Castling on the North West canals

THE LLANGOLLEN CANAL offers more than its fair share of magnificent structures, but a visit to Chirk Castle should not be missed!

Chirk Castle


There are no castles quite like those on the Welsh borders, and the one at Chirk is among the most magnificent of the lot. It’s also one of many incredible sites located along the Llangollen Canal, which has the awe-inspiring Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and its fine neighbour the Chirk Aqueduct. Chirk is a fairly small town but it sits right on the border of England and Wales – Shropshire begins at the southern bank of the River Ceiriog. The Chirk Aqueduct crosses that border, allowing the Llangollen Canal to travel from England to Wales, but when Chirk Castle was constructed several hundred years before, it was designed to stop the Welsh from coming into England.

The castle was constructed by Edward I as a military fortress in the late 13th century. It was built on a rocky cliff overlooking the Ceiriog Valley and was designed to be an imposing example of English might. The castle had strong defences, including walls that were five metres thick and it was designed in such a way that each of the four towers would need to be taken individually by attackers. Internally, there were barricades to stop invading soldiers and the nicely named “murder holes”, which allowed the defending men to drop stones on their attackers.

The castle was eventually turned into a family home by Sir Thomas Myddelton, who constructed the State Rooms. Other owners added architectural and horticultural embellishments, as well as collections of artworks and antiques. The landscaped gardens are particularly fine, featuring a hawk house by the architect E.W. Pugin, a rose garden, formal woodlands and a kitchen garden. The castle is still inhabited by the Myddelton family, but it is a National Trust property and parts are open to the public. It is found around a mile from Chirk Aqueduct, where you can also enjoy scenic walks along the Llangollen Canal or explore the 420-metre Chirk Tunnel.

Heather Cowper