway, Mr. Pennant visited a house, once the residence of Edward Davies, a low partisan on the side of Cromwell. After continuing an ascent for a short space further, he reached the pass called Bwlch-y-Rhiw-Felin, 4 m., and fell again into the great road. From the height above is a very extensive view of the hundred of Yale; after some descent, crossed the AIun. Here a rill arises to water the vales of Mold, Hope, &c. Leave a little to the I. a place called Havod-yr-Abad, the site of a country seat, formerly the residence of the abbot of Vale Crucis. Close to the road side lies Tommen-y-Rhodwydd, 2 m., once a fortress, known by the name Castle of Yale, built by Owain Gwynedd, about the year 1148. It consists of a vast artificial mount, with another still loftier ; near one end is the keep; These are surrounded by a great foss and rampart, and have only a single entrance. At present, there is not a relic of the superstructure, which was probably formed of wood, as was customary with several ancient nations. Hence Mr. Pennant crossed the country for about 2 m., to the village of Llandegla, noted for its fair of black cattle. About 200 yards from the church, in a quillet called Gwern Degla, rises a small spring, under the tutelage of St. Tecla, virgin and martyr; to which great ceremonials and superstition attach. Near the churchyard is a rock, remarkable for the beautiful quartz crystals it contains. Hence he visited Bodidris, a large and ancient mansion, belonging to the family of Vaughan of Corsegedon. Bodidris takes its name from ldris, son of Llywelyn Aurdorchog, the ancient lord of Yale. It stands in two counties, Flintshire and Denbighshire. Llanarmon, 3 m., is a village, the church of which is dedicated to St. Garmon, Bishop of Auxerre ; who, with St. Lupus, contributed, it is said, to gain the Victoria Alleluiatica, over the Picts and Saxons, near Mold. The Rev. Peter Roberts, author of ” Collectanea Cambrica,” or ” Cambrian Popular Antiquities,” was rector of this place, which he exchanged for the rectory of Halkin, Flints, where, in 1819, he died. Sepulchral tumuli are very frequent in this parish. ” I was present,” says Mr. Pennant, ” at the opening of one, composed of loose stones and earth, covered with a layer of soil about 2 ft. thick, and over that a coat of verdant turf. In the course of our search were discovered, towards the centre of the tumulus, several urns, made of sun-burnt clay, red on the outside, black within, being stained with the ashes they contained. They were placed with the mouth downwards, upon a flat stone; upon each was another, to preserve them from being broken by the weight above. Mixed with the loose stones, were numerous osseous fragments; such as parts of thigh and arm bones, and a skull. These had escaped the effects of the fire of the funeral pile, and were deposited about the urns, which contained the residuum of the corpse that had been reduced to pure ashes.
In 1810, a tumulus of the largest dimensions was opened in the township of Gelli-gwainan. Lewis says it contained the skeleton of a horse and his rider, in the position in which they might have fallen: near the ribs of the horse was found a brass spur, weighing 17 oz. Near the village of Llanarmon, upon a vast mount, beside the margin of the river, are the foundations of a square fort, called Tommen-y-Fardre, and near it a large cavern, the roof of which is of considerable height, but contracting as you proceed, it appears inexplorable.
The country now becomes circumscribed by the approximation of the hills. On one side, in the township of Tre’r Yris, are rocky ledges of limestone, rich in lead ore. On the I. are the Clwydian Hills, which divide this country from the Vale of Clwyd. There is a pass through them, lying between the summits of Moel Eithinen, and Moel Fenlli, called Bwlch Agricla, or the Pass of Agricola, probably the military road of that chieftain to Mona. On Moel Fenlli, or Benlli’s Hill; is a strong British post, guarded by dikes and fosses. In 1770, when Mr. Pennant passed Llanferras, the church was rebuilding, chiefly by the bounty of Mrs. Catherine Jones, of Clommendy. This place gave birth to Dr. John Davies, an almost universal scholar, but distinguished chiefly as a lexicographer and divine; he was the son of a weaver in this parish, and received his education at Ruthin school, under Dr. Parry, which he completed at Oxford. Entering into orders, he was presented to the living of Mallwyd, in Merionethshire. He wrote a curious Welsh grammar in Latin. He assisted Bishop Parry, to whom he was chaplain, in revising Morgan’s Bible, the version now used in the Welsh churches. His great performance was his two-fold Cambrian Dictionary, in Welsh and Latin, and Latin and Welsh. A similar work had been begun by Thomas ap William, of Trefriw, near Llanrwst, which, being left unfinished, Dr. Davies, at the request of the Gwydir family, completed and published it in 1632. He erected three bridges in the vicinity of Mallwyd, at his own expense. He died 1644. It is evident the Romans were resident here, from the number of coins found in this neighbourhood, particularly Denarii Cross the turnpike-road between Mold and Ruthin ; after a long ascent, pass Bwlch Pen-y-Barras, a spot extremely worthy of the traveller’s attention, on account of the beautiful view over the vale of Clwyd. Mr. Pennant’s route led him hence E. along the great road, into the county of Flint. Within 2m. of Mold, he examined long the charming vale which opens with exquisite beauty from Fron, the seat of the ingenious Richard Williams, Esq. Cambria here lays aside her majestic air, and condescends to assume a gentler form. This was anciently called Ystrad Alun, or the Dale of the Alun, a comat in the Cantref-y-Rhiw, inhabited by a hardy race, at perpetual variance with the men of Cheshire on one side, and the men of Yale on the other. A delicious composition is here presented of fine rich land, bounded by gentle risings, watered by the Alun, and embellished with a pretty town and fine church, numerous seats, groves, and well-cultivated farms. Among the former appears Leeswood Hall, unoccupied, the creation of Sir George Wynn, rising palace-like, along a fine slope on the s. side of the vale, surrounded by woods and lawns, a splendid mausoleum of fugacious wealth. The distant view includes the estuaries of the Dee, Weever, and Mersey; the hills of Cheshire, and the more remote range of those of Shropshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Westmoreland, and Cumberland. Hence to the town of MOLD is a pleasant ride.
|To Vale Crucis Abbey, back to Llangollen, thence to Chirk Castle. Evans.
Corwen. 10 miles. Bingley ; Hutton.
Chirk,7 miles. Warner; Gilpin; Pugh.
and from Vale Crucis, 5 miles; to and from
Castle Dinas Bran, 4 miles; to Corwen, 10miles, Wyndham.
| To Oswestry, 12 miles.
Llanrhaiadyr, 14 miles. Skrine.
Ruabon, 6 miles. Pennant; Pugh.
Ruthin, 15 miles.
Wrexham, 12 miles.