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Your micro-guide to the World Heritage Site. Quick and easy.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal

11 mile s of world heritag e

what the man would say

Engraved portrait of Thomas Telford published on front cover of Atlas to the Life of Thomas Telford - Civil Engineer in 1838. Engraved by W. Raddon from a painting by S. Lane.

Wherever you look in life, it’s always the same story: it’s only by working together that we achieve great things. People sometimes say that I built Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. That’s not true. What I mean is, I didn’t do it on my own. I had help. Everyone that played a part – every tradesman, labourer and horse – left their mark on the world. Because it’s still here today. Still telling its story to the hundreds of thousands of people who visit every year. Just like its older brother, Chirk Aqueduct, the Horseshoe Falls and the other canal structures we built. We put them together piece by piece. With guts, belief and vision. And although the human race has done great things since my day – split the atom, put a man on the moon, invented penicillin – Pontcysyllte still excites people. Still exhilarates. Inspires. I was proud of it in 1805. And if I was among you today, I’d still be proud. When you experience it, I hope you feel the same.

Thomas Telford Civil engineer 1757-1834

touched by genius When Thomas Telford finished Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in 1805, it was the tallest canal boat crossing in the world.

When you see it, you’ll see something that was touched by genius. Because Telford was a true visionary.

It’s still there today. Still taking canal boat passengers on the ride of their lives. But now it’s on the world map.

He lived in a different age, but he was up there with the likes of Apple founder Steve Jobs, Microsoft’s Bill Gates or any other modern forward-thinker. He was a man ahead of his time.

In 2009 UNESCO made this masterpiece of civil engineering a World Heritage Site – along with 11 miles of canal including Chirk Aqueduct and the Horseshoe Falls near Llangollen. Now it’s officially one of the greatest heritage sites in the world, and on a par with places like the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal and the Acropolis.

It’s no exaggeration to say that techniques and ideas developed at Pontcysyllte helped shape the world through their impact on engineering. But what’s really amazing is the way the structure still captures people’s imagination. Over 200 years after it was built. It’s never lost its magic.

“Look, don’t touch.” Some heritage sites are just too fragile to handle.

That’s not the case here. Telford’s structures – like the man himself – were made from tough stuff. So you don’t have to just stand back and admire our World Heritage Site from a distance (inspiring though that is). You can experience it. In lots of different ways.

Try our top five for starters. 1. cross the aqueducts Dare you cross the stream in the sky? And can you do it without looking down? You can walk across Pontcysyllte, or save your legs and take a leisurely boat ride. But there’s one thing you have to take with you. A camera. The views are something else. Chirk Aqueduct is just a few miles downstream. And you could argue the views are even lovelier.

2. explore the tunnels If walking across the aqueducts gets your pulse racing, wait until you tackle ‘the Darkie’. A few yards into the tunnel and you realise where it gets its name from. It’s seriously dark, seriously long and once you’re halfway, there’s no going back. You can walk through it without a torch. It’s quite an adventure. But maybe a torch is a good idea?

3. walk the towpaths

A canter across will take you over the Welsh border and into England.

It’s not all aqueducts and tunnels along the 11 miles of World Heritage Site. Walking along the rest of the towpaths is a nice way to spend a few hours.

And if you work up an appetite, just keep walking past the pretty canal-bank cottages to the Poachers Pocket pub. Or The Bridge Inn. Good food and real ale are waiting.

Countryside rich in wildlife, sparse in people. In other words, peace and quiet. Nice thinking time if you’re by yourself. Catching up time if you’re with someone special.

experience it There are places to eat along the way. Like the aptly-named Aqueduct pub at Froncysyllte. The (also aptly named) Thomas Telford pub at Trevor basin. Or the Sun Trevor pub, which offers a welcome pit-stop halfway between Pontcysyllte and Llangollen. And the best bit? No hills. Not even Telford could make water run upwards, so the canal towpaths are nice and flat. Although if you’re a serious walker, there are lots of intriguing walks and trails just off the towpaths, including the Ceiriog Valley Walk (which is lovely) and the famous Offa’s Dyke.

4. float on a boat with Togg

There are 45-minute trips along the canal, and two-hour trips right up to the Horseshoe Falls on certain days at peak season. There are lots of relaxing ways to experience the World Heritage Site, but a horse-drawn boat trip takes some beating. Quietly gliding across the water. Ducks and ducklings pottering along the bank. And the madness of the big wide world evaporating into mist.

5. see the horseshoe The Horseshoe Falls is where it all starts. The place where the canal draws its water from the river.

People have been enjoying horse-drawn boat trips from the canal wharf in Llangollen for over 100 years.

It’s basically a man-made weir – shaped like a horse-shoe. And like so many of Telford’s creations, it only seems to enhance the beauty of the landscape around it.

In fact Togg, Geordie and the other horses are pretty much celebrities these days. And they appreciate the odd carrot for their efforts.

An example of man’s designs complementing nature. How often do you see that?

when you’re finished Don’t forget your camera. Or, better still, grab a shot on your phone and share it with friends via Flickr, Facebook, Instagram or some other social media. Let them see what they’re missing. Then explore the rest of the World Heritage Site and beyond. Hire a boat. Or discover attractions like Llangollen Steam Railway, Tyˆ Mawr Country Park and Chirk Castle. All just a stone’s throw away. Journey further afield into Wrexham, Denbighshire and Shropshire and discover gems like the National Trust property at Erddig, the Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or the lakeside market town of Ellesmere.

You can find everything you need at If you have a smart phone, just scan the QR code. Or if you’re the “tweeting type” check out our Facebook pages and Twitter feed. And if you like to chat, we like that too. Pick up the phone and contact one of our nearby Tourist Information Centres:

Wrexham TIC 01978 292015

Oswestry Mile End TIC 01691 662488

Llangollen TIC 01978 860828

credits Written and produced by Assets and Economic Development, Wrexham County Borough Council, on behalf of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site partnership. Designed by White Fox 01352 840898 Photography contributors include Eye Imagery, Crown Copyright (2012) Visit Wales and the Institution of Civil Engineers. Illustration by Prodo Digital. Available in alternative formats and in Welsh. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, Wrexham County Borough Council and its partners can accept no liability whatsoever for any errors, inaccuracies or omissions, or for any matter in any way connected with or arising out of the publication of the information contained.

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getting around the site Horseshoe Falls




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Trevor Basin



Pontcysyllte VALE





FRONCYSYLLTE Whitehurst Tunnel

Heritage Zone 11 mile Heritage Site River Dee

Chirk Tunnel


Heritage Zone

Scale/Graddfa 1:35000.

Chirk Aqueduct

11 mile Heritage Site River Dee Scale/Graddfa 1:35000.

Now we’ve whetted your appetite, you’ll want to know how to get here. The site lies on the border between North Wales and England and straddles three counties – Denbighshire, Wrexham and Shropshire. You can get here by car (via the M53 or M56 from the North West, and the M54 from the Midlands). By train (Chirk station is just a hop and a skip away from the site, and Ruabon just two or three miles away with regular bus links).

Arriva Trains Wales (Chester-WrexhamShrewsbury) 08456 061660 Borderlands Line (Wrexham-Liverpool via Bidston) Virgin Trains (Wrexham-London Euston) Traveline Cymru 0871 200 2233 Wrexham Bus Line 01978 266166 Arriva Buses




Or by bus.

Here are some useful contacts:










United Nations        Cultural Organization




Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2009

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal micro guide  
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal micro guide  

Your micro guide to the World Heritage Site. Quick and easy.