Category Archives: Local Guides

Horseshoe Falls and Velvet Hill

The ProAdventure store is located on Castle Street in the town of Llangollen, but the surrounding area is very scenic and there are many different walks and activities which people can take part in. We thought we should talk about some of the wonderful locations that surround us and this month we’re focusing on the nearby Horseshoe Falls and Velvet Hill.

Llangollen-HorseshoeDescribed by some as the prettiest in North Wales, the four mile walk to the Horseshoe Falls and the Velvet Hill takes about two and a half hours covering a distance of four miles.

Horseshoe Falls is a picturesque artificial waterfall on the River Dee near Llantysilio Hall in Denbighshire. Located about three miles west of Llangollen, the distinctively shaped 460-foot long semi-circular weir helps create a pool of water that can enter the Llangollen Canal (through an adjacent valve house and flow meter).

It was designed by engineer Thomas Telford in 1806 to supply water to the Shropshire Union Canal. However, the canal took so much water from the river Dee that many of the local mills were forced to close. The weir itself was an important factor in the retention of the canal to Llangollen when the Shropshire Union system closed much of the network in 1944.

Because Horseshoe Falls was a major supplier of water to that system, the canal from Llangollen to Nantwich, including the great aqueducts at Pontcysyllte and Chirk, was retained purely as a water supply channel. This action enabled the canal to survive until it was taken over by British Waterways in 1948.

Since then, the canal has become one of the most popular cruising canals in the country. The final 1.7 miles from Llangollen to the falls is not navigable by motorised boats, because it’s not wide enough for vessels to turn around, but the towpath extends along the bank right up to the falls.

Since 2009, the weir has been part of a World Heritage Site, which covers 11 miles of the Llangollen Canal from just above Horseshoe Falls to just below Chirk Aqueduct.

The delightful four mile walk begins at the car park at Llantysilio Green, less than half a mile from Llangollen. It leads over rolling hills, through woodland and riverside pastures and explores the Horseshoe Falls and Velvet Hill on route. Velvet Hill gets its name from the soft texture of the sheep-cropped grass and moss and while it makes an ideal walking route, it is always advisable to wear a good hat and sun cream when traversing it.


The Llangollen Chain Bridge is open for business

The old Llantysilio chain bridge over the River Dee in Llangollen was built in 1817 near the Horseshoe Falls, linking two major transport routes in North Wales, the Llangollen canal and the London-Holyhead Road (the A5). It was the brainchild of local coal merchants and dealers in limestone, slate and iron, Exuperius Pickering (1760-1838) and his son, also Exuperius (1785-1835). One or both was responsible for the building of the bridge having begun petitioning for such an improvement in 1814.

chainbridgeThe construction of the chain bridge allowed them to monopolise the local coal trade as it gave them access to a cheap transport route across the River Dee, enabling coal from the canal to cross the river and avoid the tolls demanded when crossing the main bridge in Llangollen.

It was constructed with wooden decking suspended by wrought iron chains from below with a covering surface of earth and stone. Supported from the river bed by six oak pillars, by 1870 the bridge was in a bad condition and the structure was removed. It was replaced in 1876 by Sir Henry Robertson, a bridge and railway engineer and part owner of Wrexham’s Brymbo Ironworks. His design closely followed the original structure but the supporting pillars were made of iron rather than oak.

Severe flooding washed away most of the bridge in February 1928, although the supporting chains held fast. It was rebuilt in a style similar to Anglesey’s Menai Suspension Bridge in 1929 at a cost of just over £300, by Sir Henry’s son, also Sir Henry Robertson. Re-using chains from the original structure the new design was a great improvement and during the opening day celebrations, 45 employees stood on the bridge to demonstrate its strength.

This long-standing link between the canal and the railway line was eventually closed in 1984 due to safety concerns and was made inaccessible. The local town and community councils bought it for a nominal £1 sum to try to ensure its restoration and began raising funds to carry out the repairs in 2007. The Heritage Lottery Fund pledged £350,000 in 2013 and the chain bridge was dismantled for restoration.

Its recent re-opening re-establishes the link between the Llangollen canal and the railway line for a whole new generation to appreciate and use. It is believed that the chains on the bridge are the oldest known surviving suspension chains still in use, so it is credited as the oldest chain bridge in the world. As part of the Pontcysyllte World Heritage site it is an added and most welcome attraction to a day’s outing in Llangollen, which should now include a walk along the canal and over the bridge. We recommend visitors to the ProAdventure shop take time out to visit the bridge – it makes for an interesting diversion. Or, if you’re coming from the other direction, just drop in to say hello.


World’s End near Llangollen

Our ProAdventure store is located on Castle Street, the main shopping street in Llangollen which spans the River Dee. The area is extremely beautiful and there are many different walks and activities one can participate in so we thought we should talk about some of the wonderful locations that surround us. This month we’re focusing on the nearby World’s End walk.


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