It may not figure in The 100 must places to visit before you die, but the CERRIOG VALLEY on the Welsh Borderlands is one of the most pleasant places on earth. It has also been called 'The Valley of the Poets'. It's less than 15 minutes from Wrexham, 30 minutes from Chester and less than 1 hour from either Manchester Airport or Liverpool John Lennon Airport.
The little village of CHIRK www.chirk.com has a 600 year old church, and 700 year old Chirk castle, built by Edward I and with beautiful gardens, the fantastic and spectacular Chirk aquaduct for barges high above a river and a pastoral scene of Welsh sheep and lambs, and next to it a train viaduct, both built by Thomas Telford in the early 19th Century, a marina for canal barges,two golf courses, pony trekking, mountain bike riding, hiking along the Offa's Dyke Long Distance Footpath, a fish hatchery, a village recreation centre with swimming pool. weight room and artificial turf soccer pitch, plus outdor soccer and cricket pitches. It was former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George who made the remark in the title, 'A little bit of heaven on earth'. the River Cerriog has lots of river trout and sea trout. The Hand Hotel, Chirk started out as a coaching inn for the fast twice daily stage coaches on the London-Shrewsbury-Holyhead route, from where a nightly ferry, The Dublin Packet' has been taking mail by ship to Dublin, at that time part of Britain and the most important city after London, for over 200 years. The fast coaches could make the overland route in 24 hours, but horses had to be changed and rested ,and passengers stopped of at The Hand Hotel for sleep and sustenance. www.handhotelchirk.co.uk
It was named after a Welsh prisoner who, while being led to jail in England cut off his bloody hand and threw it back across the border, stating that he was going to leave part of him in Wales. Toni, the resident chef cooked a splendid dinner of vegetable soop, roast pork with all the trimmings including apple sauce, and mandarin cheese cake with real cream. Harrison Ford and family were recent visitors. Phil and Andrew Kendrick, former and current soccer players run the hotel. Yound Andrew played for Wales youth at football and for the senior national team at cricket, and have welcomed lots of teams to train and play.
There is another aquaduct for barges, the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct and a beautiful little village of TREVOR, where barges can enter the Llangollen Canal, and visit the famous town of Llangollen, famous for its annual International Music Eistenfodd, where musicians and dancers from all over the world converge each July. At the canal high up above Llangollen you can take a horse drawn barge trip. There is river cayaking, trips up to Horsesho Pass, a Atoo Museum, a a Priory and a 14th Century bridge over the River Dee. In the last few decades there has been a resurgance of canal holidays and travel and the cleaning up, dredging and promotion of this pleasant pastime. I was looking at barges for sale as transport and or housing, from £10,000 - £50,000 with all modern conveniences.
Chirk also has a Welsh name Y Waun, (The Moor), and you enter via the road sign CROESO I GYMRU -Welcome to Wales, from Shropshire in England less than half a mile away. Bore Da-Good Morning, Pob hwyl- so long, can be heard from the locals.