In the 1920s, Lloyd George described the Ceiriog Valley as ‘A little bit of heaven on Earth’, and this picturesque valley has remained a secret and largely unspoilt piece of countryside – a haven in the English-Welsh borderlands.
Parallel to the Vale of Llangollen, the River Ceiriog starts among the Berwyn mountains, plunging dramatically on reaching Pistyll Rhaeader – the highest waterfall in England and Wales (240ft) – before winding its way through the beautiful Ceiriog Valley villages of Llanarmon DC, Pandy, Glyn Ceiriog, Dolywern, Pontfadog and the hamlet of Castle Mill, before meeting the powerful River Dee in Chirk.
Built in the 1600s of local stone and timbers, Castle Mill Bed and Breakfast sits snugly beneath Chirk Castle, close to the River Ceriog and just a stone’s throw from the little bridge that crosses into Shropshire. It overlooks the site of the Battle of Crogan, where Owain Gwynedd led his Welsh Army to victory over Henry II and his forces in 1165.
Once the mill for the tenants of Chirk Castle, an old bread oven still remains on the outer wall of the cottage and where bread once baked, wellington boots are now stored! And where the B4500 winds now, was once the route of the Glyn Valley Tramway.
Opened in 1873, the narrow gauge tramway linked the slate quarries of Glyn Ceiriog to the canal at Chirk six miles away. For the first 15 years of the tramway, the wagons ran down the valley by the force of gravity, pulled back by horses, but in 1888 the tramway was converted to Steam and re-routed through Chirk Castle grounds to meet the Shrewsbury and Chester railway at Chirk station. Ironically, the minerals transported by the tramway were the very materials used to build the roads that eventually led to the closure of the tramway. The Glyn Valley Tramway Trust are currently working to recreate this quaint little tramway, hoping to re-open between Chirk and Pontfaen in 2010.
In previous years, the three cottages (now two) were a local hostelry, where writer George Borrow once stopped as he walked the famous Offa’s Dyke footpath. In his book, Wild Wales, he wrote:
“On my inquiring about the inn he said he was the master of it, and led the way to a long neat low house, nearly opposite to a little bridge over a brook, which ran down the valley towards the north. I ordered some ale and bread-and-butter, and whilst our repast was being got ready John Jones and I went to the bridge.
“This bridge, sir,” said John, “is called Pont y Velin Castell, the bridge of the Castle Mill; the inn was formerly the mill of the castle, and is still called Melin y Castell. As soon as you are over this bridge you are in shire Amwythig, which the Saxons call Shropshire. A little way up on yon hill is Clawdd Offa or Offa’s dyke, built of old by the Brenin Offa in order to keep us poor Welsh within our bounds.” As we stood on the bridge I inquired of Jones the name of the brook which was running merrily beneath it. “The Ceiriog, sir,” said John.
On my enquiring about the inn he said that he was the master of it, and led the way to a long, neat, low house, nearly opposite to a little bridge, over a brook which ran down the valley towards the north.