We have never tired of cycling to Llangollen along the amazing canal towpath from Chirk Bank which is a spectacular route: but there is another way, which runs the World Heritage Site a close second and it can be great to combine the two routes into one fabulous day out.

So we set off from Oswestry up Llwyn road and past the Old Oswestry Hillfort which in itself is worth a morning out, up through Hengoed to the top end of Weston Rhyn. Here you filter just right of the Top Shop and down into the Ceiriog valley at Pont Faen. Turn right for Chirk and climb up to the canal basin above Telford’s aqueduct. At the mini roundabout bear left for the railway station and left again over the railway up to the pearly gates of Chirk Castle. This ornate entrance features the red bloodstained hand of one of the sons of the ailing Chirk Castle squire. Legend has it that he raced his brother on horseback around the grounds for the grand prize of inheriting the estate. He was losing so he chopped off his hand and threw it to his dying father to win the race. Hence the naming of several local hotels and hostelries as the Hand.

As a cyclist you are allowed to enter the castle grounds at this entrance and you can ride right up to the castle courtyard against the one-way traffic which is just an occasional visitors car ambling along slowly. Stop for a while and take it all in. Perhaps call into the castle cafe for coffee. Not many cycle rides afford you such an iconic view as this.

Once refreshed Continue down the hill against the normal one way flow down to the North East gate and follow the lane past New Hall Farm and the old golf course which is now sadly just fields of grazing cattle and sheep. Soon you come out on the A5 near Whitehurst. Turn left and enter the village of Froncysyllte, famous for it legendary men’s choir and the “waterway in the sky” world-famous canal aqueduct. You will travel over this on the way back.

To avoid the worst of the main road you can now detour left opposite the Aqueduct Inn along a quiet country lane which tracks alongside the A5 and rejoins the road about a mile further on. This lane would have been the main route up the valley before Thomas Telford built the new A5 coaching road back in the early 1800s linking Westminster with the port to Ireland at Holyhead.

Then its downhill along the A5 for a couple of miles until just before the Vale of Llangollen Golf Club bends where there is another shoot off up to the left which will safely take you along Maesmawr Lane right into the approaches of Llangollen itself avoiding the A5 almost completely. Join the A5 for 100 yards and then turn right at the Sun Inn down Church Street which takes you riverside, right past the Hand Hotel and the Royal Hotel to the famous Llangollen river bridge. Everything is here – the river, the canal, the steam railway and of course nearby, the Ladies of Llangollen!

That is not a reference to some very fine ladies toilets. It refers to a society scandal back in 1780 when two young ladies eloped from their aristocratic families in Ireland to set up home here together at Plas Newydd in Llangollen. They became national celebrities dressed in their top hats and their home became the place to stop over on the long arduous road trip for the gentry like the Irish lords and MPs on their way to Westminster. Indeed their list of guests were the celebrities of their day, poets Walter Scott, Shelley, Lord Byron, Wordsworth even wrote them a sonnet, Josiah Wedgewood and the Duke of Wellington. Also Anne Lister who was recently depicted in the TV series Gentleman Jack went to visit the ladies back in 1822.

This was a a period of great development in the area with the opening of Telford’s Llangollen Canal in 1805 and his A5 coaching road and amazing bridge in Menai in 1826. But then, of course, the railways came to Llangollen just 40 years later which took things to another level.

Back to the bike ride. One further option is to cross the town bridge, turn left and jump on the canal up to The Chain Bridge hotel for refreshments and maybe walk up to the Horseshoe Falls. So much to see! Also just across the bridge is the Ponsonby Arms named after Sarah Ponsonby the younger of the two famous ladies.

Then comes the ride home along the superb canal towpath back to Trefor and over Pontcysyllte and Chirk viaducts back to Weston Rhyn and home – please note some of this path is currently closed for repairs. We are so lucky to have this amazing ride on our doorstep. Tourists come from all over the world to see this World Heritage Site from Llangollen to Chirk. Make sure you take full advantage of its close proximity.