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Seven Wonders of Wales
Pistyll Rhaeadr

Translated as the spring of the waterfall, the impressive cascade, at 240 ft (74 metres) is the highest in Wales. It is also the most difficult of the seven wonders to reach. From Chester, we take the A483 road to Oswestry (Croeswallt), a town east of Offa's Dyke (the eighth century border between England and Wales), but one that stubbornly has held on to its Welsh identity right up to the present. From Oswestry, it is but a short journey to
the Tanat Valley.

To reach the secluded falls, after a pleasant drive through mostly uninhabited countryside we reach the village of Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant (A translation is the Church of the waterfall in the village of the stream of the Pigs). This village was once the parish of vicar (and later Bishop) William Morgan (1545-1604), the place where he worked on his translation of the Holy Bible into Welsh that became one of the deciding factors in the survival of the language. A narrow single-lane road, unsuited for coaches, and barely managed by automobile, leads to the falls, about 4 miles distant. Traffic must drive very slowly, for passing places are few and far between.

In the farmhouse at the base of the falls, though there is a little tea shop. It is a blessing to find no tourist offices, welcome centers or gift emporiums, thus the falls can be enjoyed without interruption in their natural splendor as they descend down the steep, rocky hillside in a series of leaps. The water drops first into a rock basin, and then descends under a natural arch of stone. Of the justly-famed falls, 19th Century author and traveler George Borrow remarked: " I never saw water falling so gracefully, so much like thin, beautiful threads as here."

The best time to visit, of course, is in spring, when the melting snows from Moel Sych (2,700 ft) and his companions feed the mountain streams. While the area you should also visit 4-mile long Lake Vyrnwy, formed at the end of the last century to supply water to Liverpool and drowning the village of Llanwddyn in the process. The lake, nestled among thickly wooded hills, has a visitor center in a converted chapel. To get there, return from the falls to Llanrhaeadr; then take the road to Penybontfawr and the new village of Llanwddyn. A motor road around the shores of the lake provides a pleasant, unhurried drive before we return to crowded Chester or to our hotel in Wrexham. A detour to Llangynog churchyard, on the road from Bala to Welshpool allows us to view three curious graves.

It seems that, long ago, a rope maker, a glass maker and a stone mason were on a pilgrimage to one of Wales' holy sites when all three fell ill and were close to death. They consequently made a pact that the survivors would provide a decent burial and a properly marked grave for the deceased. The rope maker died first, and he was duly buried by the other two, the mason chiselling a rope on the stone covering the grave. The glass maker was next to die, and the mason carved leaded windows into the cover on the second grave. The mason was now left all alone with no one to bury him or carve his tombstone. When he sensed death approaching, he lay down in his newly-dug grave and pulled the stone cover over him. His grave has a missing centre section, the piece that he pulled over his head!! (and, of course, it has no carving).

On the way back to Chester (or Wrexham), look for the imposing Iron-Age hill fort on the north side of the road as you by-pass Oswestry.

Next Stop: Wrexham Steeple

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