We just stumbled on this gem of a town after leaving Porthmadog. After 5 days in Wales (we had only planned to stay 3 – but couldn’t tear ourselves away) we were headed up to Scotland and were hoping to make up some time. We crossed over the low mountains and found Llangollen which is close to the Welsh-English border in north Wales. So much for making up time! The nice lady at the Information Center found us a charming bed and breakfast in a 300 year old cottage right near the center of town. Our landlady was a retired teacher from London. She said she had family in the area and had always dreamed of living here. She bought the cottage and rents out the two extra bedrooms to supplement her pension. She was a wealth of information and helped us find great places to eat, shop and visit.
The town sits on both sides of the River Dee and the original bridge was built in 1345. Llangollen became important because of its prominent position on the main London to Holyhead coaching route in the early 1800’s and now has a large railroad station in town for the Llangollen Railway Society. From the Llangollen wharf, you can take a 45-minute horse drawn ride up the canal on a narrow boat which takes you through the Vale of Llangollen and across Britain’s biggest aqueduct at Trevor. Towering 126 feet above the river, it is a masterpiece of engineering.
We walked up river on a narrow path to a little bridge in the valley and then back to town. This is a haven for shoppers, and there is a great little amateur theatre with year round productions and all kinds of performing arts. The city hosts the annual Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod every July which brings hundreds of tourists to town from all over the UK and Europe.
So, retire in Llangollen, Wales? What would it be like to live here? We found a two-bedroom flat right in the village for $800 US a month and a one-bedroom duplex in town for $625 US. There are only 3,000 people in town and the closest big airport is in Manchester which is about 50 miles away. The temperature averages about 40 degrees F in the winter and gets up to 70 or so in the summer. The town sits in a little valley with trees, creeks and beautiful gardens.
If you are in a hurry to get to Scotland, don’t go through Llangollen! We stayed for 3 days and could have spent the whole vacation exploring the countryside.