Walking in a Winter Borderland
North Wales Borderlands are particularly spectacular in Winter. While the mountaintops are covered in thick snow, the valleys are usually accessible and offer pleasant walking in unrivalled scenery. This article describes a circular walk which is safe and easy in all but the most extreme Winter weather.
The walk starts in the car park of the Abbey Grange Hotel (LL20 8DD for sat navs). Turn right out of the car park and head back along the field path in the direction of Llangollen. Eliseg's Pillar, the remains of a cross dating from the 9th Century, is soon passed. Continue to the end of the field and turn right by a red phone box. Follow the lane as it winds round Velvet Hill, offering magnificent views of firstly the Horseshoe Pass, and then the snow covered Llantysilio and North Berwyn mountain ranges. The lack of leaves on the trees affords uninterrupted views of the whole panorama, while overhead the resident ravens and buzzards will probably come over and check you out!
The lane descends into the Dee Valley (be careful in icy conditions) and joins a larger road. Turn right in the direction of Llantysilio and Rhewl. The Horseshoe Falls on the River Dee soon come into view with the North Berwyn Range now looming large in the background. At Llantysilio Church, turn left and follow the footpath in front of the Church down the the edge of the River Dee. Tread carefully as this area can get quite muddy in Winter. Look out for Wintering Goosander, dippers and kingfishers on the river. The footpath passes over the source of the Llangollen canal at the Horseshoe Falls and continues to the Chainbridge Hotel. The river here is breathtaking but is perhaps most impressive in Winter when in full flood. Follow the Chainbridge Hotel access road alongside the canal and then left over the canal bridge. Take the right hand fork and follow the road round to the A542 Horseshoe Pass road. Turn left and carefully follow the vergeless section of the road until a footpath is reached. This is the remains of the old Llantysilio tramway which used to ferry slate from the mountain quarries to the canal. Continue along the footpath to the red telephone box and back to the Abbey Grange for a well earned drink.
Visitors to the area have a range of accommodation to choose from, but for a real taste of the area why not stay in one of the quarrymen's cottages? One such property is Velvet Cottage, located on the route of the old Horseshoe Pass tramway. The cottage is warm and cosy and offers modern amenities in a glorious setting, with the superking bed being a popular Winter treat! It retains the original terracotta floors, oak ceiling beams and low doorways!! To get an authentic experience whilst exploring this wonderful area, Velvet Cottage is the perfect accommodation.