Early birds had the chance to look around Llangollen to start to get an appreciation of the many things that this home of the annual Welsh (well, now international) Eisteddfod has to offer. Having arrived early in Llangollen, I spoke to the staff at the hostel who suggested that I could pay the Ladies of Llangollen a visit - after all, it was only ¼ mile up the hill. This turned out to be a very interesting dip into 18th century history and far better than sitting around twiddling my thumbs! A quick look at Llangollen Station, present terminus of the heritage steam railway, rounded up the "sightseeing" bit of the day. In the evening, we all took advantage of the choice presented by the numerous hostelries and "eateries" dotted around Llangollen.
Plas Newydd against the backcloth of Castell Dinas Brân
We came at different times, some by car, others by train and bus. For me the journey from Euston was uneventful - that's how I like it. There was a direct connection to Chester. There I caught the Holyhead-Llanelli train to get me to Ruabon, where I got the number 5 bus straight to Llangollen, where the hostel was only a short walk from the bus stop. Coming by public transport has its advantages. I arrived early and so had time to speak to one of the hostel staff about where things were at the hostel and in town. I was able to leave my modest baggage in the room and I was able to start to get that "settled in" feeling. Those coming by car did not "let the train take the strain" and many had some interesting traffic conditions to deal with.
At Ruabon, my train departs for the south and Llanelli.
On the train one can try and learn some written Welsh, for the notices are usually bilingual.
Ruabon station looks a bit deserted, but the Llangollen bus came reasonably soon.
Plas Newydd was the home of the two "Ladies of Llangollen". These two ladies, both from Irish upper-class families, were Lady Eleanor Butler (1739-1829) and Sarah Ponsonby (1755-1831). In Ireland they originally lived about two miles apart but when they met in 1768, both realized they shared common cultural interests (such as French philosophy, long walks and particular novels). Their families did not approve of the relationship, so the said Ladies eventually came to Wales, where in 1780 they moved to Plas Newydd. They were visited by famous people of the time and were supported financially by friends. Eventually they also received a pension from George III. To what extent their relationship was actually lesbian, in the modern sense, is a matter of debate, but it attracted a good deal of interest in the social climate of the 18th century.
Plas Newydd against the backdrop of Castell Dinas Brân.
I didn't find out about the purpose of the rocks on the lawn!
This water tower was added by a subsequent owner.
There's a lion in the grounds.
Plas Newydd - sideways view.
Many of the decorative oak panels were garnered by the "Ladies" from old churches or houses that were being demolished. As you see, they had an eye for things artistic and decorative. Here is a carved oak panel above the right-hand front door.
One of the oak "front doors". Splendid carving. This was probably saved in time from the demolition guys when they destroyed the said churches and houses which were no longer deemed useful.
The stained glass obtained from a redundant church
looks impressive incorporated in one of the front windows.
Peering out from one of the front windows onto the parterres in the garden below,
one can photograph a photographer.
Oak carving surrounding the staircase linking ground and first floors.
Looking into the dining room from the drawing room. The decoration looks a tad "art nouveau" although that period was still about 100 years in the future.
Looking into the dining room from the drawing room.
On the front of the house there are four ornate doors each made of carved oak.
Castell Dias Brân and Plas Newydd.
Topiary and parterres outside the house.
The house with four front doors.
Castell Dinas Brân
The right-most ornate oak front door.
The back of the house looks reasonably normal.
It's where I find these light blue teazles.
Plas Newydd and Topiary
Here's the main front entrance again.
A closer look reveals the detail of the oak carving.
Even closer, and we see the carved oak panels gracing
not only the front door but also the stairway between ground and first floors.
Café, shop and entrance to the grounds
Plas Newydd again.
Goodbye Plas Newydd!
On our walks, many of us will visit Castell Dinas Brân rising up behind.
The Llangollen Heritage Railway is all that it is left of the former Ruabon to Barmouth route which closed in 1965. Llangollen Station reopened in 1975, and the line was extended, mainly with considerable volunteer effort, in stages, reaching Carrog in 1996. Corwen East was reached in 2014 and the new Corwen Station is due to open in 2019. This 10-mile route of the heritage railway is very scenic; this was probably the reason for its reopening. We would use the line to reach the start of some of our walks or to return from our walks.
It was a short walk down Llangollen's main street ...
... to the station.
From Llangollen's famous 16th century bridge over the Dee
I could look back down the main street ...
... and also see the famous view westwards up the Dee Valley.
Here's the station again ...
... and on the wall by platform 1, there were adverts (from the 50s?) for places we would be visiting.
Dyfrdwy was on the agenda for those doing Monday's Vivod Mountain walk.
Llangollen was on everyone's agenda!
Berwyn Station is on an ultra-scenic part of the line and would feature on a circular walk later in the week from Llangollen to Llantysilio and to the Velvet Mountain.
The hot weather in the preceding days had made the ground and the vegetation "tinder dry". While steam trains are what many visitors want to see, lineside fires caused by sparks from steam engines are not what the local fire brigade wants to see.
So, on occasions, a "vintage" diesel has to do the honours.
To satisfy your urge to know, this is a type 37 (Co-Co) diesel electric locomotive built in 1964, when steam was having its final fling.
The diesel is running around its train.
From Llangollen's 16th century bridge we have another view of Llangollen Railway Station, ...
... the Royal Hotel, ...
... the River Dee, ...
... and the Dee against the setting sun and seemingly bathed in an evening haze.
In the evening, those who like to eat early managed to get a table at the ever popular and excellent "Corn Mill" restaurant on the banks of the Dee. Some others "decamped" - at about 8 pm - to "The Hand" restaurant - slightly away from the main street but also on the banks of the Dee - for their first evening meal of our CLOG away break. Yet others sought other Llangollen hostelries to me unknown!
The "Corn Mill"
The "Corn Mill" still has vestiges of the important function it once performed.
Outside there's the traditional stone ...
... while within one can find traces of where the corn was stored and how it was processed.
Prints and pictures grace the walls. Here is an old print (with reflections) of "Vale Crucis"
which would feature on one of our walks tomorrow.
Having dined early, there was time for a healthy post prandial perambulation -
to see if we could find other Cloggies.
Are they at the "Wynnstay Arms"? Probably not.
What about the "Hand"? (Why call an hotel "the Hand"?)
Yes, here are some more of our party, dining merrily on the banks of the Dee.
They have espoused the fresh air!
Onwards we walk. A standing dragon proudly proclaims the Welshness of this abode.
Our walk takes us along a few more of Llangollen's traditional streets to see what this tourist hotspot has to offer its visitors. Then it's time to contemplate the morrow.