The Viaduct - Aqueduct Walk*

Distance: 5km/3 miles

Time: Allow 2 hours

Parking and start: Ty Mawr Country Park (SJ282414)

Grade: Easy, no stiles but with steep steps.

Ty Mawr is a 35 acre country park, on the banks of the River Dee, situated in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The park lies between the impressive Cefn Viaduct and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

These two bridges are historic engineering structures and form a dramatic backdrop to the park.

Please be aware that there is £1 charge for parking at Ty Mawr, which is used towards the upkeep of the park. Dogs are welcome on this walk but please keep your dogs under control.

Henry Robertson's Masterpiece: The Cefn Viaduct was designed by Henry Robertson and it stands as a glorious reminder of 'railway mania' during the 19th century. Thomas Brassey was employed to build the viaduct using local Cefn sandstone supplied by the nearby Chatham's Quarry (now disused). Without the help of modern machinery, this took two years to complete at a cost £72,346 (almost £9million adjusted for inflation). The viaduct carries the Shrewsbury to Chester railway line and was officially opened in October 1848.

The first train to cross, carrying local dignitaries, broke down on the bridge and the passengers spent an uncomfortable night in the moonlight with the sparkling river Dee below, before being rescued!

It immediately became of greater value than Thomas Telford's aqueduct, as the steam trains replaced the canal boats for industrial transport, particularly coal. The public, who were keen to explore new places, could not wait to travel on the new trains.

Henry Robertson, who was a pupil of Robert Stephenson, also built the viaduct at Chirk. He was an ironmaster and engineer, constructing much of the inland railway system of Wales including the Vale of Llangollen railway.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct: A World Heritage site and Grade 1 Listed building, this magnificent aqueduct was designed by Thomas Telford and completed in 1805.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the highest, longest aqueduct in Britain. It is the tallest navigable aqueduct in the world. It cost £47,000 or £4million in today's money, and took 200 men and a decade to build.

It is a testament to planning and care taken by Thomas Telford, that there was only one fatality during the construction.

Dressed sandstone, from the nearby Chatham's Quarry, was used to build 19 hollow pillars using mortar made from lime, water and ox blood. The pillars support a cast iron water trough, made by William Hazeldine at the Plaskynaston foundry in Cefn Mawr.

The trough is 1.60 metres deep and carries 1.5 million litres of water and the joints for the trough were treated with Welsh flannel dipped in boiling sugar, and then sealed with lead to prevent it from leaking! The canal is fed by River Dee water from the Horseshoe Falls near Llangollen.

The aqueduct carries the Shropshire Union canal high above the Dee Valley and is nicknamed 'the stream in the sky'. Attracting visitors from all over the world, more than 15,000 boats and 20,000 pedestrians a year now cross the aqueduct every year.

The Leader: The Viaduct - Aqueduct walk mapThe Viaduct - Aqueduct walk map

The Walk

1. Leaving the Visitor Centre (currently closed) bear left around the front of the barn and head towards the sandstone Cefn Viaduct. The surfaced path takes you through the mini beast woods and past the dovecote where you will find some detailed information about the viaduct.

2. Follow the surfaced path alongside the towering viaduct arches.

3. Continue along beside the river, before leaving the park by turning left down some steps, signposted 'Pontcysyllte Aqueduct'.

4. Follow the path through the meadows alongside the river Dee. This is a linear walk and is easy to follow. As you walk look out for fish jumping in the deep quiet stretches of water.

5. Cross the concrete bridge over Trefnant Brook and the open area to your left provides an excellent view of the Poncysyllte Aqueduct. Continue along the path through Jeffrey's Wood. If you stop for a while and you may hear woodpeckers busily tapping the trees in this ancient woodland.

You may notice orange mud or water along the path. This comes from water seeping through old mineshafts, which contain iron deposits.

6. At the base of the aqueduct, climb the steep steps to your right and go up to the Trevor canal basin. Trevor Basin is well worth exploring with information boards, sandstone sculptures, colourful boats, toilets and if open in these uncertain times a visitor centre and a shop for ice cream.

7. Before returning to Ty Mawr, if you have a good head for heights, walk along the canal towpath onto the aqueduct for breath taking views of the Cefn Viaduct and the medieval Bont Bridge crossing the river Dee 127 feet below!

To return, retrace your steps back to Ty Mawr.

*Please adhere to current restrictions or save this walk for when you are able to travel to do so.