Whenever I stand on the fourteenth-century bridge over the River Dee in the centre of Llangollen, it feels as if Wales starts here, though the actual border is several miles to the east, beyond Wrexham and Ruabon. It’s a particularly welcoming town, an irresistible stopping-off point on any journey into the Welsh hills. There are lots of set-piece tourist sites, some of which will feature in subsequent articles, and plenty of opportunity for rest and recuperation in a break of journey.
July is the month of the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod [http://www.llangollen2010.co.uk] and the Llangollen Fringe [http://llangollenfringe.co.uk]: these may be an attraction or a reason to avoid crowds, depending on taste.
A particularly spectacular place to eat is the Corn Mill [www.cornmill-llangollen.co.uk] built in 1786 but originally founded by the monks of Valle Crucis Abbey in the Middle Ages. It overlooks the rapids of the River Dee and faces the station of the Llangollen Railway [www.llangollen-railway.co.uk], which offers a 7½-mile ride up the Dee Valley to a terminus at Carrog, taking just eighty minutes for a return journey.
Whenever I have time to kill in Llangollen I end up browsing in Maxine’s Cafe and Books [http://maxinescafellangollen.moonfruit.com], located in a former cinema. Beyond the shop-front café up a succession of stairs there are endless shelves of unexpected and tempting titles that easily stretch a quick visit into a whole morning or afternoon.
Other diversions within easy reach include the Llangollen Motor Museum [http://www.llangollenmotormuseum.co.uk], the medieval Valle Crucis Abbey, now administered by Cadw [http://www.cadw.wales.gov.uk/default.asp?id=6&PlaceID=140]
and – beyond it to the north – the spectacular A542 Horseshoe Pass road, built as a turnpike in 1811.