The small village of Chirk is the gateway to the beautiful Ceiriog Vale. The castle is a fine border stronghold with four massive drum towers around its courtyard. It was begun in 1310 on a fortress given to Roger Mortimer, a local baron who helped overthrow Llywelyn the Last (the last Welsh Prince of Wales) during the wars with Edward I. The castle had a succession of owners including Thomas Seymour, husband of Queen Catherine Parr, and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, but it has been occupied by the Myddleton family since 1595. Thomas Myddleton was a businessman, Lord Mayor of London and an original shareholder in the East India Company; he was also responsible for the publication of the first pocket Bible in Welsh in 1630. Over the years the castle has been much altered; it contains a notable collection of Restoration furniture and portraits. Its magnificent 18th-century wrought iron gates are the work of Robert and John Davies of Croes Foel near Wrexham, whose work adorns many churches and great houses in the border country. The Shropshire Union Canal is carried close to Chirk on an impressive aqueduct built by Thomas Telford; it runs through the Vale of Ceiriog to Llangollen.
Nearby at Glyn Ceiriog, a beautifully situated village 5 and a half miles west.
Here, in the Vale of Llangollen, is Telford’s ‘Stream in the Sky’ – the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Built between 1795 and 1805, its 18 piers carry the Shropshire Union Canal 120ft high above the River Dee. A pioneering piece of iron-engineering, it connected the Llangollen Canal with the English canal system.
Wrexham lies only 6 miles inside the Welsh border ,previously it was part of Mercia, separated from Wales by the Saxon administrative boundary, Offa’s Dyke. Wrexham became a prosperous industrial centre in the 19th century, important for brickmaking and mining, and for its oldest industry, tanning, supplied with hides by the town’s weekly cattle market. Wrexham has two breweries; one has been brewing a lager introduced by a naturalised German family, for over a hundred years. Industry has brought rapid changes to Wrexham, but one feature remains inviolate, the 15th-century church of St Giles. Its tower, ornamented with figures, stands 136ft high and is one of the ‘seven wonders of Wales’. The north porch (restored by Yale graduates in 1901) contains the tomb of Elihu Yale, the benefactor of Yale University. The church tower is replicated at Yale; a tablet inside tells Yale’s story.
Three miles north, the peal of Gresford’s 12 church bells is another of the ‘Welsh wonders’. The churchyard has one of the oldest and largest yews in Britain.