Chirk Castle

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August 21st 2018
Published: August 25th 2018
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Another day, another National Trust property! This time we headed off for Chirk Castle. The castle is just over the border in Wales so we re-traced our route from Thursday, but only travelled as far as Chirk today. We probably could have visited Chirk Castle on our way home yesterday, but we knew the weather forecast was much better for today so that seemed a better proposition.

Hmmn, as we left Stalybridge it was very overcast and by the time we reached the motorway it was raining! Still the forecasters promised there would be better weather by late morning or early afternoon so we optimistically continued on our way.

They got it right! By the time we were pulling into the car park at Chirk Castle there was blue sky and the sun was shining. It was, in fact, a beautiful day to be out sightseeing. We showed our Australian National Trust card and, once again, had quite a conversation with the NT staff member about the fact that we were visiting from overseas and enjoying the reciprocal benefits of our NT membership. We were offered the opportunity to join the 12.00 noon introductory tour of the castle which meant that we needed to get moving if we were going to walk up to the meeting point in the castle courtyard in time for the tour.

Our guide, Peter, took us on a fascinating tour of the castle before it was opened to the hoards. The Castle was completed by Marcher lord, Roger Mortimer, in 1310. The disputed border lands between England and Wales were referred to as the Welsh Marches. The lords in these disputed areas changed their allegiances often between the English King and Llewellyn, the Prince of Wales.

We were interested to visit Chirk Castle because we have enjoyed reading a series of historic fantasy novels (The ‘After Cilmeri’ series by Sarah Woodbury for anyone interested in the genre) that centre around Llewellyn and his son, David, conceived by a 21st century woman who time-travelled to 13th century Wales and then returned to her own time to give birth to David. A teenage David returns to 13th century Wales with his sister, Anna, just in time to prevent Llewellyn dying in a battle with the combined forces of Edmund and Roger Mortimer at Cilmeri in 1282, thereby triggering an alternate history where Wales is no longer subjugated by England!

After the tour we popped into the cafe to have some lunch. We thought that would give the mass of tourists, who had been waiting to go through the castle as soon as it opened, time to thin out before we popped back in to look at the interior more thoroughly.

Ha, ha, people say that mobile phones have killed the art of communication, but an older couple sat down at the table across from us and each of them promptly pulled out a novel and stuck his/her nose in his/her book rather than, heaven forbid, talk with each other over lunch!

We took our time going back through the house admiring all of the amazing furniture, artwork and other collectibles. The castle includes the most significant collection of flintlock rifles in Europe. The flintlock rifle was only in use for a relatively short period of time so there are very limited numbers of these in collections of firearms and weaponry.

From the castle we made our way out into the gardens which have been extensively restored. We were probably a little late in the summer for the most exuberant flowering, but there was still some colour in the garden beds around the castle. There were also some very precisely manicured topiaries in the formal lawn area. We thought that it looked like there was a lake or a pond that people were gathered around so we continued out into the less formally planted part of the garden. We did eventually come to a pond, but it was rather smaller than we had anticipated. Still it was a lovely sunny afternoon for walking around a beautiful garden.

After we had finished in the garden we headed back towards the castle to check out the laundries before we walked back around to the courtyard to the cafe to buy ice-creams that we ate as we strolled back down the drive to the car.

In Chirk there is another aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal that crosses the River Ceiriog. Since it was only a few minutes away we decided that we would go to have a look hoping that it might be a bit more accessible to photograph than the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Hmmn, we found it a little easier to park the car today to see the canal itself, but we were still a bit stymied on how/where to find a vantage point to take a long shot showing the arches of the structure actually holding the canal up until Bernie spotted a pub across the valley.

We walked back to the car and then drove towards (we hoped) the pub that had been spotted from afar. It wasn’t too difficult, although access to the pub’s car park was hampered by some roadworks reducing the road to a single lane only with stop/go lights installed. Eventually it was our turn to make our way across the bridge, over the River Ceiriog and into the car park of The Bridge Inn, the last pub in England! Of course there were signs up saying that the car park was only for patrons of the pub so we felt obliged to go in to buy a couple of drinks at the bar to take advantage of the outlook towards the Chirk Aqueduct with the Chirk Viaduct above and behind it. Some of the commentary about the two structures suggested that the rail bridge was deliberately built overshadowing the aqueduct as a statement about the superiority of rail transport over canal transport.

Drinks drunk and photos snapped we packed up the cameras and stowed them in the boot before telling Siri to take us back to Stalybridge. And, wouldn’t you know it, just as we buckled our seatbelts and hit the road a narrowboat nosed its way out onto the aqueduct!! Ah well, the photos of the aqueduct sans narrowboat will have to do, we were expected home for dinner and didn’t know how heavy the traffic might be.

Today there was congestion on the motorway in about the same place as it was yesterday. Not really a surprise! After yesterday’s magical mystery tour on the A roads through Altrincham we decided to stick with the motorway. ‘Twasn’t too bad - the whole trip only took us about half an hour longer than what Siri originally estimated.

The cards came out again tonight. I won Jo and Kath was the victor when we played Blobs.

Steps: 10,897 (8.26 kms)

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